All posts by Adam Snook

The TJs Titanium Finals Metagame – Adam Snook

The Titanium Series Finals is right around the corner, and I’ll be in booth on February 18th covering it live for you. The Finals is Modern, an incredibly wide-open format with over 30 good decks. It’s virtually impossible to metagame for a modern tournament because you could randomly get paired against some with an outdated Black-White tokens deck or their Mono-Green Stompy pile. You’ll play against players that you have no game plan for. At a small, invite only tournament like the Titanium Series Finals it’s much easier to narrow down what your opponents might play.
Some of the qualified players I’ve known for a very long time, some of them I’ve only met this year through the Titanium events, and some of them I just plain had to Google. Of course, these are all just educated guesses, and the tournament is still a month away, but I’ve tried to make my best possible predictions.
First, introductions – My name is Adam Snook. If you’re a regular at the Titanium Series events we’ve probably played or at least bumped shoulders fighting to get to the pairings board. I’ve been playing magic on and off for almost 20 years. I started at the JSS Circuit a long time ago and Magic became a hobby I couldn’t really ever quit. I’ve had a medium amount of lucky tournament spikes over the years. I have one Star City Invitational Top 8, a Grand Prix Top 8, and a couple of Pro Tour cashes. All my cards have creases from so much shuffling in preparation for tournaments.
I’m also a member of the TJ’s stream team, and during most of the Titanium Plus events you can find me in the booth with Zack and the rest of the team covering Modern.
Now onto the players, sorted by how recently they qualified:

Joe Horton – Tron
If you’ve consistently played the Titanium series events I’m sure you’ll recognize Joe. He’s only in high school, but shows up to just about every event and is usually at least in the Top 8. I’ve seen Joe play a variety of decks between Burn and Humans, but most recently he’s been taking advantage of the Urza-Tron lands. He has played a lot with Eldrazi Tron the last few tournaments, but he won his qualification by putting Karn into play on turn 3. I would be pretty surprised if Joe shows up to the tournament without Urza’s Tower sleeved up.

Nate Leclerc – Titanshift
Nate is a regular at TJ’s FNM. I’ve seen him play a few different archetypes. Everything from Collected Company strategies to Grixis Death’s Shadow to Titanshift. The last is what he used to eventually qualify. I’d assume after a win only a month or so ago he’d still feel pretty confident about this powerful deck and continue to play it.

Gordon Callahan – Infect
Gordon has been playing in this tournament series all year. He Top 8ed the first one last January and eventually qualified in November. He’s always plays Infect, a deck that since the banning of Gitaxian Probe has gone down in stock very much. However I think that it’s a great fast strategy to defeat the big mana decks like Tron. Gordon has a really interesting plan in his infect deck. He boards into a Hexproof strategy vs the decks with a lot of removal – it can take unsuspecting opponents by surprise. I would be very shocked if he shows up without trying to poison his way to victory.

Kevin Luu- Titanshift
Kevin and I have played a fair amount of times. Unfortunately for me I’m pretty sure I’ve never beaten him. He’s always playing a Scapeshift strategy that is very good vs me because I have a problem and always want to playing a Jund strategy. Kevin has 6 top 8s including the win in October that qualified him, all with Scapeshift. He’s very well practiced with the deck and knows exactly how each match up should work. He’ll have a plan for every deck in Modern and his sideboards are always different for the field he expects. If he shows up playing anything other than this deck it’d probably be a mistake.

Michael DeCoste- Death’s Shadow
Mike is a close friend of mine who I’ve known for a really long time – he was a groomsman in my wedding! He’s been very on and off magic the past few years but this year he’s been very on, mostly into Modern. He has 4 Top 8s in the Titanium Series, 2 with Grixis Death’s Shadow, 1 with Mardu Reveler and of course his winning deck was Vengevine Shadow. He’s a big fan of the Death’s Shadow package. Historically though he’s always loved combo decks. When he first bought into modern he built Ad Nauseum combo. He also played a few weeks with stock Blue-Red Storm. However, I expect him to start his deck list for this event with 4 Thoughtsieze, 4 Death’s Shadow, and 4 Street Wraith.

