Round 8 Feature Match – David Ochoa vs Matt McCullough

Posted in Event Coverage on May 10, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

With a previous Top 8 appearance with his team in Providence last year, Matt McCullough is among the newer players to make a splash. Vying to prove skill with victory is a goal every Grand Prix player carries, and McCullough was no different in seeking another top finish among a sea of hungry competitors doing the same.

David Ochoa, however, already had several great finishes in his career. With a Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica and several more Grand Prix Top 8 to his name, including his first in Minneapolis five years ago, Ochoa had traveled here in search of Pro Points. As the year moved closer to its conclusion, maintaining Platinum level benefits and possibly sneaking a spot into the World Championship would take a lot of work and luck, starting with a phenomenal finish this weekend and next.

It was a Birds of Paradise face off after one turn, but McCullough's second turn was the formidable Birthing Pod that revealed his plan to the world. Ochoa wasn't hiding much either, pivoting into Voice of Resurgence and Noble Hierarch, narrowing down the decks he could be playing. McCullough didn't take any chances and chained into Linvala, Keeper of Silence on his turn.

Ochoa was limited to amassing an army by adding another Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks to his side as McCullough grew Scavenging Ooze to a 4/4 before he untapped to transform it with Birthing Pod into Deceiver Exarch, which led to Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker replacing Linvala, Keeper of Silence, which led to the second game immediately thereafter.

Matt McCullough took an early lead in the match with his Kiki-leaning Pod deck.

McCullough 1 – Ochoa 0

"Linvala is so pesky sometimes," Ochoa admitted.

"It's nice to have," McCullough agreed.

It was a quick round of shuffling before Ochoa led off the second game, with his Voice of Resurgence and Birds of Paradise looking acros at two Grove of the Burnwillows and Gavony Township. When McCullough cast Murderous Redcap to clear away one of Ochoa's Birds, Aven Mindcensor swooped in to prevent any shenanigans down the road and provide an aerial attacker over the Redcap.

Restoration Angel joined the attack next turn to put McCullough at 9 life before Ochoa's own Linvala, Keeper of Silence put the brakes on more of McCullough's potential plans. McCullough's Birthing Pod without any extra mana meant Ochoa was free to attack to McCullough to 1 life and swap Aven Mindcensor for a Murderous Redcap of his own post combat.

McCullough 1 – Ochoa 1

"What's the score?" a spectator asked as Ochoa and McCullough shuffled for the third game.

"Going to three. I don't think we need to worry about time too much," McCullough said.

"Some of these games can get involved," Ochoa said.


"What did you lose to?" Ochoa changed the subject to how they ended up in the X-1 bracket.

"Twin. He just had it both games. How about you?" McCullough asked.

"Pod. It sort of played out like Game 1," Ochoa said.

"One player has everything while the other doesn't?"

Ochoa just nodded in confirmation.

McCullough's first turn Birds of Paradise was met by Thoughtseize from Ochoa, plucking Zealous Conscripts from McCullough's hand. Scavenging Ooze and Noble Hierarch joined McCullough's side, and Ochoa matched with a Hierarch-Birds pair of his own.

Scavenging Ooze went to work attacking as a 4/4 for McCullough but Ochoa put up a wall of two Voice of Resurgences and slow the attack. Birthing Pod was what McCullough tried instead.

"That's a good one," Ochoa said.

David Ochoa simply ran out of ways to go over the top of what McCullough had done on his turn.

Birthing Pod activations resulted in Scavenging Ooze becoming Murderous Redcap by way of Deceiver Exarch, killing Ochoa's Birds of Paradise. But Ochoa wasn't down yet: With a Birthing Pod of his own next turn, Ochoa converted Voice of Resurgence into Harmonic Sliver, dealing with McCullough's copy, and leaving him with a 4/4 Elemental token to hold the fort.

"One card right?" McCullough confirmed a he sat in thought. Dropping to 3 life, McCullough played a second Birthing Pod and persisted Murderous Redcap (killing Ochoa's Noble Hierarch) to get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker before casting Phantasmal Image to copy Ochoa's Sliver, leaving their positions reversed. Ochoa didn't offer anything as McCullough copied his Recap during the end step (nixing the Harmonic Sliver) before going for Restoration Angel on his turn.

Ochoa extended the hand. "That was a doozey. Good game."

McCullough 2 – Ochoa 1

"Good luck," McCullough offered.

"X-2 on Day 2 is..." Ochoa trailed off in shaking his head before finishing. "Rough."

Ochoa would need more than a little luck to turn his current record into a Top 8: It'd take another win in Round 9 to advance to Sunday. What would have gotten Ochoa out of his final tight spot in Game 3? "Linvala might be the game," Ochoa explained, considering what he could have drawn, "but with that he can still Pod for Restoration Angel and start blocking. He's only at 3 life but I'm still a dog to win there."

Kiki Pod – Matt McCullough

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Melira Pod – David Ochoa

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