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By: KaraZorEl, Winter Trabex
Mar 26 2012 9:39am
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Before the inception of the Modern format last fall, there was Overextended. The format featured interesting decks featuring cards such as Glimpse of Nature and Dragonstorm. The format proved wildly popular, partly because of the varied strategies and partly because, for the first time, there was a format like Legacy without the strong Legacy staples. One deck that came out of that was a new deck called Project Melira. Not many people knew much about it. Even though all the cards are available now as they were then, most players were too busy getting Emrakul on turn 3 or 4 to bother with Melira and her Pod.

In the first Modern event in 2011, Lukas Jaklovsky piloted his Project Melira deck to a 24-point finish (8 wins). The deck survived a variety of matchups, and was well-prepared for the metagame it encountered. However, the deck requires a lot of skill, a bit of luck and a fast start. To begin with, let's look at the most crucial parts of this deck:

 

Birthing Pod is extremely powerful. The option to pay two life with this deck doesn't even matter because you'll either be finding or sacrificing a Kitchen Finks. Chord of Calling, as an instant, is a bit hard to pull off. I've found that using a convoke spell at instant speed is time-consuming and difficult with the online interface. Most players generally know what's coming due to how long it takes. Even so, this card is more powerful than Green Sun's Zenith in that it can find you non-green creatures. The trick is to know when to use it and what to get while you're at it.

The only drawback to Birthing Pod is that you can only use it during your main phase. Otherwise, you could find a neat creature on your opponent's turn. That would be a little bit too strong.

Here is the decklist I am currently using: 

 

 

Most pod decks are constructed in such a way as to find creatures with one CMC higher than what's already there. This means that with each creature that is sacrificed, something stronger will usually come out. Here are the choices I have made in my build:

Viscera Seer 

Viscera Seer is a sacrifice condition. This is important for how the deck operates. Birds of Paradise is a card the deck simply can't do without. It's an early tempo swing and will later provide mana for other spells. Having a playset of birds in your deck allows you to keep a hand with not many lands, so long as you have access to a green source.

Wall of Roots Melira, Sylvok Outcast Grand Abolisher Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Wall of Roots is a fantastic early blocker that lets you have access to mana. Melira is the centerpiece of the deck here, as she lets your persist creatures come back into play without counters on them. If your opponent isn't running Path to Exile, Melira will likely be the target of a spell such as Maelstrom Pulse or Terminate. Some decks run 3, but I choose to run 4. Remember, since this is tier 2, you can find a Melira by sacrificing a bird. Grand Abolisher is here as a one-of for those pesky Vendilion Clique decks and other control strategies. Most of the time, he'll stay in the sideboard...but if I need him, he does help. Thalia's purpose is to slow down storm decks and decks that don't run a lot of creatures. Normally, if I have to put her in from the sideboard, I will get of rid of Chord of Calling.

Kitchen Finks Scarland Thrinax Harmonic Sliver Eternal Witness Aven Mindcensor

This is tier 3. Things are starting to a get a little more diversified. Kitchen Finks is the only creature who is a 4-of in this tier, simply because his gaining life ability lets you stay in the game in the longer. Scarland Thrinax is a card that I have utilized, but one which I have not seen often in other decks. If you have Melira and a Finks in play, but not a sacrifice condition, you may choose to find the Thrinax. You can't find Viscera Seer with the pod, so you're likely going to end up sacrificing a wall to get there. Eternal Witness is an all-star here. Keep in mind that you can always find anything you want in your graveyard. If you have it in hand, save it for when you need it. Harmonic Sliver is a card that has a somewhat limited use, though it can be powerful. Aven Mindcensor is a hoser for a lot of decks, but most especially for Urzatron. 

Murderous Redcap Flesh-Eater Imp Linvala, Keeper of Silence Mindslicer 

This is tier 4. All of these cards are one-ofs in the deck. Flesh-Eater Imp is a card I discovered on my own, primarily to get a sacrifice condition if I have Melira, a Pod and a Finks in play but nothing to sacrifice. I rarely look to swing for lethal with infect; instead, he lets me gain infinite life. Murderous Redcap does the opposite: he serves as a Shock and, upon persisting, as a Hornet Sting. The goal here is to have Melira in play so you can deal infinite damage to anything targetable. Linvala shuts down opposing Pod decks, as well as Knight of the Reliquary. Mindslicer is a card that I encountered while playtesting the deck and thought it would be absolutely brutal. For me, Melira Pod tends to empty its hand very quickly so I don't mind losing one card- or none- while my opponent might lose quite a few. Nekrataal and Entomber Exarch are also appropriate here.