Joe Chagnon – Dredge
I know Joe pretty well, and he basically only plays Modern. He has a pretty wide range of decks in his arsenal but I’d say his specialty would be Collected Company decks. However he’s won a lot with Burn, and won his qualification with Dredge. Since then he’s mostly been on Dredge. I’d imagine in such a small tournament he’s going to make a metagame decision on his deck choice. I believe he’d be one of few if not the only true graveyard strategy in the tournament if he chose to play Dredge. I think that’s a good advantage and reason to play the deck.

Nick Starr – any Blue mid-range deck
Nick is at almost every Titanium event. He has 4 Top 8s including a win in July with Jeskai Geist. He’s also had success with a Gifts Ungiven control deck, and he’s played Blue Moon control. I don’t know Nick well enough, and I’m not sure exactly what he’d play, but I’d guess he’s going to play a blue mid-range strategy. He has a propensity for a wacky brews and he may provide one of the true curve balls in the Finals.

Ray Karkman – Mono Red Prison
Ray plays FNM at TJ’s frequently. I don’t see him at too many of the bigger tournaments like the Titanium Series but when he shows up he does well. He has 2 Top 8s – both with Mono-Red Prison. This is a less common strategy that involves locking out your opponent from playing spells. with a combination of Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, and Chalice of the Void. The deck has all the mana accelerators like Desperate Ritual and Simian Spirit Guide. It even has the less commonly played Gemstone Caverns, a card that probably doesn’t see enough play in Modern. Being able to “steal the play” is a huge advantage in such a fast-paced format. I’m certain Ray will be Mooning all of his opponents at the Titanium Finals.

Taylor Pratt – Elves
Taylor is mostly an Eternal player: Legacy and Vintage are more his specialty. When he’s playing Modern he’s usually casting Collected Company. In the past, I’ve seen him comboing people out but most recently he’s been playing Elves. He has 2 Titanium Top 8s with the deck including a win where he trampled me in the finals with Ezuri, Renegade Leader. I think it’s unlikely that Taylor will be casting anything but tiny green men come the Finals.

Dan Paine – Burn
I’ve known Dan for quite a while and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him play anything but Burn in Modern. Similar to Kevin Luu I’m sure he’s had enough tournament matches with the deck that he knows how his matchups are supposed to go, and has a good plan for everything. I also think Burn is a pretty good choice for the tournament. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t show up trying to light people up.

Tim Tonelli – Jeskai
Tim has 3 Top 8s with Grixis Shadow. However later in the year he was showing up to most tournaments playing Jeskai but I’ve also seen him play Dredge in the past, Tim has a pretty wide range and follows Magic pretty closely. I think Tim is likely to show up with the general consensus “best deck”, which I believe would be Tron. However, I’m not sure he’d steer away from his trusty Snapcaster Mage that he’d been playing consistently all year. With the recent success of Jeskai Control I wouldn’t be too surprised if he showed up with that.

Sam Richardson – Blue-White Control
I don’t believe I’ve met Sam, but looking through his results he’s a man after my own heart. He has a win in February with an Abzan aggro deck. Later in July he made Top 4 of a Titanium Plus event with Blue-White Control. UW control is a deck that actually got a huge boost from Ixalan through Field of Ruin. This deck has always played cards like Tectonic Edge or Ghost Quarter, and although those cards are good they aren’t exactly what a deck like blue white control wants. A larger control deck really wants all its mana and Field of Ruin allows you to attack your opponent’s utility lands and certain colored sources while not losing mana. I can’t say for sure what Sam would play because I don’t have enough info, but if he liked Blue-White then, I’m sure he likes it more now.

