Two of the most experienced players in the Top 8 clashed in the first quarterfinals of the day. With World Championship seats already guaranteed for both players, (7) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and (9) Seth Manfield have set their eyes on bigger goals.
Going into Pro Tour Hour of Devastation with 49 Pro Points, Manfield was already locked for Platinum. However, now that he broke into his third lifetime Top 8, this appearance was his fourth Final Day, including his World Championship win. Player of the Year was out of reach, but he was still in the running for the title of USA team captain, an accolade he had yet to pick up. Since (4) Reid Duke currently had 74 Pro Points, coming in 2nd or better today would put Manfield at 75 to cause the upset.
As for Damo da Rosa, the stakes were even higher. If he won this round and then his semifinals, the 26 Pro Points he received will tie Márcio Carvalho, resulting in a Player of the Year showdown. However, if Damo da Rosa won the Pro Tour, he would become the 2016-17 Player of the Year outright, in addition to becoming the tenth person in history to win multiple Pro Tours.
Ramunap Red was the deck of choice for both players, and it was widely regarded as the top-performing deck. Damo da Rosa and Manfield were two of five Ramunap Red players in the Top 8, but they were the only two players with Abrade and Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the main deck.
In addition, Damo da Rosa was the only player of the five not playing Incendiary Flow, while Seth was the only player of the five not playing with four copies of Shock! These small differences could make a have huge impact in certain situations and mean the difference between life and death in this extremely fast-paced matchup.
Both Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Seth Manfield had some big stakes to play for in this quarterfinal match.
Since Damo da Rosa had the higher Swiss standing, he chose to be on the play. However, he had to mulligan to five cards. Opening with Mountain and Village Messenger, he was further reduced to just three. Passing his next turn, it transformed into Moonrise Intruder and even crashed in for a couple of bites as a 2/2.
Manfield summoned Bomat Courser, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Earthshaker Khenra in succession, counterattacking Paulo to 12 life. He held back Bomat Courier and his own Kari Zev, Skyship Raider to defend. After a flurry of exchanges, Manfield summoned two one-drops, and Damo da Rosa's board became outnumbered three to one.
After Manfield's draw step, he pointed Abrade at Bomat Courier. After some deliberation, he decided to let it go, declining the five cards tucked below, preferring to pull ahead on the board with yet another Kavi Zev, Skyship Raider. Thereafter, a timely Earthshaker Khenra showed up to finish things off.
The second game—still a pre-sideboarded game—began with both players going to six. Then, Damo da Rosa went to five once more. Despite that, he coughed up Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Ahn-Crop Crasher to deter Falkenrath Gorger and Bomat Courier.
However, Manfield had different ideas. Summoning his own Ahn-Crop Crasher, he exerted it to prevent Kari Zev, Skyship Raider from blocking. After that, Damo da Rosa untapped to recruit Chandra, Torch of Defiance. A second copy of Ahn-Crop Crasher showed up, and Manfield directed his whole team at Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Resigned that Chandra was going to die next turn, Damo da Rosa mounted an all-out attack and played Sunscorched Desert to reduce Manfield down to 8, while he himself stood at 14.
Damo da Rosa presses on despite some rough first opening hands in his twelfth Pro Tour Top 8.
Despite the life total advantage, things quickly turned into a downward spiral when Manfield presented his own Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Killing Ahn-Crop Crasher and attacking with everything, that reduced Damo da Rosa to a single Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and no cards in hand. Things were looking extremely dire but Damo da Rosa continued trudging on. Sacrificing Sunscorched Desert to Ramunap Ruins and attacking with both Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and a freshly-drawn Earthshaker Khenra, Manfield was down to just 2 precarious life. If Manfield was seal the deal this turn, Damo da Rosa could draw a fifth land and activate Ramunap Ruins for the win.
"You're at 10?" Manfield confirmed.
When yes was the reply, Manfield pointed Shock at Damo da Rosa, resulting in the concession before Manfield even needed to turn all his four creatures sideways.
After some quick sideboarding—both players knew exactly what to do due to the fact that they've practiced this matchup countless times—Damo da Rosa had to mulligan to six, and then to five.
