This could be Seth Manfield's penultimate Grand Prix match for the season. Or it could be his ultimate. This incredibly storied Magic year has seen the World Champ do some crazy things—like winning two Grand Prix within a month, and Top 8ing Pro Tour Shadows over Innnistrad. The next crazy thing could be this: If Manfield wins his next two matches, he will have spoiled the race for Grand Prix Master.
The last two months we've talked about the fight for the Grand Prix Master World Championship slot as a race between Brian Braun-Duin and Tomoharu Saito. There was always the caveat of "unless Seth Manfield wins another Grand Prix." Well, here we are in the semifinals, on the eve of the last Grand Prix match of the season. It doesn't get more nail-biting than this.
But Manfield would have to defeat his own East West Bowl teammate to do it—Scott Lipp. The two already met earlier this year in the semifinals of Grand Prix New York. And Lipp was determined not to lose in the same spot, to the same guy, again.
Kansas City's Scott Lipp has been making rounds lately, and has just clinched Gold Pro Player status for the first time, on his way to his third Grand Prix Top 8. Lipp's known to have tokens of his boy, Niko with him when he plays, and known by his nom de plume, Spanky. He's yet to hold up the Grand Prix trophy, and he's hoping that this weekend starts Australia off right.
You can't get much more "right" than defeating the undefeatable Seth Manfield. It's a tall order, but Lipp was ready for the challenge. Lipp's blazing Green-White deck was all tricks and creatures, and tries to keep the opponent constantly on the back foot. If Lipp can grab the initial upper hand, it's likely he'll keep it against Manfield's White-Blue deck.
In the first game Lipp started as the aggressor, as he hoped, going Thraben Inspector, Lunarch Mantle, Extricator of Sin—one, two, three. Following with a Backwoods Survivalists, Lipp was making his presence known swiftly and powerfully.
Manfield parried back in the best way his colors could. He got an early flier in Tattered Haunter to plink away, while using removal and Exultant Cultist to play from behind and stave off the assault.
It was a good plan on the World Champ's part, but Lipp was relentless. If spells on turns one through four weren't enough, he slammed down an Intrepid Provisioner on the fifth turn and knocked Manfield down to 5 life, even with a cultist chump block.
Manfield got his turn back with a paltry 2/1 in play, staring down a board of creatures and Lipp sitting with crossed arms.
The next turn Lipp uncrossed his arms, then combat-tricked his way to the last few points of damage to take the first game.
That was exactly how Lipp drew it up. He shuffled up for the next game hoping to replicate that success.
In the second meeting Manfield cast a second-turn Wharf Infiltrator and earned an audible grunt from Lipp. The Infiltrator is difficult to block, and can build an army quicky and painlessly. Well, painlessly for Manfield, of course. This was already a giant kink in Lipp's plan.
However Lipp's third-turn Extricator of Sin aimed to ease the pain. As an 0/3 it could block the 1/1 skulk over and over. This allowed Lipp to start looking at other things.
But in only a turn or two, Strength of Arms on a blocked Infiltrator took out the Extractor. Now Lipp would have to race.
"Attack for 6," Lipp said has he turned the artifact sideways.
"So your guy's a 3/7?" Lipp asked rhetorically. He cast a Confront the Unknown providing the last needed point of damage to the large-behinded flyer.
Lipp was desperately trying to outrace the Eldrazi Horror tokens, but they kept mounting up. Lipp was ahead on life 11-9, he just had to keep swinging.
"Ahhh Jeeezzus," Lipp drawled. That's never a good sign.
Manfield had cast Spectral Reserves. The life totals basically swapped when Manfield added to his life gain a four-pointed attack. And now he had tons of blockers too. All of a sudden, the turns had tabled.
Manfield had two Horrors, two Spirits and that darned Wharf Infiltrator. Though one spirit played chump to the suited-up scarecrow, the next turn, the champ cast Press for Answers on a blocker and took Lipp to two.
Lipp was fighting well, but in one spectral swoop Manfield wrenched things back to take the game.
"That guy is so good," Lipp mused as he sat back in his chair and shuffled his cards. He was referring to the Wharf Infiltrator, but you'd be forgiven if you'd thought he was talking about Manfield himself.
It all came down to the third game. Would Lipp get his semifinals revenge? Or would Manfield's reign of terror continue in the Finals?
In the rubber game, Lipp started with Noose Constrictor into Militant Inquisitor. Manfield had kept his original seven cards, but had to consider it for a while. As he was taking damage from the creatures while revealing only Plains in play, it became clear what he had been pondering about his hand. He was missing his second color.
On his third turn Manfield moved to his discard phase, binning a blue card that was stranded in his hand. Would this be how the champ would go down?
Not if he could help it. He hit the Island on the fourth turn and scrounged together a Silent Observer. The 1/5 could do something, even if it is very little.
Manfield straightened in his chair, and readied to fight for his life.
However, it wouldn't be a long life at all. All it took was a Lunarch Mantle and a Woodcutter's Grit. Lipp Green-White'd himself through the reigning World Champion, ending his incredible season one match before the end.
Scott Lipp avenged his semifinals, and would be heading to the finals. He also secured the Grand Prix Master World Championship slot for Brian Braun-Duin.
After the match, Manfield said, "I bet Brian's pretty happy right now," and laughed. Manfield was pleased as punch and thankful for a truly incredible Grand Prix season. He congratulated Lipp and wished him luck in the finals.