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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jan 30 2013 2:26am
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Hello!
 

Welcome to another edition of Becoming A Modern Man!  It's kind of shocking to me that I've managed to go this long without covering any of the Birthing Pod decks.  Birthing Pod has been a major player in Modern pretty much from the get go, with the first big Pod deck being Melira Pod.  So let's take a deeper look into the deck and how it ticks.  Also, I think it would be remiss of me not to mention a very good article written on this subject by KaraZorEl for this site, which you can check out here.  Things have changed a little since that article was written so I felt that an update was worthwhile.

Anyway, let's take a look at the decklist:

This list is not exactly based on any particular deck but it's just my impression on the basis of the various other decks I've seen.  Birthing Pod decks are nice decks for tweaking and changing.  Some common creatures that are missing from my build are Linvala, Keeper of Silence, because she's about 30 tix a piece, and Phyrexian Metamorph, which I'm interested in trying out.

The Combo
The deck works by abusing Melira, Sylvok Outcast second ability in tandem with the Persist mechanic. 

Melira, Sylvok Outcast

If you are not familiar with persist, it's basically the opposite of Undying in Innistrad, meaning whenever a Persist creature dies it comes back with a -1/-1 counter on it.  Melira prevents -1/-1 counters being placed on creatures and so when Melira is on the board, if a persist creature dies it returns to play with no -1/-1 counter and can persist again, and again, and again!  The best persist creatures to use are those that have an effect when they enter the battlefield, of these Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap are the most popular choices allowing you to either gain infinite life or deal infinite damage respectively. 

Kitchen FinksMurderous Redcap

However, to achieve this you will need a repeatable sacrifice outlet. 

Viscera Seer

The sacrifice outlet of choice is usually Viscera Seer as it is only 1 mana and it allows you to Scry your whole deck to set up your next draw, usually finding the Murderous Redcap to finish your opponent off.

DECK TECH

Combo Pieces

Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Melira is obviously central to the combo.  It's important to remember that even without a sacrifice outlet, Melira prevents your persist creatures from ever dying.  Therefore, if you have a Kitchen Finks and Melira in play you can use it as a blocker that never dies and gains you 2 life every time it chumps.  Another point to note is that Melira's effect doesn't work if the Persist creature already has a -1/-1 counter on it, in which case it won't persist.

Kitchen Finks
Kitchen Finks
Kitchen Finks is a great combo piece as it is also a great aggressive creature.  One of the strongest points of the Birthing Pod decks in general is that even if you do not hit your combo you may still win simply by attacking with your creatures.  This makes the deck considerably more resilient to hate.

Murderous Redcap
Murderous Redcap
Generally used as a one of despite being the win condition for the deck.  Generally your opponent will concede when you can gain infinite life with Kitchen Finks but in case they don't you can put a Redcap on top of your deck and kill your opponent 2 damage at a time.

Viscera Seer
Viscera Seer
Viscera Seer is an excellent sacrifice outlet, as it only costs 1 mana and it can set up your deck to find the card you want.  Scrying with the creatures your opponent kills is also a nice little advantage you can get.

Searching up the pieces

Birthing Pod
Birthing Pod
Birthing Pod is a really great card.  I didn't get a chance to play with it whilst it was in Standard but it's a whole lot of fun in Modern and turns your deck into a veritable toolbox of awesome creatures.  Pod is perhaps one of biggest skill testers in the deck.  Knowing what to search for and when is one of trickier tasks I've found with this deck.  The possible lines of play with this card can be insane.

Chord of Calling
Chord of Calling
Chord of Calling is another pretty nutty card.  Being able to drop any given creature in your deck onto the battlefield at instant speed is a pretty tantalizing proposition, particularly with our toolbox.  As well as making awesome surprise plays, Chord serves as a tutor for whichever piece of the combo you are looking for.  Chord is a card that often catches opponents by surprise, particularly as they generally won't have thought about the possibility of you tapping all your creatures to convoke something huge.

Accelerants
Doing what this deck wants to do, especially at the higher end, requires mana and the more mana you have the faster you can go.  That's why this deck runs a number of mana accelerators.  Also, the fact that they are creatures means once they are expendable they can always be upgraded with Birthing Pod.

Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise
The classic mana accelerant is still one of the best.  BOP gives you access to all your colours and means you can do things like drop a turn 2 Kitchen Finks which allows you to be pretty aggressive.

Deathrite Shaman
Deathrite Shaman
Deathrite Shaman is one of the latest additions to the deck.  This card is all over Modern and has even made its way to Legacy.  It's an accelerant, a life gaining tool and can even start killing your opponent.  It also is great at dealing with common cards like Lingering Souls and opposing Persist creatures.  Deathrite Shaman is a great tool for the deck but also a great enemy on the opposing side of the battlefield.

Wall of Roots
Wall of Roots
Wall of Roots is a card I really like.  It's a nice 2-drop for the deck that is really hard to kill and a solid blocker, whilst also boosting your mana generation.  It's a very nice card and a decent creature to grab on your way up the food chain with Birthing Pod.

The Toolbox

Tidehollow Sculler
Tidehollow Sculler
The Sculler is additional hand disruption to go along with Inquisition of Kozilek.  Hand disruption is particularly important against opposing combo decks but is also generally useful.  Sculler is also a decent body provided there's not much on the other side of the battlefield.

Harmonic Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
There is a plethora of targets for Harmonic Sliver in this format.  From Rest in Peace to Birthing Pod to Swords to Grafdigger's Cage to Ethereal Armor to Master of Etherium.  Harmonic Sliver is a great tool for the toolbox as an easy access Naturalize can be incredibly useful.

Eternal Witness
Eternal Witness
Pretty much every Pod deck runs one of these gals.  Being able to grab back any given card in your graveyard can be a real game changer.  Your opponent thought they had stopped your combo by killing Melira.  Pod up an Eternal Witness and drop it straight back onto the battlefield for the win.  The possibilities with this card are plentiful and the vast majority are awesome.

Entomber Exarch
Entomber Exarch
Entomber Exarch is an interesting one.  It may not be the most powerful card.  However, being able to grab a card from your opponent's hand or, often my preferred choice, getting a creature out of your graveyard is very good.  Sometimes your opponent kills off the last piece of your combo, don't worry just Pod up Entomber Exarch and grab it back.  The main advantage of Entomber Exarch is having options.

Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos has always been a great card.  Here it is no different.  Being able to search up two 1 drops means you can find your Viscera Seer and perhaps a Deathrite Shaman too.  Ranger helps replenish your hand and set up your combo, what more could you ask for?

Shriekmaw
Shriekmaw
Shriekmaw is an interesting one.  The real shame is that it's Terror effect isn't always useful as your opponent may be playing Affinity or just good deal of black creatures, however, there are usually reasonable targets.  Regardless, having a creature in your that can Terror a creature that is causing you grief is a big up-side.  Not to mention it's a fairly decent body too.

Reveillark
Reveillark
Reveillark is your 5-drop.  Having a big flier in the deck is nice in itself as it can help you deal with flying threats and also give you an alternative avenue of attack if the ground is stalled.  However, the main reason to play Reveillark is probably its ability to grab creatures back when it leaves play.  If you happen to have lost Viscera Seer and Melira to the graveyard you can suddenly get them back and have your combo assembled before your opponent even sees it coming.

Sun Titan
Sun Titan
Sun Titan is the top of my deck's Birthing Pod tiers.  Some decks run a 7-drop but I've found that hard to reach even with an active Birthing Pod, provided your opponent is being proactive.  Sun Titan is awesome guy and also has great synergy with the rest of the deck, as it allows you to get back creatures you sacrificed to your Birthing Pod or Viscera Seer etc.  Few things are more satisfying that dropping Sun Titan and picking a Kitchen Finks out of your graveyard.

Manabase

Verdant CatacombsMisty RainforestMarsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs/Misty Rainforest/Marsh Flats
Oh Fetchlands, where would our manabases be without you?  Probably still pretty awesome actually but fetchlands are the most consistent way of finding all your colours and Ravnica duals.  They also work excellently with Deathrite Shaman, which helps out.

