Grand Prix Albuquerque

Congratulations to Owen Turtenwald, Winner of Grand Prix Albuquerque!

Owen Turtenwald has been one of the best players in the game for some time now. Until recently, trophies seemed to elude the young master. It's never too late to make up for lost time, though. Last weekend, Turtenwald proved his greatness by winning Grand Prix Washington D.C.. This weekend, Turtenwald made history by winning back-to-back Grand Prix events. Turtenwald joins an elite class of players that have achieved two Grand Prix victories in a row. Only five other players (Kenji Tsumura, Kai Budde, Raphael Levy, Tomoharu Saito, and Yuuya Watanabe) have ever accomplished this feat.

The last spell has been cast, the last attack declared, and history has been made here at Grand Prix Albuquerque.




(1) Samuel Pardee

(8) Paul Rietzl

(4) Andrew Hanson

(5) Todd Anderson

(2) Sam Black

(7) Valentin Mackl

(3) Joseph Nix

(6) Owen Turtenwald


Samuel Pardee, 2-1

Todd Anderson, 2-1

Valentin Mackl, 2-0

Owen Turtenwald, 2-1


Samuel Pardee, 2-1

Owen Turtenwald, 2-1


Owen Turtenwald, 2-1








1. (16) Owen Turtenwald $3,500
2. Sam Pardee $2,300
3. Todd Anderson $1,500
4. Valentin Mackl $1,500
5. (8) Samuel Black $1,000
6. Joseph Nix $1,000
7. Andrew Hanson $1,000
8. (20) Paul Rietzl $1,000

pairings, results, standings


15 14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


15 14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


15 14 13 12 11 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Top 8 Undefeated Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Sam Black


Sam Pardee


Joseph Nix


Andrew Hanson


Todd Anderson


Owen Turtenwald


Valentin Mackl


Paul Rietzl


Top 16 Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Matt Sperling


Pat Cox


Joe Demestrio


Ben Johnston


Dustin Ochoa


Tom Martell


Josh McClain


Marcel Strautz


Top 8 Player profiles


Owen Turtenwald

Age: 24
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Occupation: Magician

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
I won a Grand Prix last weekend.
Player of the Year in 2011
14 Grand Prix Top 8s What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Excalibur (Mono-Black Devotion) Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
Add a second Shrivel maybe, probably no changes. What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
Turn-two Pack Rat!

Valentin Mackl

Age: 21
Hometown: Vienna, Austria
Occupation: Student

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Top 4 Grand Prix Valencia two weeks ago.
Top 4 Grand Prix Miami.
Top 75 Pro Tour Theros. What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Mono-Blue Devotion. Played it at Pro Tour Theros, haven't tested since. Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
Play a sideboard. What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
Won against a turn-four Stormbreath Dragon and monsters.

Paul Rietzl

Age: 28
Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona
Occupation: Executive recruiter

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Four Pro Tour Top 8s
9 Grand Prix Top 8s
Winner, Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010 What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Mono-Black Devotion. Best deck in the format. I tested a lot with Owen Turtenwald, and there are no bad matchups. Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
No. What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
Well, I didn't lose a game I lost, so there is that.

Joseph Nix

Age: 27
Hometown: Ventura, California
Occupation: Student

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Grand Prix Albuquerque Trial winner What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Mono-Black Devotion. It's the deck I was most comfortable with. Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
After seeing Shrivel wreck a board, I'm putting two in the sideboard! What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
Hit an opponent with two Nightveil Specters in the mirror match, took two of his Nightveils!

Andrew Hanson

Age: 30
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Occupation: Hobby Shop Owner

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Two Pro Tour appearances What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Hamstrings (Naya). It's an unknown that perfectly fits my play style. Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
Nothing comes to mind. What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
Had a good time playing Paul Rietzl - he's a friendly dude.

