Sacking Out: A PTQ Report and Pod Primer

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Greetings. My name is Peter Johnson. I’m a Magic player in Cincinnati, OH, and I got lucky this past weekend. My luck means un-luck for you, however, since you have to read this. Hopefully, the chronic run-bads will return and you’ll never hear from me again.

My first experience with Modern was earlier in the PTQ season at an Indianapolis event. My preparation included some MODO grinding, where I co-piloted UW Tron with Adam Prosak. I settled on what I thought was the best deck, Splinter Twin, and piloted it to a cripplingly mediocre 3-3. Since then, I kept watching the MODO results for Modern. In the week leading up to last Saturday’s event, I saw that Melira Pod was doing well on MODO. Ironic, since the deck is worse on MODO than it is in real (infinite) life, and hardly anyone was playing or talking about the deck in real life.

For those not familiar, Melira Pod is a Birthing Pod combo deck that uses Melira, Sylvok Outcast, a persist creature, either Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap, and a sacrifice outlet, Viscera Seer to gain infinite life or do infinite damage. Sacrificing a persist creature with Melira in play allows the creature to come back without a -1/-1 counter so that the creature can be sacrificed again and again and again.

The deck includes some mana acceleration in Birds of Paradise and Wall of Roots, additional creature tutoring in Chord of Calling, disruption in the form of discard spells or removal spells, and many creature silver bullets that can be tutored up by Chord or Pod. These creatures usually include Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Tidehollow Sculler, and Harmonic Sliver, among others.

One problem remained: the new set, Dark Ascension, was not yet released on MODO, but legal for this tournament. A quick glance over the spoiler gave me two legendary ideas. The first was the inclusion of Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, which is awesome for many reasons. Firstly, he is a big, badass value creature, much like the Sun Titan in many Pod lists. If left unchecked, Mikaeus will beat your opponent senseless with a rod of pure value. The No Mercy clause is more relevant than one might think. Snapcaster Mages and Dark Confidants, beware. Grim Lavamancer had better make that two damage count, because it’s the last time he’ll ever touch you. Secondly, Mikaeus is a combo piece working as an additional Melira. If a creature has persist and undying, a sacrifice outlet will let you go infinite. When the creature dies, Persist and Undying will trigger. Only one will resolve, because the second trigger will not have a creature to bring back. Alternate between Persist and Undying to kill your opponent. While I played Mikaeus alongside the Sun Titan at first, I eventually moved the Sun Titan to the sideboard.

The other piece of Dark Ascension tech that ended up in my 60 was Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Most MODO lists play three discard spells to protect the combo. I’m not a huge fan of discard, so trying this out was perfect for me. Cutting the discard for three copies of Thalia left my deck with only eight non-creature spells, so her value was nearly maximized. Thalia is great; she is a proper stomping against decks like Storm and Tron, and makes a great attacker and blocker against everything else. She’s even good against Affinity, making the mana-light deck pay more for Cranial Platings and removal spells while blocking Memnites all day. Thalia didn’t stay around long in many of the games in which I played her, and that means one less removal spell that my opponent had when I went to combo.

Those legendary changes provoked some legendary manabase changes. The manabase had been mostly fleshed out on MODO, with a few cards different between lists. I cut the slot most didn’t agree on, usually a Golgari Rot Farm or a Woodland Cemetery, for the black-green filter land, Twilight Mire. This was because of Mikaeus’ triple-black casting cost. The other changes were much, much spicier. I cut a Forest and a Razorverge Thicket for one copy each of Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers and Eiganjo Castle. With eight legends in my deck, these lands did work. Eiganjo Castle won me two games by itself, protecting Thalia and Melira from Grim Lavamancers and combat damage. These lands allow aggressive attacks with the two-drop legends, give protection from the ubiquitous Grim Lavamancer, and keep Linvala out of the range of a Flame Slash.

The last change to my maindeck was made by a suggestion, or maybe a prophecy, from funnyman and good friend Reuben Bresler. Looking in wonderment at the nine one-of creatures in my deck, he asked what purpose the Ranger of Eos served. I explained that it searched up Viscera Seers with which to combo. Reuben spent the next half-hour convincing me that I did not want an Invitational winner’s card, but instead, I wanted the Ravnica common Dimir House Guard. Go ahead and look that one up. I eventually made the switch, and sure enough, I was able to win two games with the House Guard that I would not have been able to otherwise, since I had only exactly enough mana to get the House Guard. I also transmuted the House Guard after I gained infinite life to get a Murderous Redcap for the kill, which was cool, too.

Without further durdling, here is the deck list. We came up with two names for this. My name was “Ten Legends,” or “Legends of the Hidden Ten-ple” if you’re feeling vigorous. Reuben’s name was “Dimir House Pod.”

