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Mind-Boggling Technology – A Closer Look at Pod Before States

The State Championships are less than a week away! Can you feel the excitement in the air?

By now, you have seen numerous lists that range from Tempered Steel to RDW to Solar Flare, but what about Birthing Pod? The SCG Open: Indianapolis had plenty of lists, but they only managed 8-2 records. Why is there so much emphasis on the top 16 lists, but nobody seems to care about the top 32? 11th place to 32nd place were all 8-2, but had weaker tiebreaks, that’s it. We should place a much stronger emphasis on these lists and they featured many different Birthing Pod decks.

Check out the highest placing list (22nd) that featured Naya colors piloted by Mark Larson.

[deck]4 Birthing Pod
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Acidic Slime
1 Archon of Justice
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Blade Splicer
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Geist-Honored Monk
2 Hero of Bladehold
1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
1 Inferno Titan
1 Mayor of Avabruck
1 Sun Titan
3 Viridian Emissary
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Dismember
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
2 Arc Trail
3 Forest
4 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Sunpetal Grove
Sideboard
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Acidic Slime
1 Hollowhenge Scavenger
3 Mayor of Avabruck
2 Tree of Redemption
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Arc Trail[/deck]

When I build a Birthing Pod deck, the first color to include is obviously green. You could get a little gutsy and choose to splash Phyrexian mana, but the mana accelerators are crucial. I think white is almost an auto-inclusion as well at this point because the three-drops are so powerful compared to the rest. Just take a look at this list. You have [card]Blade Splicer[/card], [card]Fiend Hunter[/card], and [card]Sylvok Replica[/card]. These card all happen to be colorless or white which shows just how critical the color actually can be to the overall strategy since three-drops are very important.

White is also very important because [card]Elish Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card] is the best seven-drop in the format. Your only other reasonable options are [card]Sheoldred, Whispering One[/card] and [card]Rune-Scarred Demon[/card], but Norn is much more powerful because the game usually ends immediately after she enters the battlefield.

I played a version very similar to this in a weekly Standard tournament at Get Your Game On to a top 4 split and was happy with the deck. Kessig Wolf Run was a card I didn’t have much faith in going into the event, but won a couple games by itself. I played a match against Illusions where we were both extremely flooded and all that was in play was a Birds of Paradise; one draw step later, it was attacking for 9! It’s also unreal against the illusion tribe because you can pump their creatures where x=0 for lethal. Apparently others are catching on to the card since the card basically created a new Primeval Titan archetype over the weekend in Nashville.

The mana is the most important element of the Naya colored list because all eight of the Scars lands add green. [card]Copperline Gorge[/card] was very important in all of my games and added a tremendous amount of consistency.

Maindeck [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] was cute, but I decided to play four in my sideboard instead. My local metagame only features one [card]Tempered Steel[/card] player (Ari Lax) and he was not in attendance; the only copy of the deck in the room that I was aware of was in my backpack. If Birthing Pod and Tempered Steel are popular in your area, make sure to play the two copies because it’s one of the strongest red cards in the format.

The other red card that would be missed, should I chose to play Bant, is [card]Arc Trail[/card]. It was great against Illusions and [card]Necrotic Ooze[/card] combo and would be insane in the mirror as well. The Ooze combo featured looting effects to ditch [card]Oentavus[/card], [card]Civilized Scholar[/card], [card]Grimgrin, Corpse-Born[/card], [card]Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon[/card], and [card]Palladium Myr[/card]. Necrotic Ooze was eventually able to assemble an extremely powerful arsenal of abilities that could kill on the spot. Expect decks like this to show up at the State Championships because it has articles dedicated to it ( I saw one by Bennie Smith last week) and looks like a blast to play (which is the exact point of states in the first place).

[card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] was marginal and I rarely wanted to actually tutor for the creature, but I could see games where it would be important (your Birthing Pod gets destroyed). The same could be said for Hero of Oxid Ridge: very low impact for what the deck is trying to accomplish, but provides a solid plan-B of attacking.

These were the most important plan-A cards.

[card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] – I was never as sad as this robot when I drew him because it works so well with Birthing Pod.

[card elish norn, grand cenobite]Elish Norn[/card] – You should definitely play a seven-drop to provide some late game inevitability. I searched for it many times throughout the tournament.

[card]Archon of Justice[/card]- This creature surprised me because I was expecting [card]Acidic Slime[/card] to be more powerful, but I usually searched for this instead.

[card]Viridian Emissary[/card]- Most decks are centered around Liliana of the Veil or creatures and I like this elf’s chances against that field.

