This past weekend I managed to take down my first Grand Prix title in Portland, sticking to what has been my Modern mainstay for quite a while now: Melira Pod. I’ve written a few times about the deck at this point, but I promise this will be the last article until I Top 8 a PT with it (just kidding, even if I win another GP you have to listen to me talk about it again).

The tournament actually started off with a bit of a whammy when my flight into Portland that morning got cancelled. Fortunately, I was able to get a new flight that got me there in time to sort out a final list with Matt Nass before the event. He had tested Elves (surprise surprise) and found it wasn’t cut out for a format with as much removal as Jund and UWR bring to the table. Not to be deterred from playing a creature-combo deck, we decided to collaborate a bit on a Melira list.

We ended up on the following:

[deck]Main Deck:
1 Woodland Cemetery
3 Forest
1 Swamp
3 Gavony Township
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Razorverge Thicket
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Deathrite Shaman
2 Viscera Seer
1 Spellskite
2 Voice of Resurgence
1 Qasali Pridemage
2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Wall of Roots
1 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Eternal Witness
2 Murderous Redcap
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Reveillark
4 Birthing Pod
3 Chord of Calling
2 Abrupt Decay
Sideboard
1 Harmonic Sliver
4 Thoughtseize
3 Lingering Souls
2 Dismember
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Shriekmaw
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Voice of Resurgence[/deck]

Before, we had discussed a little bit that [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] might be a very good addition, because the deck lacks a way to get value if you want to go from one-drop to a three-drop over a few turns. As it turns out, Voice is great at that, but it’s also great at forcing your opponent into some really awkward spots with their removal, as well as making [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] even worse against you.

[draft]voice of resurgence[/draft]

Multiple times during the tournament my opponent played a Liliana and could either edict me and turn my Voice into a 3/3 or 4/4, or plus one and have me discard a [card]Lingering Souls[/card]. Speaking of [card]Lingering Souls[/card], it also got even better with the addition of Voice in grindy matchups—making the token into a big threat.

Voice also helps out in some of your worst matchups (e.g. [card]Pyroclasm[/card]) by adding some resiliency and the option to just make a giant guy. Against one of my Tron opponents, I curved Birds into [card]Viscera Seer[/card] + [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], sacrificed Voice on his end step and played two more creatures on his next turn to just bash with giant creatures starting on turn 3. Basically, Voice was insane for Matt and me all weekend, and we both kind of wished we had a way to add a fourth to the deck, although it’s hard to figure out what to cut in a deck with so many one-ofs that have a big impact on the game.

[draft]varolz, the scar-striped
sin collector[/draft]

We also discussed [card]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/card] and [card]Sin Collector[/card] as potential additions. Matt really wanted to try Varolz, but I was more wary—almost every creature in the deck has a high CMC and rather low power. It also doesn’t work well with [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] and can sometimes fight with [card]Reveillark[/card] over long games. [card]Sin Collector[/card] also helps some matchups as a [card]Duress[/card] on a stick, but we already had access to that card in [card]Entomber Exarch[/card]. Being a three-drop probably is better than a four, but being able to take a Tron piece with Exarch or gravedig your own guys probably would make me give the nod to Exarch if I wanted that effect.

The tournament itself was mostly uneventful. After the byes, I got to see how insanely good Voice was when I drew both of them against my UWR opponent, basically forcing him to let me resolve a [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and going off relatively easily in both games. My next two rounds were both against Tron which I was pretty pleased to split—the matchup is easily the hardest you can face. They don’t care about infinite life, have maindeck graveyard hate, and the single best possible card against you in [card]Pyroclasm[/card].

After surviving the Tron gauntlet I played against a few Jund decks, which is a pretty great matchup that got better with Voice making all of their decisions worse. In game 2 of one of the rounds, I remember being mana-screwed but with a Voice shutting off his Liliana, which forced him to [card]Path to Exile[/card] it mainphase.

I ended up 7-1 going into the final round of Day One, where I was paired against Affinity. As we were shuffling for game 1, he accidentally flipped up a [card]Glimmervoid[/card], which lead to me keeping a hand that could make [card]Orzhov Pontiff[/card] happen on turn 3. The first go-round the Pontiff got a [card]Vault Skirge[/card], [card]Memnite[/card], and [card]Steel Overseer[/card] (I was on the play), and when it was sacrificed to my Pod, it haunted an [card]Ornithopter[/card] which got Redcapped, netting me an [card]Ornithopter[/card] and second [card]Steel Overseer[/card]. I can’t remember if I comboed or beat down, but it hardly mattered at that point. Game two I just hardcast a pair of Redcaps with a sacrifice outlet on board to basically kill all his guys while I beat down with mediocre creatures.

So I ended the day at 8-1, Matt Nass also ended 8-1, and Martin Juza, to whom we had given the list, was 7-2. Going into the event, I was worried that I was trying too hard to just jam Melira when it wasn’t properly positioned, but seeing everyone else do well with it made me feel much better about my choice. Matt and I play the deck very differently—he is much more focused on making a combo happen, while I generally look to create a dominating board presence. Apparently both approaches work out pretty well, but it was interesting watching him play and discussing which lines of play we would take in certain scenarios.

