Bannings (or lack thereof) & stepping back with Zombie Pod

The Ponder/Probe/Snag/Snapcaster package is the reason Delver decks win and is the engine behind the best deck in the format.”
Nick Spagnolo said it, Mike Flores gave it his seal of approval and Gerry Thompson decided to take it one step ahead and do what he does best, breaking an already broken strategy by adding [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and a crazy powerful sideboard plan to the mix.

Just a few weeks before that, Christian “3 [card]Sulfur Falls[/card]” Calcano took down Grand Prix Minneapolis with a Delver deck that eschewed the traditional white for the more unusual red, featuring Avacyn Restored all-stars [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] and [card]Pillar of Flame[/card]. Just recently Adam Boyd decided to eschew a second color altogether and take Mono-Blue Delver to the Top 8 of the StarCityGames Invitational in Indianapolis, Indiana, a Top 8 already stacked with four other Delver decks. All the way across the world, in Manila, Yuuya Watanabe was busy emerging victorious from a sea of Delver and conquering his sixth Grand Prix win with his own 19-land version of the deck.

By now, I’m sure that everyone knows about the most recent update to the Banned & Restricted List and have already heaved a sigh, either of relief or frustration, after seeing that the Standard format was left untouched and reading WOTC’s reasons for leaving it so. It sure seems like there is plenty of diversity among all the Delver and occasionally even Delverless Ponder/Probe/Snag/Snapcaster builds, but is there really enough diversity in the format? Are bannings really that unnecessary?

Yes.

No.

Maybe.

I don’t know.

Can you repeat the question?

To me, there are three reliable ways to, at least, have a decent to good shot at beating both the Delver and non-Delver Ponder/Probe/Snag/Snapcaster strategies:

  1. If you can’t beat them, join them.” Why fight against such a powerful and flexible package as Ponder/Probe/Snag/Snapcaster when we can just use it and adapt it to such a variety of decks?
  2. [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card]/[card]Gravecrawler[/card] decks.” Be the fastest aggro deck around, punish them hard if they happen to stumble, force them to pay life for their [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card]s, force them to have that crucial [card]Vapor Snag[/card], force them to make mistakes and capitalize on them;
  3. [card]Sun Titan[/card] + [card]Phantasmal Image[/card].” Make damn sure you have the better late game and all kinds of ways to assure you get there. [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] is and incredible value card, by far the best way to deal with a [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] and it’s nearly impossible for a blue deck to come back from a [card]Sun Titan[/card] + [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] chain.

Delver is not Caw-Blade. It’s not unbeatable, it’s not overly oppressive and it hasn’t been winning every single tournament since its inception. Ponder/Probe/Snag/Snapcaster paired with [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] make it the best deck in Standard but with such a flexible engine behind it, multiple ways to beat the deck and the Scars block rotation being so close I don’t really think the best solution was to ban one or more cards from this blue core. Though, I wouldn’t be terribly unhappy if a ban was able to weaken it to the point of allowing other decks to rise to the top. Maybe M13 will bring us some kind of hoser card for the archetype just like [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card] and [card]Great Sable Stag[/card] were for Faeries back in the [card]Bitterblossom[/card] days. Who knows? Maybe some hoser card has already been printed and we just haven’t truly found it yet ([card]Crushing Vines[/card], anyone?). Better keep on looking!

Going back to the core with Zombie Pod

In other news, back in Grand Prix Minneapolis, Chris Schafer decided to go rogue and introduce Zombie Pod to the MTG World.

Chris Schafer: MTG World, this is Zombie Pod. Zombie Pod, this is the MTG World.

Zombie Pod: Nice to meet you, MTG World, we’re gonna have a lot of fun together.

MTG World: Nice to meet you too, have you met my friend Gerard?

Gerard Fabiano: LAND, CRACK, FETCH, TAKE TWO, I’M CONLEY WOODS! What’s up, Pod? Wanna Top 8 the TCGplayer.com 5k in Edison?

Zombie Pod: Sure do!

