Navigating Standard Through The Top Of US Nationals

Another big event, another excellent performance from Owen Turtenwald. The veteran has his sights set on more money and more trophies as we enter the second half of the year! How does he do it?!

US Nationals was last weekend and I scored a top 8 with R/B Midrange:

This is the exact same 75 cards I played at Pro Tour Dominaria
where I finished in 3rd place and Reid Duke finished 15th. I played R/B
Midrange again because our preparation for Pro Tour Dominaria was
so intense and our results with the deck were so strong that I strongly
believed that we already solved Standard. I didn’t want to overvalue a few
recent weeks’ worth of poor results, panic, and make changes to my deck.
This is the mix of cards I wanted for a more broad and open metagame,
exactly what I would expect at a tournament like US Nationals. Any change I
have could made would pull away from percentages in other matchups, and I
think almost all changes would end up losing me total percentage points.

At this point, I don’t believe I need to elaborate on why I love
The Chainwhirler

The choice between Mono-Red and R/B is a simple one for me since playing
black gives you access to Scrapheap Scrounger.
Last week
, I included a tweet in my article that, to me, was strong evidence that
Scrapheap Scrounger has been one of the most oppressive cards in the
history of the Pro Tour. But in addition to Scrounger, you also get Duress
which is the literal best card you can play if your concern is U/W Control
or U/W God-Pharaoh’s Gift, decks that are traditionally played by players
with the intention of having a good matchup against Chainwhirler decks.

Bomat Courier has been called a controversial inclusion, but from my
perspective R/B Midrange has all positive matchups as long as you come
prepared with Bomat Courier and Duress against control and other
non-creature decks. Bomat Courier is absurd against non-creature decks
because without the issue of it being blocked, it’s just “deal one damage,
draw one card” every turn for one mana. Imagine a card that was “1R,
sorcery, deal five damage to target opponent, discard your hand, and draw
five cards.” That card would get banned in five seconds!

Soul-Scar Mage is weak filler, but you really want more one casting cost
spells to make Hazoret the Fervent able to attack immediately, and this one
happens to combo beautifully with The Chainwhirler. The first time
I ever actually did it was Round 4 of Pro Tour Dominaria and while
I was completely blowing my opponent out, I had to ask “may I borrow some
dice?” to sprinkle -1/-1 counters across their battlefield. It also enables
burn spells to kill an opposing Hazoret the Fervent, something that
shouldn’t ever be overlooked in the mirror.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance has four abilities and sort of looks like Jace,
the Mind Sculptor, but when Chandra happens to be good in a game, it’s
usually very good if not the best card in Standard for that particular
situation. This and Glorybringer are generally always robust threats
against whatever sideboard cards your opponent has against your “plan A”
beatdown strategy. When they have Invoke the Divine for Arguel’s Blood Fast
or Fumigate for your various creatures and you instead have Chandra, it’s
simply brutal. You sidestep their best cards and you get a proactive threat
that also happens to be a card advantage engine. It’s ability to crew Heart
of Kiran is huge as well.

Speaking of Heart of Kiran, I’m shocked it hasn’t seen wider adoption in
Standard, and I feel the public has grossly misevaluated its power.
Legendary is a big enough drawback that unfortunately I can only justify
three, but more players should be playing this card. It can be game-winning
all by itself and that’s worth quite a bit in my eyes.

My favorite part of playing with Chandra and Glorybringer is no matter how
I sideboard, I can never be caught with too few removal spells in my deck.
This is a little shell players have been trying to play in Standard
recently; players either take out all their creatures to blank opposing
removal spells or sideboard in creatures in the hopes that the opponent is
underprepared for it. It’s come up for me multiple times that I pair
Chandra with The Chainwhirler or Soul-Scar Mage to either outright
kill or just substantially weaken a card like Lyra Dawnbringer, something
that was supposed to take me by surprise and would otherwise be a big

The last interesting card I play that doesn’t seem to have picked up in
popularity is Unlicensed Disintegration. People know that when they play
against red in Standard their removal is capped at dealing four damage, so
they intentionally play creatures that are five toughness. The most popular
of this bunch is the aforementioned Lyra Dawnbringer, The Scarab God, and
Ghalta, Primal Hunger. I think Unlicensed Disintegration’s range is wide,
but when you remove a blocker, even one that could have been killed by
Abrade or Lightning Strike, and deal three damage to the opponent, you’ve
created the same effect of Searing Blaze, an incredibly powerful card in
its own right. Even casting a turn 3 Unlicensed Disintegration after
deploying a Scrapheap Scrounger on turn 2 is a very solid play, but most of
the value is captured by killing the huge creatures that red strategies
normally can’t deal with.

I could have studied the metagame for hours on end and pored over my
decklist looking to make small tweaks, but instead I told myself that it
would be a badass move to show up with the decklist everyone already knew
was coming.

I like what I’m holding.

If you’re a dedicated reader to my column, you’ll notice a trend from week
to week of me giving away the best technology and most up to date decklists
I have and there’s clear evidence of this in the tournament results
surrounding the publication of my article. My lists are outperforming many
other author’s lists on the market today and I give away the goods right
here and will continue to do so directly to benefit my readers. What I will
not do, however, is give any information to my opponents who might be at
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary and despite my repeated strong finishes, I won’t
show them how to update and improve R/B Midrange.

I will reiterate since it’s a position I’m proud to take: fans of my
articles will get the best of the best and my opponents/competitors will
get absolutely nothing from me. Nothing.

