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Magic World Championship XXVI Winner Group Highlights

February 14, 2020
Corbin Hosler

There's never been a bigger tournament than Magic World Championship XXVI, and after the first day of competition we have begun to sort out the field. Four players have been eliminated, and four have punched their ticket directly to the Top 8. Another four will earn their Top 8 spots Saturday morning, and then the battle for the Top 4 will begin.

The World Championship has come with a heavy dose of extras for both viewers and competitors, from contests to pick a champion to MTG Arena events allowing fans to play the decks of the 16 competitors. And when those competitors sat down to begin play on Friday, another surprise awaited:

Into the Top 8

Of the eight players in the Winner Group, four advanced automatically to the Top 8 by winning two of their group matches. That means that Seth Manfield, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Márcio Carvalho and Eli Loveman will get to skip the Play-In bracket Saturday morning and advance straight to the Top 8, putting them potentially one match away from the Sunday Top 4 stage.

Paulo Pulls Through

Of course, to even get to the Winner Group players had to perform well in draft and nothing tops this moment from Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to punch his ticket there.

And once Damo da Rosa made it to the Winner Group, he made the most of it. Though he fell to Carvalho in the opener, he quickly made up for it by reeling off two back-to-back decisive victories over Chris Kvartek and Gabriel Nassif. Damo da Rosa's Azorius Control deck made some unique choices, including the addition of Archon of Sun's Grace, but it served him perfectly as he ran through Temur Reclamation and Jeskai Fires to secure his spot in the Top 8.

Manfield Blisters the Competition

Manfield's first-ever Top Finish came with a Mono-Red deck, and he ran it back this weekend at the biggest tournament of his life. He worked with Andrea Mengucci on the deck, and the two played the exact same 75 cards. While Mengucci didn't fare as well as Manfield did, the 2015 Magic World Champion has been confident ever since he submitted his list.

That confidence was evident in his interview after knocking Autumn Burchett to the Play-In. Manfield, long known as a stoic presence at the table, has made an effort to be more open over the last year. That showed through to the delight of viewers when he earned his spot in the Top 8.

Carvalho Dominant

Márcio Carvalho is widely viewed as one of best Limited players in the world, and it came as no surprise that he cruised through the Draft portion of the tournament with a 2-0 set of wins. For a man who has said it's win-or-bust at the World Championship, moving into the Top 8 is just a first step. And he took the hardest route possible, knocking off fellow Top 8 members Damo da Rosa and Manfield to get there in two straight matches again.

Even with his hardest work still ahead of him, Carvalho was nevertheless relaxed.

Underdog No More

Eli Loveman won Mythic Championship II in London last year to earn his spot at the Magic World Championship, but with fewer achievements compared to the other luminaries in attendance he was picked by many prognosticators to finish in the lower parts of the field.

They were not clairvoyants.

Loveman proved the doubters wrong with an inspired performance on Friday. It began with what the commentators dubbed his "Invitational card" in Calix, Destiny's Hand. The planeswalker allowed Loveman to pull off a very impressive Draft win over the defending champion Javier Dominguez.

Loveman's impressive run wasn't finished. Playing Mono-Red Aggro this weekend, he found himself in the late game against Gabriel Nassif's Jeskai Fire deck and a position that overwhelmingly favors the Jeskai player. But as Nassif struggled to dig his way out against Loveman, the American strung together several of the most impressive turns of the tournament, culminating in an Embercleave-fueled victory that put Loveman directly into the Top 8.

The Saga Isn't Over

As for the rest of the members of the Winner Group —Chris Kvartek, Raphaël Lévy, Gabriel Nassif, and Autumn Burchett— they're still alive for the Top 8. They'll return on Saturday morning to battle their way through the Play-In bracket where four more competitors will join the four in the Top today.

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