Chris Schafer: I’ll leave you two alone now…

[deck title=Zombie Pod by Gerard Fabiano]

[Creatures]
4 Blood Artist
4 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Falkenrath Aristocrat
2 Fume Spitter
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Gloom Surgeon
4 Gravecrawler
1 Manic Vandal
3 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Zealous Conscripts
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Birthing Pod
2 Go for the Throat
3 Tragic Slip
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
3 Cavern of Souls
4 Dragonskull Summit
10 Swamp
3 Woodland Cemetery
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Despise
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Manic Vandal
3 Phyrexian Obliterator
1 Ratchet Bomb
2 Sorin’s Thirst
1 Tragic Slip
1 Zealous Conscripts
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The deck combines the raw power and aggression of Zombies with the [card]Birthing Pod[/card] engine, taking full advantage of [card]Gravecrawler[/card]’s inability to die, [card]Geralf’s Messenger[/card] undying ability and the [card]Blood Artist[/card] triggers, all while giving the archetype access to things it never had before. What? Things such as maindeck artifact removal in the form of [card]Manic Vandal[/card], the possibility of stopping the aggro decks cold by blocking with [card]Gloom Surgeon[/card] forever and the best threaten effect available in Standard: [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card].

Unfortunately, as with most incredibly powerful three-color decks in which two of their colors are basically splashes, the manabase is really inconsistent. No, I mean REALLY inconsistent. With twenty-four lands and a single five-drop as the most expensive spell in the deck, you end up getting flooded a fair amount of time and with only three sources of green in the entire sixty, you often end up paying life in order to cast and activate your [card]Birthing Pod[/card]s, which can be a real problem when you’re facing an aggressive matchup. Having access to red mana is also an issue since with only eight dual-lands getting stuck with a couple of red creatures in hand and no way to cast them ends up being a very real thing in this deck. [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] can’t help matters, as none of the red creatures are Zombies.

In addition, with all the Delver decks going back to [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] as their equipment of choice over [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] having access to [card]Manic Vandal[/card] becomes less important and even though [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card] is miles ahead of all the other options, like [card]Bloodflow Connoisseur[/card] or [card]Devouring Swarm[/card], it’s not really worth the cost of going into a whole other color for it. Sure, losing [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] is a pretty huge deal, but by discarding red completely and focusing solely on black and green, we get things like [card]Glissa, the Traitor[/card], a colossal roadblock against most attacking decks and also fringe cards such as [card]Dungrove Elder[/card]- an impressively large green creature that has been making quite the comeback recently. Oh, and she can provide quite the toolbox…

[deck title=Zombie Pod: The Previous Level]
[Creatures]
4 Blood Artist
1 Bloodflow Connoisseur
1 Butcher Ghoul
1 Cemetery Reaper
1 Crypt Creeper
4 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Entomber Exarch
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
1 Glissa, the Traitor
1 Morkrut Banshee
1 Perilous Myr
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Skinrender
1 Skirsdag High Priest
1 Solemn Simulacrum
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
3 Birthing Pod
1 Bone Splinters
2 Mortarpod
2 Tragic Slip
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Cavern of Souls
1 Forest
14 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Appetite for Brains
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Bloodline Keeper
2 Crypt Creeper
1 Gloom Surgeon
1 Go for the Throat
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Peace Strider
1 Phyrexian Obliterator
1 Phyrexian Revoker
3 Ratchet Bomb
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Increasing the Zombie count after cutting an entire color allows the deck to run the full set of [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] and have a real shot at casting Glissa, while only playing four copies of [card]Woodland Cemetery[/card] and a Forest. The Forest, which can be searched up by the single [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card], assures that you don’t always have to keep losing life in order to use your [card]Birthing Pod[/card]s. The Pod is one of the key cards in the deck, but one I chose to reduce to merely three copies since you never want to draw two in any game.

[card]Morkrut Banshee[/card] is the lone five-drop in the deck. It is a good card to have access to in a format full of [card]Restoration Angel[/card]s and transformed [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card]. [card]Entomber Exarch[/card]’s versatile abilities make it a must-have both in the aggro and control matchups. [card]Perilous Myr[/card], a fine two-drop on its own, is absolute bonkers when paired with cards like [card]Mortarpod[/card], [card]Bone Splinters[/card], [card]Blood Artist[/card] or [card]Glissa, the Traitor[/card].

The sideboard has a couple of silver bullets for the control archetypes, such as [card]Bloodline Keeper[/card], [card]Bloodgift Demon[/card], [card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card] and [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card], as well as a couple of discard spells and [card]Crypt Creeper[/card]s to make sure the opponent can’t start taking control of the game with their [card]Sun Titan[/card]s. [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card], [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card], [card]Gloom Surgeon[/card], [card]Peace Strider[/card] and an additional removal spell in [card]Go for the Throat[/card] help you live against the aggro matchups. They buy you enough time for either your Zombies or your [card]Birthing Pod[/card] to take over the game.

