This Pro Tour has to be one of the hardest I've ever attended in terms of classifying all the different decks being played. Half of them seem to be running the same 50 cards, and yet those 10-card differences are crucial in telling you exactly what the deck is designed to do and how it goes about dispatching the opponent. While we will have a much more complete deck breakdown later in the weekend, right now here's a list of all the major archetypes being played, and then describe briefly what the various archetypes are and who designed them.
Snakes - 78
Gifts Ungiven Control - 49
White Weenie - 48
Green-Black - 27
White-Red Legends -12
Myojin Flare - 11
Gifted Myojin Flare - 7
Sway of the Stars - 10
Mono-Black Aggro - 7
U/G/r Legends - 5
Ninja Aggro - 3
Kite Engine Control - 3
Goryo's Breaches - 1
The decks in this category all feature the normal snake complement of Tribe Elders, Sosuke's Summons, Seshiro, and usually Sachi, ramping up the mana engine before spitting out little snakelings that turn mean and nasty when daddy Seshiro appears. There are a wide variety of Snake decks being played, most of which feature at least a Red splash for Godo, who then hauls a Jitte or Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang into play with him. About half of the "superteam" are playing Snakes, as are Brian Kibler, Justin Gary, and a small horde of other players.
Gifts Ungiven Control
Similar to Snakes, the Gifts Ungiven decks also feature a broad spectrum of cards played in this particularly flexible archetype. The idea behind Gifts control is to blow up your opponent's creatures before setting up a Gifts Ungiven that gives your opponent zero good choices. Some decks are running the Hana Kami/Ethereal Haze spice engine in the main, making it very difficult for the more aggressive decks to win without the help of their sideboard. Many others feature a host of legendary one-ofs designed to clear away the board or put the opponent away quickly once you have gained an advantage. Most of the Dutch are playing this deck, as are the Minnesota group of Pros profiled by Brian David-Marshall in his MagictheGathering.com column Friday.
If you couldn't find one of the cool decks to run, you always had this old standby to fall back on. Technically there are two variations of White Weenie, one featuring faster beats and the other playing Day of Destiny and more Legendary men to key off the powerful enchantment. A few notable Dutchies are playing this deck (Frank Karsten, Kamiel Cornelissen), as are some of the lesser-known Japanese players.
This archetype basically describes all the players that grabbed the best black and green cards in the environment and tossed them together in the same deck. Some are splashing for Meloku or Godo, but for the most part these decks are straight forward "kill your guys and smash with my powerful men" type decks.
This archetype could easily be renamed White-Red Samurais, as most of them use all the good white samurais plus white removal and Godo to demolish opponents in a single attack step.
Now we get to the really cool decks. According to Japanese coverage reporter extraordinaire Keita Mori, all the Japanese Myojin decks were originally designed by Itaru Ishida, but at the Pro Tour they now come in two flavors -- this particular variation of which was spearheaded by quiet Japanese star Akira Asahara. The engine for this deck is Heartbeat of Spring plus mana acceleration, which is then tied together to cast any of the high-mana bombs.
Gifted Myojin Flare
Similar to the deck mentioned directly above, this is the deck that Ishida ended up with. It takes out much of the redundant Myojins the Asahara deck runs in favor of a series of one-ofs designed to break the Intuition-like Gifts Ungiven in half.
This bad boy is all French, and most of the best French players are channeling this enormous mana engine (again abusing Heartbeat of Spring and a host of control elements to stay alive) into Sway of the Stars, while floating a bunch of mana for when the Upheaval resolves, thus allowing you to plop down a fatty or two that your opponent will be completely unable to deal with.
This Tsuyoshi Fujita deck is substantially different than any other decklist here, featuring outstanding blue and green legends in four-ofs, numbers unheard of in this tutor-filled and legendary environment.
Gabriel Nassif's latest creation was rejected by the Ruel brothers during playtesting, but that hasn't stopped close Nassif friend Morgan Douglass from starting the tournament 4-1 playing a deck filled with Jittes, aggressive white beaters and the three good blue ninjas (Mistblade, Ninja of the Deep Hours, and big daddy Higure, the Still Wind), plus a small complement of counterspells designed to wreak havoc with the opponent's board and ability to resolve spells.
Kite Engine Control
This is the head-turner that has all the ladies (and the folks on the coverage staff) talking. Kai's deck is hot, and features a Thawing Glaciers-like draw engine in Journeyer's Kite and Sensei's Divining Top. Thus far the German Juggernaut has steamrolled his competition, bashing Dutch great Jelger Wiegersma in Round 5 to keep his perfect record intact heading into the final round of Day 1. The deck itself is basically a Black-White control deck that features heavy disruption, solid bashers like Yukora and Ink-Eyes, and that outstanding card quality engine that Kai explained is designed to rip through all the control decks in the environment. We'll have to wait and see if Magic's greatest player is able to keep up his streak on Day 2.
An intriguing little deck played by only one man (Bram Snepvangers), the quiet and upstanding Dutchman seems to have found an interesting Reanimator-type deck designed to swing heavy lumber with the help of unused spells Through the Breach and Goryo's Vengeance. The success of this deck has yet to be determined.