Hello everyone! Today we will take an extensive look into the Modern Melira Pod combo deck. This article will provide valuable information to anyone relatively unfamiliar with the Modern format, or thinking about picking up the deck for themselves. Modern is a dynamic format with a ton of different decks capable of winning a tournament, and the recent Banned and Restricted update has only increased the diversity of the field. In spite of this, Birthing Pod strategies are just as popular as ever thanks to the resurgence of hyper-aggressive Zoo decks that build a game plan around the now-unbanned Wild Nacatl.
At its core, Melira Pod is a creature-based combo deck. It generates value by utilizing creatures with powerful abilities that trigger when it either enters or leaves the battlefield (ETB and LTB). We want to flood the board with creatures that our opponents cannot easily kill and end the game with one of a few infinite combos built into the deck. The deck is named after Birthing Pod, a card that allows us to unlock all of the potential value from creatures like Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks and Eternal Witness. More importantly, it is crucial in finding our combo pieces to generate infinite life gain and/or infinite damage. This deck's main advantage is its ability to search up many singleton creatures that hose many opposing decks. While other strategies will need to include 2, 3 or 4 of a "hate" card in the sideboard, Melira Pod can include a single copy in the main deck if necessary.
Here is a sample deck list, though I encourage players to play with and tune the list as the format progresses. The Pod engine is versatile and powerful so this deck can adapt quickly to changes in the Modern metagame. For another Melira Pod list, check out Conley Woods' Pro Tour: BotG deck which uses Knight of the Reliquary as a sort of "Birthing Pod for Lands".
The Infinite Combos
A note about infinite combos: if a player is able to execute a combo an unlimited number of times without interruption, as described below, they do not need to perform the individual steps each time. They simply execute the combo and declare how many times they wish to repeat it. Just pick a number, but make sure's it's high.
The Pieces: Viscera Seer or Cartel Aristocrat, Melira, Sylvok Outcast and either Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap.
What You Get: Infinite life or infinite damage.
How It Works: When a creature with Persist dies, it returns to the battlefield with a -1/-1 counter if it did not already have a -1/-1 counter on it. Normally, Persist creatures come back exactly once but, because we have Melira in play, none of our creatures can receive -1/-1 counters. Persist does not check to see if the -1/-1 counter is successfully placed, only if it existed when the creature died. Thus, our creature returns to play and its ETB effect triggers. With a way to repeatedly sacrifice our own creatures, we can recur this loop and gain infinite life with Kitchen Finks or do infinite damage with Murderous Redcap. GG!
The Pieces: Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder.
What You Get: Infinite life and infinite +1/+1 counters on your creatures.
How It Works: This combo is used less often because the individual cards are not very good by themselves. Remove a counter from Spike Feeder to gain 2 life, which will trigger the Archangel, which will then replace the counter removed from Spike Feeder. Proceed to gain a million life and have a million +1/+1 counters on all of your creatures (except Spike Feeder). You still have to win with damage but you'll have all the time in the world to do so.
The Pieces: Viscera Seer or Cartel Aristocrat, Murderous Redcap, Phyrexian Metamorph, Reveillark
What You Get: Infinite damage.
How It Works: This combo is used less often, but is worth knowing about if your Melira ever gets exiled or you are limited in creatures to feed into Birthing Pod. Fisrt, Phyrexian Metamorph must be copying Reveillark. Sacrifice Metamorph to either the Seer or the Aristocrat to trigger Reveillark's LTB effect. Since Metamorph is in the graveyard when the trigger is put onto the stack and has a power of 0 when in the graveyard, it is a legal target and returns to the battlefield. At this point, copy Murderous Redcap to trigger its ETB effect, doing 2 damage to the opponent. Since Redcap ( and thus, Metamorph) has Persist, sacrifice the Metamorph again. The Persist trigger will resolve and Metamorph will ETB again, this time copying Reveillark. In short, you are just alternating between copying Reveillark and Murderous Redcap each time the Metamorph comes into play. Note this combo only works with Murderous Redcap and not Kitchen Finks, as the little ouphe cannot be targeted by Reveillark’s ability because it has a power of 3.
Non-Combo Card Choices
These creatures allow us to play our more expensive spells earlier in the game. We get extra value from Podding them away into larger threats as the game goes on and extra mana becomes less relevant. They are also surprise attackers when we need to get there with a Gavony Township. Noble Hierarch is a bit of a downgrade from Deathrite Shaman, but not having to play against opposing Deathrite Shaman makes this trade-off well worth it.