If you’re in the mood to have some fun while fighting the Delver menace, look no further, this is the deck for you!

Thanks for reading,
André Mateus

 

The World Cup!…Qualifier (Part 2)

Well well well.

It turns out I’m writing another report after all!

I figured since my last article was more of a standard cookie cutter tournament report I’d do something different this time.  Despite the fact that three separate times I topdecked a [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] for lethal in game three last weekend (kind of like my [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card] topdecks from the week previous), I’m not going to recount the individual matches. Let’s make this a bit more interesting, shall we?

Reasonably pleased with my 3rd place, I returned all the cards I borrowed and got back to work on Monday. On Tuesday, however, at some point during the day I saw a surprising post from Hayne.

“Taking donations to send players to the Calgary WMCQ. Please Message me with the amount of your pledge, and who you would be willing to sponsor. Thank You!”

Well that sure seemed like a long shot, but after reading some of the posts, it turned out people were actually willing to sponsor some of us to go! I got some very generous donations, and started to seriously consider if it might be possible to make the trip. I looked in to flights? They looked good. I looked in to cards? Chris Seifert was willing to lend me everything again plus some. I looked in to accommodations? Doug Potter and Marcel Zafra were staying at Matt Mercier’s parents’ house, who were gone for the weekend. I was going to Calgary!

After work on Friday I got dropped off at the airport and made the first flight to Calgary. Matt picked me up at the airport (thanks Matt!) and took me over to the fnm where the others were. I had been goldfishing with Zombies on the flight over but the deck didn’t seem as consistent as Naya. After playing a dozen games against Dan Lanthier’s Delver list with Zombies, I decided to stick to Naya and just replace the cards that underperformed in Toronto. The list I settled on was:

[deck title=Naya]
[Creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Borderland Ranger
4 Blade Splicer
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Restoration Angel
1 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Zealous Conscripts
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Birthing Pod
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Sword of War and Peace
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sunpetal Grove
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Cavern of Souls
6 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
3 Gavony Township
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Pillar of Flame
2 Bonfire of the Damned
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Combust
1 Plummet
1 Celestial Purge
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of war and Peace
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Zealous Conscripts
2 Wolfir Silverheart
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The only changes I made from Toronto were to remove the second Silverheart from the main and into the board, and  adding the fourth pilgrim. In the board the third Silverheart was added along with a [card]Garruk Relentless[/card], replacing the [card]Stingerfling Spider[/card] and the second [card]Ancient Grudge[/card].

A few people after asked why I made the changes I did, and why my board looked so unfocused. The reason I have no more than 2 of any card is because with so many decks being viable, you need to be flexible. On top of that, in any given matchup the number of cards you want to bring in is variable. Sure, if I have 4 removal slots for Zombies it might be better to use 4 Pillar, but if instead I use 2 Pillar one Purge and one Garruk, it gives me two advantages. First of all, if I draw multiples of them, I can play at least one of them even if I’m missing a colour, but more importantly it means I also have an extra slot for Ramp (the purge) and for the mirror (the Garruk). The other thing to note is that you cannot dilute your deck with too many answer cards. The naya deck is at its core an aggressive strategy, and this is why I removed one of the [card]Ancient Grudge[/card]s. Drawing one can be great, dealing with swords, Inkmoths, [card]Birthing Pod[/card]s and [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/Card]s, but whenever you draw a second grudge it almost never helps. Apart from [card]Tempered Steel[/card], which is off the radar right now, and the Architect deck, which is not very well positioned, there is no deck where I’d like to have more than one grudge. The numbers seem weird but give it a try before you make any widespread changes. I was very happy with how it played out.

The deck performed very well, with my only loss in the swiss being to Mani Davoudi, a friend I met in Hawaii who lived in Vancouver. With there only being about 60 players in the tournament, it was 5 rounds of swiss and after starting 3-0 before my loss to Mani, I got paired up and was lucky enough to be able to draw in to top 8 (every other 3-1 had to play it out). I ended in 7th place and looked up to see who I would face in the quarterfinals.

Doug Potter. Awkward.

