Wolves in a Pod

Yes, this article is several days late going up, but I’ve just had way too much fun drafting Dark Ascension to even think about Constructed. That said, the bug finally bit me(and guilt from not updating), and as much as I’d like to reveal my Modern deck featuring the Haakon/Nameless/Loam/Crime engine, it’s not quite ready for public scrutiny. Instead, I’m going to offer some new ideas on how to perform an old trick, that of winning using what most call an outdated strategy known as Birthing Pod.

I have a terrible soft spot for cards like Birthing Pod. Much like it’s more powerful but very distant cousin Knight of the Reliquary, Pod allows for two usually divergent strategies in deckbuilding to come together somewhat; the toolbox, and redundancy. Old style Pod decks had a large toolbox of stuff with which to battle, ranging from Viridian Corrupters to Elesh Norn to a Sun Titan chain, with a core of card advantage producing creatures. That sort of strategy has fallen by the wayside in recent months as Standard sorted itself out and because a bit more rigid in what was good and what wasn’t. This neutered Pod decks heavily, as their toolbox wasn’t designed with game breakers, but with different incremental series’ of creatures that happened to be good against a given opponent.

Despite the decline of Pod decks, Dark Ascension may do enough to put everyone’s favorite Green Artifact back in the limelight moonlight. Standard will have several new archetypes pop up, along with a general upheaval of dominant decks, with week to week changes in the meta. These upcoming tumultuous times are the perfect hunting grounds for decks that can deal with diverse threats, and attack from several angles.

It’s not just the changes to other decks that could make Pod good again. Undying is a powerful mechanic by itself, and lends itself well to Birthing Pod. Instead of having to play cards like Blade Splicer(the worst card anyone ever had to play to make a deck work) to gain board presence, using  Strangleroot Geist or perhaps even Pyreheart Wolf can increase both the quality and quantity of your creatures when combined with Pod. Transform creautres, and Werewolves specifically, are significantly more interesting in Dark Ascension. When the transform mechanic  first debuted, brewers quickly picked up on the fact that someone could Pod up a Werewolf and flip it right away. The problem was that there was only one werewolf good enough with a relevant CMC to come out of Innistrad. Many people have tried to use Daybreak Ranger, but it never found a good home in a top tier deck, and unless your name is Brian Kibler, you probably don’t have high hopes for the card anymore.

Our favorite Ranger now not only a great target to BE podded into in Strangleroot Geist, but is also joined by a few other furry friends that make a R/G base Pod deck a reality. Pyreheart Wolf is another Undying man that will help break through the inevitable token armies people will assemble. Oh, and because token armies tend to fly these days, score TWO for Daybreak Ranger. If you don’t have a set of them yet, get them while they are still cheap(roughly $5/set on EBay as of this writing). The possibly overhyped Huntmaster of the Fells joins the party too, bringing Lunges and 2/2 Wolf tokens with him. I actually don’t know how good he will be, as you don’t want to commit too much that you actually want to keep around at the four mana slot, but he might be good enough to just jam anyway, and with Birthing Pod/Green Sun’s Zenith, he is at least a one or two of, if only for value board presence. Worst case, he is a mildly worse Blade Splicer at the four instead of three.

I don’t want to theorize too much, and after all, this is a largely unknown meta(this is posting after the results of Richmond, our first hint at the new Standard, but whatever), so here’s a basic list to start tinkering with:

  • 4 Birds of Paradise
  • 1 Avacyn Pilgrim
  • 1 Mayor of Avabruck
  • 4 Strangleroot Geist
  • 2 Pyreheart Wolf
  • 3 Daybreak Ranger
  • 1 Viridian Corrupter
  • 1 Thrun, Last Troll
  • 3 Huntmaster of the Fells
  • 1 Solemn Simulacrum
  • 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
  • 1 Mondronen Shaman
  • 1 Precursor Golem
  • 1 Acidic Slime
  • 1 Vorapede
  • 1 Primeval Titan
  • 1 Wurmcoil
  • 4 Green Sun’s Zenith
  • 4 Birthing Pod
  • 2 Kessig Wolf-Run
  • 4 Rootbound Crag
  • 4 Copperline Gorge
  • 1 Inkmoth Nexus
  • 4 Mountain
  • 9 Forest

It might not look like much, and you’d be right. This list is not designed to be played in a large event. Instead, it’s purpose is to learn the ropes of this breed of Pod deck. Sometimes, ideas look great on paper, as this one might to you, but without actual games one can’t really see the nuts and bolts part of piloting this build. I’m excited to see if, for example, it’s any good to Metamorph an undying creature, and have it come back as something else. Also, the curve is evident visually, but actual test games determine if certain bullets, or even overarching strategies, are fluid enough to warrant inclusion in a ‘real’ list. To facilitate playing as many different paths of Pod chains, all the creature removal is removed to make room for an additional chain to test. In reality, Beast Within, Dismember, Geistflame, or even Gutshot would be present somewhere in the list, probably in the four to six card range.

There are other builds ranging from Black to Blue to White, all green based. Heck, there might be a good Mono Green build somewhere out there. The point is to start brewing and playing. MTGO is an excellent starting point, as it’s easy to change up builds on the fly and play against unknown opponents. Once DA lets loose on MTGO in a few weeks I’m going to be hitting it hard looking for a winner. Assuming I find something I like you’ll hear about it. Good luck!





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2 responses to “Wolves in a Pod

  1. I think that with the release of Undying, everyone is looking at Birthing Pod decks. I know I personally built one modeled after the Modern deck that I’ve had some moderate success with on MTGO. I think the key to the Pod strategy is finding the right color (or colors) that does the most broken things. You’ve obviously got the titans in each color, which are good reasons to ramp up. In black you’ve got Glissa, recursion effects and discard. In white you’ve got Sun Titan and Elesh Norn, which aren’t too shabby. Red gives you werewolves and/or speed and burn. And blue gives you wacky clone effects, countermagic, and fliers. When DA hits on MTGO I’ll be running GWB Pod to see if it can hang. If it can’t I may end up with a Bant-color list or a Naya version. Only time will tell!

    • theolentangy

      I’m starting to see, without even playing many games, that a Pod deck needs something to put it ahead of B/W tokens. Basically the list I posted was minus a few removal spells and Sword of War and Peace, and plus those Pods. Maybe Black offers something better. Glissa seems good when combined with Ratchet Bomb, something that my base list did not bother to include, but surely would have to be in there as it would for any creature deck that isn’t also a token deck.

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