Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Apr 09 2013 10:51am
5
Login or register to post comments
4168 views


 My first Accidental Player article, back in 2011, was about this card:

All hail the Pod!

 As time went by, this series has been kind of hijacked by my monstrous Encyclopedias (I've also coined the "Know Your Tools" subtitle for that, which will still apply here), but my main original plan was to show how you can be a true Johnny/Timmy and yet still aiming to, and decently succeeding in actually winning games, by conjuring just a little bit of your inner Spike (which essentially means: play fun, don't play dumb.) The Pod was the first card/archetype I focused on because, as I wrote back then, it represents the perfect meeting point of the three classic psychographic profiles.

 We're in 2013 now, and Pod is still very much around, and very much discussed in articles, so I thought it was time for me to spend some more words about one of my all-time favorite cards, in the form of a bit of "Pod theory" and a little guide for players who might want to try their hands at the Pod engine. The thing is, though: I'm currently building around it a bit differently than your average Pod player, yet these builds of mine aren't meant for the casual room only, as I actually won a good share of tix in Modern PREs with them, not to mention a few boosters in the 2-man queues I sometimes try my luck on, scratchcard-style. However, there's one main difference between my creations and the current Pod status quo, in that my Pod decks mostly don't do endgame combos.

  

Yawn...

 One common misconception about Pod decks, indeed, is that they get invariably assimilated to Melira Combo. It's the original and more popular endgame combo Pod decks adopted once they relocated from Standard to Modern, and although not necessarily the easiest to assemble or the most efficient to execute, is still strong enough and damn fast.

 When I say Melira Combo isn't the most efficient, I'm mainly thinking of what I like to call the "Pod stations", the different converted mana costs from and onto which you jump via Pod activations. Melira Combo asks for a station-1 creature (Viscera Seer), a station-2 creature (Melira, Sylvok Outcast) and a station-4 creature (Murderous Redcap) to be all on the battlefield at the same time. There's no inherent link between them to make it possible to proceed smoothly from one to another by tapping the Pod. Meaning that you can't sacrifice one to get to the other in a progressive chain that ends in the required board position, as the Pod only goes up in stations, and at some point you'd need to come back to a lower casting cost. You can partially solve this by sacrificing Melira into an Eternal Witness who immediately takes her back, then sacrificing the Witness to fetch a Redcap; but at that point you'll still need the Seer, and his natural fetcher Ranger of Eos is found at the same station of the Redcap. The card that solves this issue, and makes the whole battle plan viable, is none other than Chord of Calling.

You can actually fetch much more with it than that weird, giant green seagull.

 However, this means that you can't assemble Melira Combo starting with just the Pod and one other card: you'll need at least two of them (one between either the Seer or Melira to reach Murderous Redcap with, getting it back via Eternal Witness along the way; then Chord of Calling to fetch the other one and go to town.) There are other combo sequences that allow for the "one Pod, one card, you win" endgame. For instance, you can use Mikaeus, the Unhallowed in place of Melira (in that case, Kitchen Finks is the card to start with: you fetch both Redcap and Ranger of Eos with it, then you go from Redcap to a station-5 guy and from there to Mikaeus, who, unlike Melira, doesn't care if the Redcap has already performed his persist trick.) And, of course, there's the smoothest and most efficient plan of them all:

 

One Pod, one Redcap, two mana, and it's suddenly good game.

 Restoration Angel is also a strong option here, especially because the Flicker-happy Angel is great at so many other things within a Pod deck. Yet she doesn't let you seal the deal in just one turn, starting from the mentioned "one Pod, one creature" board status. With Zealous Conscripts you can, provided that the creature in question is a Murderous Redcap.

 So, we can see how Chord of Calling is what actually does the trick in a Melira build, making the not-so-fresh archetype still very worth its while. Once you have all the starting pieces at hand, you can rapidly assemble the doom engine, as Melira and the Seer are cheap enough to allow for a reasonably inexpensive Chord (compared to the 8-mana you'd need to fetch Kiki-Jiki; there's only so much even convoke can do to speed that up.) The result is that, if you look closely, within Melira Combo the Pod is just a digging tool, sort of the same role that cards like Ponder or Preordain had in other combo decks. It's not the main star here. If anything, Chord of Calling is. You could actually imagine a Pod-less version of the deck that would roughly be like that:

 

 So, at some point, I just told myself that I wanted to play Birthing Pod as a Birthing Pod-centered deck. And that meant to focus on other elements of the Pod experience. I started building decks that intentionally didn't include any endgame combo, and giving myself precise rules of composition. For instance, my Pod shells routinely end up composed by 23 lands, 29-30 creatures, 4 Pods, and 3-4 other spells (the latter mostly being high-profile safety measures my inner Spike forces me to include.) The idea was to devote the entire deck to Pod-related effects, and win through them even when the Pod wasn't even there. Let's analyze this approach in detail.


POD THEORY

 The Pod Advantage

 The thing I wanted to capitalize on is the fact that activating the Pod isn't just about fetching a creature. At first sight, what you do might just seem card selection (hence the combo-friendly flavor): after all, the first time you activate the Pod, you have to sacrifice a creature you previously hardcasted, and you even have to pay a 2-mana additional cost for that (or 1 mana and 2 life), so it's not that you get the new creature for free: in fact, you paid for the difference between the old creature and the new with both card and mana resources, so your initial card and tempo advantage is a zero-sum game. The tempo advantage starts kicking in with the second activation, though, since at that point you're actively recycling the initial mana investment again and again, putting fresh stuff on the battlefield for just the Pod activation cost. And there's more to that: the key here is the steady flow of things entering at the same time the battlefield and the graveyard. Which means triggers. That's what the Pod actually does, when you exploit it at the best of its possibilities: you get to fetch a higher-costing creature and you cast up to two free spells in the process.

  

=

 + 

 Static vs. Dynamic

 This brings us to an obvious yet fundamental concept when building Pod decks: you have to care about ETB effects and, to a lesser extent, death triggers. You want your freshly podded-in creature to bring an immediate weight to the field, but you also want it to be ready for a new transformation next turn. ETB effects are clearly the best option here (not to mention, more widely found on a variety of creatures from different stations and colors), because this way the creature's value is concentrated in the turn it comes onto the battlefield, exploiting the uncounterable, unanswerable nature of a Pod activation (short of a somehow unlikely Stifle effect.) For instance, say you have a Borderland Ranger on the battlefield, and you happily sac him to fetch a station-4 guy, at which point your deck proposes you a Hero of Bladehold. Which is perfectly fine, you'd get a strong beater out of nowhere. But what next? You don't want to sacrifice your Hero next turn. Therefore, as far as she's concerned, the Pod cycle stops there. Pod-wise, the Hero's a static creature. Borderland Ranger, on the other hand, is a dynamic creature, one that does its duty then it's ready to go to the graveyard to make room for something higher in the Pod totem pole. Of course, the best dynamic creatures are the ones that provide ETB effects and/or death triggers, but there are some that just nicely interact with the Pod  even without directly having any of these effects (we'll see some of them later.) As a rule of thumb, your Pod deck should include as many dynamic creatures as you can, except for the top of the curve: since there's no other station to go beyond that, it won't matter if your big finishers are static or dynamic.

 A Birthing Plan

 So, once you have your Pod shell and a bunch of great dynamic creatures carefully distributed along the curve, you're ready to go. But your non-combo Pod deck still needs something before you'll start populating your board with amazingly interactive critters. You'll need a plan. Or, more precisely, a set of plans. This means you have to know what board statuses you're aiming to achieve with your Pod manipulations, and prioritize them. Of course, the fun of the Pod is finding the right answer among your arsenal of choices, and the art of tuning your stations so that at any given point you'll have something to counteract your opponent's plan with is the main deckbuilding challenge here. But you'll be better off going into your games with some major tracks you want to follow, leading to specific board statuses that'll be the key to your victory: reaching the curve toppers is clearly one of them, but there's stuff to be done along the way, based on your builds (for instance: getting a Glen Elendra Archmage online and protect it while she protects everything else.) Pod decks are complex machines, you'll need to know what you're doing at any given time. But don't worry, developing these skills is a lot of fun too.