Not only was I staying with him, he was also one of the people who paid for me to go over to Calgary! I debated scooping, but since a) it was only the quarterfinals and b) I really did go to win I decided to play it out after agreeing to a prize split. I managed to beat him and he was very courteous. What a guy.

My semifinals pairing was against Marcel. Jeez, I was going to have to earn this one! Following that, the finals were against Mani again, with him still undefeated in the tournament and my third delver pairing in a row. He won game one but I came back games two and three and took down the tournament to reclaim my spot on the team! Getting to play with Lucas and Alex (as well as Jamie whom I have never met) should be a ton of fun and I can’t wait for August. I guess the trip was worth it after all!

After the finals we decided to head out for dinner, and drove to Nick’s Steakhouse. The group ended up being about 18 people, including Billy Moreno who had come up from the States. It turns out Billy now works for Wizards R&D, which I didn’t know, and he was sent to monitor how things turned out, and what people thought of the game and the tournament system for the WMCQ.

I paid for Doug’s steak dinner since it seemed only fair that after sponsoring me and then knocking him out, I should really give something back. The food was delicious and afterwards we managed to drag Billy, our four housemates and 3 others out to Mercier’s place for a draft. That’s right, what do most magic players do after a full day of 9 rounds of grueling Magic? More Magic. We did an 8 man AVR draft and randomly assigned teams after picks were completed. One of my teammates, Jordan, had an interesting take on the draft format, boasting an Archangel, a Gisela, an Avacyn and a [card]Tyrant of Discord[/card]. He went 3-0 (though I did convince him to cut the Tyrant and run 19 lands). I had a pretty decent RG deck, but managed to 0-3, having used up all my luck/skill already. I did have some sweet games against Billy however, where he had extreme difficulty dealing with a pair of [card]Diregraf Escort[/card]s, a card he helped design. Having him around was pure value, and multiple times during the draft people would yell out “who designed this piece of crap?” or other similar jabs.  Luckily my team carried me and we gamed the winnings, continuing my sudden bad luck streak winning only one flip that included some crap and an [card]Angel of Jubilation[/card].

The next morning was the PTQ and I was not planning on playing. I needed to leave early to get back in time for work, and playing 7 rounds+ would have me done at about 6pm, on a flight at 8, landing at midnight (which is 2am once I land due to time zone) and home at 2:30. Instead I sat around, filled out some WMC papers, watched some matches and left as soon as I could find someone I knew with a car who was knocked out.

It was a great trip and it’s really nice to be able to turn up my level of play after some poor performances. It also helps me appreciate the World Magic Cup more, since although I was very much looking forward to it during the year, now not only did I have to work harder for it, we also have a great team. The team event at Worlds was fantastic, so I hope we can do even better this time around!

Thanks,
Marc Anderson

The World Cup!…Qualifier (Part 1)

Ah, the World Cup Qualifiers.

For the large, large majority of the season, I thought I might have been lucky enough not to have to try to grind my way into a spot on the Canadian team. Alas, as well all know, not only did my closest rival make the top 25 he needed to pass me, he also happened to just win the Pro Tour.

Fine!

Still, having not played a single match of Standard since PT Honolulu (sorry Wizards, that’s PT Tour Dark Ascension” isn’t it) I wasn’t planning on trying my luck at the WMCQ. However, after talking to Hayne, Cappy, Noah and Pascal, they somehow convinced me that it would be pretty sweet to play in this team event. Next step: what should I play? I spoke with them independently, they all answered separately.

Hayne: “Delver”
Cappy: “Delver”
Pascal: “Delver”
Noah: “Well I’ve been working on thi*ignored*

The problem was that I had never actually played a match with Delver. Once that news came up we agreed that I would have an impossible time winning mirrors. I looked at some alternatives. I looked at Humans, Zombies, RG, Grixis and a few others before Matt Mealing posted a Pod list he was working on. Now there’s something I’ve played before! I worked on it a bit, and read a few articles, ending up quite a bit closer to what Brian Kibler suggested that I expected. Here’s what I ran:

[deck title=Pod]
[Creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Strangleroot Geist
2 Borderland Ranger
4 Blade Splicer
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Restoration Angel
2 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Zealous Conscripts
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Birthing Pod
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Sword of War and Peace
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
[/Spells]
[Land]
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sunpetal Grove
2 Rootbound Crag
2 Cavern of Souls
6 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
3 Gavony Township
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
2 Pillar of Flame
2 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Stingerfling Spider
1 Combust
1 Plummet
1 Celestial Purge
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Wolfir Silverheart
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

We went to register, and I was beside Kyle Duncan, Noah and Steve Tomik. All three of them were like “De don’t need ID right? And various people vouched for them. Then I went up and had to present ID THREE TIMES! Needless to say I got some good ribbing for that. Noah and Mealing were originally going to play a more Pod heavy version, but both audibled to a monstrous 5 colour value aggro deck, went 0-2 and dropped.

