Deck Tech: RUG Pod with Michael Hetrick
Michael Hetrick shows off his RUG Pod deck in Standard
Michael Hetrick’s Magic exploits online have earned his MTGO nickname—_ShipItHolla—considerable respect. He’s a fierce player in the real world too, earning a Grand Prix Top 8 in Salt Lake City earlier this year. He wasn’t sure he’d even make it to Indy, but a friend stepped in. “Wes Wise helped me pay for my flight, actually. The EV was too bad for me to pay for my whole flight, but Wes Wise helped me out.” Michael’s done Wes proud so far, starting off 5-0 after a 4-0 run in Standard.
His weapon of choice? RUG Pod.
Michael’s list looks relatively similar to previous RUG Pod lists, but it’s got a few tweaks suited to his particular style of aggressive play. “This deck is essentially G/R Aggro in some ways—you want to go one-drop on turn 1 and three-drop on turn 2—but instead of Sword, you’re playing Birthing Pod,” he said. “When you play Birthing Pod on turn 2 you can’t lose, generally.”
The basic skeleton echoes G/R Aggro, beginning with mana dorks and curving into Strangleroot Geist and Huntmaster of the Fells—but the similarities end fast. “There are tons of cards you find in a G/R deck... and a few singletons you search for.” The bullets are much more powerful in a deck that can access both Pod and Green Sun’s Zenith!
“There are some standard chains,” he added. “Strangleroot Geist starts most of them—you Geist, Pod Geist, go get Deceiver Exarch, untap Pod, sac Exarch, go get Huntmaster—and if you don’t play a spell that turn, you get to flip Huntmaster, which is not unusual.” That’s an incredible swing in momentum, usually presenting a formidable board while killing a creature. “You can also get Daybreak Ranger for a similar play, but Huntmaster is usually better.” Zealous Conscripts can perform the same trick as Exarch, jumping you into Inferno Titan.
Daybreak Ranger in particular was a card Michael wasn’t sure about, but he thinks it’s earning the slot. “It’s actually something I wasn’t playing until today, because in the Delver matchups the games go a lot longer than you’d expect, if you haven’t played the matchup.” Once he realized that he could eventually stick the three-drop through Snags and Leaks alike, he gave the Ranger a try. “It deals with Delvers to help you go late, and if it goes late it’s amazing against them. Daybreak allows you to deal with Restoration Angel and also Delver, and it doesn’t cost you anything.”
So how’s that Delver matchup? “Against Delver, I wouldn’t say it’s much better than G/R,” Michael admitted. “However, I feel Birthing Pod is so strong—why would I play G/R when I can play this? You don’t have removal, but I think your game plan is stronger.” Considering how proactive Michael has made his deck, that game plan seems to be the most important aspect of all!
Michael’s sideboard offers him a pseudo-transformation, boasting a trio of Hellriders and some Arc Trails. That can compound his deck’s threat base against control, increasing the number of must-counters and making him better against removal. “The Hellriders I brought in for three matches today, and they basically switch your game plan from Pod to just getting a Hellrider and copying it—you’ll win the game pretty fast,” he said. “You don’t have to copy it, though. It also works well with the other haste creature you bring in, Zealous Conscripts. Usually they won’t expect the Hellrider plan, which makes it better.”
The Arc Trails offer some significant value against opposing creature decks. “If I’m going to have removal, it might as well be the cheapest one possible.” The two-for-one is a very real upside, but Michael only really considered one other sorcery for the job. “The only upside to Pillar of Flame is it’s good against Zombies, and that doesn’t matter to me very much.”
Lastly, Michael’s got the bullet Hound of Griselbrand that some Pod lists have been playing. “There was a green and red version that plays four, but one copy does a lot of work. It helps you play around Day of Judgment, Whipflare, and Slagstorm,” he explained. It’s kind of like Vorapede for me, but Vorapede costs more mana.”
Check out Michael’s RUG Pod decklist as he makes a run for the Top 8. After all, he’s already a lock for Day 2!