 Seminal Colors

 Quite naturally, Pod decks tend to be green-based. Not just because this way you can avoid dealing yourself more damage than needed from the phyrexian mana (although, of course, building a greenless Pod deck makes for a juicy challenge.) Green also provides the early mana accelerators that are crucial to speed up the proceedings and compete with faster decks. Left to its own devices, a Pod deck would be awfully midrange. Green is also one of the homes of Kitchen Finks, and that's definitely the second signature card of a Pod deck after the Birthing Pod itself. Other than that, the choices of supporting colors know no bounds. For instance, the typical Melira Combo would be a wedge black deck (aka WBG, aka black and its opposite colors), as both white and black bring very strong options to any Pod build, possibly the strongest ones. For my non-combo builds, I wanted to explore the Pod possibilities in all the five colors of the wheel, so I decided to split white and black for the sake of balance, and in the end I opted for two main combinations, Jund and Bant (of course, 4-color decks aren't that hard to assemble, the mana fixers being a relevant component of all these builds already, but I just liked better to stick with 3 colors to focus better on their strengths.) Now, the main format for Pod decks is of course Modern, so let's just see what I brewed and played in the past months as Modern Jund Pod and Modern Bant Pod.

 Basic Shells

 First of all, for all the Pod newcomers out there, let's define the two rough shells for any Jund and Bant Pod-based builds.

Jund Pod Shell
The base for a Modern Pod deck
Creatures
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Murderous Redcap
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Birthing Pod
4 cards
 


 
Murderous Redcap

 

 This is pretty simple: you have access to black and red, and both bring you to the second best persister ever, Murderous Redcap. As we'll see, the roles this guy plays are many.

Bant Pod Shell
The base for a Modern Pod deck
Creatures
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Restoration Angel
2 Glen Elendra Archmage
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Birthing Pod
4 cards
 


 
Glen Elendra Archmage

 

 Yes, I know this is expensive, especially with Restoration Angel's recently rise in price, but it's the only way to get Bant in par with Jund.

 This said, let's have a full deck tech for both the combinations.


The World of Jund Pod

   

 THE LIST

 

 DECK TECH

 Creatures
 (Station 1: 4; Station 2: 4; Station 3: 8; Station 4: 6; Station 5: 5; Station 6: 2) 

 Birds of Paradise Wall of Roots Birds of Paradise and Wall of Roots: Your acceleration package of choice. I didn't put them in the basic shells just because they're not strictly needed to make the engine work, but they're the glue that keeps everything together. Turn-1 Birds leads to turn-2 Pod or to a station-3 creature anyway, the point where the party starts. That's the reason Wall of Roots is even more valuable, despite not doing mana fixing like the Birds do: a Wall at the same time stops the early attacks of fast aggro decks, accelerates, and provides a base of operations to proceed up into higher mana costs. As a creature with built-in consumption, you're more than happy to sacrifice it to the Pod at some point. And it also keeps a mana open for you in the opponent's turn (which the opponent sometimes won't be aware of), especially useful with Nature's Claim. There's a reason if this Wall is one of the Top 10 green creatures ever printed (and the Birds are likely in that list too.)

 Kitchen Finks Kitchen Finks: The Finks are early blockers, they set back the opponent's clock against your life total, and most importantly they allow for not just one but TWO Pod activations toward the key station of 4 CMC. Essential card is essential.

 Cunning Sparkmage Cunning Sparkmage: Looking closely, our Jund build is basically a Golgari deck with a splash of red. This little guy is one of those red cards we splashed for. He's not entirely a dynamic creature, because while he surely does something useful the turn he hits the field, you don't want to sacrifice him afterwards, so the chain actually ends there. But he's an important source of repeatable spot removal, able to get rid of a plethora of annoying 1-toughness creatures (or even to help another creature to finalize a trade in combat), such as Delver of Secrets or Grim Lavamancer, or Noble Hierarch and any mana dork. Remember that we don't pack any proper removal spells in the deck, so it's up to our creatures to fulfill that role, which is sort of the whole point.

 Sylvok Replica Sylvok Replica: My first choice for artifact/enchantment hate, whose sacrifice-based mechanic is meant to trump Torpor Orb. Of course we don't have access to Qasali Pridemage in these colors, but even if we did, I'd rather use the Replica for several reasons. First of all, it results from the sacrifice of a Wall of Roots, while the Pridemage would ask for the death of a Birds of Paradise to be fetched. As I already mentioned, the Wall is a more natural target for sacrifice, since it's bound to exhaust itself anyway, while the Birds have other roles to play later on, like mana fixing, or blocking a big flyer.  More so, the Replica is colorless, therefore it ignores any protection, up to Etched Champion's. And as a 1/3, it's a solid blocker when needed, so its presence never goes entirely wasted.

 Eternal Witness Eternal Witness: Another station-3 creature with a strong, possibly crucial ETB effect. You typically don't call her in during the early proceedings (unless you desperately need to fix a mana issue by recurring a fetchland), but at some point there will be some key card you want back, starting with a destroyed Pod. Any well-built Pod deck has a Witness waiting for action in there somewhere.

 Wood Elves Wood Elves: The most powerful land-fetching creature ever printed, which is luckily Modern-legal too. Not to mention, the picture-perfect specimen for Birthing Pod shenanigans: there's really no better use for a 3-mana 1/1 in a Skullclamp-less universe. Still, as we already run full playsets of both Birds of Paradise and Walls of Roots, we don't absolutely need yet another accelerator, deck-thinning properties and all (although it might prove useful to avoid mulligans in first hands with several high-costing cards.) So, a way to look at this is as the primary exchange slot to sideboard in opponent-specific stuff in game 2.

 Murderous Redcap Murderous Redcap: Jund is the realm of the one and only Goblin Assassin, the same guy Melira uses to outright kill her enemies. Combo shenanigans notwithstanding, he's still invaluable: he's able to send one 2-toughness creature and one 1-toughness creature to the graveyard while providing a double Pod activation towards station 5. The first and foremost battle plan of the deck is to get a Redcap on the battlefield as soon as possible.

 Skinrender Skinrender: And as far as creature killers go, Skinrender eats 3-toughness guys for breakfast, and doesn't even care if they regenerate or are indestructible. And if he doesn't kill them, he still maims them enough. The only downside is that you can't cast him if there aren't right targets, or he'll just kill one of your guys or himself; but that's hardly a concern in a Pod deck. I even used to have two copies of him at some point, then switched one to a second Redcap, for the strategical value.

 Entomber Exarch Entomber Exarch: Speaking of strategical value, the black Exarch is both hand disruption and recursion on a stick. You'll hardly find a game where you won't want to have one thing or the other available at some point. Going into station 4, this is the guy I fetch when I don't need Skinrender to hit something and instead I need to make sure the opponent doesn't have anything dangerous in hand. In all the other cases, the choice's Murderous Redcap, of course.

 Avalanche Riders Avalanche Riders: It's not a top priority, but problematic lands do exist within many archetypes, and with this guy we can get rid of them at station 4 too (before Acidic Slime can join the fight). Echo is kind of a bad thing, but haste is sometimes useful. This said, it's another prospective exchange slot for sideboarding purposes.

 Phyrexian Obliterator Phyrexian Obliterator: Here comes battle plan B: a middle-of-the-road static creature that you can be happy to fetch quick and early. Against fast aggro decks that only rely on damage spells to kill stuff, the Obliterator is the scariest thing in existence. And in general he's a tough customer to deal with for any deck, usually delayed by the 4 black mana required to hardcast him. Except, we don't necessarily need to hardcast him, do we?

 Acidic Slime Acidic Slime: I don't really need to sing the praises of Acidic Slime, right? It comes, kills something, then blocks and kills something else or just happily waits to be podded into one of your big baddies. When in doubt, Slime.

 Shriekmaw Shriekmaw: Our color-conditional but not toughness-conditional creature killer. To kill those Sun Titan or Consecrated Sphinx that are out of the reach of his lesser colleagues. Nekrataal is the alternative here, and it would even cost 1 mana less, but I'd rather put my surrogate Terror at station 5, to summon it via Redcap. Plus, in a pinch, Shriekmaw gives us the option to cast him as sort of an actual Terror. In the end, our removal package leaves us vulnerable to big black creatures, big artifact creatures, and creatures protected from black (with toughness greater than 1, that is.) Nothing's perfect, of course, but if that becomes an issue in your meta, there's always the choice to include a few copies of Putrefy or Maelstrom Pulse, either main deck or in sideboard.

 Thragtusk Thragtusk: The big buffalo-thingie is a natural Pod dweller. It gives back one quarter of your starting life, guards the board, swings for 5, then gets sacrificed for a curve topper and still leaves a fairly decent presence behind. Close to a must, no questions there.