So how did it go?

Round 1 vs Jake (Mirror)

I led off with a [card]Birthing Pod[/card], while Jake had a geist and an o-ring for my pod. I dropped a wolfir to halt his attacks and he got in with a few spirits from a [card]Geist-Honored Monk[/card] before we stalled out. I had a Township out and he didn’t. Game two, after Jake used his trusty sideboard guide, he presented me with a 59 card deck. Apparently his sideboard guide told him to take out 6 cards and add 5. Not a guide I would recommend! It’s been a while since I’ve had one of those, but I’ve lost to stupider mistakes. I told him not to let it get to his head and took my free win. Oh well.
1-0

Round 2 vs Carl (Delver)

Game one I overran Carl with golem tokens and [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card]s. Game two I mulled to 4, and actually had a decent start but my golems didn’t match up well with his [card]Restoration Angel[/card], especially when it picks up a sword. At the beginning of game three, Dan Lanthier, who was in a strange mood all weekend, came up to our match midway through and announced to my opponent, “You know Marc Anderson won our last Nats right? He was the national champion!” Game three was pretty grindy, with Carl again getting a [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] active, but he made a few mistakes and on one key turn he forgot to equip one of his blockers after attacking and I got through for a bunch of damage. The following turn I needed a way to get an extra point through and had quite a few live draws. Topdecked a geist. Lovely. Not sure if I should be thanking Dan for that one or not.
2-0

Round 3 vs David Goldfarb (Wolf Run Ramp)

With that on my mind, my fourth round opponent sees my ManaDeprived shirt, and asks if “I’m on the team”. I say that I am and he says, “oh so you must be good? What are your accomplishments?” Well with Dan nowhere in sight I recount my resume and he says, “Oh shit.” That made me feel nice.

Game one I get a nice draw. Turn two Geist, turn 3 Borderland, turn 4 Angel, turn 5 Angel, turn 6 Geist plus Metamorph copying Geist. His meager titan is no match. Game two he does his thing and game three I triple Sword him to death.
3-0

Round 4 vs Jamie Naylor (UWR Miracle)

Apparently he built his deck last minute the night before, and game one he laments a deckbuilding error of not having enough Plains to search for with [card]Evolving Wilds[/card]. I get him to counter one of my dudes then smash him with [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] and a fresh [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card]. Game two I get a hit in with a [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card], but he plays a Tamiyo and taps the geist. I topdeck a Conscripts and think I have him dead, but apparently you can’t untap something wearing a [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]. Oops! He then does some fancy work with [card]Terminus[/card] and [card]Noxious Revival[/card] and Wraths my board a few times. I’m never able to get too much on to the board and Tamiyo locks me down. He Entreats for two and starts beating in while I have a few draw steps but hit land after land. Finally I’m at two… and [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card] to the rescue again! He makes me nervous with a [card]Think Twice[/card], Lighthouse activation and flashback [card]Think Twice[/card] to find an answer but whiffs.
4-0

Round 5 vs Francisco Leon (Mirror)

Francisco mulls to 5 on the play, but we still have quite a match. He gets me down to 7 with Geists, Thalia and some [card]Fiend Hunter[/card]/Garruk shenanigans but eventually my maindeck Swords pull me back and I get through. Game two things are looking decent until turn 5 he miracles a Bonfire for three and it’s game over. Game three I get my Pod active and bury him with card advantage.
5-0

Rounds 6 and 7

ID with Phil Samms and Omar Beldon. The top 8 looks pretty stacked including from top to bottom Lucas Siow, Will Bax, Steve Tomik, Myself, Dan Lanthier, Derek Lansche, Omar Beldon and John Bentley. That means…

Quarterfinals vs Dan Lanthier (Delver)

Well so far at every non PT event Dan and I have played in, we have both made top 8 and I have beaten him in the semis. This time we meet in the quarters so maybe he has a chance. I have the honour of playing first due to standings and I play turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Geist and smash. He leaves Leak open but turn three comes the Cavern-inspired Huntmaster and he can’t recover after having basically been Timewalked. Game three I get out a [card]Blade Splicer[/card] and a [card]Borderland Ranger[/card], but my token hits a snag. On my turn 5 I attack with both, with him having a Delver in play. He flashes in an Angel and blocks my Borderland and I have the Bonfire for two for the full value. I follow up with a Huntmaster and a couple of Angels of my own and my record against Dan continues.

