Hi there guys, my name is Andrew Devine and I’m here to share my thoughts with you on one of my favourite ever decks: [card]Birthing Pod[/card].
I’ve been building Birthing Pod decks since the card was spoiled and playing them since I traded for a set at the Pre-release. As soon as I saw the card it had instant appeal to me as I love creature based decks with toolbox options and had previously been playing [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] and [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] very heavily.
My first proper tournament experience with pod was a PTQ in Manchester. It was the one where [card]Jace, the mind sculptor[/card] and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] had about a week left before bannings and all the best players were turning up with playsets of these cards.
My plan was simple. Let them play stoneforge and cheat an equipment into play and I would use my maindeck leonin relic warder, sylvok replica, viridian corruptor, phyrexian metamorph, acidic slime and the occasional sun titan trigger to blow them up and leave them with lacklustre 1/1 hawks and 1 /2 stoneforges, with 4 vengevines to take care of jace and help against sweepers. To make my hate plan more consistent I had a playset of both fauna shaman and birthing pod to ensure I got the removal as they got the equipment.
The tournament went very well to start with going undefeated until the win and in round. It was at this point I hit the wall, as my partner and I had just endured several days without sleep due to the protracted birth of my first child Lillia. I suffered a couple of losses in a row due to misplaying heavily and ended up coming ninth. Ninth is the worst position to come at a PTQ in my mind but what I took from that tournament is that birthing pod had all the power and consistency I needed from a deck and I was set on playing it for a long time to come.
After that I was obsessed with the card and tried all the combinations of cards and colours that I thought would be good until I settled on a list. Eventually I settled upon green white black. By this point pod was a known deck in the meta and people had answers in their boards and even main deck meaning that pod didn’t last too long. To counter this I was playing a much more artifact centric deck to have more artifacts than they had hate and [card]Glissa the Traitor[/card] and [card]Razor Hippogriff[/card] to return the cards that would inevitably end up in the graveyard.
The deck was geared with several different chains which would be used against different strategies i:e perilous myr-fiend hunter-skinrender-mokrut banshee-massacre wurm-shelodred whispering one would be a very common chain against aggressive strategies. At this point the ptqs were sealed and then modern so I only had game days and fnms to play my favourite deck but after over 50 matches at these local events I was averaging 7 wins for every loss.
Then Dark Ascension came along and every man and his dog were building black white tokens in my local meta. My matchup was horrid even playing several ratchet bombs in my sideboard wasn’t getting me there (even with glissa, hippogriff and titan to reuse them) and my average record soon became 2-2. It was around this time that I had a fallout with a friend who played magic making events awkward for me at the same time as one of my best friends who I had played magic with for years moved away. This really took the shine out of magic for me and I barely played for around 6 months.
I don’t know where it came from but after a while I started to really feel the desire to pick up cards again. I knew what my starting point would be: POD. I browsed online at how people were building their decks and to be honest I wasn’t keen on what I was seeing. The deck had become more explosive with a ton of mana dorks but to me that also felt like the decks biggest weakness.
Hands without mana dorks almost have to be mulliganed as the deck is built too much with the speed they provide in mind, the excess mana dorks provide a lot more dead draws, made getting wrathed a huge blowout and people were running less lands so if they lost their dorks they would have real trouble casting their spells (or enough of them to stay in the game).
Another thing that baffled me was the argument of whether bant or naya was the best colour choice. Could you not just play both? I mean it is a green based deck so there are plenty of options for colour fixing.
I started to put my deck together with the cards I thought would work best and suit my playing style most, spent a while working out the mana until I found the spell lands and caverns would stop me curving out well and thus cost me games more than they would work fine and help me win the game. Essentially I wanted a solid green white base splashing red for conscripts and huntmaster and blue for phantasmal image and deceiver exarch. Double blue or double red costs were a big no-no. I figured what I edge I lost in spell lands would be made up for in being able to play more powerful spells.
I took my deck to the local fnms the week before and did well enough, I was pleased with the mana base and I got the sideboard looking less rough. Time to take it to the WMCQ.Ill not do a full tournament report as there have been others that have covered that one and it’s a while since it took place so its all a little hazy but here is roughly what happened:
First round losses are rough but when In game 3 you put your opponent to 1 with no cards in hand or play TWICE and BOTH TIMES they draw timely reinforcements and get there you feel a bit sad. But thanks for an epic match sam martin. Have to dream crush or get knocked out of contention every round.
This match was easier than anticipated my opponent had a funky brew but the fact that it didn’t have blood artist let it down a little. There was a funny game though where I imaged his messenger then I killed it and played my metamorph as a mortarpod to kill his gravecrawler.