 Zealous Conscripts Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker Zealous Conscripts and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker: Ok, so I lied, there IS an endgame combo in the deck after all. Well, originally there wasn't (by deliberate design), but then I was using the Conscripts anyway, because they're amazing at setting up an alpha strike, removing a crucial blocker from the equation, adding it to the offensive as insult to injury, and even providing an extra 3 damage themselves. And if you have a second Pod, or you cast the Conscripts from your hand, you'll have the chance to steal something then sacrifice it, therefore achieving an unexpected, additional removal option. They're definitely worth including in any Jund Pod deck. And what about Kiki-Jiki? Hell, in a deck where almost every other creature has some ETB effect to abuse? It's a no-brainer, you want him in your team, period. I won games by just fetching Kiki-Jiki to haste-copy an active Grave Titan for the win. So, Conscripts and Kiki-Jiki are both undeniably great, and reason enough for us to be in Jund colors rather than just Golgari. It just happens that they also combine in a quite effective, killer endgame. I usually do it only when the opponent is going to do something similar if I don't end the game first. There's just one copy of each combo piece, anyway, so it's not something you can safely rely on with this build. But it's sort of an emergency button.

 Massacre Wurm Massacre Wurm: The Wurm is the final solution for creature-based decks. It belongs to a battle plan which very likely passes through Murderous Redcap and Thragtusk. Sometimes, the Wurm just ends the game right there. It's also good in the Melira semi-mirror match, because it nullifies the Kitchen Finks combo.

 Grave Titan Grave Titan: When Massacre Wurm wouldn't do much, the Titan is our killing weapon. This is a largely customizable slot, to be honest, since you can easily find other suitable 6-mana fatties in these colors (Inferno Titan comes to mind.) You just have to make sure they brings some kind of inevitability to the field. I chose Grave Titan because he fits one of the two primary colors of the deck, because of the progressive menace that it represents, and because I just wanted an excuse to play him, which I rarely seem to do.

 Other Non-Pod Spells

 Garruk Relentless Garruk Relentless: I consider Garruk 3.0 my 5th Birthing Pod. Indeed, once you get him going, what he does is sacrificing a creature to fetch a better one, just like the Pod. In the process, he also gets rid of some annoying 1- or 2-toughness enemy (or even 3-toughness, but in that case you're just using him as a 4-mana damage-dealing sorcery, which is bad), and provides with deathtouch blockers (yay for more indirect removal!) that double as sacrifice fuel. I didn't go overboard with him, copies-wise, but I'm never not happy to see him during a game. He's really one of the most flexible planeswalkers ever designed.

 Inquisition of Kozilek Inquisition of Kozilek: If I'm running black, this is my noncreature support card of choice. I don't own Thoughtseize, but I don't see the Inquisition as an utter downgrade, since 95% of the time I would target the same card with both, and I rather prefer not adding more self-inflicted damage to a deck that already tends a lot towards putting itself at 14 life in its first few turns (for instance, turn-1 shockland into turn-2 Pod into turn-3 Pod activation.) Our deck likes to be proactive, since it wants to be free to pursue its battle plans, so I find hand disruption to be the better way to deal with problematic cards that could stop us cold. But if you feel that the lack of truly unconditional removal is a concern, then these 3 slots may easily become Putrefy or Maelstrom Pulse.

 Lands

 Verdant Catacombs Overgrown Tomb Woodland Cemetery Verdant CatacombsOvergrown Tomb / Woodland Cemetery: As already mentioned, the deck is basically a Golgari build, so we use full playsets of all the more effective Golgari-based lands in Modern (I'm not a big fan of filter lands a la Twilight Mire, but one copy of it may well be included in place of a Cemetery.)

 Stomping Ground Blood Crypt Copperline Gorge Stomping Ground / Blood Crypt / Copperline Gorge: The red splash is minimal, since it just involves 4 main-deck cards, most of which only need 1 red mana. Consequently, the required red sources aren't too many. The two shocklands can be easily fetched via Verdant Catacombs, and Copperline Gorge allows for a very welcome, damage-free turn-1 Birds of Paradise. Of course, hardcasting Kiki-Jiki with this mana base may prove harder. For that, we mainly rely on sources producing any color like the Birds, or the color-fixing property of Reflecting Pool.

 Reflecting Pool Reflecting Pool: I usually include a couple Pools in every Modern deck with more than one primary color. It's a nice mana fixer that comes into play untapped with absolutely no downsides (it also interacts wonderfully with Cavern of Souls, but with all the different creature types we feature here, that would be really random.) It should be used more widely than it is.

 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: This is essentially there only to help hardcasting the Obliterator and the Massacre Wurm if needed. Of course, giving all your lands black-producing capability is never a bad thing, especially with all those greedy colored mana costs. It's also the reason why we don't feature any utility land, as they tend to produce colorless mana and we really need all our mana to be colored.

 Sideboard

 Nature's Claim Nature's Claim: My basic slots of dedicated artifact/enchantment hate. Once upon a time, I would use Krosan Grip, because there were cases where I needed to work around counter magic. Lately, it's more about stopping the early stages of an affinity invasion, or even an Inkmoth Nexus, and nothing's faster than Nature's Claim for that, as you can even cast it with opponent turn's Wall of Roots mana without losing any tempo.

 Spellskite Spellskite: Anti-infect warfare. With this guy around, they can't pump their critters anymore. Infect is a very popular archetype in the PRE scene, so 3 slots for this kind of answer are very warranted. But Spellskite does much more: it stops Splinter Twin too, as well as Bogle and any aura deck. In times of great need, it protects the Pods and your key creatures against control-heavy builds. And in the meantime, it makes for a great early blocker.

 Withered Wretch Withered Wretch: Countermeasure against graveyard strategies. There's no format or meta where you won't need some of that. The Wretch is always my first choice for this job when I run black heavily, and more so in a creature-based deck with the Pod to fetch him. It's essentially a hatebear, it's more surgical and widely repeatable than Relic of Progenitus, it's activated with colorless mana, and can still deal damage or block while still threatening the opponent graveyard at instant speed.

 Sowing Salt Sowing Salt: Land hate. Very needed in these Urzatron times. And nothing beats Sowing Salt at that, it's just brutal. The double red mana may occasionally be a problem in the early going, but it's worth the risk.

 Surgical Extraction Surgical Extraction: Never wrong to include a few of these in any build, they take care of many nasty things. I've been a longtime fan of Extirpate, because I generally like split second, but timing is often of the essence, and 0-cost spells of this kind are unrivaled.

 Dosan the Falling Leaf Dosan the Falling Leaf: This is a recent addition in a somewhat everchanging slot, so I didn't have many chances to test it yet, but it always tempted me to have a Pod-fetchable option to stop permission decks. It might be fragile, and doesn't do much else in the deck, but it's a slot that answers a specific broad archetype, and Dosan rises from the ashes of a Wall of Roots, which is always a good thing. In combo builds, he can even protect the endgame by negating instant answers, or even just requiring the waste of a possibly crucial removal spell along the way, although this is essentially the same thing Spellskite does too.

 Silklash Spider Silklash Spider: Anti-flyer warfare. Why this one and not, say, Stingerfling Spider, which is a dynamic creature? Because if I need to kill a Baneslayer Angel, I don't need a specific answer: I can just fetch Shriekmaw at the same station. Silklash Spider is for HORDES of tiny flyers. Namely, of the Spirit tokens variety.

 Silent Arbiter Silent Arbiter: I had good times stopping massive aggro builds with this one, which is sort of a Pod-friendly version of Ghostly Prison. It's not essential, though, as the deck doesn't really fear aggro too much. It's probably bound to become a third Sowing Salt.

 

 BUDGET

 As of April 7, 2013, the 75 cards of the deck amount to $225.04 (MTGO Traders prices, cheaper versions used where possible.) It's not a budget build for sure, but you could do worse. The money cards are Garruk Relentless ($16.22), Thragtusk ($12.25), Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker ($12.00), and Phyrexian Obliterator ($11.29). Then we have a few cards in the $5.00-$7.00 range (Kitchen Finks, Eternal Witness, Massacre Wurm, Spellskite.) The Birthing Pod itself is currently sold at around $3.50. The mana base alone is about $86.00, with Verdant Catacombs being the most pricy land at $8.50.

 

 ALTERNATIVES

 Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler: Well, ok, the Sculler's not there because it would require white and we're in Jund. But I still wanted to mention it because it's frequently featured in Pod builds (plus, you might want to be less committed than me to these colors and add a tiny white splash.) I can see how it helps defuse troubles early on, which is especially useful if you plan to combo out soon. Still, I generally don't like the "comeback" clauses of this kind, and more so in a deck that should keep going by sacrificing its creatures: the Sculler is mightily static in this sense.