Overgrown TombTemple GardenGodless Shrine
Overgrown Tomb/Temple Garden/Godless Shrine
The Ravnica duals are Modern staples and soon we will have the full set available in Standard thanks to Gatecrash.  Having the duals in Standard is a great reason to start getting into Modern, which is also a really fun format.

Woodland CemeteryRazorverge Thicket
Woodland Cemetery/Razorverge Thicket
This two duals round out your non-basics for a pretty solid manabase.

Sideboard

Restoration AngelLingering SoulsOrzhov PontiffAven MindcensorEthersworn CanonistObstinate BalothSpellskiteQasali PridemageWithered WretchDismemberPutrefy

The sideboard contains another toolbox of creatures as well as some removal and Lingering Souls.

  • Orzhov Pontiff is a really nice creature for your toolbox and I'm considering moving it to the main deck.  It's a nice way to get a small board wipe against a number of different decks in the format.
  • Aven Mindcensor is a powerful hate card against opposing Pod, Scapeshift, Tron and Gifts Control decks to mention a few.
  • Ethersworn Canonist and Withered Wretch seem to be best in the Storm matchup, though they do have applications elsewhere.
  • Dismember & Putrefy are removal spells to fill in the void in the main deck when necessary.  Putrefy also has the advantage of being able to destroy artifacts.  Abrupt Decay is another choice in this slot.
  • Spellskite is a nice way to protect your combo creatures but also works really well against Splinter Twin and the GW Hexproof decks.
  • Qasali Pridemage is additional enchantment/artifact removal for when it is necessary.
  • Restoration Angel is a useful flyer that can help you to replicate any ETB effects or reset your Persist creatures.  It's also a decent flying body which this deck can be found lacking on occasion, as Reveillark is the only main deck flying creature with power.
  • Obstinate Baloth is a big body that also helps you gain back a bit of extra life.  Good against the aggro decks and particularly Red Deck Wins.
  • Finally, Lingering Souls is a card that can be used either offensively or defensively.  If you think you would rather just race your opponent then Lingering Souls can help speed up your clock, or alternatively it can be used defensively to give you extra men against aggressive decks.

COST
This deck is a very expensive to build, particularly with Modern prices as they are at the moment.  I picked up a lot of these cards a while back for considerably less than they are valued at now.  This is the primary reason that I haven't covered any of the Pod decks this far in the Becoming A Modern Man series.  It's taken me a considerable amount of time to build up the resources I needed to build this deck but I feel like it's been worth it.

Main Deck

4 x Verdant Catacombs= 32.44
4 x Chord of Calling= 29.68
4 x Kitchen Finks= 28.68
2 x Misty Rainforest= 22.32
4 x Birthing Pod= 13.20
1 x Godless Shrine= 10.37
2 x Marsh Flats= 9.66
2 x Deathrite Shaman= 8.66
2 x Overgrown Tomb= 8.00
2 x Woodland Cemetery= 7.72
1 x Eternal Witness= 6.25
1 x Reveillark= 4.86
1 x Temple Garden= 4.28
3 x Melira, Sylvok Outcast= 3.48
1 x Ranger of Eos= 2.22
1 x Sun Titan= 2.00
2 x Razorverge Thicket= 1.86
2 x Wall of Roots= 1.66
4 x Birds of Paradise= 1.48
3 x Inquisition of Kozilek= 1.11
1 x Harmonic Sliver= 0.25
1 x Tidehollow Sculler= 0.25
3 x Viscera Seer= 0.21
1 x Murderous Redcap= 0.10
1 x Shriekmaw= 0.06
1 x Entomber Exarch= 0.03
Total: 200.83 tix

Sideboard

1 x Restoration Angel= 13.17
1 x Spellskite= 10.63
1 x Aven Mindcensor= 2.83
1 x Ethersworn Canonist= 1.73
2 x Lingering Souls= 1.18
2 x Dismember= 1.06
1 x Orzhov Pontiff= 0.39
1 x Obstinate Baloth= 0.37
1 x Inquisition of Kozilek= 0.37
2 x Putrefy= 0.14
1 x Qasali Pridemage= 0.08
1 x Withered Wretch= 0.05
Total: 32.00 tix

Grand Total: 232.83 tix

GAMEPLAY


Our first matchup is against Kiki-Pod, the other big Birthing Pod deck.  Obviously, you both have very similar strategies and so you're probably going to need a bit of look and your removal spells out of the sideboard.  Perhaps your biggest advantage is that the Melira combo involves lower costed creatures and therefore can generally be put together quicker than Kiki/Restoration Angel.  The flip-side of that is obviously that you need three pieces to combo and they only need two.