This card got much better with the unbanning of Wild Nacatl and generates an extra mana when convoking Chord of Calling. We can Pod into him to generate green mana right away, which is effective against Blood Moon, which otherwise demolishes our mana base.
This is the best card in the deck, and probably in the whole format. Generating incredible amounts of value with the creatures we play while getting whatever utility card we happen to need at the moment is what makes this deck a fierce competitor. I would not recommend cutting down on this card, no matter how prevalent Wild Nacatl becomes.
With Green Sun's Zenith not coming off the ban list anytime soon, we are forced to play this instead. It can be quite obvious we have this card in our hand when we pass the turn without attacking with some of our creatures, but it gets the job done. Fetching out a Spellskite at instant speed in response to a Splinter Twin being cast is a pretty good feeling. Auras are targeted spells, which means Spellskite can change the target of Splinter Twin.
These are the essential combo pieces. We only play one copy of Viscera Seer and Melira because those cards don’t really do a whole lot outside of our combo. Cartel Aristocrat is simply there as a 2 CMC sacrifice enabler we can Pod into from Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. The 4-2 split between Finks and Redcap exists because Kitchen Finks is just the better card. Coming down a turn earlier, keeping us alive, and actually trading with Wild Nacatl in combat give it the edge over Redcap. Gaining infinite life is usually enough to win the game against most opponents, so Murderous Redcap is basically Kitchen Finks #5 and #6 for enabling our combo.
Voice is not quite as powerful as it used to be since the printing of Anger of the Gods, but it is fine as a one-of. Discouraging the opponent from playing removal on our turn allows us to operate more freely, and sacrificing Voice to Aristocrat or Seer allows us to attack for large chunks of damage when timed properly.
Gets pretty big when the opponent is killing all our stuff. Being able to search up graveyard disruption is quite useful and I have seen him team up with Archangel of Thune to take down some Friday Night Magic standard tournaments. He's versatile, cheap and efficient.
Spellskite is important for protecting our combo from Lightning Bolt and other pesky removal spells. We will randomly win games against Splinter Twin, Boggled Enchantments, and Infect merely by having him in play. Also passes the four toughness test against Anger of the Gods and Wild Nacatl.
I’m pretty sure the Bill Nye/ Ken Ham debate was on whether we want Qasali Pridemage or Harmonic Sliver in this slot. I went with Pridemage here. Sliver leaves behind a body we can feed to Birthing Pod, but chances are if Pod is in play we are already winning. Pridemage is better at getting the opponent dead, and we can play it early, beat down for a while, then sacrifice it (using colorless mana) it when we need instead of holding it in our hand; highly relevant against Blood Moon.
I used to go with Thoughtseize here. That is a perfectly fine choice but Abrupt Decay is just a better draw off the top of the deck in the late game, and in a lot of games we are reliant on good top decks.
This is likely the most confusing card you have ever read. We can activate his trigger twice in the same turn by playing him, sacrificing him, then killing whatever creature you haunt with him.
This is the trump card in mirror matches. He stops mana dorks, creatures enchanted with Splinter Twin, Arcbound Ravager, and has that ever-important 4 toughness.
We often win the game with this card because it resets our Persist creatures by canceling out the -1/-1 counter. When a creature has both a -1/-1 and +1/+1 counter on it, state-based effects remove them both simultaneously; they do not remain on the creature together. , Gavony Township turns our mana dorks into threats in the late game.
It might feel strange playing so many fetches without Deathrite Shaman and with Zoo running around, but we are playing the appropriate number of basics to cast our spells. Thinning our deck of lands is good against removal-heavy decks since we will want to maximize the chances of drawing threats in a long game that relies on top-decking.
Knight of the Reliquary: Conley Woods' addition of Knight was pretty interesting. I just don’t think there are enough utility lands to get real value out of this. We would rather play something we can Pod away happily, though we might want this just to fetch Gavony Township. He also gets huge with heavy usage of fetch lands.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: She sees play in some sideboards but the only matchup you want it against is Storm and they can combo through it with Pyromancer Ascension. Tacking on an additional 1 colorless mana cost to whatever spell kills her is rarely worth it.
Fauna Shaman: This card is not as good here as it is in the Kiki Pod list. We want to take advantage of the ETB/LTB effects on all of our creatures and she has neither. Also, she dies to everything.
Avalanche Riders: This card is difficult to cast now that we have lost Deathrite Shaman. The Tron deck has plummeted in numbers since the unbanning of Nacatl, so it is not nearly as important to be able to attack lands.
