MTG goes through stages of banning and unbanning cards to refresh or to improve the health of formats. You often see bans occur if the power of a card becomes too much, or there aren’t enough tools to deal with it appropriately. Modern is going through a trend of unbanning cards to keep the format fresh, Stoneforge Mystic is a great example of this.
Back in 2015, Birthing Pod saw a ban in Modern while Golgari Grave Troll became unbanned (remember how well that went?) on the grounds it offered a higher win percentage. Going further, powerful creatures were coming into print which would give the artifact a higher ceiling. But, it’s been six years since the ban, is it time for the shackles to come off?
Wizards of the Coast (WotC) often ban or unban cards in Modern to keep the format fresh and exciting. Usually, we see unbans as a way to counteract certain trends in the format before they happen. An example being Stoneforge Mystic which became legal in 2019, the core reason for the unban was to encourage Modern to adopt a ‘permanent matters’ metagame. Even now, the Kor Artificer honors this approach and still contributes to a healthy Modern format after the woes of Hogaak Summer in 2019.
The same can be said for Jace, the Mind Sculptor which despite the claims by players it would warp Modern, it’s only diversified the format with cards such as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria seeing more play. But, can previously banned ‘combo’ strategies come back to a similar outcome?
Read More: Best Budget Picks from Modern Horizons 2
The Case for Unbanning Birthing Pod in Modern
Back in 2015, WotC banned Birthing Pod as it encouraged a decent win percentage which saw plenty of copies feature in various tournaments. Combining the Phyrexian mana costs and the ability to tutor a creature into play, there were countless ways you could build your Birthing Pod deck. Granted, the ideology and logic WotC provided at the time made sense, but so much has changed in MTG during the last six years it’s worth revising the original decision.
For the most part, Birthing Pod was more of a grindy and slower strategy with a combo win condition. Often the combo demonstrated infinite life or damage, through cards such as Kitchen Finks, Murderous Redcap, and Melira, Sylvok Outcast. The combo part would usually fall around turn five or later as it cared about slowing the opponent down first, then creating the opportunity to combo off. You could say, Pod strategies in Modern were very fair and currently, the last few years of Modern has been anything but that. Even now, you have Izzet Prowess and Mono-White Hammer slanting Modern into an aggressive metagame which Birthing Pod would struggle against.
Since 2015, MTG has become far more accessible than it was previously. We have instant access to decklists, a wealth of creators refining lists and a huge player base willing to consume the content. Before, knowing what to expect in Birthing Pod lists was tricky, as the information wasn’t as readily accessible since it ran so many one-offs as it was a toolbox strategy. Now the ability to learn what is included in decklists and how to beat it is easier than ever before, which reduces the intimidation factor that Birthing Pod once brought.
With that accessibility in mind, Modern is a format that rewards insight and knowledge. The gap between Standard, Historic/Pioneer, and Modern are closer than ever before. That overlap allows even beginner MTG players to become more experienced, which in turn means players are better prepared against other strategies.
Read More: Best Budget Picks from Modern Horizons 2
Will Birthing Pod come back to Modern?
On the flip side, the quality of creature spells has only become more powerful too. You have the Yawgmoth Combo decks which saw play prior to Modern Horizons 2 release, and would certainly come back in some capacity if Birthing Pod] did return. Either way, it’s unlikely to see play in existing combo strategies such Vizier Combo given Lurrs of the Dream-Den is such a huge proponent of that gameplan. Going further, you have access to interaction in Veil of Summer which would protect your name-sake card against countermagic such as [Force of Negation]. But, it wouldn’t be defining enough to break Modern unfavorably.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Birthing Pod come back at some point, since there are now effective tools to answer the artifact such as Force of Vigor. Long are the days of having an Abrupt Decay[ and being unable to target your opponent’s Birthing Pod despite them only using three mana to cast the spell. Or, having a cumbersome Reclamation Sage and hoping it’s enough for you to pull ahead. Even with the addition of Modern Horizons 2, Urza’s Saga offers an effective way to grab a Pithing Needle to name Birthing Pod too. The design of MTG cards have been pushed over the last few years, to the point there are more comfortable answers compared to six years ago.
We’re in the camp of unbanning certain cards to see how they behave in the current Modern ecosystem. Modern is broad enough with strong answers to previously warping cards such as these. Usually, when an unban happens, you see the ecosystem alter to counteract the card or players extensively try it first, you have to keep faith in the ecosystem to balance the format out. We saw it with Jace, the Mindsculptor, Bloodbraid Elf, and Stoneforge Mystic, so maybe it’s time to see how the artifact would survive in the current Modern environment.