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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Oct 10 2013 12:06pm
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 So, you know the drill: I like the Pod, the Pod likes me, the Pod players talk to me about how being a Pod player makes you one of the most amazing people on the Modern scene, and so on. This was essentially a two-parter where I threw most of the same questions to the two players who have won more with the two more popular Pod builds: last week it was Las Vegas-based enigmatic pk23 with his Kiki Pod; this week it's the turn of the Finnish  Olioolli, a true devotee of that amazing little redhead who responds to the name of Melira.

 


 First of all, a little bit of info about you.
 My name is Olli Helminen and I'm a 26-year-old Computer Science student from Helsinki, the capital of Finland.

In the land of Nokia and Linux! (And the lakes. Also the lakes.)

 Since when you've played MTG and MTGO?
 I first started playing MTG with Duels of the Planewalkers around the time M13 was released. After a month or two I got into MTGO, so overall I've been playing MTG for just over a year. I've never played paper MTG.

 Now, that's interesting, you're basically a noob! How do you relate with the 20 years worth of history of the game? Doesn't that feel overwhelming in eternal formats where you are supposed to literally be aware of dozens of sets and thousands of cards?
 Heh, I do often feel like a noob when people are referencing old cards I've never even heard of. It helps that the cards that get played competitively are only a small part of the whole card pool.

 What do you like to do when you're not throwing murderous goblins at people's faces?
 No much, I used to play a lot of computer games, but now I mostly just play MTGO.

 I know you as a Modern player mainly. Did you start play Modern right away? What's the appeal of the Modern format for you?
 The first format I got into was Pauper, purely because how inexpensive it is compared to other formats. After playing Pauper for maybe six months, I started looking for another format for more excitement, and eventually got into Modern. The reason that I prefer Modern over other formats is that it has more depth and viable strategies than Standard or Pauper but isn't as fast of a format as Legacy is. I also like the fact that it doesn't rotate.

 Do you happen to play competitively in sanctioned tournaments, too? Or it's just PREs for you?
 Mostly PREs but sometimes I try my luck on Modern dailies.

 With good results?
 I had pretty good results with Scapeshift in the dailies, but I haven't had much luck with Melira Pod.

 

Still damn effective.

 I feel like the Modern meta in daily tournaments is wildly different than the PREs (and both wildly differ from the pro-level tournaments, of course). Not exactly a matter of power level, but don't you find decks there that nobody ever plays in PREs and vice versa?
 Yeah, I agree that the daily meta is different from the PRE meta. The cheaper decks like Soul Sisters, Merfolk and Burn are much more popular in the PREs than in the dailies.

 The sheer and, honestly, scary efficiency of your style of play clearly strikes me as that of a Spike. Do you see yourself this way?
 Yeah, definitely. I like the competition and the fact that the game is very skill-based. There's always room for improvement and I enjoy looking over decklists and keeping up with the current metagame.

 Let's get to the Pod of things. The Gatherling data alone show that you won a whopping 12 events with the Melira version of the Pod archetype, for an impressive total score of of 96-33. Why did you choose to play so extensively with the Pod archetype? What lead you towards the Pod in the first place?
 I started playing Pod because the deck looked like a lot of fun to play with, while also being a very competitive deck. Getting to play a toolbox of sweet one-of creatures is just so much fun. It's also the reason why I've played it so much: the deck just never gets dull. Games play out very differently and the deck is a lot of fun to tweak; changing a single creature in the 75 has real impact. The deck is also constantly evolving, Melira Pod has gotten a bunch of new creatures just from the last few sets.

A modern-day version of Melira and Elspeth, part of a series by deviant-artist Sonellion.

 In my article Pod of Conduct, I posited that the Pod actually makes for just a shell that some combo decks, most notably Melira combo and Kiki-Jiki combo, exploited to better their efficiency, but that's somehow unrelated to the combo themselves (I made my mission to play pure Pod decks that win by themselves by exploiting the Pod advantage). In fact, you can say that Melira combo and Kiki-Jiki combo win as much through the Pod as they do through Chord of Calling. What do you think?
 I'd say Kiki Pod actually does a good job of winning with the combo just through the Pod. Melira Pod on the other hand relies more on Chord as the combo is much harder to assemble with the Pod alone, just like you explained in your article.

