Round 13: (3) Paul Rietzl vs. (10) Owen Turtenwald

Posted in Event Coverage on August 29, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

For both Paul Rietzl and Owen Turtenwald, this is where the rubber meets the road. A win here could lock either player for the Top 4, though it's not guaranteed. Third-ranked Rietzl's tiebreakers are pretty abysmal, so he might be in some trouble, but perennial front-runner, tenth-ranked Turtenwald is about as locked up as you can get.

"Did you see the standings?" Rietzl asked.


He faked looked at their table slip. "Well, we're both doing well."

"Thanks," Turtenwald replied.

When asked how he felt about the matchup, Rietzl was characteristically himself. "Eh, I don't know," he said. "I might win. I'm playing against arguably the greatest player in the world, playing a tuned list. I got a good list. I might win." He paused for a moment and said, "I'm going to try hard."

"I think Abzan Control is considered favored against Hangarback Control, but my list is fairly different—obviously." Rietzl's deck has the Hangarback Walkers, but skews much more controlling than the other lists generally did. Many of the "Hangarback Abzan" lists are Abzan Aggro with Hangarback Walkers; Rietzl's deck is decidedly not that.

While Paul Rietzl was keeping his head above water, Owen Turtenwald had his sights set on a near Top 4 lock.

The board sweepers in Turtenwald's Abzan Control can provide some advantage, but the seemingly endless kill spells from the deck can do that as well. It looks on paper like Owen is advantaged, but there are some whammies that can do some work for Paul.

The Games

The first four turns went according to plan for Turtenwald, as if the game were scripted. He killed Fleecemane Lion with a 2-mana removal spell, then two Anafenza, the Foremost with successive 3-mana spells. He had a Dragonlord Dromoka in his hand, and was keeping himself at a high life total while getting there.

For Rietzl, things weren't as clear-cut. He missed his turn four land drop, and two of his played lands were pain lands, taking him down to 15 life just from making mana. But after his first three creatures hit the bin, Rietzl got some action going. He used Valorous Stance to kill a Siege Rhino, and then his Dromoka's Command added a counter to his morph and killed Turtenwald's Courser of Kruphix, his lone creature.

The next turn, Rietzl went to town even more. Turtenwald cast an Elspeth, Sun's Champion and made three blockers, but the morphed creature was Den Protector. So Paul's clean line was to megamorph it, return Dromoka's Command, then cast the instant to add a third +1/+1 counter and attack the Elspeth. The little Soldiers couldn't block, so Rietzl took down the powerful Planeswalker, no fuss, no muss. Though the den mother was hit by Ultimate Price, she did some serious work.

Rietzl was not one to back down from a classic Abzan standoff of one-for-ones for days.

At this point, all the one-for-ones had drained Turtenwald of cards, and he was sitting on just the lonely Dragonlord Dromoka. However, it played a pretty good roadblock, especially with newly minted Nissa, Sage Animist. Rietzl's army was now Fleecemane Lion, Siege Rhino Wingmate Roc, and Wingmate Roc's buddy, and the scores were 13-10 in Rietzl's favor. Rietzl had figured out that Turtenwald didn't have the Languish he was fearing, so the Wingmate Rocs were battlefield ready.

Then it was Turtenwald who went on the attack. He flipped the life total lead after the Dragonlord hit Rietzl's face, then killed Wingmate Roc before it could gain any life. Rietzl looked like he was going to turn it around, though. He used some combat trickery to kill everything but the Dromoka, he had Elspeth, Sun's Champion in his hand, and had rhinos for days. But his life total was still slipping, as Turtenwald's was rising.

That's when the game-deciding play came down. Turtenwald drew and cast a Den Protector face-down. Though it was only a 2/2, it was doing the work of something much larger.

On Rietzl's turn, he cast the Elspeth and destroyed all creatures with power four or greater. Turtenwald megamorphed his Den Protector and returned Bile Blight. He then targeted his Dragonlord Dromoka, bringing its power below the Elspeth threshold, but not enough to kill it. This Dragonlord-saving technique, plus a Siege Rhino off the top finished Rietzl before he could get deep into his rhino chain.

Turtenwald remains focused, no matter what's at stake.

While sideboarding, Rietzl kept having to refer to his notes. "How am I supposed to take something out, when everything's perfect, you know?" he asked.

After the two drew for the second game and both had to mulligan, Rietzl was so ready to play he missed his Vancouver scry. While drawing his first card of the game he chanted, "Please be perfect, please be perfect, please be perfect." As the two played a more controlling game than the first, Rietzl noted, "This is another way the new Vancouver mulligan steals equity from people like me; I never mulligan. So I don't practice it."

Turtenwald struck the first significant blow. He cast Thoughtseize into a Siege Rhino. His discard spell saw Elspeth Sun's Champion, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Hero's Downfall, and Dromoka's Command. He took one Elspeth before rhino-ing the life totals to 11-18.

The totals stayed that way for a while, as both players jockeyed for position, drawing cards, killing things, and sizing up. Rietzl's Tasigur got one draw before eating an Abzan Charm, and Turtenwald's Den Protector returned a Valorous Stance before falling victim to Dromoka's Command.

Eventually, Turtenwald was getting the better end of each deal, and better draws. His Thoughtseize plucked the last non-land spell in Rietzl's hand, and a second Den Protector returned a Siege Rhino to sew it all up. It was 5-13 when Rietzl got his turn back, and he was playing off the top of his library.

Not even a Siege Rhino, the answer to all questions, could get Paul Rietzl out of the hole. Rietzl couldn't find what he needed, and Turtenwald killed the opposing rhino, pumped his team with Abzan Charm, and swung for the win.

Rietzl 0 – Turtenwald 2

Paul Rietzl's Hangarback Abzan - 2015 Magic World Championship

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Owen Turtenwald's Abzan Control - 2015 Magic World Championship

Download Arena Decklist

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