Coming into the final round of the Swiss portion of US Nationals, Owen Turtenwald of ChannelFireball found himself up against Jimmy Dela Cruz, also sporting both ChannelFireball shirt and card sleeves, but without quite the same calibre. With just one more match before top 8, Turtenwald knew that he'd need to eke out one more win, building on the great year he's had thus far. Going into US Nationals, he was tied with Ben Stark in the Player of the Year race. He's already done well enough this weekend that he has taken the lead, but there are plenty more Pro points on offer for those in top 8, so he was keen to keep his good run going.
After a brief delay for a deck check, the match started in earnest. It would be a Caw Blade mirror, something we've seen quite a bit in the months following Pro Tour Paris, and Dela Cruz won the roll. A Preordain came off a Seachrome Coast from Dela Cruz on turn one, and Turtenwald fired back with the same, off a basic Island. Squadron Hawk was the follow up for Dela Cruz, while Owen, perhaps stuck on lands, used a second Preordain on his turn, before playing a Plains.
Owen was down on both life and creatures, which meant that his Timely Reinforcements was a welcome play on turn three. Jimmy went with Mirran Crusader for his turn, passing with one blue mana up. He used that mana to attempt a Spell Pierce on Sword of Feast and Famine from Turtenwald, but was thwarted by another copy of the same. Sword advantage to Owen, it seemed likely that card advantage would follow. Jimmy had to keep up the pressure, and after a Preordain, he swung in to put Owen to 17.
Turtenwald equipped and swung with his team, forcing a chump block from a Squadron Hawk. It was an old fashioned race, and with a string of Squadron Hawk blockers, it was one that appeared to favour Dela Cruz. Owen, a little short on mana, was not able to connect with his sword, and was meanwhile taking a fair amount of damage from Mirran Crusader. Owen tapped out to try an Into the Roil with kicker on the one Squadron Hawk that Dela Cruz was holding back, but was thwarted by Spell Pierce. Perhaps he should have avoided the kicker?
It actually seemed that the answer was that Turtenwald was baiting a counter, as the following turn he landed a Gideon Jura, using a Spell Pierce on Dela Cruz' Mana Leak. Gideon offed Mirran Crusader, but soon fell to an animated Celestial Colonnade. Without the Crusader on the board though, Owen was suddenly able to leverage his Sword to a clear advantage. He swung in with his team, and saw his Inkmoth Nexus fall to a Dismember, but still forced a discard and untapped his lands with the sword.
Jimmy's tank still had gas, and that gas was Hero of Bladehold. This prompted a Day of Judgment from Owen, who was likely a little disappointed to see another one the very next turn. Turtenwald fought back with an Emeria Angel (immediately making a bird), but on just 10 life, he was in rough shape. Emeria Angel got given the sword to hold, which did mean it could kill off Hero of Bladehold that attacked, but ultimately Jimmy was still up a couple of tokens from the exchange, and Owen was down to just 6 life. Jimmy was relying on putting the game away fast, before Emeria Angel could get too out of control. He was not able to do so though, as the Angel, joined by Celestial Colonnade, took chunks out of his life total. A Tectonic Edge off the top took out the one Inkmoth Nexus that Jimmy had to block with, and all of a sudden Owen Turtenwald was just one win away from top eight.
Owen Turtenwald 1 – 0 Jimmy Dela Cruz
Dela Cruz was quick to keep his seven in game two, while Turtenwald was equally fast to send his back. On the draw, Owen was looking for more card quality than he had seen in his grip of seven.
With six cards, it was still Owen Turtenwald with the first play of the second game, a Ponder off Celestial Colonnade on turn two. This was met with a Mana Leak from Jimmy, perhaps hoping to keep his opponent off lands (a much bigger consideration after mulligans). In this case, Owen did still have the second land drop, leaving Jimmy on his third turn to simply cast Squadron Hawk, a play mirrored by his opponent on the very next turn.
Jimmy had a Hero of Bladehold after hawks had traded off, though it did not last long in the face of a Dismember. Hawks began to litter the board, and Owen's was joined by Jace Beleren, who fast went up to five counters. Owen was a little short on land as Jimmy used a pair of Tectonic Edges to cut back on Owen's options, but with Jace around, he seemed to have ample opportunity to draw out of that problem.
When Jimmy played a Mirran Crusader, Owen thought the best of trying to keep his planeswalker around, and simply drew one more card himself to off it. He was still on just three lands though, and now facing down more of a beatdown team.Owen tried for an end of turn Into the Roil on Mirran Crusader, but this was met with a Mana Leak. He had to play a Squadron Hawk as a chump blocker, and when he then saw a Mana Leak on his Gideon Jura, that was the game.
Owen Turtenwald 1 – 1 Jimmy Dela Cruz
Turtenwald was on the play for the first time in the matchup for the rubber game that would leave one of these two players watching from the bleachers on Sunday. He kept his seven and looked on as Dela Cruz went down to six. There was a turn one Preordain from Dela Cruz, which took a little of the sting out of that mulligan. A Mana Leak came from Turtenwald to stop the Squadron Hawk that Jimmy tried, and while Dela Cruz was tapped out, Turtenwald capitalised by casting a Ponder and a Squadron Hawk of his own.
Dela Cruz ran out a Sword of Feast and Famine, without a creature to equip. Even if he did get the sword up and running, he would have to power through a flock of Squadron Hawks. Jimmy chose to use a pair of copies of Tectonic Edge to cut down Owen's mana base substantially, but had no immediate answer to four 1/1 fliers. He was soon on 12 from attacks, while Turtenwald was flying high with a full 20 life. Four of that 20 got paid to Dismember a Hero of Bladehold from Jimmy,
Jace Beleren kept Turtenwald in cards, and his air force kept pounding on Jimmy, a three turn clock that was relentless in getting into the red zone. Jimmy tried an Into the Roil on one hawk, but this was met by Spell Pierce. Mirran Crusader could not block either Turtenwald's hawks, or a Celestial Colonnade, that final finished things.
Owen Turtenwald wins 2-1, advancing to the top eight!