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The Dangers of Banning Birthing Pod

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you've read all about the banned and restricted list update. If you have indeed been living beneath stone, check out Jason's article complete with commentary on every change. You can also see the official announcement here. All caught up? Good.

So Birthing Pod is gone from Modern. In many ways, this means that it's gone from Magic completely. It's no longer in Standard. It's banned in Modern. It's a fringe playable in Legacy, at best. And it's not what Vintage players want at all. I've only ever seen one Cube deck run it, and that was more of a Recurring Nightmare build than a Pod list. I've also never particularly seen it run to good effect in Commander. Birthing Pod is a build-around card, so it just doesn't do that much in singleton formats.

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In effect, this banning basically wipes Birthing Pod from the Magic map. Sure, it will still see a little casual play, and maybe Pod enthusiasts will turn their sights to Legacy and see what can be done there, but for the most part, we're looking at a brave new world the likes of which we haven't really imagined since May of 2011. Banning Pod is a huge shakeup.

To be fair, I'm not necessarily saying it was wrong. Pod has been among Modern's top two or three decks for years now, and though I don't personally play enough Modern to say whether it was oppressive at big tournaments, one of Pod's foremost experts seems to agree it was correct:

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Of course, what this does for the Modern metagame is only half the story. The other half is the fact that many players have had significant investments of time and money that are no longer relevant in the competitive Modern scene. It's stories like these that indicate the biggest risk involved with world-shaking bannings like that of Birthing Pod:

 

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The appeal of eternal formats is that one can build a deck, updating it with each new set but largely forgetting about it except when a tournament comes up. Pod players, many of whom have been playing the deck for years, learned this week that Modern doesn't work like Legacy in that way. One can invest the money to purchase a deck and the time to become an expert at playing it, then have the rug pulled out at a moment's notice.

As a fan of Modern coverage, I personally like the Birthing Pod ban. I've seen the deck played so many times that it just wasn't even interesting anymore. I played a couple events with Melira Pod back in the day, but it wasn't really my jam as a player. My biggest regret is that because Pod is only really good in Modern, its legacy on Magic has been pretty much wiped away with this move. Unless and until Pod is unbanned, we really won't be seeing it around anymore.

But it's the consumer confidence in Modern that concerns me most. I've been toying with the idea of building a Modern deck on Magic Online, but that seems much less attractive in the face of such major changes. Many players will undoubtedly feel the same.

shadowofdoubt

Of course, the timing of such a massive change is more or less perfect. It will shake up the Modern pro tour significantly, which will make for a more entertaining weekend and offer many opportunities for MTG financiers (speaking of which, if you're not already an Insider here at Quiet Speculation, the days leading up to the pro tour are a great time to give the service a try). I'm all about a more entertaining pro tour, although to be fair, I would have been pretty entertained by watching Dig Through Times resolve all weekend.

The other aspect of the timing here is that we are only a few months away from Modern Masters 2015. We know that the print run will be larger but still limited, but we don't know how much larger it will really be. To me, the banning of Birthing Pod indicates that Modern Masters 2015 will have a significantly larger print run than its predecessor.

Banning Birthing Pod was likely viewed as a dangerous but necessary evil by the DCI. As LSV said in the tweet above, the banning was overdue. Wizards of the Coast knew that it would anger a portion of the playerbase (while being happy news for another portion), so the company chose the moment wisely. What better way to help players get over their anger at a banning than to widely release a badass set that will make Modern more accessible (and hopefully more affordable) to new players and spurned Pod players alike?

Of course, the $10 MSRP makes it less likely that this set will really drive down Modern prices. If the first Modern Masters is any indication, these packs will realistically sell for $15 to $20 each, and I hesitate to imagine how good a set would have to be to make such a booster pack price worth that cost. Still, new copies of cards will enter the market, and players selling them after drafts will put some downward pressure on prices.

But the real question is this: will MM15 be enough to regain Birthing Pod players' collective trust? All we can do is wait and see.

 

Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

View More By Danny Brown

Posted in Banning, Free, ModernTagged , ,

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24 thoughts on “The Dangers of Banning Birthing Pod

  1. Most of the cards in pod decks are format staples. Those players could be GW hatebears pretty easily if they wanted.

    I wish the DCI would bring back the watch list from an eon ago. It let players know which cards were being watched closely and were on the verge of being banned. This way players could make an informed decision on how much risk they wanted to take on.

    1. Hatebears pretty much isn’t a thing anymore. The two decks it preyed upon were pod and delver. It has lost its best matchups and gained no new tools.

  2. This is what people asked for when they appealed for the return of the modern pt. WotC’s release specifically stated that the initial removal of the Modern PT was so that the ban list wouldn’t have to be watched as closely. Some good people got burned on this, but I don’t really understand how anybody could say that this update was surprising.