In: 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender, 1 Obstinate Baloth, 1 Path to Exile, 1 Thrun, the Last Troll, 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons, 1 Shriekmaw.
Out: 1 Cartel Aristocrat, 1 Phyrexian Metamorph, 1 Orzhov Pontiff, 1 Chord of Calling, 1 Ranger of Eos, 1 Birthing Pod.
We want to come out fast and play Kitchen Finks. Their best cards against us are Ghor-Clan Rampager and path to exile. Be conservative with your life total here. Cutting a Pod is fine to preserve your life.
In: 2 Thoughtseize, 1 Sin Collector, 1 Thrun, the Last Troll, 1 Path to Exile, 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons.
Out: 1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Archangel of Thune, 1 Spike Feeder, 1 Murderous Redcap, 2 Kitchen Finks.
Pro Tour: BotG introduced some innovative new decklists for this archetype, so you will have to use your own judgement when deciding what to take out. Linvala and Spellskite do pretty good work against the combo.
Melira Pod (mirror)
In: 1 Path to Exile, 1 Harmonic Sliver, 1 Shriekmaw.
Out: 2 Wall of Roots, 1 Viscera Seer.
With so many copies of Kitchen Finks running around, winning by dealing 20 damage is pretty difficult. The surest route to victory is to get out Linvala. Linvala in play makes it impossible for the opponent to combo or tap creatures for mana, and flying is relevant for the inevitable ground stall. Note that copying an opponents Linvala with Phyrexian Metamorph ensures it can never die to a Shriekmaw.
In: 4 Thoughtseize, 1 Sin Collector, 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons, 1 Thrun, the Last Troll
Out: 3 Chord of Calling, 2 Abrupt Decay, 1 Orzhof Pontiff, 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
These decks vary a lot between builds. It's possible we want Burrenton Forge-Tender if they are a more controlling build that has Anger of the Gods.
In: 1 Harmonic Sliver
Out: 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
We don’t board much in this matchup, as we already have Spellskite to steal the enchantments. This is likely a race to see if you can combo before you die. Rancor is their best card against you, so if you can deal with that you should be able to beat down with Kitchen Finks for days.
In: 4 Thoughtseize, 1 Aven Mindcensor, 1 Sin Collector, 1 Thrun, the Last Troll, 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons, 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
Out: 2 Abrupt Decay, 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence, 1 Phyrexian Metamorph, 1 Orzhov Pontiff, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Viscera Seer, 1 Murderous Redcap, 1 Kitchen Finks
You want to pick apart their hand as much as possible, since none of our creatures really do a whole lot. Keep up Chord of Calling to get Forge-Tender in response to Anger of the Gods or Firespout.
In: 1 Path to Exile, 1 Harmonic Sliver, 1 Kataki, War's Wage, 1 Obstinate Baloth.
Out: 2 Wall of Roots, 1 Voice of Resurgence, 1 Birthing Pod
Get Kataki and Spellskite out and watch your opponent make the same face Peyton Manning did at the end of the superbowl (aka 10 minutes into the game). One thing to note is that with a Melira out, Inkmoth Nexus will still be an infect creature if it gets activated, and will deal a whopping zero points of damage to you.
A few tips and tricks
I have witnessed new players allow a Birthing Pod to activate, then attempt to “respond” to whatever creature was gotten as though the creature was on the stack. This isn’t how it works! Once a Pod activation or Chord of Calling resolves, that creature is in play. Your only opportunity to respond is upon the declaration of the spell or ability, and you won't know which creature your opponent will fetch.
Activating Gavony Township while a persist creature has a -1/-1 counter will cause both counters to fall off.
You can cast Chord of Calling and declare X to equal a number greater than the casting cost of the creature you are fetching because it is worded as "a creature with converted mana cost X or less". This is an effective way to bluff an opponent, but is almost never important. You should always prioritize keeping mana up to pay for a potential Mana Leak, and keeping blockers back to prevent losing needless life. Still, if you think there is a situation where this bluff will generate value at no opportunity cost, go for it.
Going forward, Melira Pod is not going away until Wizards decides they have to ban Birthing Pod (not anytime soon, I hope!). Until then I plan on squeezing as many victories out of this deck as possible. This deck just keeps getting better as more powerful creatures are printed (Archangel of Thune and Voice of Resurgence to name a few recent ones) and I would expect this trend to continue. Hopefully this article will help some of you sleeving up Birthing Pod at Grand Prix Richmond, and thanks for reading. I'll be answering questions in the comments below so please speak your mind.