Round 4 Feature Match: Nathan Holiday vs. (25) Gaudenis Vidugiris

Posted in GRAND PRIX OMAHA 2015 on January 10, 2015

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.

Nathan Holiday entered 2015 after a strong year prior. After winning Grand Prix San Diego in 2013, he added three more Grand Prix Top 8s to his resume. While his best finish was as finalist at Grand Prix Phoenix, Holiday consistently found himself among the top tables all year. Picking up another Top 8 – or victory – early this year would continue his rise as a competitor.

Twenty-fifth-ranked Gaudenis Vidugiris has been a mainstay of Premier play for years. With several Grand Prix victories from 2009 through 2012, it his two Pro Tour Top 8s – 2012’s Pro Tour Avacyn Restored and 2011’s Pro Tour Nagoya – that set him apart. Having cooled off throughout 2013, the end of 2014 brought him a team Grand Prix Top 4 in Nashville alongside eleventh-ranked Sam Black and Matt Severa. For Vidugiris, finding more top finishes was exactly what he needed to reiterate his status among the game’s elite.

The Decks

Holiday had brought one of the most powerful decks in Modern, Birthing Pod. Filled with creatures that both attack surprisingly well and answer all sorts of situations and decks, it relied on chaining together ever more expensive creatures to take control of a game. With the addition of Siege Rhino, and useful new silver bullets such as Big Game Hunter, Birthing Pod just continued to march in its evolution as a deck that adapts to any metagame.

Vidugiris, however, had the newest archetype to appear on the scene: Jeskai Ascendancy. With Fatestitcher, Jeskai Ascendancy, and plenty of ways to casts spell for one or less mana, the deck uses its abundance of card drawing effects to set up the combo before finishing the game in one fell swoop. With a utility box of instants and Snapcaster Mage in the sideboard, the deck had ways to mess with plans as well as make them.

The Games

Holiday led the first game by paying life for Overgrown Tomb into Birds of Paradise, practically shouting a Birthing Pod plan. Vidugiris spent his first turn finding an Island off Flooded Strand, and resolving Serum Visions. There were plenty of decks that represented, though Sacred Foundry a turn later left little doubt it was Jeskai Ascendancy.

Formalities out of the way, both players went straight for to their plans.

Holiday curved out with Noble Hierarch and Voice of Resurgence, and began attacking into Vidugiris. The namesake Ascendancy was Vidugiris’ third turn play, which Holiday wasted no time in using Abrupt Decay on. The next attack left Vidugiris at just 5 life. Paying life for Gitaxian Probe, Vidugiris found the last card in Holiday’s hand: Siege Rhino waiting.

“Nathan Holiday couldn’t hide his excitement showing lethal in his hand for the next turn.”

Dropping to 1 life with another Probe, Vidugiris found himself short what he needed to combo off.

The second game started slower, with mana development on both side though it was Vidugiris massaging his draws with multiple Serum Visions. Birthing Pod on Holiday’s second turn was met by Lightning Bolt from Vidugiris: He needed more time to find the tools he needed, and he’d get it thanks to a few missing lands from Holiday.

Gitaxian Probe revealed Path to Exile, Abrupt Decay and more in Holiday’s hand, forcing Vidugiris to play around the powerful removal despite the mana woes with them. It also gave Holiday time to cast another Birds of Paradise and Pod that into Voice of Resurgence.

The value chain would remain unbroken after that.

“Twenty-fifth-ranked Gaudenis Vidugiris was fighting constant pressure from Nathan Holiday throughout the match.”

Dig Through Time was Vidugiris’s next move, finding him Remand and Jeskai Ascendancy.  Transforming Voice of Resurgence into Sin Collector made the plan harder for Vidugiris, as Holiday picked away Pyroclasm to keep his troops safe. Vidugiris took his time over the next few turns, looking for a way out of the pressure Holiday had put him under. Jeskai Ascendancy was where he went next, and it was Holiday’s turn to think.

He attacked Vidugiris down to 7 life before converting Sin Collector into Entomber Exarch and taking Path to Exile from Vidugiris’s hand. When Holiday used Abrupt Decay during Vidugiris’s upkeep, Vidugiris used his copy of Remand to draw and discard Fatestitcher and followed it up with Thought Scour before his Ascendancy was destroyed. Thanks to Izzet Charm, Vidugiris only fell to 5 life on Holiday’s next attack, but Scavenging Ooze to exile Fatesticher was the play the truly hurt. After using Dig Through Time, Vidugiris had another Path to Exile for Holiday’s Scavenging Ooze but it wasn’t enough: A post-combat Aven Mindcensor became a lethal Siege Rhino shortly thereafter.

“I’m not sure I should have cast Abrupt Decay on your Ascendancy during your upkeep. I thought it would tap you down but Dig Through Time was good for you,” Holiday said after he shook Vidugiris’s extended hand.

“There’s no reason to give me the option to loot there,” Vidugiris agreed. “Good luck in the rest,” he offered.

“You too.”

Nathan Holiday – Birthing Pod

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Gaudenis Vidugiris – Jeskai Asendancy

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