By Zack Hall
The first TJs Titanium Modern Challenge is in the books and Edgar Hinton is the champion! He Reality Smashed his way through 6 rounds of Swiss competition and a subsequent top 8 where he destroyed all 3 opponents who came before him. Through his victory he earns the first slot in the 2018 TJs Titanium Invitational, an invite-only event with a prizepool of over $5,000.
Forty-nine players made their way to Milford, Massachusetts on Saturday morning to stake their claim on Tom Shea’s $1,000 that he put up as prize. It was an extremely diverse Modern metagame featuring cards from every set (I checked!) Mirrodin to Aether Revolt – seven distinct archetypes were represented in the Top 8! From the extremely aggressive Infect deck piloted by Gordon Callahan to the unique mono-red prison deck helmed by Ray Karkman there were many strategies at play in the elimination rounds. In the end though Edgar Hinton’s Bant Eldrazi faced off against Tim Connelly who had the same deck with only minor tweaks in the 75.
To tell the entire story of the day we must rewind to before Round One even kicked off – the player meeting! Head Judge Gil Medeiros got the event started on the right foot, announcing loudly and clearly the banning of Golgari Grave-Troll and Gitaxian Probe, heading off any shenanigans that could’ve easily occurred. Forty-eight players were in their seats as the Round One pairings posted. The 49th , a Lantern Control player, came clomping down the stairs just in time to avoid an early game loss. That masochistic individual got his just desserts for choosing perhaps the cruelest deck in Modern and started 0-2 against two Burn decks.
A frigid Saturday morning in Milford Massachusetts may not the place one would expect to find top level Magic talent with a European Grand Prix followed by Pro Tour: Dublin the next weekend, but a few local superstars showed up anyways. Adam Snook and Nico Christiansen stood head and shoulders above the crowd in terms of experience though both players would likely downplay the fact and spout off a few Dangerfield-esque adjectives to describe themselves. Always one to choose the aggressive strategy, Nico brought a fairly standard Naya Burn deck to the tables only tweaking numbers in the 75 and not making any personal deviations. On the flip side of the coin was Adam Snook. Never one to be pinned down to a specific archetype, Adam is just as content playing (or not playing) 22 Basic Plains as he is Cryptic Commands and Creeping Tar Pits, which is what he chose to do for this event. He registered a UB Faeries deck which was solely the product of his own tweaks. It’s been awhile since Magic has seen a deck really abuse Bitterblossom, but Adam thought the time was ripe for it again. The deck would likely be untenable without the 4 Fatal Push in his maindeck; these 4 were complemented by 6 discard spells and 6 counterspells. His victory condition wasn’t any sort of flashy combo but simply beating down with 1/1 fliers and Creeping Tar Pits plus some incidental Countersqualling and Tasiguring. In the end though both big name players failed to even have a shot at Top 8 going into the last round and they had to take the early ride of shame back home.
The next tier of local players contained names like Ryan Leverone, Scott Metcalf, Christian Baker, Joe Chagnon, Chase Kovac and what I’m sure are a ton of local stars that I’m slighting by leaving off this list. Ryan and Joe both made Top 8 but made it no further. Ryan was playing Death’s Shadow Jund while Joe sleeved up Abzan Company.
After 6 rounds of Swiss there was a clean cut to a Top 8 with all players 4-1-1 or better making it in. In the round of 8, first seed Ray Karkman fell to Tim Connelly while eventual winner Edgar Hinton defeated Ryan Leverone. Talented Joe Chagnon dropped his match to Fog-maindecking Nick Furno and Gordon Callahan defeated Kevin Luu.
The semifinals featured Gordon Callahan’s Infect against Tim Connelly’s Bant Eldrazi. Tim’s maindeck removal suite of Engineered Explosives and Path to Exile followed up with massive threats took the match. On the other side of the bracket Edgar Hinton bashed his way past all defenses put up by friend and playtest partner Nick Furno.
The finals started out with two lopsided games with both players not having much of a chance to outplay the other. In a matchup where both players have access to the same cards, flooding out on mana can be a colorless kiss of death. Game 3 however was an entirely different beast. Lasting for more than 30 minutes, it was a slugfest featuring multiple copies of Eldrazi Displacer, Drowner of Hope and Reality Smasher. It seemed that Edgar would fall to more copies of Drowner leveraged by Tim but a timely Worship from the top of his deck! Suddenly the tables were turned as it was Tim’s turn to dig for answers to the inevitability provided by the Worship backed by a singleton Endbringer that was slowly pinging him and drawing cards. After both players ran through most of their Path to Exiles and libraries, Edgar finally gained a tangible advantage with the Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope combination, creating a massive threat on his side of the board. The Endbringer cleared the last of the Eldrazi Scions for Tim and his Drowner did the rest – Edgar Hinton was the champion!
I sat down with Edgar after the match to ask him a few questions and he was gracious enough to agree. I asked him the usuals to start and I was a bit surprised by his answer! The Level 1 judge had been playing for only 10 years which was surprising to me based on his level of game knowledge and player knowledge. He explained to me that he moved to the Milford area about 10 years ago and hasn’t looked back since, always considering TJs a home base of sorts. When asked what his playstyle was he immediately answered, “To beat down!”. It may come as no surprise that his favorite deck of all time was a Tribal Zoo brew whose hallmark play was to use Ghor-Clan Rampager to power up a Geist of Saint Traft midcombat. He told me that he considered the Northeast as a region way too fixated on a gameplan revolving around Snapcaster Mage and control spells. It’s part of the reason he thinks that he’s excelled with aggressive decks over the years. When I asked him whether or not he’d be sleeving up a deck that focused on turning creatures sideways at the 2018 Invitational, he wouldn’t come right out and say yes. A sly grin crossed his face though and I just knew that Drowning the Hopes of his opponents was probably in his future.
Thanks for reading my wrap-up of the January Titanium Modern Series hosted by TJ Collectibles in Milford Massachusetts. The event was streamed live at www.twitch.tv/TJCollect. We hope you can join us on February 18th for the next $1,000 Invitational Qualifier! Failing that I know we’ll see you in Worcester, Massachusetts at the DCU Center the weekend of March 4th for the first Quarterly Titanium Weekend featuring a $5,000 Modern Tournament with additional prize support scaling based on entry. The winner of this event gets the invitation to compete at the 2018 Titanium Invitational and a Round One bye at the event! Please visit https://www.facebook.com/TJTitaniumSeries/ for more information including the Fulminator Mage playmat and a Legacy Challenge on Sunday.
Thank you for reading my January Titanium Series event wrap up and congratulations again to Edgar Hinton and all the players who made the Top 8 last Saturday at TJ Collectibles!