With Magic 2012 recently hitting MTGO, we finally got hard data on what the new metagame looks like, which you can see over on TCGPlayer. I dislike Caw-Blade and Valakut, and I utterly refuse to play monored into Timely Reinforcements, so I was set on playing Pyromancer Ascension and built the deck on MTGO myself. After going something like 3-5 in 2-man queues, with multiple losses to garbage mill decks, that plan quickly evaporated, leaving me without a deck.
After writing that article, I decided that I'd just play Bant Pod since I hadn't played it yet. After looking at the decklists I realized that Venser, the Sojourner was not that good, and replaced him with more Phantasmal Images and Phyrexian Metamorph, giving the deck a much better non-Pod plan.
The sideboard looks like garbage, and that's because it is. Obstinate Baloth and Lone Missionary come in against aggro decks, while Acidic Slime comes in against every control deck and Valakut. Sylvok Replica comes in against anything where its ability is relevant, and is much better than Viridian Corrupter since it can beat a Splinter Twin. The Swamp+Memoricide suite comes in against Twin, but not against Valakut on the draw. I'm not yet sure whether it should come in against Valakut on the play, but I think planning on Sliming them out is the better option. Nature's Claim comes in against Twin and Hawkward, but nothing else. Flashfreeze is for Valakut and RUG decks. It might be an option in the Pod mirror, but I think I'd rather load up on the artifact removal.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is the only Eldrazi Titan I own, and it comes in against the mill decks that people are playing. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth are both technically better options, but I decided that the chance that I draw it against mill wasn't worth spending the cash to buy the actual card. I turned out to be correct since I never boarded it in.
So, with roughly 5 hands of goldfishing and 8 or so preboard games (X-1) against Caw-Blade alone, I sat down essentially cold with the deck in Richmond and prepared to crush some face.
Round One: Eric Williams, mono-White Emeria
This is essentially a Caw-Blade deck without permission, making it even worse than normal Caw-Blade. Day of Judgment is a serious problem, and must be played around.
Game 1, he cast a Day of Judgment killing 3 of his Squadron Hawks and a bunch of my creatures, including a Viridian Emissary. I forgot to get my 5th land and stalled out on 4, rendering me unable to use Acidic Slime to blow up his Emeria, the Sky Ruin in time to avoid losing the game. This would have given me a straightforward win and I blew it.
Game 2 I utterly crushed him with a fast Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite via Birthing Pod.
Game 3 I had lots of green creatures which promptly failed to do anything to his Mirran Crusader carrying a Sword of Feast and Famine and I died before I could get anything to save me from the sudden beatdown.
The missed trigger would haunt me for the rest of the day, since it was entirely my fault, and save for Mirran Crusader the deck should have been a very easy matchup.
Round Two: Jordan Wicht, UB Control (7-2, 25th place)
I cannot emphasize how ridiculously easy this matchup is. Not only does a super-fast Birthing Pod guarantee victory, they can't even beat you in the long game since any win condition they play will be duplicated or even triplicated on your side.
Game 2 was more of the same: mana acceleration into Sea Gate Oracle beatdown until a Blade Splicer and Solemn Simulacrum joined the beatdown thanks to Birthing Pod, and he couldn't do anything to stop me.
I have to give him props for sticking it out and making top 32 despite the 0-2 start.
Round Three: Matt Price, Caw-Blade
Another great matchup, as there isn't much Caw-Blade can do to beat you. Emeria Angel is a prime Pod target, and your mediocre fliers (Razor Hippogriff) really shine here.
Game 1, I mulliganed twice on the play and didn't have very much difficulty beating him at all, cracking for 13 in a single swing after Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite decreed my victory.
Game 2 was his turn to mulligan twice, robbing him of even the slightest chance of winning. I laid down some beatings with Sea Gate Oracle and a pair of Viridian Emissary, right up until Birthing Pod guaranteed that his Inkmoth Nexus/Sword of Feast and Famine setup couldn't steal a win from me.
Round Four: Andrew Berke, RUG
I have creatures. He has creatures. I have Birthing Pod. He has... uh... yeah. Not a good matchup for him.
Game 1 we had a bit of a staredown early as none of our creatures could break the stall, but eventually my Sun Titan+Misty Rainforest engine resulted in every basic land being pulled out of my deck, letting me outdraw him long.
Game 2 featured one of the most amusing early turn sequences of the day. His turn 2 Lotus Cobra was followed by a Cunning Sparkmage, which killed my Llanowar Elves. I then cast Phantasmal Image as a Sparkmage and took out his. He went deep into the tank on his turn, finally deciding to pay 4 life to Act of Aggression my Phantasmal Sparkmage, putting it in the graveyard. It wasn't enough to save him, as he got short on mana and I beat him down some with Solemn Simulacrum followed by Archon of Justice.
Round Five: Dustin Allen, Valakut
Valakut's a rough matchup for Pod. It's not unwinnable, but it definitely isn't favorable. If they have the fast draw on the play you pretty much can't win, so your game plan has to be to set yourself up to win when they don't have it.