Now to the tournament. I rode down with the aforementioned Reuben Bresler, Richard “the Beard” Stachurski, and my fellow podcast member Taylor Gunn. These idiots played UW Tron, RUG Delver, and BR Burn, respectively. Taylor and Reuben crashed early, and Rich was out after a second loss in the fifth round. Nevertheless, these guys were awesome and supportive.

After we arrived early and ate some Chinese food, round one started.

Round 1: Boros

In game one, my opponent played a couple Steppe Lynx and a Plated Geopede. I took some early damage, but a Kitchen Finks kept me afloat while my opponent missed the lands needed to beat my face in. By the time he found a land to attack, I was able to make a couple trades with two Kitchen Finks, the second of which I found with a Birthing Pod. When the coast was clear, a Pod activation and a Chord of Calling combed for life, and my opponent scooped.

I boarded in the Obstinate Baloths, Baneslayer Angel, Putrefy, and Orzhov Pontiff, which I was very excited to cast against 0/1 Steppe Lynxes.

I started with a turn one Birds of Paradise. My opponent Lightning Bolted me on my end step. Strange. I played a turn two Kitchen Finks and my opponent bolted me again. He missed his third land (or perhaps sandbagged it), and cast Plated Geopede. On my third turn, I cast Viscera Seer and Chord’d for two, getting Melira and infinite life on turn 3, cuing another scoop.

1-0

Round 2: Korey Fay with UWR Scepter

Korey is a friend from a local store in Cincinnati, and he’s no Magic slouch. I wasn’t happy to be playing him so early in the tournament.

Game one was rough, and two early Delvers immediately flipped and bashed my skull in. I couldn’t find any removal in time to save me, and my combo was broken up by Path or Bolt.

I sideboarded in Putrefy, Disenchant, Nekrataal, Qasali Pridemage, Thrun, the Last Troll and Orzhov Pontiff.

Game 2 went long. I eventually killed him with beatdown, an assortment of Pridemage, Melira, Kitchen Finks, and Thalia. Two Thalias over the course of the game made his cantrips, Bolts, and other spells harder to cast. Eiganjo Castle was an all-star, saving my Melira and Thalia from combat damage and Korey’s Grim Lavamancer. A Torpor Orb came down and I Poded a vanilla Shriekmaw into a Mikaeus at the end of the game.

Game 3 was another one-sided affair, this time in my favor. A turn 2 Thalia made Korey’s turn 3 Isochron Scepter, imprinting Deprive, a tap-out play. I slammed my single Harmonic Sliver, and started attacking. Korey drew two Torpor Orbs, but they did little to stop my beatdown draw.

2-0

Round 3: Mike Belfatto with Jund

Mike is another friend from Cincinnati, and another person I expect to play a good game of Magic. I had a real gauntlet to run through.

Game 1: I don’t remember much about this game, other than that it was not long. Mike tapped out on his turn to play some creatures. I untapped and showed him the life combo by Poding up Dimir House Guard.

I sided in Sun Titan, Baneslayer Angel, Obstinate Baloth, Putrefy, and Thrun, the Last Troll. I wasn’t sure what his hate was, so I left the Pridemage and Disenchant in the board.

Game two was a drawn-out affair. Mike’s hate included two Nihil Spellbombs. The first ate a Kitchen Finks before it could persist. The second sat on the board for a while before Mike finally had to crack it to draw some gas. Mike did not draw many creatures, and I was able to stay alive and get some damage in with a Thrun. He raced me with a Lavamancer and a Treetop Village. When we were both on about eight life, I slammed a Mikaeus from my hand. The next turn, I attacked with Thrun and then Poded it. He killed Mikaeus, who had attacked and been blocked by a Dark Confidant, with a Lightning Bolt in response, but Thrun still came back because it had Undying when I sacrificed it. I searched up a Baneslayer Angel into play with the Pod, and Mike couldn’t find an out.

3-0

Round 4: Affinity

In game one, my opponent led out with some creatures and a Cranial Plating. I had a strong draw with Birds and Kitchen Finks, which kept me afloat. When he tapped out and attacked on turn four, I blocked, still at fifteen life, and then untapped and combed for life, scrying the Murderous Redcap to the top of my deck. My opponent still thought he had me, activating an Inkmoth Nexus, playing two more artifacts, equipping Plating, and swinging with a 10/1 Inkmoth Nexus. Normally, that is a pretty good play, but unfortunately for my opponent, Melira says that I can’t get poison counters. I took ten damage, falling to 2,000,005 life, and my opponent conceded.

I boarded in Disenchant, Putrefy, Obstinate Baloths, Qasali Pridemage, Kataki, War’s Wage, and Baneslayer Angel

In game two, I kept a loose hand with Kitchen Finks and Baloth. I gained a bunch of life, but a Cranial Plating on a Signal Pest meant that I was not blocking, and I died quickly.

