By Derek Gallen

With GP Worcester/Boston at the end of the month and a new core set well along the spoiler train, I’m getting excited—and nervous—for the big performance that lies ahead of me. I told you in my first article that I had my heart set to blow away my GP performance, but as I write this I am within my moment of weakness. Sure, I’d committed a decent amount of reps with my Birthing Pod list, but Modern more than any other format rewards a player for the following tenets.

A. Stick to thy deck.
B. Know thy match-ups.

I could at this point at least cross off A. Not only had I invested time and money into the deck, but I loved the card Birthing Pod. The decision trees are incredibly stimulating; the deck feels powerful and full of nostalgia for the old Living Death deck. But B—well, B was a different animal altogether. B had me at the foot of Mount Ordeals and it would be a long climb before I could glimpse that long horizon. Moreover, even though A was crossed off, it didn’t necessarily cross off the subtext.

A. Stick to thy deck
(a1.) Understand thy deck inside and out.

Recently, a testing buddy had revealed how I had doubled my pace playing Pod since picking it up in late February. This was good to hear and to know; a well-earned step forward. I had gone to time at the GP, and at the LGS on Tuesday-night Modern I was drawing matches as much as I was winning them, and was wholly unsatisfied with this fact. A competent pilot must sublimate much of his deck’s interactions to rote sequencing in order to succeed more consistently. In addition to the toning reps, running a gauntlet across the top-performing decks in the format will further develop my sensitivity to minute transactions. I still only glean their surfaces.

So, what’s the game plan going forward? Run the deck a few more times at Tuesday-night Modern; organize some testing groups where the decks I haven’t played enough and am most worried about will be in performance and piloted well; test out sideboard theories; and in a few weeks come up with a list I feel comfortable running. Let’s take a look at the list I ran at the most recent LGS four-round tournament.

Birthing Pod

Creatures (25)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Voice of Resurgence
Wall of Roots
Scavenging Ooze
Kitchen Finks
Sin Collector
Orzhov Pontiff
Harmonic Sliver
Spike Feeder
Eternal Witness
Restoration Angel
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Murderous Redcap
Archangel of Thune

Spells (12)
Chord of Calling
Birthing Pod
Abrupt Decay
Lands (23)
Gavony Township
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest
Razorverge Thicket
Woodland Cemetery
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Overgrown Tomb

Sideboard (15)
Golgari Charm
Lingering Souls
Abrupt Decay
Orzhov Pontiff
Path to Exile
Scavenging Ooze
Slaughter Pact
Athreos, God of Passage
Entomber Exarch
Thrun, the Last Troll
Quasali Pridemage

I had begun with the list Luis-Scott Vargas posted as “Angel Pod” more or less card for card, but didn’t find Thoughtseize in the mainboard exciting. More often than not I wished it was another threat that impacted the board, and in the late game Thoughtseize was often a blank. I am ready to concede that my matchup against Tron and Scapeshift are just unfavorable until after boarding, where they become slightly less unfavorable.

Besides, my local metagame favors Jund, Pod, UWR Control, and various Twin strategies, and the only matchup among these where I like Thoughtseize in the main is against Twin. The sideboard I built, however, was rounded off by a motley crew of one-off experiments, my most exciting and relevant choice being the card I threw in last-minute to shore up the Jund matchup (and also because I didn’t own a second Linvala): Athreos, God of Passage.

In a flash it occurred to me that Athreos could reveal its value in complicating the attrition game Jund presses on Pod, and could be a source of serious card advantage in the mirror. What I found was that Athreos, once resolved, was simply hilarious against anyone running attrition. I didn’t care if it never got turned on, as that was usually worse against cards like Path to Exile. When playing against decks comfortable burning life to set up a board state, Athreos pressures the opponent’s life total and enables recurring threats. Athreos combos beautifully with Birthing Pod, and is also itself a Pod target! In short, it can be a shatter pause, but not a guaranteed win condition.

