Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 3, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

The first-ranked player in the world.

That's a description that gets thrown around a little more these days. The near-weekly updates to the Top 25 ensure the ebb and flow of premier event victories are tracked. The better a player performs at more events, the higher their rank rises.

Owen Turtenwald, thanks to impressive performances at Pro Tours and Grand Prix in the second half of 2014, is the current claimant to the title. With the support of similarly high-ranking teammates Reid Duke and William Jensen—the third and seventh-ranked respectively—Turtenwald continues to add exclamation points to his impressive resume. While it would take several more wins to secure a World Championship Top 4, it would be a feather one could reasonably expect to appear in his hat at some point.

For Lévy, his adventures with the World Championship began years ago. In a Top 8 dominated by players from the United States, he was the eighth that held out a stand for the rest of the world. While he fell short there, as captain of last year's French national team he helped secure victory in the 2013 World Magic Cup.

Both France's Raphaël Lévy and the USA's Owen Turtenwald are hanging on, but another loss would prove disastrous for either player's Top 4 hopes.

The Decks

Turtenwald was playing the same deck as teammates Duke and Jensen: a black-green deck that used Whip of Erebos (a lifelink machine of graveyard value), constellation (via Eidolon of Blossoms and Doomwake Giant), and Hornet Queen (a flying swarm of deathtouch) with a removal and discard package to take over a game. Firmly standing on the mana base that started with four copies each of Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix, the powerful creatures serve not only as ways to manage mana but to block aggressive creatures.

If Turtenwald found them in time, stopping Lévy was possible. Though finding that time was what Lévy looked to prevent most.

"Valley Dasher!" Turtenwald exclaimed when he started reviewing Lévy's decklist.

"Do you know what that does?" Lévy asked.

"I played against Josh. He had those in his Draft deck," Turtenwald confirmed.

"Did you win?"

Turtenwald just nodded.

"That's not very good for Valley Dashers then." Lévy said. His deck was one he had prepared over a month ago for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. While it was unsuitable for that tournament, Lévy felt times had changed and his aggressive red deck could have its day in the sun. Featuring the aforementioned Valley Dasher, Monastery Swiftspear, Foundry-Street Denizen, and Goblin Rabblemaster, the burn and creature-pumping suite behind it was designed as the fasted clock possible.

Putting an opponent to 0 life as quickly as possible is, historically, an effective way to win a game of Magic. It was fitting for one of Magic's walking legends.

The Games

Foundry-Street Denizen, followed by another, was a quick start for Lévy. Turtenwald, meanwhile, resisted as his deck could with Sylvan Caryatid. Goblin Rabblemaster meant Turtenwald fell to 12 on the next attack anyway.

Commune with the Gods wasn't another blocker for Turtenwald, but it did let him cast Murderous Cut on the Rabblemaster thanks to a stocked graveyard. Lévy took his time on the next turn, using Titan's Strength to scry before casting Hordeling Outburst.

That attack put Turtenwald to 1 life, thanks to all the Foundry-Streen Denizen triggers. It was also the 1 life he gained by playing Jungle Hollow previously.

Lévy leverages his deck's speed.

After drawing for his turn, Turtenwald looked at his hand then back to Lévy. "Let's go to the next game."

That one started similarly, with two Foundry-Street Denizens for Lévy. Turtenwald declined to block a 2/1 Denzien with his Sylvan Caryatid, reading the Titan's Strength Lévy cast anyway. Using on Caryatid to add another, then Satyr Wayfinder, Turtenwald moved to a stable 12 life with Doomwake Giant on the turn after that.

After Whip of Erebos let Turtenwald rise back up to 16 life, over Lévy's 12, it was the Frenchman that chose to go to the next game.

That third game put Lévy on the play again, this time leading with Monastery Swiftspear into a second turn Titan's Strength and Hammerhand. Turtenwald, before playing a second land, was at 13 life. After he played it, Sylvan Caryatid joined to block.

Valley Dasher finally made its appearance, putting Turtenwald to 11. Lévy didn't have a third land for another turn, but Turtenwald had a second creature in Satyr Wayfinder, finding Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

Goblin Rabblemaster came down when Lévy hit three mana but it was too late: with blocks and Murderous Cut Turtenwald blunted the damage entirely. Cut killed Monastery Swiftspear, leaving the Rabblemaster to meet its end to Drown in Sorrow the next turn.

Undaunted, Lévy played his second Goblin Rabblemaster. It took another Commune with the Gods to find a land for Turtenwald, and Hero's Downfall to deal with the token-producing Goblin. With Magma Jet on his upkeep, Lévy went digging to find the aggression he needed.

Turtenwald just added a Courser of Cruphix, revealing another to follow next turn on top of his library. While he was missing his land drops, he looked well-positioned at 8 life when Lévy just played a fourth Mountain and passed back. Turtenwald gained 1 life before casting his second Courser, attacking with the first.

Turtenwald's deck can quickly take over the late game.

Lévy was officially running out of time.

Stoke the Flames pulled Turtenwald back down to 5 life before he used another Magma Jet to look for what he needed again.

"Not it," Lévy admitted when finally drawing for his turn.

Turtenwald played his sixth land, Windswept Heath, rising back to a net 8 life and attacking with both Coursers.

"Go," was all Lévy said on his turn after that.

Firmly in control of the game, Turtenwald sent his enchanting creatures to victory shortly after Doomwake Giant finally appeared.

"Did you bring in Hero's Downfalls?" Lévy asked after exchanging a handshake.

"They're better than Thoughtseize on the off-chance you have Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker," Turtenwald explained.

"I didn't side in anything," Lévy admitted. "If you have just one Doomwake Giant, that's enough."

"Good luck in the rest," Lévy offered as he left the feature match arena, his chances to become one of the few to hold both a team World Championship title and an individual World Championship slipped further away yet again.

Lévy 1 – Turtenwald 2

Raphael Levy - Mono Red Aggro

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Owen Turtenwald - Black-Green Constellation

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