Finals: (3) Seth Manfield vs. Wang Yichen

Posted in Event Coverage on October 23, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

Nearly 1,200 players arrived on the east coast to battle it out for the title and trophy at Grand Prix Providence, but only two had survived to play for that honor.

They couldn't be further apart in experience. On one side sat Seth Manfield, the 2015 World Champion and world's third-ranked player Seth Manfield, chasing history with what would be his third Grand Prix title of the year, a feat not accomplished since Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel in 2005.

On the other side sat Wang Yichen, playing in his first-ever Grand Prix Top 8. He squeaked his way into the elimination rounds in the final seed, but had torn through the Top 8 despite being on the draw in every match. His calculated demeanor gave away nothing as he carved a path through top seed Zachary Kiihne and then former Pro Tour winner Osyp Lebedowicz without dropping even a game.

The Decks

It was to be a mirror match in the finals, as both players piloted the Green-Black Delirium deck that was a staple of Standard before rotation and the arrival of Kaladesh. The deck lost steam leading up to last week's Pro Tour as an influx of combo decks — most notably Aetherworks Marvel with Emrakul, the Promised End — held keep it down. But with the combo decks falling out of popularity and small creature decks populating the format here in Rhode Island, Black-Green Delirium was very well-positioned, and four copies made their way into the Top 8 as a result.

The Games

The mirror match naturally lent itself to going long, as both players tended to trade removal and early creatures in the rock-on-rock contest. Sticking permanents onto the board that could survive was the name of the game, and Manfield tried first with a pair of Grim Flayer. However, both ate removal immediately, opening the door for Wang.

He took full advantage, resolving Liliana, the Last Hope before stripping Ishkanah, Grafwidow out of Manfield's hand with Transgress the Mind. Unable to hold onto a creature, Manfield created one from the ground, activating his Hissing Quagmire to poke at the Liliana. But To the Slaughter took out that plan, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet followed for Wang.

However, the move backfired a bit for Wang, since putting the land into the graveyard meant that the Ishkanah, Grafwidow Manfield played on the next turn was able to make spiders thanks to the Delirium requirement being met. That gave Manfield enough power to trade with Kalitas, but that turned the delirium tables right back on the 2015 world champion, giving Wang enough card types in his graveyard to cast Emrakul, the Promised End, who lived up to her name and finished the game two short turns later.

The second game saw the board bog down once again the early turns, until Wang deployed Tireless Tracker, a card that would be a threat for the rest of the game as it slowly gave him card advantage. But, while the Tracker was a good long-term plan, Manfield had a much more effective immediate one. Noxious Gearhulk took down the Tracker and put Manfield ahead on board, forcing Wang to use removal but still being 2-for-1'ed in the exchange.

Manfield was pulling ahead in the long game, but Sylvan Advocate Wang had been leaning on since the second turn was now a 4/5 and taking chunks out of Manfield's life total, sending him down to 7 life evenas it risked soon becoming irrelevant as the late game hit. The next volley was Transgress the Mind for Manfield, stripping Emrakul from Wang's hand and clearing the way for his own on the next turn.

And a devastating Emrakul, the Promised End it was. Manfield used Wang's To the Slaughter to take down both the Liliana, the Last Hope and Sylvan Advocate Wang was using. The attack step further decimated his board, and when he passed the turn back to Manfield after a second Ishkanah to clutter the board things looked dire. Manfield attacked in with the eldrazi and left Wang just a turn away from death.

But he had forgotten one thing. Wang drew for his turn, played a land attacked with all six spiders. Manfield couldn't block them all, and when Wang activated Ishkanah to drain Manfield's life he had managed to steal a game out from under Emrakul and become the 2016 Grand Prix Providence champion in the process.

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