Round 13: (2) Seth Manfield (Esper Control) vs. (23) Brad Nelson (R/G Goggle Ramp)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 23, 2016

By Tobi Henke

This was the round we had all been waiting for. All triskaidekaphobia aside, Round 13 would definitely be unlucky for someone, the only question was, for whom?

In one corner, we had former Player of the Year and current No. 23 Brad Nelson, the lone American on EUreka's roster playing his team's Red-Green Goggle Ramp. On the other side of the table sat reigning World Champion and 2nd-ranked Seth Manfield playing East West Bowl's Planeswalker-heavy Esper Control. Both were 10-2, still very much in line for Top 8.

"Have you played against this deck yet?" Nelson asked while the players were shuffling up for the first game. Manfield was cagey. "Maybe."

Seth Manfield and Brad Nelson were both friends and former teammates. Now, they were both squaring off, both aiming for another Pro Tour Top 8.

The Games

Nelson began with Tormenting Voice discarding Drownyard Temple, followed by Nissa's Pilgrimage. Manfield only had his first play on turn four with Narset Transcendent, leaving an opening for Nelson to resolve Pyromancer's Goggles and copy Magmatic Insight.

However, all of Nelson's card drawing and ramping hadn't led to any tangible advantage yet, and Narset was closing in on her ninth counter. Something had to be done and that something was Fall of the Titans, copied via Pyromancer's Goggles to outright kill the Planeswalker.

Manfield's next Planeswalker was Jace, Unraveler of Secrets which unraveled in the face of Dragonlord Atarka. Things seemed to be going well for Nelson, but Manfield's Ob Nixilis Reignited took care of the Dragon and Nelson ran out of meaningful business. Soon, Manfield had Ob Nixilis Reignited, Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, and a new Narset Transcendent all ticking up and providing extra draws.

Nelson's recursion of World Breaker (and Drownyard Temple) wasn't exactly on par with what Manfield's assorted Planeswalkers were doing. It took a while, but eventually Narset's ultimate prevented Nelson from casting further noncreature spells.

When Manfield replaced Narset with Sorin, Grim Nemesis, Nelson checked with a judge how much time remained in the round (30 minutes) and decided to concede the first game rather than wait for the inevitable.

After Duress on Pyromancer's Goggles and Negate for Hedron Archive, the second game appeared to be going much better for Manfield. He did lose his first Planeswalker to Dragonlord Atarka, but easily dealt with Atarka itself, and then Nelson hit a pocket of lands. After two Nissa's Pilgrimages, he had drawn or taken a full 14 lands from his deck already, yet there were more.

Manfield's Planeswalkers were solid at both controlling the board and amassing card advantage.

Manfield, meanwhile, was still on five lands, even after transforming Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and beginning to draw cards with Ob Nixilis Reignited. Once Nelson drew a business spell, however, his extreme mana advantage allowed him to go veritably crazy. To wit, he cast something like Traverse the Ulvenwald, a face-down Den Protector, and Chandra, Flamecaller all on the same turn. Chandra turned excess lands from his hand into further business, meaning Dragonlord Atarka and, finally, Pyromancer's Goggles plus Fall of the Titans for the kill.

Manfield's first Jace, Vryn's Prodigy immediately died to Rending Volley. His second at least got in an activation, before it died to the same Rending Volley, courtesy of turn-four Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

Nelson's deck—the breakout of the tournament—continued to impress.

Not much later, Manfield deployed Dragonlord Ojutai and again only got in one hit before the Dragon was dispatched by yet another Rending Volley. Meanwhile, Goblin Dark-Dwellers were laying siege to Narset Transcendent. The latter two eventually died, one after the other, to Grasp of Darkness and Fall of the Titans, respectively.

With the battlefield devoid of any nonland permanents, Nelson went back to the drawing board, going through a pair of Magmatic Insights and a Hedron Archive to shape a perfect hand. World Breaker, a face-down Den Protector which returned Goblin Dark-Dwellers, which in turn retrieved Traverse the Ulvenwald, and so on. The red-green wheels were in full spin now, while the control deck's came off.

Manfield 1 – Nelson 2

After the match, Manfield admitted that he had played against EUreka's deck once before.

"I won then, but I don't like the match-up at all," he said. "I somehow won that first game, but the Rending Volleys he brought in were really…" Here, Manfield's voice trailed off, not surprisingly because Rending Volley really had been mean and strong and crucial and all kinds of things in the third game.

Nelson agreed with regards to the match-up: "The late game of our deck is just so strong," he explained. "I guess the first game can be rough, but the additional creatures after sideboarding help a lot. And I knew he would be bringing in creatures too, at least Dragonlord Ojutai. I had boarded one Rending Volley for the second game, another one for the third, and possibly should have brought in the third as well."

Seth Manfield: Esper Control

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Brad Nelson: Goggles Ramp

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