Our second matchup is against the increasingly popular GW Hexproof/Enchantress deck.  This match can be tough.  You do have quite a few ways to disrupt your opponent though and if you can put combo together they will rarely have an answer to it.


Our third matchup is against a UWR Delver deck.  The various Delver decks used to be very popular in Modern but I don't see as much of these decks these days.  However, they are still out there and it's a matchup to watch out for.


Our fourth matchup is against Epic Storm.  Storm decks are difficult to play against but we have some nice tools in the sideboard to deal with their strategy.  Deathrite Shaman can also be decent if they are relying on Past in Flames to get them through.  However, the matchup is still tough thanks to the speed of their deck.


The final match I have you is against the big dog in the Modern yard, Jund.  This matchup is always going to be difficult, particularly because most Jund decks are running 4 main deck Deathrite Shamans.  In Game 1, I manage to combo past 2 Deathrite Shamans though I think this was really a play mistake on my opponent's part by not holding at least one back.  In Game 2 & 3 I was pretty much steamrolled.  The matchup didn't feel unwinnable but I don't reckon you're favoured.

CONCLUSION
Melira Pod is a lot of a fun as there are a ton of different lines of play and figuring out the best one in any given situation is a real skill tester.  You get to do a lot of crazy stuff and I've really enjoy learning how to play the deck (still don't think I'm a good pilot of the deck but I'd hope I'm improving). 

In terms of disadvantages of the deck, the first is that Kitchen Finks, Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Viscera Seer doesn't win you the game and sometimes your opponent will simply carry on playing forcing you to waste down your clock finding your Redcap.  Granted if they have a removal spell they can play next turn they might have a legitimate argument for continuing but when it is a deliberate tactic to waste down your clock it can be rather irritating.  Fortunately, there is more than one way to find your Murderous Redcap and if you can't find it in good time you can always put a Birthing Pod or a Chord of Calling on top of your library instead.  I noticed there was a debate about infinite combos on this site recently.  Personally, I think I'm on the side of if you can represent a loop, and your opponent has no response, then you should just be able to specify how many times you want to do it (which I believe is the position in paper).  However, I can see the other side of the argument and obviously picking a ridiculous number like thousands of iterations isn't very realistic.

Secondly, despite a resurgence in the Modern Dailies and PTQs, I really think this deck is just plain worse since Return to Ravnica came on to the scene.  A lot of decks, from Jund to RDW, are running main deck Deathrite Shaman which can simply exile your Finks when it hits the graveyard and bye-bye combo.  The deck doesn't have a ton of ways to deal with Deathrite Shaman and frankly it's a big nuisance.  Further, Return to Ravnica also brought along Rest in Peace a card that is seen a lot in sideboards and I've even run into opponent's running it main deck.  Personally, I find it regrettable that graveyard hate has gotten this good as it's really damaging to a lot of fun and interesting decks.  It's fortunate that Pod still has a pretty nice beatdown strategy beyond its combo shell which means that this deck can still attack from a different angle if the combo has been shut off.

Deathrite ShamanRest in Peace
These cards are not your friends

Overall, the deck is really fun and after considerable time away from the format, which I've been dedicating to Standard, this was just the deck to get me excited about Modern again.

That's all for this week and I hope you enjoyed the article.  Be sure to check out the other articles in the Becoming A Modern Man series and if you are interested in Standard check out my Standardized Testing series.

Thanks for reading,
Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

9 Comments

I've been maindecking Linvala by KaraZorEl at Wed, 01/30/2013 - 10:46
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I've been maindecking Linvala to stop Deathrites Shaman, Splinter Twin and Kiki-Jiki. Additionally, I've been splashing red lately for Realm Razer (and later, Avalanche Riders). One of Pod's worst matchups (for me) was always red deck, so I put in Leyline of Sanctity. Additionally, I use Fallen Angel and Mikaeus, the Unhallhowed as additional combo conditions.

