Round 5 Feature Match: (5) Owen Turtenwald (Dark Jeskai) vs Makihito Mihara (Blue Abzan)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 16, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

The 2014 Pro Tour Hall of Fame inductee Makihito Mihara was among the most successful players in Magic's history—as Hall of Fame members tend to be. With both individual and team World Championship titles—a feat only met by fellow luminaries Jon Finkel and Kai Budde—five Pro Tour Top 8s, and a bevy of Grand Prix top finishes scattered around, Mihara exemplified the types of competitors one can always expect at the Pro Tour.

Except there's another type of top competitor that makes Pro Tours full of fearsome faces: fifth-ranked Owen Turtenwald was "just" a two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor with a wide array of Grand Prix success to back it up, including victories on back-to-back weekends between Grand Prix Albuquerque and Grand Prix Washington, D.C. in 2013. His active streak of excellent performance meant he was the wall the average player crashed into.

Both players served as the challenge, looking to force the other to stay off the course correction they were making. Nobody wants to pick up their second loss early at a Pro Tour.

Hall of Famer Makihito Mihara faced off against 2015 World Championship finalist Owen Turtenwald in the early rounds of Standard Constructed.

The Decks

Mihara was playing Blue Abzan, a twist on the Abzan deck of Standard's past. Abzan Charm and Siege Rhino were still just a potent now as they were a year prior, but using the great mana afforded by Battle for Zendikar's additions meant Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Treasure Cruise also got to squeeze in. Pulling in extra cards and providing redundant mana for activating Tasigur, the Golden Fang meant there was plenty of power to work with.

Turtenwald's weapon of choice was Dark Jeskai, a breakout deck from the constructed tournaments leading up to the Pro Tour. Taking the core Jeskai shell of Mantis Rider, Soulfire Grand Master, burn, and countermagic, the deck also used the powerful new battle lands to layer a fourth color. Black, with Crackling Doom and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, afforded answers and inevitability that Jeskai alone sometimes lacked.

The Games

Mihara led off with a second turn Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that Turtenwald met with Soulfire Grand Master. The next turn Jace looted away Hangarback Walker—one powerful card—to instead play another in Nissa, Vastwood Seer. It blocked Turtenwald's Grand Master attack, and Mihara played Siege Rhino to follow.

Jace looted, then transformed and for the second turn in a row Turtenwald didn't have a play. Crackling Doom was the reason, killing Mihara's Rhino and dinging Jace, Telepath Unbound down a step. Mihara just played his second Siege Rhino and kept the pressure going.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang was Turtenwald's answer, protecting it from Abzan Charm with Dispel—at least until Jace let Mihara flash the exile removal back.

Mihara's Abzan creatures are backed up by some potent blue cards.

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker stuck in for Turtenwald next but a 3/3 Hangarback Walker was the bigger problem: Turtenwald was down to just 7 life. Without another removal spell on the following turn, Mihara's next attack was lethal.

The second game was a different affair. While Mihara's second-turn Hangarback Walker into third-turn Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was strong, Mantis Rider and Roast for Turtenwald put him ahead of the race 16 life to 12, with a Jace of his own to use.

An attack, followed by Siege Rhino, pulled the scores back to Mihara's favor. Transforming Jace, Turtenwald kept the Rhino at bay before making Tasigur, the Golden Fang. This time Tasigur didn't immediately meet his end.

Mihara attacked with his Hangarback, and Turtenwald blocked to switch it into two Thopter tokens. Treasure Cruise was allowed to happen, and Mihara dug deep to find a way out. He fell to 10 life from his Flooded Strand before just casting Hangarback Walker for two mana.

Turtenwald activated Tasigur, getting back Fiery Impluse that immediately killed the Hangarback. Abzan Charm for the Mantis Rider into Tasigur, the Golden Fang that was protected by Dispel looked good for Mihara but Turtenwald's next turn was just enough: He cast Crackling Doom, flashed back Roast for the remaining big creature, than attacked for exactly lethal with his own Tasigur.

The third game started a step slower. Neither player had a play on the second turn, with Mihara's Nissa, Vastwood Seer being the opening move on the third. Turtenwald's follow up with both Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Dragonmaster Outcast. This meant that the longer the game went, the better it would be for him, and when Siege Rhino didn't appear for Mihara, things looked up for the fifth-ranked player.

Turtenwald continues to be one of the Pro Tour's most consistent competitors.

Turtenwald looted and transformed Jace before casting Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but was unable to stop Mihara's Abzan Charm at the end of the turn. A morph—Den Protector—came down for Mihara, but Turtenwald repaid the end-of-turn favor with Kolaghan's Command.

A second Kolaghan's Command, thanks to Jace, Telepath Unbound, forced Mihara to turn the Protector up and return Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to hand before discarding a second land. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for a 2/2 Knight Ally was Mihara's shot across the bow, and Exert Influence for Turtenwald's Outcast made it a one-two punch in recovery.

Now it was on Turtenwald to answer everything.

Crackling Doom timed around Gideon's activation after Jace, Telepath Unbound reduced the power of a first Knight Ally token to 0, which meant Turtenwald prevented death by Dragonmaster Outcast Dragons. Flashing back Crackling Doom on the next turn killed the Gideon before Jace too fell.

But a second Gideon, and fresh Jace, Vryn's Prodigy against Turtenwald's empty battlefield put Mihara far ahead, albeit without any cards in hand. It was enough: Making Gideon into an indestructible attacker, Mihara struck in for lethal the following turn.

"Good games," Turtenwald said, extending his hand.

Mihara 2 - Turtenwald 1

Makihito Mihara – Blue Abzan

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Owen Turtenwald – Dark Jeskai

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