These East West Bowl teammates know each deck and each other very well, despite first-ranked World Champion Seth Manfield going rogue. Early Friday morning he built a brand-new White-Black Control deck for the tournament, without alerting his teammates. But there’d been too much ballyhoo in the ensuing days for the team to get their bearings straight.
Scott Lipp was worried about the matchup, as Manfield had basically built his deck with Lipp and much of East West Bowl in mind. “It’s not great Game 1, that’s for sure,” he told me out of earshot of Manfield.
The two were shuffling up, when Manfield asked, “What’s that?” pointing to a painted token near Scott Lipp’s side.
“Oh, this is my good luck charm,” Lipp replied. He explained that Pro Tour winner JC Tao and his girlfriend made that for him at the last Pro Tour. “That’s me and my boy, Niko!” Lipp said—the two figures were superhero drawings of Lipp and his son.
Lipp was clearly the aggressor, and began casting creatures. He was trying to commit just enough to cause Manfield to repeatedly wipe the board, without overextending.
“I’m gonna keep coming at you,” Lipp said as he cast more Collected Company, trying to keep spilling creatures on the field. It was turn seven before Lipp was able to untap with functional creatures in play at all.
But like some sort of Scott Lipp purgatory, soon afterward, Languish number three came in. And with Sorin, Grim Nemesis already on the battlefield for Manfield, Lipp was rolling a boulder up a hill, just to watch it fall to the bottom again.
The recitations of his life total became more and more stoic—then more and more despondent. He knew that eventually, his hand would tire of all this heavy lifting.
After a few more turns of one-for-one removal, keeping Lipp off anything productive, Manfield cast an end-of-turn Secure the Wastes for a very large amount.
“Yeah,” Lipp sighed, “I saw that coming.” That was only a moment before he scooped up his cards.
In the East West Bowl deck tech of the 4C Rite deck, Eric Severson advised for the first game, “Make them have the Languish.” Lipp did. Manfield had four.
As Lipp, frustrated, looked at Manfield’s decklist between games, he joked “God! Do you even sideboard against me?! ... Looks like you made the right play, Seth!” Lipp laughed, commenting on the highly successful audible.
“It worked.” Manfield said. It was the most exuberant he had been all game.
The man’s pretty even-keeled.
In the second game, both because Lipp was on the play and because Manfield had no enters-the-battlefield-untapped land on his fourth turn, the Rite deck mounted some form of aggression—albeit a paltry one.
“Six cards?” Lipp asked woefully.
“Seven cards,” Manfield responded brightly.
“Oooh Jesus,” Lipp replied. This was gonna be another boulder-pusher.
Manfield’s deck scoffed at Lipp’s puny forces, while the World Champ held up Grasp of Darkness for any shenanigans. “How many cards?” Manfield asked.
“Two,” was the reply. It was also said woefully.
But then Lipp's top-deck shone a ray of hope upon him. He found his first Reality Smasher. He took Manfield from 10 life to 5 before five Secure the Wastes tokens came in to clean up. But had the damage been done? Now Manfield was almost dead, and he was down a Secure the Wastes. That 5 life might just be enough for Lipp to cobble something together.
Lipp snuck in a few more creatures over the next couple turns turns.
“What do you have me at?” Manfield asked after taking another attack.
“Two,” again was the reply. But this time it had a whole different feel to it.
But Lipp still saw the in. With two Reflector Mages and the 4/4 Eldrazi, he could attack profitably into the Kalitas (either one) and still take away a life point from Manfield each turn. If Manfield didn’t draw mass removal, and if Lipp didn’t cast a target for Ultimate Price (earning another Zombie blocker from Kalitas), it would be a two-turn clock.
He went for his out.
And on the second swing, Manfield said, “You got it.”
“Wow. I did not think I was going to win that one,” Lipp sighed in relief. The ray of hope had grown into a sunbeam spellbomb.
After shuffling for the third game, Lipp rubbed his hands vigorously on the table and said with definition, “All right, Seth.” The two teammates wished each other good luck and squared off for the final game.
The early turns made Lipp sit up straight in his chair. He started off strong. He had three sideboard cards in his opener—Transgress the Mind, Reality Smasher, and Pitiless Horde. And when he saw no way for Manfield to stop either creature with Transgress—just two Languishes—Lipp got a bit excited.
“Not nice of you to do that, Seth,” Lipp said. His excitedly shaking leg subsided. He was like Sylvester Stallone in Daylight. He was trapped in the Holland Tunnel after it collapsed into the Hudson River. All he wanted to do was to make his successful delivery! Or whatever Stallone’s character needed to do in that film; I don’t remember, honestly.
Soon, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar joined the fray for the champ. Manfield’s battlefield filled with planeswalkers, Zombies, and Knights, while Lipp’s just had small utility creatures, and even they weren’t sticking around thanks to ol’ Obby Nix. And Manfield was on 20 life.
It really didn’t get better for Lipp from there. His good luck charm had gotten him into the semifinals, but that’s where his fortune would end—he couldn’t dodge that last Languish deck.
First-ranked Seth Manfield is going to the finals!