[Editor’s note: DJ submitted this article before the pro tour took place. Some of his metagame predictions didn’t turn out quite the way he thought they would, but the thought process behind them is still valuable and informative. DJ will be back next time to address what went wrong in assuming Kiki Pod would be more popular than Melira Pod, so stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy a nice analysis by a player well experienced with the deck.]
Welcome back, readers!
With the recent updates to the Modern B&R list, players clamored over what new and old archetypes would be strong at the recent pro tour. Players wondered: will Faeries wake up from its dark slumber and annihilate everything we hold dear? Does the unbanning of [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] mean that Shards of Alara commons will spike to $2.00 retail? (Unfortunately, yes.) Am I sad that I currently own 20+ [card]Deathrite Shamans[/card]? A little bit, but I’m crossing my fingers that Legacy play and price memory won’t tank the price too hard. It was undoubtable that adding and removing three cards of this power level from the format would have a massive shakeup on the decklists at Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Almost every competitive Modern player on the internet was predicting what decks would become tier-one, what decks would become unplayable, and everything in between.
Today, I am going to take a slight detour from my normal financial advice column, and talk about a deck that became incredibly powerful with the new banned and restricted updates, but hasn’t been talked about nearly enough.
Which Pod is Best Pod?
When I ask you about [card]Birthing Pod[/card] in Modern, what deck do you think about? Does your mind whisk you away to images of [card]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/card], [card]Viscera Seer[/card], and [/card]Kitchen Finks[/card] gaining a trillion life? I know mine used to. After winning multiple grands prix in the past year, many players consider Melira Pod the premier Pod deck, and as such, [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] spiked to nearly $60 when [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] made its exit. However, in my opinion, there is another version of Pod that hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention for quite some time, and I feel that it has the edge over Melira. I am talking about Kiki Pod.
While Melira Pod is widely regarded as a midrange deck with a combo available as a plan B, Kiki Pod is on the opposite side of the spectrum. It usually wins using a two-card combo of [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] plus any one of [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], [card]Restoration Angel[/card] or [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card]. It combos out far more often than it wins with fair creatures and sub-20,000 damage combat phases, but it can still tussle with the best of ‘em and fight out a fair game of Magic. For reference, here’s a sample list that I’ve been working with.
*4 Birds of Paradise
*4 Noble Hierarch
*3 Voice of Resurgence
*1 Wall of Roots
*1 Qasali Pridemage
*1 Phantasmal Image
*1 Fauna Shaman
*2 Kitchen Finks
*1 Izzet Staticaster
*2 Deceiver Exarch
*1 Magus of the Moon
*1 Loxodon Smiter
*3 Restoration Angel
*1 Glen Elendra Archmage
*1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
*1 Murderous Redcap
*1 Zealous Conscripts
*2 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
*4 Birthing Pod
*3 Arid Mesa
*4 Misty Rainforest
*4 Grove of the Burnwillows
*1 Stomping Ground
*1 Hallowed Fountain
*1 Breeding Pool
*1 Steam Vents
*1 Sacred Foundry
*1 Temple Garden
*2 Gavony Township
*1 Rugged Prairie
*1 Clifftop Retreat
*1 Aven Mindcensor
*2 Scavenging Ooze
*1 Huntmaster of the Fells
*1 Obstinate Baloth
*1 Voice of Resurgence
*1 Domri Rade
*1 Avalanche Riders
*1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
*1 Ancient Grudge
*1 Bant Charm
*3 Path to Exile
There are several reasons why I prefer this strategy to Melira Pod. Our combo only consists of two cards, while Melira requires three to be in play in order to go infinite. Also, [card]Restoration Angel[/card], [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card], and [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] have all proven their worth in their respective Standard formats, having solid combat stats or abilities that can be relevant to a board state that does not involve an infinite loop. On the other hand, [card]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/card] is just a glorified [card]Grizzly Bears[/card] and [card]Viscera Seer[/card] is nothing to write home about on its own. Lastly, do we really think [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] can pull its weight so much that DRS won’t be missed? Deathrite was a large part of Melira’s fair gameplan, providing incremental advantage on the life pad, and exiling crucial opposing graveyard pieces. All in all, I don’t see a very strong argument for playing Melira in the new metagame.
Chaining Pod Activations: How Can We Kill?
