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Magic World Championship XXVI Top 8 Lower Finals

With Gabriel Nassif already eliminated and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa on his way to the Grand Finals, all that was left was to decide who would face the Hall of Famer at Magic World Championship XXVI. Would it be Seth Manfield with Mono-Red Aggro, who had fought through the tough matchup of Nassif's Jeskai Fires deck in the semis, or Márcio Carvalho, who had narrowly dropped to the lower side of the bracket from Damo da Rosa earlier in the day?

Manfield's red deck had burned through Nassif, but Carvalho's Jeskai Fires deck had more cards aimed at disrupting the aggressive deck. The eight-game marathon that ensued was a fitting way to determine the finalist for the World Championship.

The Games

There were several key cards to the matchups. Obviously Carvalho's deck functioned much better with its namesake card Fires of Invention (so it could deploy things like Kenrith, the Returned King and Cavalier of Flame quickly and activate their abilities), but just as important was Carvalho finding Deafening Clarion to clean up the early rush from Manfield. Meanwhile, the Hall of Famer was looking for Anax, Hardened in the Forge to provide some insurance against a sweeper.

That script played out in the opening game, as Manfield flooded the board and Carvalho had the Clarion right on time. The second barrage of creatures from Manfield put Carvalho at just 3 life, but a Cavalier of Gales dug Carvalho deep enough to find Cavalier of Flames and Dream Trawler. The lifelink buffered his life total, and after taking one more draw step, Manfield conceded the first game.

In the next game, Manfield kept a risky hand with high upside. His four lands included three Castle Embereth, and though the red deck doesn't typically want that many lands, the hand included a solid curve for Manfield. Unfortunately for the American, things didn't pan out as he drew two more lands to begin the game and Carvalho had another Deafening Clarion ready to go.

Rounds at this stage of the tournament were best-of-three matches, so while Manfield was down, he wasn't out – though he would need to win two straight matches to advance.

Things got off to a great start for Carvalho, as he managed Manfield's board and quickly assembled a Fires-fueled team to swing right past a Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and move himself to just one game away from the finals.

With nothing left to give, Manfield brought his best. The second game of the match was one of the best-played games ever seen at a World Championship. Manfield expertly navigated a game in which he missed his second land drop even after firing off a Light Up the Stage on the second turn.

He was able to bait Carvalho into using his Aether Gust on a one-drop during combat, before playing his second land on turn three and playing out his hand. After burning his interaction early, Carvalho struggled to develop his own board, and as the lands continued to flow for Manfield he was able to put an Embercleave onto Anax, Hardened in the Forge to bring himself back from the depths.

But his work was far from over. He moved to the draw for the final game, and after several turns of trading resources it looked like Carvalho was ready to turn the corner. But with a Chandra, Acolyte of Flame to provide pressure, Manfield was able to curve Embercleave into Torbran, Thane of Red Fell to steal a game and the match, leaving Carvalho shaking his head in disbelief that things had slipped away.

That meant it all came down to one more match. Manfield came out of the gates quickly and put the pressure on Carvalho, who desperately needed to find lands off the top of his deck to deploy the Fires of Invention and Kenrith, the Returned King in his hand. As his life total dwindled, that's exactly what Carvalho did, and he followed the Kenrith up with a Dream Trawler to secure the first game.

If the first game was a demonstration of what Carvalho's deck could do when operating at full power, the second was the reverse. As Carvalho struggled to find an answer to Unchained Berserker and get his engine off the ground, Manfield curved out perfectly and followed up with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. When Carvalho failed to find a way to clear the board, a lightning-fast game had ended in Manfield's favor and sent the players on their way to the conclusion of their epic match.

Kicking off the third match both players had strong hands, and both played out the early turns exactly as they would like. Manfield played creatures and Light Up the Stage to refill while providing some insurance against sweepers in the form of Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. Carvalho, meanwhile, used removal spells to delay throughout the early turns and curved into Fires of Invention exactly on time.

When it comes to near-perfect draws from both sides, the red deck simply can't match the power of Fires, and as Carvalho filed his board with giant creatures, he then used a truly Deafening Clarion to end the match.

Before the tournament, Carvalho had declared that it was win-or-bust, and against all odds he now found himself in position to do exactly that. Manfield, meanwhile, was disappointed to see his run end but drew praise from across the Magic world for his play throughout the event.