BryantNorn

Cook’s Kitchen- Storming into Birthing Pod

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by Bryant Cook

 

Birthing Pod decks are the most underrated decks in standard.

I said it! Birthing Pod decks haven’t done better than a top sixteen finish at a Star City Games event since the rotation. Many people including myself thought that Pod variants would be the best decks in the format after rotation. However, that hasn’t been the case. Colin Chilbert and I have been working on Birthing Pod variants for a couple of months now and we came to a few conclusions:

 

1.) Black cards are unnecessary. 

 

What exactly does black offer Birthing Pod?

Go for the Throat, Phyrexian Rager, Entomber Exarch, Skinrender, Grave Titan, Massacre Wurm, and Sheoldred, the Whispering One.

Phyrexian Rager was what originally made me want to play black but the card was really underwhelming compared to other 3-mana slots such as Blade Splicer or Mentor of the Meek. Grave Titan, Massacre Wurm, and Sheoldred all fall under one category in my eyes – late game finishers. The problem is that they don’t match-up against cards in different colors. Massacre Wurm and Sheoldred both are worse than Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite.

Massacre Wurm’s triple black mana cost from a splash color and it’s inability to stop Inkmoth Nexus from dealing ten poison was really relevant when considering black.

Sheoldred, the Whispering One had the same problem as Massacre Wurm. It doesn’t stop the Wolf Run decks. Not to mention, Sheoldred takes a while to affect the board state. Elesh Norn comes down and instantly locks out so many decks and creatures in the format, including Inkmoth Nexus from both Mono Black Infect and Wolf run. Shutting down Inkmoth Nexus was probably Elesh’s most redeeming quality aside from turning the utility creatures into real threats.

Grave Titan, Entomber Exarch, and Skinrender are fine cards, but not worth splashing black for in the end.

 

2.) Blue cards were underperforming. 

 

Aether Adept and Skaab Ruinator are just awful. I never want to draw either one of these cards. The loss of Seagate Oracle and Preordain had more of an impact than most people anticipated. The deck has a tougher time finding Birthing Pod.

The solution we found to filling the niche was, don’t try. Instead of finding worse versions of these cards we opted out of blue besides three cards.

 

Phantasmal Image

Phantasmal Image

Phyrexian Metamorph

 

The clone effects are the real reason to play blue. Not being able to cast the three cards is rarely an issue between Birds of Paradise, Viridian Emissary, Solemn Simulacrum, Birthing Pod, Phyrexian mana, and drawing the random one-of Island. The reason these cards stick around was that they increase our success against control decks. Being able to copy Sun Titan, Acidic Slime, or your opponent’s Consecrated Sphinx, Sun Titan, Grave Titan, or Elesh Norn is incredible.

 

Without copy effects Birthing Pod decks are completely cold to an opposing Elesh Norn aside from the one-of Fiend Hunter or the sideboard Beast Withins.

 

3.) Red cards were needed to deal with aggressive decks and artifacts.

 

Ancient Grudge and Arc Trail are the main reason to play red.

 

Red Deck Wins was causing major problems in the early game. Birthing Pod was a turn too slow most games from being able to recover from the initial rush of creatures. When our opponents went one drop, two drop, it was a bit scary when we were dropping a Birds and Birthing Pod turn two. Birthing pod was too slow in these situations.

 

Our solution was Arc Trail over black’s option of Go for the Throat. Arc Trail bought the deck much more time where it matters  The later in the game it is, the less the opponents creatures matter. Chances are by the time the opponent drops a big late game finisher, the deck is able to deal with it or just ignore the creature and win anyway. Birthing Pod being a deck built around small two-for-one’s creates a lot of card advantage in the long run and it only made since that the deck needed to stall in order to get to that point.

 

Another advantage of red is artifact removal. Ancient Grudge was just always a fantastic card to draw. With the last block being artifact based, Ancient Grudge gets sideboarded in quite frequently, even against decks most players don’t suspect. Grudge went into the deck against any deck with Inkmoth Nexus, seeing as I’ve already said, Inkmoth Nexus poses an issue for the deck. These decks would be Tempered Steel, Wolf Run decks, and Mono Black Infect.

 

Inferno Titan does a few things for Birthing pod that the deck didn’t have already. Titan provides reach when the deck is otherwise incapable of finishing off an opponent.  He kills a mass of tokens over a few turns, and provides removal for anything with a toughness of 3 – something Arc Trail couldn’t do.

 

4.) An engine other than Birthing Pod was needed.

 

The deck plays much like the old Red Green Survival Advantage decks from the early days of Legacy. The only difference is the ol’ RGSA decks had Sword of Fire and Ice to create card advantage.

 

Colin and I looked at Sword of Feast and Famine, Garruk Relentless, and Garruk, Primal Hunter. The problem with Sword of Feast and Famine is that it dies to the same hate that an opponent may bring in to deal with Birthing Pod. Both of the Garruks were fine options, we tried running them and they were good. This was until we found Mentor of the Meek in testing. Mentor is incredible compared to either Garruk and significantly fits the curve of the deck better than either Garruk. Mentor turns mid-to-late game mana creatures into card advantage that buries opponents. Mentor of the Meek also provides more consistency since turn one Birds of Paradise or Avacyn’s Pilgrim now means turn two threat that must be answered in either Mentor or Birthing Pod.

