Birthing Pod – New Phyrexia
Date Reviewed: June 9, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 3.75
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Phyrexian mana is infamously game-warping, and a big part of that reputation is due to this specific card. A Phyrexianized riff on Natural Order would be horrifying enough, but the real kicker is that it’s not limited to green decks in most formats. Four life is a reasonable price to search out a creature that’ll turn the game around; even six to ten life can be just fine when you have a creature-based combo that wins the game on the spot. The limitation doesn’t actually hold it back all that much, considering the quality of creatures available at every mana value, both in its original Standard card pool and in modern Magic generally. Many of them make a combo that just wins the game on the spot, and for a while, Standard and Modern had a possible sub-meta-game of thinking up crazy chains of death triggers and comes-into-play abilities.
Commander [EDH]: 4/5
Back in its Standard and in the early days of Modern, Birthing Pod carved out a name as being the centerpiece one of the most horrifyingly consistent decks to face out. Reliably being able to turn anything into something bigger offers plenty of room for shenanigans, and that this has Phyrexian mana symbols made this at least 62% more abuseable. One mana and two life to tutor anything out that’s at a higher spot on the mana curve means that you can use (and abuse) some very nasty chains of play along the way, and because of deeper creature pools, this has nastier things it can fetch as formats widen. To add insult to injury, Birthing Pod could fit into nearly any deck with creatures by virtue of it being effectively colorless (not the case in Commander, but green doesn’t mind), and if you can blink or reuse the Pod repeatedly in a turn, the game might just end then and there.
It’s both vicious as a combo piece and even as just a supplement to a fair deck, and the days of chaining out Kitchen Finks, Siege Rhino, and Thragtusk earned it a seemingly permanent spot on Modern’s ban list. That said, Birthing Pod has never quite found the same foothold in Legacy, thanks to the pressure release valves of that format being stronger, and it is possible that the current Modern format might be better able to handle Birthing Pod. Still, being an effectively colorless artifact with a brutal tutoring effect that’s also at a low spot on the mana curve has made Birthing Pod one of the more notorious cards to come from a set with a plethora of developmental mistakes, and I think it helped show that Phyrexian mana may be a bit on the powerful side.
Constructed: 4.75 (it’s never taken off in Legacy, but it would probably warp Modern around it again)
Limited: 1.5 (Birthing Pod demands specific deck-building to get to work, thanks to needing to find the exact mana value, and Limited decks rarely can put together effective chains to make this pop…especially in the weird hellscape of Scars of Mirrodin Limited)
Commander [EDH]: 4.25 (you can’t just splash it in any deck, but green decks certainly can abuse this to its fullest potential)
One of the best and most broken cards every printed had decks built around it and was a mainstay in tournaments for a long time before it was banned in modern. The ability for this to be put into any deck, because of the Phyrexian mana, you can combo off quite easily cheating in a bigger creature that will win you the game. Overall the banning of this card helped to balance the format and completely took the deck off the table as there was no other real replacement for this card. A legend during the 2010’s in the modern format changed the landscape of the game forcing Wizards to respond with the ban hammer.
Commander [EDH]: 3/5
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