Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 353 of Against the Odds. Last week on our Against the Odds poll, Riveteers Ascendancy for Standard took home a pretty easy win. As such, we’re playing Birthing Pod today but in Standard! The main goal is to combo Riveteers Ascendancy with Vivien on the Hunt, which lets us sacrifice a creature to Vivien’s +1 in order to Birthing Pod a creature with higher mana value from our deck onto the battlefield, while Riveteers Ascendancy will get us a lower-mana-value creature back from our graveyard, giving us an endless value loop as long as our combo pieces stick on the battlefield. Can the plan work? How good is Riveteers Ascendancy in Standard? Is Vivien on the Hunt worthy of the Birthing Pod name? Let’s get to the video and find out in today’s Against the Odds; then, we’ll talk more about the deck!
Against the Odds: Riveteers Ascendancy Pod
When Riveteers Ascendancy won last week’s poll, my initial instinct was to simply play it with a bunch of the Jund-colored blitz cards in Standard to generate value. But after brewing a bit, I realized there was an even spicier plan to maximize the enchantment’s potential. While we could still play blitz creatures to embrace the full Riveteers experience, Vivien on the Hunt is the perfect combo piece to power up Riveteers Ascendancy!
Our main goal is to get both of our combo pieces on the battlefield at the same time, along with a creature or two, which is when the fun begins. We can sacrifice a creature to Vivien on the Hunt‘s Birthing Pod–esque +2 to tutor a creature of higher mana value out of our deck, which will also trigger Riveteers Ascendancy to get a lower-mana-value creature back from our graveyard. Assuming our combo pieces survive another turn, we can repeat the process, with Riveteers Ascendancy getting the creature we sacrificed the previous turn back from the graveyard while Vivien on the Hunt continues to work its way up the Birthing Pod chain.
Apart from our two combo pieces, the most important aspect of making our plan work is having the right mixture of mana values in our deck so Vivien on the Hunt will always have something to tutor up and Riveteers Ascendancy will also have something in our graveyard to reanimate. As such, we’ve got a few creatures at every point on the curve from one mana up to seven mana, many of them with additional Riveteers Ascendancy or Vivien on the Hunt synergies. Since our deck is playing a lot of one- and two-of tutor targets, I’m not going to go in-depth on every card. But let’s quickly walk our way up the curve and discuss some of the tricks of the deck.
Our one-drop is Dockside Chef, which works especially well with Riveteers Ascendancy since it allows us to sacrifice a creature at instant speed. If you read our namesake enchantment closely, you’ll see that it can trigger once each turn, which means we can sacrifice something to Vivien on the Hunt during our turn to reanimate a creature and then use Dockside Chef to sacrifice something during our opponent’s turn to double up our reanimation fun. It’s also a good way to protect our creatures from removal that exiles them because we really want our creatures to die so we can reanimate them with Riveteers Ascendancy, rather than have them be exiled forever.
The important thing to note about our two-drops is that they can all sacrifice themselves to value, either to blitz or, in the case of Bloodtithe Harvester, as removal. The Blood token from Bloodtithe Harvester is also a great way to get a creature in our graveyard so we can reanimate it with Ascendancy.
The three-drop slot is mostly about ramping with cards that we don’t mind sacrificing to Vivien on the Hunt, like Jewel Thief and Old Rutstein, although we also get another instant-speed sacrifice outlet in Sanguine Spy. Normally, I’m skeptical of the “if there are five or more mana values in your graveyard” cards, but if any deck can turn it on, it’s one like ours, with a Birthing Pod curve.
Jaxis might be my favorite card in the deck. It’s a four-drop that we can blitz for just two mana, which allows us to reanimate anything up to a three-drop with Riveteers Ascendancy. Plus, we can use it to make copies of our creatures to sacrifice to Vivien on the Hunt, which lets us work our way up the Birthing Pod curve without losing a “real” creature. Meanwhile, Ziatora’s Envoy can blitz itself to trigger Riveteers Ascendancy if we don’t have a sac outlet, and Atsushi is pretty good at dying, leaving behind either some extra mana or extra cards.
The five-drop slot is more of the same: Dragons that like dying and a blitz creature. Workshop Warchief is amazing in the deck since, much like Ziatora’s Envoy, we can use blitz to sacrifice it if we don’t have a real sac outlet, and it leaves behind a 4/4 body when it dies, making it more or less free to sac.
For six mana, we have Ziatora, the Incinerator, which is one of our best finishers since it can Fling other creatures at our opponent’s face (which also happens to be a sacrifice ability, so it triggers Riveteers Ascendancy to get back more sacrifice fodder for the next turn), while Cemetery Desecrator is mostly a Vivien on the Hunt target, likely killing something when it enters the battlefield and then killing something else when it dies as we Birthing Pod it into a seven-drop.
Finally, at the top end of our curve, we have Dreadfeast Demon, which is hilarious with Riveteers Ascendancy, letting us sacrifice creatures to trigger our namesake enchantment while making more copies of the 6/6 flier, and Titan of Industry, which is just one of the most powerful top-end threats in all of Standard.
By far the biggest problem we ran into with our plan was that pretty much every deck has some main-deck answer to Riveteers Ascendancy, which made it super hard to keep it on the battlefield and pull off our absurd value lock. While we can win without the enchantment, considering our main goal is to go off with Ascendancy and Vivien, it isn’t all that satisfying to win by beating down after our opponent blows up Riveteers Ascendancy (although it is still a little bit satisfying).
Record-wise, we finished 2-3 with the deck, winning a bunch of extra games along the way. This isn’t a horrible record for an Against the Odds deck, although, as I mentioned a moment ago, Riveteers Ascendancy died a lot. We finally managed to assemble the full combo against Esper Legends, which thankfully doesn’t seem to believe that enchantments are a thing, or at least isn’t willing to play cards that remove them, and it was pretty spectacular! While the amount of main-deck enchantment hate probably means that Riveteers Ascendancy will never be a top-tier card in Standard, it can do some really sweet things. On the other hand, Vivien on the Hunt felt pretty busted, and I think it might be legitimately underrated in Standard. It has a ton of loyalty, and all the modes are good, with the +2 being the focus of our deck, the +1 generating card advantage, and the –1 making 4/4 Rhinos, which are decent bodies. While there is a deck-building cost to making the Birthing Pod curve work, Vivien felt powerful and like it probably should be explored more in Standard.
Anyway, that’s all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.