  3. I’m one of the guys who had a fully foiled pod deck, and my current feeling is general apathy/wait and see. I’m sure in the long run it’ll be a hit for a few hundred or so, which sucks, but there are a lot of staples in the deck that will retain value; the lands, rhinos, restos, decays, thoughtseizes, etc.

    Pontiff is a sell, Voice of Resurgence probably dips unless it find a better home, and a lot of the other individual bullets weren’t hugely valuable in the first place.

    Noble Hierarchs are a likely MM2015 reprint, which means they will dip a bit anyways, and the only real question is Linvala, which is a possible reprint as well.

  4. Modern can’t deliver cheap, professional magic. The best cards are paradoxically some of the most valuable and always at risk of being banned or reprinted.

    There’s no good entry point for people who crave the “stability” of only having to freshen up their favorite deck periodically with cards from new sets because the key cards of the format are simultaneously expensive and at risk of becoming valueless.

    This is remarkably in contrast with expectations for the format and that’s going to lead to an awful lot of tears over the years, assuming this particular fiasco doesn’t deal Modern a fatal blow. If you were burned by Deathrite / the cruise meta and switched to Pod only to get banned again, are you really reinvesting? At some point it’s cheaper to buy a fucking Xbox already.

    In any case I think it’s very important to stop buying foils of Modern staples. It’s clearly not a format where you should be “pimping” your favorite long-term deck. Instead the mandate is to stay liquid, and frankly that isn’t what people were hoping for.

  5. As a Pod player in Modern since the format began, I’m extremely bummed about this banning. I always felt like the deck was a bit too robust, but results were never as oppressively lopsided as, say, Flash-Hulk or Survival decks in Legacy. So I thought…maybe…just maybe…Pod would dodge the banhammer. I guess my own flair for the deck clouded my senses.

    My plan now is basically to try my very best to tweak a Melira deck by removing Pods, adding Chords back, and making the deck mostly focused on the combo. If this fails, I’ll likely bail on Modern. I really don’t want to drop hundreds of bucks to build some other deck – especially when I KNOW so many cards are about to be reprinted. 🙁 Maybe if decks get cheap after MMA2015 I’ll re-evaluate.

  6. This article raises an interesting point- who really benefits from the banning of Pod? The decision seems to have been focused on Pro Tour-level players. Do those players (and coverage of those players) make up a large enough block of the MtG community to drive such decisions? For every one PT-level player relieved to see Pod gone, how many casuals and FNM-level players just lost their deck? And was the FNM version of a Pod deck at the same power level as the PT version? For example, how many non-competitive players built their deck without Linvala, Hierarchs, and the fetches, allowing them to play an affordable albeit less powerful version of the deck? Basing such decisions on the PT-level meta can definitely have some nasty ripple effects in the casual community. awhile back I decided not to build any ‘serious’ Modern decks for this very reason.

    I’m not a MtG financier, but if I were I would ditch Modern cards in the very short term. The format is too prone to reprints and bans, and the unknown print run for Mod masters 2 should be a real concern. WotC clearly doesn’t want to leave lots of money on the table with this set like they did with Mod Masters 1, which means the print run will be large enough to keep the packs at the $10 mark. I’m reminded of so many collectibles in other hobbies where the first version was a Grail item and the second version with the “slightly” larger pressing started out pricey but then quickly plummeted in value as people realized it wasn’t really THAT limited like the first one was.

    1. Very well put^

      Good article Danny!

      As exciting as it is to see my favorite format showcased at the ‘Pro Tours’, the cost of this is just too steep when every card is under the micro for WOTC ‘pros’
      ….and for now seeing this most recent bans- which I believe was extremely carelessly executed (I believe the problem could have been solved by some careful Unbans- which would have propped up the format, encouraged brews and still made for an interesting and diverse PT)….
      One of the biggest pulls for me into modern was diversity of cards, archetypes and strategies…WOTC seems to want to make modern into standard 2.0> which imo will kill it….
      …I’ll be interested to see how my local modern community rebounds from this and how the format evolves (it was hard enough to get modern events to fire before this…..)

  7. I look at it in a different way, I feel the ban was shortsighted. It feels like we are going full circle in modern all the way back to Jund everywhere. I feel pod was more of linchpin in the format, instead of the big bad wolf. It was strong enough to keep certain decks from being oppressive, but not oppressive itself in a healthy meta. The arguments that it got stronger with more card selection were flawed. It also got more difficult it make a winning list at the same rate, do to more archetypes to tune for.

    The biggest problem for most ban arguments, is they rarely account for how the Meta shifts in response to said ban. Sometimes it grows more diverse, but more often than not it turns into whack-a-mole. In this instance I feel modern gets less diverse causing another change to the ban list within the next two sets.