 Orzhov Pontiff Orzhov Pontiff: Again, not the right colors. But the temptation here is great, since the Pontiff (with that weirdly-worded haunt mechanic) is the bane of fast tokens and other invasion-prone builds. And comes back easily from the graveyard.

 Obstinate Baloth Obstinate Baloth: Thragtusk vehemently took its place in the deck (just like, in turn, the Baloth had made the old, glorious Loxodon Hierarch obsolete), despite not sharing the same Pod station. It's a bit unfair, because the Baloth still has some anti-discard tech to provide, so it's not entirely wrong to include a copy of it main deck or in sideboard. Granted, with 4 Kitchen Finks and 1 Thragtusk (and maybe another one in side, if you like), the lifegaining may be considered fully covered. And there's plenty of interesting stuff fighting for space at CMC 4.

 Nekrataal Nekrataal: The main alternative/additional firepower to Skinrender's killing routine. I still prefer the Zombie over the Assassin because the -1/-1 counters ignore both regeneration and indestructibility, not to mention he can target black and artifact creatures. Yet Nekrataal outright kills a Baneslayer, and leaves a good fighting body behind. All in all, though, I opted to have Skinrender at station 4 and Shriekmaw at station 5, to have the former podded into the latter for a one-two double kill.

 Huntmaster of the Fells Huntmaster of the Fells: Honestly, it's not in my build mainly because I refuse to pay his inflated Standard-fueled price. But he's also a static creature, so I don't feel too bad about it.

 Masked Admirers Masked Admirers: This Commander staple is surely a fascinating card. The Admirers come, get you an extra card, fight honorably as a 3/2, then are happily fed to the Pod, ready to start all over again as soon as you cast a creature (which is almost every second card in your deck.) Problem is: the theory is far more rose-colored than the practice. You need to spend 2 extra green mana in order to return the Admirers to your hand. And then there they are: in your hand. You'll need to cast them again. It's all very clunky, if occasionally rewarding. Sure, with them in the graveyard, a Birds of Paradise late game can put your Pod back in business after a sweeper. Every time I played them, though, when it was time to fetch something at station 4, the more tactical options always took precedence over our enigmatic Elves. So it was just a matter of randomly draw into them and let them do their thing then keep them in the graveyard for rainy days.

 Solemn Simulacrum Solemn Simulacrum: The deal with the sad robot is about the same than with Masked Admirers above: they're good cards for Pod decks, but they have more of a strategical value, so they tend to be passed over by tactical creatures. The passage from station 3 to station 5 is crucial, and the middleman should directly impact the board rather than merely providing card advantage, because the Pod deck takes its card advantage from the Pod manipulation itself and the effects it produces. There's also a case where you, weirdly enough, don't want to risk drawing into the stuff you're planning to fetch via Pod. Clearly, there's also the opposite case where you desperately need to draw into that elusive Pod, or you finished the gas while the opponent managed to answer your every move. I feel confident not including this kind of cards in my builds anyway, but it's not entirely wrong to do it.

 Clone Shell Clone Shell: Did you ever play with this thing? I guess not. Well, in a Pod deck, it basically takes you from station 5 to station 6 without the loss of any creature. If you're lucky, you'll even get out a particularly useful one in the process (on the other hand, if you're not, you'll just get a mana dork.) It's an oddity for sure, but it's fun enough, even if a bit random. Maybe it's better fit for a (casual) Pod deck with a lot of big threats (like, Eldrazi-big), complemented with a few hideaway lands.

 (tmb=Bloogift Demonl) Bloodgift Demon: I used him for a long time, almost more to have a solid flyer at station 5 than for his card-drawing ability. I think at some point I took him out in favor of dynamic creatures like Zealous Conscripts, but it's still a strong option.

 Wurmcoil Engine Wurmcoil Engine: I can see how this one would be many people's first choice for the big finisher at the top of the curve. It's more useful when you want to go beyond station 6, but the real reason I stopped using it is that it kept getting copied or stolen, and my deck was having a hard time dealing with it. So, as strange as it might sound, after losing several games to this occurrence, at some point I just decided I didn't want to give my opponent the chance to get a big lifelinker which asks for multiple removals. It's probably just me, though. Although in more recent times, I stole it with Zealous Conscripts myself. Then launched back towards its owner. Then sacced it. Good times.

 Inferno Titan Inferno Titan: I think Inferno is probably a slightly stronger Titan than Grave, and he completes the chain of removals that started back from station 3's (Cunnng Sparkmage). But I just wanted to keep the red splash to a minimum. And now I grew attached to the black big guy.

 Sheoldred, Whispering One Sheoldred, Whispering One: She's the natural option if you want to extend the deck until station 7. However, she's no Elesh Norn, in that she doesn't impact the board immediately and might require a few turns to build momentum, which means she needs to be left unattended. But if you manage to get her there, she might lead to some nasty board status, especially by bringing back all that stuff that ended in your graveyard, starting from the station 6 creature you summoned her with (and if you run her, Wurmcoil Engine becomes a must.) All in all, I didn't feel like risking a wider curve only for her, though.

 Chalice of the Void Chalice of the Void: I used to run 4 copies of it in my sideboard, to replace Birds of Paradise in game 2 vs. decks with lots of 1-drops. There were some of them that couldn't properly function anymore after a turn-2 Chalice set at 1. Over time, I stopped bringing it along, to make room for other, more specific answers (you need to run 4 Chalices or none at all, if you want to have it in hand when it counts, i.e. turn 2.) I kinda miss it.

 Back to Nature Back to Nature: A sideboard option I'm seriously considering. Should aura decks become too popular, this is the weapon to fight them with.

 Lightning Greaves Lightning Greaves: This is mainly my replacement option of more Spike-ish cards like (Inquisiition of Kozilek), in order to make the deck more casual and relaxed for non-competitive games. Still, the Greaves do a lot of work in a Pod deck, protecting stuff and, most importantly, giving haste for free to your latest threat. You don't want to sit unprepared at the other end of a hasted Grave Titan, trust me.

 Fleshbag Marauder Fleshbag Marauder: At some point (you'll see it in one of the videos below) I had a mini Zombie package in the deck, including this guy, Glissa, the Traitor to recur the Pod, and Lord of the Undead to recur both of them and Skinrender. It wasn't bad, and the Marauder is a strong early killer at station 3. But after a while I realized I was consistently taking all of them out come game 2. The reason is linked to my Pod theory: the Marauder does have an ETB effect, but if the goal is recurring him at some point, you'll have to sacrifice him to himself, causing the end of his Pod chain; all while Glissa and the Lord are just static creatures. And let's be honest, given the chance of a Pod activation from station 2 to 3, what are the odds you won't need to bring in something more substantial than Lord of the Undead? I think I never happened to do it, ever. But it's a nice little subtheme, which can be expanded into a full Pod Zombie deck featuring cards like Geralf's Messenger, Gravecrawler, Gravedigger, Diregraf Captain, Havengul Lich, Vengeful Pharaoh, and maybe even one Phylactery Lich parasitizing the Pod.

 Necrotic Ooze (tmb=Corpse Coinnosseur) Necrotic Ooze and Corpse Connoisseur: The Ooze is the centerpiece for a neat combo package I sometimes used with some success (I even won an Eurodrive! event with it), and that requires the same basic configuration of this Jund build. You need to land both a Devoted Druid and Kiki-Jiki in the graveyard, then fetch a Ooze so that it'll acquire the abilities to replicate itself and untap to replicate again, creating an infinite army of 3/2s. The great part is: if they try to stop the combo by instant-killing the first ooze after it targets itself, you just answer by untapping it, making it a 3/2, and starting a new chain of duplication. They have another removal? Untap again, make it a 2/1, and reboot. They would need a THIRD instant removal in hand to get rid of it (or something with split second), which is somehow unlikely. The combo works even better if you manage to have something that gives haste to the Ooze, like Urabrask the Hidden or Madrush Cyclops, so that it may combo off the very turn it hits the board. Also, to assemble the combo you don't need to rely on Pod manipulations alone, since you can count on Corpse Connoisseur with his comfy unearth option to Entomb both Kiki-Jiki and the Druid. And he's a station 5 creature, so you can use the same Murderous Redcap to fetch him and, say, Urabrask.

