While I'm sure the Blendtec Total Blender™ can handle a bit of card stock, we can all agree that the Pod can outperform that thing. If you haven't taken a good look at the picture, you should. A buddy of mine picked up one of those large prints of it at Grand Prix: Kansas City, and it looks awesome.
Anyway! Onto the real reason you're here. A Birthing Pod deck? Can it be so? Yes my friends, and it is as glorious and utility-filled as all of your little dreams had hoped! Twice now my Houston playgroup has had somebody run this list in a PTQ to Top 8 contention, to lose in the last round of Swiss (the second time being at GP Kansas City, with much, much liquor involved). Here's the list that was used:
As a quick note to start, the little Stoneforge Mystic package in the deck is not crucial whatsoever. The Batterskull is mostly a life-gain tool or a way to strap up a Viridian Corrupter and randomly infect somebody out. When you win with this deck, its typically after leveling a creature into an Inferno Titan or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobyte and just steamrolling into the red zone. So fear not that Stoneforge is being banned!
For example you could now cut...
Substituting one 2-drop creature for another utility one, and simply adding another Basilisk Collar to naturally draw into it.
Generally if the Birthing Pod resolves against an opponent, you'll have no difficulty winning. Getting even one or two activations out of it just puts you miles ahead in tempo, and even if the Pod is dealt with your creatures themselves can hold the ground and play like a typical Naya midrange deck.
Both the Maindeck and Sideboard of this Birthing Pod deck are tuned against the Exarch/Twin combo, as it is already the most rampant deck in the format and will only become even more popular with the banning of Jace and Stoneforge. 2 Maindeck Spellskites and an Elesh Norn stem the combo for a time, and the sideboard Combusts are just a beating for them. I've never seen a person lose to the Exarch combo with a Combust in hand.
This being a deck full of utility creatures, it would only be proper that I run down the reasons certain creatures made the cut. Obviously this list has a plethora of artifact hate which might change after the Caw Blade bannings, but we'll see.
Hex Parasite: This guy has been looking for a home for quite a while now, and he's just great as a one-of. I've even had scenarios where I've used Birthing Pod to level a Tuk-Tuk token or a Stirring Wildwood into the little bug to snipe a Jace on 2 or something. He's quite the beating.
Viridian Emissary: This guy perfectly fills out the 2-drop slot and combos well with the pod or just as a blocker/beater early on. Fixing your mana in this 3-color deck and ramping into actually casting your 5-7 drops is pretty crucial.
Cunning Sparkmage: Besides the obvious ability to assemble Exod - the Sparkmage Collar combo - he's just great in the current meta, pinging off un-equipped Squadron Hawks, tickling planeswalkers, killing Phyrexian Revokers, etc.
Viridian Corrupter: It was either Corrupter or Manic Vandal, and we felt like the ability to block with an infect creature or to randomly kill them with it was worth the substitution. Other than that it's another piece of artifact hate on the step up the CMC ladder.
Tuk-Tuk the Explorer: Oooh. Now what is a little 1/1 Goblin doing in he - oh wait nevermind he's a 5/5.
Phyrexian Metamorph: Just a very well-rounded 4-drop. This guy is crazy, I've always loved Clone in casual formats and combining him with Copy Artifact and making him a 3-drop is just yummy. =) This guy can either copy your own utility creatures like Acidic Slime (ooh, saucy) or just copy a Birthing Pod for accelerated stomping.
Tormentor Exarch: Now this guy is an interesting add. Even I had to be convinced of him for a while. Think about it like this though. When you go Turn 1 Birds of Paradise, Turn 2 Birthing Pod, and they go Turn 1 Land, Turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, then you follow that up by Tormentor Exarch-ing their Stoneforge Mystic, how great of a play is that? If they want to drop that sword, it's going to be hard-casted next turn into your Acidic Slime leveling. If they grabbed a Batterskull, better wait till turn 5!
Not to mention a little bit of a rogue-factor on top of a rogue deck never hurt anybody 😉
Obstinate Baloth: Just another 4-drop to fill out the CMC slot that serves its purpose. Sometimes you need that extra life and a bulky dude.
Acidic Slime: My favorite creature. This guy is the Slap Chop™ Nuts.
Baneslayer Angel: While she may be out-classed by Titans in decks that play fair, this deck certainly doesn't play fair. Dropping or leveling into her on Turn 4, following her up with a Metamorph or an Elesh Norn, she's a quality creature, an aggro-hoser, and those pesky hawks need a War and Peace to get through her.
