Deck Tech: Zombie Pod with Brandon Crane
Brandon's BUG Zombie Pod is designed to Messenger early and often.
Zombies have been all the rage in Standard since Phillip Fortner’s finals finish in Charlotte and Matt Scott’s Grand Prix Baltimore Top 4. It’s come in a variety of flavors—Mono-Black, B/U, B/R—but this is something new. Mixing Birthing Pod into an aggressive strategy with recursive threats, Brandon’s BUG Zombie Pod deck is a very dangerous customer.
Operating along the same basic curve of drops as regular Zombies, using mostly creatures from costs one to three, Birthing Pod combines with some unique bullets to give Brandon options. Skinrender is an underappreciated member of the undead in his own right, while Morkrut Banshee serves to bridge the gap from four to six when you need to ramp up to Grave Titan. Beyond that, it’s all Phantasmal Images, Phyrexian Metamorphs, and Havengul Lich!
Brandon decided on the deck after thinking about the metagame he expected to see. “I thought control was going to be very prevalent, especially after Baltimore, and this deck has really great matchups there,” he explained. “It can be really aggressive thanks to the Zombies. When Pod hits the board against control, you just win.” Giving credit where it’s due, he also wanted to thank a friend for the list. “The deck designer is John Cuvelier—might be more known from Bronson Magnan’s Aggro Loam,” Brandon said. “He’s on the heartbeat of deck design right now.”
This deck makes better use of the Clone suite than probably any deck in Standard. Birthing Pod can search out Image with Gravecrawler or Metamorph with Geralf’s Messenger. Glissa, the Traitor can keep Pod around and recycle Metamorphs, not to mention Perilous Myr! The Myr is good at thwarting aggressive starts and can also become a peculiar form of reach in the deck. “You play aggressive, forcing them to tap out, and then play the Pod,” Brandon said. “If you resolve a creature, you can get to Geralf’s Messenger and Metamorph.” That’s the key to the entire deck.
“Your ultimate Pod is Messenger,” Brandon said. “You Pod Perilous Myr to kill a creature or Shock, or Pod Reassembling Skeleton, to get Messenger, which is what you really want. Next turn, you attack and Pod Messenger, choosing Metamorph.” Once you have all the Metamorphs, they’re probably dead. “You can go to your fours if you want, but…” He shrugged. “I haven’t gotten the Havengul Lich yet, since it just recycles the whole thing around.”
Capable of displaying blazing aggression, BUG Zombie Pod can also utilize a measured pace, accruing card advantage and value over a generous series of turns. Most importantly, it passes the ultimate Birthing Pod testing—remaining a viable deck without its namesake artifact. “You can play it without playing Pod—that’s the whole point of the deck,” he said. “But when Pod hits, it goes crazy.”
The sideboard looks like you’d expect to find Living Wish in the maindeck, but all those bullets serve a function. With access to a potent tutoring engine and Clones, it’s important to pack some high impact creatures for specific matchups, like Wurmcoil Engine and Entomber Exarch. Trinket Mage for Hex Parasite is a planeswalker-killing machine, but it’s also adept at resetting your undying creatures!
Brandon warned that the list is a start, and somewhat rocky. “We didn’t test much, so I don’t know how it does against Delver.” The mana in particular is worth keeping an eye on. “It’s kind of iffy. The only reason you have green is for Glissa and some sideboard cards. You could just do B/U, but it seems silly—you can just play the land.” Just today, Brandon upgraded his auxiliary two-drop. “Originally we had Black Cat instead of Reassembling Skeleton, but in the process of building the deck we saw Skeleton in a box and realized, ‘That’s pretty good.’”
The perks of the deck are pretty basic. “No one really knows what you’re about to do,” Brandon said. “And it’s fun.”