(See the decklists here)
It's always exciting to see how the pros tackle a new environment. Common consensus had it that it was more what was leaving the environment than what was being added that would define it. It takes a lot of work to figure out what works, and taking a crib sheet from the previous format does a lot to speed up the process. Still, there were a number of cards in Onslaught that showed obvious potential, and they could not be ignored. To say nothing of the fetch lands, the best dual lands since the real deal. Everyone knew they wanted to run those.
Interestingly, it was the more radical designs that fared the best, on average. Nassif's 3-0 deck in particular is an unforeseen collection of cards. Just looking at the 2-1's, though, you see forward-thinking designs: Humpherys's 'Tog, Kibler's Wake, Walamies's Neo Punisher. It was also nice to see blue-green, that old standby, finish up with egg on its face. It's been the boogieman for a while now, and it really got put in its place.
Without further ado, a brief look at the Invitationalists' Standard decks, and how they fared.
Brian Davis 1-2
Chris Pikula 2-1
Alex Shvartsman 0-3
Well, supposedly one should go with what works when one has no idea what to do. Wonder Dog lost all of Yavimaya Coast in the rotation, and gained the potent sideboard card Naturalize. That seems like a pretty good setup. However, the blue-green madness decks only went a combined 3-6, with 1-1 of that coming when Pikula and Davis crossed swords. Interestingly, Davis chose to run no Onslaught cards.
Gary Wise 1-2
Eivind Nitter 0-3
This innovative design was played by both Gary Wise and Eivind Nitter in both Online Extended and New Standard. Playing like an ordinary blue-green threshold deck with Standstills and threshold creatures, the deck gets extra gas from the amazing Onslaugh fetch lands, and splashes Mystic Enforcer. Worship can also win some matches hands down. Who can blame them for sticking with it, after the deck went 5-1 in Extended and only lost Yavimaya Coast in the transition? Things did not exactly go as planned for the dynamic duo, who reversed their results to a disappointing 1-5. Maybe Coasts do far more than balance your mana. Their debacle came with extra sting, since both were in striking distance of a Top 2 finish.
Jon Finkel 3-0
Finkeltron wound up third on tiebreakers despite an impressive run with the Battle deck. At the start of the day, though, he would glady have changed to another deck, calling his "horrible". He was thrilled with his success, but his initial reaction suggests that these results may lie. It is very similar in design to the Battle of Wits decks that showed up very late in the OBC qualifier season, and adds fetch lands as well as utility cards from Onslaught like Blackmail, Complicate and Smother.
Dave Humpherys 2-1
No surprises here, The Hump sticks to his guns and updates Psychatog for the new era. The loss of Fact or Fiction and Nightscape Familiar hit the deck like a ton of bricks. Humpherys's design patches the holes with card drawing, and emerges looking similar to the deck Ryan Fuller used to claim his Masters title. With tons of cantrips and more bounce than removal, he packs the graveyard setting up a big 'Tog kill. A pair of Upheavals provide the usual endgame. Surprisingly, the deck is packed with one-of's like Chainer's Edict, Circular Logic and Smother. More Smothers wait in the sideboard, but it's definitely curious.
Itaru Ishida 2-1
The quiet mastermind shocked everyone by showing up with something that didn't shock. After playing Akira Asahara's crazy four-color control deck in Online Extended, the Invitationalists braced themselves for more insanity. Instead, Ishida went back to the basics: monsters and burn. He added a pair of Blistering Firecats and Rorix Bladewing for extra oomph, but other than that, the design is what you would expect.
Brian Kibler, 4-Color Wake 2-1
Jens Thoren, Cunning Wish Wake 2-1
Trust Brian Kibler to come up with something spectacular in a fresh environment. His deck looks on the face of it to be a descendant of Pat Chapin's Burning Wish Wake deck that was supposed to blow the roof off OBC. With the help of more cardsets it seems to have become a finely-tuned killing machine. Fetch lands, Krosan Tuskers and Rampant Growths make the mana very civilized, and Burning Wish provides outs for a number of otherwise disturbing situations. That, and it plays with huge spells, so it's a blast to watch.
Thoren's deck, like Thoren himself somewhat, is more focused and less flamboyant. It is a straight port of the European Wake design that emerged as King of the OBC Wake decks. The versatility of Cunning Wish is just outrageous, and the relegation of victory conditions to the sideboard makes initial draws smoother. That said, the lack of Onslaught cards except for lands probably means there's room for improvement.
Black-Green-Blue Aggro-Control (?)
Gabriel Nassif 3-0
There's nothing like a new deck to shake things up. Nassif's takes the best cards his colors have to offer (Braids, Call, Opposition, Looter, Shadowmage Infiltrator) and jams them together in a way that looks almost accidental. Don't be fooled. The combination of efficient threats, removal, and disruption is a winning one.
Diego Ostrovich 0-3
Innovation can also be punished, unfortunately. Diego Ostrovich went hog wild with the Onslaught cards, starting with Mobilization, Future Sight and Complicate, but then going all the way to Discombobulate and Akroma's Vengeance. The theory is that classic of blue-white control, tax your opponent's resources, deny them their key cards, and then win at your leisure. It didn't quite work out that way.
Dave Price 0-3
If there was any justice, Dave Price would sport a winning record. The King of Beatdown couldn't help himself, and with Top 2 probably out of reach he decided to throw caution to the wind and play with goblins. He in particularl loved the new Goblin Piledriver, who could show up on turn three and be Reckless Charged for ridiculous damage. Sadly, his sideboard technology of Threaten didn't come up when he needed it to, and he finished the tournament in a manner unbefitting a king. To be fair, he cobbled this deck together in half and hour, so there might be something here.
Carlos Romao 1-2
Another evolution of an OBC deck, Romao added only Looters, fetch lands and Smother to an already solid design. The Nightmares combine with Duress, Smother and Chainer's Edict to put the hurt on the opponent's resources, with the potential for quick Braids victories or death by Finkel. At least Nantuko Shade kills in a hurry. The design looks solid, if uninteresting. He does, however, get huge style points for including Visara the Dreadful in his sideboard.
Olivier Ruel 3-0
Ruel's deck is an odd one. At first glance it's clearly Opposition, but then you look at the numbers and the cards he's running, and you wonder how much of it is by design. The inclusion of Ravenous Baloth is interesting. However, without Fact or Fiction to speed things along, the deck plays a lot like "Opposition or no?"
Tomi Walamies 2-1
Walamies secured his place in the finals with two quick victories with this, his new design. He dipped heavily into Onslaught, gaining the interaction between fetch-lands and Weathered Wayfarer, as well as Whipcorder. The Speculation skeletan of the original OBC Punisher deck is still in place, as are the Tribes and Patrol Hounds. The addition of Opposition gives it a ridiculous punch.