Inferno Titan: He's so hot. 😉
And of course, Elesh Norn: Any deck that has creatures in them, even Exarch, will put on a sad panda face for this guy. Not to mention this makes your Birds of Paradise into a Hitchcock movie. Basically, he likes it when you call him Big Papa.
The Divine Offerings are an obvious include, and extra Spellskites are nice, but once you get past the extra Hex Parasite, the Manic Vandal, and the 4x Combust which is plainly incredible against Exarch Twin, we have an interesting suite of 1-ofs.
Razor Hippogryph: Your Birthing Pod gets countered/destroyed? You have a Metamorph or Wurmcoil in the graveyard you've sacrificed? Get it back, you card advantage devil, you!
Kor Firewalker: It's so fun turning a Birds of Paradise into a Kor Firewalker against Mono Red. =) and while it's obviously not the 1-card hoser that it used to be before Pat Sully slapped everybody upside the head, it's a nice little stall until you start pulling out your Obstinate Baloths and Baneslayer Angels.
Wall of Tanglecord: Blocks. Hawks. All. Day. ALL DAY. (Well, not the Nighthawks)
After the success of this deck at recent PTQs I decided to grind out some matches on Magic Online to cover in this article, and I'm almost positive now that I'll be running this deck in the PTQ in Katy, TX this coming weekend (at the time this article is being written).
Playing the Deck:
Generally the goal with this deck is to safely run out your Birthing Pod, and safely is a pretty lax term for a deck with this much rogue factor. Simply don't run the Pod out into a Caw-Blade deck with no Turn 2 play, and don't make it your only game plan when looking at an opening hand. Otherwise, if it resolves, go crazy. The idea is to pay as much life as you safely can, because it gains you tempo. Paying 3 for the pod, 1 per activation, 3 per metamorph – it just gets you so far ahead that they can't even attain a position that threatens your lessening life total. Just get a respectable amount of value as you level up your creatures, and don't invest all of your pod activations into one cycle of guys. Play more from your hand, level the utility guys that have done their job already – don't make your opponent's removal a Time Stretch.
In testing with this deck we've found that it has a stellar Caw Blade matchup due to all of the maindeck hate. The matchup against Exarch Twin decks varies. If it's plain U/R, the matchup is pretty heavily in their favor until sideboard, when it evens out to 50/50. If they're U/B/R, then your chances go up, due to their lack of consistent counter-magic and digging. As for other matchups, RUG, Valakut, Mono Red, and U/B are all fine, with the Tezzeret decks giving it a bit of a rough time (though nobody really plays that deck anymore).
Match 1: Mono Black Control
Game 1: I figured the best way to beat this opponent was to fish out a Spellskite to protect my Baneslayer Angel and the nonce. If an Obliterator ever stuck the field I would either have to race it or try to assemble the Sparkcollar combo and just sacrifice a land. The game proceeded much according to that idea. He came out the gates with a Turn 1 Despise taking my Birds of Paradise, but I drew one on my next turn. As I went Birds into Birthing Pod into Metamorph on Pod, he went Sign in Blood, Gatekeeper, Lashwrithe. Dropping a Tuk-Tuk the Explorer from my hand and double-activating Birthing Pods to level it into an Acidic Slime on his equipment put me far ahead, and he didn't have much gas left.
Sideboarding: -2 Obstinate Baloth, -1 Hex Parasite, + 2 Spellskite, + 1 Wall of Tanglecord. (I brought in the Wall to block Obliterator, and the Spellskites for removal protection.)
Game 2: He again leads with a Turn 1 discard spell, this time Inquisition, and he takes my Birds of Paradise. I drop a Turn 2 Viridian Emissary and he kicks a Gatekeeper of Malakir on me, which I suppose makes sense if he has more Edict effects in hand. I untap and play my 4th land, dropping a Tuk-Tuk the Explorer and another Birds. We both do a little draw-go until he finds his 4th land and drops an Obliterator. I find my Birthing Pod the next turn and make my Birds into a Wall of Tanglecord, but his next turn he plays Lashwrithe and equips it for 4 life, crashing in for 9. I draw another land, and decide to activate Pod to level Tuk-Tuk into a Metamorph, copying his Obliterator, then dropping a Viridian Corrupter to destroy the equipment. Surprisingly he swings in to my clone, and he sacrifices his Gatekeeper, a Hexmage, and 3 Swamps. I doubt he thought that one through very much because he conceded after. Oh well.
