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2020 Mythic Invitational Lower Bracket Highlights

September 14, 2020
Corbin Hosler

It's safe to say the 2020 Mythic Invitational was spectacular like few tournaments before it. A four-day event played in a brand-new format, we had no idea what to expect when the event began—except for a pile of Muxus, Goblin Grandee triggers.

We received a fascinating look at the debut of Historic. Muxus and friends ruled the field when play began, but in the end it was Sultai vs. Jund Sacrifice from two Hall of Famers battling it out for the title. The Top 8 played out over two days, and after his incredible run on Saturday Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif now awaited the winner of the lower bracket.

Here's how we got there.

Lower Bracket Quarterfinals

It began with the final stand of Mono-Red Goblins. The most popular deck in the field had turned out to be underwhelming in a room of Mayhem Devil, and only Japanese superstar and MPL player Ken Yukuhiro had taken the synergistic deck to a Top 8 finish. His tweak was including Irencrag Feat to power out Muxus, Goblin Grandee. In a deck that is at its best when casting its most powerful card, rushing it out sooner was a key advantage, which is what Yukuhiro hoped to do against his opponent, and fellow MPL player and Hall of Famer Seth Manfield.

Ken Yukuhiro

Seth Manfield

Of course, that meant Manfield did everything he could do to keep Goblins players off of six mana.

Manfield was on top of the matchup, and it wasn't to be for the Goblins this weekend. Yukuhiro's armies fell to sweeper after sweeper from Manfield's pile of powerful Sultai cards as Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and the familiar Nissa, Who Shakes the WorldHydroid Krasis duo took over games. The story of Historic will always include Goblins, but the 2020 Mythic Invitational proved that the deck was all too beatable.

Next up was a pair of friends, teammates and Ban Wagon podcast cohosts: Hall of Famer and Luis Scott-Vargas and fellow Rivals League player Matt Nass.

Luis Scott-Vargas

Matt Nass

Making his second career Top Finish, Nass was piloting the innovative Mono-Black God-Pharaoh's Gift combo that had put five of its six pilots into Day Two of the tournament. But equipped with graveyard hate and plenty of Cauldron Familiars to throw in front of attacking 4/4s, it was the Hall of Famer who took the match in two quick games.

Just like that, two players had been eliminated.

Lower Bracket Semifinals

David Steinberg awaited Manfield in the next round, while LSV faced Rivals League member Grzegorz Kowalski. The two Hall of Famers entered this weekend with 19 previous Top Finishes between them. Their opponents in the second round of the day? Just one—Kowalski's second-place finish at the Magic World Championship in 2018.

David Steinberg

Grzegorz Kowalski

Steinberg, the newest face to Magic esports in the Top 8, had already outlasted almost everyone he could. Things quickly looked good when he took the first game in his match against Manfield. But as the pair settled into the drawn-out post-sideboard games, it was Manfield's venerable pair of Uro and Nissa that outlasted even the king of Sacrifice decks himself: Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. It was an incredible finish for the already-accomplished Steinberg, who won the Hearthstone Dreamhack Austin title in 2018 and now has a Top Finish in Magic to add to his esports resume.

If the Steinberg-Manfield match could be called "grindy" then a whole new level of work was needed for the Scott-Vargas versus Kowalski match. It was a contest between two Jund Sacrifice decks, though Kowalski's leaned much slower with Bolas's Citadel while Scott-Vargas had gone more aggressive with Dreadhorde Butcher.

Bolas's Citadel Dreadhorde Butcher

It took all three games and a lot of triggers, but thanks to putting 30 of them on the stack at once—most of them with the business end pointed at Scott-Vargas—Kowalski earned the right to move on.

Lower Bracket Finals

One Hall of Famer was out, but Manfield's improbable run from the bottom bracket continued. He had taken two matches against the best in the field, but would need two more match wins to advance out of the Lower Bracket and into the championship match. It would be particularly problematic against Kowalski's Sacrifice deck that had more late-game tools to work through Sultai's disruption and lifegain.

The first game played out as expected, with Kowalski powering up and putting Manfield one game away from elimination for the second match in a row. But, once again, the sideboard cards proved to be Manfield's saving grace as he rallied back-to-back wins to take the match.

It was a perfect demonstration of the metagame flexibility that's a hallmark of the decks to come from Manfield—and testing with 2020 Mythic Invitational Top 16 finisher and MPL player Brad Nelson over the last several years.

No competitor had faced a tougher path to this point, but Manfield was now just a single match away from advancing to the championship match. To do that, he would have to knock off the one player who has had Manfield's number for years—sharing a friendly rivalry that began with a title playoff.

Luis Salvatto

Luis Salvatto defeated Manfield in their Player of the Year tiebreaker match in 2018, capping off one of the most dynamic finishes to a season as the pair jetset around the globe chasing an edge over the other. Salvatto had been the victor then, and it seemed like Manfield was going to return the favor when they were paired in the 2020 Mythic Invitational Top 8 Upper Bracket. But despite a promising start for Manfield, it was the Argentinian who had again won to knock the Hall of Famer into the lower bracket.

Three matches and a day later, Manfield was ready to take another shot.

Manfield struck first, taking the first game and building a life point lead in the second. But Salvatto hadn't dominated the Swiss for nothing: his Rakdos Arcanist deck could pull wins from what felt like anywhere. With a timely Claim // Fame to power up Dreadhorde Arcanist, then cast the three-cost Bedevil from the graveyard, Salvatto evened the Top 8 rubber match.

Manfield had been here before, on the precipice of elimination against his rival. So had Salvatto, and he was used to winning the exchanges. If the Argentinian could continue his winning streak he'd find himself in the 2020 Mythic Invitational championship match with a chance to claim revenge against Gabriel Nassif's victory against him on Saturday.

But the day belonged to Manfield. In yet another back-and-forth battle that ended with Salvatto having all four of his Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger in the graveyard, Manfield was able to chain Nissa, Who Shakes the World into Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath into Narset, Parter of Veils into Eliminate to seal the victory in dramatic fashion.

Manfield had finally earned his playoff victory against his rival, and the reward was a chance to make history. Winning the championship match would earn his third title at a premier event, putting him in elite company as just the fifth player to ever do so.

But he wasn't the only player chasing history. Hall of Famer and Magic legend Gabriel "Yellowhat" Nassif had cruised through the competition on Saturday, and was also looking for his third title win.

Both players were looking for their spot in history. Four days, 14 rounds of Historic, and one improbable run later we had the 2020 Mythic Invitational championship matchup: Manfield vs. Nassif.

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