 Protean Hulk Craterhoof Behemoth Protean Hulk and Craterhoof Behemoth: This is an endgame combo I never fully explored, because, as cool as it is, it feels high-maintenance. Then again, it doesn't even require to devote too many slots to it: once the Hulk is podded into the Behemoth, fetching, say, one Madrush Cyclops, a couple Birds of Paradise and a couple Ornithopters in the process, you'll be able to immediately attack for 24 flying trampling damage and 20 non-flying trampling damage, which is probably enough (and this doesn't even account for other creatures you may already have on the board.) Still, that means you'll need to have Ornithopters in the deck, and they essentially don't do anything else than waiting for the combo to happen, so you'll end up with a higher amount of potentially dead cards than with other killer combos. And yes, you'll need to hit station 8 to make it happen, and that's not too easy in the first place, so it has to be mostly plan B.

 

 GAMEPLAY

 Let's have a look at the deck in action (with musical score!) Here I'm fighting Infect-specialist Nyzzeh. You can appreciate how many different ways to kill stuff our creatures provide us with.

  And here's another popular archetype, RDW. The Kitchen Finks are the key of this matchup, quite naturally. The Obliterator also makes an appearance. Note how the Pod sits in my hand all the game, as we don't necessarily need it to be able to seal the deal. This sometimes confuses our opponents, which routinely try everything in their power to stop a combo that's just not there.

 Finally, versus WB tokens. It's a nice, tense battle of removals. You can see a residual Bloodgift Demon being actually decisive here. Maybe I should put him back?

 

 LATEST TECH

 Domri Rade Domri Rade: Since he deals with creatures in two different ways (drawing into them and turning them into removal), Domri seems the perfect complement for a Pod deck. And he is: after a couple tests with two copies of him (replacing Wood Elves and Avalanche Riders; and I understand the irony of actually reducing the number of total creatures to make room for a "creatures matter" card), I'm quite satisfied with the result. You can see a game below where Domri's interaction with Phyrexian Obliterator reduces my poor opponent to zero permanents. Better than annihilator!


The World of Bant Pod

   

 THE LIST

 

 DECK TECH

 Creatures
 (Station 1: 4; Station 2: 4; Station 3: 8; Station 4: 5; Station 5: 5; Station 6: 2; Station 7: 2)

 Birds of Paradise Wall of Roots Birds of Paradise and Wall of Roots: What said for Jund Pod still stands, yet one would expect Bant to be the reign of Noble Hierarch. Budget consideration aside (and the Hierarch did go down from her January insanity, anyway), I still favor the Birds here for a few reasons: first of all, I don't really need the exalted boost, which is more suited for early aggro beating, while in my case it's even highly unlikely that the Hierarch will have nothing to tap for in the first few turns and will be able to boost herself in an attack; and in later turns, the Birds fulfill two additional roles: they chump-block flyers, and they partake in Elesh's boon of power, which turns the meek fowls into evasive hitters.

 Kitchen Finks Kitchen Finks: Same as above. Now with less mana fixing issues.

 Harmonic Sliver Harmonic Sliver: Strangely enough, this Sliver is the best ETB creature hating artifact and enchantment South of Acidic Slime. You just want to have an early answer to those.

 Trygon Predator Trygon Predator: This is my Bant version of Sylvok Replica. And it wrecks not just Torpor Orb, but Stony Silence too. Plus, it's a nice little flyer that successfully blocks up to all 2/2 creatures.

 Eternal Witness Eternal Witness: Still essential.

 Wood Elves Wood Elves: Still unessential, but since we have two 7-mana cards in the deck, a 9th accelerator might be more warranted.

 Restoration Angel Restoration Angel: Once you transform Kitchen Finks into one of these for the first time, resetting the Ouphe back to pre-persist status and ready to do it again, you'll realize that this angelic gal is not overrated in the least. And that's just one of the tricks that she can do in this deck. Including actually exploiting flash, occasionally.

 Glen Elendra Archmage Glen Elendra Archmage: This is a centerpiece. Compared to Jund, we don't have that many ways to deal with opponent threats, so we really need this high-profile Faerie to patrol the board against sweepers and other nasty stuff. The control element she provides may be enough to protect the rest of your battle plan. Of course, it's skill intensive, but that's the challenge: you need to know when to use her permission bullets, since you get only two of them (barring some Restoration Angel or Reveillark shenanigans, of course.) While waiting, she can also land some little flying damage.

 Phyrexian Metamorph Phyrexian Metamorph: Some cloning potential is a good weapon to have in our arsenal. The Metamorph costs only 3 mana from your hand, and can copy the Pod too, although this is only recommended if you have other sacrifice fuel available, since 2 Pods and no creatures isn't a good thing. So, in this sense, copying the Pod is often just a "win more" move. I usually fetch it when there's something absolutely worthy of copying on the battlefield, both on my side or the opponent's. Remember that copying a persister triggers the copy effect again when the Metamorph comes back. This makes Glen Elendra Archmage a prime target for the Metamorph.

 Acidic Slime Thragtusk Acidic Slime and Thragtusk: Both amazing as usual.

 Archon of Justice Archon of Justice: This is sort of an underrated card that really shines in this kind of Pod build. It gives us the chance to get rid for good of any problematic permanent, lands included, while going up to station 6. Plus it's a good evasive beater, and using non-exiling removals on it makes for an inescapable 2-for-1 in our favor. At station 5, it's not something you'll have handy too early, but it guarantees a way out of most situations (it even get rid of Ulamog and, if you managed to survive his first assault, Emrakul!)

 Reveillark Reveillark: One of the big stars of any Pod build that includes white. It just has such a variety of possible targets to bring back (and the bad guy at the other side of the table can't even trump the trigger by exiling it!) Plus, it's a very solid flyer. In this build, its prime target is Glen Elendra Archmage, of course. It might actually be worth sacrificing her first counterspell option to fetch a Reveillark, then the following turn you can swing for a total of 5 flying damage, counter whatever they throw your way, then sac the sparky Elemental and bring the Archmage back. Maybe fetching Twilight Shepherd in the process and return Reveillark to your hand, to start everything again. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? There's also an endgame combo to do with it, involving one among Reveillark and Body Double on the field, the other in the graveyard, plus Mirror Entity. Activate the Entity's ability for 0 infinite times, you'll end up with infinite recursions of the cloned Reveillark and some other decisive creature, like Murderous Redcap. A lot of clicking, but an elegant way to close the game.

 Sigarda, Host of Herons Sigarda, Host of Herons: The deck has a definite Angel subtheme (to the point I'd consider running Cavern of Souls, if I wasn't too afraid to mess up with the mana base.) There are 6 actual Angels main deck, and some other creatures with an angelic flavor, like Archon of Justice and Reveillark. Sigarda is here as the main static creature of the deck to act as a safe finisher without getting to the top of the curve. She's really good at it, being amazing both offensively and defensively. The "no forced sacrifices" ability is a nice bonus too, especially if you're facing annihilator. It's not a likely scenario, nor one that doesn't still mean you're in big troubles, but with Sigarda on the board, all you need to stop Emrakul without any consequence is a Birds of Paradise.

 Twilight Shepherd Twilight Shepherd: Possibly my favorite card of the whole deck. She's one of the few, amazing creatures who have both an ETB and a death trigger. Actually, she has TWO Pod-related death triggers: persist gives you another chance at sacrifice towards the big sisters at station 7, and the second, consequent ETB effect gives you back something you may have lost this turn (maybe in the combat phase, or through another Pod.) To justify her presence, anyway, it would be enough the fact that whatever you're sacrificing to fetch her, she immediately gives it back. Thragtusk or Reveillark into her make for a great way to populate your battlefield, then fetch Elesh and seal the deal. On top of all this, a 5/5 vigilant flying body is just the icing on the tactical cake.

 Sunblast Angel Sunblast Angel: If at some point you need a sweeper, you just call this winged gal. Simple as that. It's a crucial option to have, quite obviously.

 Angel of Serenity Angel of Serenity: The ultimate firepower. Whatever annoying critter you're facing, after she comes, you're not facing it anymore. And another one. And another one. Or, alternatively, just elect something from your graveyard as an insurance, and swing with her for the win. Or a mix of the two plans. Powerful Angel is powerful.

 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite: Elesh is the Queen of the Non-Combo Pod, the reason Bant is so much fun despite lacking the early answering power of Jund. What you really want to do, the overall battle plan underneath it all, is to accelerate into her. Why? Because she'll wreak havoc in the opponent's board, sweep all the smaller guys, turn the others into puny version of themselves, shut down Inkmoth Nexuses and such, all while at the same time boosting your own team into a quick finishing move (we're piloting a 30-creature deck here, after all, with recursive capabilities to boot.) Twilight Shepherd is the natural starting point to summon her, since the persisting Angel alone will guarantee a combined 10-powered attack the following turn. If all goes according to plan, it might be enough.

 Other Non-Pod Spells

 Garruk Relentless Garruk Relentless: Nothing to add here, our macho survivalist hunter is still very welcome every time he shows up.

