Welcome to another edition of Becoming A Modern Man! It's kind of shocking to me that I've managed to go this long without covering any of the Birthing Pod decks. Birthing Pod has been a major player in Modern pretty much from the get go, with the first big Pod deck being Melira Pod. So let's take a deeper look into the deck and how it ticks. Also, I think it would be remiss of me not to mention a very good article written on this subject by KaraZorEl for this site, which you can check out here. Things have changed a little since that article was written so I felt that an update was worthwhile.
This list is not exactly based on any particular deck but it's just my impression on the basis of the various other decks I've seen. Birthing Pod decks are nice decks for tweaking and changing. Some common creatures that are missing from my build are Linvala, Keeper of Silence, because she's about 30 tix a piece, and Phyrexian Metamorph, which I'm interested in trying out.
The deck works by abusing Melira, Sylvok Outcast second ability in tandem with the Persist mechanic.
If you are not familiar with persist, it's basically the opposite of Undying in Innistrad, meaning whenever a Persist creature dies it comes back with a -1/-1 counter on it. Melira prevents -1/-1 counters being placed on creatures and so when Melira is on the board, if a persist creature dies it returns to play with no -1/-1 counter and can persist again, and again, and again! The best persist creatures to use are those that have an effect when they enter the battlefield, of these Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap are the most popular choices allowing you to either gain infinite life or deal infinite damage respectively.
However, to achieve this you will need a repeatable sacrifice outlet.
The sacrifice outlet of choice is usually Viscera Seer as it is only 1 mana and it allows you to Scry your whole deck to set up your next draw, usually finding the Murderous Redcap to finish your opponent off.
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Melira is obviously central to the combo. It's important to remember that even without a sacrifice outlet, Melira prevents your persist creatures from ever dying. Therefore, if you have a Kitchen Finks and Melira in play you can use it as a blocker that never dies and gains you 2 life every time it chumps. Another point to note is that Melira's effect doesn't work if the Persist creature already has a -1/-1 counter on it, in which case it won't persist.
Kitchen Finks is a great combo piece as it is also a great aggressive creature. One of the strongest points of the Birthing Pod decks in general is that even if you do not hit your combo you may still win simply by attacking with your creatures. This makes the deck considerably more resilient to hate.
Generally used as a one of despite being the win condition for the deck. Generally your opponent will concede when you can gain infinite life with Kitchen Finks but in case they don't you can put a Redcap on top of your deck and kill your opponent 2 damage at a time.
Viscera Seer is an excellent sacrifice outlet, as it only costs 1 mana and it can set up your deck to find the card you want. Scrying with the creatures your opponent kills is also a nice little advantage you can get.
Searching up the pieces
Birthing Pod is a really great card. I didn't get a chance to play with it whilst it was in Standard but it's a whole lot of fun in Modern and turns your deck into a veritable toolbox of awesome creatures. Pod is perhaps one of biggest skill testers in the deck. Knowing what to search for and when is one of trickier tasks I've found with this deck. The possible lines of play with this card can be insane.
Chord of Calling
Chord of Calling is another pretty nutty card. Being able to drop any given creature in your deck onto the battlefield at instant speed is a pretty tantalizing proposition, particularly with our toolbox. As well as making awesome surprise plays, Chord serves as a tutor for whichever piece of the combo you are looking for. Chord is a card that often catches opponents by surprise, particularly as they generally won't have thought about the possibility of you tapping all your creatures to convoke something huge.
Doing what this deck wants to do, especially at the higher end, requires mana and the more mana you have the faster you can go. That's why this deck runs a number of mana accelerators. Also, the fact that they are creatures means once they are expendable they can always be upgraded with Birthing Pod.
Birds of Paradise
The classic mana accelerant is still one of the best. BOP gives you access to all your colours and means you can do things like drop a turn 2 Kitchen Finks which allows you to be pretty aggressive.
Deathrite Shaman is one of the latest additions to the deck. This card is all over Modern and has even made its way to Legacy. It's an accelerant, a life gaining tool and can even start killing your opponent. It also is great at dealing with common cards like Lingering Souls and opposing Persist creatures. Deathrite Shaman is a great tool for the deck but also a great enemy on the opposing side of the battlefield.
