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Feature Article – Australian Pod

My name is Daniel Unwin, and I am an Australian who loves building decks for all formats. I have had quite a bit of success building decks for my friends Isaac Egan, John-Paul Kelly and Jeremy Neeman. This past weekend I built a deck to play at Australian Nationals but it was a friend of mine, once again, that got all of the glory playing a deck that I built.

My Nationals preparation began as soon as CawBlade was banned. I had just won a PTQ by suiting up [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]s, and was fully prepared to do the same at Nationals. With the bannings the format had become wide open. I spend a lot of time in 2-mans and Daily Events on MTGO, and I relished the opportunity to sink my teeth into a new format. There was, however, a definite obstacle preventing my online preparation; our nationals would be M12-legal, whereas the set was not due to be released online until well after the event. Nevertheless I decided that it would still be worthwhile learning the current online standard format, as it was unlikely to change too much with the addition of M12.

There was a lot of speculation about what would become the deck to beat. The consensus was that it would probably be UR Twin or Valakut, with Mono Red after the release of M12. I decided to start by playing Valakut, as I had some experience with the deck, whereas I had very little with Twin. It didn’t take me long to realize that Valakut was not something I was interested in. It struggled against counterspells, [card]Spreading Seas[/card], [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card]s, [card]Memoricide[/card]s and so on. I did however discover the power of sideboarded [card]Pyroclasm[/card]s in a combo deck. All of the aggressive strategies involved playing multiple creatures with 2 or less toughness, and while they were usually able to bounce back post-‘Clasm, they weren’t really able to do so before you played a Titan and killed them.

The next deck I chose to play was UB Control, and I liked it. I 4-0’d a daily and 3-1’d a couple of others just beating up on Valakut, Twin and the other control decks. I did however, have a lot of trouble with Red. I worked quite hard in order to fix the match-up without losing too much to the other decks. I started playing [card]Calcite Snapper[/card] main, with [card]Disfigure[/card], [card]Batterskull[/card] and more sweepers in the board. I managed to get a slightly favourable match-up against the standard looking red decks, although I knew they would soon get access to [card]Incinerate[/card] and [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card].

Then came Tempered Steel. I am actually surprised that it stayed underground for as long as it did, given how strong it turned out to be. Once people realized this, it was instantly Tier 1, it was heavily played, and UB just could not beat it. It was still vulnerable to [card]Pyroclasm[/card] but not all of the time; Sometimes you manage to resolve a Steel before they can ‘Clasm and sometimes they just don’t have it. I spent a couple of days trying to get UB to compete, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Given Red wasn’t great and Steel was a nightmare I decided to try and find something else.

The first obvious thing to do was play Steel. People weren’t quite ready for it and it just felt so overpowered. I was smashing 2-mans and starting to get my head around the card choices when I first encountered the mirror. It was quite possibly the most horrible mirror I have ever played. Playing Jund in standard was bad, but this felt so much worse. It felt like it didn’t matter at all how I played. There was always a card, or a sequence of plays that they were likely to have that would just beat you. Sure you could do the same to them, but that was not the type of magic I wanted to be playing. So, once again, I was looking for another deck.

The control decks seemed to decide whether they wanted to beat Valakut or aggro, but couldn’t do both at once. Twin had an excellent game one but had a lot of trouble against the massive increase in the hate that came from pretty much everyone. The aggro decks seemed good but were never better than 50-50 against Pyroclasm decks. There were also control players out there who really wanted to beat aggro and you just couldn’t fight through them. In the past I have been accused of (or attributed to) building decks that try to beat all of the different types of decks at once. Sometimes it just couldn’t be done, and I would end up playing a bad deck that doesn’t beat anything. RUG Pod was different. I felt that it was doing powerful enough things to beat anyone playing a sub-optimal deck, with the bonus of having a good plan against all of the Tier 1 decks.