This is an extremely complicated deck to play, and having Pod on the battlefield with at least one creature gives you a huge number of lines of play that you can take in any given turn. Unlike Melira Pod, our blue splash lets us “chain” our Pod activations multiple times in one turn, assembling the two card combo from what would at first appear to be nothing. Let’s go over the ways in which you can kill your opponent, assuming the required pieces are still in your deck:
Two-drop + one-drop + four Pod activations: This is the one that catches many players off guard: Pod your two-drop into a [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], untapping Pod. Turn the one-drop into [card]Phantasmal Image[/card], copying Exarch and untapping Pod again. Because the Image copies the converted mana cost of Exarch, you can turn Image into a [card]Restoration Angel[/card], flickering Exarch and untapping Pod again. One more activation turns your angel into [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card], and you can make a billion dudes with haste (unless you need to play around [card]Rakdos Charm[/card]).
A pair of two-drops + four Pod activations: The exact same as the above scenario, but the fact that we play two [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card]s allows us to substitute out [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] for the second Exarch.
Two-drop + three-drop + three Pod activations: Again, we start with a two-mana creature into Exarch, then a three-drop into [card]Restoration Angel[/card], blinking Exarch, untapping Pod, and then turning Angel into Kiki.
Two-drop + four-drop + two Pod activations: Identical to the chain directly above, but we save a mana and skip getting Angel because we already have a four-drop in play.
Two-drop + [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] + three Pod uses: Chain from two-drop into Exarch into [cardRestoration Angel[/card], blinking Conscripts to untap Pod. [card]Restoration Angel[/card] turns into Kiki-Jiki, and you can kill them with that + Conscripts.
Three-drop + [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] + two Pod activations: Identical to above, we just skipped a step.
Three-drop + four-drop + three Pod activations: Pod the four-drop into [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card], untap Pod. Three-drop into Resto, blink Conscripts. Angel into Kiki, enjoy your army of 3/3s.
A pair of four-drops (or a single un-persisted [card]Murderous Redcap[/card]/[card]Glen Elendra Archmage[/card]) + two Pod activations: Pod into Conscripts, untap Pod. Pod remaining four-drop into Kiki-Jiki.
Why is this Deck Better Now than Before?
Well, hypothetical reader, I’m glad that you asked. Although our deck didn’t play Deathrite before the banning, and it doesn’t play [card]Bitterblossom[/card] or [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] now, before the bannings, Jund was one of our more even matchups. But now Jund has lost DRS, and Kiki-Pod has lost nothing.
We have the tools to fight a potential Fae deck in the forms of [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], [card]Magus of the Moon[/card], [card]Izzet Staticaster[/card], and the fact that a good chunk of our cards have flash as well.
Out of the Zoo lists that I’ve seen, the scariest is the Tribal Domain deck that plans on casting [card]Tribal Flames[/card] for 5 damage on turn 3 while attacking with Wild Nacatls. Due to our life payments through our manabase and Pod, this is an unfavorable matchup. However, most of the Zoo lists I’ve played against have been the traditional Naya lists that advocate for just good old beatdown and burn. In my experience, Pod can attrition the deck through Voice tokens, Township activations, and Restoration Angels, finishing games with the combo. Just remember to play around [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and [card]Lightning Helix[/card]. Do whatever you can to force them to give you Voice tokens.
One of my favorite things about this deck is the number of one-ofs that we can jam into the list to hose certain decks. Going four-color Kiki-Pod instead of three-color Melira allows us a much stronger variety of hate cards to slip into the list. These singleton hate cards will end up getting tweaked based on a given metagame. If creatureless combo has a massive prescence, we might be able to relegate [card]Linvala, Keeper of Deathrite Shamans[/card] to the sideboard. If there’s a Pod mirror in the finals of Valencia, than maybe [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] gets moved to the mainboard over [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] in order to get an edge.
As someone who has been casting [card]Birthing Pod[/card] almost nonstop since it was introduced in 2011, the strongest aspect to the deck has always been its adaptability. It is very difficult to hate out a two-card combo deck that can just as easily beat your face in with an army of 6/6 elementals. To anyone looking to find a new Modern deck, Kiki-Pod is a strong choice that will also help you improve as a player due to all of the decision trees. I might make this article into a multi-part series, with future pieces going deeper into card choices, covering matchups seen at the pro tour, and examining niche lines of play that rarely come up (but can save your life). Let me know in the comments section below, on Reddit, or on Twitter what you think of the deck.