Semifinals vs Lucas Siow (Delver)

Last time I played Lucas was in the finals of provincials, which he won (after I had beat Dan in the semis of course) so I wanted to get revenge. Game one my maindeck swords do the job. Game two I’m way ahead on board and have things locked up for the finals where I will play the winner of Will vs Tomik and…wait what? [card]Day of Judgment[/card]? In Delver? Ewwwwww. Game three Lucas gets out a [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card]. I’m able to copy it with Metamorph, but just as we begin drawing cards on his draw step, he hits a [card]Divine Offering[/card] after I’ve drawn 6 cards and he draws the full 12. I didn’t win that one.

Lucas won the finals and I’m very happy that we have a strong team member. Going forward I would definitely recommend my list to anyone interested in Standard. It’s very powerful and has some starts that no deck can keep up with. The only thing I would change is to cut the [card]Stingerfling Spider[/card] and the second Grudge from the board and replace them with more [card]Plummet[/card]s if you still expect to see Delver in your neighborhood. If you want tips on sideboarding I’m gonna have to stick to the Gerry T words of wisdom and instead of presenting a guide (which you should never use), message me what you think you would do in certain situations and I’ll be happy to provide feedback. First of all a big thanks to Chris Seifert, for lending me half the deck, and to Cappy and Noah for filling out what I was missing. Congrats to Lucas and to Pascal (for winning the PTQ on Sunday) and good luck to all those competing in Alberta!

Thanks,
Marc Anderson

*EXTRA*
As I’m finishing this piece, it turns out a number of extremely generous people are willing to donate cards/money for me to go to Alberta and give it one last shot. I have taken a look at the flights and it looks feasible, so I think I will be trying it out after all. By the time this goes up we will already know the winner, and I’ll see whether or not it’s worth writing another report!

I’m amazed at all the awesome people in the community who have contributed, so I’d like to take a minute to thank Chris Seifert, Doug Potter, Alex Hayne, Lucas Siow and Matt Mercier as well as countless others for making a trip out of nothing. Here’s to hoping I take it down!

The Rumors of Birthing Pod’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated…

…or How I have learned to love Phyrexian Rager.

A little more than a month ago, my local store hosted their first big Standard tournament featuring Innistrad and I found myself in a bit of a predicament…I had no idea what to play! Me and my friends only managed to open two copies of [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] by then, so playing UB Control, UW Blade and even Solar Flare was pretty much nothing more than a beautiful, yet impossible, dream. GR Wolf Run Ramp had just exploded and everyone seemed really excited about the second coming of Valakut, but I was never that much of a fan of the Molten Pinnacle. Humans and token decks seemed to also be doing pretty well and looked like they would be fun to play, but they’re just not my style, so I kept exploring…until, while looking through some friend’s binder, I found myself staring at a foil [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card].

OMG! Could this be it? The missing piece? The card that ties it all together?

You see, everyone who knows me, knows I love toolbox decks. I have built dozens of decks with a [card]Trinket Mage[/card] package, I have built decks with an unhealthy amount of one-ofs for [card]Fauna Shaman[/card], I have built decks that used [card]Ranger of Eos[/card] to get [card]Flamekin Harbinger[/card] in order to get [card]Crib Swap[/card] on top of my library (that was, probably, going too deep…) and what is my current bet for the Modern format? Surprise, surprise…[card]Mystical Teachings[/card]. I hadn’t cracked the [card]Birthing Pod[/card] code yet, but I sure as hell wanted to.

