Round 5: (4) Seth Manfield vs. (6) Jacob Wilson

Posted in Event Coverage on August 28, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

Fourth-ranked Seth Manfield and sixth-ranked Jacob Wilson sat across the table and studied each of their decklists. Both these players had 3-0'd their draft pods, but neither could translate that undefeated streak into Modern. Now they both sit at 3-1, wondering if their momentum had stopped.

Both competitors are on hyper-aggressive decks that some would call "un-interactive." And though they can be, the intersection of Hexproof Auras and Affinity is a functionally interactive one.

Hexproof Auras aims to set up one creature—preferably one that can't be targeted by the opponent—with a bunch of Auras that make it gigantic. Then, it swings for the win. Affinity overwhelms the opponent with low-cost artifact creatures that interact like a little system. Then, it swings for the win.

The decks can be non-interactive, but both players really want to attack with their super-charged creatures. They need to get into the red zone. So often the big, untargetable, barely killable Bogle has to stay at home to block a 10/2 Ornithopter, and vice versa. It's a race, and it's math-y, and it can be tough.

Both Seth Manfield and Jacob Wilson went with aggressive decks that are often described as linear.

There are still gaps and holes to exploit. Etched Champion and Spellskite are particularly troublesome creatures for most decks to face. But both players will have to test and prod to find those holes before swinging for the win, like a pack of velociraptors checking for weaknesses in their pen.

The Games

Both players started with strong first-turn plays. Wilson had a Vault Skirge, and Manfield went with Gladecover Scout. It looked like Wilson might be the one to break through with a big turn two Spellskite. This would make it impossible for Manfield to lay any Auras on his own creatures (as Wilson would just steal them for the Spellskite). But Manfield had a Path to Exile ready, and was able to mount a counter-offensive.

Manfield added Kor Spiritdancer, then put Rancor and Glaring Aegis on it to draw some cards and swung in for 8 damage. He passed the turn back up 18-11. But Wilson had his Steel Overseer, Etched Champion, and Blinkmoth Nexus joining the Skirge, and was an unblockable, growing assault. The Skirge also was gaining some precious life back as well.

Wilson unleashes his army of artifacts, hoping it's enough.

And so the two swung at each other, as the artifacts and the Spiritdancer continued growing, At thirteen power, and with Wilson at 13 life, the dancer came a rumblin', forcing the Etched Champion to soak up a few damage. It was clear Wilson was falling behind. That Kor Spiritdancer just kept growing and growing at a faster-and-faster clip.

Wilson saw his time was almost up, and made a gamble. He cast an end-of-turn, last-card Galvanic Blast to take Manfield down to 9 life. Wilson only had seven power on the field. He was down to 2 life, but Manfield was tapped out, as were his creatures. If Wilson found something on his draw step to get in 2 extra damage, there was nothing his opponent could do about it.

Wilson drew for his turn, and it was a Blinkmoth Nexus. It would deal 1 extra damage, but not 2. His would-be killers all turned into blockers. But the sixth Aura on the Kor Spiritdancer was a Daybreak Coronet, and it was more than enough to earn the concession from Wilson.

The post-board games can be quite swingy. Though attacking back and forth still happens, there are bigger potential swings, with the classic Modern sideboard hate.

In the second game, though Wilson didn't have a super-aggressive start, he did have another Spellskite. If Manfield didn't have an immediate answer, the lowly 0/4 would severely stunt Aura-based growth on the battlefield.

Manfield didn't kill the creature directly, but had a Stony Silence that would negate almost everything in Wilson's deck. Though Wilson countered the first copy with a Spell Pierce, the second one got through.

Manfield brings the match to swift silence.

Wilson now had to completely change his game plan. He sat looking at the creatures on his board, searching for what he could do. He was even down to just one mana. "Judge, the Stony Silence stops this activated ability, right?" Wilson pointed to his Darksteel Citadel. Judge Toby Elliott nodded stoically.

This might seem like the nail in Wilson's coffin, or really just a nail out of nowhere that went through Wilson's heart, but he still had a Signal Pest, Steel Overseer, and Spellskite, and Manfield had no offense and barely any defense. Manfield had a hand with multiple Stony Silence, two Slippery Bogles, but his Auras were scant. His little Bogles just had to sit back and block. As the scores were 12-18, Wilson still had some action going on. Additionally, he had a Whipflare. If he could bait the right blocks out of Manfield he could wipe Manfield back into the stone age.

And then the Auras started coming.

The meek Slippery Bogle was no more. A Glaring Aegis, Spider Umbra, Daybreak Coronet, and Rancor made for a gigantic creature, spelling doom for Jacob Wilson. There was one turn where he tried to wipe Manfield's board if he blocked wrong, but Manfield played around the Whipflare and sealed himself the game.

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