I boarded out some Baloths, and boarded in Pontiff and some Chords I had boarded out, hoping to Pontiff him on his turn.

I kept a hand with Putrefy and Finks. My opponent mulliganned to five and didn’t have much business, but I drew a bunch of lands. I Putrified his Cranial Plating, and after a few attacks, my Finks stared down an Etched Champion for a few turns. I drew Melira, and started bashing my Finks into his Etched Champion to gain two life every turn. I figured he didn’t have a removal spell, since he would have stopped me from doing this, so when he played the card he drew, and I drew a Chord, I went for the Life combo, and I was rewarded. My opponent did not concede, so I waited until I could damage combo him through a removal spell. A few turns later, I played Redcap and went for the Combo. Melira was Galvanic Blasted in response. I tapped my many creatures and Chord of Callinged for five, finding Reveillark. I sacrificed my Redcap, then my Reveillark, retrieving Redcap and Melira for the win.

4-0

Round 5: Tempered Steel Affinity

Game one he led with a couple Memnites and an Etched Champion, but my turn two Thalia held the ground, and I only took two a turn, letting me set up a Birthing Pod. At some point, he taps two for a Springleaf Drum, leaving up one mana. In response, I Chorded for two, finding Sculler, hoping to hit a removal spell that he can’t play because of Thalia. He dumps a Frogmite under the Sculler. I slowed myself down by a turn to do that; I had another Chord in my hand. I had to dodge one draw step from him. I set up the Pod, and Chorded and Poded for House Guard on my next turn to life combo him, and he scooped them up.

I sided in Pontiff, Baneslayer, one Baloth, Kataki, Putrefy, Disenchant, and Pridemage.

Game two was much less interesting. He mulliganed to four on the play. I played a turn two Thalia to his one land, Memnite, Ornithopter. I played a Kitchen Finks, he had no play. On my fourth turn, I Chorded for Kataki, prompting a “whatever” and a good natured concession. We chatted after the match, and he told me he was on Tempered Steel, which I didn’t even realize. In game one, he had more outs than just his four removal spells, and drawing Tempered Steel would’ve killed me on the spot.

5-0

Since the tournament was seven rounds, I could double draw into the top 8. I was in first place after five rounds with a Dimir House Guard in my deck.

I drew with the only other 5-0, who was on UW Tron. My seventh round opponent and I played for fun, mostly so I could see what he was playing. He was on UWR Splinter Twin. He beat me 2-1 in our match, but I kept some hands that I wouldn’t have if I actually had been playing him. We intentionally drew. I didn’t want to play against Twin. Unfortunately, two of them made Top 8, and I was paired against the other Twin deck, straight UR, in the quarterfinals.

Quarterfinals: UR Splinter Twin

Game 1: I mulliganed to five on the play, keeping a hand with Thalia. Thalia ate a Flame Slash, and I drew a second, along with a Sculler. I played the second Thalia first, hoping he would Slash it and I could Sculler him for a combo piece to buy me some time. He did Flame Slash my second Thalia, and I played Sculler the next turn. He revealed land, Dispel, Dispel, Deceiver Exarch. I took the Exarch, feeling pretty good. I had a clock, albeit a slow one, and he had three dead cards and no combo pieces. Unfortunately, a third Flame Slash came a few turns later, and a Sleight of Hand found a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

I sided in Qasali Pridemage, Chokes, Putrefy, and Nekrataal

In game two, another early Thalia was Flame Slashed, but I had a much better draw. A Pod found beatdown in Kitchen Finks, Qasali Pridemage, and a Linvala to shut him down. Grim Lavamancer and a Firespout got in the way, but he eventually succumbed to the beatdown.

Game three started with a loose keep. I had Kitchen Finks and Thalia, which again ate a Flame Slash. A Pridemage and Melira started the beatdown, and I had little disruption for his combo. He end of turned an Exarch, and I Chorded in response for a Sculler, expecting a counter to (di)spell my doom. Instead, he revealed a hand of Kiki-Jiki, Kiki-Jiki, Splinter Twin. And with that, I was out of the top 8.

All in all, I was proud of my play and my deck. The deck was powerful and fun to play. I loved the versatility. Without the hate, the deck can deal with just about anything, and against the hate, it can present a legitimate beatdown strategy. As you can see from my report, I won a decent amount of games by dealing twenty. There are two PTQs in Columbus this weekend, and you can bet that I’ll be running this deck again.

If I see you there, beat me so I don’t have to write another one of these. Oh, and if my Eiganjo Castle gets Legend Rule’d this weekend I’m going to be a salty spittoon.

Until then, may we be like two peas in a Pod.

Peter

@Stonecoldnuts31 on Twitter

Johnsop8@mail.uc.edu

Member of The Bridge Podcast, a comedic look at Magic, its culture, and its players. Check us out at www.mtgbridge.com (NSFW)

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