 Path to Exile Path to Exile: In Bant, we have access to the most effective creature spot removal in the format. Let's use it a little bit. I've actually considered running Selesnya Charm instead, but we need to answer early threats more than late, bigger ones, when we hopefully can get to Archon of Justice, Sunblast Angel, or Angel of Serenity.

 Lands

 Misty Rainforest Temple Garden Sunpetal Grove Razorverge Thicket Misty Rainforest / Temple Garden / Sunpetal Grove / Razorverge Thicket: Selesnya basic package. Blue is the tertiary color here. Misty Rainforest and the singleton Island already work in that direction, though.

 Breeding Pool Hinterland Harbor Breeding Pool / Hinterland Harbor: We only have 4 blue cards in the deck (and one of them can even be played with colorless mana), but we still need blue sources early on, because of the essential role of Glen Elendra Archmage, and her need to let up to two blue mana open at any single time if we want to maximize her effectiveness.

 Reflecting Pool Reflecting Pool: Still important to fix everything up, color-wise. And without harming ourselves in the process.

 Sideboard

 Nature's Claim Spellskite Nature's Claim / Spellskite: See above in the Jund version; the same applies here.

 Relic of Progenitus Relic of Progenitus: Basic graveyard hate, strictly better than Tormod's Crypt. It's effective against soft graveyard strategies too, like Tarmogoyf. We have access to Rest in Peace as well, but it would hinder our own persisters. Then again, Relic of Progenitus isn't as effective against opponent persisters, like the Melira ones, so it's up to you and your personal distaste.

 Runed Halo Runed Halo: Partially covering the role of Surgical Extraction (which is the main alternative option here.) I grew fond of the Halo over time. It doesn't just stop combos (I used to run it more when storm was rampant, pre-bannings), it's an answer to anything, even big finishers. It's almost always useful, to the point that it's even a viable main-deck option. If not that in game 2 you'll have a better idea what to use it against should it be in your first hand.

 Aven Mindcensor Aven Mindcensor: Stopping opponent library manipulation is often important, sometimes crucial (in the mirror match, for instance.) This is the main candidate to take the place of both Harmonic Sliver and Trygon Predator when they don't seem to have good targets.

 Sylvok Replica Sylvok Replica: Additional hate for those artifacts or enchantments that trump other kind of main-deck hate. Better safe than sorry.

 Linvala, Keeper of Silence Linvala, Keeper of Silence: Yet another powerful Angel, who's able to mercilessly shut down plenty of stuff. Honestly, she's especially great against archetypes that don't show up very often in PREs, like Elves. But she's too good to pass if you own a copy (and I do, I found her in a ROE draft and never worked up the heart to sell her whe she became big money.) Just evaluate if even just fighting some Deathrite Shaman or Grim Lavamancer can be important, and in that case, bring her in in place of Phyrexian Metamorph.

 Differences with Jund: This deck is better equipped to fight flyers by itself, so Silklash Spider isn't required. Dosan (a far from essential slot to begin with) is also left behind, as well as his Bant-specific counterpart, Grand Abolisher, given the anti-permission capabilities that the deck offers in the form of Glen Elendra Archmage. The real weak spot is the absence of any land hate besides the jack-of-all-trades Acidic Slime: Mwonvuli Acid-Moss would be the best option, but it feels subpar, since Tron can easily come back from it, unlike what happens with Sowing Salt.

 

 BUDGET

 As of April 7, 2013, the 75 cards of the deck cost $329.44 (MTGO Traders prices, cheaper versions used where possible.) That's over 100 tix more than the Jund version, essentially because of a few key cards that currently gravitate in the 20-tix range: Restoration Angel, Glen Elendra Archmage, Angel of Serenity, Linvala, Keeper of Silence.

 

 ALTERNATIVES (other than the suitable ones already discussed in the Jund version)

 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: In a 30-creature deck, we should really want to play her, right? Thalia is generally good against noncreature decks, especially storm builds or burn. As a 1-of, though (I can't see the need to fill the sideboard with multiple copies of her), she didn't seem that useful to me, as she doesn't directly stop anything. Your mileage may vary.

 Qasali Pridemage Qasali Pridemage: Wait, why is this not there? Honestly, I don't know, I think I developed some annoyance towards this smug Cat over time. Plus, to fight Torpor Orb, I still prefer Sylvok Replica, as I explained.

 Ethersworn Canonist Ethersword Canonist: She's the number one weapon against storm. Now that storm isn't so hot anymore, I feel safe to spare a sideboard slot in favor of something else. Should storm be back in full force (or a new archetype similarly trying to play a lot of stuff in a single turn), the Canonist would, too.

 Kor Firewalker Kor Firewalker: In case you fear mono-red builds a lot. But with 4 Kitchen Finks and 1 Thragtusk in the deck, you just don't, do you?

 Phantasmal Image Phantasmal Image: As I said earlier, I don't like sacrificing Birds of Paradise to fetch stuff, so I ended skipping this one. Still, it's pretty powerful, particularly great in its interaction with Sun Titan. Which I don't use either. But you might. In that case, keep this little illusionary clone in mind.

 Fiend Hunter Fiend Hunter: In a pinch, he gets the job done, and comes after a Wall of Roots, which we know is good. But I don't like how he stops the Pod progression, and generally doesn't guarantee much in terms of board preservation in the long haul.

 Deceiver Exarch Deceiver Exarch: It's essentially a trick to jump beyond station 3, by immediately untapping the Pod and activate it again. It's a good trick, but it doesn't do much else in the deck.

 Sea Gate Oracle Sea Gate Oracle: A good alternative to Wood Elves. Card drawing isn't essential in our deck, but it's certainly still good news, especially since it comes with card selection in this case. And with a good blocking capability.

 Blade Splicer Roc Egg Blade Splicer / Roc Egg: That's something I used to have and should probably bring back. Basically, it's a way not to renounce board presence when sacrificing to the Pod. The Egg is actually the better option here, despite not seeing a lot of play anywhere, because it gives us a nice flyer, while once the Splicer is gone, her Golem becomes just vanilla.

 Aether Adept Mist Raven Venser, Shaper Savant Aether Adept / Mist Raven / Venser, Shaper Savant: Bouncing stuff is a typycal blue control option to buy us some time while we build up our board status. Mostly, I stopped including them after I reduced the blue presence in the deck. All three have their own upsides: Aether Adept is faster (plus, she's just gorgeous, isn't she?); Mist Raven leaves behind a flying body; Venser is more versatile if you draw into him.

 Sower of Temptation Sower of Temptation: Definitely better than Fiend Hunter. She has the same issues, but at least she turns the power of what she takes from the opponent back against them. Plus, she flies. It might be worth finding her a place in the sideboard at least, as an emergency measure against big baddies.

 Fatestitcher Fatestitcher: As far as Pod shenanigans go, this weird Zombie Wizard is one of the best. An active Fatesticher is able to untap an already used Pod, be sacrificed to it, comes back via unearth, untap the Pod again, be sacrificed again. All in the same turn for as low as 3 mana. Not essential, but surely fun. Plus, he's a permanent tapper without additional activation costs, which never goes without use. I made great plays with him.

 Ranger of Eos Ranger of Eos: The Ranger is a great card, but his power is directly proportional to the number of CMC 1 creatures you pack. Here, he would only fetch Birds of Paradise, which is obviously not enough to justify his presence. He's very needed to the point of being outright necessary in Melira builds where he would be called to fetch Viscera Seer.

 Mystic Snake Mystic Snake: Yeah, if only the Pod activation was instant-speed, uh?

 Baneslayer Angel Baneslayer Angel: Given the Angel theme, the Girl Formerly Known As Walletslayer (now down to meager 4 tix) might fit just fine. I think Sigarda is better in her role, though: more resilient, more tactical. And there's plenty of lifegaining elsewhere already. Still, you can't really do wrong by bringing a Baneslayer to battle.

 Body Double Body Double: Other than being part of the Reveillark combo, it's a good strategic creature in itself. You can do plenty of shenanigans with it in a Pod deck (most of which still involve Reveillark. But you're going to have it in the deck anyway.)

 Beguiler of Wills Beguiler of Wills: She's frail, and slow, but if you manage to defend her via Glen Elendra Archmage, she builds inevitability against creature decks. This is certainly the right build to try her out: you'll be likely to have enough creatures to fuel her ability, and you have sacrifice outlets to turn the less useful ones into strategic value.