Reveillark Shriekmaw Acidic Slime

This is tier 5. Shriekmaw can serve as a Doom Blade if he's in your hand, while Acidic Slime will usually blow up an opponent's land. Reveillark is a creature meant to die- or to swing for 4 in the air every turn. When Reveillark dies, you can move on to the next tier while getting a few creatures back. It's a must-have in any pod deck.

Sun Titan Yosei, the Morning Star

This is tier 6. Sun Titan will generally finish the game, as you'll get back another creature. Yosei shuts down an opponent's untap step while also providing you with the option of swinging for five in the air. He's a creature that is meant to be killed. He sits there and dares an opponent to find a Terminate. They'll either have to bite the bullet or leave it in play for a while. I have also tried Kokusho, the Evening Star in this spot and he works just as well.

Sheoldred, Whispering One

This is tier 7, the last tier. There is only one card here, but it is a powerful one. By now, you hopefully have your sacrifice condition lined and you've recurred a lot of creatures from your graveyard. Another option for this tier is Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. I chose Sheoldred because she has more combo synergy and because she can play the waiting game while your opponent, by now likely in top deck mode, struggles to find removal. Whenever the pod deck I run reaches tier 7, it's a sure sign that I've won the game.

There are only a few pieces of the deck left to mention, but I would be remiss if I left out a very important part of the deck.

Sword of War and Peace

Sword of War and Peace, when equipped to a creature, puts your opponent on the defensive. When it hits for damage early on, it swings the game in a very disproportionate way. This is the card I've personally chosen, though Sword of Feast and Famine is just as appropriate here. This card stops Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt, among others. It is only a one-of, but there are times when the shuffler wants me to have it in my opening hand. I suppose there's no reason not to play it, though a Thoughtseize in this card's place would also be powerful.

Leyline of Sanctity

Leyline of Sanctity is my favorite answer to a lot of things. You often don't have to pay mana for it, and it shuts down half of storm's strategy. They now have to win with Empty the Warrens, a risky proposition against a deck that can gain infinite life with lots of creatures. It also stops cards such as Raven's Crime, which allows you to stay in the game longer. I would run this as a 4-of in every Modern deck I have, simply because it stops your opponent from doing so many things they'd like to do.

Ensnaring Bridge

I feel good that Wizards decided to reprint this card in eighth edition so I can access it in Modern. Melira Pod likes to dump its hand early on, and this card stops all creatures from attacking you if they have lots of power. If you have no cards in hand, the only creature remotely effective against you will be Steppe Lynx...or perhaps of horde of (Noble Hierach) with just one attacking. Ensnaring Bridge lets you set up your strategy if your opponent runs a deck faster than yours. Needless to say, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn will never be attacking as long as you have this.

How does the deck stack up in the Modern format? Quite well, actually. I've tested it against Storm, Zoo, Urzatron, Hize Mind, and other Pod decks. The deck, when well-piloted, poses a considerable problem for a variety of matchups.

Here are two videos I recorded of my playtesting. The second showcases the deck in its current (final?) form.

Melira Pod vs. Soul Sisters

Melira Pod vs. Melira Pod

Needless to say, the deck packs quite a punch so far. I've taken it to the constructed queues room and won 4 packs of Innistrad. The next step: a four-round daily event!

19 Comments

Great Overview by apaulogy at Mon, 03/26/2012 - 11:07
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I think Pod, in the right hands, is arguably the best deck in the format. The utility "swiss army knife" style of the deck makes it great for someone who knows what they are doing.

Great look at this very misunderstood and powerful deck archetype.

I disagree. Pod for the most by whiffy at Mon, 03/26/2012 - 14:20
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I disagree. Pod for the most part rolls over to Tron, based on the assumption that each pilot is of equal skill.

If you take that out of the equation, maybe it has the best match ups spread across the entire format?

Glad to see you posting by Paul Leicht at Mon, 03/26/2012 - 14:35
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Glad to see you posting articles again Kara. I think Pod might be the obvious ringer in the house. So people tend to put hate for it in their decks. Even so it does win even past Tron on occasion though thats usually because Tron dropped a game somewhere else and thus got paired down as POD destroyed what would also have been meat for tron.

