“Who’s has the choice of playing or drawing?” Second-ranked Owen Turtenwald asked as he shuffled up his cards.
“I do.” Tom Martell’s statement was declarative. “It’s the only thing I’ve got going for me. I’m the worse player with the worse deck. But I’m on the play!”
These words were a stark departure from how Martell was talking before the Top 8 began. He had told Owen that he was going to beat the ... “tar” out of him in the finals. Additionally, Martell has been a defender of Green in Battle for Zendikar limited this weekend, and here he was, up against one of the outspoken green haters. Tom should have been excited to prove that his little Snapping-Gnarlids-That-Could would roll over Turtenwald’s impressive, synergistic Blue-Red deck.
But he wasn’t. And it was likely because Martell’s deck was a bit of mess. “It can win some games” he had said. He was right, but he would have to squeeze every drop out of it to get there sometimes.
The deck is labeled as “4C Green-White” because it’s a Green-White deck splashing for Grove Rumbler, Roil Spout, and Coastal Discovery. Though Martell had some bigger cards to help finish the game, like Tajuru Beastmaster and Territorial Baloth, the game plan was to get the Snapping Gnarlids in there repeatedly with removal like Roil’s Retribution and Stasis Snare and just win outright. It had been doing that very well through the Top 8 so far.
Owen Turtenwald’s deck, in the other corner, was a sleek-looking blue-red machine. He had multiple Clutch of Currents, Guardian of Tazeem, Akoum Hellkite, and Ruin Processor to close out the long game, with good low end to stall on his way there—including a Dampening Pulse that could really rain on Martell’s parade.
On paper, Turtenwald’s deck looks stronger, but you have to take into account Martell’s called shot. That’s gotta count for something, right?
Turtenwald started with a Makindi Sliderunner, and Martell responded with Snapping Gnarlid. “Brothers,” Martell quipped, who continued his green beats. After a few short turns, he had Turtenwald at 12 life.
Turtenwald had some creatures to slow things down, but what he needed was a game changer. He found Guardian of Tazeem. The card that had single-handedly won him both games in the semi-finals.
It was 3-11 and Turtenwald was just trying to hang on. All of Martell’s attackers were bad, but they were somehow getting there. Martell still had his original Gnarlid, a Lifespring Druid, and a 4/4 Looming Spires (thanks, Awaken). These are cards that Owen’s deck could certainly handle, it just wasn’t.
Martell just kept turning creatures sideways, and eventually he took the three life he needed to nab the first game.
Granted, Martell’s aggression meant Owen couldn’t attack, but that really wasn’t important to him. Turtenwald’s late game was stellar, and just needed the time to get there. His hand was Stonefury, Ruin Processor, Clutch of Currents, and Akoum Hellkite—more than enough to finish things handily if given the opportunity.
It was turn five before Martell could cause any damage at all, and even then was a mere four life. It was 16-20. And Turtenwald used Clutch and Akoum Hellkite over the next two turns to take over the battlefield. He dropped a Mountain and targeted the Snapping Gnarlid.
“You’re at 11 now?” Martell asked. When Turtenwald confirmed, Martell used Tandem Tactics to save the 2/2 to fight another day. Then he untapped and used Roil Spout on the Hellkite. Martell was thinking he still had enough aggro to sneak in the last points. Did he?
Though he got Turtenwald to 8, a fresh Ruin Processor was a giant wall, and stalled Martell until the Hellkite came back after library-top hiatus. Now Turtenwald had a clock and a plan. Hold the 7/8 and his Clutch-awakened land back on defense, while destroying all the small creatures and attacking with the Hellkite. Martell was at 15 after the first attack, but his board was quickly dissipating.
The best hope for Martell was that Turtenwald was drawing land after land. Even though that would add to the ping count of Hellkite, it would be better than more significant spells. And as the game wore on, it looked like that hope was becoming a reality. Tom’s board was shrinking, but Turtenwald wasn’t sealing the deal.
Then, Martell went for it. He cast an awakened Boiling Earth, adding counters to his already-awakened land making it an 8/8. He attacked with that, two Eldrazi Scion, an Eyeless Watcher, and a Beastcaller Savant—all his creatures. Now Tom had something that could take on the Ruin Processor, and that made all the difference.
Owen double-blocked to kill the giant land, and sunk to 4. A turn later Martell killed the Hellkite with a Plummet and Turtenwald went to 2. Just like that, Martell had wiped out both his opponent’s gigantic threats, and the board was at parity. Both players were handless; no tricks left up any sleeves. Just like last game, all Martell needed was to sneak in the last points.
Martell’s called shot had came true. He’s taken down Owen Turtenwald in the finals to become Grand Prix Atlanta champion!