Samuel Pardee

Age: 24
Hometown: Berkeley, California
Occupation: Web Designer

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Won Grand Prix Portland 2013
Two Grand Prix Top 8s
Top 4, 2012 Magic Online Championship What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Mono-Blue Devotion. I thought it was great and it's exactly the kind of deck I like to play. Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
Not really, with a deck like this you have a lot of slots you can't change. What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
My Round 15 opponent had both his Aetherlings in the bottom 6 cards of his library.

Todd Anderson

Age: 27
Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
Occupation: Writer for

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Three Grand Prix Top 8s
StarCityGames Invitational Champion What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Mono-Black Devotion, because I owned all the cards already - and I made Top 8 in Grand Prix Louisville with it. Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
Add an extra Dark Betrayal in the sideboard for the mirror match, maybe a Devour Flesh over a Doom Blade maindeck. What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
I topdecked Shrivel to kill five creatures playing for Top 8, and was dead otherwise.

Sam Black

Age: 31
Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
Occupation: Gamer

Previous Magic Accomplishments:
Two Pro Tour Top 8s
Seven Grand Prix Top 8s
Team World Champion What deck did you play this weekend and why?
Mono-Blue Devotion. I don't seem to lose with the deck. Would you make any changes to your deck after this weekend?
No. What was the most memorable thing that happened in a game of Magic you played this weekend?
I lost to United Airlines
(Editor's note: A flight delay on Saturday led to Sam missing Round 4).

Quarterfinals - Joseph Nix vs. Owen Turtenwald

by Jacob Van Lunen

Joseph Nix started playing Magic back during Invasion Block. Nix, a Ventura, CA native, won a Grand Prix Trial for this event at his local store and decided to make the trip. It's obviously turning out pretty well for him thus far, but his quarterfinal opponent is sure to put up a serious fight.

Former Player of the Year, Owen Turtenwald, is one of the most consistent Magic players on the scene. Turtenwald has countless Grand Prix Top 8s and a Pro Tour Top 8 to his name. Turtenwald won Grand Prix Washington D.C. just last weekend, and he looks determined to run it back again this weekend.

Joseph Nix's opening hand was deemed unacceptable. Six cards didn't look much better, but he decided to keep it instead of going to five cards on the play. Nix led things off with a Thoughtseize, but he wasn't thrilled when Turtenwald showed him a pair of Pack Rats.

Joseph Nix

Nix was stuck on a single land while Turtenwald's Pack Rat was quickly getting out of hand. They were on to a second game in the blink of an eye.


Both players quickly kept their opening hands in the second game. Turtenwald led things off with a Thoughtseize and nabbed Pack Rat out of Nix's hand.

Turtenwald started accruing card advantage with Underworld Connections, but Nix was making short work of him with a Desecration Demon that went unanswered for an absurd period of time.

Turtenwald continued to dig for a removal spell with Underworld Connections. Desecration Demon was making short work of his life total and it started to become necessary for him to sacrifice creatures in order to stay alive.

Pack Rat joined the team for Nix and Turtenwald found himself in a rough position. Turtenwald's Underworld Connections had become a liability and he needed to sacrifice the Mutavault it enchanted to survive his opponent's attack.


Despite the wealth of cards in Turtenwald's hand, he seemed unable to answer Nix's Demon. Turtenwald held on by the skin of his teeth with Gray Merchant of Asphodel and a few copies of Nightveil Specter, but Nix's Demon continued to be an issue.

With Turtenwald at just one life, Nix declared, "Enter combat?"


Nix paused for a moment, gathered his thoughts, activated both of his Mutavaults, and sent his team into the red zone.

Turtenwald wasn't out yet, though. He blocked both mutavaults and used Ultimate Price to kill the Demon. Surprisingly, things looked to be shifting in Turtenwald's favor.

Both of Turtenwald's Nightveil Specters crashed in and he presented lethal damage for the next turn with Erebos, God of the Dead.

Nix found a lethal Gray Merchant of Asphodel of his own on the top of his library and flipped it up onto the table. They were on to a third game.

Owen Turtenwald

Both players kept their opening hands in the third game. Turtenwald led things off with an early Pack Rat and Nix was unable to answer it on his second turn. The pressure continued to mount as more and more Rats joined Turtenwald's side of the table.

