With the Pro Tour behind us, I’ve turned to Twitter to find a good candidate for another game analysis. After watching most of the Pro Tour coverage, I’ve settled on game 3 between Pascal Maynard and Owen Turtenwald.
First let’s go over the decks and the matchup.
Note: I haven’t been able to find Owen’s exact deck list as the coverage didn’t post it. Instead, I’m sharing the list played by Owen’s teammate William Jensen, which should differ by a few cards at maximum. For the purpose of this exercise, we don’t actually need the exact deck list.
In this matchup, Temur is the raggressor while U/W Gift tries to assemble its namesake combo of God-Pharaoh’s Gift plus a graveyard full of creatures. The key cards on Temur’s side are Abrade in pre-board games and Negate/Slice in Twain in post-board games. Pascal has some cool tech with the possibility of bringing in the creature package. This preys on Temur players who take out spot removal, which is bad in pre-board games. In my opinion, this matchup favors U/W pre-board, but Temur gets more answers for Gift after sideboarding and the matchup swings in its favor. Overall, I think this matchup is close and has a lot of play to it.
I briefly spoke to Pascal and he was kind enough to share how he sideboarded against Owen.
As for Owen, I assume that he took out some of the spot removal I mentioned previously—some copies of Bristling Hydra and possibly some copies of Servant of the Conduit, and brought in Negates, Supreme Wills, Slice in Twain, Abrade, and possibly the extra copy of Confiscation Coup and Nissa, Steward of Elements.
Let’s get to the game. It’s tied 1-1 with Pascal on the play. I’ll be providing screenshots with timestamps for the relevant decision points.
Both players mulliganed to six, and Pascal has a bit of a slow start with no plays on turns 1 or 2. Owen has a better start with turn-2 Longtusk Cub. On turn 3, Pascal plays Champion of Wits and has his first decision:
After drawing two, his hand is: Gift, Island, Angel of Invention, Hostile Desert, Search for Azcanta, and Opt. It’s pretty clear that he is going to discard Gift, but the second choice is more complicated. He could discard an Angel, which would be great if he’d draw Refurbish immediately.
His other option is to discard a land, which I like more. This way, he can hardcast Angel on turn 5 to save more time. He already has four lands and even though he is lacking his second white land, between Opt and Search he is likely to find a white source. Pascal did decide to discard a land but chose to bin Hostile Desert, which I disagree with. You already have 3 blue sources in play and I can’t imagine a scenario where you would need to have access to 4. On the other hand, Hostile Desert can be used to block a Rogue Refiner or Servant the Conduit in the later stages of the game.
Nothing interesting happens in the next couple of turns. Owen develops another Cub and starts pressuring Pascal. Meanwhile, Pascal lands Search for Azcanta and his engine is getting online. On turn 5 the Angel comes down, facing a duo of 3/3 Cubs and Servant of the Conduit.
Owen’s turn 5 is interesting.
Owen lays down the Rogue Refiner, goes to 7 energy, and has to think about his attack. He is definitely sending in the Cubs, but he can also attack with the Servant. This option isn’t appealing for two reasons: a) Owen drew Abrade and wants to hold mana up to cast it and b) Pascal can just trade it off for a Servo token. But in the post-game interview, Pascal mentioned that Owen keeping up 2 mana convinced him that Owen had either Abrade or Negate. This is bit odd as I think Owen wouldn’t attack even if he didn’t have either of those cards. It’s pretty clear that Pascal would have to do some chump blocks so the coast might have been clear for the Servant in the future.
Owen does attack with only Cubs and Pascal has a choice to make. He can either trade his whole board for a Cub or just chump-block. Trading is risky in case Owen has removal, and chump-blocking buys him time so that’s the option he goes with.
On his next turn, Pascal flips his Search and casts another Champion of Wits.
The choice of which cards to discard is again pretty interesting. His hand is 2x Chart a Course, Island, and Angel of Invention. He has two options. Either discard both Chart a Course, or keep them both. If he keeps both, he can attack with Angel, draw two cards, hope to draw a land, and draw two more. But this line is risky because if you fail to find a land, you just lost one of your stronger cards in Angel of Invention. Pascal correctly realizes that he a) needs lands, because he already has a Champion of Wits in the graveyard and has Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin to help him find more gas, and b) if he plays a land this turn he has enough mana to activate the Azcanta, which might prove quite useful (spoiler alert: it does). After a slow play warning, he decides to discard both Charts and passes the turn.
Owen plays Rogue Refiner and attacks.
Pascal decides to trade and chump, which I like, but I’d prefer to block the Cub with the Champion of Wits to force Owen to use energy on it. Before damage, Owen goes all in on his other Cub, which I like a lot. It might look risky because of Fairgrounds Warden in the previous game, but he has the Abrade so the Warden wouldn’t even exile his Cub. He also needs to pressure Pascal as much as possible because Pascal is already well set for a late game so he wants to get this game over with as soon as possible. Owen then passes and end of turn Pascal activates Azcanta and finds Fumigate, which is incredibly strong in this moment.