Wall of Roots
Wall of Roots is a card I really like. It's a nice 2-drop for the deck that is really hard to kill and a solid blocker, whilst also boosting your mana generation. It's a very nice card and a decent creature to grab on your way up the food chain with Birthing Pod.
The Sculler is additional hand disruption to go along with Inquisition of Kozilek. Hand disruption is particularly important against opposing combo decks but is also generally useful. Sculler is also a decent body provided there's not much on the other side of the battlefield.
Pretty much every Pod deck runs one of these gals. Being able to grab back any given card in your graveyard can be a real game changer. Your opponent thought they had stopped your combo by killing Melira. Pod up an Eternal Witness and drop it straight back onto the battlefield for the win. The possibilities with this card are plentiful and the vast majority are awesome.
Entomber Exarch is an interesting one. It may not be the most powerful card. However, being able to grab a card from your opponent's hand or, often my preferred choice, getting a creature out of your graveyard is very good. Sometimes your opponent kills off the last piece of your combo, don't worry just Pod up Entomber Exarch and grab it back. The main advantage of Entomber Exarch is having options.
Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos has always been a great card. Here it is no different. Being able to search up two 1 drops means you can find your Viscera Seer and perhaps a Deathrite Shaman too. Ranger helps replenish your hand and set up your combo, what more could you ask for?
Shriekmaw is an interesting one. The real shame is that it's Terror effect isn't always useful as your opponent may be playing Affinity or just good deal of black creatures, however, there are usually reasonable targets. Regardless, having a creature in your that can Terror a creature that is causing you grief is a big up-side. Not to mention it's a fairly decent body too.
Reveillark is your 5-drop. Having a big flier in the deck is nice in itself as it can help you deal with flying threats and also give you an alternative avenue of attack if the ground is stalled. However, the main reason to play Reveillark is probably its ability to grab creatures back when it leaves play. If you happen to have lost Viscera Seer and Melira to the graveyard you can suddenly get them back and have your combo assembled before your opponent even sees it coming.
Sun Titan is the top of my deck's Birthing Pod tiers. Some decks run a 7-drop but I've found that hard to reach even with an active Birthing Pod, provided your opponent is being proactive. Sun Titan is awesome guy and also has great synergy with the rest of the deck, as it allows you to get back creatures you sacrificed to your Birthing Pod or Viscera Seer etc. Few things are more satisfying that dropping Sun Titan and picking a Kitchen Finks out of your graveyard.
Verdant Catacombs/Misty Rainforest/Marsh Flats
Oh Fetchlands, where would our manabases be without you? Probably still pretty awesome actually but fetchlands are the most consistent way of finding all your colours and Ravnica duals. They also work excellently with Deathrite Shaman, which helps out.
Overgrown Tomb/Temple Garden/Godless Shrine
The Ravnica duals are Modern staples and soon we will have the full set available in Standard thanks to Gatecrash. Having the duals in Standard is a great reason to start getting into Modern, which is also a really fun format.
Woodland Cemetery/Razorverge Thicket
This two duals round out your non-basics for a pretty solid manabase.
The sideboard contains another toolbox of creatures as well as some removal and Lingering Souls.
Orzhov Pontiff is a really nice creature for your toolbox and I'm considering moving it to the main deck. It's a nice way to get a small board wipe against a number of different decks in the format.
Aven Mindcensor is a powerful hate card against opposing Pod, Scapeshift, Tron and Gifts Control decks to mention a few.
Dismember & Putrefy are removal spells to fill in the void in the main deck when necessary. Putrefy also has the advantage of being able to destroy artifacts. Abrupt Decay is another choice in this slot.
Spellskite is a nice way to protect your combo creatures but also works really well against Splinter Twin and the GW Hexproof decks.
Qasali Pridemage is additional enchantment/artifact removal for when it is necessary.
Restoration Angel is a useful flyer that can help you to replicate any ETB effects or reset your Persist creatures. It's also a decent flying body which this deck can be found lacking on occasion, as Reveillark is the only main deck flying creature with power.
