Coming into the Top 4 of Magic World Championship XXVI through the lower side of the Top 8 bracket meant Manfield had his work cut out for him facing off against one of Magic legends: Grabiel Nassif. Mono-Red Aggro, in Manfield's hands, has been on fire throughout the weekend but Jeskai Fires, particularly in the hands of Nassif, isn't the kind of matchup the former World Champion wanted.
I’m worried about my hat game going into top 4 of #MTGWorlds— Seth Manfield(Envy) (@SethManfield) February 16, 2020
But you couldn't tell by how quickly he got to work.
In a quick set of turns, Manfield curved out with Fervent Champions and Anax, Hardened in the Forge pushed just enough damage past Fires of Invention and three copies of Sphinx Foresight from Nassif to take the first game.
The second game looked good for Manfield as he pushed Nassif down, but Fires of Invention turned the corner as Nassif drew exactly the answers he needed when he needed them most. Clawing back life with Deafening Clarion and a perfectly-timed Cavalier of Flame let Nassif evened the score.
The decisive third game of their first match was exactly what Mono-Red decks set out to do. With a perfect curve out into Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, Nassif was forced onto the backfoot immediately. And unlike game two when Nassif drew what he needed it was Manfield's turn to rip Chandra, Acolyte of Flame off the top of his library to seal victory.
The second match was a slower start for Manfield and Nassif cleared the battlefield again and again. But once the French Hall of Fame player ran out of cards to fuel Fires of Invention Manfield turned the corner, landing Torbran and Anax with Stomp from Bonecrusher Giant to force Nassif into chump blocking.
But as Manfield looked set to win next turn Nassif drew Cavalier of Flames which was exactly enough to take victory from the jaws of defeat.
Nassif breathed a sigh of relief as Manfield shook his head.
The second game was another narrow back-and-forth between Manfield and Nassif. While Manfield notched damage and pushed through to land Embercleave, it was Kenrith, the Returned King off the top that was exactly what Nassif needed to turn the corner back not one but twice as Manfield pulled every he had out until finally drawing too many lands.
With the match score squared up it put everything on the line between the competitors: Just a handful of games stood between advancing further in the Top 4 or falling to the end. This time Nassif went first for the first game and worked to stay ahead of Manfield with a curve of Bonecrusher Giant into Sphinx into Kenrith. But Manfield went wide with piles of Satyr tokens off copies of Anax, Hardened in the Forge.
But without Fires of Invention, Nassif was limited to one spell each turn and slowly fell behind Manfield's wide army, despite gaining tons of life from Kenrith. As always, you gotta "Believe in the 'Cleave."
Back against the wall, Nassif ended up with an awkward hand as Manfield ripped Unchained Berserker into Chandra, Acolyte of Flame and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. Drawing lands and playing Cavalier of Flame gave Nassif a chance to pull back in with Elspeth Conquers Death and the Cavalier to take out Chandra.
But a second Robber of the Rich off the top against a tapped out Nassif was enough to put Manfield into the Lower Finals.
Oh well, I actually had my hopes up for the 1st time in the tournament going into today so that loss vs Seth is tough but he played tight and #MTGWorlds as a whole has been such an incredible experience. 4th place isnt too bad after such a crazy run and thanks for all the love <3— Gabriel Nassif (@gabnassif) February 16, 2020