Now that Wizards has cut the teeth out of Jund and Storm, I tend to think Aven Mindcensor will be a bit more important. I'm not totally sold on Orzhov Pontiff or Withered Wretch. For me personally, I have always preferred Path to Exile, though we'll see if that's even needed anymore.

I think Profane Command can be really good in this deck. I thought about Immortal Servitude, but the Command serves as recursion AND removal. It's a two-for-one spell. If you'd like to go up to 7 cmc, you can try Elesh Norn or Angel of Serenity. There are just so many options. It's hard to go wrong here.

If you want to annihilate by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 01/30/2013 - 17:25
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If you want to annihilate RDW, put 2-3 Kor Firewalkers in the sideboard. I stopped doing it actually, because all my Pod builds have 4 Kitchen Finks and 1 Thragtusk maindeck, and the ones with white have 2 Restoration Angels too. Pod Finks into Restoration Angel resetting Finks, rinse, repeat... RDW concedes, searches for some anti-lifegaining cards in sideboard.

My best all-purpose sideboard card in white builds has to be Runed Halo. I stopped anything with it, from Grapeshot to Pestermite, and even Serra Ascendant and Tarmogoyf in a pinch. Once I see what's the key damage-dealing card in my opponent's battleplan, I just bring 3 Runed Halos in game 2.

Very nice article! by BlippyTheSlug at Wed, 01/30/2013 - 10:59
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5

Melira, Sylvok Outcast entered the arena in May 2011.

The *VERY FIRST* recorded T8 result of Melira Pod can be found here, near the middle of the page. A first place finish during Worldwide Overextended Day in July 2011:
http://mtgoverextended.com/worldwide-overextended-day-results/

Project Melira - which is essentially the same thing without the Pod - first showed up a few days earlier:
http://mtgoverextended.com/0705-tuesday-night-overextended-results/

Indeed, Melira Pod is one of the "oldest" decks in Modern, and remains a house to this day.

Thanks for the by olaw at Wed, 01/30/2013 - 11:34
olaw's picture

Thanks for the comments!

KaraZorEl - there are certainly a lot of options for Melira Pod and I don't think there is necessarily a right way or a wrong way to go about it. That's one of the things I like about the deck, that you can experiment a lot with it. I think I mentioned in the article that I would like to include Linvala but she's very expensive at around 30 tix last time I checked.

Blippy - Thanks for the positive comments. Melira Pod seems to go back even longer than I thought!

I remember when Rise of the by KaraZorEl at Wed, 01/30/2013 - 12:06
KaraZorEl's picture

I remember when Rise of the Eldrazi first came out...Linvala chased me around every pack I opened. It was like five dollars then. I still have one! :P

I'm not sure if there's a budget way to stop Kiki-Jiki. Linvala is kind of fire and forget. Chord of Calling into Phantasmal Image for the legends rule? Not sure....if you play this deck competitively, Kiki-Jiki will be your biggest problem going forward.

Additionally, you struggled against Jund because you couldn't remove Dark Confidant from the board, yes? If you come up against Rakdos Burn or Blood Artistry, this is one thing to remember: stop the Confidant and you stop their deck. They'll dump their hand and you'll just durdle into your combo. It's as easy as falling asleep.

"I'm not sure if there's a by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 01/30/2013 - 17:17
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"I'm not sure if there's a budget way to stop Kiki-Jiki"

Mmm... Doom Blade? :)

I think I played Pod decks by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 01/30/2013 - 17:31
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5

I think I played Pod decks more than anyone else in Blippy's circuit of PREs (winning Eurodrive! 5 times with 5 different builds) and I also wrote one of the the firsts Pod articles on PureMTGO back in 2011 (the first in my Accidental Player series), but I haven't played the Melira version in forever.