Nix tried to stay in the game with Hero's Downfall and Desecration Demon, but

it seemed that Turtenwald's Pack of Rats was just too much for Nix to handle.

Owen Turtenwald defeats Joseph Nix to advance to the semifinals of Grand Prix Albuquerque!

Quarterfinals - Todd Anderson vs. Andrew Hanson

by Mike Rosenberg

Earlier in the day, Todd Anderson emphasized the real prize he was looking to acquire from this event. The trophy and title were nice, but it was the qualification to Pro Tour Born of the Gods that he was after. Earlier in October, Anderson found himself in this same situation with the same archetype, and he was denied that invitation to the Pro Tour due to his loss in the quarterfinals.

Today, he was looking to avenge that loss. A win here would not only guarantee qualification to Pro Tour Born of the Gods, but it would also secure him an invitation to Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx later next year since he'd claim enough Professional Points to earn Silver status, which would then get him his ticket to another Pro Tour.

His opponent, Andrew Hanson, was the sole representative of the colors seen in Naya. His deck has been performing well all weekend after a rocky start earlier yesterday, and is packed with some cards that could prove troublesome for the heavily devoted blue and black decks in the Top 8.

The Games

Anderson led with a Fleecemane Lion on the second turn, and Anderson fired back with Pack Rat. Lightning Strike took out Pack Rat and Lion swung in, with Soldier of the Pantheon following after attacks. Anderson had nothing on third turn and took 5 damage on attacks from the next turn, but Hanson had no real follow-up. Hero's Downfall disposed of Fleecemane Lion, and action again was empty from Hanson.

Todd Anderson

Desecration Demon gave Anderson a sizable threat, and potentially a blocker given Hanson's small board. Hanson found a creature in Boros Reckoner, but Anderson went on the offensive. Desecration Demon dropped Hanson to 10, and the Gray Merchant that came post-combat dropped Hanson to 4. On the next turn, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx with Nightveil Specter let Anderson unleash a massive sequence consisting of Ultimate Price on the Soldier of Pantheon, Erebos, God of the Dead, and a Mutavault activation. Hanson was forced to sacrifice his Boros Reckoner to the Desecration Demon. He fell to 1, and Hanson aimed Lightning Strike at Anderson.

When enough burn wasn't waiting on top, Hanson conceded to attacks on the next turn.

The first play from Hanson in the second game was Voice of Resurgence. Anderson fired back with Thoughtseize, his Temple of Silence keeping him from doing so on the first turn. It revealed Chandra, Pyromaster, Voice of Resurgence, Advent of the Wurm, Boros Reckoner, and Stomping Ground. Anderson quickly disposed of the red planeswalker. Hanson played the Boros Reckoner on the next turn, then lost his in-hand Voice of Resurgence to Anderson's third-turn Lifebane Zombie, which revealed that Hanson drew Boros Charm.

Andrew Hanson

While Hanson had creature advantage, the life totals were close to equal due to Hanson's lands dealing so much damage to his own life total and due to attacks from the Lifebane Zombie. However, when Hanson found Selesnya Charm, he was able to force through enough damage to drop Anderson within range of Boros Charm, bringing the match to its final game before Anderson was able to cast Gray Merchant of Asphodel out of his hand.

The third game was anticlimactic, as Hanson started with five cards after two mulligans. His first play of the game was Voice of Resurgence on the second turn. Anderson trumped that with Nightveil Specter, but opted not to block when he sent the Voice of Resurgence in. An attack from the Specter on the next turn got Anderson a Mountain, which he played and used to cast Desecration Demon.

Hanson had Selesnya Charm to exile the Demon, and an attack dropped Anderson to 16. Anderson continued to attack in with his Specter, exiling Boros Charm, before playing Mutavault and passing the turn.

