One deck has proven itself to be enemy number one of this event: Melira Pod. Originally a combo-centric deck focused on achieving the combo of Viscera Seer; Melira, Sylvok Outcast; and either Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap has become less about trying to combo quickly and more about controlling the ground game, grinding little advantages and using Gavony Township to create an army out of nowhere.
Ben Friedman is one of the players in this Top 8 playing the Junk-colored menace. Ben is no stranger to the top 8 stage, with two Grand Prix top 8s and a slew of other high tournament finishes already under his belt.
While his opponent may have less knockout round experience, Brian Liu is nonetheless ready by playing Birthing Pod. Liu is using the slightly older and more combo-centric version, Kiki Pod, which uses the power utilized by many Twin decks of Deceiver Exarch and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Liu is a road warrior: He drove here with a few of his buddies all the way from Toronto, Canada. The twelve hour drive paid off immediately, since he walked in the door and won the first Last Chance Grand Prix Trial he entered. He then parlayed those byes into an identical 13-1-1 record.
As the players shuffled up, the competitors commiserated about the incredible amount of Birthing Pod decks in the top 8, and the interesting one-ofs in each deck like Restoration Angel and Big Game Hunter. Liu also had a quick comment about Friedman's numbers on his deck registration sheet.
"I see you only have one Redcap..."
"Yeah, I don't know why people keep insisting on two of that. That card is uncastable!" Friedman explained.
Ben Friedman was thrilled to find himself in his third Grand Prix Top 8.
Once Friedman kept his six, he led things off with Noble Hierarch. Liu fetched and shocked himself with Stomping Ground to play a Noble Hierarch of his own. Friedman's turn two was not particularly impressive, missing a land drop and dropping another Hierarch. Liu's was better, dropping Wall of Roots as well as Birds of Paradise in addition to Misty Rainforest.
Friedman used his turn three to play Spellskite. Liu dropped Linvala, Keeper of Silence on his main phase, which stymied Ben's Noble Hierarchs. Left with naught but a Forest for mana at this point, Liu brought the beats. Linvala picked up an exalted trigger thanks to Liu's own Noble Hierarch. When Ben finally found a land to try to knock off Wall of Roots with Abrupt Decay, Brain was ready and waiting with Restoration Angel. A turn later Chord of Calling for five found Restoration Angel's good friend Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and as soon as Liu began making an arbitrarily large number of 3/4s with the goblin legend Friedman scooped up his cards and headed for his sideboard.
"This is my second Pod matchup; the first one was a Kiki Pod mirror. This is actually the first time I've played Melira Pod in this event." Liu said.
Friedman didn't have a reply.
Facing Melira Pod for the first time in the tournament, Brian Liu seemed prepared.
From Thoughtseize we knew that Deceiver Exarch was going to be Liu's play, and it attempted to tap down Birds of Paradise. Friedman went to his turn and made his third land drop before adding Birthing Pod to his board, paying two life to do so. Liu, now facing a potential waterfall of card advantage thanks to the green artifact, added Birds of Paradise number two.
Friedman used the Pod to turn the Birds into a Wall of Roots: Not the explosive starts from Melira Pod he hoped. Liu dropped Noble Hierarch before using Chord of Calling to search out Qasali Pridemage to deal with Birthing Pod.
Liu was still flush with gas, dropping Kitchen Finks as the sixth creature on his side of things. Scavenging Ooze ate both of the creatures in the graveyard before Friedman untapped, and then the now 4/4 Ooze was able to rumble in for some damage... or it would have had it not been sent on the Path to Exile.
Then Liu dropped Birthing Pod, which he used the Pod, sacrificing Deceiver Exarch to find Restoration Angel. Friedman used the Gavony Township at end of turn to make his team slightly larger, but with no army only the Redcap and the Wall of Roots grew thanks to the activation. Again a pair of Restoration Angels came into the red zone, and Friedman fell to 5. Friedman found no help on top on his turn, and Liu's Ooze became Titan-sized on the end step. There was little Friedman could do. With a shake of his head, Friedman conceded the match.
"You drew a lot of lands there."
"I played a land light strategy game 1 and a land heavy one game 2."
"...And I topdecked two Pods!"
Friedman shrugged. "Sometimes they run hotter than you!"Brian Liu defeats Ben Friedman, 2-0.