Guess Whose Back?
Every time I hear those words I think of the Kid Rock song with those words. They seem to forecast a plague that has returned to torment me.
Today’s plague happens to be the Phyrexian one, specifically in the form of Birthing Pod. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are positive sides to the Phyrexian Plague, like Durdling Around’s Praetor shenanigans, but between Infect, an ability I dislike immensely, and Phyrexian mana, we must tolerate this plague till September when the Standard Multiverse will be returning to Ravnica! (Editor’s Note: Almost…Actual release date is in October)
In the past I’ve written about Bant Pod and how it was the deck I played in Standard last season with not only the release of New Phyrexia but with the rotation of Zendikar block. I felt the deck fell off as the creature pool available was dismissed and in early testing neither the mono red nor Solar Flare matchup felt in my favor, so I build an early form of Delver, casting aside my Birthing Pods for better thing.
Here’s the problem, I could never bring myself to trade the Pods away so they just kind of sat around in my trade binder being neglected until March. I was in Ottawa playing an FNM talking with Dan Lanthier and he was currently on Naya Pod. I could see the merit in the deck though it definitely seemed to fall off in a big away against certain decks. At the time I was on Wolf Run White and posting results that I was quite pleased with and did not feel the need or want to change decks.
That feeling lasted another month until I had to give back the Primeval Titans to the person who I had borrowed them from as they were switching from Delver to Wolf Run. This left me in a predicament, trust Dan and buy four Huntmaster of the Fells or buy four Primeval Titans. Luckily some answers come easier than others as I chose to crack the twenty packs of Dark Ascension I had lying around at home and opened two Masters of the Hunt. (Interesting Side Note: He is only master of one hunt yet people still seem to use the word Huntsmaster, which annoys Andrew Noworaj to no end.)
With the choice made for me, I messaged Dan and he sent me an approximate 55 card list which gave me an idea of where I wanted to start. I also looked over the list online, specifically that of a Mr. Kibler and for the most part they seemed to be lacking something. Birthing Pod is a tutor yes, but I feel it loses value when staying on the lower end of the curve and the only way I would consistently play the deck was if I could cheat out fatties and creatures that make an impact. Now two months has passed between then and now and with the release of Avacyn Restored, my old lists are out of date, therefore I will only provide the list I am currently running:
Naya Pod – William Blondon
The deck currently has 23 lands. I’ve tested other mana base formations and this is the one I feel most comfortable with and that works best. The key land drop is having the untapped Green source on turn one, enabling a turn one mana dork and 14 of the lands accomplish this. Moreover it is rare that double colored mana symbols in either red or white pose a problem as even without one drops you have three creatures that allow you to find either your Mountain or Plains. Gavony Township is a must as it allows you to hold back creatures in hand while increasing your board’s power, which helps for favorable Werewolf flips and avoiding potentially crippling cards like Day of Judgment and Terminus though the second isn’t as bad when you can riffle through you deck with Pod.
Everyone and their mother knows why Strangleroot Geist is played so no explanation is necessary but Emissary is the one with nuance. Since most people will correctly target your mana dorks with their removal, most assume you are playing this guy because you need a land. Sometimes you do but other times his presence whether off a Green Sun’s Zenith or hard cast can justify keeping a slower hand as a large portion of people try and avoid killing him buying you an extra turn.
It seems counterintuitive to have a creature that destroys itself in a Birthing Pod deck and generally I would agree but it provides two important functions. First it is a second Acidic Slime but also an Acidic Slime that can be gotten earlier and can be activated whenever you want, provided you have one green source available and it hits enchantments which Viridian Corrupter does not. The second is it gets around a card such as Torpor Orb as it does not have an Enter The Battlefield Trigger and added bonus, it has some synergies with Sun Titan if needed.
This is the most complicated slot in the deck. When I first built the deck I had the four Huntmaster of the Fells and nothing could change my mind that this was incorrect, until I played against other werewolves. Playing werewolf wars is tedious and is a lot of durdling around for no reason. Another problem is when the card flips the converted mana cost becomes 0 which can be a severe problem in some matchups when you want to pod up the chain.
Given that scenario, I prefer the ramp from Solemn because the big end of this deck can easily outclass most decks and Restoration Angel provides a blink effect for certain creatures that can net you some extra value. The other nice thing is that Solemn and the Angel can easily be podded away whereas Huntmaster is something you generally don’t want to get rid of and Phyrexian Metamorph has an uncertain converted mana cost so Solemn and the Angel provide some more stability.
This card is good. Like really good! It grabs whatever their best permanent is, which when dealing with Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Titans is really good and its presence forces your opponent to play honest and protect themselves on the backswing. The card is really really good and it helps shore up the Esper control decks that are potentially hazardous. Added bonus, it gives one of your fatties Haste or untaps your Pod
The MonstersSun Titan is the disposable one that can be podded up to seven with little thought as it gets slight value but not the amount that can be achieved in other decks. Inferno Titan is the sweeper, his role is to wipe the board against small creatures like mana dorks and Zombies. In pretty much all other situations you want Wurmcoil Engine as it kills anything it touches, gains you life, leaves you two dudes and is just an all-around good card. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is well known as the seven drop but I always like to surprise my opponents with a second seven drop as Elesh dies sometimes. My second seven drop is Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. Both cards are similar while being different though both abilities can change your combat math to provide different amounts of damage and having a bigger top end lets you run over creature decks while providing a second answer against removal.
The deck list is rounded out with Green Sun’s Zenith to find you one and two drops as they are crucial in the early going while allowing you to get a Huntmaster or Acidic Slime to jump up the Pod curve. The last card is Bonfire of the Damned as it is removal against mana durdles early on and late game it represents a large amount of damage in one swing to end the game.
The sideboard is what has worked best for me throughout all the matches I’ve played. Some people prefer the utility creatures in the board whereas some people prefer the spells. I’ll leave the choice up to you with a slight explanation of the board. The Walkers are for the Esper Control decks as the creatures get crushed against their removal and a threat that is harder to remove is best. Grudge is for Swords as generally hitting just one Sword is a free win. And mass removal is for creature decks and knowing when you can play them allows you to hold back on the pressure.
The only matchup I’ve found where you are the underdog is against the Esper Control decks though the release of Zealous Conscripts has shifted the needle closer to your side than before. Asides for that one matchup, you start ahead and those you don’t eventually turn in your favor given the composition of the deck. This leads to there never being a time when I feel in a bad position.
Thanks for reading and have fun playing Magic!