Podding Through Richmond

Josh was confident in Melira Pod as the deck of choice for Grand Prix Richmond. Not only did he guess right—four copies made Top 8!—he also was one of them.

This past weekend Star City Games hosted the largest constructed Grand Prix of all time in Richmond. The few weeks between Valencia and Richmond were pretty crazy with a lot of travelling and another GP to play in Barcelona, so I didn’t get much time to actually play a bunch of games with Melira Pod – I had to rely on theorycrafting for any changes I was going to make.

After talking with fellow Birthing Pod enthusiast (and possibly the best Melira Pod player alive) Sam Pardee, we eventually came to the same conclusions on what we wanted to change. I talked about some possible changes you could make in my article last week, but here’s what we ended up changing for the Grand Prix.

Moving Voice of Resurgence from the sideboard to the maindeck

Voice is a card I’m almost always happy to draw, as there are not many matchups where it’s completely useless and a lot of matchups where it’s very good. The main reason for this move, however, was to make room in the sideboard for Thrun, the Last Troll and Ethersworn Canonist. We ended up cutting Wall of Roots as we expected Zoo to be way less popular than it was at the Pro Tour.

Adding Thrun to the sideboard rather than the maindeck

Thrun is very good against any matchup that boils down to an attrition battle. While it would be fine maindeck, we really only wanted four 4-drops, and the others were just way better. The main matchup we wanted Thrun for was UWR Control, though it also comes in against Jund, BG Obiterator, and other grindy matchups.

Adding Ethersworn Canonist to the sideboard

Canonist is a fairly self-explanatory card. If you expect Storm to be popular, you should have one in your 75. Out of the four or five of us that played this list, we didn’t play against Storm once, so perhaps this slot would be better used as something else.

Cutting a Slaughter Pact from the sideboard

This was just another slot opened up due to us not expecting much Zoo. While Pact was insane at the PT, now that people knew about it, it loses most of its surprise value. Drawing two can also be pretty clunky as well.

Changing Path to Exile back to Dismember

Yet another change brought about by our expectation of Zoo being less popular. Against just about every non-Zoo, non-Affinity deck, Dismember is way better than Path to Exile. You really don’t want to give extra lands to Jund, BG Obliterator, Twin, or even the mirror, as they all have plenty of stuff to do with the extra mana.

With the changes explained, here’s the list that I ended up registering for the tournament:

The actual tournament went pretty well for me. Rather than write a round-by-round report, I’ll share some cool or interesting moments from the tournament.

In round seven, I had a crazy close game against Auras. The first big decision came on turn two, but first, here’s a look at the hand I kept:

Birds of Paradise Spellskite Thoughtseize Chord of Calling Birthing Pod Birthing Pod Misty Rainforest

After playing the Birds turn one, my opponent played a Razorverge Thicket into a Slippery Bogle. I drew a Noble Hierarch on turn two, so I had two real options – I could play Spellskite, blanking most of his enchantments, or I could cast Thoughtseize first, which attempts to play around Path to Exile and/or Suppression Field. I ended up going with the Thoughtseize, as I thought I was in pretty bad shape if he had a Path to Exile or Suppression Field for my Spellskite. My opponent’s hand ended up being two lands, two Umbras, Daybreak Coronet, and Grafdigger’s Cage. I thought for a while and eventually took the Cage, as it blanked three of the cards in my hand. The game eventually came down to me getting a Pod online while chump blocking every turn until I eventually was able to get a Reveillark and a Viscera Seer with a Melira and Redcap in my graveyard.

In round eleven, I was paired against my worst nightmare – GR Tron. The matchup is about as bad as a matchup can get. Between Pyroclasm and Oblivion Stone, it’s very hard to keep much pressure on them and they’re free to cast all the Karns and Wurmcoil Engines they want. After adding in that they also usually have Relic of Progenitus, comboing can be pretty difficult. Game one, I got smashed fairly easily. But in the second and third games I was able to use Thoughtseize, Sin Collector, and Entomber Exarch to throw my opponent off just long enough to finish him off. There was a point in game two where my opponent had led with two Urza’s Mine and a Sylvan Scrying to get an Urza’s Tower on turn two. I was able to cast a turn-three Entomber Exarch thanks to a Birds of Paradise, and when I saw his hand contained no lands but the Urza’s Tower, I knew I was going to be in good shape.

Fun Fact – Just about every opponent I have ever used Entomber Exarch to take a land against has instantly picked up the card in disbelief that you can take lands.

