Last weekend while I was busy doing very poorly in one of the largest Magic tournaments of all time at Grand Prix New Jersey, there was a Modern Grand Prix going on across the ocean in Madrid. This was of special interest to me both because I absolutely love Modern and because it’s an upcoming Pro Tour format! Going into the weekend, I was expecting to see Treasure Cruise (and to some extent Dig Through Time) be very heavily represented in the format, but they didn’t end up being quite as dominant as I anticipated.
The most represented deck in the Top 8 ended up being my beloved Birthing Pod! I was really happy to see this and also very intrigued by how different the 3 decks ended up looking from each other. Let’s start off with the list that ended up making Top 4, played by Jose Antonio Rodriguez Pozo:
This list was actually my least favorite of the 3. First off, it’s 61 cards, which is not good in a deck that really wants to draw a Pod in every game. It feels like it is trying to do too many things at once and spreads itself somewhat thin by including 5 removal spells. I also dislike cutting down to 6 mana dorks and playing Woodland Cemetery after we were able to add Onslaught fetches.
The most obvious that jumps out to me is that this deck does not play the Melira/Viscera combo, meaning that the only way to go infinite is with Spike Feeder/Archangel. That’s a fine direction to take things in a Lightning-Bolt-saturated metagame like this one, and I was often boarding out the non-Finks pieces of the combo against almost all of the UR Snapcaster decks, be they Delver or Twin.
However, I think that this change should inform some other changes throughout the list. For example, I think Chord of Calling becomes substantially worse when you’re not really threatening to steal games with a surprise Chord for x=1 or 2. Once you need to go for 3 or 4 to do scary things, I think the value diminishes greatly. For this reason, I dislike having a Chord in the main deck and REALLY dislike having it in the sideboard. In typical post-board games with Pod I find Chord becomes very ineffective because people tend to overload on sweepers and removal meaning that it’s difficult to actually convoke it.
Finally, Path to Exile makes an appearance as the 4th and 5th maindeck spot removal spells. I played Path in my deck at PT Born of the Gods last year and it ended up being quite poor. At the time, I played it because I was worried about Zoo, a deck that has been virtually nonexistent since then. Path is actively bad against Scapeshift and most non-Twin combo decks, while also being a removal spell you can’t cast early against Dark Confidant or opposing mana creatures in the mirror. I can understand wanting more spot removal in an anticipated field of Delvers, but if I were looking for additional spot removal, I’d turn to either Dismember or Go for the Throat.
There’s definitely some things to like about this list as well though! We have Siege Rhino, which actually appeared in all three of the Pod decks in the Top 8. I love this card in a Lightning Bolt world, and it outclasses Obstinate Baloth handily. Eidolon of Countless Battles is certainly an interesting one, I’d guess it’s pretty good to draw but you very rarely Pod for it, but more likely it’s an Eidolon of Rhetoric and there’s some kind of error on the Wizards site, in which case it’s a nice hate card pre-board for Jeskai Ascendancy, but probably not necessary. The sideboard has some spicy numbers as well, including Chalice of the Void and Choke. I have to imagine both of these cards are there in large part to help fight against Delver and they both seem excellent. Choke in particular is nice because it dodges the Smash to Smithereens I would expect most Delver lists to be packing in some numbers.
Second up, Andrew Devine made a Top 8 appearance with a more classic take on Melira Pod:
This is a much more traditional Birthing Pod list, with the classic Melira/Finks/Seer combo backed up by a few Chords to help tie things together relatively cheaply at instant speed. However, there are definitely still a few departures from the pre-Khans Pod lists. For starters, we again have Siege Rhino, this time in place of Ranger of Eos. Cutting the Ranger feels pretty reasonable to me given the relative weakening of the combo overall, and Siege Rhino is certainly a more powerful card on its own.
The sideboard is a bit of a blast from the past as well, with Lingering Souls making a comeback! I think now is probably a pretty good time to dust off that particular piece of old tech as it matches up fairly well against Delver strategies and counterspells in general. I also like moving the mana base back to a more “classic” Pod mana base with the full 3 Gavony Township. It’s probably slightly worse than it used to be because it’s harder to grind out an opponent with Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time in their deck, but the cost of including it is generally so low and the effect so powerful, I’d want to have access to it as often as possible.
Overall, I think I prefer to play a version like this if I’m expecting to play against decks like Abzan midrange and Scapeshift as compared to UR Delver and Twin. Without Lightning Bolt, Viscera Seer and Melira are much more likely to tax their more expensive removal spells and generate some real value, and Chords help create free wins against your rougher matchups by giving you a very fast nut draw.
Finally, we have another Melira-less Pod deck, as piloted by Kevin Grove:
This list really impressed me! I love adding extra creatures with high toughness to help fight against both Anger and Bolt and this deck is chock full of creatures that match up well against both. Kevin also added a few extra mana sources by making room for 3 Wall of Roots which make a lot of sense given that he also shifted the mana curve up overall with an expanded selection of 4 drops. Both Kevin and Jose Pozo also cut Reveillark from their decks, which is certainly very interesting to me. I can understand it being slightly weaker without Viscera Seer to create some of the more broken sacrifice loops, but the card has never failed to impress me and I would want to test it out a lot myself before I’d fully endorse cutting it.
This deck looks so clean, having made the Chord change I talked about earlier and playing very few hate cards that are likely to end up being completely dead in any given matchup. The sideboard has many similarities with Jose’s, including Choke and Fracturing Gust (which is excellent against Affinity) as well as including the Path to Exile from Jose’s main deck.
My takeaway after looking over all three lists as well as the rest of the Top 16 (which was mostly various Delve decks and a few Jund/Junk decks) was that Meliraless is the place to be for now, you want all your cards to be as high impact as possible by themselves and Melira and Viscera Seer just don’t help do that. Siege Rhino looks like it’s the real deal in these decks and it appears Restoration Angel has finally triumphed over Phyrexian Metamorph as the “reuse” effect of choice. Going forward, I think Kevin’s list looks like the best place to start and I’m excited to get to work testing it! Which list do you like best and are there any particular cards that stand out to you that I missed? Let me know in the comments!