Luis Salvatto, after dramatically forcing a playoff on the very last day of the season, completed his unbelievable year by defeating Seth Manfield in six games to become the 2017-18 Player of the year.

The Playoff

The players met the day before Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica in Atlanta, Georgia to battle in a unique format to determine Player of the Year. Each player built four Standard decks, which could not overlap by more than eight non-land cards, and would then play up to seven one-game matches with the first player to win four matches being crowned Player of the Year. Once a player won a match with a deck, the could no longer play that deck for the rest of the playoff, forcing the eventual Player of the Year to win a match with all four of their decks.

Manfield took the first match, a Mono-Blue Tempo mirror match. But Salvatto battled back, winning three straight matches with his Mono-Blue Tempo, Jeskai Control, and Mono-Red decks. Manfield looked visibly rattled after going down 3-1, and told feature match reporter Tim Willoughby that he “didn’t feel great” being so far behind.

The fifth match was another virtual mirror match, with both players playing White weenie aggressive decks. But Manfield had chosen to splash red in his deck for Heroic Reinforcements, which turned out to be a mirror-breaker, allowing him to take Salvatto from 16 life to one in a single attack and giving Manfield his second match win.

After being on the back foot the whole fifth match, Salvatto’s White weenie deck looked to be the more defensive deck once more when Manfield chose to play his Mono-Red deck. But when the players drew their opening hands, Manfield decided to keep a hand of all removal spells and no threats. This allowed Salvatto to grind through Manfield’s removal spells with two History of Benalias while facing no pressure, eventually followed up by two Benalish Marshals, which easily attacked passed Manfield’s puny Red creatures for both the match and playoff win.

The Unlikely Path to the Playoff

As the end of the 2017-18 season approached, only three players had a realistic shot at being Player of the Year. Seth Manfield was in the lead, but both Reid Duke and Luis Salvatto could overtake him with a good finish at Grand Prix Stockholm on the weekend of September 15-16—the last weekend of the season.

Manfield decided not to travel, instead focusing on preparing for the World Championship he and the other two would compete in the very next week. But both Salvatto and Duke travelled to Stockholm to play Modern and take a shot at winning Player of the Year. Duke had a rough Day 1 and failed to make Day 2, knocking him out of the running. Salvatto, on the other hand, not only made Day 2 but converted that into a Top 8, tying Manfield for Player of the Year.

Having made the Top 8 of GP Stockholm, Salvatto only needed to win his quarterfinal match against Ondrej Strasky to pass Manfield and become Player of the Year. Many pros, including Salvatto, had chosen to play UW Control in Stockholm, but Strasky was prepared for a control-heavy metagame with Bant Spirits and defeated Salvatto in a quick two games. Salvatto’s loss ended the Player of the Year race in a tie between himself and Manfield, forcing a playoff which Salvatto won today in a convincing fashion.

The last time the Player of the Year ended in a tie was the 2010 season between Brad Nelson and Guillaume Matignon. Nelson had been at the top of the standings for most of the season, but at the 2010 World Championship, the last event of the 2010 season, both Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Matignon could overtake Nelson with a finals appearance or by winning the tournament, respectively. Damo da Rosa and Matignon met in the semifinals, with Matignon winning and then defeating Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in the finals, winning Worlds and tying Nelson for Player of the Year. Nelson went on to win the playoff, which was held at the following Pro Tour in Paris.

Manfield Inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of fame

It wasn’t all bad for Manfield, though—he was inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame just a few hours after his loss. Along with Lee Shi Tian, Manfield was elected in one of the most vicious balloting seasons in recent memory in September.

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