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Teams by the Numbers: Handshake Ultimate Guard and ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard

April 23, 2024
Frank Karsten

In recent years, the Premier Play circuit has been dominated by two powerhouse teams: Team ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard and Team Handshake Ultimate Guard. Since the revival of the Pro Tour in 2023, most of these tournaments have been won by a player from one of these formidable teams, and their members are widely regarded to be the best Magic players in the world.

While Corbin Hosler has covered these dominant superteams and their players in previous articles, today I will take the discussion in a more analytical direction. Armed with a trove of data showcasing how good the team lineups are for Pro Tour Thunder Junction, I aim to provide a numerical rundown of these two extraordinary Pro Tour teams.

The Rosters

For Pro Tour Thunder Junction, Team Handshake Ultimate Guard ("Handshake" for short) is comprised of the following eleven players:

Anthony Lee

Christoffer Larsen

David Inglis

Eli Kassis

Javier Dominguez

Jesse Hampton

Karl Sarap

Matti Kuisma

Nathan Steuer

Simon Nielsen

Stefan Schütz

For Pro Tour Thunder Junction, Team ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard ("CFB" for short) is comprised of the following thirteen players:

Arne Huschenbeth

Brent Vos

Gabriel Nassif

Jim Davis

Logan Nettles

Martin Jůza

Matt Sperling

Maxx Kominowski

Reid Duke

Samuel Pardee

Seth Manfield

Theodore Jung

Tommy Ashton

Because team rosters have been fluid over the events, I won't be looking to assemble an aggregate team record for any length of time. Instead, I'll dissect these teams in their current Pro Tour Thunder Junction configurations—a snapshot in time, if you will.

Hall of Famers by Team

Handshake Ultimate Guard: 0

ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard: 4

The Magic: the Gathering Hall of Fame enshrines the most significant and influential competitors of the game. Over the years, Hall of Fame members have been selected based on player's performances, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, and contributions to the game in general. Currently, Hall of Fame members receive an invitation to one Pro Tour per yearly season.

Team CFB Ultimate Guard stands out in this regard, being home to most of the still-active Hall of Famers. These seasoned players, after years of collaboration and competition, often shared their insights on before banding together to tackle major events. Legends like Luis Scott-Vargas and Kai Budde, though opting not to use their once-per-season invite for Pro Tour Thunder Junction, are commonly associated with Team CFB as well. With decades of Pro Tour experience under their belts, CFB is sometimes referred to as the "old guard."

By contrast, Team Handshake Ultimate Guard had its roots in the online competitive scene. "Many of us knew each other from grinding MTGO PTQs and Arena Qualifiers," explained team captain David Inglis. "With the whole pro circuit moving online during the pandemic, there were more opportunities for those online players to compete and prove themselves. As people from that circle qualified for Set Championships, we picked them up, and our collective success kept enough people on the train to establish a constant team."

World Champions by Team

Handshake Ultimate Guard: 2

ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard: 1

The World Championship is the yearly pinnacle of Magic competitive play, making the title of Magic World Champion a monumental achievement. This year, we'll celebrate the 30th such event with Magic World Championship 30.

Handshake's roster boasts the talents of two World Champions: Javier Dominguez, crowned in 2018, and Nathan Steuer, who claimed the title in 2022. Meanwhile, CFB's roster showcases Seth Manfield, the 2015 World Champion. This tally gives an edge to team Handshake in the realm of Magic World Championships.

Lifetime Top Finishes by Team

Handshake Ultimate Guard: 40 (3.6 per player)

ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard: 59 (4.5 per player)

"Top Finishes" indicate the number of times a player has advanced to the elimination rounds of a premier event. These achievements primarily consist of Pro Tour Top 8s, but also encompass similar accomplishments such as Set Championship Top 8s and Players Tour Top 8s. A detailed definition is available on the Top Finishes page.

Comparing the two teams, CFB's track record eclipses Handshake's, with 59 lifetime Top Finishes. This showcases their consistent excellence in Magic. Many of these accolades were earned over the illustrious careers of Hall of Famers Gabriel Nassif (sixteen Top Finishes), Seth Manfield (eleven Top Finishes), and Reid Duke (eight Top Finishes).

On the Handshake side, Javier Dominguez stands out as their standout performer. With nine Top Finishes to his name, he stands as the most seasoned player on their roster, contributing significantly to their competitive experience.

Lifetime Major Tournament Wins by Team

Handshake Ultimate Guard: 7 (0.6 per player)

ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard: 11 (0.8 per player)

"Major Tournament Wins" represents the number of times that a player has clinched first place at a premier event, i.e., an event that counted for Top Finishes.