Pod is a deck that does not require a lot of skill to pilot but to win with it every game requires an intimate knowledge of your opponent's game plan and your own.

I don't play the queues so for my own purposes I try and dumb Pod down a bit and not combo out with it since it is too over the top for JuFF imho. That said if I were to take it to the queues I would definitely run Elesh. Sheoldred is classier but lacks the punishing quality that makes Elesh an instawin against some decks. What do you think of Hellrider, Inferno Titan and Huntmaster of the Fells in a RUG version?

Huntmaster could be amazing by KaraZorEl at Mon, 03/26/2012 - 15:10
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Huntmaster could be amazing in a Pod build...never thought of it myself. I don't like Hellrider because a lot of the time, you won't want to swing with your creatures. The quickest way to win with this deck is through the combo. I'm on the fence about Inferno Titan...three doesn't seem like enough to me. If you're running blue, I like Frost Titan a lot better. It will keep tapping down Tarmogoyf and let you get through.

I do agree with Elesh Norn, and I found that putting him in there makes it very, very hard. However, I use Wurmcoil Engine at the six level with Norn because when you sac your Wurmcoil, you get two 5/5 creatures and (typically) your opponent has their board wiped.

Regarding Urzatron, the matchups are so even that it comes to down your opening hand and what you draw.

As a longtime Pod by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 03/27/2012 - 08:46
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As a longtime Pod user/theorizer (with a good share of 2-man queue wins and two recent Eurodrive! wins with it), I'm always surprised nobody apparently realizes that you don't really need Melira anymore. Ok, it's not that you drop her (I have 1 left in the deck, 1 in the sideboard), it's just that it's not your only option to combo out anymore: Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is in the building now. And he's so much better than Melira, or along with her, because you find him in your way up and he can combo out with a persister already "worn-out", because Undying doesn't care about -1/-1 counters (and when the persister comes back with the +1/+1 counter, Persist will kick in. In the meantime, your Redcap is doing 4 damage, since Mikaeus gives him a further bonus).
You can do it this way: sac Kitchen Finks into Redcap, sac Redcap into Ranger of Eos taking a couple Viscera Seers, sac Ranger of Eos into Mikaeus, cast Viscera Seer, good game. Very linear, everything with just 1 creature and 1 Pod.
Not to mention that once Mikaeus is there, even your pumped, undying Birds of Paradise become lethal. I won more than one game just by swinging with an apparently ragtag team after Mikaeus came. Nobody expects that.

Indeed I see you miss Ranger of Eos in your build, which is a crucial creature in the deck. You don't need to run more than 2 Viscera Seers or other sac outlets, since you don't want to sac anything before the combo is in place, and you already have to keep fresh creatures for the Pod. You don't even play Melira or Viscera Seer before the combo is in place, because they don't accomplish nothing on their own, they're sitting ducks on the board for the opponent to kill (of course that's different if you're facing discard, but Eternal Witness and Reveillark are there for this purpose). When Ranger fetches two Seers, you'll have the one you need and one backup.

Also missing: Spellskite. Another crucial piece because it defends the Pod.
Moreso, Massacre Wurm: I can't count the number of matches I won thanks to the Wurm, including mirror matches. I don't know the meta of daily/premier events, but in the queues and in the PREs you find tokens, Kithkins, Goblins and such. You also find a lot of black-based creature decks like Zombie or Vampire, so experience told me Skinrender is more effective than Nekrataal or Shriekmaw (also more effective: more Redcaps. You'll target 2-toughness creatures a lot, starting with your sworn enemy, Gaddock Teeg). I sideboard Shriekmaw in only if I'm dealing with non-black titans. Among the big players it can't kill there are Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine, so definitely a downer to me.
I keep Oversoul of Dusk in the sideboard. I rarely bring it in, but I feel safer to know the "half Progenitus" is there.

I also agree with the typical non-creature package of 4 Pod, 3 Chord of Calling, 3 Inquisition of Kozilek (or even better Thoughtseize, which I don't own, unfortunately). You need early discards because you're not very interactive in the early turns, and you have to slow down the opponent and take out its early answers to your battleplan. Late game, an Inquisition makes sure everything is fine to combo out. I rarely side them out.

