A few weeks ago a reader asked me if [card]Birthing Pod[/card] was doable in Legacy.
1 Underground Sea
2 Tropical Island
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Phyrexian Tower
4 Veteran Explorer
3 Deathrite Shaman
4 Baleful Strix
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Deceiver Exarch
1 Eternal Witness
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Murderous Redcap
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Shadowborn Demon
1 Grave Titan
1 Recurring Nightmare
2 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Green Sun’s Zenith
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Birthing Pod[/deck]
I’ve tried [card]Birthing Pod[/card] in Legacy before, but never with [card]Baleful Strix[/card], and that card is so good and fitting for a Pod shell that I jumped at the excuse to make another go of it.
The result reflected my experience with the Pod in other formats. The card lends itself to tricky decks with long decision trees, making for enjoyable Magic.
[card]Veteran Explorer[/card] and [card]Cabal Therapy[/card]: The backbone of Nic Fit, this combination both disrupts and accelerates. Few people play basics these days, and even if they do it’s usually not many, and their deck is probably designed with a small curve in mind. The exceptions are mono-blue combo decks like [card]High Tide[/card].
As important as the Explorer engine is for ramping into Pod, it’s even more important for being able to cast all these giant creatures if we don’t draw the deck’s namesake.
[draft]green sun’s zenith[/draft]
[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]: Usually this is an automatic 4-of, but this deck has a few unique considerations. For starters, we already have plenty of mana guys, and we don’t want to flood on that type of effect. This isn’t usually an issue with Green Sun because you can always tutor for gas, but a large chunk of the gas in this deck isn’t green at all. While there are a few nice bullets, after I’ve tutored for them I don’t necessarily want to keep drawing Green Sun’s Zeniths, which is a real concern in a deck that quickly thins out creatures with Pod, and lands with [card]Explorer[/card].
[draft]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/draft]
[card]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/card]: Often, when I have a pile of mana I’d rather grab this guy than a [card]Thragtusk[/card], he’s just that powerful. Imagine growing a [card]Baleful Strix[/card] out of nowhere and just beating face against a hapless opponent.
The only sad thing is that this isn’t a [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] deck, as I would love to scavenge a ‘Goyf onto something.
[card]Deceiver Exarch[/card]: My initial list didn’t run this card, but Legacy is a fast format, and jumping from 2 to 4 turned out to be important. There aren’t many other uses for it in this deck aside from fogging the occasional attacker or sneaking in the extra [card deathrite shaman]Deathrite[/card] activation. It’s worse than [card]Veteran Explorer[/card] in a [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] loop since it only generates one mana and no lasting value, but at a certain point you run out of basics.
[card]Recurring Nightmare[/card]: The last time I tried this card was in Nic Fit, where it didn’t quite make sense. Often, I’d draw it without a good creature to bring back, and it’d sit there in my hand. There were games where I’d loop a [card]Grave Titan[/card] or something, and this felt redundant because it’s hard to lose after casting [card]Grave Titan[/card] in the first place. Eventually I just cut it for the second Grave Titan.
This deck is different in that it’s designed around creatures with sweet comes-into-play abilities. We’re always going to have a spare body to sacrifice and something awesome to dig out of the graveyard. That, combined with the piles of extra mana from [card]Veteran Explorer[/card], makes this the quintessential Recurring Nightmare deck. If there weren’t so many [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]s in the field, I’d make room for a second.
[draft]Sensei’s Divining Top[/draft]
[card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card]: Top works really well in combination with an abundance of fast mana and repeated shuffling effects. Unlike Nic Fit, this deck doesn’t run [card]Pernicious Deed[/card], which makes [card]Sylvan Library[/card] another option.
[card]Murderous Redcap[/card]: Sometimes you need to kill a [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] or a [card]Dark Confidant[/card], and being able to chump and still have a body for Pod is useful.
[card]Grave Titan[/card]: I’ve played up to two Grave Titans in Nic Fit before, and I like the card a lot. If you have six mana for a creature then you might as well drop ten power into play. Even if your opponent can answer a 6/6, the token generation ensures it’ll leave some value behind.
[card]Shriekmaw[/card]/[card]Shadowborn Demon[/card]: The evasion on Shriekmaw comes in handy, and the deck generates so much mana that it’s rarely correct to evoke the card. With that in mind, the Shadowborn Demon slot makes a lot of sense. I like that the Demon can kill black creatures, and that Pod naturally fills the graveyard for him.