Hanson struggled to stay in the game, but he was lacking one thing that he really needed: red mana. The Specter's exiling of some of Hanson's lands certainly did not help things, and despite finding a third land for Boros Reckoner, Anderson found a Sacred Foundry off of his Nightveil Specter, giving him the ability to cast a Voice of Resurgence that he exiled the last turn.

When Hanson had no way to end the game on the next turn, he succumbed to his own Boros Charm and one final attack from the Specter.

And with that, the hurdle was cleared, and Anderson found himself once again qualified for the Pro Tour.

Anderson 2 – Hanson 1

Quarterfinals - Sam Pardee vs. Paul Rietzl

by Mike Rosenberg

Sam Pardee has already established himself as the master of Melira-Pod in the Modern format. In the last twelve months, he has finished in both first and second at Modern Grand Prix main events with the powerful archetype, but one thing that has eluded him has been a Grand Prix Top 8 in a format other than the one where he can cast Birthing Pod.

That is, until now. Pardee has broken through in Standard with Mono-Blue Devotion, a deck that has proven itself over the weeks to be one of the format's best decks. It also marks Pardee's third Grand Prix Top 8 in the last year.

His opponent, however, was far from an easy battle. Paul Rietzl managed to make it through to the Top 8, in part due to the tear he's been on in recent weeks following his quarterfinal finish at Pro Tour Theros, but also partly due to the kindness of his friend, who left their fates up to chance with an intentional draw in the final round rather than ending Rietzl's run in this Grand Prix.

The Games

Pardee led with Tidebinder Mage, but Rietzl disposed of it with Devour Flesh. Nightveil Specters matched wits on both players' third turns. Thassa, God of the Sea followed on Pardee's fourth turn. Bident of Thassa gave Pardee's God the devotion it needed, and an attack dropped Rietzl to 13 and drew Pardee a card. Judge's Familiar followed, and Rietzl had little to follow other than Desecration Demon.

Sam Pardee

With an overwhelming board of creatures, Rietzl was unable to mount a comeback against Pardee's huge start.

"You chose to draw first last game. Want to do the same this game?" Pardee asked.

"I'm going to play this game," Rietzl said.

A first-turn Thoughtseize from Rietzl left Pardee without Rapid Hybridization, while Pardee built up a board of one mana creatures. By the third turn, he had a Cloudfin Raptor that evolved once and two Judge's Familiars. Rietzl's creatures, however, were a tad bigger, featuring Nightveil Specter and Desecration Demon. The Demon attacked in and was followed by a second 6/6 flying creature post-combat.

Pardee's only follow-up was a Bident of Thassa, which looked underwhelming when all he could do was pass the turn. When Rietzl finished attacking on the next turn, Pardee fell to 6, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel wrapped things up.

Paul Rietzl

The third game was filled with Thoughtseizes, as Rietzl's first and second turns left Pardee down a number of cards. However, Pardee managed a Bident of Thassa and fought through Pharika's Cure and Devour Flesh to leave himself with a frog lizard token courtesy of his own Rapid Hybridization against Rietzl's lone Pack Rat.

An attack drew Pardee a card, and a post-combat Master of Waves gave him a very large board. Rietzl duplicated his Pack Rat, but Rapid Hybridization hampered Rietzl's follow-up Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which only drained Pardee for 2 due to his Pack Rats. Tidebinder Mage put Rietzl in a bind that he had a very low shot of overcoming.

When a Swamp was waiting on top, a low chance to win became zero chance to win.

Pardee 2 – Rietzl 1

You can check out this match in its entirety below.

Quarterfinals -(8) Samuel Black (Mono-Blue Devotion) vs. Valentin Mackl (Mono-Blue Devotion)

by Adam Styborski

Recent Grand Prix events have proven that skill matters in Theros Standard. The Top 8 in Albuquerque was stacked with talent, from Pro Tour Amsterdam (2010) winner and No. 20-ranked player Paul Reitzl to No. 16-ranked player Owen Turtenwald in a back-to-back Top 8 coming off his week the previous week in Washington, D.C. and Grand Prix Portland winner Sam Pardee, himself a three time Grand Prix Top 8 player in the past twelve months.

