I have something to say that might be tough for some of you to hear. Most of you know that for the last couple of months I have been in a very committed relationship with Trading Post. We spent about six weeks together, and it was glorious. Times were shared, laughs were had, trades were made, and it seemed like nothing could ruin it. Little did I know that I was in yet another honeymoon period and rough horizons were ahead for us. The relationship tragically slipped out of our control. We tumbled into constant argument, and I knew the day of judgment was upon us. I sat Trading Post down for a very solemn discussion. We got to the core of our problems and found that neither of us was prepared to sacrifice enough to return to the beautiful engine we once were.
In the midst of all of all this sorrow birthed something very special. My buddy Jake Van Lunen, knowing how obliterated I was after the horrible breakup, introduced me to a new friend of his that recently crawled into town. It smelled very much like a set up (or decaying flesh) from the start, but I gave it a shot. I never knew I could find something so beautiful during such a bad time in my life. I wanted to take things slow, but I couldn't resist the undying urge to jump into something new.
I introduce you all to my new love, Zombie Pod! I just hope Trading Post doesn't hold an ancient grudge against me. Maybe one day our love will be reborn, but today is the dawn of something new. The dawn of the dead.
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 4 Blood Artist
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 2 Disciple of Bolas
- 2 Fume Spitter
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Skinrender
- 1 Thragtusk
Birthing Pod really hasn't seen as much play as Wizards intended for the card. It has always been more of a fringe card, but things have changed with the inclusion of M13. Standard is so big right now, and the plethora of come into play abilities and Clones available makes this card far more powerful than it previously was. The time for Pod is now, and many decks have begun to adopt it.
The deck plays out very similarly to most non-Birthing Pod Zombie decks. Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler, and Geralf's Messenger are the backbone of the aggressive starts. These three creatures can end games all by themselves when enough copies of all of them are drawn. Any last points of life your opponent has left are stolen by how powerful Blood Artist can be when dealing with mass removal or creature combat.
Even though all of these cards are so powerful, the deck suffers since there are very few other ways to deal damage in an aggressive Zombie strategy. Bloodthrone Vampire is very good but is a bit inconsistent when there isn't enough Blood Artists, Gravecrawlers, and lands in the mix. This is where the Birthing Pod package comes in.
This card might seem like a strange choice, but it is much more powerful than it looks on paper. Disciple of Bolas allows this deck to get out of any hole that it is in. Many times you will find yourself in need of more cards in hand or a few extra life points, which this card can provide. It is easy to just win a game since many of the cards in this deck are very powerful on the offensive, but rarely can they hold the fort. This guy allows you to live for an extra turn and use the newly acquired resources to get back into a game. It also is a nice way to gain life while chaining up to Massacre Wurm.
Oftentimes this deck will want to search up Thragtusk to eventually get Massacre Wurm into play. This makes Skinrender a very powerful tool since it has the ability to kill a creature as well as hold down the fort because many creatures played these days are 2/2s or weaker. Three toughness is very big right now, especially when it has the ability to kill the one creature that can fight against it.
This card is slowly becoming my favorite card in the format, and there is a very low chance that the first couple decks I play post-rotation won't have four of these guys in it. This card is pure value since it is good in almost every matchup, and it will probably only get stronger once Return to Ravnica comes onto the scene. There is no reason to not have access to this card as a Birthing Pod target.
Against green-based aggressive decks you will often need something to go over the top of them in game 1 since they have the ability to get a ton of bodies on the board. It is difficult to fight through all the bodies, so burning them out becomes the most tangible option. This guy alongside Blood Artist and Phantasmal Image have the potential to end a game that you had no business winning.
Trinket Mage is a powerful target for Birthing Pod because of how amazing Sylvok Lifestaff is against opposing Zombie decks. These games tend to be over very quickly since it is very difficult to come back from behind. Blocking really isn't an option, so making sure you win the race in important. This is where Sylvok Lifestaff comes in. It becomes much easier to stop an opponent from killing you if you get to activate this equipment a couple times. Three life is no joke, and the power of a constant stream of life can oftentimes force every game you would lose without this card into the late game. This card still doesn't help when you flood out, but at least they shouldn't be able to win the match only because they got to go first.
This is the best four-drop this deck has to compete with U/W Miracles and other control variants floating around right now. This card backed up with Phantasmal Images can strip an opponent clean of anything to fight back with. It also does double duty by bringing back a key creature when the game is getting close to the finish line. There really isn't anything like sacrificing a Geralf's Messenger with a counter on it to find this guy just to put the Zombie back into play.