Obstinate Baloth is a big body that also helps you gain back a bit of extra life. Good against the aggro decks and particularly Red Deck Wins.
Finally, Lingering Souls is a card that can be used either offensively or defensively. If you think you would rather just race your opponent then Lingering Souls can help speed up your clock, or alternatively it can be used defensively to give you extra men against aggressive decks.
This deck is a very expensive to build, particularly with Modern prices as they are at the moment. I picked up a lot of these cards a while back for considerably less than they are valued at now. This is the primary reason that I haven't covered any of the Pod decks this far in the Becoming A Modern Man series. It's taken me a considerable amount of time to build up the resources I needed to build this deck but I feel like it's been worth it.
Our first matchup is against Kiki-Pod, the other big Birthing Pod deck. Obviously, you both have very similar strategies and so you're probably going to need a bit of look and your removal spells out of the sideboard. Perhaps your biggest advantage is that the Melira combo involves lower costed creatures and therefore can generally be put together quicker than Kiki/Restoration Angel. The flip-side of that is obviously that you need three pieces to combo and they only need two.
Our second matchup is against the increasingly popular GW Hexproof/Enchantress deck. This match can be tough. You do have quite a few ways to disrupt your opponent though and if you can put combo together they will rarely have an answer to it.
Our third matchup is against a UWR Delver deck. The various Delver decks used to be very popular in Modern but I don't see as much of these decks these days. However, they are still out there and it's a matchup to watch out for.
Our fourth matchup is against Epic Storm. Storm decks are difficult to play against but we have some nice tools in the sideboard to deal with their strategy. Deathrite Shaman can also be decent if they are relying on Past in Flames to get them through. However, the matchup is still tough thanks to the speed of their deck.
The final match I have you is against the big dog in the Modern yard, Jund. This matchup is always going to be difficult, particularly because most Jund decks are running 4 main deck Deathrite Shamans. In Game 1, I manage to combo past 2 Deathrite Shamans though I think this was really a play mistake on my opponent's part by not holding at least one back. In Game 2 & 3 I was pretty much steamrolled. The matchup didn't feel unwinnable but I don't reckon you're favoured.
Melira Pod is a lot of a fun as there are a ton of different lines of play and figuring out the best one in any given situation is a real skill tester. You get to do a lot of crazy stuff and I've really enjoy learning how to play the deck (still don't think I'm a good pilot of the deck but I'd hope I'm improving).
In terms of disadvantages of the deck, the first is that Kitchen Finks, Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Viscera Seer doesn't win you the game and sometimes your opponent will simply carry on playing forcing you to waste down your clock finding your Redcap. Granted if they have a removal spell they can play next turn they might have a legitimate argument for continuing but when it is a deliberate tactic to waste down your clock it can be rather irritating. Fortunately, there is more than one way to find your Murderous Redcap and if you can't find it in good time you can always put a Birthing Pod or a Chord of Calling on top of your library instead. I noticed there was a debate about infinite combos on this site recently. Personally, I think I'm on the side of if you can represent a loop, and your opponent has no response, then you should just be able to specify how many times you want to do it (which I believe is the position in paper). However, I can see the other side of the argument and obviously picking a ridiculous number like thousands of iterations isn't very realistic.
Secondly, despite a resurgence in the Modern Dailies and PTQs, I really think this deck is just plain worse since Return to Ravnica came on to the scene. A lot of decks, from Jund to RDW, are running main deck Deathrite Shaman which can simply exile your Finks when it hits the graveyard and bye-bye combo. The deck doesn't have a ton of ways to deal with Deathrite Shaman and frankly it's a big nuisance. Further, Return to Ravnica also brought along Rest in Peace a card that is seen a lot in sideboards and I've even run into opponent's running it main deck. Personally, I find it regrettable that graveyard hate has gotten this good as it's really damaging to a lot of fun and interesting decks. It's fortunate that Pod still has a pretty nice beatdown strategy beyond its combo shell which means that this deck can still attack from a different angle if the combo has been shut off.
These cards are not your friends
Overall, the deck is really fun and after considerable time away from the format, which I've been dedicating to Standard, this was just the deck to get me excited about Modern again.