 

The best usage of Mentor of the Meek is with Hero of Bladehold. Hero of Bladehold asserts pressure on the opponent while creating card advantage with Mentor of the Meek. The only way that this scenario could get any better is if the one-of Gavony Township is in play. Township turned our weak mana and utility creatures into actual threats, much like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite would. People have told me to cut the one of Township because a colorless land in a four-color deck with only 23 lands in standard is ridiculous. The truth is that it has never been bad, between mana fixing creatures and running that many lands, Gavony Township has always been beneficial.

 

Decklist by Bryant Cook/Colin Chilbert (Di on The Source)

 

Ink-Treader Nephilim /GWru Birthing Pod

 

Creatures:

4 Birds of Paradise

2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim

1 Spellskite

3 Viridian Emissary

2 Phantasmal Image

3 Mentor of the Meek

3 Blade Splicer

1 Manic Vandal

1 Fiend Hunter

1 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Phyrexian Metamorph

2 Hero of Bladehold

2 Acidic Slime

1 Archon of Justice

1 Sun Titan

1 Inferno Titan

 

Legendary Creatures:

1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

 

Instants/Sorceries:

3 Arc Trail

 

Artifacts:

4 Birthing Pod

 

Basic Land:

5 Forest

2 Plains

2 Mountain

1 Island

 

Non-Basic Land:

1 Gavony Township

4 Razorverge Thicket

4 Copperline Gorge

3 Sunpetal Grove

1 Rootbound Crag
Sideboard:
3 Beast Within

3 Ancient Grudge

2 Celestial Purge

2 Gideon Jura

2 Wurmcoil Engine

1 Tree of Redemption

1 Thrun, the Last Troll

1 Spellskite

 

Card Choices

 

The manabase is pretty self-explanatory. The split between Sunpetal Grove and Rootbound Craig was done to make sure that we have enough white mana before red. Red mana isn’t as essential as white with only five red cards in the main deck. The number of each basic ensures that there is a green source in every opening hand for the deck’s one-drop creatures.

 

The one-drop creatures are four Birds of Paradise and two Avacyn’s Pilgrim. The list that was originally brewed ran eight one-drop creatures to give the best chance at a turn two Birthing Pod. The problem was with eight one mana creatures we often drew too many in the mid-to-late game and they were irrelevant. There are also four land searching creatures in the deck, three Viridian Emissary and one Solemn Simulacrum. The numbers were to benefit the curve of the deck and the curve for the Birthing Pod chain. The creatures fix mana issues by often finding the lone Island, Mountain, or Plains.

 

Birthing Pod is the heart and soul of the deck, followed by Mentor of the Meek.

 

The utility dudes would be Spellskite, Phantasmal Image, Manic Vandal, Fiend Hunter, Phyrexian Metamorph, and Acidic Slime. They’re all Silver Bullets for Birthing Pod that weren’t too bad to draw on their own. Spellskite was chosen to protect Birthing Pod and late game finishers by sacrificing a Birds or Pilgrim’s. Spellskite is just another reason why the lone Island in the deck was included. Manic Vandal and Fiend Hunter’s jobs are fairly obvious. However, Acidic Slime has the most value out of any of them.

One of the main lines of play in Birthing Pod decks is to mana screw the opponent by playing Acidic Slime targeting a land. Choosing a land that has a color that the opponent has fewest of is probably the best idea. Play or Birthing Pod into a Phantasmal Image, choosing Acidic slime, next turn sacrifice the copied creature to get Sun Titan, then return the Image, and copy Acidic Slime. This situation created a whole lot of card advantage in just two turns. The end result would most likely be a game victory.

 

Sideboarding Strategies

 

Red Deck Wins

-1 Island

-1 Phyrexian Metamorph

-2 Phantasmal Image

-1 Sun Titan

-1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

-1 Mentor of the Meek

-1 Blade Splicer

+2 Celestial Purge

+2 Gideon Jura

+2 Wurmcoil Engine

+1 Tree of Redemption

+1 Spellskite

 

Wolf Run 

-3 Arc Trail

-3 Mentor of the Meek

-1 Manic Vandal

-1 Blade Splicer

+3 Beast Within

+2 Ancient Grudge

+2 Gideon Jura

+1 Spellskite

 

Mono Black Infect

-1 Island

-1 Phyrexian Metamorph

-2 Phantasmal Image

-3 Mentor of the Meek

-1 Sun Titan

-1 Blade Splicer

-1 Manic Vandal

+3 Beast Within

+2 Arc Trail

+2 Celestial Purge

+2 Gideon Jura

+1 Wurmcoil Engine

 

Solar Flare (Any control deck)

-3 Arc Trail

-1 Manic Vandal

-1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim

+3 Beast Within

+1 Thrun, the Last Troll

+1 Spellskite

 

Tempered Steel

-1 Island

-1 Phyrexian Metamorph

-2 Phantasmal Image

-2 Hero of Bladehold

-2 Mentor of the Meek

-1 Viridian Emissary

+3 Beast Within

+3 Ancient Grudge

+2 Gideon Jura

+1 Wurmcoil Engine

G/W Tokens

-1 Manic Vandal

-2 Hero of Bladehold

-1 Blade Splicer

-1 Viridian Emissary

-1 Mentor of the Meek

+3 Beast Within

+2 Gideon Jura

+1 Wurmcoil Engine

 

 

The main idea of sideboarding against really aggressive decks such as Red Deck Wins, Mono Black Infect, and Tempered Steel is to sideboard out blue. Blue is a little too slow against these decks. Against midrange and control decks keep them in and sideboard out Arc Trail for Beast Within.

 

That’s all for this week, come back next week! Until then, Keep Storming!

 

Bryant Cook

Bryant Cook on MTGthesource

BCook3289@yahoo.com

 

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