  8. I think pod was only so prevalent because it was one of the few decks that could survive the oppression of the delve cards. I’ve never found pod to be an unmanageable match-up, and I was really looking forward to building the deck. I think it will see an un-ban in the coming years because it’s one of the few ways to play a mid-range deck. If it’s banned on win percentage logic, what goes next? Mox Opal? valakut? Lily? Goyf? Lightning bolt?

  9. If wizards was proactive with reprints and never let modern staples rise too high in price, this ban would be a breath of fresh air to the meta.

    Regrettably, Wizards seems to care little about the cost of entry in their eternal formats, making a ban like this far more catastrophic than it should be. Instead of resigning to building another $150 deck, we are instead forced to build another $900 deck.

    Lower costs would also soften the blow of investing in a theory-deck which didn’t quite work out, letting more people experiment with decks and thus lowering the compulsion to netdeck and once again diversifying the meta.

    Also MM15 will only go to further harm the cost of entry, as small-scale reprints like these create far more demand than supply, creating even higher prices.

    1. I totally agree with this point. by saying they want other creature decks to be a viable option is good in theory but every other creature deck runs tarmogoyf as a 4 of meaning the barrier to entry is now very high. like Nick said if the upcoming MM2015 was a high print run and the booster packs not over priced then this wouldn’t be so bad as players would find it easier to move to another deck.

      I mean why would anyone spend high amounts to build a tier 1 modern deck when it will just have a key card banned. by being successful you shoot yourself in the foot. the barrier to change decks is just too high

  10. I know some guys that lost their modern deck, and can’t afford a new one.. They said they are now quitting modern as they can’t afford to play anymore, and they have no backup deck..
    If cards were cheap, I guess it would help, but as others have said, you can’t expect people to pay 900$ if they want to play midrange.. I played kiki pod and feel a bit screwed, but at least I have other decks..
    People spend months trading to get together a deck, especially students and younger people, and now suddenly they can no longer play modern.. Maybe in a few months..

  11. great article, great insight. based on the discussion I read here, I’m not the only one who likes this insight. Only thing I’m afraid off now is who or what will fill the gap of Pod.
    I’m afraid that splinter twin is a dangerous competitor. It was already a good competitor before, and could take over the crown.

    Personally, I didn’t expect them to ban the whole deck, but just a piece of it (archangel, spike, finks, …). But it shakes up the format, and combined with MM15, change can stimulate the interest in the format.

    However, I’m curious to know how deep economics is involved in this decision. Maybe it has nothing to do with the bannings…

  12. I suffered a bit from the DRS ban. And fully understand why it was done. For me this is the reason to enter modern. Also the biggest investment is in the land base and the cards with value irregardless of pod. A shake up is needed from time to time. Just my 5 cents.

  13. I feel like WIzards felt they could not print powerful ETB cards because of Pod, It was changing the way they were making cards at R&D. So now I am excited to see what the new cool creatures they want to print are:)

  14. I highly, highly recommend that anyone looking to play some kind of midrange deck in Modern but who lacks a playset of Tarmogoyfs to consider buying a playset of Tasigur, the Golden Fang while he’s relatively cheap. He can come down for two or one mana pretty much as quickly as Goyf, but has the added advantages of (i) not shrinking once he’s in play, (ii) being resistant to Abrupt Decay, Lightning Bolt, and Dismember, and (iii) delving away stuff that possibly shrinks your opponent’s Goyfs, and (iv) generating card advantage in the mid- to late-game.

    Seriously, Tasigur is about the closest any card has come to being Tarmogoyf-lite in Modern. Playtest him if you need further proof.

    🙂

  15. Pod probably wasn’t the issue the problem I think was siege rhino always cascading into lightning helix and being so easy to find. I expect a rhino ban and a pod unban.

  16. Really, the lands are the only staples in the deck. If you knew Birthing Pod, the deck and you knew it’s contents, you’d agree with me when I say this. Orzhov Pontiff, Birds of Paradise, Reveillark, Shriekmaw, Murderous Redcap, Wall of Roots, Reclamation Sage, Sin Collector, Birthing Pod, itself, none of those are played in much else. Therefore, not a staple. Like yeah, Rhino, Ooze, and Finks, but that’s really it. Voice, Hierarch, Linvala, same story… Like you said, Hatebears is the first to come to mind, but Pod players aren’t going to regress to something like that. If you’re familiar with Modern, you’ll understand that Pod was a utility belt that took these below average cards and abused them with ETB effects. So, no; No staples. The first thing I did when I learned Pod was banned was try to figure out how I could salvage the remaining parts, and Hatebears was it. Does that sound like a deck made of staples to you? I played the deck for 4 years, long before it was popular.

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