It’s been a while since i’ve written about the Modern format because, as most of you know, i’ve invested my magical energies into Limited and Standard as of late. The other reason has been due to my discontent with the implementation of the delve spells from Khans of Tarkir. [casthaven]Treasure Cruise[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Dig Through Time[/casthaven] put me off testing, and refining, my [casthaven]Birthing Pod[/casthaven] deck. I wanted to wait for the format to settle a little. After both Worlds and two Grand Prix, I think we have enough data to begin to look more carefully at what is going on with Birthing Pod. Modern is, after all, still my favorite constructed format.

To review for those who hadn’t payed much attention, though I can’t imagine who hasn’t at least read Worlds coverage, this years Modern slice of the World Championship was dominated by Blue and Red decks. To break it down by strategy: it was a flurry of combo decks with Jeskai Ascendancy, Scapeshift, and Storm comprising 10 out of the 24 decks brought to the French tables. And if it wasn’t Blue/Red based combo, it was Blue/Red based Delver strategies, comprising 7 out of the 24 players decklists. Rounding out Blue/Red were three other builds: a control deck, and two Burn-centric lists. Folks, that’s 20 out of the 24 decklists packing not only Blue/Red, but each list contained one or the two new Khans of Tarkir delve spells. The outliers were 3 Birthing Pod decks and one Willy Edel special. Notably, Willy Edel finished fifth out of the 24 players with a 3-1 win/loss record. But seriously, is there anyone else capable of piloting his deck through the top 24 players in the world? Not bloody likely!

Reflecting on the decklist choices of the players, there are really no surprises here. Most of these players just love to draw tons of cards and running [casthaven]Treasure Cruise[/casthaven] and/or [casthaven]Dig Through Time[/casthaven] provides that very, shall we call it, angle of the game? Aw hell, who am I kidding. Playing four Ancestral Recall in your Modern deck is obscene. Aside from Willy Edel, it took some courage in my eyes to run Birthing Pod in that portion of the tournament, right? I mean, how can you grind someone out who can simply refuel for one mana?

Treasure Cruise again!?PLEASE STOP!!

Treasure Cruise again!?PLEASE STOP!!

My thoughts had gotten pretty dark concerning Modern, and I was preparing to sleeve up Blue/Red Delver for Tuesday Night Modern at the LGS. When this weekend gave me a glimpse of hope.

Now before I go on, I know there are some of you who despise Birthing Pod and want to see it off the table. But I ask you, my dear Magic friends. What is the bigger boogeyman right now? Birthing Pod, or [casthaven]Ancestral Recall[/casthaven]? [casthaven]Seige Rhino[/casthaven], or Uber[casthaven]Impulse[/casthaven]? I will press pretty hard that delve has given a tremendous edge to blue players, one that can keep pace with the value-train [casthaven]Birthing Pod[/casthaven] provides. Today I am here to discuss where my favorite deck is moving to combat the boon blue has received of late.

Now chew on this!

Now chew on this!

Guess what!? Grand Prix Milan saw a Birthing Pod mirror in the finals! Not only that, but each deck had chosen slightly different builds and sideboard plans to combat the metagame. It’s exciting, for sure, so let’s look at what each Pod player brought to the final table.

Birthing Pod by Magnus Lantto

Creatures (28)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Wall of Roots
Voice of Resurgence
Spellskite
Scavenging Ooze
Orzhov Pontiff
Kitchen Finks
Eternal Witness
Reclamation Sage
Sin Collector
Siege Rhino
Restoration Angel
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Murderous Redcap
Revillark
Shriekmaw

Spells (9)
Birthing Pod
Abrupt Decay
Thoughtseize
Lands (23)
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Razorverge Thicket
Gavony Township
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Forest
Plains
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Thoughtseize
Choke
Memoricide
Murderous Cut
Orzhov Pontiff
Chalice of the Void
Qasali Pridemage
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Entomber Exarch
Kataki, War’s Wage
Dismember

There are some interesting things going on here. First off, the inclusion of [casthaven]Siege Rhino[/casthaven] at the four slot. Siege Rhino is incredibly resilient — it dies to [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dismember[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Combust[/casthaven] — and its ETB trigger is worth a card in of iteself. Magnus was clearly leaning on the Rhinos, as he upped his copies of [casthaven]Restoration Angel[/casthaven] to two, a debatable card in the deck pre-Khans became a focused part of Magnus’ plan. Resto is fantastically unexpected as a pair, combos beautifully with many of the decks creatures, and is very threatening in combination with Siege Rhino.

SO MUCH RHINO! SO MANY HELIX!

SO MUCH RHINO! SO MANY HELIX!

With the Rhinos comes a more midrange strategy that cuts all combo kills and, with it, the [casthaven]Chord of Calling[/casthaven]s from the deck entirely. He has also added [casthaven]Thoughtseize[/casthaven] to the main deck, something Luis Scott-Vargas championed when first debuting ‘Angel Pod’ and which makes sense when considering a possible field of [casthaven]Scapeshift[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Jeskai Ascendancy[/casthaven] combo. He also cut one [casthaven]Noble Hierarch[/casthaven], runs two copies of [casthaven]Wall of Roots[/casthaven], and three [casthaven]Abrupt Decay[/casthaven] in the main deck. These attempts to shore up the early game against [casthaven]Delver of Secrets[/casthaven], where having less [casthaven]Forked Bolt[/casthaven] targets, a strong blocker/ramp creature, and an additional uncounterable removal spell are very relevant manipulations that enable a smoother climb into the midgame.