Right after Zendikar block and M11 rotated out of Standard, I toyed around a bit with the Phyrexian mana artifact. Bant Pod was my first try, then RUG and after that, BUG, firmly believing that blue was an absolutely necessary color to any Birthing Pod list, but the truth is that, without [card]Sea Gate Oracle[/card] and [card]Preordain[/card], all that blue really has to offer is [card]Phantasmal Image[/card], and with all the Kessig Wolf Runs roaming around, the little illusion that could is not even that impressive anymore. [card]Ponder[/card] in a format without fetchlands is also not a reason to go into blue and [card]Skaab Ruinator[/card], sadly, to me, only ended up being “cute” instead of “great”.

However, the biggest problem I found while building these UG/x decks was the awful mana. Building a three-color manabase in this format is so not what it used be in the good old days when we used to have fetchlands and awesome manlands fixing our mana. Without [card]Misty Rainforest[/card], we can’t choose between casting [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] or [card]Ponder[/card] in the first turn and we lose the ability to find pretty much whatever land we want when peeling off the top.

Losing the mandlands hurts even more because with no [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card], [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] and particularly [card]Raging Ravine[/card], not only have we lost another great angle of attack that also happened to smooth our mana, but an amazing mana dump for the times when we got dangerously flooded. Additionally, with Wolf Run displaying the sheer power of the [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] + Kessig Wolf Run combo, UB Control milling us via [card]Nephalya Drownyard[/card] and the white token decks giving us nightmares with both [card]Gavony Township[/card] and [card]Moorland Haunt[/card], we are forced to play with the poor man’s [card]Tectonic Edge[/card], [card]Ghost Quarter[/card], and the three-color manabases in this format don’t really support that decision all that well. A 2-color Birthing Pod deck looked like it would be the best option.

I started by discarding GW Pod because it just seemed like a worse version of GW tokens and also discarded RG Pod because even tough it seemed to have a pretty decent early game and [card]Inferno Titan[/card] to dominate the late game, it just felt a little underpowered when compared to the other decks in the format. I dismissed UG too, due to being soft to aggro and to the fact that the archetype’s lack of removal was forcing me to play [card]Mana Leak[/card] and I was never able to figure out how many should be in the deck. Zero? Two? Three? The Fantastic Four? How about we try BG instead?

BG Pod looked to be very promising with a decent early and middle game, a good selection of silver bullets and [card]Sheoldred, the Whispering One[/card] at the top of the [card]Birthing Pod[/card] curve, but it was quite lacking in the three-drop department. [card]Sylvok Replica[/card] was a shoe-in, but then what else? Glissa, the Traitor? Seems good, but good enough? [card]Cemetery Reaper[/card]? Isn’t it too narrow? Oh, Magic Gods! If only [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card] was legal…wait, what?

[Deck title=BG Birthing Pod]
[Lands]
10 Forest
8 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery
2 Ghost Quarter
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Llanowar Elves
3 Viridian Emissary
1 Spellskite
1 Perilous Myr
2 Phyrexian Rager
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Glissa, the Traitor
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Entomber Exarch
1 Skinrender
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
3 Acidic Slime
1 Precursor Golem
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Grave Titan
1 Massacre Wurm
1 Sheoldred, the Whispering One
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Doom Blade
2 Beast Within
[/Spells]
[Artifacts]
4 Birthing Pod
[/Artifacts]
[Sideboard]
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Cemetery Reaper
1 Skinrender
1 Peace Strider
1 Stingerfling Spider
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Bitterheart Witch
1 Brutalizer Exarch
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Go for the Throat
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

The Creatures:

4 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card], 2 [card]Llanowar Elves[/card], 3 [card]Viridian Emissary[/card]: These are pretty much necessary to fix your mana and help you play your [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and your expensive threats one turn earlier. The Emissarys are particularly good vs Monored and UB Control.

1 [card]Spellskite[/card]: Great card to search for, blocks well, protects both your Pod and your threats and deals with the [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]+ Kessig Wolf Run combo.

1 [card]Perilous Myr[/card]: Helpful one-of. Great vs Monored and other aggro decks, good way to beat a [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]. Has a nice sinergy with Glissa.

2 [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card]: ALL-STAR! 2/2 body, draws a card…fill a much needed slot in the deck.

1 [card]Sylvok Replica[/card]: Great against [card]Tempered Steel[/card], Tezzeret decks, [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card], [card]Batterskull[/card], [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], [card]Torpor Orb[/card]…also has a great sinergy with Glissa.

