Owen’s a Win – Lessons of 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life in Magic lately—looking back on my year to see what I did well and what I did poorly. It’s good to constantly examine your game and find the holes in it. I play a lot of Magic, like a ton. Over 40 hours a week some weeks. This is my career, after all.

What I Did Well

1. Team Sealed

Team Sealed was probably my greatest strength this year. Huey, Reid, and I won Grand Prix Portland and we snagged another Top 4 at Grand Prix Barcelona. The World Magic Cup featured a Team Sealed portion, and although we only went 2-1 and 2-1 with above average pools, I was confident in my abilities there and helped guide how we built, as a good captain should.

My strategy in Team Sealed isn’t revolutionary, but it is effective. At Grand Prix Portland, Huey, Reid, and I did a seminar on Team Sealed and as we were preparing that presentation it was extremely helpful for us to lay out our thoughts on the format in detail. There’s an almost endless combination of builds in Team Sealed and I don’t think I’m building my pools flawlessly but I believe I’m building them to the best of my ability and giving myself a great chance to do well each time I play. Hard to ask for much more than that.

2. Pro Tour Draft Preparation

My draft records at each of the last four Pro Tours were 5-1, 5-1, 5-1, and 4-2. On top of that I have regularly had either the best or the second best draft record in our Pro Tour testing house after two weeks of play—and our drafts have multiple Hall of Famers and Pro Tour winners. If I found myself seated in a pod like that at the Pro Tour I would feel unlucky. I wouldn’t say that going into each of the PTs that I felt like I solved the draft formats, because I didn’t, but I always felt confident that I knew how to draft different archetypes well and the best commons for each. I often knew which cards were being undervalued, like Siege Wurm at Pro Tour Magic 2015, or Summit Prowler at Khans of Tarkir. I was extremely proud of my PT M15 draft deck on day 1 which included zero rares and only two uncommons:

3. Have Heart

Some call it the fire, some call it the zone, some think the fire and the zone are the stupidest things ever talked about in the history of Magic strategy articles. Regardless, I want to win more than anyone on the Pro Tour. Nobody gets a free win when they play against me, I play with all my heart and I’m trying to win with every fiber of my being. I play to win and I never give up. No matter what my record is no matter the game score or my life total, even when I only have 1 out. I don’t concede to anyone, if you want to beat me you’re going to have to take every legal and final game action. Some players might go on a bad run at a few events in a row and give up but I pride myself on my ability to get knocked down and get back up again. I just love Magic more than I can describe in words and succeeding at it is my favorite thing in the world. If instead of $40,000 for first place at the next Pro Tour it was changed so that the winner had to PAY a $40,000 fine I would still want to win. I would still prepare with the same passion that I do now. I want to be a Pro Tour Champion more than any amount of money means to me. I played all last year with this kind of dedication and I resolve to play 2015 at that same level.

What I Did Poorly

1. Individual Sealed Grand Prix

I love to play Sealed Deck. It’s my favorite format. But lately, I have been getting crushed at the GP level. I think in my last 10 individual Sealed Grand Prix I have made Day Two of all 10, and I have gone 9-0 zero times and made Top 8 zero times. I haven’t been doing particularly poorly but I also haven’t been doing as well as I would like to. Given the volume I put in I know my results can be better than they are but I don’t know exactly what I’m doing wrong. I think in all those Day Two drafts I haven’t 3-0’d once. I have more 2-1s than I can count. I know I can 3-0 since I’m doing it at the Pro Tour almost half the time. Maybe the difference between going 2-1 and 3-0 is just luck, or maybe my edge at draft is higher at the Pro Tour in an unknown format and lower at the GP level once everyone else is up to speed. I honestly don’t know, but it has been frustrating. Especially since my travel buddies Huey and Reid seem to dominate them as if variance doesn’t exist. So in 2015, I’m looking to step up my game in individual Sealed Grand Prix.

2. World Championships

I think my preparation for the World Championships was mediocre. I went 7-7, which is fine, but I didn’t feel good about the event or either of my Constructed decks. The first year I qualified I went 6-6, so being unable to break a 50% win rate in two attempts is a bit disappointing. I knew our Storm deck wasn’t that good but I decided to play it anyway, hoping that the confidence my testing partners had in the deck wasn’t misplaced. I also rationalized the decision to myself by saying Modern was a lame format and that with four total formats to prepare for you can’t hit a home run at all of them. Look at Yuuya Watanabe, he had to have under-prepared for Vintage Masters. He didn’t know Radiant Archangel was a legend and he drafted black aggro—one of the worst performing decks in VMA draft. I’m not trying to say derogatory things about Yuuya, I have profound respect for his game and he did extremely well in the tournament. My point is that when you have to prepare for four formats, you have to neglect one, and this is true even for a world-class player like him. Deep down, I knew Modern Storm was a mediocre choice and my 2-2 record reflected that. I wish I had trusted my gut and tried to dedicate more time to finding a better choice. My deck choice for Standard was truly excellent and I have Reid to thank for that, he’s an incredible deckbuilder. I’m glad I played his list but I wasn’t thoroughly practiced with it and that’s why I feel I could have improved at both Standard and Modern at Worlds.

3. Improve as a Player

I have been playing more Magic than ever before but I’m not so sure I’m doing everything I can to improve. The more I play the better my results get, but I don’t spend as much time as I should examining my own play. I also still make dumb mistakes every now and again, which is going to happen since I’m human, but I don’t know if I’m improving like I coulde. The brain has a way of knowing that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” It’s easy for me to just try my best and be happy with what comes after that, but I know that in order to be the best player I can be I need to try harder to spot leaks in my game. This is something I haven’t done well but that’s in part because I don’t know exactly what I can do to fix it, any advice would be greatly appreciated here.


1. Captain Team USA Again Next Year

The World Magic Cup was AWESOME! I loved that tournament and I want to be captain again. Just being called the captain felt incredible, every fan of Magic from the United States were rooting for me and people were proud to have me represent the country. That feeling was very special. I also had great teammates: Neal Oliver, Andrew Baeckstrom, and Isaac Sears. Those guys were incredible to work with. We finished in the Top 4, the best finish for the United States since the inception of that event and my whole team qualified for the Pro Tour. I would enjoy nothing more than becoming captain again next year and leading my team to a victory.

2. Top Eight My 3rd Pro Tour

I took a heartbreaking loss in the final round of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir to Yuuya Watanabe to miss Top 8. I had a record of 12-3, so if I could have just gotten a draw I would have locked it up. Sadly I was paired down and I lost, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. At Pro Tour M15 I got very lucky with my tiebreakers, and this time I got unlucky with my tiebreakers, which is fair I suppose. In 2015 one of my biggest goals is to Top 8 another PT.

3. Win Player of the Year, Again

I was Player of the Year in 2011 and for the 2014 season I was 2nd place to Jeremy Dezani. I have 38 points this year and theres no reason why I can’t be Player of the Year again. How’s that for a goal? 2014 was a pretty decent year after all.

Owen Turtenwald qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online OwenTweetenwald on twitter


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