Posted in NEWS on March 9, 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.

The Melira Pod master had done it again. After winning Grand Prix Detroit 2013 with his deck, number 19-ranked Josh McClain ran deep into Pro Tour Born of the Gods and was poised to run it through for a another Grand Prix victory here in Richmond.

Oscar Jones bore experience beyond his youthful years, having experience with prize finishes at several Grand Prix before. Already qualified for Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx with his Top 8 appearance here, Jones' challenge was something different: Defeat a current master of the deck he himself was playing.

Each players' confidence was clear with how quickly they handled their decks, a sure sign of knowing every one of it's silver bullet cards by heart. The question would be who would find them first.

The first game found Jones led off with early creatures, Murderous Redcap and Orzhov Pontiff, but McClain found the first Birthing Pod. From a low 11 life McClain tried to fight back, with a Birds of Paradise transforming into Wall of Roots, but Jones' Abrupt Decay kept blockers out of the way. With Gavony Township to knock McClain down to just 2 life, McClain was out of outs.

Jones, like McClain, didn't need to look at decklists between games. He knew his Melira Pod deck.

The second game was a flipped situation, with McClain drawing down a quick army of Qasali Pridemage, Scavenging Ooze, and Kitchen Finks. Using Dismember and a green mana, McClain protected his Ooze from Jones' Murderous Redcaps. Attacking Jones to 8 life, and adding a second Scavenging Ooze to keep persist shenanigans locked out, Jones played the only card that could unfreeze his combos: Linvala, Keeper of Silence. While his Angel unlocked persist it came too late to stop McClain's army.

"So far, the card Birthing Pod has not won a game," McClain chuckled upon tying it up.

"Yeah, just idiot creatures in our decks," Jones agreed, sharing a quick laugh.

McClain was more than familiar with "the beatdown plan" for Melria Pod.

The third game featured equally quick starts: Jones with Noble Heirarch and Kitchen Finks, McClain with his own Hierarch and Qasali Pridemage. While McClain valiantly killed every one-drop mana generator Jones played, the younger player always had another ready, even using Eternal Witness to return Noble Hierarch for another go.

Tapping out exactly his mana and creatures for Chord of Calling, Orzhov Pontiff reset the mana makers on McClain's side to leave him with just two mana available. Jones used a Thoughtseize to find Birthing Pod, Murderous Redcap, and Harmonic Sliver in McClain's hand, and chose to strip away the potent combo piece. It cost him falling to 5 life but it didn't matter.

A second Chord of Calling found Murderous Redcap for Jones, and with a Birthing Pod on his turn he took command of the game by adding Melira, Sylvok Outcast to the battlefield to join Viscera Seer. While an arbitrary amount of life was at his fingertips, he needed to be sure to deal lethal damage to McClain. After Thoughtseize found the path clear, Kitchen Finks became Murderous Redcap to seal the deal for Jones.

"I needed him to not draw a land the turn he played Orzhov Pontiff, and if I had drawn a land I could have played my Birthing Pod," McClain lamented. While the Pod master fell short of the repeat, perhaps the future of the format rests in young Jones' hands.

Oscar Jones defeated Josh McClain, 2-1.