I fucking love Shriekmaw. This elemental with bad breath was my MVP at last Tuesday night’s Modern tournament, which packed our LGS to the teeth once again. It might simply be due to Modern PTQ season, but I like to think that the popularity of the Modern format is skyrocketing. There’s also the GP happening in Worcester next weekend, and the local community is readying itself. Whatever the case may be, Tuesday night has become my battleground for casting my Shriekmaw.

I love everything this card does for me and my Birthing Pod deck. All night I was ripping him off the top of my library, podding for him, evoking him, casting Eternal Witness and targeting him. Just grinding Shriekmaw value to a pulp. Hell, I might upgrade my ‘maw to foil after this week’s performance. I like to have exactly one foil card in every deck I play, and have yet to foil any card in my Modern deck. But my shenanigans of late have spoken to me! FOIL THY SHRIEKMAW! FOIL HIM!

You see, this card is the perfect pet Magic card for an old-school vet like me, combining the classic instant Terror with a modern Magic mechanic, evoke, resulting in a three-power evasive creature as your Terror-on-a-stick! If you played the game back in the day, you know how good it feels to terror your opponent’s dragon or angel. And with modern Magic being so creature-centric, with most abilities now on a stick, that means there are so many delicious targets for my maw! Tarmogoyf, get in the coffin! Restoration Angel, get in your coffin! Just call me the coffin-maker:

My maw also has some incidental advantages in the Modern format. Maw avoids Abrupt Decay, can close out games with its fear-based evasion, and its evoke ability can catch even competent players off guard. Shriekmaw is a solid draw at any moment in a game of Magic. It’s a great silver bullet, one I had wondered why it wasn’t Nekrataal until I got to know modern Magic. Within the context of the Birthing Pod toolbox, reminiscient of the old Living Death deck, good old maw has become one of my absolute favorite cards.

Needless to say, I had an excellent night playing Modern last Tuesday. It was the kind of performance I needed to reinvigorate my wavering confidence with the deck. Last time I spoke of Modern I talked about making some changes to my list. Here’s where I stood last Tuesday, and where I will likely stabilize with going into the next LGS tournament:

Birthing Pod

Creatures (28)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Scavenging Ooze
Voice of Resurgence
Quasali Pridemage
Kitchen Finks
Eternal Witness
Spike Feeder
Sin Collector
Harmonic Sliver
Orzhov Pontiff
Murderous Redcap
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Restoration Angel
Archangel of Thune

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

Sideboard (15)
Lingering Souls
Athreos, God of Passage
Entomber Exarch
Thrun, The Last Troll
Path to Exile
Abrupt Decay
Orzhov Pontiff
Slaughter Pact

Putting the Thoughtseizes into the board again felt right, and taking out Wall of Roots for more aggressive early drops suited my play style. I like Wall of Roots on defense, but it’s weak to Twisted Image and I always wished I could just be pressuring my opponent earlier. I upped the Voice of Resurgence count to four in the maindeck, added another Scavenging Ooze, and decided to run both Qasali Pridemage and Harmonic Sliver in the main to shore up the affinity matchup as well as stock more utility creatures against Bitterblossom, opposing Birthing Pods, and Aether Vial. The build plays out excellently against midrange and control strategies, which is just what I was up against for the entirety of the night.


Quint is a store regular who loves to draft, and I was happy to finally play him in an eternal format. Quint was putting Prophetic Flamespeaker, a card near and dear to my heart, to the test in a Jund shell. This card is so cool and has the potential to be very powerful. His trick was to use Kessig Wolf Run in combination with the Flamespeaker, a combination that works somehow both very well and not at all. In game two he began pushing damage through my blockers (I had to start chumping the damn thing) and, having tapped out to the Wolf Run activation, flipped a copy of Terminate that went straight to exile. Sure, he was ahead on board and the minute I couldn’t block it, the Flamespeaker would be hiting me HARD, and while it’s difficult to get a decent block against a creature with double strike and trample, the missed value on the Flamespeaker triggers left me wanting a better shell for the Journey into Nyx dude. I got there in three games against Quint after some key draw steps capitalized on Quint’s mana problems. Games against Jund can come down to topdeck wars, and sometimes the player with the better draw steps can just get there.



