The 2017 NRG Series Championship takes place this weekend, with 16 competitors playing for a $5,000 prize pool and bragging rights for the next year.
It’s been a wild year on the NRG Series, so let’s take a month-by-month look at how we got here.
January: Chris Smith does it again
Chris Smith won the first NRG Series Championship Trial in 2016, and apparently he decided he’d just make it easy on himself by winning the first one again this year. Chris piloted his Abzan Company deck to a first-place finish, becoming the second player — behind 2016 NRG Series Champion Ben Meine — to qualify for both NRG Series Championships. Chris has not been heard from since. (I’m joking. Kind of.)
Here’s the winning decklist:
Chris Smith, Abzan Company, 1st place, January 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: Jeskai Control, Jund x 2, Wilt-Leaf Abzan, Burn, Titanshift, Bant Eldrazi
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith. 14 spots remaining.
February: Brickman gets Boxed out
Coming into this season, NRG Series regular and Nerd Rage Gaming author Justin Brickman made clear to everyone that he was gunning for a spot in the 2017 championship. He almost locked one up early in the year, but in an ongoing theme for him this season, he finished close, but not close enough. Brickman top 8’d four CTs on the year, but wasn’t able to close the deal by winning any of them.
Brickman lost in the finals to Andrew “Box” Klein, a well-known player in the Madison Magic scene. Box harnessed the power of Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian to win, piloting his 4-color Saheeli deck through a top 8 that included two other copies of the infinite combo deck, before taking down Brickman’s G/B Constrictor deck.
The winning list:
Andrew Klein, 4-color Saheeli, 1st place, February 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: G/B Constrictor x 2, 4-color Saheeli, Jeskai Saheeli, G/B Delirium, Mardu Vehicles x 2
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein. 13 spots remaining.
March: Tragos sends his opponents to the Void, CTQs debut
March was our first Legacy CT of the year, which meant that Peter Tragos got to dust off his beloved White Eldrazi deck. It didn’t disappoint, as he won his second straight Legacy CT with deck, becoming the third player to have qualified for both the 2016 and 2017 Championships.
March was also notable for the debut of CTQs, with the first being a Team Constructed event in Normal. CTQs would quickly become more popular than anticipated, forcing a recalculation of the points structure for the 2018 season.
Peter’s winning deck:
Peter Tragos, Mono-White Eldrazi, 1st place, March 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: Death & Taxes, Mentor Miracles, Sultai Delver, Food Chain, Nic Fit, Omnitell, Painter’s Servant. Isn’t Legacy great?
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos. 12 spots remaining.
April: Mr. Robot claims his spot
April was a Modern CT, which meant that Alexander Javed was lurking. He won the event with Affinity, which is pretty much what he always does when he enters Modern events. However, it did nothing to dispel that rumors that he himself is some kind of Magic-playing robot sent to destroy us all. Or perhaps I’m getting him confused with the Terminator again. Alex can have that effect on people.
Alex became the fourth player to qualify for both the 2016 and 2017 Championships, working his way through a top 8 that contained two other copies of the metal menace. Alex’s winning decklist:
Alex Javed, Affinity, 1st place, April 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: R/G Titanshift, Jund Titanshift, Death’s Shadow, Bant Eldrazi, Burn, Affinity x 2.
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed. 11 spots remaining.
May: Bernal breaks through
Joe Bernal is always at the top of the list when the best players in Chicagoland are discussed, and he showed why at the May Legacy CT. Packing a full four True-Name Nemesis, Joe and his U/W Stoneblade deck sliced through the field, taking down 2016 Championship competitor Noah Cohen (Grixis Control) in the finals.
Joe became the second player to qualify for this year’s championship without having qualified for the 2016 championship. Other notable names in the top 8 included Brickman and Alexander Hamilton, and there were three different Stoneblade decks to make the elimination rounds.
Joe’s winning decklist:
Joe Bernal, U/W Stoneblade, 1st place, May 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: Grixis Control, Jeskai Stoneblade, Grixis Delver, 4-color Stoneblade, Sultai Delver, Elves, Noble Sultai.
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed; Joe Bernal. 10 spots remaining.
July: Control freaks
Alexander Hamilton was another player who made no secret of his championship aspirations, and he secured his spot by winning the July Modern CT (there was no June CT) with U/W Control.
To do so, he won the finals against James Bush, who was playing … U/W Control. The two played a 90-minute, two-game finals before Hamilton was able to claim victory.
(This tournament was also notable from a personal standpoint, as I made top 8 with Titanshift and hoped like crazy to avoid the one Ad Nauseam deck in top 8. I was promptly paired against it in the quarterfinals and was brutally murdered. On camera, no less.)
Alex’s win also put him near the front of the MVP race, which he would compete in for most of the year before finally falling back a couple spots. Alex’s winning decklist:
Alexander Hamilton, U/W Control, 1st place
Other decks in the top 8: U/W Control, Death’s Shadow, Titanshift, Ad Nauseam, Abzan Company, Eldrazi Tron, G/W Company
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed; Joe Bernal; Alexander Hamilton. 9 spots remaining.
August: Bush runs it back
James Bush didn’t take too long to get over losing in the finals of the July CT. In fact, it was a span of a few weeks, because he promptly won the August CT, this time with Standard U/W Control. James might just have a preferred archetype.