I wasn’t quite sold on the idea, as I was pretty determined to play a deck that wasn’t weak to [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. I have a real affection for [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] and [card]Birds of Paradise[/card], but I just didn’t think that they were right in the current format. I also felt that the deck didn’t need the explosiveness of Cobras; It generally wanted four to seven mana for a couple of turns in a row. While it was sweet to play a Frosty on turn three, it just didn’t feel like the way the deck wanted to play. I also didn’t want to play too many lands given that the deck seemed to run out of gas if you didn’t save your [card]Preordain[/card]. You can’t cut lands if you’re playing Cobra, so I decided upon [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card] instead. I didn’t think there were going to be many games where attacking with a 2/1 would be relevant. The 0/4 is great against aggressive strategies and allows you to have Pyroclasm in your sideboard rather then having to fear it.

While playing online I speculated about how M12 would improve the deck. I was excited about a [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] as a four-drop for Pod, and also the addition of Ponder. I knew the deck would get better and was keen to start testing post-M12. I built a bunch of decks and starting testing with the guys at my local store. Luke Mulcahy, Wilfy Horig and Aaron Nicoll from the Australian Nationals Top 8 were all part of this group. The gauntlet we had was UW control with O-Ring, Vampires and Red with Grim Lavamancer, UB and Valakut with Solemn, Tempered Steel, UR Twin and RUG Pod. We played a lot of games at the store while my teammates in Canberra (Jeremy Neeman, John-Paul Kelly, Anatoli Lightfoot, Andrew Vance and Dave Searle) were testing the same lists. The feedback and games I had were invaluable. Being able to test and tune with a bunch of your friends who happen to be excellent at magic is exactly what you need to stay motivated and do well.

During testing there were a number of people who weren’t sold by the deck. It was very complicated and on numerous occasions I heard about it losing repeatedly to pretty much everything, These were good magic players that I respect. I was having very different results. Between the main and the side I was finding the deck well prepared to combat any given match-up. I realised that the deck was not at all straightforward to play, and as such I began to tell people not to play it. It is very hard to win games if you don’t play super tight and we were getting pretty close to Nats. I didn’t believe that they had invested enough time to learn it. Five of us ended up playing the deck. Of the five I spent a lot of time with Isaac Egan and Aaron Nicoll talking them through the plays, explaining when not to [card]Ponder[/card] early and how to get the most out of Pod. Russell Phillips and John-Paul Kelly played the deck against my advice, trusting in their ability to work it out on the fly. Both Isaac and Aaron were getting the hang of it. We spent the last few days before Nationals testing day and night, only taking breaks to draft. I definitely felt that it was going to pay off.

This was the list we played:

[deck]4 Copperline Gorge
2 Forest
1 Halimar Depths
4 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Mountain
3 Raging Ravine
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Deceiver Exarch
4 Overgrown Battlement
2 Frost Titan
2 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Spellskite
1 Molten-Tail Masticore
1 Acidic Slime
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Tuktuk the Explorer
1 Urabrask the Hidden
3 Birthing Pod
3 Ponder
3 Preordain
4 Splinter Twin
Sideboard
3 Mana Leak
2 Nature’s Claim
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Oxidda Scrapmelter
4 Pyroclasm
1 Spellskite
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Wurmcoil Engine[/deck]

By playing more and more games I started to get a better understanding of which cards were fitting with the way I wanted the deck to play. Decks like this are extremely hard to build as there are so many situational cards that you want to fit in.

24 lands
4 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card]
4 [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card]

The mana base felt OK once I had culled it down to 24 lands. You had to have a green source and a blue source early with the necessity of finding double-red later on. This was one area where [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] was better then [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card], in that you never have colour troubles with an active Cobra. I did eventually cut a [card]Raging Ravine[/card] for a [card]Halimar Depths[/card]. Online I used [card]Raging Ravine[/card] a lot. With [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] and [card]Ponder[/card] the deck was running out of things to do far less than before, so I was not using [card]Raging Ravine[/card] anywhere near as much. I felt that the deck also needed an extra blue source more so than the other colours, such that [card]Halimar Depths[/card] seemed like the obvious replacement. I would cut an Island for a second Depths if I were to play the deck tomorrow. The Birds are awesome, the colour fixing and acceleration is so important, and you can Pod them into a juicy selection of two-drops.

