GP Worcester 2014 is this weekend and I’ll be driving up Friday morning with friends to join a grinder. I’ve spent the past week working on my deck exhaustively: in my mind at my job, on paper, and through kitchen-table playtesting. While I feel capable with Birthing Pod, I am not sure it is the ideal archetype to compete with this weekend, and it’s bent me out of shape. I’ve expended futile energy attempting to predict the metagame, and in a schizophrenic act of desperation I’ve thrown my deck list into upheaval. But I made my commitment to the deck, and that commitment will not change. Remember my first rule from my previous article on Modern? Stick to thy deck.

It started by running the matchup against the Blue/Red Delver of Secrets list that Friend of Hipsters Charles Hagaman has been working with recently. The deck is very aggressive and gets under my game plan, quickly forcing me on the back foot. In ten games he won eight of them rather handily. It was then that I knew that my current list, while strong against midrange and control, was soft to aggressive strategies. Cards like Vapor Snag and Twisted Image are tempo blowouts against me, and unless I was able to resolve Orzhov Pontiff quickly he could easily overwhelm my attempts to stabilize and brutalize me with a bunch of X/1’s. I panicked. Reactively I stuffed my deck back up with Kitchen Finks and the Melira combo, eschewing the Archangel of Thune/Spike Feeder combo I had come to love.

Next I tested against Sean Morse running Affinity. Sure, Melira, Sylvok Outcastwas solid against him, as she is the fastest strategy my deck can employ against robots, but, once again, I was on the back foot against evasive, annoying, and redundant creatures. I needed a better plan and again I tore my deck apart. Staring at it the next morning all laid out I swapped cards in and out in a fog of panic. Melira was in, then it was out again, then in, then out. I quite suddenly couldn’t take a stance on my deck. I was overwhelming myself with anxiety, the one feeling I utterly despised. I knew it would cripple me and my chances to play optimally at the GP. If I cannot check my fears, I will never do well at this game.

Where to focus my energies, then? Calm down, my deck said to me; you will find your confidence and your answers here. I focused, and listened. Here’s what I came up with:

Birthing Pod

Creatures (28)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Voice of Resurgence
Scavenging Ooze
Qasali Pridemage
Kitchen Finks
Spike Feeder
Reclamation Sage
Eternal Witness
Orzhov Pontiff
Murderous Redcap
Restoration Angel
Phyrexian Metamorph
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Archangel of Thune

Spells (9)
Birthing Pod
Abrupt Decay
Chord of Calling
Lands (23)
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest
Gavony Township
Razorverge Thicket
Woodland Cemetery
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine

Sideboard (13)
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Thrun, the Last Troll
Slaughter Pact
Orzhov Pontiff
Lingering Souls
Athreos, God of Passage
Entomber Exarch

I hold to my Archangel of Thune/Spike Feeder combo over the Melira combo. I have a strong suspicion that Anger of the Gods will be out in force this weekend and having more four-toughness creatures in my main deck is better than having Ranger of Eos and Viscera Seer. The mid-game package of Restoration Angel, Phyrexian Metamorph, and Archangel of Thune is undoubtedly resilient, evasive, and versatile. The early threats each require immediate answers while offering card advantage and life gain against early offensive pressure.

The sideboard is where the few last question marks remain (two, to be precise). These flex slots I will use to test some ideas I have at the LGS Modern tournament this Tuesday. Here’s a breakdown:

Burrenton Forge-Tender—To combat Anger of the Gods mostly, but it can provide an instant-speed answer via Chord to other red tricks and I like the versatility the card can provide.
Thrun, the Last Troll—Great against control decks and against spot removal from Jund.
Slaughter Pact—Mostly for Twin, and I like it better than Path to Exile for post-board spot removal.
Thoughtseize—The only way I am beating certain combo decks. I have to just accept that Tron and Scapeshift are tough matchups, and this is my main tool to disrupt them while beating them down.
Orzhov Pontiff—Great in the mirror and against Affinity and Delver decks. One of my favorite silver bullets.
Athreos, God of Passage—My personal favorite oddball sideboard card against attrition strategies.
Entomber Exarch—Additional disruption against combo decks and a solid Pod target vs. attrition. This might change to Obstinate Baloth based on my prediction that Liliana of the Veil will make a strong showing at Worcester.
Lingering Souls—Combats Affinity and Delver decks, as well as providing board advantage against attrition strategies.

My flex slots are the last two. My list of possibles for testing are:

1. Krosan Grip—Answers Batterskull, Arcbound Ravager, Blood Moon, Prismatic Omen, and Splinter Twin. This card is mostly for the Twin matchup post-board.
2. Golgari Charm—Simultaneously answers Anger of the Gods, Young Pyromancer, and Blood Moon.
3. Unravel the Aether—For Keranos, God of Storms.
4. Zealous Persecution—Good in the mirror and against tokens, Delver, and Affinity.
5. Lingering Souls—I might just play four in the sideboard instead of two.

I’m going to test out a few of the spell-based disruptive cards at the LGS Modern tournament and see if any of them hold significant relevance. Then, I can make some final adjustments, set my mind to rest on the build, and get my final reps in on Friday afternoon in Worcester. Ensuring my mind is at ease is paramount to my success. Leave it to the cards, and to my experience.

With some luck, skill, and good matchups I aim to make Day Two. That much will please me, as I will have beaten my previous GP performance at Richmond. It’s a high expectation to set for myself—but, without setting goals and overcoming my fears and doubts, where am I headed? See you on the flip side!

After a ten-year lapse from Magic, where his favorite combo was Tradewind Rider with Stasis, Derek is back to learn the new-border variant of the game. While less frustrating cards have been printed, he now has to get used to Planeswalkers, and people rolling dice when he resolves Hymn to TourachGrowing up in Southwestern Connecticut he played at Barrons Comics and Cards every Saturday from “noon-ish to six-ish,” when his father would have to drag him out of the store and throw him into his weekend job. He qualified for the Junior Super Series in 1999 at Pro Tour New York, then used his collection to finance his college education. Years later, he works in the fashion industry as a stylist, consultant, and sometime-matchmaker for brands. He loves all things black leather, and is out to journal his level-ups with hopes of playing at the highest competitive level of the game. You can reach him at [email protected].

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