Can G/R or Mono-Green Aggro or ever get past this guy? How about Cloning him and attacking with multiples? This guy is the real deal against damage-based decks and usually will shut them out cold when it hits play. Bonfire of the Damned for lethal is about all most green-based aggressive decks have to get past this horrific creature.
It is a bit sad that this card never really found a home in Constructed. It has one of the most powerful and unique abilities, yet there has never been a time for it. Right now, it is probably the best creature to Pod up against anything playing Primeval Titan since that is one of the only non-control decks that can go over the top of Thragtusk. This card is an attrition machine and will win any game in which it can attack a couple times.
Let's spend some time breaking down why Zombie Pod's strategy is so good right now.
Delver has always had a tough time dealing with Zombie decks with Phantasmal Image. The pressure this deck can create often forces Delver into a defensive position. Delver decks don't like working on the back foot and most of the time just can't deal enough damage before having to waste too many resources on staying alive. Delver's removal also doesn't interact well against Zombies. Zombies, however, has more removal than any aggressive deck in the format and can very easily deal with Delver of Secrets, which makes it much easier to deal with Geist of Saint Traft before it kills them.
Green-based aggressive decks rely solely on Bonfire of the Damned to rid the board of opposing creatures. This pigeonholes these decks into just trying to have the most powerful goldfish draws they can produce. Zombie Pod not only gets to interact with the mana accelerators of green decks, but has a far more powerful Birthing Pod chain. This means that the only games Zombie Pod isn't favored is the ones where the green decks get to curve out and potentially Bonfire the flesh eating monsters off the plane.
Control decks have an incredibly tough time dealing with almost every card in this deck. Gravecrawler, Geralf's Messenger, and Birthing Pod are all good cards against these types of decks, and they are all under the same roof. You do have to be afraid of sideboard Nihil Spellbombs, but those aren't nearly as bad as Grafdigger's Cage. Good thing that almost every deck in the format uses their graveyard so they don't run this card!
The worst matchup this deck has is against most decks running Trading Post. They are the only decks that do not get hurt by Grafdigger's Cage or Torpor Orb, so they tend to play a combination of these spells. If they don't, they probably have access to multiple Nihil Spellbombs. All of these cards cause problems when trying to execute Zombie Pod's game plan.
A miracled Terminus is also a very big issue. I have been so far ahead and just instantly lost to this card. There really isn't a good way to build this deck to not get blown out by Terminus, so you just have to try your best to play around it.
This matchup is one of the key selling points to play this deck. Like I said earlier, this matchup is pretty easy. Delver has very few ways to interact with your creatures while you have limitless ways to beat theirs. Just make sure you keep a hand that either has a decent amount of pressure or a way to kill Delver of Secrets and Geist of Saint Traft.
-4 Blood Artist
These cards come in all the time.
This is the card you want access to if they are trying to steal games with Hero of Bladehold. It isn't the best card against you, but it can easily win a game if you have no way to get it off the table as well as little pressure.
The goal of this matchup is to keep them off their mana development in the early game. What this will allow is for you to be able to compete in the mid game. You don't want them to already have a board presence when you start playing three- and four-drops. Kill off anything in the early game and just start setting up Massacre Wurm. It really isn't as hard as it sounds.
Finding Obliterator and riding it to victory is the easiest way to win a game in this matchup. They will have access to a few Celestial Purges, but these will almost always instantly target Geralf's Messenger. Again, just slow the game down and pick off anything that becomes too difficult to deal with. The rest is an attrition game you are much better equipped to win.
The Zombie mirror comes down to who can get on the board first. The best hands in this matchup are the most aggressive ones. This means you really want to rely on your one-, two-, and three-drops to take these games home. Birthing Pod should be used as a flexible way to either gain extra life or deal extra damage, but it is very restricted in this matchup since life totals drop so quickly.
Phantasmal Image is fairly weak in this matchup since it is only good at copying your own Geralf's Messenger. I've lost too many games where I reacted to their copy, so I feel that this card is just too slow for the matchup.
The goal after sideboard is to take the control route and attrition them out. You still have every opportunity to be the aggressor, but Sylvok Lifestaff gives you the ability to survive some aggressive starts from the opposition.
Wolf Run Ramp
The surprising thing about this matchup is how easy it tends to be. They have Titans, but we have four Phantasmal Image and four Birthing Pods to help make more Titans than they can produce. Tragic Slip allows for you to not worry about Inkmoth Nexus or most Titans, and the rest of the deck can just burn an opponent out. It is a fairly good matchup as long as you keep hands that do something.
That's all I have for this week. I hope to see many of you this weekend in Kansas City for the StarCityGames.com Open Series. I will be there doing commentary with Jacob Van Lunen. If you can't make it, tune in this weekend for some wacky commentary by the two of us. Until next time!