3 [card]Ponder[/card]
3 [card]Preordain[/card]
I wanted to play more than six [card]Ponder[/card]s and [card]Preordain[/card]s but I just couldn’t fit any more in. the 3-3 split looks sloppy and [card]Preordain[/card] is definitely not better than [card]Ponder[/card]. There are points in most games where you want to play one and not the other. If you have a way to shuffle or if you were looking for something specific then [card]Ponder[/card] was better. In all other situations you would rather have [card]Preordain[/card]. I totally respect 4 [card]Ponder[/card] but I would still play 3-3.

4 [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card]
4 [card]Splinter Twin[/card]
Most Pod lists play less then eight combo pieces. This is due to the fact that you are often on the Pod plan instead of trying to combo them. Drawing too many of one of the combo pieces is obviously not ideal. The deck doesn’t run enough ways to protect the combo, so in many games you are unable to use it to win straight away. What I was finding was that in a bunch of matches you really needed to find the combo to win game one. For this reason I wanted to maximise the number of each piece. I also found that when I was Podding, the [card]Splinter Twin[/card]s were quite good. Being able to put Twin on an [card]Acidic Slime[/card] and turn the copy into a Frost Titan was insane. Even if you didn’t have a Pod you could Twin up a Slime or a Titan and lock them out of the game.

3 [card]Birthing Pod[/card]
I had four for a while, as it’s the best card to draw against control. You want to draw one in most games and the second is OK if the game is going long. The third is never good, and you can also win quite easily without it.

2 [card]Spellskite[/card]
2 [card]Solemn[/card]
2 [card]Frost Titan[/card]
These are the pod targets that you are happy to draw. Everyone knows how good [card]Spellskite[/card] is and it is no different in this deck. I had one for a long time but I was often wanting to find another after they had killed the first. Solemn is the number one card you want to pod through, So much value! Turn-three Solemn feels so good against both aggro and control. [card]Frost Titan[/card] is the best way to finish the game with Pod; it happens quickly and you upgrade into it through an [card]Acidic Slime[/card]. This usually gets them off enough lands that they can’t deal with it in time. Frosty is also OK to draw as he is able to dominate a game all by himself.

1 [card]Acidic Slime[/card]
1 [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]
1 [card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card]
1 [card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]
1 [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card]
These are the Pod targets. [card]Acidic Slime[/card] is an all-star. You need a five-drop to get you from Solemn to [card]Frost Titan[/card][card][/card] and this is definitely the one you want. It’s great to draw against pretty much every deck, and you can get it out as early as turn three. I would consider running up to three of these but I just couldn’t find the space. I had two up until the night before the event, one of which I reluctantly cut for the Urabrask.

Urabrask was a suggestion from my mates in Canberra. It was good against Twin, allowed you to beat down, it sped up your Titan clock and allowed you to play Exarch and Twin in a single turn.

[card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card] was in the sideboard for aggro match-ups and for when you take out you combo. He is obviously great value to Pod away and even without Pod, the aggro decks have a lot of trouble getting through him. I was playing a single [card]Sea Gate Oracle[/card] in the main, but every time I played Tuktuk it felt so good that I made the change.

[card]Phantasmal Image[/card] was a late addition to the deck. It didn’t take us long to realise its power, and it definitely increased the speed and power of the Podding plan. Generally you turn a two-drop into Tuktuk, into Solemn, into Slime and then Titan. [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] allowed us to then turn a Bird into a copy of the Titan. It was also a lot of fun to draw as you could do some silly things with it. Once in testing I copied a [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card] which then traded, shuffling itself back in.

