Quarterfinals: Manuel Lenz vs. Owen Turtenwald

Posted in Event Coverage on June 3, 2018

By Tobi Henke

Owen Turtenwald hardly needs an introduction. This was his fifth Pro Tour Top 8, he was Player of the Year twice, and he was voted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame in 2016.

Manuel Lenz, on the other hand, was more of an unknown. Even some of his fellow Austrians didn't know the guy who just made Top 8 at his second Pro Tour. Where did he come from?

"I first started playing when Seventh Edition came out, but I only played my first tournament in about 2004 when I was twelve or thirteen," Lenz gave as his Magic origin story. He recalled this experience fondly and shared the fun story of winning said tournament with a Standard Affinity deck, even though the format was Extended, which he didn't realize beforehand. Obviously, he been a fan ever since.

"I was probably hooked even before then," he admitted. "I really started playing a lot though with Battle for Zendikar and began grinding on Magic Online with Shadows over Innistrad." Magic Online also was how Lenz first qualified for the Pro Tour and how he qualified for this event.

Although this was his first big finish, Lenz kept his calm. "I wasn't nervous playing for Top 8 yesterday, and I'm not nervous now either. Names don't play into this. Everyone gets seven cards and has to make the best out of them. I kind of go into every match with the mindset that I'll probably win, just because I'm used to it from playing online."

Manuel Lenz was cool under fire thus far. Could he keep it up on Sunday?

Lenz didn't feel as confident with regards to the matchup he was facing. He considered his almost mono-red deck to be the definite underdog against Owen Turtenwald's Red-Black Aggro. "I have seven creatures which die to Goblin Chainwhirler to his four, and things get even worse after sideboarding. He'll have three Magma Sprays, more copies of Rekindling Phoenix, and an additional Glorybringer to boot!"

Game 1

Owen Turtenwald earned the right to play first due to his higher standing after the Swiss rounds. He took full advantage of it and quickly put the pressure on Lenz with Heart of Kiran and Goblin Chainwhirler.

Lenz entered the race with Scrapheap Scrounger and Ahn-Crop Crasher. However, only one turn later, after Turtenwald had cast Pia Nalaar, Lenz was already forced to hang back with his Crasher.

Turtenwald cast his own Scrapheap Scrounger, used it to crew Heart of Kiran, and pointed Unlicensed Disintegration at Lenz's solitary blocker. Lenz consulted his hand, then packed in his cards.

Turtenwald reached for his sideboard out of reflex. This was the cue for the judge to remind players that the first two games of each best-out-of-five Top 8 match were to be played without sideboarding. Turtenwald thanked him. "That's a valuable reminder."

Owen Turtenwald is ready to add another accolade to his already impressive résumé.

Game 2

It seemed unlikely, but the second game was even more lopsided. Lenz took a mulligan, kept a hand with two lands, and scried Chandra, Torch of Defiance to the bottom of his library. By turn four, he still hadn't found a third land.

Turtenwald, meanwhile, had killed a pair of Earthshaker Khenras with Goblin Chainwhirler and had cast Heart of Kiran plus Soul-Scar Mage. On turn five, he enlisted the help of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, generated some extra mana and cast Scrapheap Scrounger.

Lenz conceded, and pursed his lips. "So ... I guess this puts you at something like 92 percent to win the match."

"Does it?" Turtenwald found the number awfully specific. "My baseline assumption would have been fifty-fifty, three times over."

The players chatted a bit about the format and the tournament. Among other things, Turtenwald was shocked to learn that Lenz hadn't faced any red-black decks during the Swiss rounds. Turtenwald had met plenty. "I don't think my deck is that great in the mirror, but I didn't lose any so far," he said.

"My deck was a good choice for the Swiss. Not so much for the Top 8 though," Lenz admitted. "Mine goes a little bit bigger than the very fast red decks, but everyone here is going a little bit bigger still."

"Yeah, it's tricky how you want to go bigger against some decks but still want to be the beatdown against others," Turtenwald mused. "I mean, when you do get to beat down, you probably win a lot."

Turtenwald and Lenz took very different paths to their quarterfinal match.

Game 3

As usual, the post-sideboard game involved a lot more back and forth. And proper trades. Turtenwald's Soul-Scar Mage met Abrade, his Kari Zev, Skyship Raider met Lightning Strike, and his Chandra, Torch of Defiance met Chandra's Defeat.

Meanwhile, Lenz's first Goblin Chainwhirler fell to Chandra's Defeat and his second was eaten by Glorybringer. The game had entered the stage where it was all about the flying monsters.

Lenz cast his own Dragon and attacked with it as well as Scrapheap Scrounger. Turtenwald fell to 8 life. Turtenwald summoned Pia Nalaar and passed the turn back to Lenz, his own Glorybringer ready to rejoin the festivities next turn.

Lenz thought a while about his next move. He attacked with both of his creatures and exerted the Dragon to kill Pia Nalaar. Turtenwald's Thopter chumped, leaving its master at a precarious 5 life.

Turtenwald swung back with his own Dragon, brought Lenz to 7, and summoned his own Scrapheap Scrounger. Lenz attacked with Scrapheap Scrounger to put Turtenwald at 2. One way or another, this game would be over soon.

Lenz made no further play. He soon found himself attacked by 7 power worth of creatures, exactly lethal damage. He flipped over the two cards left in his hand, both lands, and extended his hand in concession.

Turtenwald graciously accepts his opponent's concession.

Turtenwald winced at the sight of that. "I'm sorry, man."

"That's fine. I didn't do a lot in these games."

Turtenwald was forced to agree. "And my hands were kind of great too." A showdown with Wyatt Darby awaited Turtenwald in the semifinals.

Owen Turtenwald defeated Manuel Lenz, three games to zero.

Owen Turtenwald—Red-Black Aggro

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Manuel Lenz–Mono-Red Aggro

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