Yosei is amazing in Pod, but I feel like it belongs to a different build than Melira Project. Some of the Melira builds don't even go as high as 6cc. I use 6cc to combo out with Mikaeus or clear the board (and possibly go for lethal) with the Massacre Wurm. Even Sun Titan is in my sideboard now, I essentially never bring him in anymore (but theoretically, it's against heavy disruption decks). I agree with Elesh being the 7cc creature of choice if you want to play a Pod that goes up there (most of the times, Massacre does the same job better and faster than her anyway). Protean Hulk is another strong 7cc choice, since it single-handedly comboes out upon further sacrifice. If you like mad, overcomplicated interactions you might also want to try Body Double, because it does crazy things with Reveillark and Sun Titan.

Sword of War and Peace looks like it belongs to another deck, as it doesn't offer tactical value and doesn't really interact with anything else in the deck. Then again, I can imagine you can win games out of just strapping it on a Birds of Paradise or something. But it's the kind of "good stuff slot" that I usually try to avoid.

"You can do it this way: sac by gamemaster32 at Tue, 03/27/2012 - 11:52
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"You can do it this way: sac Kitchen Finks into Redcap, sac Redcap into Ranger of Eos taking a couple Viscera Seers, sac Ranger of Eos into Mikaeus, cast Viscera Seer, good game. Very linear, everything with just 1 creature and 1 Pod."

Isn't Ranger a 4cc? Am I missing something?

Yeah he missed the lark step. by Paul Leicht at Tue, 03/27/2012 - 13:44
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Yeah he missed the lark step.

Should just be "sacrifice by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 03/28/2012 - 13:52
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Should just be "sacrifice Finks again" (since it came back the fist time around). Still linear.

If you sac finks again, you by gamemaster32 at Wed, 03/28/2012 - 13:56
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If you sac finks again, you don't have a 5 to sac to get Mikaeus (unless i am mistaken, big Mike is a 6).

Step 1: cast Finks. On the by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 03/28/2012 - 14:25
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Step 1: cast Finks. On the board, Finks.
Step 2: sac Finks into Redcap. On the board, Redcap, Finks.
Step 3: sac Finks into Ranger. On the board, Redcap, Ranger. In hand: Viscera Seer.
Step 4: sac Ranger (or Redcap) into Reveillark (or Whatever at 5cc). On the board, Redcap (or Redcap and Ranger), Reveillark (or Whatever).
Step 5: sac Reveillark into Mikaeus. Cast Viscera Seer. On the board: Redcap, Mikaeus, Viscera Seer, assorted other stuff.
Step 6: good game.

This was of course just to prove you can do it with 1 creature (you can start with 1 Birds of Paradise and still get to Finks with 2 passages) and 1 Pod. That's not possible with just Melira. (Or better, it is, but involves necessarily starting with her or a Birds, then killing her and revive her with Reveillark. Meaning they will have more chances to exile the key combo creature - Melira - before you get to the end game, and you have more forced choices. With Mikaeus you can use Acidic Slime or Archon of Justice as a 5cc passage and get rid of the problematic permanent before comboing out. And all in all it's more fun!).

Hey, thanks for your by KaraZorEl at Tue, 03/27/2012 - 21:53
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Hey, thanks for your suggestions! I didn't think about Spellskite, but I am definitely getting some for those pesky Zoo matchups where they get removal for everything.

I have a lot of confidence in Sword of War and Peace- it hoses Urzatron completely, as they always have cards in their hand. I think I might just go down to one Sword of Light and Shadow, though, just for the recursion.

I decided the easiest way to beat Urzatron was to use Gaddock Teeg. I now have a playset- this is how much trouble Karn and Mindslaver have proven to be. It also stops Gifts Ungiven, which is a big bonus.

There are times when I want to go at a lower CMC, but then when I take out my 7 CMC creature from the mainboard, I find myself ready to sacrifice a 6 CMC creature with no 7-drop there. Massacre Wurm is a fantastic idea- I will probably run that over Sun Titan. But I think I'll keep using Elesh Norn, who I have now replaced Sheoldred with.

The main thing I've learning in running Melira Pod is that you have to have the right answers for the deck you are facing. Because it's Modern, this can be hard. For me, I just try to recognize the decks I'm most likely to see and prepare for those. I think most players are using other Pod decks, Urzatron, or Affinity. With the right sideboard, you can beat all three.

