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Flow Of Ideas – Breaking Birthing Pod: The Beginning

Gavin Verhey wants to break Birthing Pod, the new “Survival of the Fittest” artifact. Will this card define the new Standard format? Try these new decklists from Gavin to find out.

Did they really just print this card?

My first reaction to Birthing Pod was one of disbelief. It’s a format-defining card, the kind of card that brand new decks are, well, born from. It has the potential to warp and dominate formats. I wouldn’t be surprised if a year from now we’re sitting here
talking about how the existence of Birthing Pod forces you to play the format in a different way than we could otherwise. Is this the best card in New Phyrexia?

There’s only one way to find out.

Now, unlike Jace, you can’t just throw Birthing Pod into any deck and expect it to fit perfectly. It’s not a strong utility card.
It’s more of a Primeval Titan. You have to build toward and optimize that perfect shell of cascading drops until you have just the right numbers
on everything.

Birthing Pod is kind of like Fauna Shaman in that respect. In fact, it’s a lot like Fauna Shaman… except it has haste. And
it’s much harder to kill. So it’s kind of just like a Survival of the Fittest you can use once per turn cycle. It’s an
engine card that’s similar to another engine card, which most recently completely dominated Legacy until it had to be banned.

Yeah, I guess that’s fair.  

Maybe this Survival variant is a little worse in some decks… but in the decks you play it in, it’s likely to hit similar levels!
You’re going to build your deck with Birthing Pod in mind, after all.

At the very least, the absolute least, Birthing Pod turns any creature you have at any point into the game into a one-man threat. Birthing Pod puts you
back into the game where no other card could.

Let’s say you’re playing a green creature deck, and you run out an early Birthing Pod. Maybe you only get one use out of it before your
team meets a Day of Judgment. And after that, all you have left is this lowly Birds of Paradise sitting in your hand.  

You’re actually in frighteningly fine shape.

You play the Birds. Upgrade it into some slick two-drop. It could be a Myr Superion or Immolating Souleater to finish them off after your initial
assault. If you’re in more of a mood to finesse your opponent, maybe you find a Fauna Shaman, a Stoneforge Mystic, or a Squadron Hawk. In any
case, that’s a pretty decent creature to set down versus an empty board. Pass the turn.

On your next turn, you can get use out of your two-drop and then Shell up… a Leatherback Baloth? A Mirran Crusader? A Glissa, the Traitor? The
chain starts getting absurd quickly. Not to mention if you just draw a Moltensteel Dragon or Thundering Tanadon and chain right into a Gaea’s
Revenge, Avenger of Zendikar, a Chancellor, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, or Myr Battlesphere. And with two Spawning Shells, it’s even more
ridiculous!

But I’m not here to just tell you what this card does. Patrick Chapin already started some light discussion on the insanity of Birthing Podweeks ago. I’m here to break this card.

Let’s look at some decklists.

First up, what seems to be Birthing Pod’s immediate natural home:


Vengevine decks seem, at first glance, to be the right home for Birthing Pod. Now, this deck has traditional elements of a U/G deck, similar to what
Larry Swasey used to make Top 8 of the Boston SCG Open. However, it also has some newer elements.

First off, how about this opening sequence? Turn one, Birds. Turn two, Treasure Mage for Moltensteel Dragon. Turn three… Moltensteel Dragon! Now
that’s quite a threatening start on its own. Indeed, Moltensteel Dragon might be one of the best “blue” cards in the set! However,
just throw a Birthing Pod into the mix next turn, and things get positively horrifying!

Turn that Treasure Mage into a Vengevine. Or, perhaps, turn that Moltensteel Dragon into a Gaea’s Revenge! (Or Myr Battlesphere, or Elesh Norn,
or a Chancellor as appropriate for your metagame.) No matter what you do, it’s going to put your opponent in a very rough situation.

Even when things don’t go quite as smoothly, you still have the traditional Vengevine plan and a good long game. However, can we do this better?
Is U/G really the way to go? Treasure Mage is nice and all, but perhaps it’s time to cut to the chase.

While an R/G build with Tuktuk the Explorer and Urabrask the Hidden is certainly cute, and a white build with Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, Mirran
Crusader, and castable Porcelain Legionnaires (which can become Vengevines!) has a lot of potential, it felt like the beatdown build of this deck
really wanted to go mono-green. That was the next avenue I tried. Birthing Pod gives you extraordinary reach versus mass removal, and your consistent
mana allows you to dip into some underplayed green cards.    


Now this is an aggressive deck!

Any game you open on a turn two Myr Superion—either via Lotus Cobra off an Elf or a Treespeaker—you’re just so far ahead of what any
other beatdown deck can do. It’s usually better than Tarmogoyf—that’s absurd! Of course, if the Superion plan doesn’t
come together, you can “merely” settle for a 4/5 on turn two in the form of Leatherback Baloth. And of course, you’re still backed up
by speedy Vengevines.

While Lead the Stampede may seem like a decent fit, Birthing Pod is a superior card, and you don’t want them getting in the way of your Leads.
You can play 1-2 copies of Lead in the maindeck because then you have 5-6 total noncreatures, but right now, I just prefer to board them in after my
opponent has loaded up on sweepers.

Moltensteel Dragon is quickly becoming one of my favorite cards in beatdown decks. You can just set him down early for four life in this deck and then
threaten lethal damage within a turn or two. There are only two because I don’t want to draw too many, but you could try a third. The first one
is always excellent.

Now, there are no doubt a lot of aggressive strategies that can use Birthing Pod. You can use the two shells above and fit all kinds of slightly
different archetypes inside, such as the aforementioned white or red build. (You guys do love your Stoneforge Mystics and Squadron Hawks, after all!)