[card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card] is the one card that doesn’t fit the deck at all. It doesn’t help you combo and you don’t want to Pod into if you are planning to keep Podding up. It is, however, definitely worth the slot. You fetch it to deal lethal through an impenetrable board. It kills Planeswalkers, it makes your board resistant to [card]Day of Judgment[/card], it takes down [card]Spellskite[/card]s and prevents your opponent from Twinning you out. Against control it is a perfect way to create a board hostile enough that they have to tap out to deal with it. It just answers all the questions that they can’t otherwise answer. Not to mention you always have a graveyard full of creatures.

On to the match-ups.

Tempered Steel is a bad match-up in game one. Setting up a Pod chain takes too long in most games and you don’t have long enough to protect your combo against [card]Dispatch[/card]. Sometimes they stumble, in which case Frosty or [card]Splinter Twin[/card] on an [card]Acidic Slime[/card] gets the job done. And sometimes they don’t have the Dispatch for your turn four combo, but most of the time they just get there.

-1 [card]Urabrask, the Hidden[/card]
-1 [card]Frost Titan[/card]
-1 [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]
-1 [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card]
-1 [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card]
-1 [card]Splinter Twin[/card]
-2 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card]
+4 [card]Pyroclasm[/card]
+2 [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]
+1 [card]Sylvok Replica[/card]
+1 [card]Oxida Scrapmelter[/card]

Now this is a match-up you are happy to play post-board. [card]Pyroclasm[/card] and [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] buy you so much time, and your Pod chain will destroy them. In order to fit all of the eight cards you have to trim a lot of the less effective Pod targets. I’m taking out two Birds whenever I bring in the ‘Clasms and this has been fine. Post-board it is not as important to combo them, but you still leave in six pieces as the individual cards are OK against them with two more things to put a Twin on.

Red Deck Wins, Goblins and Vampires
-3 [card]Splinter Twin[/card]
-1 [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card]
-1 [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]
-1 [card]Frost Titan[/card]
-2 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card]
+4 [card]Pyroclasm[/card]
+1 [card]Thrun, the last Troll[/card]
+1 [card]Spellskite[/card]
+1 [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card]
+1 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]

Just like Tempered Steel this is unfavourable pre-board but excellent afterwards. They have a lot of burn to turn off your [card]Splinter Twin[/card]s, and as you don’t really need to combo post-board, they are easily cut. Once again you change your Pod chain in order to grind them out.

Valakut
-1 [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card]
-1 [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]
-1 [card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]
-1 [card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card]
+3 [card]Mana Leak[/card]
+1 [card]Spellskite[/card]
This match-up is great in game one, as you are able to race easily, with the backup plan being that of Slime into [card]Frost Titan[/card] keeping them off [card]Primeval Titan[/card]. Post-board they will bring in ways to deal with [card]Splinter Twin[/card], but this slows them down considerably. Your [card]Mana Leak[/card]s do the same allowing you to Pod through in time, at the very least just finding you a Spellskite to protect your combo.

UB Control
-2 [card]Spellskite[/card]
-1 [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card]
-1 [card]Splinter Twin[/card]
+3 [card]Mana Leak[/card]
+1 [card]Thrun, the last Troll[/card]

Game one is great; They pretty much can’t ever beat a resolved [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and once you realise this it’s not hard to sneak one through. Post-board things get tougher. You have to play it slow, building up enough of a board to either combo them once they tap out, or just grind them with a Masticore, a Titan or a Thrun.

CawBlade
-2 [card]Frost Titan[/card]
-1 [card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]
-1 [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]
-1 [card]Spellskite[/card]
-1 [card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card]
+3 [card]Mana Leak[/card]
+1 [card]Sylvok Replica[/card]
+1 [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]
+1 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]

This is the toughest match-up to play well. They generally have very little disruption pre-board. Finding the right time to get your combo through their conditional counters is tough, but there is always a window. They have to get their threats out quick if they want to beat your Pod plan and this means a window will appear at some point. If they decide to play it slow then you need to build up enough of a board with Pod. They will eventually have to get some threats out and this is when you slam your combo. Mana Leaks make things easier for you to play and a lot harder for them.