Edgar Hinton – Bant Eldrazi
Edgar is a TJ’s local, he won the first event last January with Bant Eldrazi. I don’t know a lot about Edgar’s constructive preferences, but Bant Eldrazi is still a strong choice. The power of Ancient Stirrings in this deck really shines. Cards like Ponder and Preordain are banned in modern. In this deck, Ancient Stirrings is even better than those as it sees 5 cards and you can basically find any land or threat, and even some of your interaction. I’m not sure what he’ll play but Bant Eldrazi is still a strong choice.

Keith Rong – Jund Style
Keith is a friend and old roommate of mine. He recently qualified for his first Pro Tour playing Modern, the format he loves. He also played his favorite deck Abzan. Keith qualified from winning the first Plus event, beating Dylan Plourde in the finals and earning himself a Round One bye. He played Jund Death’s Shadow, a deck that over time has evolved to a Grixis version. Keith has been playing a lot of Modern recently to prepare for the Pro Tour and trying various different decks, but I think he’ll end up on old faithful and be trying to start his games going Thoughtsieze,-Goyf-Lilliana of the Veil.

Dylan Plourde – Burn
I don’t know Dylan too well, but he lost to Keith in the finals of the first Titanium Plus event playing Burn. Since then he’s been on the Titanium stream team with Zack and I doing coverage. Dylan knows a lot about modern and has played a ton with Burn. Similar to Dan and Kevin he’s played it enough that he knows all the match ups and has a strong plan. I’m sure we’ll see him triggering Goblin Guides and cracking skulls for the Titanium Finals.

Ben Feingersh -Humans/Tron/???
Ben plays a lot of competitive magic. He was on the Grand Prix grind recently. Ben won a Titanium Plus with a humans strategy, but he will play whatever the unknown, hot, or best deck is that week – he plays a different deck almost every tournament. He’s the hardest person in the tournament for me to guess what they’ll bring. I believe a Tron strategy is currently the best in the format. I think Ben and I take in a lot of the same content and talk to a lot of the same people, which might lead him to a similar conclusion. The “hot” deck would probably be Mardu Reveler, which has the most MTGO trophies. Renowned Grinder Selfeisek, has 40+ trophies, more than double second place. At the end of the day, I would guess him to play a deck that beats whatever does best at the Pro Tour.

Caleb Mcvey – Titanshift
Caleb is another player I don’t know too much about. He has 2 Top 8s in the Titanium Series, both with a Scapeshift deck. Without a lot of decks like storm or really fast aggro decks I think Scapeshift will be a pretty good choice for the tournament. Since it’s been the pinnacle of his success I don’t see why he’d switch lanes.

Brandon Smith – Grixis Delver
Brandon won the July Titanium Plus event with Grixis Delver. It was a popular deck for quite a while about a year ago. Ever since the banning of Gitaxian Probe you see the deck less and less though. Nowadays the most popular version of the deck has evolved to be Grixis Death’s Shadow, which plays a similar style of game. Will Brandon follow the Death path with the trend of switching over to the powerful avatar, or stay the flight course and sleeve up my personal favorite little insect?

Ben Reilly-Cheerios
A balanced breakfast is important to winning a magic tournament. You have to remember to eat and drink water so that you don’t get fatigued. Luckily for everyone else in the tournament Ben will be spoon feeding Cheeri0s to all his opponents. Cheeri0s is a combo deck similar to Storm and it’s possible that it’s more consistent and quicker. On the flip side though it’s much easier to disrupt. Cheeri0s uses Puresteel Paladin and Sram, Senior Edificer in combination with spells like retract, and about 24 0-mana artifacts. It wins the same way as classic Storm via Grapeshot, but he could also have a secondary win condition of Laboratory Maniac. Ben has been playing this deck throughout the whole year and won’t be switching to Fruity-Loops, Frog in a Blender, Cephalid Breakfast, or any other magic decks with crazy deck names.

