Hi! My name is Josh Mcclain. If you aren’t a regular of the Midwest PTQ scene, then it’s you likely have never met or heard of me. I’ve played in a few Pro Tours, mostly off of PTQ wins, and, prior to this weekend, have had one notable GP finish (2nd place in Miami).
This past weekend was Grand Prix Detroit. I hadn’t played any Modern since Grand Prix Kansas City. For Kansas City, I prepared extensively with Melira Pod, and kept losing to all sorts of things. I couldn’t beat Jund, Naya Pod, UWR, Twin—you name it. After an unfortunate grinder on-site, I audibled to Naya pod at 1 a.m.—and proceeded to not win a match.
For Detroit, I knew I wanted to play Melira Pod, but I didn’t want to get discouraged, so I decided to not play any games with it in the week leading up to the tournament, and to hopefully come up with a good list by talking to Sam Pardee and Matt Nass about the deck.
After discussing the deck (read: Matt and Sam generously shipping their 75), I had a list I thought looked pretty good. Here’s what we ended up playing:
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Deathrite Shaman
2 Viscera Seer
2 Voice of Resurgence
1 Wall of Roots
1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Qasali Pridemage
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Eternal Witness
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Spike Feeder
2 Murderous Redcap
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Archangel of Thune
4 Birthing Pod
3 Chord of Calling
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
3 Razorverge Thicket
1 Woodland Cemetery
3 Gavony Township
3 Lingering Souls
1 Voice of Resurgence
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Sin Collector
1 Aven Mindcensor
[card]Archangel of Thune[/card]/[card]Spike Feeder[/card], and the lack of [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]
[draft]Archangel of Thune
A big part of putting together a Melira Pod list is choosing your creatures. You need to balance how often you will need to Pod/Chord into that creature against how good it is when you naturally draw it. A card like [card]Restoration Angel[/card] is generally going to be decent to draw off the top, but you rarely are going to tutor for it.
M14 brought a few more options to the table, notably [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] and the [card]Archangel of Thune[/card]/[card]Spike Feeder[/card] combo. [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] was decent, but it falls into the same category as [card]Restoration Angel[/card]—you rarely want to actually tutor it up. The Archangel/Spike Feeder combo, on the other hand, was a way to gain infinite life that dodged graveyard hate, all while being reasonable to just draw off the top of your deck ([card]Spike Feeder[/card] less so than Archangel). Archangel is so good on its own—I had multiple matches where I would board out the Spike Feeder, but leave in the Angel.
One [card melira, sylvok outcast]Melira[/card]
[draft]melira, sylvok outcast[/draft]
I was reluctant to go down to two Melira after the release of [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], so when Sam and Matt told me they were down to one, I couldn’t believe it! After talking about it for a bit, however, I was convinced. Melira is by far the worst card in the deck on its own. In games you don’t combo, it’s rarely more than [card]Grizzly Bears[/card]. Add to that the fact that Archangel can be used as a substitute when you have a sac outlet and a Finks, and going down to one made sense.
No [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card]
[card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] was much better when [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] was around and you often needed a very reliable blocker for it. This, combined with the fact that you are now able to combo off without a sac outlet, made [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] not quite good enough.
[card]Abrupt Decay[/card] over [card]Thoughtseize[/card] main
Both cards have their merits, and depending on the expected metagame, either is a reasonable choice. Going into the event, I expected Jund and BG to be the two biggest decks of the tournament, with stuff like Affinity or RG Aggro also represented. [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] is very important in these matchups, as being able to kill a [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], or [card]Cranial Plating[/card] goes a long way. I would certainly not play with less than four [card]Thoughtseize[/card] in my 75, and if you expect more Scapeshift, Twin, Storm, or UWR, then [card]Thoughtseize[/card] would be better.
As for the actual tournament, Day One was pretty uneventful. I was able to win a game three against Affinity in extra turns after we started the game with 2 minutes on the clock thanks to [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Gavony Township[/card]. I got smashed in an uncovered feature match against Ben Stark in round 7. I was disappointed when pairings went up for round 9 to find I was playing against David Ochoa. In game one, I kept a fairly greedy hand of [card]Birds of Paradise[/card], [card]Forest[/card], [card]Wall of Roots[/card] and some business spells. Two [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s, an [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card], and me failing to find a second land for a while meant we were on to game two. The next two games were very close, and basically boiled down to who drew [card]Gavony Township[/card] first.