Valentin Mackl is a name you might not recognize but that you should start to watch. Over the past few months, Mackl has made the Top 8 of three Grand Prix: Miami, Valencia, and now Albuquerque. With two Standard and one Limited under his belt, and a qualification to Pro Tour Born of the Gods already locked up, Mackl is well on his way into a hot season of playing top level Magic.

But Mackl's heat is just vaguely warm compared to that of Samuel Black's, who is on the absolute hottest streak of any player this season. In the four back-to-back premier events Black has attended, he made Top 8 in all of them: Pro Tour Theros, Grand Prix Louisville, Grand Prix D.C., and here at Grand Prix Albuquerque. Three times it's been with Mono-Blue Devotion shuffled between his hands. Already moved up to the No. 8-ranked player this season, blue seemed to be Black's strength in marching him up the Top 25 standings.

It looked to be a good thing here as this match was a mono-blue mirror, and his prowess with the deck was well known. "I hear you're a pretty good monoblue player," Mackl said. Black just shrugged and nodded, letting his third Top 8 with the deck speak for itself.

Frostburn Weird

In the first game, Mackl's first turn Judge's Familiar and second turn Frostburn Weird were matched by Black's own Weird and bigger devotion-creator, Nightveil Specter. Mackl added a second Familiar before bouncing the Specter, only to have it reappear on Black's next turn. Jace, Architect of Thought for Mackl went up to five loyalty immediately, but he still traded a Judge's Familiar away before he played his own Specter, thanks to Jace's -3 ability.

Black was there with a Cyclonic Rift of his own, and his Nightveil Specter pulled a copy of itself off the top of Mackl's deck. Black naturally played it.

"That's a good one," Mackl said.

With four-for-four Top 8 appearances, Samuel Black was in excellent spirit.

The next turn was still a big one for Mackl, with a living Thassa, God of the Sea and Nightveil Specter appearing. It gave Black pause before he attacked with his Specter duo. The land Black netted was less exciting, after Mackl used his second Judge's Familiar as speedbump.

Mackl played Tidebinder Mage to tap down Black's Weird before launching a massive attack: two copies of Frostburn Weird; Thassa, God of the Sea; and Nightveil Specter. It dropped Black to just 8 life and required the loss of both of his Mutavaults. The next draw was enough to move to the second game.

It was a slower affair for Black, who didn't have a play until his fourth turn: Jace, Architect of Thought. Mackle powered down Cloudfin Raptor, Tidebinder Mage, Cloudfin Raptor, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and, finally, Gainsay for Black's attempted Jace on that fourth turn.

Black's delay was backbreaking.

Valentin Mackl took full advantage of the crawling start Samuel Black was off to in their second game.

Master of Waves against a tapped out Black meant Mackl had 18 power in play after attacking Black down to 10 life. Thassa, God of the Sea stuck for Black, and he followed with Cyclonic Rift to undo the Master of Waves for a turn. It still left Black wide open to a fall to 4 life. Even with a scry trigger to help, Black found no help on his next draw. He revealed two more Islands in his grip as he extended his hand to Mackl.

Why did Mackl bring Mono-Blue Devotion to Albuquerque? "Because I played it at Pro Tour Theros and haven't had a chance to test since," Mackl said. He admitted he hadn't tested the mirror much. "We played it a little – not more than four games. I hadn't played it in any matchup before in a tournament yet."

How did he know what to do against Black? It was a typical sideboard plan he already knew. "The sideboarding is whether you should board out the Forstburn Weirds or Tidebinder Mages because you can keep only one – I kept Tidebinder Mage because if he keeps his Frostburn Weirds in it's self-explanatory," said Mackl. Black did indeed keep Frostburn Weirds for the second game, leaving him short a desperately needed blocker. "You also cut the Judge's Familiars. I brought in three Gainsay, two Jace, Architect of Thought, one Nykthos, Shring to Nyx, one Ætherling, and three Domestication. I boarded out Dissolve as well since it's so slow and tn this matchup it gets significantly worse. You want to be quicker."

