Rock the Pod
I’m very, very interested in Smallpox at the moment. I do love me a good Rock deck and Smallpox (and Pox, Deathcloud) certainly define the Rock format.
There are two great support cards for Smallpox right now. They also happen to be the cards that most resemble Survival of the Fittest.
Remember how broken Survival of the Fittest is? A repeatable, uncounterable tutor effect? Well Standard has two of them:
* Fauna Shaman at 2 mana
* Birthing Pod at 3 or 4 (yeah right) mana
Both these cards support Smallpox beautifully, although Pod is probably the better support card, as they help you find your way out of the card parity that Smallpox forces by tutoring up exactly what you need.
A GB decklist may start off something like this:
4 Fauna Shaman
4 Birthing Pod
Bloodghast and Vengevine are the best creatures to kill off or discard, but we only get maximum value out of Vengevine if we have a way of playing a couple of creatures at once, so I’m not convinced about playing four of them.
The heart of a Rock deck is to keep up disruption while playing our threats. Pod helps us search out higher and higher-mana cost threats while our mana-based is crippled through Pod, even as we tutor up lands with some of our creature targets. Here are some options.
* Sylvan Ranger: Good, but as the land goes to your hand instead of into play, not great. We really want to be getting lands into play faster than our opponent for our smallpox to have maximum effect.
* Viridian Emissary: An efficient way of getting lands out there, we don’t mind saccing him to either Smallpox or Birthing Pod, as the land goes straight into play.
* Pilgrim’s Eye: Like Slyvan Ranger, Pilgrim’s Eye suffers from the land hitting our hand, rather than the board. However it’s a nice card for the 3 mana spot.
* Cadaver Imp: Allows us to stay ahead of our opponents in regards to hand-size, and if you’re recurring a Viridian Emissary it’s all gas.
* Glissa, the Traitor: I’m not sure there’s a call for Glissa unless we end up with a number of Simulacrum’s, Wurmcoils and Pilgrim’s Eyes. But she does recur Pod as well. Hmmmm.
* Gatekeeper of Malikir: If we’re casting him, great, but otherwise pretty difficult to manage. I don’t think we can squeeze him in.
* Liliana’s Specter: Great on the card-parity front but otherwise underwhelming.
* Solemn Simulacrum: A great card for the 4-drop spot, it’s essentially a 3-for-1 in this deck. Allows us to hit the 5th drop easily, stay ahead on land and stay ahead on cards in hand.
* Phyrexian Metamorph: More a metagame call than anything else, we’ll never cast him for full cost, but he’s a great place in the curve and can get extra value out of our other cards.
* Necrotic Ooze: If there was some overpowered creature combo in Standard this guy would be my go-to creature. At the moment I can’t see it, but you gotta keep him in mind going forward.
* Abyssal Persecutor: We have to win the game somehow, and the Persecutor certainly gets the job done. Birthpod means his ‘downside’ isn’t much of a problem.
* Thrun, the Last Troll: Can completely mince some UB and UW strategies, but can also be dead useless. Feels like as sideboard card more than one in the main deck.
* Oracle of Mul Daya: I’m curious about this girl as a one-of to help pull ahead of mana parity.
* Vengeful Pharoah: He helps us both with hand parity and board parity. We never mind discarding him (don’t mind if I do…) and we can generally always recur him. Maybe we can eventually cast him too.
* Acidic Slime: A key tool in the land-destruction game. I have dreams of endlessly recurring this guy with Sheoldred. Also takes out Swords, opposing Birthing Pods, O-Rings, Ascensions, and various other junk.
* Primeval Titan: A key step in the chain of mana-parity. If you get one ETB and one attack trigger off, you’ve probably won the game.
* Wurmcoil Engine: We don’t mind saccing him for benefit, and can be recurred via Glissa.
* Sheoldred, Whispering One: Seems to make sense in this particular Rock build as the top-end creature. Once on the table creature parity can never be obtained by your opponent.
Other Support Cards
* Inquisition of Kozilek/Duress/Despise: Rock decks need early disruption to work properly. If your Inquisition hits first turn, then your Smallpox hits both a land and a creature next turn, most opponents will find it pretty hard to recover. Inquisition is the best for us as our plan is not to let our opponent cast anything meaningful above 3 mana.
* Sign in Blood: We need to keep our hands full and SiB is certainly a good card to help us achieve that.
* Cultivate: I can imagine a Cultivate, followed by a Smallpox, would be brutal for a lot of decks that rely on high mana levels.
* Doom Blade / Go For The Throat / Geth’s Verdict: We’ll want some form of spot removal because of Splinter Twin decks and other burdesome fast-creature decks, such as Tempered Steel.
Where does that leave the deck? How about something like this:
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Go for the Throat
1 Doom Blade
4 Birthing Pod
4 Fauna Shaman
2 Viridian Emissary
2 Glissa, the Traitor
1 Pilgrim’s Eye
1 Cadaver Imp
2 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Acidic Slime
1 Vengeful Pharoah
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Primeval Titan
1 Sheoldred, the Whispering One
Land to suit – Forests, Swamps, that fetchland, and 1 of that new ruin card in M12.
Ok, so the list is completely untuned and probably terrible I’m not sure about the Bloodghast / Vengevine split at all, especially as this build will probably have a terrible time recurring them. It’s also a little short on the 4-mana slot, which is the most difficult slot to fill on any Pod list.
What I do like is the synergy and interactions between the cards. If there’s anything that’s going to take advantage of Smallpox, it’s a list like this.
I certainly think the shell is worth exploring. Once the cards are available I’ll test it online and see how it goes.