Game 1, I was on the play, and kept a sketchy hand that would have been much better if I'd drawn a second land before turn 3. Instead, my play was:
Long story short, I managed to blow up all 4 of his Valakuts with some shenanigans, including blocking two of his creatures with Phantasmal Image copies of other creatures so I could chain them with Sun Titan, with the last one being an Acidic Slime to get the last one.
Game 2 he had a somewhat slow draw, but I couldn't outrace him with a mere 2 Viridian Emissaries once he got there, and that sent us to game 3.
Game 3 I fanned an opening hand of Island, 3 Preordain and a bunch of expensive cards, and decided to ship it... and shipped myself all the way down to 4 cards and a 3-2 record.
Round Six: William Haas, Valakut
Another Valakut matchup, I was afraid this would knock me out of the event. However, his build was slower and more consistent, which gave me time to beat him.
Game 2 I may have killed myself with my Birthing Pod activations in an attempt to aggressively get to Slimes, but I think if I hadn't done that he'd have gotten a second swing with his Primeval Titan to kill me anyway, so it's hard to say.
Round Seven: Arthur Reynolds, Br Vampires
Vampires is capable of utterly blowing out Pod with a fast start, but any sort of grinding creature staredown should result in Pod's favor thanks to Viridian Emissary and Sea Gate Oracle.
Game 1 I was on the play and led off with 3 mana dorks in the first 2 turns, followed by a turn 3 Sun Titan. He didn't have the Doom Blade, but his Lightning Bolt for my Phantasmal Image slowed me down for a turn. It wasn't even close.
Game 3 I took advantage of my extra Obstinate Baloth to drag the game out a bit, and when his swarm got too massive, I dumped Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite on the table, leaving only his Vampire Outcasts. Three turns later, he was completely dead.
Round Eight: Elizabeth Eames, GW Little Kid
We've got a pile of similar creatures that just stare at each other on the ground unable to do anything, but I've got Birthing Pod and a pile of clone effects, whereas she has Mirran Crusader and... apparently no equipment.
Game 1 was the ultimate ground stall, with neither of us able to do remotely anything. Her Oblivion Rings took out my Birthing Pod and Archon of Justice, leaving us essentially playing "draw, clog the board some more, go" for a long time until I finally drew a Wurmcoil Engine, cloned it 3 times the following turn, and hit her with all 4 Wurmcoils.
Game 2 I had a fast curve and quickly ran her over despite her Dismember. She gave me a faster win than she should have by casting Oblivion Ring on my Phantasmal Image copy of Sun Titan instead of the original, letting me return it as Aether Adept and bouncing her only blocker, letting me get in for exactly lethal.
Round Nine: Austin Whitehead, UB Control
He offered me the draw, but I couldn't take it as I went into the round in 33rd and a draw would put me at 19 points with miserable tiebreakers due to the early losses. (Looking at the final standings, a draw would have put me in 35th, so I didn't dreamcrush him for nothing.)
Game 1 I beat him down with Llanowar Elf and Sea Gate Oracle, with him doing a whole lot of nothing all game long.
Game 2 he had Mental Misstep for my mana dork, and landed Torpor Orb on turn 2, shutting off half my deck on the spot. My hand was particularly bad against it, but after consulting with a judge to confirm that my clones still worked as I expected (since they're not triggered abilities), I played a turn 3 Blade Splicer and began the beatdown. On turn 4 a Sea Gate Oracle joined the beatdown. Once he got to 10 life, he cast Black Sun's Zenith to kill them both, and I cast another Sea Gate Oracle and cloned it.
All told, the 3 mana 1 power guys got there for 12 over the course of the game before I got a Wurmcoil Engine in under his countermagic.
7-2 (16-6), 21 points, 56.5035 OMW% put me in 19th place.
Things to Note
The deck is really good against control, to the point where if it gets more popular, the control decks are going to be very hard-pressed to do anything.
If you're playing 5 clone effects, Birthing Pod isn't actually necessary. You can win without it, and it's not even all that hard. Remember Next Level Bant from last year? Play it like that. Pod is your Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and that deck could win even if it didn't draw Jace.
Against decks with artifact removal, consider cashing in 3-drops for Phyrexian Metamorph copying Birthing Pod to give you a spare. Against Caw-Blade this is huge, since it lets you jump from Acidic Slime straight to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite via Wurmcoil Engine in a single turn - one of the more backbreaking plays available in this format.
Hold your clones! If you're ahead on the board or the creatures are stalemated, there's little reason to try dumping them on the board. You're going to find yourself wishing you'd kept them when you see something bigger - like the quadruple Wurmcoil Engine game I had against GW Little Kid.
Stacking clones to Acidic Slime someone out of their lands is an entirely feasible way to win. Punish people for keeping bad hands or playing decks with bad mana.
Don't forget that Archon of Justice can exile lands - this is occasionally relevant against Valakut, but can matter elsewhere.
Bant Pod is the real deal, and the numbers suggesting that it's the best deck in the format might not actually be too far from the truth. Being able to utterly crush the control decks is a great place to be right now, and I plan on sticking with the deck for the foreseeable future.