It was a solid 2-1 Day 1 start for the number one target of competitors at the World Championship. Rattling off a Modern record of 3-1, twelfth-ranked Yuuya Watanabe finished Day 1 at 5-2, setting himself up for yet another Top 4 run to the surprise of absolutely no one.
Assuming, of course, his draft could deliver as well or better than it did the day before.
Tenth-ranked Owen Turtenwald was similarly positioned at 5-2, looking to add to his impressive performance to start the first day of the World Championship. Focused and disciplined, he poured hours of practice into Magic Online for each of the formats for this year's competition. The initial payoff—a great Day 1 record—was just the first step in his plan to earn a Top 4 appearance.
But as every competitor was keenly aware, defeating Watanabe was far easier said than done.
Two titans of the game square off in the first round of Day 2.
A first pack, first pick Deadbridge Shaman was a draft decision that caused discussion. Watanabe had his choice of Soulblade Djinn and other "more powerful" cards but elected to push into a plan he had going into the draft. Following his controversial first pick with the pieces of an aggressive black and red deck that included Dragon Fodder, Shambling Ghoul, and Cobblebrute, Watanabe looked to end games quickly and efficiently. At the top of his aggressive plan laid Priest of the Blood Rite, and the game-ending 5/5 flying Demon that came with it.
Turtenwald on the other hand had a more typical draft experience. Waving between colors early in the first pack, he settled into black first before confirming white—to the benefit of his first pack, first pick Consul's Lieutenant—as the pairing. He was rewarded to start off Pack 3 with back-to-back-to-back picks of Hixus, Prison Warden, Kothophed, Soul Hoarder, and Tragic Arrogance. With cards like Shadows of the Past that set him up to go long, he would win by stopping the opposition swinging over the top of everyone else.
The first game was a slow affair. Watanabe didn't have a second turn play, but Turtenwald leading off with Shadows of the Past, but had Angel's Tomb into Deadbridge Shaman to follow. Turtenwald killed the Angel with Celestial Flare before casting Fleshbag Marauder to answer the Shaman. It took Turtenwald down a card but set up through scry triggers and left Watanabe with an empty battlefield.
Veteran's Sidearm was all that followed for the Japanese star.
From there, Turtenwald began to take off. Read the Bones set up his next turn to cast Kothophed, Soul Hoarder against Mage-Ring Bully with the Sidearm equipped. Watanabe paused—he had to attack—and used Fiery Impulse to get the flying Demon off the battlefield when Turtenwald blocked.
Watanabe does what he can to stay in the game.
Shadows of the Past kept the scry triggers going for Turtenwald, and both Cleric of the Forward Order and Knight of the Pilgrim's Road followed. Turtenwald attacked into an empty battlefield—though Shambling Ghoul was a blocker presumed for the next turn—but it wasn't enough. Weight of the Underworld ensured Watanabe's options had run out.
The second game was a faster start as Watanabe had Goblin Glory Chaser on the first turn, with Turtenwald playing Bonded Construct. They traded, and Mage-Ring Bully was matched by Cleric of the Forward Order. Shambling Ghoul began to grow Watanabe's side as Shadows of the past came down again.
Now with scry triggers coming from every creature's death, Turtenwald traded off against the Mage-Ring Bully to pull out of the land deficit he was in before playing a Returned Centaur to hold the fort. Watanabe elected to keep his Cobblebrute back against the 2/4. Quickly catching up, Turtenwald played Blood-Cursed Knight next.
Tick tock goes the Shadows of the Past clock.
But Watanabe revealed one of his rares: Priest of the Blood Rite. A 5/5 flying demon would be much more problematic for Turtenwald than an array of creatures on the ground.
Leaving all his mana up Turtenwald passed the turn and the Priest began to scratch at Watanabe's life total. Fetid Imp turned his Angel's Tomb on again and the flying monsters attacked. Turtenwald took the damage and cast Hixus, Prison Warden afterwards, exiling the Demon token and artifact Angel.
Blood-Cursed Knight attacked for Turtenwald, and the resulting trade gave two scry triggers and 4 life for him. It also, just as importantly, turned Shadows of the Past's activated ability on. The Priest of the Blood Rite kept eating away at Watanabe's life, but Turtenwald finally blocked to send it away. Activating Shadows of the Past, Turtenwald put a firm clock on Watanabe while outracing the incoming damage from Fetid Imp.
It was a slow grind that turned impossible for Watanabe to come back from when Orbs of Warding entered the battlefield for Turtenwald. Without a way out from under the defensive lock, Watanabe extended the hand a few turns later.
Turtenwald 2 – Watanabe 0