I had another interesting decision come up in round thirteen against Affinity. It was turn two of the third game, and my opponent had a Darksteel Citadel, Blinkmoth Nexus, Signal Pest, and Phyrexian Revoker (naming Noble Hierarch) to my board of Razorverge Thicket and Noble Hierarch. In hand I had a Kataki, War’s Wage and a Spellskite, along with a Qasali Pridemage and some other business spells. My two options were to cast the Kataki or the Spellskite to protect the Kataki next turn. I talked to a lot of people about this play, and heard good arguments for both sides, but eventually I decided to play around a red source + Galvanic Blast by playing the Spellskite first. This line also allowed Kataki to potentially be a bigger blowout if he untapped and played a few more cheap artifacts. My opponent ended up having a Master of Etherium, which was a little awkward because I could no longer block his Revoker with my Spellskite, but after I played Kataki and locked his mana down every turn, I was eventually able to put together enough damage to win.

I was disappointed to find out I’d be playing Ben Friendman in round fourteen for Top Eight, as not only is he a friend, he’s also a very good Melira Pod player. Game One was incredibly long, lasting almost 43 minutes. Ben was the first one to get a Birthing Pod going, but I was able to gain infinite life and put a Pod to the top of my library. With Ben having already used his Shriekmaw my Linvala was safe for the time being, so I was able to keep him off of infinite damage while I tried to outpace his double Pod draw. Eventually Ben was able to sacrifice Shriekmaw to Birthing Pod for no value, then use his other Pod to get an Eternal Witness to rebuy the deadly elemental. After it was all said and done, Murderous Redcap did about 900 million damage to me and I died.

With only five minutes left on the clock as we started game two, I knew I had to play very fast if I wanted to have a shot at a draw (at the time, I thought I would be eliminated from Top Eight contention with a loss). While trying to play super-fast for game two, there came a point where, on camera, I forgot to pay for a Slaughter Pact that I had cast on my previous end step. Nether myself, Ben, or the surrounding judges noticed, so we kept playing as if nothing had happened. I didn’t realize what had happened until after the match, when some friends came up and told me I had forgotten to pay. I’m very glad I lost the match in the end, and still feel bad for continuing to play the game, but I can assure you that my intent was not malicious, and due to the rushed pace of play, I simply just forgot to pay.

As standings were posted before the final round, I was ecstatic to find out my tiebreakers were actually quite good and I’d have one more chance to possibly play for Top Eight. My match was pretty uneventful, as game one we both mulliganed and my Zoo opponent drew a few too many lands, then in the second game he mulliganed down to five and got stuck on just a Forest and a Wild Nacatl for a turn.

After I had won the match, my good friend Joe Demestrio pointed out that I will probably end up in ninth place, but it’ll be close, so I knew I had a good sweat with the Top Eight announcement. As we were waiting on the announcement, I made a comment to my friend Oscar Jones that I wished he would have been in second place instead of first, so that if I do make Top Eight, we could dodge each other in the quarters. When they announced the Top Eight, it turned out Oscar’s tiebreakers had dropped a bit and he did end up in second, so now all I had to do was sneak in. Unfortunately for us, my breakers had actually jumped a lot, and I ended up in seventh place instead of eighth, so I’d have to play Oscar nonetheless.

Our match wasn’t anything too spectacular, as the games weren’t super interactive. Game one I had a Birthing Pod but couldn’t cast either of the two Murderous Redcaps in my hand and I had no other creatures left alive. In game two, I just played a bunch of guys as Oscar had an awkward draw and he just kind of died. Game three, we killed each other’s mana accelerants for a few turns until he drew his third land before me, allowing him to Chord for an Orzhov Pontiff and effectively shut me down.

Even though losing in the quarterfinals always leaves you with a little bit of disappointment, all in all it was a great tournament and I achieved my main goal going in – to get Top 32 and one additional
Pro Point, locking me for Platinum for next season. Thinking back to just nine months ago, just before Grand Prix Miami – where I had zero pro points and wasn’t qualified for the Pro Tour – I would have never imagined I’d have gotten to Platinum so fast. I can only attribute it to running a little better than average and having a great team to work with (Team Face to Face Games) that has really helped me improve exponentially as a player in the past few years.

The next step for me at this point will be to try and get enough points to get a spot in the Players’ Championship at the end of the year. I’d guess I need another solid PT finish, but luckily for me there are still two Pro Tours to go!

Unfortunately I won’t be attending GP Montreal this weekend due to a combination of flights costing almost $1000, it being Limited, and the fact that I would need to Top 16 to get a Pro Point. I really wish there was no cap on the number of GPs you could use that go towards your Pro Point total, as it really makes me not want to go to some GPs. I would for sure be going to Montreal if the cap didn’t exist.

It looks like the next GP for me will be GP Cincinnati on March 22nd. I haven’t played or even thought about Standard since Grand Prix Vancouver, and in the meantime, a new set has been released. I’ve heard UW Control is pretty good, and Mono-Blue Devotion might still be playable, but if anyone has some suggestions for what I should try out, please do let me know.

The last month has been an absolute blast. Here’s hoping I can keep it going in Cincinnati!