 Keiga, the Tide Star Keiga, the Tide Star: Competes with the station-6 creatures going into Elesh. He's a big Dragon who makes the opponent wary to block or attack into, and he can double as a solution when you decide to let him go. Depending on the meta, it might be better to have him main deck and demote Sunblast Angel to sideboard status.

 Sun Titan Sun Titan: So, why exactly I don't use Sun Titan in Bant Pod? No particular reason. I guess I like my Angels, I like having station-6 creatures that you can sacrifice without worries (the Titan is a dynamic creature, but one that you want to keep having on the board), and I don't want to go overboard with high mana costs. But this is the nice part of Pod-building: you can make your own choices, and you have plenty of good ones. Sun Titan, with all his amazing thread of interactions, is still one of the best.

 Angel of Glory's Rise Angel of Glory's Rise: At some point, it became clear that this Angel's strength didn't just reside in fighting Zombie combos (which she does, nonetheless.) You can build a Human-based Pod deck where she acts like a one-sided Living Death. Bringing back stuff like Juniper Order Ranger, Geist-Honored Monk, and Captain of the Watch all at once makes for a truly explosive ending. Other key Humans you want to use: Cunning Sparkmage, Orzhov Pontiff, Nekrataal, Huntmaster of the Fells, Zealous Conscripts.

 Venser, the Sojourner Venser, the Sojourner: A Bant deck where almost half the cards have ETB effects you'd be happy to abuse? It seems quite natural to include the planeswalking Venser in it. A copy of him is a nice complement for sure. I feel like he deserves a dedicated build, though, maybe one with 3 Pods and 3 Vensers, or something on these lines.

 

 GAMEPLAY  

 Here's our Bant-flavored Pod fighting against a creature-heavy MBC. You can see the mad lifegaining power of the deck, courtesy of Restoration Angel; the Twilight Shepherd into Elesh Norn battle plan; and the crucial role of Eternal Witness coming after a Wrath effect. When Glen Elendra Archmage finally lands, the game has ended. (All set to the music of Dvořák's 9th Symphony.)

 And this is game 2 of a match versus an UW Control build. The crescendo of the Tannhäuser Overture salutes Twilight Shepherd's first triumphant arrival, only temporarily thwarted by Cryptic Command. A long dance between Angel of Serenity and Consecrated Sphinx ensues, until Archon of Justice puts an end to it. You can see the mentioned Birds of Paradise's late game role of stopping big flyers from coming through, a few Restoration Angel tricks on both sides and, again, the Archmage ending up being the decisive factor on the field.

 

 LATEST TECH

 Frontline Medic Frontline Medic: Stopping stuff like Sphinx's Revelation or Bonfire of the Damned? It might be worth it.

 Master Biomancer Master Biomancer: I don't feel like necessarily wanting this in the deck, but it sure looks like a lot of fun.


KNOW YOUR ENEMY

 Here's a selection of cards we need to worry about (or not):

 Stony Silence Damping Matrix Stony Silence and Damping Matrix: They shut down the Pod. The Matrix also affects Glen Elendra Archmage, but luckily for us, it's less widely seen. Facing these things in game 2 is surely annoying. We have to multiply the artifact/enchantment hate in game 3, but also mentally switch to our plan B: winning by sheer card superiority.

 Suppression Field Suppression Field: Making the Pod (and Garruk) cost 2 mana more slows us down but it isn't going to make a big difference in the end, especially since we'll be probably able to get rid of it sooner rather than later.

 Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage: This has quite unsurprisingly become a popular card, used to fight a number of different strategies. For us, it inhibits both the Pod's fetching ability and the persist triggers. Same solutions as per Stony Silence, but with Sylvok Replica still alive and kicking.

 Torpor Orb Torpor Orb: What the Slime and the Sliver can't kill, the Replica can. Or just Nature's Claim. However, Torpor Orb has become a too narrow hate card these days, so we're more likely bound to see Stony Silence or Grafdigger's Cage.

 Aven Mindcensor Aven Mindcensor: This is especially annoying because of flash catching us by surprise and resulting in the waste of resources and tempo. Expect it to show up in white builds many times, so try to work around it. Jund Pod has many ways to kill it anyway.

 Leonin Arbiter Leonin Arbiter: Not going to be decisive most of the times. Just remember to click on it to pay the cost before activating the effect you want to use, which is something I sometimes forget to do.

 Gaddock Teeg Gaddock Teeg: The balding hobbit chief prevents the Pod from being cast (even with the phyrexian mana discount), and it's something you may be certain to meet at some point because he's useful against many other things. In fact, we might even want to use him ourselves, landing a Pod before fetching him to trump sweepers and X-costed spells. Against us, it's all a matter of timing and opportunity. In some cases, he may wreak us, but it's not so frequent.

 As for the main matchups found in the current meta, here's how they usually go for us:

 Glistener Elf Inkmoth Nexus Mutagenic Growth Green Infect: If they get one of their lightning-fast openings, there isn't much we can do. But mostly, we should be able to stop their attacks long enough for them to run out of gas and us to turn the game around. Plus, from game 2 on, we'll have Spellskite on our side. Nature's Claim can be useful too, to kill Inkmoth Nexus on the spot. All in all, we have pretty good chances of victory here. Just chump-block every creature they throw at us, we have more of them to waste than they do.

 Lightning Bolt Vexing Devil Goblin Guide RDW / Goblins: They may have Leyline of Punishment or similar anti-lifegaining countermeasures. In that case, it's a race towards finding a way to get rid of those. Otherwise, it's pretty easy to win this match, barring subaverage drawings.

 Arcbound Ravager Cranial Plating Tempered Steel Affinity / Robots: They're damn fast and have a strong midrange game too. Bring in your full package of Nature's Claim and aim them carefully: Cranial Plating, yes; Memnite, no. Try to keep track at any time of their Arcbound Ravager plans. Lifegaining helps us, and it's one of the cases where Silent Arbiter may shine. It's a hard matchup, anyway.

 Grapeshot Pyromancer Ascension Past in Flames Storm: After all the bannings, their setup might not be as fast as it used to, and this plays in our favor, giving us time to build up our board unopposed. However, rest assured that once they hit their Lament Configuration, we're done. Any anti-graveyard warfare (including Surgical Extraction) is needed to hinder Past in Flames and/or Pyromancer Ascension. Bant also has Runed Halo to be set on Grapeshot. And if you feel like it, there's always the option to bring along an Ethersworn Canonist, of course.

 Splinter Twin Pestermite Deceiver Exarch Splinter: Like with Infect, Spellskite and Nature's Claim are the answer here. Plus Glen Elendra Archmage, of course. Don't let them catch you by surprise.

 Supreme Verdict Cryptic Command Vendilion Clique UW Control: It's a good, balanced fight. We're able to come back easily from a sweeper, especially in Bant, and we can play the control game too.

 Delver of Secrets Squadron Hawk Sword of War and Peace Delver / Caw: It's basically control with creatures. You might want to bring in Nature's Claim for the blades, and Silklash Spider to crush the frail flyers.

 Urza's Tower Oblivion Stone Karn Liberated Tron: Jund has Sowing Salt and Avalanche Riders. Bant must just pray to be faster and play the aggro role.

 Martyr of Sands Serra Ascendant Ajani's Pridemate Soul Sisters / White Weenie: Just control the board and try to accelerate into Massacre Wurm or Elesh. It's not so hard to win this one.

 Living End Deadshot Minotaur Violent Outburst Living End: Come game 2, graveyard hate in, all the artifact/enchantment hate out. Try to predict when they're going to combo out. You might be able to work out a situation where you get some value of your own from a resolved Living End. Remember: your midrange creatures are better than theirs. Bant just needs to accelerate into Glen Elendra Archmage; at that point, you essentially won.

 Gifts Ungiven Unburial Rites Iona, Shield of Emeria Gifts Control / Gifts Rock: This is a tough one. They have great control elements, plus an explosive midrange plan that might result in Iona, or an Elesh of their own, or some hexproof fattie. If the Gifts package is embedded in a more midrange aggro shell, we'll have some more chances, because we may be able to land a Pod and start an offensive of our own by the time they're ready to go off. This is a matchup where, if you're featuring an endgame combo like Kiki-Jiki/Zealous Conscripts, just do it. They'll be merciless as well.

 Forbidden Alchemy Unburial Rites Angel of Serenity Solar Flare: They're not fast. We have a chance in game 1 too, then from game 2 on we'll have our graveyard hate. Watch out for Sun Titan shenanigans.

 Damnation Mutilate Phyrexian Arena MBC: It's usually a fight that's decided in late game. We excel in late game, so it's a challenge we're going to accept. Don't feel bad when they keep killing your stuff again and again; just keep putting stuff out. They're probably not going to have much against the Pod itself, especially in game 1.

