Why You Should Play Elvish Visionary in Your Naya Pod Deck
July 20, 2012 | Posted by Dee
I was excited to check out Caleb Durward’s Naya Pod deck when I found out he won last weekend’s Starcitygames Standard Open in St. Louis. Birthing Pod is one of my favorite cards. I’ve written a lot of articles about Pod decks on this site.
Also, the tournament was the first Standard Open with M13 cards. I wanted see to how Caleb modified the deck with the new core set.
As I went through his decklist, it didn’t take long for me to go, “Huh?” This was my reaction when I saw the 3 Elvish Visionary in the main deck.
I didn’t even consider this card for Naya Pod because I thought the alternatives were much better. Cards like Strangleroot Geist, Viridian Emissary, and Mikaeus, the Lunarch seemed better than the lowly 1/1 Elf.
But I knew I was probably wrong with my evaluation of the M13 creature. First, Caleb pays the bills with Magic the Gathering. He wins money in big tournaments and he writes strategy articles for Channel Fireball. He’s definitely a much better deck builder than me.
Second, Caleb played 3 copies of Elvish Visionary, the same amount as the other two-drop in the deck, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. That’s a lot of copies. He obviously felt that the card was an important part of the deck.
I analyzed his deck to figure out why he liked the card so much. Also, I playtested the deck for a couple of matches to see how Elvish Visionary performed.
After doing these two things, I realized why Caleb decided to play the M13 Elf. But first check out his winning decklist below.
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I’ll start off by comparing Elvish Visionary to Strangleroot Geist because the undying creature has the most raw power out of all the two-drops for Naya Pod. Why did Caleb cut this card?
I think the main reason is casting cost. During my playtesting, there were times where I couldn’t cast Elvish Visionary if it was Strangleroot Geist instead.
The deck has 4 Cavern of Souls and 4 Gavony Township. These cards are important but they don’t play well with Strangleroot Geist.
Cavern of Souls is a good mana fixer if you have a lot of creatures of the same tribe. The deck fits this description. More than half of its 32 creatures are Humans. Also, Cavern of Souls stops Mana Leak, which is a common card.
You don’t really want to name Spirit with Cavern of Souls to cast Strangleroot Geist on turn two because that could mess up your mana later in the game when you need the land to produce colored mana for Humans.
Gavony Township is a key card because it prevents the drawblack of mana flood. If you draw too many lands, you can still have a good chance of winning if one of your lands is Gavony Township. This land gives you a powerful effect by buffing your team permanently. It combos very well with the cards that produce multiple creatures (Blade Splicer, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Geist-Honored Monk).
Gavony Township only produces colorless mana so you can’t use it to cast Strangleroot Geist. On the other hand, you can tap it for mana to cast Elvish Visionary.
While we’re talking about Gavony Township, I’ll point out that Strangleroot Geist can be awkward with the Innistrad land. You want to activate the land to buff your creatures. But at the same time, you don’t want to turn off Strangleroot Geist’s undying ability by putting a +1/+1 counter on it.
Elvish Visionary doesn’t have this problem. Its ability is not dependent on whether or not it has a +1/+1 counter.
Also, Strangleroot Geist does not match up well against Blade Splicer and Restoration Angel, two of the most popular creatures right now in Standard.
For example, let’s say your opponent has Restoration Angel on the battlefield while you have nothing but lands. Both of you have zero cards in hand. It’s now your draw step. Would you rather draw Strangeroot Geist or Elvish Visionary?
I would rather draw Elvish Visionary because it gives me an opportunity to draw something good that trumps his Restoration Angel. I could draw Wurmcoil Engine or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. I could draw Birthing Pod and start activating it to get better creatures.
If I draw Strangleroot Geist, it will just sit there unable to attack.
Let’s compare Elvish Visionary to Mikaeus. Mikaeus can be pretty good but it has less synergy than Elvish Visionary with two of the best cards in the deck, Restoration Angel and Birthing Pod.
You definitely don’t want to blink Mikaeus with Restoration Angel. He will come back with zero +1/+1 counters and die. On the other hand, flickering Elvish Visionary is very good because you draw a card.
On the battlefield, Mikaeus’ converted mana cost is one while Elvish Visionary’s is two. Mikaeus starts off the Pod chain at a lower level so it takes longer to Pod for your best creatures.
Also, you need to wait one turn to get something out of Mikaeus before Podding him away. You can’t use his ability on the turn when you cast him. With Elvish Visionary, his ability triggers right away. You don’t have to wait a turn to gain value from him.
I remember a situation where I played Elvish Visionary on turn two. On the next turn, I cast Birthing Pod. My opponent killed the Elf with Doom Blade because he didn’t want me to sac it to Pod.
But I won that exchange in terms of card advantage. He went down a card but I didn’t because Elvish Visionary replaced itself with another card. If you had Mikaeus in that situation instead of the Elf, you would not gain this advantage.
Viridian Emissary is a better Pod creature than Mikaeus but it suffers from a lack of synergy with Restoration Angel.