Damo da Rosa's first offering was Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, which Manfield killed with Abrade. However, that decision was marred by the appearance of Aethersphere Harvester, which was extremely crucial in this matchup owing to lifelink. Pia Nalaar stepped up to crew it, while Damo da Rosa held back the Thopter token to fend against Earthshaker Khenra.
This prompted Manfield to point two removal spells at both creatures, and he could only hope that Damo da Rosa had insufficient creatures to crew his Vehicle. However, it was not to be and he rebuilt both Village Messenger and Falkenrath Gorger.
With Damo da Rosa back to 20 life and Manfield down to 12, Manfield continued taking down all of Damo da Rosa's creatures, this time with a pair of Chandra's Defeat. Ahn-Crop Crasher wasn't the best pilot, but it could guarantee three more damage through the air.
Retaliating with Reality Smasher, the scores were close to even but Damo da Rosa wisely attacked with his team to put Manfield at 3 life. Since he had no solution to Aethersphere Harvester, it eventually did him in. Against all odds, Damo da Rosa had won despite starting with five cards.
Could this be an inkling of a reversal of tides?
Moving on to Game 4, Manfield needed just one more win, while Damo da Rosa had to win two in a row. For the first time today, Damo da Rosa had kept a hand of seven cards, an oasis in a desert. He summoned Village Messenger and two Kari Zev, Skyship Raiders (on consecutive, naturally), all of which were burned to a crisp. Damo da Rosa's permanents were three Mountains and Aethersphere Harvester. Manfield crashed in with Earthshaker Khenra for the third time, before summoning Hazoret the Fervent.
Manfield looks for a way to close out the match after a 2-0 start.
Despite receiving a life cushion from Aethersphere Harvester, the damage output from Hazoret the Fervent was simply too much. Even when he summoned Glorybringer, Damo da Rosa still felt unsure about winning this race. If he crewed Aethersphere Harvester with Village Messenger and attacked with fliers, Manfield would go from 10 life to 2 life, but Damo da Rosa had to hope that his 12 life was enough to survive.
Eventually deciding to take the gambit, Damo da Rosa lay in wait for the verdict. Did Manfield have a way to cough up three more damage from the existing nine he had on the board?
He did not.
Just like that, Damo da Rosa evened out the scores from a 0-2 start!
In the rubber game, Manfield led with Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, but Damo da Rosa drew first blood with Earthshaker Khenra. Damo da Rosa rebuilt with Pia Nalaar. Manfield had no play, except to attack with Kari Zev, Skyship Raider (and key cuddly pet, Ragavan).
A pair of Magma Sprays cleared Damo da Rosa's side, but Damo da Rosa presented Sand Strangler to kill Manfield's Kari Zev, Skyshp Raider. Unable to take any more damage, Manfield pointed Abrade at Sand Strangler. After the artifact removal spell was baited out, that paved the way for Aethersphere Harvester and Hazoret the Fervent, two of the biggest haymakers in this mirror match. Crewing Aethersphere Harvester with Hazoret the Fervent (that's a rare sight), Damo da Rosa summoned a second copy of Hazoret the Fervent, knocking Manfield down to 7 against his own 17.
Despite Manfield summoning his own Hazoret to block, all Damo da Rosa had to do was crew Aethersphere Harvester with Hazoret once more to soar through the skies, before activating Hazoret twice to deal the final four damage! Against all odds, Damo da Rosa had come back from a triple mulligan and a 0-2 start to advance to the semifinals.
"I honestly thought we had a good sideboard plan, but I may need to rethink it," Manfield responded despondently. As he left the feature match area, he received consolation from his fellow team Genesis teammates, including Lukas Blohon, Martin Müller, and Martin Dang. At least with this stellar performance, team Genesis had made the finals of the Pro Tour Team Series, and will face off against team Musashi in a playoff match at the World Championship.
Meanwhile, Damo da Rosa continued to threaten Cavalho's potential Player of the Year title as he advanced.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa defeats Seth Manfield 3-2 and advances to the semifinals!