Quarterfinals: (2) Seth Manfield (Esper Control) vs. Luis Salvatto (R/W Eldrazi Goggles)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 24, 2016

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

Luis Salvatto might have the slimmest resume in a stacked Top 8, but he's the only one with an army at his back.

In a star-studded Top 8 that might just go down as one of the best ever, no player—not Jon "Jonny Magic" Finkel, not Luis Scott-Vargas, and not reigning World Champion Seth Manfield—received the loudest cheer. In fact, the loudest cheer was reserved for the least heralded player.

Because when the Top 8 was announced, no one made as much noise as DEX Army—the Latin American-based team captained by Willy Edel—did for Luis Salvatto.

Salvatto isn't coming out of nowhere, however. The Argentinian has previously played at Worlds, finished 5th at Grand Prix Santiago in 2013, and was the 2015 Super Sunday Series Champion. This is his first Pro Tour Top 8 (he and Steve Rubin are the only players without previous Sunday experience), but his 6-0 record in Draft shows some serious chops.

Unfortunately, that means his Standard record was a paltry 6-4 with the innovative and a bit out there Red-White Eldrazi Goggles. It's a very cool deck, but it's an open question whether it can stand up to this Top 8. Of his four losses, three came against Top 8 competitors, including Jon Finkel, Andrea Mengucci, and his opponent in the quarterfinals, Seth Manfield.

For that reason, Manfield had to feel pretty good about this pairing. The World Champion and No. 2 ranked player in the world defeated Salvatto in Round 12, though it was at least 2-1. The game Salvatto won he managed to, in Manfield's words, "go off with Pyromancer's Goggles." Still, even there Manfield had recourse.

There are other reasons for Manfield to be positive as well. He went 8-2 with his Esper Control deck, a deck that was on no one's radar coming into the tournament. Salvatto's deck was also full of cards like Fiery Impulse and Lightning Axe that were literal blanks in the first and second game.

Reigning World Champion Seth Manfield faced Luis Salvatto, and the very enthusiastic DEX Army that supported their Argentinian teammates in his first Pro Tour Top 8.

According to Manfield, their team's testing had shown that he was slightly favored, and that things got even better post-board. There were definitely deck advantages Salvatto would have to overcome.

Oh, and Manfield is also the World Champion, the No. 2 ranked player in the world (which could be No. 1 after today), and was quickly rising to the top of everyone's "best players in the world" list.

The Games

Salvatto might have had an army at his back, but Manfield brought some pretty powerful friends to fight right on the front lines.

The first game was all about Manfield's Planeswalkers lining up really well against Fiery Impulse. That is to say, Salvatto had to scramble for ways to interact with Manfield's nearly creatureless deck after a mulligan to six left him very few options.

Indeed, the odd hands in a strange match-up meant Anticipate was the first "action" of the game, if you can call it that, and both players merely passed for a few turns until Manfield landed the first of his powerful friends, a Narset Transcendent, setting up a duel, of sorts, between warring Planeswalkers.

Salvatto put his burn spells to use, firing first a Fiery Temper at Narset and then calling on his own powerful ally—Chandra, Flamecaller—to finish off the blue-white Planeswalker. But not before Manfield was able to leverage Narset into a rebounded Dark Petition, earning a free Demonic Tutor for his troubles.

Planeswalkers continued to battle in place of Manfield and Salvatto. Sorin, Grim Nemesis dropped by to tell Chandra to get out of Innistrad before Jace, Unraveler of Secrets joined Manfield's crew as well.

But Salvatto wasn't without recourse, using the essence of Chandra to double-up on Fall of the Titans, ending Sorin and severely injuring Jace.

That, however, just meant the way was pretty much clear for Sphinx of the Final Word to dominate the table, defending the last of Jace's loyalty while threatening to end the game when Manfield felt like it. That large, hexproof flying monstrosity allowed Manfield to develop his board at a pace he liked, which eventually included another copy of Narset Transcendent, Ob Nixilis Reignited, and another Sorin, Grim Nemesis.

Salvatto, meanwhile, was stuck with useless Fiery Impulses in his hand, staring down an untargetable creature and a field of Planeswalkers

There were a few more turns while Manfield ramped up loyalty and drew a ton of cards, but with his shields up and more planeswalkers joining the fray, it was only a matter of time before Manfield took the lead in the match.

Manfield leverages a powerful match-up advantage in the first game.

The second game got off to a much better start for Salvatto, as a Matter Reshaper and a madness-induced Fiery Temper (from Tormenting Voice) put pressure on the World Champion early. There was even a Thought-Knot Seer briefly in play!

But when Manfield handled the early pressure, Salvatto was left staring at a hand full of virtually useless Lightning Axes. Virtually useless, because Salvatto did find one use for them, discarding one to the other to kill his own Matter Reshaper in response to a Jace activation.

Look, no one said it was a good use, but that was the nature of the pre-sideboard game in this matchup. Dead cards aplenty for Salvatto, and a lot of bad options. Salvatto was trying to make the most of it while facing down a Narset, Jace, and Sorin at one point. Oh, and Ob Nixilis joined shortly thereafter.

Salvatto did manage to land a Chandra, damaging Narset and keeping it off its ultimate ability, but Sorin once again escorted the fiery planeswalker off the battlefield. A second Chandra met a Ruinous Path, and that was enough to send Salvatto scrambling for his sideboard where, hopefully, help awaited.

Salvatto has shown his skills at the top of the game, but now he needed to show his sideboarding chops if he wanted to get out of the quarterfinals.

Where help didn't await, however, was the top of Salvatto's deck. He kept a hand with no red mana save Pyromancer's Goggles, and, unfortunately for him, missed on the red sources he needed to put on any kind of early pressure. He found a Mountain eventually, but by then, Manfield had worked through the awkward early phase of his game and already started utilizing a Narset Transcendent. Narset died, but it served its purpose.

But once Salvatto had pulled out of his early game funk, Pyromancer's Goggles and a Tormenting Voice pulled him right back in it. Chandra, Flamecaller was Negated, but Lightning Axe cleared Manfield's board of a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

The board, for the moment, was clear.

Just the way Sorin, Grim Nemesis likes it.

Manfield continued to pick apart Salvatto's game plan. Duress nabbed Fall of the Titans, Sorin revealed a timely Grasp of Darkness for Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and Narset Transcendent even rebounded the Grasp to keep the way clear of Matter Reshaper. He then used Shambling Vent and Sorin to take out Nahiri, which seemed pretty flavorful.

Also good. It was very good.

It seemed that no matter what Salvatto did, Manfield had the answer, and soon Salvatto was left with no cards in hand and only a Pyromancer's Goggles to show for it.

There were more spells cast and more turns had, but the game was well in hand by the time Manfield had Narset, Sorin, and a Sphinx of the Final Word in play.

Manfield advanced, but the man with the army at his back was still perfectly pleased with his result. He came into the tournament looking to qualify for the next Pro Tour, and he accomplished that in spades. He was aiming to represent Argentina at the World Magic Cup, and certainly pushed himself to the front of that pack.

He wanted to do DEX Army proud. Based on the cheering that rocked the arena whenever his name was announced, he most certainly accomplished that.

Seth Manfield defeats Luis Salvatto 3-0 and advances to the semifinals!


Seth Manfield: Esper Control

Download Arena Decklist

Luis Salvatto: Red-White Eldrazi Goggles

Download Arena Decklist

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