Top 4 Player Profiles

Posted in Event Coverage on August 29, 2015

By Event Coverage Staff

Four of the very best players in the world have reached the Sunday playoffs for the 2015 Magic: The Gathering World Championship. Learn a little more about these four by reading their player profiles below!

Seth Manfield

Age: 24
Hometown: Chevy Chase, Maryland
Record by Format:
Modern Masters 2015 Edition Draft: 3-0
Modern: 3-1
Magic Origins Draft: 3-0
Standard: 4–0

The greatest story of the weekend was how Seth Manfield steamrolled past the competition, locking up his berth in the Top 4 before anyone else.

Shota Yasooka's stellar 11-1 performance during the 2012 World Championship bore similarities to Manfield's deep run today. Except that, it was one step better. With the tournament length being increased from 12 rounds to 14 rounds, that makes Manfield's 13-1 more impressive than any other.

Reminiscing in the olden days, his most memorable moments would have to be his three Grand Prix wins, in addition to the Top 8 at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. But Manfield has to admit that nothing comes close to the exhilaration that he is experiencing at the moment.

Despite being overwhelmed with emotion, he finds sufficient composure to thank the people who have helped him along the way. "First of all, I would like to thank my teammates. Without Brad Nelson, Ari Lax, and Steve Rubin, I would not be having such a great weekend and I will never forget that. I'd also like to take this chance to thank my girlfriend for staying home with my daughter and for allowing me to take time off to pursue my dreams. A shout out to my lovely mom too!"

Manfield's weekend is far from over. What stands between him and the coveted World Champion title he so desires are two matches. Two very difficult matches.

With 13 Pro Points already in the bag and at least 12 from upcoming Pro Tours, he is already halfway to renewing Platinum. Regardless of the outcome this weekend, he has a great outlook in the upcoming season.

"I will continue to write about the game and travel for as many events as I can," he said. "The end game is coming back to this tournament again. Regardless of whether I win on Sunday, I want to be back at the 2016 World Championship."

"Obviously this is one of the most memorable days of my Magic career. I never expected that I would do so well in such a difficult field. If I am able to win, it will be the most amazing achievement imaginable. Everything I do, have done, and will be doing leads to the ultimate goal of becoming the World Champion."

Owen Turtenwald

Age: 26
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Record by Format:
Modern Masters 2015 Edition Draft: 2-1
Modern: 3-1
Magic Origins Draft: 2-1
Standard: 2-2

Constant preparation. That's what Owen Turtenwald demanded of himself leading up to the World Championship.

"I played a lot of Magic Online," he said. "Basically, after the Pro Tour, once I realized I was qualified for this tournament, I spent all of my time that I wasn't eating or sleeping playing online for three weeks."

It also helped to be in constant contact with friends who had his talent and knowledge, but not his invite to the tournament.

"I was also constantly talking to friends and other pros I knew talking about the tournament and what the field would be like and what the format would be like," he said.

Part of his success, he said, is owed to not having a plan.

"For Modern Masters, the best thing I did was not have a plan," he explained. "Most players go in with a plan, like they want to draft Spirits or Affinity or some theme, and I went in with no theme. I just wanted to draft a two- or three-color control deck. For example, my first pick was Shadowmage Infiltrator, which doesn't go with any theme, and it was just great."

As for where this tournament sits on his Magic resume, Turtenwald is keeping his eyes on the prize.

"The tournament's not over yet," he stressed. "I'd also like to win a Pro Tour more."

But he paused and thought.

"If I win, maybe I'll feel like it matters a lot."

Paul Rietzl

Age: 30
Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ
Record by Format:
Modern Masters 2015 Edition Booster Draft: 1-2
Modern: 3-1
Magic Origins Booster Draft: 3-0
Standard: 2-2

Early in the tournament, Paul Rietzl, Hall of Famer, Pro Tour Champion, and one of the best players to ever sleeve up a deck, began to wonder if he belonged.

After playing the "craziest game of my career for the highest stakes," Rietzl very much belongs. More on that in a moment.

The low point for Rietzl came early in the weekend against Kentaro Yamamoto.

"I made a poor play against Yamamoto, and I started questioning whether I belonged in a tournament like this," Rietzl said. "But for the next ten rounds, I played some of the best Magic of my life, and it was good to see that I still had that in me. I actually won my last six games of Modern and my first six games of Draft."

It was at that point Rietzl built up some momentum, leading up to his showdown with Martin Müller for the Top 4. The players split the first two games, and then Rietzl found himself pretty far behind, so far behind he laughed at the idea that "pretty far behind" even accurately described the situation.

"At that point you just have to think of how you can possibly win," he explained. "He has to have some pretty bad cards, my Den Protector has to get in a hit, and I need a Siege Rhino," Rietzl said of his final game against Müller. "So many things had to go right for me."

But go right they did, and now Rietzl has the opportunity to round out his impressive and unassailable resume.

"It would be the cherry on top of a Hall of Fame career," he said. "To do the one thing I haven't done, which is beat the entire Earth."

Samuel Black

Age: 33
Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
Record by Format:
Modern Masters 2015 Edition Booster Draft: 1-2
Modern: 3-1
Magic Origins Booster Draft: 1-2
Standard Constructed: 4–0

Now that he has made it to the Top 4, Black humbly professes that he cannot imagine what it would be like to win. "I've been playing Magic for a long, long time, but I have never come close to winning such a major tournament like this one," he admitted. "It is difficult for me to imagine what it would be like. I think I would be happy, but still it's not easy for me to picture how I will feel. It is just an emotion that I've yet to experience."

Black gives himself too little credit. Aside from two Pro Tour Top 8s, ten Gran Prix Top 8s, and over 300 Lifetime Pro Points, Black has a Team World Champion title to his name, a title shared with Michael Jacob and Paul Cheon.

"I view Magic in a very long-term, 'big-picture' kind of way, so I never really focused on individual events," he said. "At the end of the day, I'd like to do well enough to warrant Hall of Fame consideration and that is something that I have been working on for the past decade or so."

Black has a reputation for being a master deck builder but he wants credit where it's due. None of the decks he utilized this weekend were of his creation.

"I've received a lot of great advice from a lot of great people," he said. "I'd like to thank everyone, in particular a few people for giving me great decks this weekend. Paul Rietzl built the Affinity deck and I put my trust in him. For Standard, Craig Wescoe convinced me to play Justin Heilig's White Devotion deck. I didn't do very well at Limited this weekend, so I'm exceptionally thankful for all my friends and teammates."

When asked for his best memory of the last season, he shares that his happiest moment was not about himself but rather about Justin Cohen.

"We've been living together for over ten years and we've been a huge part of each other's lives," he said. "I know how much making the Top 8 at Pro Tour Fate Reforged and subsequently taking home the Rookie of the Year title means to him and I am really happy for Justin."

Ultimately, everyone's searching for their own slice of paradise. Black might not know it yet, but this Sunday might just be his day.

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