[card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]- I often searched for this six-drop over the titans because the lifelink plus Kessig, Wolf Run ended games quickly. It was also insurance against [card]Day of Judgment[/card] since the others lose their advantage when they are destroyed. I was also happiest when sacrificing it to Birthing Pod to search for Elish Norn.

[card]Blade Splicer[/card] – This card is just insane in this deck because you need creatures that are good at defending your life total. It also gives your opponents headaches because they want to kill the three drop creature, but the token is creating havoc. I usually would search for this creature with Birthing Pod and also does a fantastic job at embarrassing the now $70 Liliana (WTF seriously?).

[card]Fiend Hunter[/card] – This is a new card and can be difficult to judge properly, but I love it. It could remove problematic bombs or just provide some much needed tempo against aggro. I played two copies to make sure I got more experience with it and a third in the sideboard and was never disappointed. I searched for [card]Sun Titan[/card] when this creature was in my graveyard because they work very well together.

[card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]- This was the only 4-drop outside of Solemn Simulacrum that I really liked. I didn’t like searching for Hero of Bladehold because there’s not much point to sacrificing it to Birthing Pod and will be the first real creature to Dismember. I also don’t kill that many creatures before Hero would enter play so it can be blocked down pretty easily. We don’t have blue mana in the deck so I cannot include Phantasmal Image and thus need a cloning effect for opposing bombs such as Elish Norn, Sun Titan, etc.

I tried some other creatures in the deck that seemed good to me and ended up working very well.

[card]Perilous Myr[/card]- This was the only 2-drop that I actually wanted to search for in the late game. I could not ask much more from a creature that costs two mana and was glad I tried it. When I was building the deck, I forgot to play [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card] and this had an effect on my view of Perilous Myr. Mayor is another great 2 drop to search for because you can activate Birthing Pod to turn you Birds of Paradise it into something useful. It will become flipped during the next turn as well because all you did was use an activated ability. The bonus on both sides are very powerful as well because your Garruk tokens or the many humans become stronger.

[card]Razor Hippogriff[/card]- I wanted some lifegain versus red and this could also block down [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] while returning a Solemn Simulacrum. There were no matches where my Birthing Pod was destroyed, but this is best used when that occurs. This was a creature I would search for frequently and was only behind Archon of Justice.

These were the creatures I did not fancy.

Hero of Bladehold and [card hero of oxid ridge]Oxid Ridge[/card]- I have already discussed this in detail and would advise playing creatures that were more concerned with card advantage.

[card]Geist-Honored Monk[/card]- I don’t think I ever needed this creature and would rather play another Archon of Justice or Acidic Slime.

[card]Inferno Titan[/card]- I would not cut this creature from the deck, but did not meet my expectations. It was often the last of the six drops I wanted to search for with Pod. Why get Inferno Titan when you can have Sun Titan for Fiend Hunter?

[card]Garruk Relentless[/card]- I know this isn’t a creature, but I decided to play a single copy of it for value. This is a new planeswalker and would most likely be powerful and was very impressed with it. This is a deck that could make good use of the -1 ability that tutors for other creatures. The 3 damage ability was also very relevant and provided a great follow-up to Blade Splicer. This card is not as powerful as Liliana of the Veil, but is definitely closer that it appears.

After playing in the weekly tournament, I got some good insight on how the deck functions. Here is the list I would suggest going forward.

[deck]4 Birds of Paradise
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Archon of Justice
1 Acidic Slime
3 Viridian Emissary
2 Blade Splicer
2 Fiend Hunter
1 Sun Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Razor Hippogriff
1 Inferno Titan
3 Avacyan’s Pilgrim
1 Perilous Myr
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Elish Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Birthing Pod
2 Dismember
2 Arc Trail
2 Garruk Relentless
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Razorverge Thicket
3 Plains
2 Mountain
4 Forest
2 Sunpetal Grove
2 Rootbound Crag
Sideboard
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Hollowhenge Scavenger
1 Acidic Slime
3 Ancient Grudge
3 Timely Reinforcements
1 Peace Strider
1 Arc Trail
1 Fiend Hunter
2 Surgical Extraction[/deck]

I’m concerned about the Solar Flare matchup mainly because of the small quantity of maindeck clones. [card]Day of Judgment[/card] is also not my favorite card to see since there are so many creature accelerators. The control decks of yesterday were much worse at going over the top, but Solar Flare can destroy anyone in the late game through Sun Titan recursion.

