Driving across the country last week, I had a lot of time to think about building Magic decks. During one eight-hour stretch, I chose to answer a question I think all Commander players have thought about at least once:
If I had to own only one Commander deck, what would it be?
My answer? It has to be something like Four-Color Birthing Pod.
Why Birthing Pod? And Why Four Colors?
I love toolbox decks. Nothing satisfies me so much as being able to pluck the exact right card out of my carefully-curated Commander deck (Yu-Gi-Oh! style) to answer an opponent’s threat or secure my own victory.
At the same time, I like ACTUALLY FINISHING games of Commander. Which is why, in most of my latest Commander decks, I include at least one combo that can end games instantly.
No card allows me to scratches both those itches quite like Birthing Pod does, which is why it’s the card my final Commander deck would center around.
I’ve been interested in building a Kiki-Pod style Commander deck for a while now (you can take a look at this aborted draft from two years ago if you don’t believe me), but never settled on an exact decklist. In fact, as I theorycrafted this latest four-color version, I waffled between a two-color version (Green-White is all that’s needed for multiple infinite combos), a three-color version (Bant and Naya are both defensible choices, as they add options to the Green-White shell), my four-color version, and a five-color version (Black doesn’t add much, though, while making the mana even more miserable).
So why did I choose to build the four color version? Simple: Playing White, Blue, Red, and Green gives me access to all my favorite Commander creatures and combos. And that, more than anything, is what I want most out of my final Commander deck. I don’t care if it’s as streamlined as it should be; I don’t care if it’s going to win every game. Most of all, I want to make sure my last deck is fun to look at and play.
How Does It Win?
Before I describe how the deck wins, I want to give you another look at the decklist. Because it’s going to be important:
Now, let’s talk combos.
Kiki-Jiki and Splinter Twin Combos
Kiki-Jiki and Splinter Twin combos are my current instawins of choice, and Birthing Pod and Prime Speaker Vannifar make it pretty easy to assemble the Kiki-Jiki combo. For example, with any one-drop creature on the battlefield alongside a Pod (with four mana available) or active Vannifar, you can complete the following chain to attack with infinite Corridor Monitors:
- Feed your one-drop to Pod/Vannifar and find Corridor Monitor. Untap Pod/Vannifar.
- Feed Corridor Monitor to Pod/Vannifar and find Renegade Rallier. Return Corridor Monitor to play; untap Pod/Vannifar.
- Feed Renegade Rallier to Pod/Vannifar and find Felidar Guardian (Pod) or Breaching Hippocamp (Vannifar). Untap Pod/Vannifar.
- Feed your four-drop to Pod/Vannifar and find Kiki-Jiki. Use Kiki-Jiki’s ability to make a Corridor Monitor token which untaps Kik-Jiki which makes a Corridor Monitor token which …
- Attack for the win!
Of course, depending on what you’ve drawn and what your battlefield looks like, you’ll be able to or have to complete different iterations of this chain. You can also use one of the deck’s enchantment tutors (Heliod’s Pilgrim or Enlightened Tutor) to find Splinter Twin if Kiki-Jiki is out of reach, or one of the deck’s creature tutors (Finale of Devastation, Eldritch Evolution, etc.) to find an untapper or Kiki-Jiki if you already have the other half of the combo ready to go.
There are tons of ways to assemble the Kiki-Jiki/Splinter Twin combo in this deck – probably more than I’ve thought of! Part of the fun of this deck will be finding new and unlikely lines to victory, even among the same tried-and-true combos.
Spike Feeder Combos
These two-card combos won’t win you the game outright, but will make it difficult for opponents to beat you (especially if you’re able to attack with an Infinte/Infinite Archangel of Thune after gaining a zillion life). And if you have one half of either combo in hand, you can use Pod, Vannifar, or one of the deck’s many other creature tutors to find the other.
Walking Ballista Combos
Heliod, Sun-Crowned also combos with Walking Ballista (provided you have enough mana available to play a 2/2 Ballista and activate Heliod’s activated ability) to pump out infinite damage:
- Activate Heliod to give Walking Ballista lifelink.
- Activate Ballista and remove a +1/+1 counter to damage an opponent, gain life, and then (via Heliod’s triggered ability) put a fresh +1/+1 counter on the Ballista.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all opponents are dead.
The Beatdown Plan
Two- or three-card creature combos are all well and good, but they’re also easy to disrupt. Knowing that, my final Commander deck would have to include a back-up plan or two to help finish games when comboing is out of reach (or just unfun).
That’s why I’ve chosen to include these two lands in my decklist:
Gavony Township turns a mess of dorky creatures into a real army real fast, while Kessig Wolf Run allows one creature to deal a whole lot of damage. Combine Wolf Run with Bruse Tarl (the deck’s other commander) and oh baby, you’ve got a stew going:
The rest of the deck would be filled out by tutors and utility spells – stuff I can use to enact my game plan or counter my opponents’. Overall, I think this deck would be intricate enough and interesting enough to play for the rest of my Commander “career,” and I think it would be good enough to hang with most any playgroup.
So will I build this deck? Honestly, I might! I don’t currently play Commander often enough to run more than one or two decks, so maybe it’s time to streamline. And while playtesting this deck online, I’ve found that I love thinking through the various chains and series that can win me the game. Assembling two-card combos is harder than you might think, especially when trying to anticipate and outmaneuver opponents’ answers while doing so.
The only obstacle to my building this deck is my Magic budget. But if I’m trimming down to only one Commander deck, I’ll have a bunch of extra cards I can sell off to fund Four-Color Birthing Pod. While I’m busy pondering how to make Four-Color Pod a reality, be sure to let me know what your last Commander deck would be in the comments below! I’m interested to know what everyone else would play, if restricted to just one Commander deck forever.