 This said, you mostly chose to run Melira combo. Why is that? I feel like the Kiki-Jiki setup allows for better chances at winning games through just creature superiority when the combo fails or is thwarted, whereas Melira asks for a lot of support cards (like Viscera Seer, and Melira herself) that don't do much by themselves. Do you feel that Melira is just more reliable?
 I'd say Melira Pod is probably more consistent than Kiki Pod because Melira Pod runs only 3 colors and has a lower curve. I'd also say that Melira Pod has a better non-combo plan and in fact I win a majority of my games with just regular damage. While the deck has some unimpressive creatures, they are cheap to cast and can become a real threats with Gavony Township.

She's hiding from those evil -1/-1 counters.

 It's funny, players that lean more on the Kiki side, like pk23 and partially myself, say the same thing of Kiki Pod! I see your point about the faster aggression, especially since when Voice of Resurgence exists, but there's just a lot of combo-related filler in a Melira build, while you can win out of Restoration Angels alone in Kiki Pod.
 Well, Kiki Pod also has some unimpressive combo cards like Deceiver Exarch. Also, the high-end creatures in Kiki Pod seem more vulnerable to removal than the ones in Melira Pod. I guess both decks approach the non-combo plan a bit differently, Melira usually slowly grinds opponents out while Kiki beats them down with more efficient creatures.

 By the way, I also see in your profile that you played a few other Modern decks. What can you tell me about those? What went wrong? None of them was really inspiring to you like the Pod was?
 There's different reasons why I stopped playing each of those particular decks. For example, I stopped playing Storm because Seething Song was banned. But I don't think any of those decks could have kept me interested as long as Pod has.

I believe I've seen this card before.

 Do you plan to try and play other Modern decks too in the near future? Or change Pod style?
 I have no plans to play other decks right now, but I would really like to try one of those Jund decks at some point, sadly they are quite expensive. As for changing Pod style, I would definitely be interested in playing Kiki Pod, but for now I'm happy with Melira Pod so I don't have plans to change style.

 Budget seems a real concern on MTGO, even among accomplished, event-winning players like yourself or pk23. You still made the effort to buy a playset of Voice of Resurgence for your Pod deck, though. I gather that wasn't a choice you made carelessly. Don't you ever think it might feel out of proportions to battle for a couple tix with a 300-tix worth of a deck? The proverbial "bringing a gun to a knife fight"?
 I like to keep the cost on MTGO as low as possible, which is the main reason I play in the PREs. For me just getting to play in a tournament is the main thing and the potential prizes are just a bonus. As for the Voices, they are easily the most expensive playset I've ever bought. They just seemed to add so much more to the deck that I had to get them. I did buy them when the price was on the low, though, so I should get my money back if I choose to sell them.

 

 Let's have a closer look at your latest build now. First of all, the combo pieces. You run 2 copies of each of them, Melira, Murderous Redcap, Viscera Seer. The spare copy is a safety measure, I gather?
 Exactly. While running only one copy of each to make room for more efficient creatures is tempting, it doesn't feel worth it to risk having a combo piece exiled and losing the combo completely. Also, Murderous Redcap is one of the few ways the deck can kill opposing creatures, so having two of them is not a bad thing.

  

The Unholy Trinity.

 Cartel Aristocrat is a recent addition. It provides redundancy to the Seer, at different "station". But I saw you use it aggressively as well, and to enable other elements of the decks, like Voice of Resurgence.
 The ability of the Aristocrat can be quite useful at times to push in the last points of damage or to finishing off a planeswalker past blockers. And Voice of Resurgence works really well with the sacrifice outlets. Having the option to turn a 2/2 Voice into a good-sized beater at will is nice. And being able to sacrifice a Voice in response to a Path to Exile or Magma Spray also comes very handy.

 

"I feel like elemental deer today. Jeeves! Fetch me one, would you?"

 Let's talk about the Voices, then. You run 3 of them main deck and the fourth in sideboard. It's probably the most defining element of your build. It's certainly a great card in Pod decks. What's your experience with it? I sometimes feel like its price is definitely inflated.
 I've really liked the Voices. I'm almost never unhappy to draw them so I run 3 main deck. I particularly like how much the card helps you against all the decks that run Pyroclasm, namely Tron and Scapeshift. 