He didn’t draw a zombie and killed my image, it came back with undying as a 1/1 as there was nothing else in play. That allowed me to equip it with the mortarpod and attack a few times as we both drew land. Don’t think ill ever equip an image for the win again .
Esper midrange 2-0
Svetoslav played well but the games came down to a drawn out board stall which was won each time by elish norn.
My opponent was a really nice guy and all 3 games were close but it came down to my boarded crushing vines to remove his flashed in angel to get through with lethal. Also imaging his snapcaster to flash back arc trail for a 3 for 1 came in handy.
Esper midrange 2-0
Glad I managed to win this match as in game 2 I had to mulligan to 4 when he kept 7. Esper midrange is a rather easy match for me it seems and I’m sure my opponent has gotten over it by winning the Chesham PTQ. Congratulations again to Aaron Biddle.
Red black zombies
This matchup was tough and makes me really glad I now have Thragusks in my deck. It basically came down to whether I could match each of his blood artists with a cloned copy of my own and slow his early aggression with arc trails. Once I could get to the midgame at a healthy life total the match was much more in my favour. He played well and made the top 8 anyway by winning his next round.
Esper midrange 1-1
This was supposed to be my id in round but I got paired down against johnathan randle and had to play. I managed to take a protracted game 1 likely from an elish norn.
Game 2 I lost due to thinking he had imaged his sun titan but it turns out it was a restoration angel. I played sun titan and returned 3 images all copying sun titan. If I had copied the angel with the last one I could have won. If I had played the angel from hand and blinked my huntmaster I would have won. But I had double conscripts in hand so I decided I’d conscripts twice in a row for the win. I did it once and lost in the air. Time got called but all I needed all along was a draw so I made top 8.
Esper midrange 2-1
I don’t get on too well with this player anymore so it was rather awkward and silent. I was gonna drop when they announced top 8 pairings but Ben Heath and a few others talked me out of it. He tried to put me on tilt by spending a ton of time pile shuffling, shuffling and then pile shuffling my deck but as I’d already gotten the edge over esper all day I was confident. I lost to multiple Lingering Souls with a slow draw in the game I lost. The others I think came down to Elish Norn.
Naya pod 2-?
I felt I had the edge here as because I had less mana creatures thus I would draw more relevant guys. The last game was close, I cast an arc trail early to kill 2 birds of paradise and slow him down. Later in game he got a silverheart down and bonded with a golem. On my turn I sacrificed my angel to get acidic slime killing his only red producing land. When he attacked I got to block his golem with mine and his sliverheart with the slime and get both his massive creatures off the board.
After the game he showed me a stranded bonfire he had drawn in his hand as id killed both his birds and his copperline gorge.
Well done Manveer do us proud.
The Deck Breakdown
Anyway here is my deck currently:
4 x [card]Birds of paradise[/card]
Although I stated my displeasure at too many mana producers there is nothing to stop me from playing the best cheap colour fixer in green as I’m in 4 colours. It speeds the early game up when you have it, occasionally chumps when required and pods into a phantasmal image in a pinch. Coincidentally it’s also a card that has been a 4 of in easily over 90% of all the decks I have ever played.
4 x [card]Phantasmal image[/card]
THIS is the reason to play blue in birthing pod. The ability to reuse all you comes into play triggers for a measly 2 mana is pretty good but the body left behind and the ability to pod into image makes it miles better than cloudshift. I use this as an attritional tool mostly, coming into play getting a little advantage from a trigger and then chump blocking (for those of you hiding under a rock having a phantasmal image in the graveyard while playing sun titan in the deck is not always a bad thing).
Can also be used to jump the chain with a pod in play by copying their creatures: copy your primeval titan pod into elish norn anyone? Having image drastically improves the effectiveness of all your silver bullets. If someone loses hard to tragtusk then with the clone effects you can have up to 7 copies. Just remember to keep those silver bullets in play if you can as they make every clone drawn/podded that much more devastating.
3 x [card]Strangleroot geist[/card]
Absolutely love this card although it currently has it weaknesses in the meta (blade splicer) it still has a lot of strengths such as allowing 2 pod activations, chumping twice when needed, giving you a creature left on the table post wrath, giving my 6 clone effects chance to gain the undying ability and most importantly being a cheap hasty beater that comes back even bigger if they kill it.