Brickman made another top 8 appearance with G/B Constrictor, and Tragos also top 8’d with U/W Control. Two copies of Mardu Vehicles made the top 8, including the deck that lost to Bush in the finals.
The winning decklist:
James Bush, U/W Control, 1st place, August 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: Mardu Vehicles x 2, U/W Control, Ramunap Red x 2, R/G Ramp, G/B Constrictor.
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed; Joe Bernal; Alexander Hamilton; James Bush. 8 spots remaining.
September: Simon says “thanks!”
Alexander Hamilton won the September Legacy CT — becoming the first player to win two CTs in the same year — Peter Tragos finished second, and Joe Bernal finished third. You may have noticed something all those players have in common, which is that they were already qualified for the 2017 Championship.
Simon Kamerow, however, was not. But by finishing as the only player in the top 4 who wasn’t already qualified, he earned a spot in the championship. Simon piloted colorless Eldrazi to a strong enough finish to lock up a championship bid, which is a pretty good way to soothe the feel-bads from losing in top 4. Brickman also top 8’d again, this time with 4-color Leovold.
Simon’s championship-qualifying decklist:
Simon Kamerow, Colorless Eldrazi, 3rd/4th place, September 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: U/W Stoneblade x 2, Infect, White Eldrazi, 4-color Leovold, Turbo Depths, Death & Taxes.
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed; Joe Bernal; Alexander Hamilton; James Bush; Simon Kamerow. 7 spots remaining.
October: Metivier has an Affinity for winning
The robots struck again at the October Modern CT, as Mike Metivier took his Affinity deck to a first-place finish. He did so by beating Ad Nauseam in the finals, thereby sparing all good and decent people from the horror of Ad Nauseam winning a CT (I’m joking. Officially.).
Two Titanshift decks made the top 8, but got paired against Ad Nauseam and Affinity, neither of which is a good thing. Also making a top 8 appearance was mono-blue Tron in the hands of Brandon Lunt, who had steadily climbed the at-large leaderboard with a string of strong finishes in CTQ events.
But it was Metivier who qualified for the Championship. His winning list:
Michael Metivier, Affinity, 1st place, October 2017 CT
Other decks in the top 8: Ad Nauseam, R/G Tron, Titanshift x 2, Jeskai Tempo, Mono-U Tron, Abzan
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed; Joe Bernal; Alexander Hamilton; James Bush; Simon Kamerow; Mike Metivier. 6 spots remaining.
November: Hoey finishes strong
The November Standard CT would not only award the last automatic bid for the year, but would also be critical for determining the at-large qualifiers and MVP winner.
Which meant, of course, that it turned into a bloodbath, as players on the leaderboard racked up 0-2 starts like they were going out of style. None of the MVP leaders even came within shouting distance of top 8.
But Matt Hoey managed to make it through unscathed, winning the tournament to lock up a spot in the 2017 Championship. Hoey had also qualified for the 2016 Championship, but was unable to attend due to heavy snow the morning of the event.
Matt’s winning decklist:
Matt Hoey, Temur Energy, 1st place
Other decks in the top 8: Abzan Tokens, 4-color Energy, Temur Energy x 2, Ramunap Red x 2, Sultai Energy.
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Andrew “Box” Klein; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed; Joe Bernal; Alexander Hamilton; James Bush; Simon Kamerow; Mike Metivier; Matt Hoey. 5 spots remaining.
November, part 2: At-large qualifiers
When the dust had settled, there were four players locked in as at-large qualifiers: Justin Kessel (the 2017 MVP, which is awarded to the player with the most points); Justin Brickman; Brandon Lunt; and Tommy Tomsovic.
That left the next eight players in the Last Chance Qualifier, which was an eight-player, double-elimination Modern tournament, with the winner claiming the final Championship spot.
But, there was a twist. Box Klein, the February CT winner, moved to Florida this year. He reached out to tell us he wouldn’t be able to attend the Championship, so that opened up a spot. The solution was for Miles Wilson, the fifth-place at-large finisher, to move up from the LCQ to an at-large berth in the championship. Jesse Rosander took Wilson’s spot in the LCQ.
The LCQ helped support the idea that Modern is a matchup-driven format. Shea Strausman rolled into the finals with an undefeated record, meaning that Matt Dow, his finals opponent, would have to win twice to claim the championship spot due to an earlier loss.
But Strausman was on Dredge and Dow on Bogles, which is about as bad as a matchup can get for Dredge. Dow won both matches in short order, becoming the 16th player in the 2017 championship and the seventh player to qualify for both the 2016 and 2017 championships.
Players qualified for the 2017 Championship: Ben Meine; Chris Smith; Peter Tragos; Alexander Javed; Joe Bernal; Alexander Hamilton; James Bush; Simon Kamerow; Mike Metivier; Matt Hoey; Justin Kessel; Justin Brickman; Brandon Lunt; Tommy Tomsovic; Miles Wilson; Matt Dow. 0 spots remaining.
The 2017 Championship
The 2017 Championship takes place this Saturday, with nine rounds of Swiss broken up into three rounds each of Standard, Modern and Legacy. After the cut to top 8, the higher-seeded player will have the choice of play, draw, or format, which means they can choose to play Standard, Modern or Legacy. (Players can’t make the same choice twice in top 8.)
Casey Laughman is Communications Manager for Nerd Rage Gaming. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.