This was my first draft deck at US Nationals in which I achieved a smooth
3-0, only losing one game where my opponent resolved Icy Manipulator and
Fight with Fire with kicker. With the information that those cards exist in
my opponent’s deck, I was able to play the sideboarded games more
conservatively with my counterspells, and when you take those two great
cards off the table, winning was elementary. The Mirari Conjecture was my
MVP despite only having Warlord’s Fury and Weight of Memory – with two
cards in the pack at the end of pack two! – as my sorceries.

Pack one pick one Song of Freyalise into Slimefoot the Stowaway meant I
drafted on easy mode during the second draft of US Nationals, as I only
took the best black or green card from every pack. I went 2-1 in this draft
and the highlight was using Song of Freyalise with Yargle, Glutton of
Urborg on turn 6. Call me old-fashioned, but if they only start at twenty
life and you hack them in half with a 10/4 trampling Frog and the rest of
your battlefield is now full of 2/2 Saproling tokens, I feel that’s quite

Is a 10/4 vigilance, trample, and indestructible any good? If so, why?

I made a rule for myself years ago I would never complain about bad luck at
the table to my opponent, and I have yet to break that rule until this
tournament. Game 1, I activated Bomat Courier and put seven new cards in
hand and my opponent, holding only one card, played Commit on his end step,
untapped, immediately played Memory, and my hand of seven spells turned
into seven lands.

I started to draw them one at a time…

And I was stuck on four mana, so I thought to myself, “As long as the rest
of the cards are spells, I can play a land. cast a spell, and still be in
reasonable shape.” Lands even had added value in this particular instance
because I wanted to empty my hand for Hazoret the Fervent. Then I continued

I wanted to throw my hand on the table and concede immediately, but since
I’m me and I play to the bitter end, I sat there drawing and passing every
turn. I can only imagine what my opponent was thinking before I mentioned
it at the table and tried not to come off as salty. I just thought it was

In the top 8 I made it to game three against Jeskai Control, and I played
to a favorable position with Glorybringer and Hazoret on the battlefield
with a Duress on the stack. I took Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and let my
opponent keep Glimmer of Genius. Glimmer of Genius was cast and one turn
later they had Harnessed Lightning for Glorybringer and Teferi put Hazoret
back in my library.

Good beats.

One thing people may not know about me is I actually like to get a little
unlucky or at least I greatly prefer getting unlucky to any other form of
losing, especially when my final game is livestreamed on Twitch and nobody
can deny that my play was impeccable. Having seen the entire match, I’d be
surprised if someone felt I wasn’t the clear favorite and getting unlucky
to me just means the outcome of the game was no longer in my control. All I
do is strive to play as best as possible, and I’ve had issues losing focus
lately, so making top 8 of US Nationals, a 750-person tournament, was just
what I needed to restore my confidence.

The level of competition at US Nationals was high and just because some of
my opponents had good fortune at times, it didn’t promise anything. Luck is
when preparation meets opportunity, and each of my opponents executed each
play well in each of my matches. How could one be mad at that result?
Congratulations to the winners, and I’ll be rooting for America at the
World Magic Cup as I do every year.

Preparing For Pro Tour 25th Anniversary

I look at the Team Pro Tour as a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
– Reid Duke

Starting Saturday July 7th, I plan to do nothing but prepare for the
Team Pro Tour until go time,

hours a day, seven days a week.”
– William Jensen

Those are my teammates for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, a tournament with an
$850,000 prize pool and a first prize of $150,000, $50,000 per player.
Historically, team tournaments have had a lower total prize per player for
first place than an individual Pro Tour, but WotC really stepped things up
this time. The format is Team Constructed with Standard, Modern, and

My prediction? I predict William Jensen, Reid Duke, and Owen Turtenwald –
also known as The Peach Garden Oath – will win Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.

Other teams don’t even have names because they haven’t yet reached our
level of success, let alone keep a solid roster together for longer than
one pro season. Last time I checked, our record in Team Sealed Grand Prix
was seven top 4 finishes out of fourteen attempts, including two wins. Can
you imagine showing up to a GP and making the elimination rounds half the
time? That is an unprecedented level of dominance.

The sad part for me is I’m the worst performing player on my team! William
Jensen is the reigning World Champion and Reid Duke’s Pro Tour results this
season are 15th, 28th, and 6th. I like to think of myself as the Tom Brady
or LeBron James of Magic, but all I’ve been able to muster this season is
3rd place at Pro Tour Dominaria, 18th at Pro Tour Ixalan,
and 7th at US Nationals.

William and Reid have both read Romance of the Three Kingdoms as
children and I grew up playing a video game called Dynasty Warriors based on the characters in the story. One day we
jokingly referred to ourselves as great warriors and that playing Khans of Tarkir Team Sealed Deck was similar to saving the
troubled and aiding the endangered. Listening to their level of enthusiasm
and passion, I also solemnly vow to not only uphold the realm but also
practice my ass off to give us the best chance to win.

I’ll leave you now with the actual Oath of the Peach Garden.

When saying the names

Liu Bei


Guan Yu


Zhang Fei

, although the surnames are different, yet we have come together as
brothers. From this day forward, we shall join forces for a common
purpose: to save the troubled and to aid the endangered. We shall
avenge the nation above, and pacify the citizenry below. We seek not to
be born on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. We
merely hope to die on the same day, in the same month and in the same
year. May the Gods of Heaven and Earth attest to what is in our hearts.
If we should ever do anything to betray our friendship, may heaven and
the people of the earth both strike us dead.