Round 8 featured an two alleged grudge matches. No. 7 Ranked Player Samuel Black and Jonathan Johnson-Epstein are both Madison Wisconsin locals that have known each other for a long time, and the two players found themselves battling to see who would move on to a 7-1 record.
On the other table featured longtime competitor Gerard Fabiano up against Grand Prix Kansas City Champion Seth Manfield, with both players competing to see who would retain a spotless Day One record.
Samuel Black vs. Jonathan Johnson-Epstein
The first game was as uneventful as it could be, with Epstein failing to draw a third land while Black beat him down with an early Nessian Asp.
In the second game, Black went to six, but had a saucy curve that involved second-turn Vaporkin, third-turn Agent of Horizons, and a Bident of Thassa, putting Epstein in a bind. He had Staunch-Hearted Warrior on the fourth turn, and when he did not block the Agent, it became evident why when he used Time to Feed to take out the 3/2 creature, growing his Warrior to a 4/4.
Nonetheless, the Vaporkin was continuing its assault, and Black followed with Nessian Asp. "I was afraid of that," Black said when a second Time to Feed cleared away the Asp, making Epstein's Staunch-Hearted Warrior a 6/6 before it swung in. Artisan's Sorrow stopped Black from drawing further cards on the next turn when it disposed of the Bident of Thassa.
Black was able to turn it around though with a lowly Voyaging Satyr, backed up with a bestowed Leafcrown Dryad, Feral Invocation, and Hunt the Hunted to take down the very large Staunch-Hearted Warrior. Epstein fell all the way the 2 after the soldier token he received from a freshly cast Akroan Horse staved off the giant Voyaging Satyr. However, despite having a Griptide to delay matters, no permanent answers came off the top and he quickly offered the handshake before Manfield and Fabiano even finished their first game.
Black 2 – Epstein 0
Gerard Fabiano vs. Seth Manfield
Manfield followed up Fabiano's first play, Artisan of Forms, with Agent of Horizons. Fabiano's turn three was Flameshaper Mage, while Manfield's next play was Reverent Hunter, which came in as a makeshift Nessian Courser. The Agent of Horizons traded with Flamespeaker Adept, and play passed back to Fabiano, who got in for 4 with a freshly cast Minotaur Skullcleaver. Manfield cast Nimbus Naiad and passed back.
When Fabiano sent both his Artisan of Forms and Skullcleaver in, Manfield blocked with Nimbus Naiad. This prompted Titan's Strength, and the Artisan became a copy of the Naiad before smashing the flying creature out of the sky. It attacked in again on the next turn and was joined by Arena Athlete, which stared down Manfield's Hunter with the Skullcleaver. The two creatures both blocked the 3/3 Reverent Hunter when Manfield sent it in, prompting Fabiano to use Triton Tactics.
When Fabiano attempted Portent of Betrayal on the tapped Hunter, Manfield responded with another Voyage's End on his own creature. It nonetheless cleared the way for Fabiano's creatures to attack in, dropping Manfield to 8.
Manfield quickly untapped and cast Prognostic Sphinx, and on the next turn Nylea's Disciple, but it was not enough. Ordeal of Purphoros forced through Fabiano's creatures on the first attack in, and on the next turn, a bestowed Nimbus Naiad on Arena Athlete forced Manfield to pick up cards for a second game.
In the second game, Manfield had the first creature of the game with a Nessian Courser. Fabiano cast Spearpoint Oread, while Manfield added Karametra's Acolyte to his board. Fabiano went for Ordeal of Purphoros on the first striking creature, and used Magma Jet to finish off the Acolyte when it blocked, but Artisan's Sorrow quickly disposed of the creature, leaving Fabiano with his back against the wall. A bestowed Nimbus Naiad on Nessian Courser also gave Manfield a way to race above the Sealock Monster.
However, Fabiano had another monster in the form of the Titan of Eternal Fire. Manfield cast Agent of Horizons. Fabiano thought long about his attacks before sending in Titan of Eternal Fire. Manfield opted not to block, falling to 7. Manfield cast an end-of-turn Breaching Hippocamp. Manfield drew and cast Voyage's End, which bounced Fabiano's Sealock Monster and put him in a position where he had to chump-block with his Nimbus Naiad against Manfield's huge flying creature.
When nothing of merit was waiting on top, Fabiano picked up his cards and the two players moved to the final game.
Fabiano had the preliminary action in the third game with Artisan of Forms and Wavecrash Triton. Manfield had Nylea's Presence on the second turn, followed by Nimbus Naiad, which ate an upkeep Magma Jet from Fabiano. Manfield untapped and cast Kerametra's Acolyte, which blocked the attacking Triton on the next turn. Fabiano cast Sealock Monster post-combat.
Then, Manfield went off in a way. Nylea's Disciple gained him 4 life, then Kerametra's Acolyte tapped for four green mana, which when combined with an untapped Island, let Manfield bestow Nimbus Naiad onto his new Disciple.
Manfield, however, found a second Nylea's Disciple thanks to Commune with the Gods. It gained Manfield 4 life when it entered the battlefield, 2 less than it would have thanks to Fabiano's Lightning Strike taking the new Disciple out with its trigger on the stack. When Fabiano sent his creatures (sans Artisan of Forms) in, Voyage's End bounced the Wavecrash Triton, disposing of a threatening Ordeal of Purphoros in the process. Fabiano replaced the temporarily dismissed creature with a much larger Titan of Eternal Fire.
Manfield thought long and hard about attacks on the next turn, as his Nylea's Disciple with the bestowed Nimbus Naiad was now available to attack. He sent the creature in, then cast Prognostic Sphinx and immediately bestowed it with another Nimbus Naiad. Manfield fell to 3 when Fabiano sent his creatures in and made his Sealock Monster monstrous.
Manfield attacked with only his Prognostic Sphinx on the next turn, leaving two cards on top. When Fabiano had nothing waiting on top, he succumbed to the flying creatures on the next turn.
Fabiano 1 – Manfield 2
After the game, Joshua Ravitz discussed the third game with Fabiano, bringing up that the Lightning Strike may have been better aimed at Fabiano's own Artisan of Forms. This would have triggered the Artisan's heroic power and would let Fabiano copy his Sealock Monster, giving him another 5/5 attacker for a few turns.
Fabiano had considered the play, but debated its effectiveness in being able to deal with Manfield's threats anyway. The critique was fair; even if Fabiano had another 5/5 creature, it wasn't clear that things would have changed given his final few d, especially since Manfield had a 5/7 in the form of an enchanted Prognostic Sphinx.