1 x [card]Lightning mauler[/card]
This is the most recent addition to the deck (over the fourth geist) and has worked rather well so far. As you pod up the chain it’s good to give each new creature haste to get in damage before they get “stuck in the pod” next turn rebonding with the upgraded creature. It’s also good with restoration angel as you can flash her in and unbond the mauler ready to bond with a big gribbly creature you cast in your turn creating quite a turnaround in the expected amount of incoming damage for the opponent.
It’s also really good with sun titan almost acting as a fifth free trigger (in addition to phantasmal image) as you can choose to return him over another target give the titan haste and get the trigger to return the other target.
4 x [card]Blade splicer[/card]
This is a card I got 4 of by the release and have played 4 of in every birthing pod deck I have made (I’m one of those people who can’t ever get away from pairing green with white) I think by now people are familiar with all the functions of this card in pod decks and how much value you get from chaining through it, and that it is one half of the best combo in standard with restoration angel.
1 x [card]Borderland ranger[/card]
In a deck with 4 colours fixing is important. It provides card advantage when podded through and seems to have the ability to never get mana leaked when played from hand.
1 x [card]Fiend hunter[/card]
Sometimes you just need to remove a creature, although it never seems to have much permanence with fiend hunter it still does the job. Even though it only seems to get its effect for a short time before they get their creature back it can still be good to get that effect if you are resetting a delver, stromkirk noble or quirion dryad.
To get a more lasting effect you can make it enter the battlefield and with the trigger on the stack blink it with restoration angel which permanently removes one creature and does another with the temporary ability. Also acts like cillit bang against creature tokens. Even though it dies on a regular basis you get value near end of game when you play sun titan.
1 x [card]Deciever exarch[/card]
This is a real value target as it can allow you to skip from a 2 drop to a 4 drop while podding (which when you do it without playing a spell you can get huntmaster gain life and make a wolf then when you pass turn he flips and gets his abilities) also good in graveyard for when you pod into sun titan as he returns and untaps pod allowing for a quicker elish norn (hopefully from sacrificing a returned phantasmal image which copied sun titan for later value).
I also just like him as a tempo creature when drawn to tap down pods and lands in upkeep or creatures during declare attackers. He is good against zombies as he has a body that survives an unmorbid brimstone volley, blocks but doesn’t kill a geralfs messenger and makes them spend mana to rebuy gravecrawlers. Also kills phantasmal image whether it’s theirs or yours to be soon upgraded by a sun titan trigger.
3 x [card]Restoration angel[/card]
This guy is the nuts and I really wish I could play 4 but the 4 drop slot is chock full of utility. Has amazing synergy blinking your creatures especially the silver bullets in their dream matchups (other than image lol) it is the second half of the best combo in standard and gives the deck relevance in the air which it previously lacked.
It’s not always the best card to pod into early game as you usually sac splicer to get to it and then lack a great blink target, but its usually the best card you could hope to draw in a lot of situations. Also a great way to save the silver bullets from removal spells and keep them relevant as the better ones are higher in the chain and don’t come back with sun titan.
2 x [card]Huntmaster of the fells[/card]
Has its ok matchups (sweepers) and its great matchups (creature heavy decks) so there’s a 3rd in the board. Provides solid advantage when podding through and gives the deck removal which it’s expectedly lacking in due to needing such a large creature base. The ability to pass turn kill a guy and flip him back for super value with restoration angel is better than the combination of angel with blade splicer but comes up less often as there’s less of them and its harder to get the 2 4 drops out together than curving 3 into 4.
2 x [card]Phyrexian metamorph[/card]
I would like to dedicate a page to this card as I think people seem to be playing 0-1 in their pod decks. It’s not just a clone effect which should be blatantly obvious as to why it’s good. The thing I like about it is when the boards stall late in the game and you draw a pod, simply play the pod sac a 3 drop to get metamorph copy the birthing pod and chain though the most obvious target. You get left down a 3 drop but with double pod in play victory gets that much easier and leaves them needing an ancient grudge instead of just a naturalize effect.
It’s also great for copying opponents swords and getting in there to blank the advantage they got from their sword. Another great use for metamorph is the ability to tap the birthing pod for 9 power a turn once you have sun titan going with a blade splicer.
1 x [card]Solemn simulacrum[/card]
This has the obvious use of helping to colour fix the 4 colour deck alongside borderland ranger with the added bonus of also drawing a card. I find it to be the yin to huntmasters yang as against control and wolf run (decks with sweepers) this is the card you want to pod through and leave huntmaster to pod through vs the creature matchups.