The fact is, if what you want is a Pod combo build, Melira has been outclassed by more recent developments in the field. The endgame with Melira is a 3-step process: you need to 1. Pod/Call Melira, 2. Pod/Call Viscera Seer (which you can also have in hand after resolving a Ranger of Eos), 3. Pod/Call Murderous Redcap. All these steps originate from different Pod "levels", so your deck needs to tackle the combo from 3 different directions. Plus, any instant removal along the line stops the combo.

The more efficient combo right now is Kiki-Jiki + Zealous Conscripts. You just need a Pod and a Redcap. Once your board has 1 Pod, 1 Redcap and 2 mana, it's good game. It's infinitely easier to achieve, and you can ditch cards that don't do much on their own in favor of cards that are useful even when you don't combo out. The same goes with the even more popular Kiki-Jiki + Restoration Angel. The Angel is just a superstar in Pod, so a combo that involves her is just exploiting something you would already use. Plus, both those combos don't care about the graveyard while resolving, so aren't stopped by Rest in Peace or Deathrite Shaman.

If you still like the concept of winning via persist (and/or undying), you can streamline the Pod progression and at the same time add something useful for noncombo wins with Mikaeus the Unhallowed. The great part is that he doesn't need an intact Redcap to go. So you can sac Kitchen Finks into Redcap, then the returning Finks into Ranger of Eos (to fetch Viscera), then the Redcap into whatever at 5 CMC, and from there into Mikaeus.

My favorite combo is with Necrotic Ooze, though, because it can't be stopped by instant removal: once you have Kiki-Jiki and Devoted Druid in the graveyard (and in Modern you can use Corpse Connoisseur to put them there, although the Druid comes equipped with a self-destructing ability), you just respond to the removal by untapping the Ooze and start again.

You can easily do more complex (yet satisfying, and unexpected) end combos with things like Reveillark + Body Double + Mirror Entity, or Protean Hulk into Craterhoof Behemoth fetching Madrush Cyclops and a bunch of 0-cost creatures.

But the thing is: lately I'm having a lot more fun, and still great results, by purposely NOT including combo pieces in my Pod builds, and going either Jund (MVP: Massacre Wurm) or Bant (MVP: Glen Elendra Archmage) as color setups. People expect the combo, go crazy with countermeasure in game 2 (often damaging their own battleplan this way), and I have enough room in the decks to have answers to everything.
Long live the Pod.

Thanks for the very detailed by olaw at Thu, 01/31/2013 - 07:15
olaw's picture

Thanks for the very detailed reply Kuma.

I completely agree that the Melira combo is much more difficult to assemble that Kiki + Zealous Conscripts or Restoration Angel. This is what makes me believe that Kiki Pod might be the better route to go down. The fact that the combo isn't weak to graveyard is another bonus as you mentioned.

When playing the deck I didn't start thinking about more Aggro/Midrange Pod builds that don't rely on the combo. There are a ton of awesomely powerful creatures to Pod into like Massacre Wurm, Thundermaw Hellkite, Wurmcoil Engine and the list goes on. Frankly, Pod is just a great engine in Modern and it's a bit of a shame that it has been cornered as simply a combo enabler when it's capable of much more.

Well, the combos DO pay by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 01/31/2013 - 08:56
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Well, the combos DO pay dividends. But yeah, Pod is just a shell, actually. I like to think of it as this generation's Survival of the Fittest/Recurring Nightmare (in one card!), but with more staying power, because Modern is a highly protected environment (you can look at what just happened with Jund and Storm. And Birthing Pod would never be banned; should it become dominating, they would just ban one of the combo pieces). Like I wrote in my article (that the antispam filter doesn't let me link), it's one of those rare cards that appeal to every psychographic profile.

I think that the basic shell is a green deck (non-green Pod builds are more like Johnny experiments) with:

- 4 Birthing Pod
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1-2 Murderous Redcap if you have red or black as secondary
- 1-2 Restoration Angel if you have white as secondary or tertiary

And that's it. The rest is as you wish. Of course early mana acceleration is recommended, and I couldn't build it without my 4 Wall of Roots, but that's more of a complement than a required part. I also like to always bring one Garruk Relentless as the 5th Pod (it helped me out of a lot of bad situations, for instance killing an Aven Mindcensor, then fetching an Harmonic Sliver to get rid of Stony Silence).