Sunday, 5:47 p.m. - Semifinal Roundup

by Jacob Van Lunen

The semifinals of Grand Prix Albuquerque features some serious talent. Owen Turtenwald just won last week's Grand Prix in Washington D.C., and he's looking to be one of the only players in the game's history to win back to back Grand Prix tournaments. Todd Anderson just Top 8'ed the most recent North American Standard Grand Prix and secured himself a qualification for Pro Tour Born of the Gods with this Top 4 Finish. Valentin Mackl finds himself in his third Grand Prix Top 4 of the season, including a Top 4 two weeks ago in Valencia. Samuel Pardee won a Grand Prix earlier this year and is hoping to declare Pardeetime once more here in Albuquerque. There are some huge implications on the line here in the semifinals.

Turtenwald vs. Mackl

Valentin Mackl tried to get chatty as they shuffled up before the first game. "Back to back GP wins would be nice," smirked Mackle.

"Yeah, it wouldn't be bad," said a focused Owen Turtenwald.

"Mono-Black. That's the only deck I lost to this weekend. That's why I'm a little scared," said Mackle with a devious smile.

Turtenwald remained focused and took a deep breath as he nodded in acknowledgement.

In the first game, Mackl curved Frostburn Weird into Thassa, God of the Sea, but Turtenwald got aggressive with Pack Rat and things began looking grim for Mackle before he had an opportunity to establish any sort of serious board presence.

Owen Turtenwald

Turtenwald's army of rats hacked away at Mackl's life total for a few turns and Mackl picked up his cards.

Judge's Familiar, into Frostburn Weird, into Nightveil Specter, into Domestication on Turtenwald's Nightveil Specter were the first four turns from Mackl in the second game.

Turtenwald had a Pack Rat and another Nightveil Specter, but the incredibly strong early start from Mackl seemed like it would be too much to handle.

Mackl forced a concession when his Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx powered out an overloaded Cyclonic Rift.

Mackl accidentally picked up his own decklist in between games.

Valentin Mackl

A judge stopped him, "that's your list."

Mackl gave him a friendly nudge, "I was like, 'oh, what a good deck!'"

Mackl's opening seven weren't good enough, "A good six!? Let's make this entertaining," he buried his face in his hands for a few seconds after looking at his six card hand, lifted his head, "sure."

Mackl was unable to find a second land in the early portion of the third game. He eventually found Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, but all of his two mana spells required double Blue and he was still unable to interact.

Turtenwald established a board presence with Nightveil Specter and Lifebane Zombie.

Mackl found a second island, but things seemed like they might have already slipped out of his grasp. He made a pair of Frostburn Weirds and threatened to gain some extra mana with his Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, but Turtenwald had the necessary Doom Blade and made short work of Mackl's lifetotal with a pair of Lifebane Zombies and Nightveil Specter.

Owen Turtenwald defeats Valentin Mackl in three games to advance to the finals!

View Owen and Valentin's match in its entirety below

Anderson vs. Pardee

In the first game, Samuel Pardee's creatures traded with Todd Anderson's removal spells for the first few turns of the game. Anderson started accruing card advantage with a pair of Underworld Connections, but Pardee's sustained aggression was too much and he was able to clinch victory.

Todd Anderson

Anderson led things off with Thoughtseize and nabbed Thassa, God of the Sea out of Pardee's hand. Both players had Nightveil Specter on their third turns, but Anderson had Devour Flesh and began grinding away with his Nightveil Specter.

Sam Pardee

Nightveil Specter put in some very serious work for Anderson, flipping Nightveil Specter and Thassa, God of the Sea. Anderson's Thassa, God of the Sea was a creature thanks to a pair of Nightveil Specters. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx came down for Anderson and a flurry of spells left Pardee unable to contend. They were on to a third game.

Pardee had a nice sequence of plays in the early portion of the third game while Anderson found himself stuck on three lands. An aggressive gameplan left Anderson unable to catch up and Pardee was able to secure his place in the finals!