 Wrench Mind Phyrexian Vatmother Runechanter's Pike Discard / Infect Discard: Losing early cards is tough for us, as for everyone else, but we can manage to come back from it. We'll need just a bit of luck here. The infect variety plays more like MBC, but with a more aggressive endgame. Don't panic, always try to kill their card-drawing stuff (like Phyrexian Arena) on sight, as they easily run out of gas while trying to make us run out of gas. A few of these builds can pull off some unusual combo shenanigans (Liliana's Caress/Megrim into Burning Inquiry) that might prove tough to beat. Runed Halo might be our friend here.

 Dragonstorm Hive Mind Through the Breach Various combo decks: We're not very good at fighting combo in general, especially if they manage to go off fast. If you feel like you're losing too often to them, up the number of Runed Halos in Bant (but be aware it doesn't work against Hive Mind, as very few things do), and bring in Cranial Extraction in Jund (or Slaughter Games, but beware of the double-colored mana, it might cause it to be harder for us to cast, as red is just a splash.) Luckily, most of these decks have been hindered by the ban of Seething Song.

 Tarmogoyf Figure of Destiny Knight of the Reliquary What's left of Jund / MaverickDeath and Taxes / other aggro builds: We just play our game. They're efficient, but we don't fear them. Just watch out for the hate come game 2. They might have stuff that works has hate against us but doesn't reduce their hitting power, as opposed to filling their deck with Pod hosers thinking we're combo (which is something we need to let them think. Masquerading as combo Pod is part of what we do.)

 Slippery Bogle Ethereal Armor Daybreak Coronet Bogle: We fight it like we do with Infect, but we get fewer chances to get rid of their critters directly, because of hexproof. If you brought Back to Nature along (or even Fracturing Gust), this is the right time to use it.

 Viscera Seer Melira, Sylvok Outcast Murderous Redcap Melira: Truth be told, this is absolutely our worst match-up. We mostly share the same bag of tricks, but we like to linger around and aim to midrange/lategame supremacy (especially with the Bant version), while they get straight to the point and seal the deal. The times we win this face-off, it's because we had a great start while being on the play, and we managed to build up our board fast enough to have an answer to any move they would try in order to assemble their combo. Aven Mindcensor helps a little, but they have it too and they can answer it as well as we do.


 And that's it. Hope I gave you the inspiration to brew your own non-combo (or semi-combo, or at least non-Melira) Pod deck. It's a customizable shell that's a blast to build and play with. It's the deck that features the greatest number of different cards in the Modern meta, and it calls for a plethora of different options and choices both before and during the game. Plus, you'll have a chance to answer and hopefully beat pretty much every deck in the meta, especially when the opponent will think you're combo and, come game 2, bring in every kind of sideboard hate, destabilizing their lists in the process, while you can just switch to your alternate plan and placidly accelerate into a hardcast Grave Titan or Elesh for the win.

 Have fun with Pod, the stylish way!

 

12 Comments

Nice article. The by RexDart at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 12:45
RexDart's picture

Nice article. The terminology you introduced does a good job of making the Pod archetype a bit more comprehensible.

Between those two, I think I like the look of the Bant deck better. I certainly enjoy Resto Angels and can't resist singleton copies of Elesh Norn in any deck that might be able to run it out there. I know you're the expert, but I personally would be unable to resist running a copy of Keiga in that list :)

What about Naya? Gives you the Resto Angel / Kiki-Jiki combo, and keeping all the benefits of running white. I know the combo is clunky in the sense that you can't get there from one creature and a pod in play easily, but it was good enough to see high level pro tour play. Resto Angel just looks so sweet in these lists, and Kiki-Jiki is great on his own merits in these lists for the same ETB shenanigans as Resto Angel.

I like the Bant better by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 23:20
Kumagoro42's picture

I like the Bant better myself, but it's harder to pull off. And Keiga was there for a while, and it's probably coming back the next time I'll use the deck.

I ran Naya too, I think I won two events with that (you still do Redcap into Kiki into Conscript in the same turn, other than Resto/Kiki.) Hell, I ran dozens of combinations, even weird ones like an almost entirely mono-red Pod with maindeck Blood Moons (which always had unbelievable bad luck in the matchups, including one event where I faced 2 other mono-red builds -- the sheer quantity of RDW/Burn in the PRE meta was strongly against that strategy anyway.) Or a soft combo with Yosei, which is also something one might want to try. But if had to list everything that you can possible do with the shell, the article would likely have been three times longer. :)

When it came to make two decks encompassing all the 5 colors and run them on a more recurring basis (kind of what we discussed about Tribal decks, which in Modern comes more natural to me), I wanted to separate white and black, like I wrote. At that point, if I had put red with white, then the other deck would have been UBG, which didn't seem too attractive to me. Black doesn't help the Archmage too much, and I can't stress enough how powerful she is in these decks. You get to the point where the opponent is like, "Wait a minute, now you'll keep podding stuff in, and I can't kill the Pod nor sweep anymore?"

Very educative article. I by romellos at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 13:07
romellos's picture
5

Very educative article. I still didn't play with any Pod type deck and now your article gives me a good reason to try it soon. I like to read the "accidental player" series of yours and hope more will continue to come.

It seems Innistrad block made a huge impact in the Pod decks due to including two instant finishers (Restoration Angel & Zealous Conscripts).

Hey, I didn't want to cause by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 23:27
Kumagoro42's picture

Hey, I didn't want to cause more competition in the events I play in! :)

And yeah, both Restoration Angel and the Conscripts have been vastly influential, but I see most of the wins are still done with Melira. I won't mind if at some point they would ban Chord of Calling. :)

By the way, I realize I didn't explain how the Conscripts mechanic actually works with the Pod. I know that most of my readers know that perfectly, but since it didn't occur to me at first when I saw the card for the first time, I'll just clarify: the "take control of a permanent and untap it" clause doesn't specify to whom that permanent should belong to in the first place, so you basically "take control" of your own Pod, ending up simply untapping it. Nice abuse here. :)

After our early forays into by Paul Leicht at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 13:35
Paul Leicht's picture

After our early forays into Std 2hg together you know how much I <3 the pod archetype. Nice to see you still carrying the torch for it too.

I remember you using Venser by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 23:39
Kumagoro42's picture

I remember you using Venser Pod in those 2HG games, which is something I never happened to do, but I mentioned it because of you. :)

Also my mono black pod and by Paul Leicht at Wed, 04/10/2013 - 03:49
Paul Leicht's picture

Also my mono black pod and golgari pod were brews I tried though I think we vetoed them for 2hg because they didn't quite have the power/diversity of the other variations.

Amazing Article! by sergnotsurge at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 15:45
sergnotsurge's picture
5

This is a amazing article! I believe this is the level of writing and education that all of us should strive for. You have inspired me to dig deeper and provide even better content in my future work. Its been a long time since I actively wrote and so far I am having a blast. I am glad there are great writers in this site that motivate each of other with their work. Keep up the wonderful work!

Thank you! :) by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 04/09/2013 - 23:23
Kumagoro42's picture

Thank you! :)

Great Article by Diocese8 at Thu, 04/11/2013 - 23:35
Diocese8's picture

As a pod dabbler, I found this article to be incredibly informative. Normally I would say putting this much content into one article is ridiculous and that the length is too long - but when the information is this rich and well laid out I cannot complain. I look forward to reading your future work!

UPDATE: While putting by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 05/02/2013 - 08:07
Kumagoro42's picture

UPDATE: While putting together a Classic Survival toolbox deck, I realized I forgot to mention a few relevant sideboard options here.

Kataki, War's Wage: The most ruthless way to deal with affinity decks. Of course, it's way more cruel (and satisfying) in a format where affinity players are allowed to use artifact lands, in which case it can be instant game over for them. But even in Modern can prove annoying.

Vampire Hexmage: She's not a dynamic creature per se, but she does her job immediately after hitting the board, with no additional costs. And her job is killing planeswalkers, of course (plus anything nasty with counters on it, even just de-powering a potentially lethal Arcbound Ravager can be important.)

Big Game Hunter: This guy is underrated, but it's unconditional killing for big creatures. Can be the only way for Jund to deal with big black Demons and such.

UPDATE: Pod of Heaven just by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 05/18/2013 - 10:51
Kumagoro42's picture

UPDATE: Pod of Heaven just ended 1st place in Eurodrive! 74 with a 8-1 score. :)
As usual, Glen Elendra Archmage did most of the work (especially against Scapeshift).