Posted in PRO TOUR KHANS OF TARKIR - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 11, 2014

By Corbin Hosler

Brad Nelson usually gets extremely nervous before a Pro Tour. The 2010 Player of the Year is known for the energy he brings to every event, and he's the first to wear his emotions on his sleeve, which is why Nelson surprised even himself that he was so calm on Thursday as he registered for the Pro Tour that would begin the next morning.

It's easy to be calm when you're as confident in the format as Nelson is.

While most other players in the room were finding the best version of Abzan Midrange or tweaking Jeskai Aggro, Nelson went his own way, building a unique red-white deck and eschewing a third color entirely. It led him to a 1-0 start to the Standard portion of the tournament after a 2-1 draft finish, and a Round 5 feature match against Seth Manfield.

Manfield, a Grand Prix Top 8 competitor last year in Dallas and Toronto, was one of those players who perfected Abzan midrange as part of Team TCGPlayer. He also finished the draft 2-1 before picking up a win in Standard.

The Games

Nelson won the roll to go first, something that his aggressive red-white deck certainly enjoyed, and the first exchange of the game was a Magma Jet taking out Manfield's Elvish Mystic.

Next came a card that could reasonably be expected during the draft rounds of the tournament but was a complete shock to see during the Constructed portion: Hordeling Outburst.

Nelson was determined to prove its worth, and after a combination of Searing Blood and Lightning Strike cleared away a Siege Rhino, the tokens began to charge through. A Stoke the Flames on Courser of Kruphix kept the path clear, and Manfield suddenly found himself in danger of dying to the angry goblins.

A Thoughtseize cleared out another Stoke the Flames, but then came the words no one playing against a red deck wants to hear.

"Magma Jet you."

Nelson's red spells go to work, all with the same general goal in mind.

Peeling from the top of his deck after burning Manfield, Nelson found the card that benefits the most from Hordeling Outburst: Goblin Rabblemaster. It added a fourth goblin to the attack squad and forced Manfield to scoop after the top of his deck failed to yield an answer.

Manfield 0 – Nelson 1

If Game 1 was Nelson's chance to display the aggressive capabilities of his deck, Game 2 was Manfield's opportunity to show exactly why the much-ballyhooed engine of Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix are so ubiquitous in Standard right now.

The Caryatid showed up first, and a turn later propelled Manfield into a Siege Rhino before turning to blocking duty for the goblin army Nelson was again amassing. Next came the Courser, turning up a land on top of Manfield's deck and giving him the free mana, which he used to Thoughtseize away one of Nelson's burn spells.

A turn later it was the Caryatid's turn to again show off, accelerating an Elspeth, Sun's Champion that looked like it would slam the door on Nelson's hopes of a comeback.

Nelson had other plans. A pair of burn spells worked to take down the Elspeth, and he followed up with a surprising Elspeth of his own to even things out. An army of tokens landed in front of the Siege Rhino the next turn to remove the threat, and suddenly Nelson had regained control of a board that a turn earlier looked hopeless.

Manfield's Abzan spells are brutally efficient.

But Manfield wasn't out of planeswalkers. Elspeth met a Hero's Downfall and the Sorin, Solemn Visitor that followed swung the game yet again. This time, Nelson wasn't able to find an answer, and Sorin concluded his visit a few turns later.

Manfield 1 – Nelson 1

Nelson's innovative deck had surprised Manfield with its planeswalkers in Game 2, and the hits kept coming in the third game.

Another Limited all-star made a cameo—this time Titan's Strength, which helped Monastery Swiftspear take down a Sylvan Caryatid—as Nelson tried to work his way back from a mulligan. That was made harder when Manfield's Thoughtseize revealed nothing but lands and the most surprising card yet from Nelson: End Hostilities.

The top of Nelson's deck cooperated again, this time yielding a Chandra, Pyromaster, though the two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor was still looking for answers when Manfield responded with a Siege Rhino. Activating Chandra's second ability gave Nelson a Wind-Scarred Crag and a crucial second white mana, which he used the next turn to cast an Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

Chandra threatened to ultimate in two turns, but Manfield found the beginnings of an answer in his own Elspeth. That is, until Nelson cast his third planeswalker of the match, this time Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, which blotted out the sun and sealed the match a turn later.

Manfield's surprise was evident as the match progressed, and after Nelson's aggressive red deck played its third planeswalker he couldn't do much more than just shake his head.

"Certainly didn't test against that one," he lamented as he picked up his cards.

Manfield 1 – Nelson 2

Brad Nelson's Red-White Tokens

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Seth Manfield's Abzan Midrange

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