[card]Thragtusk[/card]: I’ve been consistently underwhelmed by [card]Thragtusk[/card] in Legacy. The value is rarely relevant, 5 life is not much, and the body gets dwarfed by [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]. I have wanted it against the occasional burn deck, but there are other tools for that matchup. Generally, [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] is more life and a larger body.
I keep running it because I need green beef to Zenith for and it’s a fine spot on the Pod chain. Plus, I want to live the dream with Recurring Nightmare.
While it seems blasphemous not to run [card]Brainstorm[/card] in a blue deck, especially one with the fetchlands to support it, Pod decks need a critical mass of creatures to function, and there’s only so much room for other spells. Brainstorm is sweet in that it lets us shuffle in parts of the Pod chain that we want to tutor up, but the deck is great at dumping its hand quickly, and most of the time it’s more valuable to filter the top of the library.
If there were ever a deck for [card]Genesis[/card], this is it. It’s a shame there’s so much [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] in the format. Perhaps there’s room in the sideboard?
[card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] is another powerhouse 6-drop that I’ve been happy with in Legacy. The deck lacks a way to draw obscene piles of cards, and this is one way to do it. I’m not running [card]Force of Will[/card], which seems necessary to justify this card.
[draft]melira, sylvok outcast[/draft]
[card melira, sylvok outcast]Melira[/card]: I started with a Melira in the deck. After all, [card varolz, the scar-striped]Varolz[/card], [card kitchen finks]Finks[/card], and Melira can all be tutored up with [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]. I like free wins as much as the next guy, but the combo only seemed to come together when I was likely to win anyway, and drawing Melira randomly cost me a few games.
[draft]Thrun, the Last Troll[/draft]
[card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]: I’ve been happy with Thrun in other Green Sun’s Zenith packages. That said, the card produces no value.
[draft]jace, the mind sculptor
liliana of the veil[/draft]
[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] and [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card] could make use of all this fast mana, but they don’t fit for the same reason [card]Brainstorm[/card] doesn’t fit. We need enough creatures for Pod.
The deck lacks an answer to [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card], but I’m not desperate enough to try [card]Acidic Slime[/card] yet. Remember that we’re giving our opponent two extra lands, making land destruction way worse than usual. On the other hand, I have run [card]Wickerbough Elder[/card] as part of a [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] package before, and Slime also hits artifacts and enchantments. It can also do a [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] loop justice.
Oh man, why am I not playing Hornet Queen?!
Tips and Tricks
[card varolz, the scar-striped]Varolz’s[/card] scavenge cancels out persist counters, meaning you don’t need [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card] to lock someone out with [card glen elendra archmage]Glen Elendra[/card].
[card]Cabal Therapy[/card] can always target yourself if you have an expensive card that you want to reanimate with [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card]. This gives the deck two ways of generating a turn three [card]Grave Titan[/card] (the other being [card]Phyrexian Tower[/card]).
If you have piles of mana and want to Recurring Nightmare the same creature over and over again, Varolz can let you repeatedly bin it.
Often, it’s better to cast a large threat from your hand and tutor up [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] than try to climb the Pod chain.
[card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] can come in against all sorts of combo, not just Storm and Belcher. Remember that we’re trying to spit an extra couple of lands into play, and our discard should slow down the opponent until a four-mana counter looks reasonable. This is especially the case when you’re trying to protect [card arcane laboratory]Arcane Lab[/card] from a bounce spell against [card]Omniscience[/card].
As with any Pod deck, make sure you have the list memorized. You don’t want to be faced with a difficult decision round one of the tournament and not have all your options crystal-clear. The quicker you can list off your slots by curve, the faster your in-game decision-making will be.
A Potential Sideboard
First, we have a ton of creatures that can pick up an equipment and go to town, making [card umezawa’s jitte]Jitte[/card] an attractive option.
Second, we’re going to need some kind of plan for the combo decks, and we’re not in the right colors for hate bears or [card]Red Elemental Blast[/card]s. We need to look to counters and discard. Since we’re giving our opponent’s lands with [card]Veteran Explorer[/card], we want to avoid cards like [card]Spell Pierce[/card], [card]Flusterstorm[/card], and even [card]Trinisphere[/card].
Finally, the deck lacks a tutor target for artifacts and enchantments.
1 [card]Notion Thief[/card]
1 [card]Wickerbough Elder[/card]
2 [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card]
2 [card]Arcane Laboratory[/card]
3 [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card]
2 [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card]
This is what I’d register if I were jamming a tournament tomorrow, though I’m sure the slots will be tweaked with further testing.