I finished ninth at Nats and I was quite honestly devastated. Watching Aaron take it out definitely made my own disappointment easier to deal with. I love this deck. It was and still is a lot of fun to play and I think it is a great choice for any standard event if you are willing to put in the hard work to learn it. Remember to only cast Ponder or Preordain when you know what you are looking for.

Hopefully I am able to write again soon,

Daniel Unwin
Sledgesliver on MTGO
[email protected]

42 thoughts on “Feature Article – Australian Pod”

  1. Good article and solid breakdown of card choices. Happy to see you and your team do well. One quibble – I think your writing style is pretty mechanical. As someone who’s talked to you several times, I know you don’t speak like a robot in real life with the short clipped sentences – the first paragraph in the article is an excellent example- and that style makes it quite difficult to engage in the article and connect with you, the writer.

  2. How did it feel losing to a topdecked Goblin Grenade in the win-and-in feature match? We all thought Matt was dead for sure after the 2-3 Baloths you played; he’s a bit of a miser like that 😉

  3. hey, dan. welcome to the big time and good luck for any future articles.

    cool to see someone i know and played against writing here.

  4. Nice article Dan, a good breakdown of what looks like a super fun deck to play. Would be interested to hear what your thoughts are on dropping the combo ala michael Jacob and chapin? Rough beats on coming ninth, I can’t imagine how it must feel, I’m sure you’ll bounce back though!

  5. Thanks for the all the feedback guys :). @Toodumbtopost: I was reading through it again and i can definitely see where you are coming from. I will try and have my articles run a little bit smoother in the future. Without getting defencive; I often struggle to keep my articles down to a managable length and i think this is where they can become a bit cut off and mechanical. I always have more to say then i can possibly fit in.

  6. I was the other Twinpod player in the Top 8. I’ve been playing both my and your versions of the deck and I’m still having a tough time deciding which I prefer. I think what sells me on your list right now are the Mana Leaks in the board. I still miss the frequent draws of turn 3 Slime, into a turn 4 Clone effect copying Slime though. Thoughts on replacing Frost Titans, or at least one of them, with an Inferno Titan? That’s the only change I’ve made.

  7. I’ve been looking at the frosty a little closer lately with a distinct lack of valakut around. If you are expecting a field without much or you just plan to combo them game 1 then I would consider playing a Consecrated Sphinx(insane against caw) and a wurmcoil / inferno titan main deck.

  8. Great job on the article
    Love the break down on what you would side in against each match up

    phyrexain metamorph i thought this would have been in the deck, it works as another birthing pod
    and does just about everything u could want it to in this deck and it only cost 1 more than image or 2 more if ur podding

  9. How about you have done EVIL?
    How about you are so morally bankrupt that you can not even tell if STALKING = Evil.

  10. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  11. Can everybody please stop spamming?

    nice article, Dan. SO much info, which is obvs pretty awesome.

    Well Dan.

    *Done.

  12. i would suggest slagstorm instead of pyroclasm. your mana base seems solid enough and pyroclasm does nothing against a Temp steel deck with Temp steel in play

  13. Good to see you on here, buddy. Nice work at Nats. I know 9th is tough, but thems the breaks.

  14. Great article, I hope you will be writing more, especially some deck techs after rotation.

  15. @Ryan: I would, as i mentioned, cut an island for a 2nd depths. I would go back to a 2nd slime over the Urabrask. Cut one Frosty for a Consecrated Sphinx and play a 4th ponder over the 4th battlement. I would also turn the scrapmelter into a master thief in the board.