To combat this problematic matchup, I have [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] and Phyrexian Metamorph. I shored up the RDW matchup as well by adding [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] on top of 2 creatures that gain life when they enter play ([card]Peace Strider[/card] and Hollowhenge Scavenger). I don’t care for [card Tree of Redemption]the tree[/card] in this deck because it cannot block Hero of Oxid Ridge and also takes a turn to activate. I would, however, play the Tree in a deck with [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] for additional utility.

Tempered Steel isn’t so bad when you have an extra Acidic Slime as well as 3 Ancient Grudge. The additional Garruk Relentless can take out a majority of the creatures that are played by Tempered Steel as well.

I can certainly see the Bant version of the deck making a splash as well because the clone effects make control matchups stronger. Here’s the list that got 26th place at SCG Indy piloted by Tristan Woodsmith.

[deck]4 Birthing Pod
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Acidic Slime
1 Archon of Justice
2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Blade Splicer
2 Fiend Hunter
1 Frost Titan
1 Master Thief
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Razor Hippogriff
1 Skaab Ruinator
1 Stonehorn Dignitary
1 Sun Titan
1 Viridian Corrupter
4 Viridian Emissary
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
6 Forest
2 Island
2 Plains
3 Hinterland Harbor
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Sunpetal Grove
Sideboard
3 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Spellskite
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Grand Abolisher
1 Master Thief
1 Tree of Redemption
2 Trinket Mage
1 Viridian Corrupter
3 Naturalize
1 Thrun, the Last Troll[/deck]

The entire reason to play this deck over the red counterpart is because of [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]. It makes Sun Titan absolutely insane and shores up the Solar Flare matchup. I don’t think there’s a “correct” third color, but rather the “correct” time for each one. This deck will be better against control, but you lose ground against aggro because of not having access to Arc Trail and Ancient Grudge.

The control decks will become better at defeating aggro as the season progresses, but for now, beatdown is the main enemy. Solar Flare is not great at defeating beatdown because the mana costs are very high and will be adjusted in time. My current list includes maindeck [card]Dead Weight[/card] because it only costs a single mana and can be returned with Sun Titan.

I think this list has a long way to go, but we will be seeing more decks with the same strategy. The four clones can make mirror matches a breeze so that’s something else to consider. Notice how Tristan avoids the plan-B Aggro route and was able to got 8-2 going control.

SCG Nashville had a Birthing Pod deck make top 16, but was not either of the mentioned lists. This goes to show you that we still have to make some progress when it comes to the best list.
Here’s the list that Ben Yampolsky used to get 13th place.

[deck]4 Birthing Pod
3 Perilous Myr
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Acidic Slime
1 Brutalizer Exarch
1 Entomber Exarch
1 Massacre Wurm
1 Morkrut Banshee
4 Phyrexian Rager
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Skinrender
1 Tree of Redemption
4 Viridian Emissary
3 Heartless Summoning
3 Doom Blade
10 Forest
10 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery
Sideboard
3 Peace Strider
3 Sylvok Replica
1 Acidic Slime
1 Hollowhenge Scavenger
1 Reaper from the Abyss
3 Go for the Throat
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Creeping Corrosion
1 Creeping Renaissance[/deck]

This is an interesting list that harnesses the power of [card]Heartless Summoning[/card]. I can’t say I like the manabase as I tried Birthing Pod decks in block that had trouble with the lands, but they have gotten a little better thanks to Woodland Cemetary.

Solar Flare decks have been leaning towards playing plenty of [card]Oblivion Ring[/card]s, so the increased number of Acidic Slimes may be a good call for the upcoming weeks. I’m sure that Ben had a reason to exclude [card]Glissa the Traitor[/card], but it seems like a beating with Perilous Myr and the various 187 creatures. Glissa can also be a way to return destroyed Birthing Pods and I know Ancient Grudge is seeing an increased amount of play recently.

This is another Pod list I think is worth investigating for States because 8-2 is a good record for a tournament that has some great players near the top. It’s not exactly clear which version of the deck is best for the current metagame because each one shines in different situations. The core of each list is strong so any of them can be a powerful choice.

Birthing Pod has been written off lately and I think that is mostly due to the unfocused metagame. As players gravitate towards the most powerful strategies, we will have a better understanding of what we need to defeat. My only warning about this deck is that it has an incredible amount of decisions. Birthing Pod is not the type of card that builds or plays itself, but you will be rewarded for your time and effort. The popular belief is that blue control offers the most room to outplay your opponent, but they have clearly never played this deck. Try some of these decks for States and you just might like what you see.

Thanks for reading and good luck this weekend!

Kyle

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