Round 16: (2) Seth Manfield (Esper Control) vs. (14) Ondřej Stráský (G/W Tokens)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 23, 2016

By Tobi Henke

After weeks of testing, after two drafts and nine previous rounds of Standard, it all came down to this: one more match to decide who would advance to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad and who would have to watch from the sidelines tomorrow.

Fighting for the ultimate glory here were Seth Manfield and Ondřej Stráský, currently ranked No. 2 and No. 14, although these numbers would certainly change after the weekend, possibly decrease at least for Stráský. Conversely, the number of career Pro Tour Top 8s, as of now still two for Stráský, one for Manfield, would definitely increase for one of them.

Manfield was a recent addition to East West Bowl, the team which had exploded onto the scene at the previous Pro Tour with Jiachen Tao's victory. He was holding up their banner this round, playing the team's Planeswalker-heavy version of Esper Control. Stráský came equipped with Green-White Tokens, the deck most of Face-to-Face Games had decided on.

The current World Champion and the Czech Republic's top pro faced off to determine who would be competing in Sunday's playoffs.

The Games

Stráský led with a pair of Hangarback Walkers, one of which met Grasp of Darkness. On his fourth turn, Manfield cast Anticipate, only had Evolving Wilds as his fourth land, and was thus unable to stop Gideon, Ally of Zendikar who started churning out additional Allies.

However, Manfield managed to recover remarkably over the following turns, first by casting Languish, then Ruinous Path to kill the Planeswalker. Stráský, while still left with one token left behind by Hangarback Walker and one token left behind by Gideon, appeared to be out of further threats. Manfield seized the opportunity and called Narset Transcendent to his aid.

In quite the sudden reversal, Stráský swiftly summoned Archangel Avacyn at the end of Manfield's turn, then cast Nissa, Voice of Zendikar on his, pumped his team, and attacked Manfield down to 3.

Stráský was eyeing a third Pro Tour Top 8, an incredible feat for the young pro.

Manfield drew his next card, looked for options, found none, and conceded the game.

The second game was all Manfield's. He led with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, then took Gideon, Ally of Zendikar out of Stráský's hand via Duress, and deployed Narset Transcendent. In the meantime, Stráský had only cast one Hangarback Walker and one Thraben Inspector.

Also, this time, Manfield dealt with Archangel Avacyn by way of Transgress the Mind before Stráský hit his fifth land. Stráský drew a replacement, but that simply ran into Manfield's Grasp of Darkness.

Jace turned into Jace, Telepath Unbound, Narset Transcendent continued to provide extra cards; Negate stopped Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Silumgar's Command returned Hangarback Walker to Stráský's hand when it threatened to grow out of hand, and Ruinous Path took down Sigarda, Heron's Grace.

Manfield already had a World Champion title. Now, he was eying the Pro Tour title that has thus far evaded him.

When Manfield added a third Planeswalker to his team in Sorin, Grim Nemesis, Stráský just shook his head in dismay and picked up his cards for another game.

Unfortunately, this went worse for Stráský. He had Evolutionary Leap on turn two, then revealed a hand with no third land to Manfield's Duress. He only found a land two turns later by actively looking for it with Oath of Nissa. In the meantime, Stráský had cast a pair of Hangarback Walkers, but was already facing Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet as well as Dragonlord Ojutai.

Shortly after that, Stráský looked at his hand for one last time, frowned one more time, shook his head, extended his hand in concession, and congratulated Manfield on making the Top 8. A group of East West Bowl players which had gathered at the side of the feature match area erupted in cheers.

Seth Manfield: Esper Control

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Ondřej Stráský: Green-White Tokens

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4 Dromoka's Command 2 Secure the Wastes
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