In the comparison between the two teams, CFB emerges as the frontrunner in lifetime major tournament victories. Notably, the same cadre of Hall of Famers stands as the main contributors to their success. Seth Manfield boasts an impressive roster of victories, including the 2015 World Championship, Pro Tour Albuquerque 2017, Mythic Invitational 2020, and Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor in 2024. Gabriel Nassif secured wins at Pro Tour Atlanta 2005 and Pro Tour Kyoto 2009. Meanwhile, Reid Duke claimed victory at the 2011 MOCS and Pro Tour Phyrexia in 2023.

For Team Handshake, Nathan Steuer emerges as the standout performer. With four triumphs at the 2021 MOCS Season 3, 2022 MOCS Season 2, the 2022 World Championship, and Pro Tour March of the Machine in 2023, he has undeniably dominated the scene in recent years.

Recent Pro Tour Victories

Handshake Ultimate Guard: 1

ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard: 2

Since the resurgence of the Pro Tour at the beginning of 2023, members of Team Handshake or Team CFB have clinched victory in three out of four Pro Tours.

For Team CFB, Reid Duke secured the win at Pro Tour Phyrexia with Izzet Creativity, and Seth Manfield emerged victorious at Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor with Rakdos Vampires. On the Handshake side, Nathan Steuer claimed the title at Pro Tour March of the Machine with Rakdos Midrange. Consequently, CFB maintains the upper hand over Handshake in this specific statistic.

Recent Tournament Performance

Handshake Ultimate Guard: 866–559 (60.8% win rate)

ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard: 913–655 (58.2% win rate)

These numbers represent the win-loss record of team members at recent Pro Tour-level tournaments. These tournaments include a range of prestigious events: the Players Tour Finals, 2020 Season Grand Finals, 2020 Mythic Invitational, Kaldheim Championship, Zendikar Rising Championship, Strixhaven Championship, Innistrad Championship, Neon Dynasty Championship, New Capenna Championship, World Championship XXVII, Pro Tour Phyrexia, Pro Tour March of the Machine, Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, World Championship XXIX, and Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor.

Comparing the two teams, Handshake Ultimate Guard's current members boast a superior win rate at recent tournaments compared to their counterparts at CFB Ultimate Guard.

Among Handshake's standout performers are reigning Player of the Year Simon Nielsen, with an impressive 65.5% win rate (114–60 record), alongside David Inglis (64.0% win rate, 110–62 record) and Matti Kuisma (62.4% win rate, 93–56 record).

On the other side of the table, Team CFB's top performers include Jim Davis (62.8% win rate, 71–42 record), Seth Manfield (62.4% win rate, 121–73 record), and Reid Duke (61.4% win rate, 113–71 record).

It's worth noting that these statistics are based on the current team rosters for Pro Tour Thunder Junction, with Eli Kassis's record attributed to Handshake and previous team members excluded if they are not currently qualified for the event. This snapshot underscores how the teams are composed for Pro Tour Thunder Junction as a "moment in time," tipping the scale in favor of Handshake over CFB.

Recent Head-to-Head Records vs. the Other Team

Handshake Ultimate Guard: 42–41 (50.6% win rate) vs. CFB

ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard: 41–42 (49.4% win rate) vs. Handshake

These numbers stem from the intense clashes between current members of both teams across the previously described set of recent Pro Tour-level tournaments from 2020 through 2024. The analysis, conducted using data from Melee, encompasses matches from the Swiss rounds, though Top 8 results are not always included.

While the difference may not be statistically significant, Handshake ekes out a victory by a hair's breadth in the head-to-head comparison. Notably, David Inglis emerges as Handshake's standout performer, boasting an impressive 9–3 record against current members of CFB. Combined with his 64.0% win rate against the field as a whole, made even more impressive due to his relative lack of breakthrough finishes, Team Handshake's captain is clearly a force to be reckoned with. He consistently makes deep runs in tournaments, defeating CFB members along the way.


In conclusion, while there little more than friendly rivalry between Team ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard and Team Handshake Ultimate Guard, each boasts their own strengths and accomplishments across Magic's most competitive events—and make those events even more interesting to follow.

Team CFB holds the advantage in terms of experience and lifetime statistics, boasting more Hall of Famers, lifetime Top Finishes, and lifetime major tournament wins. Their track record speaks volumes about their prowess and experience over the years.

On the other hand, Team Handshake shines in recent tournament performance and head-to-head matchups against CFB. Their success in major tournaments since 2020 underscores their ability to adapt to the evolving competitive Magic environment.

Analytically, it's hard to declare one team "superior" to the other. Both teams represent incredible numbers, exceptional deck builders, and world-class technical players. It wouldn't be surprising to see the next Pro Tour champion emerge once again from either Team Handshake Ultimate Guard or Team ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard.

Which team do you think has the best chance to emerge victorious at Pro Tour Thunder Junction? Share your predictions and join the conversation on social media using the #PTThunder hashtag, then follow the live coverage on April 26–28 on to witness the action unfold firsthand!

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