Jon Rosum Jeskai/Humans
Probably one of the more recognizable names in this tournament. Jon Rosum has had a lot of success on the Star City circuit, particularly in Modern. He has a handful of Open Top 8s and has recently joined team Lotus Box. Although most of his Modern success came from a Jeskai Tempo deck that he used to win the last Titanium plus event of the year, Jon has most recently been playing Humans. Humans is a newer tribal deck this year that utilizes Ixalan cards like Unclaimed Territory and Kitesail Freebooter. Humans is a deck that has a constricted manabase that will allow you to play any human card regardless of color but spells are virtually impossible to cast. Therefore, the deck has to get its disruption out of its creatures such as Kitesail Freebooter, Reflector Mage, and the disruptive Meddling Mage. The sideboard usually contains some heavy hitters like Izzet Staticaster, Vithian Renegades, and Xathrid Necromancer. If you really want to get an idea of what he’s playing he’s usually streaming what he’s testing with his team. The Pro Tour results will probably heavily impact his decision.

Bryan Haak-Burn
Two Time New Hampshire state champion Bryan Haak is a player I’ve known for a long time. We met during the days of the old PTQ format, where it was a quick win and invite (oh the glory days). A great experience with Bryan involved us both 0-2ing a New England PTQ at a hotel and drafting at the bar as we awaited our rides who were playing deeper into the tournament. As the day wore on we got deeper into our drinks and our draft decks got worse culminating in some really terrible mana curves. Bryan usually plays aggressive linear strategies. He qualified by making the finals of the last Titanium Plus event with Burn. I would expect him to show up with something similar like Burn, Affinity, or maybe even slip his way to a victory with Hexproof Bogle deck. I expect a low number of Liliana of the Veils at Finals so the Hexproof strategy could be very strong.

Devin Callahan – Affinity / Mono-Red Prison
Devin and I met through other Finals Competitor Michael DeCoste about 10 years ago. Similar to Mike, he has been on and off Magic for quite a while, Devin has always had a heart for competition. Throughout high school and college, he was on the wrestling team and he loved it. Once he graduated he had to find a way to fill the competitive hole left over and has been playing much more Magic since. Devin has been playing Affinity for the last few years anytime there’s a Modern event in his area. After he qualified for the TJ’s FNM series he got a little bored with Affinity and wanted to try anything else. For a few months, he tried a different deck every week, which is a big help to practice in a format like Modern. Being able to know how a deck works is really important for side-boarding vs them. At the end of the run I know he really enjoyed a deck similar to Ray Karkmans Mono Red Prison deck. I think it’s possible he’ll play it at the Finals but more than likely he’ll stick to what he knows best and attack with some cranial plated metal men.

Kevin Jones – Jeskai
Self-proclaimed “The Daddy”, Kevin is the most famous for Magic among the rest of the competitors in the tournament. Kevin is most commonly known for his success in the Star City circuit, but he also won a Grand Prix last year, and competed in the World Magic Cup representing the good ole USA. I met Kevin a few years ago, we both won a modern PTQ the same season playing the same deck, Blue-White control. Kevin has always played Blue decks, his infatuation with Snapcaster Mage might be worse than his infatuation with his self-given nickname (it’s not worse). He very recently lost the finals of a Star City Open playing Jeskai Control. Before that he had a lot of success playing Jeskai tempo. A lot would have to change for him to not play a Snapcaster/Bolt deck in the Titanium Finals.

If I was qualified for the Titanium Finals I would likely try to put down my Thoughtseizes and pick up a deck like Storm. It looks fairly well positioned through this metagame. Although you’ll still run into hate cards, and it’s still a Modern tournament so you’ll have to get lucky in the pairings and dodge a few key match ups. I believe it has a good match up vs the majority of this field.
I hope you enjoyed my first article and I wish you all the best of luck in your Modern events. Zack and I will be covering the whole tournament live at TJ’s and I’m excited to see how my predictions turn out!

GLHF-Snook

Zack’s note: Michael Ferguson was our most recent qualifier last Saturday with a U/r Through the Breach deck. Mike tends towards midrange decks that finish with creatures or a combo. Don’t expect any Ad Naseum or Tron here.