by Randy Buehler
Once deck construction ended it was time for the time-honored tradition of comparing decks. All 590 competitors walked around showing off their decks or complaining about their deck to their friends. I did a lot of eavesdropping in order to bring you this look at what everyone is playing:
Andrew Johnson is a member of the Car Acrobatic Team, which finished second at the Team Pro Tour last September and will be competing in the upcoming Tokyo Masters Series event next month. He busted open amazing red, including a Flametongue Kavu, Magma Burst, and a foil Tahngarth, Talruum Hero. He really likes aggressive creatures and mana curves so he decided to run green for lots of little beatdown monsters and mana fixers. Then it was just a matter of determining what to splash. Blue had some great cards (Spinal Embrace, Faerie Squadron, the blue Battlemage, and Cavern Harpy), but most of those required black too and Johnson felt his black was pretty weak. Meanwhile white offered Sabertooth Nishoba, Benalish Trapper, and the amazing Lashknife Barrier so Johnson went R/G/w. I think a lot of people who have gone with the archetypical red/black/blue deck if given Johnson's deck, but Johnson didn't because "that deck would have crappy mana and it would be less aggressive." It'll be interesting to see how he does today.
Dragonlord Kibler had a nice black/red deck which included enough domain spells (Exotic Curse, Kavu Scout, etc.) that he felt he wanted to have three different basic land types in his deck. Rushing River looked better than any of his green cards, so Kibler went B/R/u. "I have some guys who aren't very good creatures, but the rest is pretty savage. 'Turn 5, Hypnotic Cloud your hand!'"
It was clear right away that Becker was going to play red and black - his two Mire Kavus and a Lava Zombie gave him a fine creature base and he had a healthy dose of removal as well. So he too found himself debating which color to splash. Blue offered Faerie Squadron, Rushing River, and Cavern Harpy but that just didn't measure up to green: Fires of Yavimaya, Thornscape Battlemage, Thornscape Familiar, and Thicket Elemental. So green won out.
Zvi just shook his head as I approached, saying "I'm playing Forests, Plains, and Islands. Not good." He simply did not have any good red or black cards.
"I have some bombs, but not a lot of deck to go with them. If I get three wins, I'll be stoked." Scott also felt he made two mistakes during deck construction. He now believes he should have played Salt Marsh over a Swamp since he has Spite/Malice in his black/red/green deck. He also believes he should have played Mana Cylix over his 18th land (which was Terminal Moraine). His Potato Nation teammate Gary Wise convinced him of this last point. Sealed deck is very often decided by mana issues thus Wise really likes the Cylix. Personally, I would have played both the Cylix and the Moraine. Johns wound up playing green because there was no other way he could put as many as 11 creatures into his deck. Green rounded out his mana curve and Thornscape Master is always nice too.
The Grand Prix Amsterdam champion smiled and just said "same colors as everyone else." Actually, only 2 of the 7 people I talked to were actually playing red/black/blue. The real test will come Saturday evening as the 8 rounds of Swiss are winding down and we get to see which decks actually do well.
Denver, one half of a very rare husband and wife pair to compete at a Pro Tour together, is running all five colors "I have no byes and the best cards of every color plus a Rout; we'll see. At least Beth [his wife] has a good deck."