 Your build stays low on the curve, and use only a few accelerators: 4 Birds of Paradise, and just 1 Wall of Roots (for comparison, pk23's Kiki Pod runs 10 accelerators). I guess we can put the 3 copies of Deathrite Shaman in this category, though, since your run 8 fetchlands.
 Deathrite Shaman is definitely meant to be a mana dork in this deck. It's not 100% reliable to generate mana, but since most decks run fetchlands, it usually gets the job done. I'm quite happy with having 8 mana dorks in the deck. You really want to have one in your opening hand and later in the game you can just pod them away for more useful creatures. Deathrite Shaman is also amazing in its own right. Wall of Roots is a great blocker and amazing with Chord of Calling, but it does nothing to help the beatdown plan, so I like it just as a one-off. The Kiki Pod lists seem to run a few more mana dorks and I suspect it's just because of their higher curve. Wall of Roots also seems like a better fit for that deck as it makes casting Chord much easier.

Mana dork, utility and finisher, all rolled into one tomb profanation enthusiast.

 Then you run the classic enablers (full playset of Kitchen Finks, who also works as a secondary combo in Melira, and the essential Ranger of Eos). Among the defensive elements, there's Spellskite, Eternal Witness, and most notably Reveillark, which is your curve-topper. Ever been tempted to branch out to Reveillark combo, even just partially with some Phyrexian Metamorph or even Body Double?
 Kitchen Finks is the backbone of the creature base. It's solid against almost every deck and is great with Pod and Gavony Township. Ranger of Eos is there so you can more easily pod for 1-drops. Spellskite can protect the combo and also hates on Splinter Twin, Bogle, and Infect. Eternal Witness is great way to get back an important 1-of card from the graveyard. Reveillark is a finisher and a way to get most of your creatures back from the grave. I haven't really been tempted to combo with Reveillark, I rather enjoy to play the deck more like a midrange deck and don't want to dilute that plan with too many combo pieces.

The elemental of... I don't know, I'm gonna say, awesomeness?

 Your removal suite is also limited to mostly Orzhov Pontiff and, as a graveyard hater, Scavenging Ooze. But you also run 2 Abrupt Decay. Never felt the need for Maelstrom Pulse, or even Path to Exile?
 I've been tempted by Maelstrom Pulse, but Orzhov Pontiff already does a good job at killing tokens and smaller creatures, and the fact that Pulse is a sorcery makes it a lot less desirable. I don't think the deck needs Path to Exile. Abrupt Decay, plus the Dismembers that I keep in the sideboard, kill almost all the creatures you care about and are easier to cast with my manabase.

Still relevant after all these years. Despite the most unnecessarily convoluted mechanic ever.

 The 3 Gavony Townships in your land base seem to be the secret backbone (alone with Voice of Resurgence) of your aggro plan B. Did they never get in the way, considering the amount of colored mana most of the other cards require?
 The Townships do get in the way, quite often actually, but the card is so good that I don't want to run less than 3 of them. With all the Tectonic Edges and Ghost Quarters in the format, drawing multiple Townships isn't that bad.

Rarely appreciated fact: it also resets persisters.

 Let's analyze the sideboard now, which I guess this is what changes the most, following the flux of the meta. Tell me why these cards are here and what do you switch them for. Let's start with 3x Duress (as opposed to 3x Thoughtseize or 3x Inquisition of Kozilek).
 I only play Duress over Thoughtseize for budget reasons. Once Theros comes out,  I'll be switching my Duress to Thoughtseizes. The reason I run Duress over Inquisition is that the discard spells are in the sideboard for combo and control decks, and you mostly care about noncreature cards in those matchups anyway. Duress not hitting Snapcaster Mage can be a bit annoying though.

  

Just a matter of money.

 The 4th Voice of Resurgence. When exactly having 3 of them isn't enough?
 The 4th Voice comes in against the couterspell decks and decks that have a lot of sweepers (Tron, Scapeshift). In those matchups you really want to land an early Voice (or more) so having the 4th one makes it a bit more likely. I couldn't find room for it in main deck so I put it in the sideboard.