It felt good to have a spontaneous sideboard replacement plan work out so well, and I gained a little confidence in my capability to make decisions about my decks that I could claim ownership of, something I knew I would need to develop my own ideas about Magic. Too often, especially in the 1990s, I relied on the “net decks” to dictate not only my strategies but my sideboard plans. And while the winning 75 was printed there on The Dojo or Brainburst or wherever else I searched for deck ideas, articles rarely explained or justified unique sideboard slots, and I never learned to explore the advantages of having an extra 15 cards sitting in my deck box. Most of all, I never learned to engage myself in the practice of deckbuilding.

Onto the rounds, shall we?

My recent LGS Tuesday-night Modern was a 2-1-1 performance that left me miserable. The full house was exciting, and my matches were rife with tier-two decks, misplays, and slow playing. Here’s a short recap.



Brook has confessed to me his deck is “horrible” but it seems a pet deck for him. He enjoys the Mystical Teachings toolbox, tutoring up a fun mix of instant-speed removal, counters, and card advantage. I was able to overload his disruption in three games with some good top decks and early Birthing Pods. Voice of Resurgence is an all-star against reactionary decks like Brook’s, and it convinced me I wanted to up the Voice count to four going forward.





Chris seemed relatively newer to the format than me, as his pacing reminded me of myself a few months back. We drew after two long, grindy games. At one point he ultimated Liliana of the Veil and put my Athreos in one pile and all my other permanents into the other pile. I misplayed as well, not eating down our graveyards to shrink his ‘Goyfs with my Scavenging Ooze cost me the draw.





George is very sweet and funny, and our matchup was utterly ridiculous. He mulls to five on the play game one, and my decent seven cards just get there. Game two he pays four life to cast Dismember on my Voice of Resurgence … on MY upkeep. “I’m gonna get a Voice trigger,” I puttered out, seeing the game-ending misplay eat his face. We were both so shocked after that, so utterly dumbfounded, that I swung with my two freshly materialized Voice tokens. He takes the six damage, and two turns later he scoops. About ten seconds later he says, “You couldn’t have attacked with those Voice tokens that turn.” Oh, shit. And we couldn’t rewind; it was too late. I felt sick with embarrassment and guilt for breaking such a rudimentary Magic rule. I kept apologizing and sweating inside my shirt, but George was graceful and laughed it off, and I laughed with him. “Let’s play a real match next time.” He agreed.





I had seen Joe beat fellow Hipsters writer Rich Stein and knew he was also on Fish. “Another Fish player? I just beat a Fish deck!” “He must have been the less competent Fish player,” said Joe. And that was the way our match sat down. Joe is softly spoken and deliberate. The only way Fish can get ahead of me is with a very aggressive draw, and due to redundancy it’s not uncommon for him to just go off with Merrow Reejerey. Two bad keeps later, with Joe having particularly amazing draws, it was over in a matter of minutes. My deck refused to work when I needed it to, and while it happens to everyone, it never eases the frustration. Joe and I disagreed on who is favored in the matchup afterwards. See you next time, Joe … next time …



With regards to updating the list, I’m going to cut the Thoughtseizes from the maindeck in favor of a fourth Voice of Resurgence and a couple of undecided early slots. I am paying close attention to how my opponents are prioritizing my creatures, and which ones especially induce the groan test. Voice and Kitchen Finks are the two biggest offenders. Noted.

Finally, looking at the M15 spoilers these past few weeks or so I’ve gotten inspired by a few of the cards as possible additions and/or sideboard cards for Birthing Pod—the most obvious being Reclamation Sage as a strict upgrade from Harmonic Sliver. I will try out Spirit Bonds and Ob Nixilis, Unshackled in the sideboard. I dislike the idea of podding into a six-mana creature, but the text on him is so utterly juicy I just can’t resist myself!

Derek prefers all things black leather, but dislikes rolling dice when resolving Hymn to Tourach. Cannot be terrored. Effects that prevent or redirect damage cannot be used to counter this loss of life.

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