Finals - (16) Owen Turtenwald vs. Sam Pardee

by Mike Rosenberg

Sam Pardee found himself in the finals of a Grand Prix for the third time in the last twelve months. His previous two Grand Prix finals appearances showcased his understanding of Modern, with this one marking his first solid finish in Standard.

His opponent, however, was coming off of a huge win last weekend in Washington D.C. No. 16 Ranked Player Owen Turtenwald finally earned his first Grand Prix victory last weekend playing Legacy. Now, he's one match win away from doing it again in Standard. Would he succeed, or would Pardee be the one to claim his second Grand Prix win instead?

The Games

Pardee led off with Tidebinder Mage, and was joined by Thassa, God of the Sea after an attack on the next turn. Turtenwald's first play of the game was Nightveil Specter. However, Pardee had one of his own after casting Cloudfin Raptor, which allowed Thassa to attack in, its devotion requirement satisfied. Thoughtseize dropped Turtenwald to 11 and left Pardee without a Bident of Thassa.

Sam Pardee

A second Nightveil Specter joined Turtenwald's side of the table, but Pardee's Thassa proved to be insurmountable. When it was joined by Master of Waves for an army of elemental tokens, the situation looked grim. Turtenwald drew and passed the turn. When Pardee sent in his team and made his Thassa unblockable, Turtenwald quickly aimed Hero's Downfall at Master of Waves to dispose of the elemental army, and Devour Flesh took out an attacking creature. Turtenwald fell to 1, then climbed back up to 9 with Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

However, when Pardee took out a Nightveil Specter with Rapid Hybridization and made Thassa unblockable, the game was over and Turtenwald quickly scooped up his cards for the next game.

Pardee's first creature of the second game, Cloudfin Raptor, was hit with Ultimate Price. His only follow-up was Judge's Familiar, and Turtenwald's third-turn Thoughtseize revealed what Pardee had: two Nightveil Specters and two Rapid Hybridizations. Turtenwald discarded a Specter, and Pardee found the third land he needed to cast his remaining Specter on the next turn.

Pharika's Cure forced Pardee to sacrifice his Judge's Familiar, but the Specter got one attack in. However, when Pardee had no further creatures, Turtenwald's Devour Flesh took out the Specter when he got to untap.

Owen Turtenwald

The game settled into draw-go, with neither player playing anything until Pardee found Master of Waves. When Turtenwald attempted Pharika's Cure with the Master's trigger on the stack, Pardee responded with Rapid Hybridization on his creature to keep something in play. Turtenwald pulled the trigger on his Pack Rat with three mana untapped and passed back to Pardee, who only attacked with his 3/3 token and his activated Mutavault before passing back to Turtenwald. At the end of Pardee's turn, Turtenwald made a Pack Rat token.

The tokens attacked in with Mutavault, making each Pack Rat a little larger. Turtenwald passed after that, and then aimed Hero's Downfall at the frog lizard token at the end of Pardee's turn when his opponent had no action.

With Pardee still unable to mount any sort of offense, he ultimately succumbed to Turtenwald's creatures.

Pardee led the third and final game with Cloudfin Raptor. "That's too bad," said Pardee when Turtenwald had a first-turn Thoughtseize, revealing a hand of Judge's Familiar, Cloudfin Raptor, Mutavault, and some Islands. The Familiar hit the graveyard, and Pardee was left to play his other Raptor before passing back.

Master of Waves

Pardee had no action on the third turn to evolve his creatures, leaving him to simply attack for 2 with the Mutavault. However, when Pardee had Master of Waves, he stacked the order of his evolve triggers below the Master of Wave's effect, allowing some 1/0 tokens to come in and evolve his Cloudfin Raptors before the Master of Waves evolved them. This left him with dual two power creatures even despite Turtenwald's Pharika's Cure on the Master of Waves.