 More creature removals: 2x Dismember, the Shriekmaw. I recently tried Shadowborn Demon in the Shriekmaw slot, with mixed results. It's very powerful, in that it's almost unconditional killing (whereas Shriekmaw, like its ancestor (Nekraatal), betrays you more than a few times), and leaves you with an impressive evasive finisher. But the sacrificial cost is rarely satisfied, contrary to what one might think in a Pod build.
 Dismember kills pretty much every creature you care about and the fact that you can cast it for 1 colorless mana does help in a 3 color deck. To me, the main reason to play Shriekmaw over anything else is the fact that you can evoke it, if you happen to draw it. Shriekmaw is also unblockable most of the time, so it can even close out some games, especially if you have a Gavony Township online.

Terror on a stick.

 The artifact haters: Qasali Pridemage, Harmonic Sliver, Kataki, War's Wage. Is Kataki still relevant in the current meta? I, for one, have started to remove it from my sideboards.
 Pridemage and the Sliver are really important sideboard cards, as they can destroy the most common hate cards your opponents might bring against you. Harmonic Sliver is generally better at this because you don't have to sacrifice it (so you can sacrifice it to the Pod later on). It can't destroy Torpor Orb, though, so having Pridemage somewhere in the 75 feels like a must. Besides, there's quite a few matchups where you are happy to have both of them. Kataki is more of a personal favorite than a necessity. Pridemage, Harmonic Sliver and Lingering Souls already provide a pretty efficient anti-Affinity package, not to mention the main deck Orzhov Pontiff.

  

They're the best at what they do, and what they do isn't very nice. To artifacts.

 Lingering Souls, indeed.
 Great all-around sideboard card. Amazing against Affinity, good against control decks and in grindy matchups. It works really well with Gavony Township and Voice of Resurgence. The card is only bad against combo decks really.

Pay 2, get 4 Spirit tokens.

 Linvala, Keeper of Silence.
 Linvala is mainly for other Pod decks and Splinter Twin.

Linvala: turning everyone into babbling idiots since 2010. And she got an ability, too!

 Aven Mindcensor.
 It's for any deck that likes to search the library, namely Pod decks, Tron and Scapeshift.

Still sporting the Future Sight frame.

 Obstinate Baloth. Why not Thragtusk?
 Baloth comes in against all the hyper-aggressive decks where you really need the lifegain. I like Baloth over Thragtusk because it's cheaper. Against Burn for example, the difference between CMC 4 and CMC 5 can be huge.

 Where is this build headed in the near future (even in light of the Theros cards)?
 I'm currently trying out the Archangel of Thune/Spike Feeder combo and so far I've liked it enough that I'll probably keep it in the deck. And like I said earlier, once Theros comes out, the Duress in the sideboard will be replaced by Thoughtseize.

 

Archangel of Thune, so hot right now.

 What do you think of the other event-winning Pod variants you can see in the same PREs you play? Like, for instance, pk23's Naya build mentioned above, or my own weird experiments like this Necrotic Ooze combo Pod that won Eurodrive! once, or my noncombo Angel-based Bant build you played against recently and also won Eurodrive! in one occasion. It's actually the only deck with which I managed to beat you! (I've since moved Elesh and the 6-mana Angels to the sideboard and doubled down on the Sublime Archangel plan.)
 I do like to see other Pod decks in the PREs. Your Pod builds are particularly scary to play against, as you never know for sure what might come out of your Pods!


AND NOW, LET'S SEE SOME ACTION! 

 The first replay is from Blippy's Eurodrive! 1.89 on August 31, won by Olioolli with a 6-1 total score (2-1, 2-0, 2-0); the other two are from Eurodrive! 1.90 on September 7, won by Olioolli with a 8-1 total score (2-0, 2-1, 2-0, 2-0). He's currently holding the first place in Eurodrive!'s continuous leaderboard with 192 points (on my distant second place with 111). After each video, you can read a brief Olioolli's description.

 Eurodrive! 1.89, Round 4 Vs. BW Tokens (played by Garlan): This matchup is usually very favorable, Orzhov Pontiff is amazing and I managed to put him into good use in this game.

 Eurodrive! 1.90, Round 3 Vs. UR Delver (played by murkymercy): In this game, I managed to ride a Cartel Aristocrat all the way into victory.

 Eurodrive! 1.90, Round 4 vs. Kiki Pod (played by _Kumagoro_): I successfully kept my opponent's board clear of creatures and just beat him down. (KUMA: Hey, that was me! Back when I still had to use (Avacyn Pilgrim) over Noble Hierarch. Sad.)