The best thing about Pod is by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 03/28/2012 - 14:40
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The best thing about Pod is that you can play a lot of different cards and still be competitive. In Modern, you have literally dozens of potential strong choices (ever tried Keiga at 6cc to steal their Ulamog?). I sometimes even actively try not to combo out because it's so fun to play the deck as a proper Pod deck rather than a Melira combo shell, which is so reductive. Running just 1 Melira and 2 Viscera Seers maindeck free a lot of juicy slots for me. (It's also worth noting that the deck is just one Mirror Entity and one Body Double short of hosting Reveillark combo too, and both are strong cards on their own right).

Gaddock is a good choice for sure (even if Urzatron brings Pyroclasm and Firespout against you in game 2, that's what their Grove of Burnwillows are for). It hoses your own deck too, but I like to do these kinds of hazardous calls. I have a full set of Chalice of the Void in every Modern sideboard, and it's always a pain for the opponent when I bring them in, even if I have to play around them myself. Most Melira lists run a copy of Ethersworn Canonist maindeck, or at least in the sideboard, but I still had to find a matchup where I really needed her, so in the end I dropped her. My side is mostly safety measures, like the Chalices and Krosan Grips, which is a solution for so many problems, including our fearful artifact nemesis Torpor Orb and Grafdigger's Cage, but especially Splinter Twin.
My worst matchup is Hive Mind: most of the times is an auto-lose, because you can hardly combo out faster than them (they can easily do a turn-4 Seething Song into Hive Mind into good game, sometimes even turn-3), and you have no direct answers (Chalices don't work, you can't use Trickbind, and Angel's Grace is too narrow). I just bring more early discard for that matchup now, but it's a desperate manoeuver which rarely works.

My number 1 suggestion is to cut the too many sac outlets (which make you splash red too, is it worth it?) and add at least 1 second Redcap, because if you lose the first one to exile, that's bad news for you, and you'll be hardly unhappy to draw into a Redcap anyway. Worst case scenario is one Arc Trail and 2 Pod activations into 5cc targets (one of them being Reveillark = Redcap comes back).

Thanks for the suggestions! I by KaraZorEl at Thu, 03/29/2012 - 11:32
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Thanks for the suggestions! I put in Chalice of the Void, but haven't yet figured out how to use it.

I did try out Archon of Justice and it's a really good card. Unfortunately for the Modern format, I think everyone is going to end playing Urzatron, which means decks like Pod are going to need Gaddock Teeg all day long.

For artifact removal, I'm using Harmonic Sliver and Qasali Pridemage. If you're running blue in Pod, I think Grimgrin, Corpse Born could be amazing. He destroys a creature when he attacks, yikes!

Teeg and Archon aren't by Paul Leicht at Thu, 03/29/2012 - 13:27
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Teeg and Archon aren't incompatible. Imho solutions to artifacts/enchantments that require sacrifice/activation are less good than the enter the battlefield ones. Since there is no dearth of those I see no reason to use Qasali pridemage and crew unless you are hoping to transform into an aggro beatdown deck (ala Zoo) post sideboard.

There's only one by KaraZorEl at Thu, 03/29/2012 - 14:13
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There's only one problem....Harmonic Sliver won't destroy Torpor Orb. :p

I think if you are worried by Paul Leicht at Thu, 03/29/2012 - 15:44
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I think if you are worried about Torpor Orb your deck has bigger problems. But OK.

Okay, so what would you put by KaraZorEl at Thu, 03/29/2012 - 16:31
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Okay, so what would you put in its place instead?

I decided on a second by KaraZorEl at Thu, 03/29/2012 - 16:37
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I decided on a second Spellskite in that spot- one mainboard, the other in the sideboard.

Beautiful sideboard. I had a by deluxeicoff at Tue, 03/27/2012 - 11:49
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Beautiful sideboard. I had a Land Destruction deck in Modern a while back - and everyone wanted to know why I had hornet sting in the sideboard, it was JUST for Viscera Seer - any redsource was easily played around, but green tended to kill the combo. The purist in me hates so many 1x, but I can't deny how consistant and nasty this deck is. It is a big part of the meta and like they say, "Be prepared to beat it or be beaten by it."

Great visuals in this article too!