This deck is competitive, though it’s not about to dominate the metagame or anything like that. After all, it’s a creature-based value deck, but it has enough disruption, consistency, and power to hold its own.
My main concern is that untapping with [card]Birthing Pod[/card] is a lot like untapping with a planeswalker. It doesn’t automatically win the game, but it does generate a lot of value. Unfortunately, we have to dedicate a large chunk of our deck to creature slots while a typical grindy deck gets to fill those slots with sweet spells and planeswalkers. Somewhere in all the obscure interactions of Legacy there has to be something better to do with Birthing Pod than the clunky three-card Melira combo or value chaining, but I haven’t figured it out yet.
I haven’t decided what I’m going to play in the Cinci Open, though the frontrunners are this deck and Tezzeret. If you have a strong preference either way, sound off in the forums and I’ll take your thoughts into consideration.
Bonus: One Last Stab at Standard
It all started a good 20 or so days ago when Jeff Hoogland shared a mono-white [card]Trading Post[/card] list on Twitter. The deck was clearly a pile, with cards like [card]Seraph Sanctuary[/card]. There was one interaction, however, that I found intriguing.
He was using [card]Mutavault[/card] to gain 5 life off of [card]Scroll of Avacyn[/card], triggering [card]Angelic Accord[/card]. Even without an Accord, it reminded me of [card]Renewed Faith[/card]. While Scroll doesn’t always gain the life, 5 is way more than 2, so the average life gained is comparable. When you start considering other factors like [card]Rhox Faithmender[/card], things start to get crazy.
Scroll does more than gain life. It’s also a cantrip, increasing a deck’s velocity and serving as a sweet artifact to get back with Trading Post. On top of that, it can trigger [card]Terminus[/card] on the opponent’s turn.
I went through about five or six different versions of the deck, most including [card]Prophetic Prism[/card] and [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] in some number, before I ended on the following list:
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Woodland Cemetary
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
4 Godless Shrine
2 Isolated Chapel
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Scroll of Avacyn
3 Prophetic Prism
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Doom Blade
1 Tribute to Hunger
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Trading Post
3 Angelic Accord
3 Alms Beast
2 Disciple of Bolas
1 Restoration Angel
2 Rhox Faithmender
2 Ray of Revelation
2 Sin Collector
1 Doom Blade
1 Tribute to Hunger
2 Blind Obedience
1 Staff of Nin[/deck]
This is the version that I won the most packs with, though it wasn’t much better than break-even. As such, I wouldn’t consider it for a major tournament, but I had a ton of fun testing it.
I’d almost forgotten how awesome it is to play a crazy brew online. Many of these people have time to kill, that’s why they’re durdling in the 2-man q’s. They ask questions like, “what does [card]Prophetic Prism[/card] do for you?” and, “Why aren’t you running [card]Vault of the Archangel[/card]?” and even if you’ve already thought about the question and know the answer you have to develop it fully into real people speak. Sometimes the act of explaining helps you see the choices in a new light.
As for the deck itself, note that once Angelic Accord gets going, it’s way better than a planeswalker. Not only can it not be attacked, but it also starts spitting out 4/4s on the opponents turn, too. So as the game goes long, it’s like you get a free [card]Parallel Lives[/card]. Note that the delayed trigger lets you sweep the board with [card]Terminus[/card] and keep your Angel token.
Curving Accord into [card]Thragtusk[/card] is a good feeling.
If you play the deck online, be sure to set a stop on your opponent’s second main phase. Accord triggers at end of turn, so if you wait that long you’re not going to be able to generate a token.
The deck has its good matchups. The Accord engine generates some serious inevitability, and it’s good at forcing the slower aggro decks to overcommit into Terminus. The main problem is inconsistency. You can lose by stumbling on land drops or by drawing all air. The cantrips can hit what you need, gas or land, but they can also draw more of the same.
I added the [card disciple of the vault]Disciples[/card] to help with flooding, and they’ve been decent. Sometimes, the Accord engine isn’t enough, but drawing 6 deeper towards a Terminus is. Sacrificing an Angel token to draw four, gain four, and then trigger Accord feels amazing. On the other hand, the Disciples are one more thing that can go wrong with the deck.
I know Standard is rotating, which is why I didn’t make a set of videos with this deck, but maybe some of you will have some fun with it in these last weeks. I know I did.