Enigmatic Toolbox: Birthing Pod in Standard

Then Theros: Beyond Death spoilers were happening, I assume that the most common reaction to Enigmatic Incarnation was “neat”. It’s a weird card that is hard to grok on first grasp. With how hard it is to figure out just by itself, building a deck around the card isn’t going to be an easy task. But when built around correctly, you get a powerful tutor engine that can find the perfect answer to whatever situation you are in. Enigmatic Incarnation compares really favorably against the traditional Birthing Pod in terms of mana efficiency. It costs the same to activate the first time, and is free every following turn, provided you fulfill the conditions.

To start off, what does this card ask us to do? It wants enchantments to serve as fuel to go find creatures. This means we will need to play a high density of enchantments, and preferably enchantments that don’t care about being sacrificed. This brings us to two different varieties of enchantments in this deck. First are the enchantments that draw us cards. Omen of the Sea and Treacherous Blessing both draw cards and don’t care about being sacrificed for free value (and in the case of Treacherous Blessing, it actively wants to be sacrificed). The second type of enchantment are the Leylines, which can enter the battlefield for free and will allow us to tutor up a 5 CMC creature as early as turn 3.

With these enchantments in the deck, we now have a tutor curve ranging from 3-5 mana that can grab us anything in Standard. Now, for this deck I am sticking to the Sultai colors, but if you want to do something with Red or White cards feel free too. By keeping within 3 colors, it’s easier to cast these tutor targets if we ever draw them. That being said, I think it’s best just to go over every creature in the deck and explain their significance.

Paradise Druid

The one card we can’t tutor in the deck, and therefore the only one we play 4 copies of. Paradise Druid is simple and efficient mana acceleration and mana fixing. With this, a Leyline, and Enigmatic Incarnation we get to tutor whatever 5 cmc creature is appropriate for the matchup. This along with Wolfwillow Haven gives us plenty of ramp to achieve a turn 3 Incarnation.

Setessan Champion

The only other creature we play a playset of because it is just so good. Drawing cards and growing bigger for playing enchantments makes all of the otherwise dead leyline draws late in the game useful, and gets crazy nasty with other cards which will be mentioned later. This thing usually swings in as a 5/7 or bigger and can take over the game in one or two turns. Setessan Champion turns this deck into a powerful Constellation deck when things don’t go right, and is the icing on the cake when you get to bury your opponents in value.

Dryad of the Ilysian Grove

It’s mana fixing on a 2/4 body. I initially started at 2 copies of this card and one of Setessan but quickly realized which card was more important for the deck. That being said, Dryad is still good because it is an enchantment creature. If there is a specific creature higher up the curve that you need, but all you have is an Omen of the Sea, tutoring into Dryad lets you move up the curve one turn at a time. Slow, but sometimes it’s what you’ve gotta do.

Arasta of the Endless Web

When I first added this card to the deck, it was just because it was a 4 mana enchantment creature, but I’ve since seen how much work this card can do. When your opponent’s Opts makes a 1/2 body it can really throw them for a loop, and removing this card is incredibly hard to do without giving up some value. The 3/5 with reach also blocks a ton of creatures (namely Rankle) and gives enough time for the deck to execute it’s lategame.

Dungeon Geists

The removal in this deck is baked into the creatures, and Dungeon Geists is no exception. It taps down anything that is pestering you, and can clock for 3 in the air every turn. If you need to setup for lethal finding this card can ensure that one creature is out of the fight. This is the closest this deck is getting to Ravenous Chupacabra, which the deck desperately needs.

Polukranos, Unchained

THAT’S ONE CHONKY BOI. Polukranos is massive for its mana cost, and escaping it is less of a dream then one would think. (More on that later). This functions as more removal for the deck, and is incredibly synergistic with many cards on this list. It’s also just a 6/6 that can come down on turn 3 which is sure to spook a lot of people.

Yarok, the Desecrated

This is usually the card you search for when you get the Leyline combo to go off, simply because of how much value Yarok can bring. Casting a Setessan Champion and then a Seaordain on the next turn lets you Scry 4 and draw 4 cards! Doubling all etbs is massive in this deck, and is part of the reason Setessan Champion can grow to be so huge. The 3/5 lifelink deathtouch is also incredibly relevant, and can stabilize a board when you are behind.

Cavalier of Thorns

Is Dream Trawler giving you trouble? Be a thorn in it’s side with this massive 5/6 with reach. This is one of the biggest natural creatures in the deck, and can put a halt to many different varieties of aggression. It also mills cards setting up for a future Polukranos.

Cavalier of Gales

If you need your opponent dead in exactly 4 turns, this is your guy. 5/5 flying is the main reason we are playing Cavalier of Gales, but the Brainstorm does a really great job of getting rid of unwanted cards and shuffling them away with an Enigmatic trigger. It also serves as a threat that never dies meaning that any future 4 mana enchantment will still have some value.

Gravebreaker Lamia

This is one of the spicier cards in the list, but it has performed incredibly well in my testing. A 4/4 lifelink is just what the doctor ordered against Mono-Red and putting Polukranos into your graveyard effectively draws you a 6 mana 12/12. This even makes that one mana cheaper. Gravebreaker Lamia is also an enchantment creature which lets us go one higher up the curve then we otherwise would be able to. All in all, this card does everything we want and fits the deck perfectly.

Dream Eater

The options at 6 mana are pretty slim, however. I’ve tried Lochmere Serpent and never wanted to tutor it out, let alone cast it when it was in my hand, but Dream Eater can at least effect the board. 4/3 flying isn’t great but surveil 4 is good to have after putting a Polukranos in the graveyard if he doesn’t have enough to eat. Bouncing something also lets Dream Eater effect the board, which is important in a deck without much traditional interaction. If you don’t want to play this, it’s not out of the question to just play Dream Trawler and accept that you won’t be casting it if you draw it.

Finally to round off the deck there are 2 Finale of Devastation to make use of all the ramp available and to find the cards that Enigmatic Incarnation can’t.

Closing Thoughts

When I first put the deck together, I thought I was making a meme deck and I’m sure many of you reading this article feel the same way. How could this deck possibly be successful? It wasn’t until I started playing with the list that I realized how much raw power there was in Enigmatic Incarnation. I won’t go so far to say that my list is tier one, but I could easily see Enigmatic Incarnation becoming a player in Standard, in the right meta. The deck can grind with the best of them, has draws that lead to an explosive openers, and can find specific cards to deal with any matchup that comes it’s way.

There are so many different ways to take this kind of deck and infinite amount of tuning possible. If you want to maximize the turn 3 five cmc creature you can play more Leylines. Go for a more traditional midrange list and play Enigmatic Incarnation for value. I’ve seen Bant versions of this deck pop up and a different creature suite can make a totally unique gameplan. Nightmare Shepherd was initially the reason I went into Black in the first place, but I haven’t even begun trying to make an Enigmatic Shepherd deck yet. Suffice to say, I love Enigmatic Incarnation and have incredibly high hopes for it this Standard. There is a lot of power in this card, all it needs is the right deck.

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