Round 6 Feature Match - (2) Josh Utter-Leyton vs. (12) Owen Turtenwald

Posted in Event Coverage on November 30, 2013

By Josh Bennett

The Story

Two of the greatest players in the game today locking horns in early-round action. Owen Turtenwald is in pursuit of a historic three consecutive Grand Prix wins, while Josh Utter-Leyton is looking to dethrone Ben Stark as the Number 1 Ranked Player in the world.

The Match

Game one was defined by Turtenwald's turn-four Polukranos, the World Eater. Utter-Leyton had started with Wavecrash Triton and Scourgemark, hoping to slow the game down, but didn't have a second spell to lock down the big Hydra. He played Thassa's Emissary as a 3/3 and took five damage, while Turtenwald continued to build his board. Utter-Leyton put out Celestial Archon, looking towards an aerial assault. Turtenwald summoned a massive 7/7 Reverent Hunter, pressing the issue. Utter-Leyton risked it all on an the air force gambit, bestowing Nimbus Naiad on his Triton (freezing the 7/7 Hunter) and swinging in with his fliers, leaving only the Emissary home as defence. A quick double-check of the life totals, and Turtenwald fired off Lightning Strike to put Utter-Leyton to eleven, then untapped, sacrificed his Satyr Hedonist to hit seven mana, and the Hydra cleared a path for lethal.

Turtenwald 1 - Utter-Leyton 0

Game two started slowly. Turtenwald dispatched a Shipwreck Singer with Lightning Strike and Utter-Leyton fixed his mana with Traveler's Amulet. Wavecrash Triton met Nessian Asp. Utter-Leyton bought time with a Scourgemark and played a second Shipwreck Singer. Turtenwald spent a turn playing out two Nylea's Presences. He took three from Utter-Leyton's creatures, then another four from Grey Merchant of Asphodel. It looked good for Utter-Leyton.

Owen Turtenwald

Turtenwald wasn't about to go quietly, however. After being forced to attack with his Aps, he devoured the Shipwreck Singer with Time to Feed, then played Nylea's Disciple, making a total of eight life gained. Unfortunately for him, Utter-Leyton had another reversal in store. Hero's Downfall caught the Asp, and Hopeful Eidolon for Wavecrash Triton gave him a big lifelinking threat and kept Nylea's Disicple on the sidelines.

Turtenwald needed a big threat to get back in the game. He started with Minotaur Skullcleaver and gave it the Ordeal of Purphoros, getting in for a quick five. This gave Utter-Leyton pause, and he decided to keep his creatures at home for a turn. When Turtenwald followed up with a precombat Centaur Battlemaster and an attack with his now 4/4 Skullcleaver, Utter-Leyton took a moment to reconsider things. He let it through, taking four, then untapped and bestowed Nimbus Naiad on his Triton to fly over for a big five-point life swing. Turtenwald still had many big attackers, so it was down to the wire, but a Divine Verdict for Utter-Leytons sealed the game.

Turtenwald 1 - Utter-Leyton 1

Turtenwald led with Deathbellow Raider, and after Utter-Leyton played out Shipwreck Singer, decided to risk enchanting it with Ordeal of Purphoros. He got in a hit for three, but Utter-Leyton had Hero's Downfall, netting a quick two-for-one.

Josh Utter-Leyton

From there, the game became a grind. Nessian Asp held the fort for Turtenwald while he summoned more troops. Utter-Leyton got out Opaline Unicorn and a pair of Wavecrash Tritons. Turtenwald was stuck on five mana, however, so he was slow adding to the board. Utter-Leyton got aggressive with Heliod's Emissary on Wavecrash Triton, couldn't continue the assault as more creatures joined the fray. Eventually he chose to trade his souped-up Triton for Polukranos, then the Emissary and a Gray Merchant (with help from Sentry of the Underworld) for an 8/8 Centuar Battlemaster. Turtenwald had dropped to seven, and a Griptide on Nessian Asp let the Sentry bring him to four. From there, Sea God's Revenge left Turtenwald defenseless to a lethal attack.

Josh Utter-Leyton defeats Owen Turtenwald 2-1

The Aftermath

As the players packed up Hall of Famer William Jensen strolled into view. He'd been watching from the sidelines, and talked with Utter-Leyton about an alternate line for the end of game three, Griptiding his own Heliod's Emissary in order to put it on his Sentry of the Underworld, and using that to push past the Nessian Asp, while holding the fort with a 6/6 regenerating body.

I also asked Utter-Leyton about the sequence in game two that had him neither attack nor block with his Wavecrash Triton. "Basically, after he has Ordeal on his Skullcleaver, my plan is to just hold back to block and play for the long game because my deck was better suited to it. So when I pass there I'm saying 'I'm blocking.' But then he plays his Battlemaster and attacks, and it's just that Coordinated Assault is so bad for me. So I have to change gears and just take it, then start attacking in the air. I played to my outs and got rewarded."

I caught up with Turtenwald a bit later to get his sense of things. He said the matchup definitely favored his opponent, thanks to his suite of removal spells. Still, he felt that he had to risk the turn-three Ordeal in the deciding game, because Hero's Downfall would beat him regardless, and the upside was too big to give up on.

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