Day 2 started off with an uneventful match against Affinity, where I ended up winning game 1 with a combo and game three with Souls/Township beatdown.

After that, I played against a pair of Jund/Junk decks, which are basically the same matchup as far as I’m concerned. [card]Path to Exile[/card] is slightly better than [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] against all the persist creatures, but the Jund decks usually sideboard [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card], which is a terrifyingly good card against a mono-creature deck. The games were pretty standard, with Metamorph making a clutch appearance to kill the aforementioned Olivia off of a [card]Birthing Pod[/card].

In round 13 I was paired up against the 12-0 Henry Romero. I had heard that he had an interesting UWR build with 4 maindeck [card]Lightning Angel[/card]s (which is super sweet) and some spicy sideboard tech in [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]. This lead me to sideboard completely differently. Generally I don’t like [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] or [card]Dismember[/card] against UWR decks because they don’t present enough good targets, but after seeing [card]Rest in Peace[/card], I figured they’d be good enough. This insight proved extra useful after Matt was paired against him the next round, after we had just been discussing how he would have sideboarded.

Round 14 saw me battling Zvi Moshowitz for what was likely the right to double-draw into Top 8. I knew he was piloting Affinity because Matt had lost to him on Day 1. In game 1 I made a slight misplay that ended up letting him make a large [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] and left me desperately digging for a Melira. I didn’t get there, and he took that one down. Game 2 I mulliganed to 6 and kept an uninspiring but decent hand and got run over.

Fortunately, Matt won his round and was able to double-draw from there, so at least one of us was going to make Top 8. Meanwhile, there were a ton of x-2s at that point so it was looking like I was going to have to win my next two matches to Top 8.

Next up, I got paired against another Jund deck, which was pretty straightforward. Game two was an exciting time for me because I finally got to trigger [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] from something other than it dying. My opponent decided to cast an [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] to deprive my [card]Ranger of Eos[/card] from grabbing me a pair of cards, which was fine by me! Instead of two 1-drops, I got a 6/6. I ended up running him over with some beatdowns.

Going into the last round, my suspicions were confirmed that I was unable to draw, and I was paired against Living End. Fortunately, Living End is an amazing matchup because of the ability to sacrifice your creatures to [card]Viscera Seer[/card] with their Living End on the stack. The match was covered on video but was mostly uneventful—Game 1 I ran him over, game 2 he had a turn 0 Leyline and I think I overextended into his Living End. Game 3 I had a turn 1 [card]Viscera Seer[/card] and he didn’t have a Leyline so it felt like I basically couldn’t lose.

The quarterfinals saw me pitted against Rietzl, with basically the same Affinity deck that Zvi had beaten both Matt and myself with in the Swiss. Looking over his list, he didn’t have anything particularly spicy or out of the ordinary, and I had managed to beat Affinity twice in the Swiss.

The match was sporadically covered on the Twitch channel, but they didn’t get the whole thing. Game 1 I blew him out with a turn 3 [card]Orzhov Pontiff[/card] and combo’d off relatively easily. Game 2 I felt like I was dead for most of the turns, but he just never had the [card]Galvanic Blast[/card], Plating or second [card]Etched Champion[/card], and I was able to combo him with just 1 life left.

Unfortunately my fellow northern Californians Matt Nass and Orie Guo both lost in the Top 8, leaving me to face a Pod mirror in the Top 4. Game 1 I mulled to 5 and got him to 2 life or something, but the game never felt remotely close.

In game 2 he passed the turn with his second land as an uncracked [card]Misty Rainforest[/card]. I had [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] in hand and slammed it after he cracked it, [card]Dismember[/card]ed his Bird and then spent the rest of the game Dismembering his mana guys and basically keeping him locked out. Game 3 I had the nut draw and comboed him out very easily. He put up some resistance with an [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] and a Linvala, but I had Metamorph and a Mindcensor of my own to trade.

Zvi lost his Top 4 match which meant that Joe Demestrio was waiting for me in the finals. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t really get to play a lot of Magic after mulling to 4 game 1 and getting demolished by my triple-[card]Thoughtseize[/card] draw game 2 as [card]Reveillark[/card] flew over for the victory.

With that, I had won my first GP. After coming so close in Toronto and feeling like I threw away the finals, it felt really, really great to win, and it also put me in a much better position from a Pro Points perspective, now just needing to Top 50 San Diego instead of Top 16 to hit Gold for the year.

Going forward, I think that Melira will probably get some more dedicated hate played against it after our strong showing. Matt and I both Top 8’d with the same 75 and Juza ended up 17th on breakers. I don’t really have a lot of changes I’d make. You could switch around the [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s and [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]s between the main deck and the sideboard, but I prefer [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] for the Jund/Junk matchup and even though it didn’t crack the Top 8, I still played against it 5 times in the tournament. I’d really like to fit a fourth [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] into the 75, but I have no clue what to cut. I used all 75 cards over the course of the tournament and they all performed admirably. I’d say if you really want to cut something, it probably should be [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] because it isn’t strictly necessary and doesn’t work very often against decks like Scapeshift, but it also is a house against Pod, which may become more popular.

Thanks for reading!
— Sam Pardee
@smdster on Twitter. #pardeetime