The Top 8 draft was a wild affair, with a variety of strong, focused decks. Here's a look at two of the quarterfinal matches.
Quarterfinal 1: Xavier Allegrucci vs Pascal Maynard
An all-Quebec showdown, between the veteran Pascal Maynard and the amateur Xavier Allegrucci. Maynard had drafted a Mardu deck with a lot of high-powered cards, but also a but of filler. Allegrucci was on Temur heavy-hitters.
In the first game, Allegrucci got out a third-turn Temur Ascendancy, but had no play on his fourth turn. Maynard wasn't too fast off the blocks, however, and Allegrucci bought more time with Force Away. Five mana let him have a cantripped Pine Walker that immediately hit the red zone for five damage. Maynard played out a Swarm of Bloodflies that started to grow as Maynard threw tokens in front of the massive Walker.
Unfortunately for Allegrucci he was flooding out quite seriously. He got a Longshot Squad into play and powered up immediately, then managed to trade it for the Swarm of Bloodflies on the following turn. However Maynard was long on creatures. He spilled them out onto the board and then dropped a devastating Mardu Ascension. His army doubled in size and Allegrucci was swarmed.
Maynard 1 - Allegrucci 0
Allegrucci's draw was more cooperative in the second game. His Alpine Grizzly ambushed a Mardu Hordechief with the help of Dragonscale Boon, and was joined by Longshot Squad. Maynard was stuck on three land but was developing his board with Chief of the Scale and Mardu Hateblade.
Allegrucci wasn't about to give him the time to draw out of things. Barrage of Boulders let him come through for nine damage, and then Surrak Dragonclaw showed up to give everyone free trampling lessons. Allegrucci put them to good use.
Maynard 1 - Allegrucci 1
The board got snarled early in the deciding game. Maynard had two Mardu Hateblades and a Chief of the Scale, but only a single black mana. He cleared out a creature with Debilitating Injury, but Allegrucci started to bring out his brute squad. First Longshot Squad and then Hooting Mandrills. Maynard hit his fourth mana a turn late and played Raiders Spoils.
Allegrucci hit for four while Maynard was tapped out and brought out more beef, this time Glacial Stalker. Maynard still only had one black mana, and so could only swing with one Hateblade. Allegrucci traded it for his Squad, refusing Maynard the extra card off Raider's Spoils. Maynard added a morph and passed.
Again Allegrucci was free to get in another four damage. He played Bloodfire Mentor and passed with three mana open. Maynard tried another Hateblade attack and this time got through. He played Unyielding Krumar, but it was bounced right back to hand by Force Away. Allegrucci poured on the pressure, hitting with both Mandrills and Stalker. Maynard went to five with a grimace. Allegrucci tapped out for Snowhorn Rider and passed.
Maynard bought himself a reprieve with Rush of Battle, swinging all out to go back up to fourteen, but Allegrucci's creatures just hit again. A Crippling Chill meant that he couldn't hold out against another attack, and he extended his hand in defeat.
Xavier Allegrucci defeats Pascal Maynard 2-1
Quarterfinal 2: Jessica Buchanan vs Seth Manfield
This was another experience mismatch. Hamilton's Jessica Buchanan turned her second Grand Prix Day 2 into her first Top 8. She drafted a controlling Jeskai deck, but wasn't thrilled with the way it came together. Her opponent, Seth Manfield, has made a name for himself on the Grand Prix circuit, with two titles to his name. He went very low to the ground with his draft - Mardu, heavy on the two-drops and Trumpet Blasts.
The first game started off with some trades, but by the fourth turn, Manfield still hadn't found his third land. Buchanan used Feat of Resistance to deny Manfield a trade with her morph, then added Summit Prowler to the mix. When no land came to Manfield's aid, they were quickly shuffling for game two.
Buchanan 1 - Manfield 0
In the second game, the two traded hits with Valley Dasher for Buchanan and Leaping Master for Manfield. Winterflame took care of Manfield's Bloodfire Expert, and he returned the favor with Arrow Storm on Buchanan's Summit Prower. Buchanan played Salt Road Patrol, stuck on four land but with access to all her colors.
Manfield held back and added Highspire Mantis to his board. The Valley Dasher ran in, and Manfield had to decide how greedy he wanted to be. Rather than risk his flier, he pushed his morph in front, and they traded without incident. Buchanan played Jeskai Windscout and passed. Manfield hit for three and replaced his morph.
Buchanan hit back for two, played a fifth land and passed with all her mana open. Manfield agonized over his next play. He waffled on tapping three mana, eventually making his Leaping Master fly and attacking for five. Kill shot took out the Mantis. He played another morph. Buchanan hit for another two and played a morph of her own.
Manfield tapped three and played Barrage of Boulders. Buchanan moved to save her Windscout with Feat of Resistance targetting the Patrol. Unfortunately, Manfield was ready for this. He unmorphed Jeering Instigator and stole the Patrol. The Feat was countered as the target was no longer legal. Buchanan got to keep her Windscout, but she took a big hit from Manfield's army, falling quite low. She gambled on getting one more attack in with her Windscout, using Crippling Chill for extra damage, but Manfield was able to take the game on the back of the lowly Defiant Strike.
Buchanan 1 - Manfield 1
Manfield started out the deciding game with Leaping Master, but when Buchanan passed with three mana open he declined to attack, just playing out a morph. She passed on four land as well, and he resolved a Hordeling Outburst. Now he was free to start attacking, and Buchanan's hand of defensive spells wasn't up to fighting a large army.
Manfield continued to hit and play out threats. Buchanan fought to stabilize, but Manfield cut things short with a lethal Trumpet Blast.
Seth Manfield defeats Jessica Buchanan 2-1