As a side note, I love Owen’s reaction to seeing Fumigate. It’s probably the worst card Pascal could find off the Azcanta but Owen just goes “yep” like it’s no big deal. This, more than anything, would signal to me that Owen does have a Negate, which in fact is not the case, so it’s just a pure poker face..
Pascal untaps and is faced with a choice. His hand is Fairgrounds Warden, Angel of Invention, and Fumigate. Fairgrounds Warden is the worst option as you die on the spot if Owen has either Abrade or Harnessed Lightning. The choice comes down to Fumigate or the Angel. I think the correct choice is to play Fumigate and hope that Owen doesn’t have Negate. It is tempting to play the Angel to “play around a Negate,” but I don’t think it accomplishes much here. Either way you have to resolve the Fumigate or you’re going to die, and this way you give Owen another chance at drawing Negate in case he doesn’t have it. The case would be a bit different if Pascal had his own Negate in the deck. Then I could see him delaying the Fumigate for a turn if he was 100% convinced that Owen had the Negate. Regardless, Pascal plays the Angel and now Owen has a key decision to make.
This is a major decision because like I mentioned, Abrade is crucial card in this matchup because it stops Gift. Normally you would want to save it and trade your creatures for the Angel. Here the situation is bit more complicated. You have to figure out how the next 2-3 turns are going to play out, and whether you can play around Pascal having access to Refurbish or Gift alongside his Fumigate. The way I see it, there are 4 ways this game will play out.
Situation A: Owen doesn’t use Abrade and Pascal has Refurbish/Gift plus Fumigate.
Owen knows that Pascal has Fumigate and that he is likely to play it next turn. In this case, Owen wants to be able to have something left on the board after the Fumigate clears all of the creatures. The way to achieve this is to play Chandra. But if he does that, he is going to tap out and won’t be able to hold up Abrade mana unless he draws an untapped land. He has 18 lands left in his deck and 7 of them come into play tapped, so not the greatest odds. Therefore, if he doesn’t draw an untapped land, he basically can’t play anything if he wants to hold up the Abrade. If he draws the land the play is clear—he kills Angel with Chandra, attacks, and passes with 2 mana up. Pascal now plays Fumigate and Owen is left with Chandra on board and still has an Abrade. With Chandra giving him additional mana, he can start pumping out threads while holding mana up.
But if Owen doesn’t draw a land, he probably has to play Chandra anyway because he can’t afford to just not play anything. Pascal is huge favorite the longer the game goes on so just sitting there not doing anything isn’t a way to win. Now if Owen plays the Chandra and taps out to attack with everything, Pascal is probably going to chump-block both Cubs with Servos and take 5. Then he is going to play Refurbish because the coast is clear. He will kill Owen’s Chandra and gain 8 life in the process. After that, Owen uses his Abrade, Pascal uses Fumigate, and both players are at basically equal life with clear boards. This situation favors Pascal.
Situation B: Owen uses Abrade and Pascal has Refurbish/Gift plus Fumigate.
This is basically what happened in real life. Owen used Abrade plus Chandra to take Pascal to 2 life. Pascal then goes Fumigate to not die and then runs away with the game after playing the Gift. This situation heavily favors Pascal.
Situation C: Owen doesn’t use his Abrade and Pascal doesn’t have Refurbish/Gift.
Like in situation A, Owen plays Chandra, kills Angel, and attacks with everything. Pascal chumps and goes down to 6. He then plays Fumigate, going up to 10. Now Owen can start using his Chandra to put more pressure on Pascal, but Pascal has some breathing room because he is at 10. But Refurbish/Gift is no longer a good draw for Pascal as Owen has Abrade. This situation favors Owen.
Situation D: Owen uses Abrade and Pascal doesn’t have Refurbish/Gift.
Owen gets Pascal down to 2 with Chandra in play. Fumigate puts Pascal at 6 life, which means land plus Glorybringer in the next two draw steps win you the game. Attack with Glorybringer plus ping with Chandra. This would be an ideal scenario and is unlikely to happen. But by putting Pascal at 6 life you’re putting him under even more pressure than in scenario C. This situation favors Owen.
It’s also important to note that in situation A Pascal has to have the Gift in hand after Owen plays the Chandra because the turn after that Owen will have access to Abrade, while in situation B, he has more time to draw it (one extra turn). This I don’t think is relevant to the thought process, even though it was what ultimately happened. In basically all scenarios, Owen can draw another answer to Gift, which would heavily increase his chances of winning the game.
As we can see, even after breaking the situation down, the decision is still pretty complicated. I think it’s a bit better to keep the Abrade in your hand, but either way you’re an underdog if Pascal has access to Gift and you don’t draw a land. I’ve also had a bunch of time to think about it under no pressure compared to Owen, who was playing for a Top 8 at the PT.
The game plays out and lucky Pascal topdecks Refurbish, which swings the game in his favor and he ends up taking the match.
This game looked very grim for Pascal throughout, but he managed to get lucky and punish Owen’s decision to use an Abrade.
That’s it for today. Like I said at the start of the article, I’m planning to do more of these, so if you have a cool game you’d like me to break down, don’t hesitate, and link to it down below in the comments.