Number 19-ranked Josh McClain is a previous Modern Grand Prix champion (Detroit 2013), known for his knowledge and skill with the Melira Pod deck. With his deep run to Top 16 at Pro Tour Born of the Gods it isn't unreasonable to expect the Modern master to claim a second title.
David Ochoa has been slow to warm up this year after ending 2012 with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. A member of the potent ChannellFireball team, with numerous other top premiere finished behind him, he's as prepared as one can reasonably be and stands stoic to keep playing on his cold streak.
The question, of course, is what happens when the unstoppable force meets the unmovable object?
McClain's Melira Pod is among the best decks in the format, but that's something Ochoa certainly knew when he sat down.
In the first game it was quickly apparent that McClain was on his Melira Pod plan, discarding Abrupt Decay and revealing Kitchen Finks among others to Ochoa's first turn Inquisition of Kozilek. When Liliana of the Veil followed soon thereafter without a red mana source in sight off three different fetch lands, GB Rock was clearly the deck in Ochoa's hand.
While his Scavenging Ooze mitigated some of the life loss, Ochoa was quickly on the losing end of the race against Gaveony Township-enhanced creatures. Birthing Pod let McClain transform Kitchen Finks into both Linvala, Keeper of Silence and Murderous Redcap, but Ochoa didn't miss a step with another removal spell for the Angel. McClain used Birthing Pod to pull out multiple tricks, transforming Murderous Redcap into Shriekmaw to kill a large Scavengining Ooze, and Qasali Pridemage off the top of his deck changed into a life-padding Kitchen Finks.
Pivoting off Gavony Township meant McClain could almost keep up with Ochoa's removal, but an Active Treetop Village meant Ochoa's ground crew was now the dominant force on the battlefield. In a late top deck, McClain cast Ranger of Eos to reload his side of the battlefield for one last stand.
"Die already!" Ochoa exclaimed when McClain finally ran out of blockers and life, after many attacks for lethal.
It took more than a half dozen turns for Ochoa to strike McClain down from just 2 life.
"That game was pretty good." McClain said with a smile. It had taken nearly half the time in the match to resolve the roller coaster, but it was only the beginning.
Game 2 started similarly, but Ochoa's Inquisition of Kozilek instead revealed two copies of Birth Pod and plenty of creatures to back it up. Kitchen Finks hit the bin but McClain's Birds of Paradise put him a full step faster then Ochoa, letting him Pod his Scavenging Ooze into the persistence Ouphe anyway. Swapping Kitchen Finks for Murderous Redcap let McClain handle Ochoa's Dark Confidant, and Gavony Township let McClain win the next combat step.
From there McClain meticulously kept Ochoa in check. Eternal Witness snagged the needed fourth land for McClain, but his bodies and play were already more than enough after exhausting Ochoa's answers.
McClain's Melira Pod can win with its combos, but it beats opponents down just as often.
With little time left in the round, the pace of play picked up. The third game finally let Ochoa lead off, but it was all for naught: Stymied with just two lands in the play the entire game it was elementary for McClain to overrun the odd creature or two Ochoa could offer in resistance.
With the Pro Tour just two weeks prior did either player change their choice of deck?
"I've switched between Kiki Pod and this before," McClain said. "When Kiki Pod became a thing I played that for about six months, but then I switched back. In testing for the Pro Tour, even if I felt another deck was better I just had too many hours with this one to not play it." His eleventh place finish lent weight to McClain's plan.
"I switched from Ramp," Ochoa said. "I wanted to make more decisions at the Grand Prix. The skill disparity here compared to the Pro Tour means there's a lot more room to outplay opponents."