Dan Musser had been on a tear all weekend. The native Ohioan went 13-0, locking himself for the Top 8 with two rounds left to play. Musser’s been on the edges of Magic notoriety for a long while, and is well known on the Star City circuit, but this was his first foray under the Grand Prix Top 8 lights. He’d eked out of the quarterfinals, and was hoping to seal the deal to get to the finals.
But he would have to get through Owen Turtenwald first.
Look, if there is a “mortal lock” for the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, it’s second-ranked Owen Turtenwald. And his stone-faced visage strikes just as much fear into peoples’ hearts as his ruthless play skill. If Dan Musser was going to topple Grand Prix Atlanta, he was going to have to knock down its strongest supporting pillar—Owen.
Both players had strong devoid strategies going on. Musser was on the more aggressive Black-Red colors, and Turtenwald was on Blue-Red midrange archetype. But don’t let those archetypes fool you. Turtenwald’s deck had multiple Makindi Sliderunner, with a Guardian of Tazeem to finish things off, and Musser’s two Molten Nursery helped him control the board when he needed to. Both decks could play the roles they needed to in the matchup.
Owen Turtenwald came out aggressively, with a Makindi Sliderunner, into a Herald of Kozilek, then a two-mana Nettle Drone plus Anticipate. Against many decks this would have been a heck of a sequence. It still was good here, but Turtenwald was yet to attack.
Dan Musser had to take a mulligan, and kept a fairly slow six-card hand, but made a stop-sign for two turns with a Vestige of Emrakul.
What Turtenwald thought was his big turn took had him take out the Vestige of Emrakul and swing for the fences. But a clutch Turn Against from Musser killed both Turtenwald’s Makindi Sliderunner and the Nettle Drone. This was a win for Musser, who had now bought the time he needed to get out of his mulligan hole.
But he was going to have to climb quickly. Turtenwald countered a kill spell then made a Guardian of Tazeem two turns later. Musser’s defenses were yet to be up. It only took one attack to sink Musser to 5 life. Turtenwald was keeping the hits coming.
A draw step later and Guardian of Tazeem had claimed a victim in Musser.
In the second game, Musser mustered a seven-card hand and had a Kozilek’s Sentinel into Valakut Invoker, then Molten Nursery. The devoid enchantment took out a Makindi Sliderunner the following turn. The scores were 9-14 in Turtenwald’s favor—thanks to a Valakut Predator that was hanging around—but Musser’s game was looking up.
That was, until the Guardian of Tazeem came down again. This flyer was the bane of Musser’s semifinals, and threatened to take him out for the second game in a row.
All it took was a land drop from Owen Turtenwald to lock down a blocker, and a removal spell for the remaining defender, and Musser’s goose was cooked.
This might have been a great weekend for Dan Musser, but he wouldn’t take home the trophy. He extended his hand to Owen Turtenwald and conceded defeat.
Owen Turtenwald wins 2-0 and is on to the finals!