Round 16: Jun Ishihara (Temur Emerge) vs. Joey Manner (White-Blue Flash)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 16, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

The final round before the Top 8 cut at a Pro Tour is one of the most tense moments in all of Magic, even for the seasoned pros who make a habit of playing in Round 16 with everything on the line.

And if even the grizzled veterans are nervous, you can bet that Jun Ishihara and Joey Manner were well past that. Neither had even played this deep into the Pro Tour. Neither had ever had a shot at the Top 8, and certainly neither had even the expectation of playing for a Pro Tour title on Sunday.

And yet the winner here would do just that.

Jun Ishihara and Joey Manner fought back nerves as they played for a shot at their first Pro Tour Top 8.

The Decks

Manner, the 21-year-old owner of the store The Only Game in Town in Summerville, New Jersey, had eschewed any of the most popular decks in the room in favor of an original white-blue flash list that went heavy on the instant-speed creatures. Archangel Avacyn, Rattlechains, and Spell Queller headlined the deck, which also took advantage of staples Thraben Inspector and Smuggler's Copter. At first glance a straightforward aggressive deck, Manner's offering actually had a lot of play with the potential to play on the opponent's turn.

Ishihara, meanwhile, has one Grand Prix Top 8 to his name, a fourth-place finish back in 2002 in Fukuoka. A win here would send him back to the Top 8 of premier play, and in a big way. His deck was something of a throwback. In a field of Kaladesh-heavy decks, his Temur Emerge deck was still the best use of Kozilek's Return, Elder Deep-Fiend, and Ishkanah, Grafwidow possible. The deck featured one of the best late games in the format and fought hard to make sure the game reached that point.

The Games

Manner's deck served up his best start possible in the first game, curving Thraben Inspector into Smuggler's Copter. Reflector Mage followed after that, while all Ishihara could do was set up his mana while trying to keep pace with Filigree Familiar.

Ishihara wanted to lean on the Kozilek's Return he had ready for the turn after that, but a Selfless Spirit from Manner shut that down preemptively while being joined by a second Smuggler's Copter on the field, all while he whittled away at Ishihara's life total.

With his back against the wall to Manner's army, Ishihara started putting up the best defense possible: spiders. A pair of Ishkanah, Grafwidow arrived to provide him with some blocks that let him trade with two Copters, but Manner responded in kind with two Gideon, Ally of Zendikar emblems to grow his team. As a third Copter arrived for Manner and helped the American knock Ishihara down to 3 life, Traverse the Ulvenwald for Elder Deep-Fiend bought one more turn for the Japanese player.

Back against the wall, Ishihara fought back to buy any time he could get.

That turn yielded a third Ishkanah, as he also went back up to 7 life with a pair of Filigree Familiars. It was enough to stabilize, but Stasis Snare from Manner took down the big legendary. Ishihara fell to 2 life from the next attack, and when the top card of his deck didn't yield and answer, he picked up his cards to move to the next one.

The second game looked nearly exactly like the first, as Manner had Thraben Inspector into Smuggler's Copter to take the early lead, while Ishihara had Primal Druid for later emerging. With Reflector Mage in hand, Manner was set up to punish the start for Ishihara, but the American had only a tapped Port Town for the turn, keeping him off of a third-turn play.

Pilgrim's Eye for Ishihara ensured that he would have no such mana problems, and Wretched Gryff on the next turn while sacrificing the Druid was ideal for Ishihara. But the pair of Reflector Mage that Manner employed meant that despite hitting his land drops, Ishihara couldn't hold down the board, and he fell to 8 life from the attacks.

He may have been down, but Ishihara was now finally up to six land and ready to interact. Elder Deep-Fiend bought him a turn of no attacks, but it did mean that Manner got to pass with Negate, Spell Queller, and Archangel Avacyn up.

With all sorts of flash creatures and instants at his disposal, Manner felt no pressure to make a move until his opponent did.

Ishihara's plan for getting back into the game was clear. He planned to curve Pilgrim's Eye into Tireless Tracker and a land drop to have two mana ready to sacrifice the clue and grow the Tracker. What he didn't count on was that Pilgrim's Eye meeting a Spell Queller. This meant that the only land he had to go with the Tireless Tracker was an Evolving Wilds, a development that turned out to be crucial, as the Tracker was forced to trade with a Reflector Mage on the ensuing attack while he fell to 3 life.

Ishihara's next plan involved resolving Kozilek's Return, or at least getting it into the graveyard for later use, but once again, Spell Queller proved to be the perfect answer for Manner, taking away yet another answer from Ishihara. Still, Ishkanah, Grafwidow was a good one to hide behind, even after Archangel Avacyn joined Manner's team.

But now Ishihara had another problem, as any of Manner's creatures dying would transform his Archangel Avacyn into Avacyn, the Purifier, dealing the final three damage Manner needed to finish off the match.

Running out of options, Ishihara went into full chump-block mode, and a Stasis Snare on Ishkanah forced him to throw away his final tokens as he looked for an answer. As he drew what would be the final card of his tournament, he glanced at it with a small laugh and then extended his hand to congratulate Manner on advancing to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Kaladesh.

Ishihara 0 – Manner 2

Ishihara, Jun - Temur Emerge

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Joey Manner - White-Blue Flash

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