Note: I played this same person 3 more times that night, and the matches went similarly poor for the MBC deck, though he did get me one game.
Match 2: RUG
Game 1: I hadn't seen this deck in quite a while on Magic Online so for some reason I thought the Turn 1 Halimar Depths put him on Pyromancer Ascension. Silly me. He gets a pretty fast start with a Turn 2 Cobra, Turn 3 Misty Rainforest into Precursor Golem. I'm able to keep pace with a Turn 1 Birds, Turn 2 Pod, Turn 3 Phyrexian Metamorph paying 2 life, copying his Precursor Golem, then paying 2 more life to Birthing Pod the clone into an Inferno Titan, deciding to kill his Cobra over equalizing the amount of golems. When I play another Metamorph the next turn copying my Inferno Titan, then level it into Elesh Norn, then attack and kill all 3 golems with 1 Inferno Titan Arc Lightning, he dies quite horribly.
Sideboarding: +1 Hex Parasite, +1 Razor Hippogryph, +2 Spellskite, -2 Viridian Corrupter, -2 Obstinate Baloth. (I figured I'd bring in the Spellskites because Jace bouncing the Pod creatures is pretty annoying, and the Razor Hippogryph because RUG usually has Acidic Slime, or at least can counter my pods)
Game 2: He leaves up 2 mana on Turn 2, following my Turn 1 Birds of Paradise, so I hold off on the pod and just drop another Birds. His next turn he drops his Lotus Cobra, plays a Misty Rainforest, Preordains, then surprisingly drops a Phyrexian Revoker naming Birthing Pod. That one was quite a surprise, but thankfully I had a Sparkmage in hand to just untap and gun down his guys, choosing his Cobra first. My next turn I pick off the Revoker and drop a Birthing Pod into his obvious Mana Leak, paying the 3 mana and drawing out a second mana leak. Drat! Oh well, his next turn he plays a Jace and does a bit of Brainstorming, so I untap, Sparkmage pings Jace, then I drop a second pod, level the Sparkmage into a Tormentor Exarch, pumping a Birds of Paradise, and hit Jace for the last 2. He drops a Garruk the next turn but after I Metamorph my pod and start going crazy he just concedes.
Match 3: U/R Twin
Game 1: I don't have the Turn 1 Birds of Paradise, and when I stick a Turn 3 Birthing Pod in the hopes over leveling the Hex Parasite in my hand into a Spellskite, he dashes my hopes by EoT Exarching me, untapping, and crushing my delicate face.
Sideboarding: +4 Combust, +2 Spellskite, +1 Urabrask the Hidden, +1 Hex Parasite, -2 Obstinate Baloth, -2 Baneslayer Angel, -2 Viridian Corrupter, -2 Tormentor Exarch
(I decided to bring in the Hex Parasite just to have another 1-drop to Pod into a Spellskite)
Game 2: I manage to Turn 1 Hex Parasite, Turn 2 Spellskite, Turn 3 Birthing Pod, into Turn 4 level parasite into Spellskite, play a third Spellskite, all with no counter-magic responses, while my opponent plays lands and cantrips. Eventually he drops a Consecrated Sphinx, which I Metamorph. I elect to not allow us to draw infinitely, as I had 1 Combust in hand and 3 Spellskites in play, and instead just swing into his Sphinx, then level my Sphinx into an Elesh Norn post combat to finish his off. Two turns of swinging with 2/6 Spellskites and Elesh Norn and he's dead.
Game 3: This one wasn't too exciting. I thought I was in for a quick loss when he Mana Leaks my Turn 2 Birthing Pod, then Mana Leaks my Turn 3 Spellskite. He even had the Exarch at the end of the next turn, but I noticed he had 0 red sources in play. He had apparently kept a hand with 0 red sources and 0 digging effects, and the only resistance he put up was 2 Deceiver Exarchs and an Inferno Titan.
After a night of grinding with the deck I think I'd like to take out a bit of the Caw hate and add a bit more versatility like extra Slimes, Revokers, etc, but this is the version that we're running with for now. We have a whole mess of PTQs and such to battle through, and the final version will certainly merit another article, complete with a tournament report. I hope you've enjoyed my first write-up for QS, and hope you'll be out there stomping people with Limited cards like Razor Hippogryph and Tormentor Exarch! =)
“Richard” on MTGO