Day Two was much more interesting. My first two rounds were against UWR Twin, which is a very close matchup. While I think UWR Control is a very good matchup as you can just grind them out, you have to be wary of the Twin version, as they can just kill you out of nowhere.
In round 12 I was paired against Lucas Siow. I made a pretty big mistake game one when I played a 4th land, allowing him to [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] me and turn on his [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] to give him black mana, which he lacked at the time. I can’t remember exactly what my board was, but I believe I had a Pod and was able to win the game anyways, but it would have been way easier had I realized that he was desperate for black mana. A good friend once told me that it is little things like this that separate a good player and a great player, and are often the difference between going 13-2 and Top 8’ing, or 12-3 and walking away just short.
In round 13 I had a grueling match against Alex Majlaton, where all three games were very close. In game one he mulliganed to 5, but had a pretty fast draw involving multiple [card]Cranial Plating[/card]s. I had drawn the [card]Spike Feeder[/card]/[card]Archangel of Thune[/card] combo, but opted to play conservatively, holding up [card]Chord of Calling[/card] in case he had the second Plating one turn. Eventually we reached a turn where Alex had anticipated a Chord for 3 getting [card orzhov pontiff]Pontiff[/card], and used his x/1s with the help of [card]Springleaf Drum[/card] to further his board position instead of attacking. This made the game way closer than it would have been if he had just been attacking, but eventually I was able to buy enough time to [card]Spike Feeder[/card]/[card]Archangel of Thune[/card] combo and gain infinite life.
There was a really interesting spot that came up in game two, where I set up to combo the next turn with a [card]Birthing Pod[/card] rather than protect myself from [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] by getting a [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card]. Alex had an [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card], 3 mana sources (including the Nexus), and 5 other artifacts in play. To kill me, he would need to be able to grow his Ravager three additional times than what was on board. I decided to go for the combo, and he was able to play a [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card] and a second Ravager to make the Nexus exactly lethal.
Game three was another long one that I ended up punting away. After trying to combo on turn 3, my [card melira, sylvok outcast]Melira[/card] ended up on the wrong side of a [card]Dismember[/card]. About ten turns later, as I was getting beaten down by an [card]Etched Champion[/card] with a [card]Cranial Plating[/card] on it, I drew [card]Chord of Calling[/card]. I should have Chorded for 5 to get [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], which would have combo’d with the [card]Viscera Seer[/card] and [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] I had in play, but instead I was so focused on not dying to [card]Etched Champion[/card] that I opted to get a [card]Spellskite[/card] to block the Champion for a turn, and try to set up a lethal alpha strike the following turn if he didn’t play any more guys and I drew a white source. He ended up having an additional two creatures, so my hopes of alpha striking for lethal were quickly dashed.
After winning my next round against UWR, for my win-and-in round I found myself paired against the current Player of the Year, Josh Utter-Leyton. I was more nervous during this match than any I can remember. A win here would all but lock up Silver for me, which, along with the invite to Pro Tour Born of the Gods for Top 8’ing the GP, would give me two more PT invites. I was essentially playing 3 PTQ finals simultaneously.
Game one was pretty long and grindy. I had an active [card]Birthing Pod[/card] going for a while, so I was able to keep up with his constantly growing [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]s with some big [card voice of resurgence]Voice[/card] tokens and Kitchen Finks. While I probably should have gone for it two or three turns sooner, eventually I was able to set up the [card]Spike Feeder[/card]/[card archangel of thune]Archangel[/card] combo with [card]Spellskite[/card] backup and we were on to game two. The next game was very uninteresting, as Wrapter mulliganed to 5, missed a second land, and I had possibly the best starting seven I could for the matchup.
And just like that, I found myself qualified for four out of the next five Pro Tours. The Top 8 was pretty well covered on the mothership, so I won’t go into much detail about the matches. I still can’t believe I ended up facing Reid Duke in the finals so soon after he beat me in the finals of Grand Prix Miami. All in all, it was a great tournament for me and I look forward to making a run at Gold this season!
I also wanted to say thanks again to Matt Nass and Sam Pardee for sharing their deck with me, there’s no way I could have done so well without it.