Turtenwald followed with Desecration Demon, giving him blocker. Pardee added Nightveil Specter to his board, but that did not stop Turtenwald from attacking for 6 and following with Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Pardee, however, found Frostburn Weird, which evolved his Raptors and allowed him to attack in with his flying creatures for 8. He passed, with life totals sitting at 10 and 10.

Turtenwald added Nightveil Specter to his board, but his Desecration Demon was tapped down when Pardee activated his Mutavault and sacrificed it to the Demon's effect during Turtenwald's combat phase.

Pardee cast Thassa, God of the Sea, which evolved his Cloudfin Raptors into 4/5 creatures. He sent them in with Nightveil Specter, dropping Turtenwald to 2 when he blocked Specter with Specter. However, when Pardee passed, Turtenwald had Hero's Downfall for the Frostburn Weird, giving him a possible path to victory. Turtenwald mulled over his options, then went to combat, forcing Pardee to tap down his Desecration Demon.

Turtenwald then activated his Mutavault after the Desecration Demon's trigger resolved and sent in his remaining creatures, dropping Pardee into range of the Gray Merchant of Asphodel in his hand. That was enough to earn the handshake from Pardee, making Owen Turtenwald the first player from the United States to win back-to-back Grand Prix tournaments.

Congratulations to Owen Turtenwald, Grand Prix Albuquerque Champion and back-to-back Grand Prix winner!

Top 5 Cards

by Jacob Van Lunen
Dark Betrayal

5.) Dark Betrayal

Dark Betrayal may seem like a narrow sideboard option, but the card is sure to be relevant as the format shifts further toward Mono-Black Devotion's dominance. In the right matchups, Dark Betrayal is an absurdly powerful spot removal spell that deals with everything short of a Mutavault for just a single Black mana. Expect to see a lot of Dark Betrayals out of your opponents' sideboards in the coming weeks!

Thassa, God of the Sea

4.) Thassa, God of the Sea

A well-devoted Thassa, God of the Sea isn't something to be taken lightly. In the land of enchantment, this legendary enchantment reigns supreme. Thassa, God of the Sea was responsible for a lot of game wins throughout the Top 8, including a game where Todd Anderson, playing Mono-Black Devotion, stole his opponent's Thassa, God of the Sea with Nightveil Specter and actually achieved the necessary devotion to kill his opponent, Samuel Pardee, with the god thanks to incredible amount of Blue devotion granted by Nightveil Specter.

Pack Rat

3.) Pack Rat

Pack Rat was initially notorious for being one of the most brutal limited cards in recent memory. Over the course of the last month, Pack Rat has been establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with in Theros Standard. Eventual Grand Prix Albuquerque winner, Owen Turtenwald, played a full four copies of Pack Rat, something we haven't seen in premier-level competitive play up until this weekend. It's becoming clear that Pack Rat, especially in conjunction with Mutavault, is a very difficult clock to contend with for decks that are unable to sweep the board.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

2.) Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Owen Turtenwald was able to sandbag a second copy of Gray Merchant of Asphodel in game 3 of the finals here in Albuquerque. His opponent, Samuel Pardee, made an aggressive attack and played right into Turtenwald's hand. Turtenwald used a removal spell on Pardee's endstep and was able to attack his opponent into lethal range from his Gray Merchant of Asphodel to secure his second Grand Prix victory in a row!

Nightveil Specter

1.) Nightveil Specter

It would have been hard to imagine a Grand Prix with 28 copies of Nightveil Specter in the Top 8 a few months back. Mono-Blue and Mono-Black Devotion strategies dominated the field here in Albuquerque. The Top 8 of the event featured four Mono-Black Devotion decks and three Mono-Blue Devotion decks, all of which featured four copies of this once overlooked rare. The card is most powerful in mirror matches where a player is able to cast their opponent's spells with ease, and it's looking like there will be no shortage of mirror matches going forward if this Top 8 is any indication. Nightveil Specter provides its controller with a steady stream of card advantage, a great defensive body against aggressive decks, and a whopping three devotion toward Blue and Black.