However, Birthing Pod also fits nicely into a midrange deck. It allows you to generate an incremental advantage from everything—which is
precisely what a midrange deck aims to do. You can turn your early creatures into significant threats later on. Take a look at this:


This deck Pods well all the way up the curve and, in a very Phyrexian way, puts your Sylvan Rangers and Viridian Emissaries to good use. I’m not
certain on how necessary all of the maindeck one-ofs are yet and whether you need Obliterator in addition to Persecutor, but so far, they have both
been strong.

Speaking of Persecutor, how easy is it to get rid of that guy now? Between Go for the Throat, Birthing Pod, and Beast Within, it’s become a
trivial matter! The 6/6 shines in this deck.

In any case, this deck maximizes value out of its two-drops, giving you an effect early on and then allowing you to cash them in for something better.
A particularly awesome one is searching up a Phylactery Lich, which in turn puts a counter on the Birthing Pod. You have to be careful to not get blown
out, but in game one, you’re usually safe. 

This deck plays like your typical midrange deck, and the Pods give you a lot of incremental advantage throughout the game. Nighthawk is probably the
weakest link in the deck, but he is good in a couple of matchups, and you need good midrange three-drops that can trade up into your four drops. Try
him out, and let me know what you think in the forums and on Twitter.

The big question for me is whether this deck needs to remain B/G or if it’s better to just go mono-black and pay the price on Birthing Pod.
(Well, with a Forest off of Verdant Catacombs to help out a little bit.) You can run Gatekeeper of Malakir (a card which regrettably I just
couldn’t get to work with the mana in the green version) and the full set of Obliterators if you want to.

If you go mono-black, the other problem is you don’t have many good early drops besides discard. At least Sylvan Ranger and Viridian Emissary
give you some plays early on. In black, you can play Bloodghast, but that’s way better in a beatdown deck. (It’s excellent with Kalastria
Highborn—especially when searching up Captivating Vampire!) 

You can maindeck Phyrexian Revoker or Vampire Hexmage or resort to Reassembling Skeleton (not the worst with Birthing Pod) if necessary. Wall of
Tanglecord, Nantuko Shade, and Necropede were also ones I looked at for a while. Those are some places you can start at least—if you try out a
mono-black Birthing Pod deck, let me know which ones work out for you!   

Of course, so far, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Birthing Pod just in Standard. In older formats, the potential of Birthing Pod makes my
eyes widen with excitement. You can’t build a pure combo engine in Standard with Birthing Pod. (Well, at least not without a few more good
four-drops so you can Birthing Pod into Totem-Guide Hartebeest for Splinter Twin, anyway.) In Legacy, that changes.

Okay, so I’ll give: Mental Misstep is going to be a more influential card in Legacy than Birthing Pod. With that said, I think the ‘Pod
definitely has a role in the metagame.

Where do I think it fits best? Well, does anyone remember the deck that was really popular in Legacy right before the Grand Prix last year?
That’s right: Aluren. Cedric Phillips was championing Aluren heavily, and in the end, it backfired; his numerous Magic Online results ended up
letting people be ready for the deck, sending many Aluren players—Cedric included—to the sidelines for day two.

Nobody is really talking about the deck right now, and Birthing Pod might give it the edge it needs. You can turn all of your Coiling Oracles and Dream
Stalkers into Imperial Recruiters, and you can also turn them into your singletonAcademy Rector, which you can then sacrifice next turn to pull out an
Aluren and subsequently go off.

Turn two Birthing Pod, turn three Coiling Oracle and tutor sets you up to win next turn. The deck also has Force of Will and Cabal Therapy for
disruption. Does that still make Aluren too slow for the metagame? If it does, maybe a little more disruption might put you on the right path since
Birthing Pod helps any consistency issues.

If Aluren isn’t the best place to be with Birthing Pod in Legacy, there are so many different creatures in the format that it has to work
somewhere. Cards that put creatures straight from your deck onto the battlefield are traditionally powerful enough to see play as far back as Legacy,
and Birthing Pod is no exception.

There are tons of places you can go with Birthing Pod, and I’ve only explored a few of them here. With a card like Birthing Pod, your
deckbuilding imagination is the limit. Will you play it in Aggro Valakut and search up Primeval Titans? Will you use it to set up a quick endgame with
the aid of Phyrexian mana? That’s up to you. Birthing Pod enables a whole new array of strategies—and I’m looking forward to trying
them all out!

I’m sure that I’ll be exploring this card further in future weeks. If you have been working with Birthing Pod in any format, I’d love
to see what you’ve come up with! Feel free to post it in the forums in reply to this article, tweet me about it, or send me an e-mail at
Gavintriesagain at gmail dot com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you guys!

Gavin Verhey
Rabon on Magic Online, @GavinVerhey on Twitter
www.DesignSpaceBlog.com

Author’s Note:

For all of you who have been enjoying the audio renditions of my articles, don’t worry, they aren’t going away! I tried recording several
different versions of this article and found out the hard way that decklist-heavy articles don’t work well in audio form.

I tried everything from giving a brief synopsis of each decklist to listing them all at the end, and none of them worked very well. Each had their own
problems. Either you had to fast forward to get the context for the entire conversation, there were some details that didn’t make sense, or it
just really slowed down the article.

With decklist-heavy articles, I’m probably going to stay away from doing audio. But have no fear—the audio edition should return next week!
Thank you for all of your support so far, and I’m glad to hear a ton of you like them. The positive response has been overwhelming, and thanks
for letting me know!