1 x [card]Thragtusk[/card]
Value. Value. Value. You pay a lot of life at times to birthing pod and this goes a long way towards recouping that. Add in the beast that’s also left behind and you get a lot of value from podding through and gain a hell of a load more when you manage to clone him or blink him with restoration angel. It doesn’t have all round amazing matchups but is always more than fine even when it’s not shining. It’s like a huntmaster with more beef.
1 x [card]Zealous conscripts[/card]
This is usually sad robots best friend as they both shine in the same matchups control and wolf run. The ability to kill them out of nowhere when they cast a Gideon or a titan is invaluable and I would always want one in the deck if just for that. Conscripts can also be rather good by using his ability on your own permanents, birthing pod being one as you can skip straight from 4 to 6.
I have also played a huntmaster on an empty board sacrificed him to pod got conscripts and hasted the wolf to swing for 5 that turn. Isn’t amazing vs creature matchups as he doesn’t always change the math enough to break through a board stall but gets there sometimes. Can kill phantasmal image for fun.
1 x [card]Acidic slime[/card]
Just a catch all creature for when that sword/pod/oblivion ring on the other side of the table is really bothering you. My main use for him is to colour/mana screw the opponent when the opportunity arises as by the time you get to a 5 drop with pod if you can stop them casting spells they can’t get back into the game. Having access to the deathtouch can also be important in situations such as phyrexian obliterator and wolfir sliverheart and should always be bore in mind.
1 x [card]Sun titan[/card]
Just great to have this guy near the end of the curve. You lose a lot of early creatures from combat attrition and to birthing pod activations and this big daddy helps rebuild the board later in the game. Can also help colour fix/accelerate at times with evolving wilds in the graveyard which isn’t something to be sniffed at especially if the bin is short of other targets.
Probably not worth mentioning as everyone already knows but sun titan can return image which can copy the titan getting another trigger returning something else. A thing to note is if you have the option of using the last image to copy restoration angel do so as you can blink the titan and still get another trigger, you may lose 3 power but having 3 more power in the air is a lot better than 6 on the ground in a board stall.
1 x [card]Elish norn grand cenobite[/card]
Big daddy of them all. He is the key to just winning some matchups and the faster you can get there the better. This is one of the main reasons to play red and blue as it can get you there quicker than just playing bant and naya. Because you can do this: pod 2 drop into exarch untap pod. sac birds get image copy exarch untap pod. Sac imaged exarch get restoration angel blink exarch untap pod. Sac angel get conscripts untap pod. Sac conscripts get titan return image copy exarch untap pod. Sac titan get elish norn.
You need a ridiculous amount of mana/life to do this all in 1 turn but the ability to skip through the chain is something that shouldn’t be underestimated, neither is getting down elish norn quick.
4 x [card]Birthing pod[/card]
Signature card of the deck and maybe already mentioned once or twice through the article. Although the deck is built to maximize it doesn’t mean it can’t win without it. against the really fast aggressive decks of the format I even side them out and a load of the singletons to make the deck more streamlined and bring in a lot of removal.
6 x [card]Forest[/card]
4 x [card]Razorverge thicket[/card]
3 x [card]Sunpetal grove[/card]
2 x [card]Hinterland harbour[/card]
2 x [card]Rootbound crag[/card]
3 x [card]Evolving wilds[/card]
2 x [card]Plains[/card]
1 x [card]mountain[/card]
1 x [card]Island[/card]
The mana base is lacking any of the spell lands that usually appear in Birthing Pod lists as I prefer consistency over explosiveness and playing 4 colours I simply must be able to cast my spells. There is also a lack of cavern of souls as I’m using such a varied amount of creature types rather than being human centric like the naya pod decks and that could give me issues I don’t need.
Another glaring thing is only playing 10 sources that can make a birds of paradise turn 1 but as there is only 4 1 drops I feel I can mitigate this. I also class the evolving wilds as a 1 drop when taking into account the curve, a thing to note is it’s almost always best to wilds for a forest if you don’t have one as once you do all the duals will come into play untapped.
1 x [card]War priest of thune[/card]
1 x [card]Fiend hunter[/card]
1x [card]Manic vandal[/card]
1 x [card]Oxidda scrapmelter[/card]
1 x [card]Huntmaster of the fells[/card]
1 x [card]Stonehorn dignitary[/card]
1 x [card]Zealous conscripts[/card]
1 x [card]Thragtusk[/card]
1 x [card]Wurmcoil engine[/card]
1 x [card]Oblivion ring[/card]
3 x [card]Arc trail[/card]
1 x [card]Faiths reward[/card]
1 x [card]Divine deflection[/card]
Anyway I think I’ve rambled on long enough. Hope you made it all the way through and thanks for reading.