The sideboard is where Magnus’ deck really interests me. Several hate cards for both Delver and combo populate over half the cards in the sideboard. [casthaven]Chalice of the Void[/casthaven], [casthaven]Memoricide[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Choke[/casthaven] all serve as metagame calls in addition to filling out the number of [casthaven]Thoughtseize[/casthaven]s and additional spot removal. Obviously it worked out for him, as Magnus took down the tournament.

"He won the whole thing." *squirt*

“He won the whole thing.” *squirt*

Birthing Pod by Niccolo Bellini

Creatures (30)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Wall of Roots
Voice of Resurgence
Spellskite
Qasali Pridemage
Scavenging Ooze
Kitchen Finks
Eternal Witness
Orzhov Pontiff
Sin Collector
Reclamation Sage
Spike Feeder
Siege Rhino
Restoration Angel
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Murderous Redcap
Archangel of Thune
Shriekmaw
Thragtusk

Spells (7)
Birthing Pod
Abrupt Decay
Lands (23)
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Gavony Township
Razorverge Thicket
Overgrown Tomb
Godless Shrine
Temple Garden
Forest
Swamp
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Fracturing Gust
Entomber Exarch
Loxodon Hierarch
Sin Collector
Orzhov Pontiff
Thoughtseize
Lingering Souls
Path to Exile
Thrun, the Last Troll
Choke

Niccolo’s build, on the other hand, is arguably more familiar to the core of Birthing Pod lists, both in the maindeck and the sideboard. Here we have a combo finish in [casthaven]Archangel of Thune[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Spike Feeder[/casthaven]. Niccolo also went for [casthaven]Thragtusk[/casthaven] over [casthaven]Revillark[/casthaven], probably after considering how likely [casthaven]Scapeshift[/casthaven] and Burn strategies could potentially show up in large numbers to the tournament. [casthaven]Thragtusk[/casthaven] also interacts well with [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven], a popular card against both Pod and Aggro decks. Again, we see two [casthaven]Siege Rhino[/casthaven]s, two [casthaven]Wall of Roots[/casthaven], and only two [casthaven]Noble Hierarch[/casthaven]s. We also see the complete removal of [casthaven]Chord of Calling[/casthaven] and three copies of [casthaven]Abrupt Decay[/casthaven]! These changes make sense given the metagame and I am happy to make similar changes to my own build, which we will address in a minute.

First, the sideboard from Niccolo is, to my eyes, a more typical Birthing Pod sideboard. The two copies of [casthaven]Choke[/casthaven] and singleton of [casthaven]Fracturing Gust[/casthaven] are great here, and going back to Path to Exile against Aggro is preferable to me over [casthaven]Dismember[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Slaughter Pact[/casthaven]. Murderous Cut is another option, but you can’t top [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven]’s ‘exile’ clause. Also, [casthaven]Loxodon Hierarch[/casthaven] seems awesome here. It has solid stats and ETB trigger, and the regeneration clause is great against [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven].

Thragtusk is the wiz, and NOBODY BEATS HIM

Thragtusk is the wiz, and NOBODY BEATS HIM

I think both of these decklists serve as a great place to build my own updated version of the deck to take to battle. I am pulling from both lists, and will run the deck for a few weeks with slight adjustments in order to assess my favorite build.

For now, here is where I will begin.

Birthing Pod

Creatures (30)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Wall of Roots
Voice of Resurgence
Spellskite
Scavenging Ooze
Kitchen Finks
Reclamation Sage
Eternal Witness
Sin Collector
Orzhov Pontiff
Spike Feeder
Siege Rhino
Restoration Angel
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Murderous Redcap
Shriekmaw
Archangel of Thune
Thragtusk

Spells (7)
Birthing Pod
Abrupt Decay
Lands (23)
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Gavony Township
Razorverge Thicket
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Forest
Swamp
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Thoughtseize
Entomber Exarch
Sin Collector
Orzhov Pontiff
Kataki, War’s Wage
Thrun, the Last Troll
Path to Exile
Fracturing Gust
Choke
Qasali Pridemage

I want to test the power of double Restoration Angel, as I have really enjoyed having the first copy in my deck. I also want to keep the Archangel combo in the list for now, as it is the preferred combo for the metagame. Overall, I want to prioritize creatures that do not die to [casthaven]Lightning Bolt[/casthaven], [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven], or [casthaven]Forked Bolt[/casthaven], and I am more than happy to cut [casthaven]Chord of Calling[/casthaven] for the time being. It’s always been on the chopping block for me, and unless I am going with the Melira combo, I would rather support a stronger midrange plan. [casthaven]Siege Rhino[/casthaven] is a great addition to this deck. I look forward to playing [casthaven]Ernham Djinn[/casthaven] + [casthaven]Lightning Helix[/casthaven] + upside.

That’s all for this week. I’ll report back once i’ve gotten some matches under the belt.

We will see about that, Blue/Red. Oh, we will. Yes.

We will see about that, Blue/Red. Oh, we will. Yes.

Derek Gallen lives in and writes from Brooklyn, New York, and can be reached at [email protected]

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