The arrival of Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit should be exciting for folks who like to go infinite. The first generation of successful Birthing Pod decks assembled Melira, Sylvok Outcast with either Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcaps to gain infinite life or deal infinite damage. Birthing Pod as a tutor is gone, but with Anafenza as a redundant, upgraded combo piece, it might be time for persist combo to return to the Modern scene.
The Tutors: To consistently go off, a combo deck either needs a lot of (usually blue or red) deck filtering to find those pieces, or tutors (usually black) to dig for them. This combo can be assembled entirely out of green creatures or multicolored cards, which suggests that Summoner's Pact or Glittering Wish are both options. The deck isn't playing blue, and another color would hurt, but Faithless Looting from red is cheap/powerful, and might make the cut.
The Sacrifice Outlet: The combo needs cards that allow a creature to be sacrificed repeatedly for free. The least expensive outlets are Greater Gargadon and Viscera Seer, each at only 1cc. The cheapest multi-color outlet is Cartel Aristocrat. The cheapest green outlet is Varolz, the Scar-Striped.
The Sacrifice: Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap are the only reasonably cheap persist creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities that will end the game. Fortunately, one is green and both are multicolored.
The Engine: To make this combo work the sacrifice needs to gain a +1/+1 counter or lose a -1/-1 counter when it comes back from the graveyard. Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit both do this for cheap, with Melira being the cheapest green engine. Juniper Order Ranger is the least expensive multicolored card that does this.
Accelerators: The deck could be built to go off mostly on turn 3 by giving it a mana boost. Simian Spirit Guide would allow the deck to cast turn-3 Murderous Redcaps or to pay for a Summoner's Pact on turn 4 (3 lands in play). Alternatively, SSG allows casting a card like Faithless Looting somewhere turns 1-3 without throwing off the rest of the deck's development.
Protection: The format is one designed to stop combos like Glistener Elf + pump spells and untapper + Splinter Twin, which is to say there are quite a few cards in decks designed to break up creature combinations. Spellskite is probably the best disruption card, as it interferes with many of the major decks in the format while also protecting this deck's combo pieces from removal. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are also both reasonable choices, getting in the way of most strategies or clearing the way for our own. Finally, Cavern of Souls is a great choice for turning off counterspells as a way to stop this deck's all-creature combo.
Infinite Persist Combo
The ideal opening is turn 1 suspend Gargadon/cast Viscera Seer, turn 2 Anafenza/Melira, followed by turn 3 Kitchen Finks/pitch SSG for Murderous Redcap and go off. Unless Summoner's Pact is for the last piece (Kitchen Finks), both it and Glittering Wish usually cost the deck a full turn, as does casting Spellskite or Inquisition of Kozilek for protection.
I haven't gotten to play this deck much since it's not tournament legal or on Magic Online yet. There are a few pretty obvious avenues of change:
- Birthing Pod over time became less about combo and more about value. It could be that this deck wants to remove a lot of the combo redundancy (either tutors or extra pieces), and instead just play more good cards. Turn the deck into a value deck that happens to combo off sometimes.
- The math might be such that cutting a few tutors and adding a few Faithless Lootings produces more consistently fast wins.
- Simian Spirit Guide generates a lot of speed, but if there's enough disruption in the format it's better to have a reusable mana source. I could see rearranging the deck to have Caverns in the main (and maybe a basic Plains to preserve life total), and just shoot for turn 4 with protection instead of trying to race.
I look forward to discussing the deck in the comments.