1 [card]Glissa, the Traitor[/card]: Most definetely good enough and an amazing roadblock. A 3/3 first-striking deathouch creature for three mana would likely be good enough to make the deck, but there are some nice times to be had with this lady and a couple of other creatures in the deck.

1 [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]: Fixes your mana and draws you a card when you Pod him away. Great vs aggro and it’s also a pretty nice one to return with Glissa if it comes up.

1 [card]Entomber Exarch[/card]: [card]Gravedigger[/card] or [card]Super-Duress[/card], either one is pretty good. This kind of deck loves a [card]Gravedigger[/card] and also loves to know if the coast is clear to cast a game-ending threat or to get one with [card]Birthing Pod[/card].

1 [card]Skinrender[/card]: [card]Shriekmaw[/card] 0.5 is still quite good against the aggro and the token decks.

1 [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]: Amazing one-of against the blue decks and just a big nightmare for UB Control.

1 [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]: Incredibly versatile card. Great as another fatty, another Slime, another Pod or also as just another answer to [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]. Yet another great card to return with Glissa.

3 [card]Acidic Slime[/card]: A must-have! Deals with pretty much everything and I always keep at least two in against every matchup after sideboard.

1 [card]Precursor Golem[/card]: Everyone seemed to have forgotten about this card…nine power for five mana seems great, and the ability to Pod away the Precursor and keep the golems around is just the icing on the cake. When the most common removal played is [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], [card]Dismember[/card] and [card]Beast Within[/card], I’m actually quite surprised that we haven’t seen more Precursors roaming around.

1 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]: Another must-have! Possibly the best finisher in Standard.

1 [card]Grave Titan[/card]: The best Titan the deck can afford. Very good against the token decks.

1 [card]Massacre Wurm[/card]: A pretty nice one. Powerful body, can nearly win games on its own. Even better than [card]Grave Titan[/card] against the token decks and an answer to [card]Mirran Crusader[/card], [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] or [card]Invisible Stalker[/card].

1 [card]Sheoldred, the Whispering One[/card]: Because: “At the beginning of your upkeep, return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield. At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, that player sacrifices a creature.” I have lost exactly one game when a Sheoldred stayed in play for more than two turns and that was due to running out of cards in my library.

The Sidebord craziness:

[card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card]: Great utility creature. Stops Planeswalkers, [card]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/card], [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card], Shrines, Swords and [card]Lashwrithe[/card].

[card]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/card]: Great against Monoblack Poison, useful against the Wolf Run decks and consider it against pretty much any deck with [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] and Swords.

[card]Cemetery Reaper[/card]: A fringe card but helpful in some situations. It’s good vs Solar Flare, exiles [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] vs Monored and UR Tempo, and it might be a decent way to combat [card]Moorland Haunt[/card].

[card]Peace Strider[/card]: The silver bullet against Monored. Gets the nod over [card]Tree of Redemption[/card] due to the immediate lifegain and the possible sinergy with Glissa.

[card]Stingerfling Spider[/card]: The best card vs [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] and fine against Monoblack Poison and other decks that also have [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card].

[card]Bloodgift Demon[/card]: An awesome card to resolve against UB Control and other blue decks.

[card]Bitterheart Witch[/card], [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/card]: Nice little combo against the token decks and it might also be a consideration against the Wolf Run decks.

[card]Brutalizer Exarch[/card]: Great vs Control as a bigger [card]Acidic Slime[/card] who has the ability to deal with Planeswalkers.

[card]Surgical Extraction[/card]: Quite helpful vs [card]Burning Vengeance[/card], Solar Flare, [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] and pretty much every Snapcaster deck.

[card]Go for the Throat[/card]: More removal for the aggro and token decks, a needed alternative to [card]Doom Blade[/card] for the Monoblack Poison matchup.

Try it out! Wolf Run Ramp and RDW might be a little tough, but the blue control matchups are quite easy and interesting. The white token decks are also pretty fun because the matches always end up being a blowout in either direction and [card]Tempered Steel[/card] can be hard if they have a fast start but with so many answers to tutor up, you’re definetely favored. Look for [card]Sylvok Replica[/card] – [card]Glissa the Traitor[/card], they’re pretty sweet in that match-up!

If you would like to try a new thing and [card]Birthing Pod[/card] is right up your alley or you just love casting [card]Phyrexian Rager[/card] and stare at your opponents with a smile while they look at you in disbelief, this is the deck for you!

Thanks for reading,
André Mateus