Ah, Tony Loman. We meet again, worthy adversary. I will sometimes just call him Abrupt Decay. He doesn’t seem to mind. Tony was on a build of The Rock that nixed Phyrexian Obliterator for Courser of Kruphix and what seemed to be more spot removal spells. I think I cast Shriekmaw four times in our two games, all through Tony’s heavy discard package, Scavenging Oozes, and mana denial plan he sided into post-board. He had the full set of Tectonic Edges AND Fulminator Mages and was going to town on my lands game two, but my little mana dorks kept me afloat, allowing me to send Tony’s Goyfs to their coffins, and he along with them. This was where Shriekmaw, Eternal Witness, Shriekmaw really shined. We chatted after our match about his deck. I liked his approach to The Rock but thought it lacked a heavy hitter that was more resilient to removal, i.e. the Obliterators. Not playing them did allow him to run a smoother mana base that could house four copies of Tectonic Edge, which is a powerful card in modern, especially against Celestial Collonade, Affinity’s Nexi, and Tron. But it was easier to manage his deck than it would have been with the Obliterators. And hey, you can’t maw the 5/5 monster, can you?



William, unlike my first two opponents, is not a regular to the LGS. I was getting a little nervous being in the as-yet undefeated slot to maintain my record, but after he won the die roll and dropped a Celestial Collonade I breathed a sigh of relief and drew my card. I knew this matchup more than any other in the format and have learned sequencing against the control deck. He was running a dedicated flash variant with multiple copies of Restoration Angel and Vendilion Clique alongside the staple set of Snapcaster Mages. I danced around his countermagic, gave him headaches with my Voices, and forced him to deal with my threats one by one, which overwhelmed his resources. Forcing UWR to use threats defensively is key in setting them on the backfoot. Once the pod player is on defense I believe the game can be closed out much too quickly, which is what makes the version playing Geist of Saint Traft so threatening to a Pod deck. Over half of my sideboard can come in for this matchup, and it’s one of the only matchups where I am willing to cut down on both Chord of Calling and Birthing Pod, as I prefer to be more proactive with hand disruption, as well as deaden their sideboard hate cards like Stony Silence, as this is a matchup where every card has to be maximized in order to stay ahead. Give them a dead card or two, and they stand to lose velocity.

In three long games I took down William, with time in the round being called just as we finished playing. This made me incredibly happy, as I was determined to play faster and not draw in any of my rounds. William admitted to me this was the first time he had played the Pod matchup. He had played well, but I stressed that he should go run the matchup a hundred times with a testing group. He commented that one of his buddies runs pod, but he didn’t think they were very good. I took the compliment and told him to come back to the store and play more, then reported the match result!


My first time getting this far undefeated with my deck! Round four I was set to play against Chase, another store regular. From chatting with him between rounds earlier, I knew he was exhausted from traveling all day, so I offered the leisurely “Hey Chase! Wanna draw and get a drink?” Snap agreement! And Sean, my Team Draft League mate jumped in! So we were off to a local watering hole to down drinks and kick it back.


Chase was on UR Splinter Twin, a matchup i’ve had little experience playing against, and even less success. After the first cocktail Chase, Sean, and I talked plans for Worcester. Sean was picking up affinity and is good with math, an essential trait in being able to play affinity well, I think. So between Sean and Chase were the two matchups I desperately needed to test against. Most of my testing being against midrange and control, the tempo and aggressive matchups were still my kryptonite. And I feared Worcester would be full of Twin and Affinity decks. So we agreed to get together and test the shit out of the matchups.  Good.

So Shriekmaw got me there, and after a few final refinements to the creature base and the sideboard, I should be settled on a list. No audibling last minute. No frantic testing the day before. I need to be cool and calm if i’m going to make day two. Right now my stomach is in knots and I have no idea how I’m getting to western Mass.

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