    @tim: i don’t like slagstorm, costing an extra mana is a big thing against goblins. RR is also hard to find early expecially if you take out a couple of birds which is what i do when i board clasm. You also have a lot of ways postboard to deal with Tempered Steel (the card). I definitely think Pyroclasm is better.

  16. “Being able to put Twin on an Acidic Slime and turn the copy into a Frost Titan was insane.”

    I don’t understand how the Slime-copy can be podded into a Frost Titan? I thought the Slime-copy is a token, and don’t tokens have a converted mana cost of 0?

  17. Melbourne_junkie

    @?? – tokens that are a *copy* have a cmc = the cmc of the copied-original (Sky Hussar Kiki-Jiki makes 5cmc copies, Pestermite//Exarch-Twin makes 3cmc copies). Tokens are that produced but are not copies (think Decree of Justice, Elspeth’s, Call of the Herd) have cmc = 0.

    Can’t remember the exact Comprehensive Rule # but it shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two to find it.

  18. about the mana base, i am not to sure you should run 24 land. with 8 accelerator, 3 preordain and 3 ponder it seems that you can run 22 land without a problem.
    the red doesn’t do much in this deck. adding the combo seems greedy with too much hate toward splinter twin. why not cut the red and run a strictly dedicated land destruction version? 4 phyrexian metamorph and 4 phantasmal image along with acidic slime is very wicked. not to mention if your land destruction plan didn’t work out you can always grind your win with your opponent deck (i win many times with a grave titan or a sun titan ,courtesy of my opponent. ).
    another question, why the overgrown battlement? why not use llanowar elves instead to make sure the deck have more consistent fast start?
    also i would like to hear your opinion of mimic vat in conjunction with birthing pod (mimic vat token have the same cmc as the creature it gobbles) and beast within in pod deck (this piece is tricky and hard to explain but it gives you deck some protection from planeswalker or can be used as a stone rain)
    how about adding an elixir of immortality to the deck? (shuffles all the dead creature and used preordain/ponder for value!)

  19. nice article and more importantly, excellent deck you built there. Congrat on your team and your deck.
    I am fascinated with this deck as soon as I saw the Australian Nat, trying to get all the cards right now. Definitely want to play it.
    Your article is great, and I really loved your reasoning and all the sideboard walkthrough.
    I look forward to more decks from you.

  20. Hi

    great article

    But i have some queston’s in the u/b control matchup you say,
    “at the very least just finding you a Spellskite to protect your combo.” But you take out spellskites agains ub

    and also against caw blade you say “once they tap out, or just grind them with a Masticore, a Titan or a Thrun.” but you take out your titans.

    I was wandering if you where expecting more of aggro (Steel, RDW, vampires) or control u/b and caw-blade

    would you do some changes after the resent events from usa nationals and the popularity of caw-blade

    thanks for great article

  21. @Raggi, i expect UB to have access to flashfreeze and go for the throat a lot more post board. The sort of hate that spellskite doesn’t deal with. I don’t want to be casting a Skite unless i know it will in some way prevent their hate from hitting its target. i don’t think this is the case post board but preboard is usually is, more so at least.

    In the CawBlade matchup i was finding that Frost Titan was not getting there through hawks with swords. Its a really poor answer to this type of threat. It was fine if you were the one being aggressive and creating a dominate board position for which they would have to respond. Post board I want to be finding the combo, protecting it with mana leak and spellskite rather then resolving a TItan. I switch it to Wurmcoil. Wurmcoil, like titan, isn’t able to finish the game agiasnt them but it is able to trade for a lot of their time and cards, Frost TItan isn’t. This is kind of hard to explain. My plan is to win with twin, I have Wurmcoil their to give me the maximum time to do so. It provides a lot more time then Frosty.

    I was definitely expecting a lot more aggro and valakut at ausnats then i would at an event now. I have been working out how to transform the deck into a more appropriate shape to combat the rise in control decks.Consecrated Sphinx has been a big part of this and I would definitely run at least 1 main and possibly another in the side were i to play the deck tomorrow.

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