This shapes up to be one of the most diverse Pro Tours of all time. I talked to 75-100 of the 300+ competitors last night and no one felt that this Pro Tour has a defining deck. Yesterday morning I said that I expected no single deck to compose as much as 20% of the field. After talking to the players, I now think it's possible that no one deck will make up even 10% of the field. More than one person told me they were playing each of the following:
- Fruity Pebbles
- Suicide Black
- Oath of Druids
- Suicide Brown
In addition, there is still room for rogue decks like Tinker/Wildfire, Secret Force, and Squirrel Prison. There are whispers of a Recycle-based combo deck that might be good, but if there is a broken combo deck, it has been kept very much under wraps. At previous Extended events there was a palpable fear in the air about combo decks, but that just isn't present this weekend. The recent bannings and set rotations seem to have created an extremely balanced field.
"Suicide Brown" is my current pick for the most interesting new deck. It uses all the artifact mana of a typical mono-brown deck (including Mana Vault, which is still legal in Extended), but runs blue spells instead of red. Tinker is the key spell because it provides quick access to threats like Phyrexian Collossus and Phyrexian Processor. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this deck is its use of Crumbling Sanctuary - a 5 casting cost Mercadian Masques artifact that turns Magic into Battletech in the sense that you get milled when you take damage instead of losing life. Most of Mogg Squad is running this deck. When I talked to Zvi Mowshowitz last night, he was quite happy with their deck but as the evening wore on I think the deck began to leak out to the rest of the competitors and if a lot of people added Null Rods to their sideboard as a reaction to those rumors, Mogg Squad may not do as well as they otherwise would have.
Everyone says that Dust Bowl will be the most played Mercadian Masques card - it's better than Rishadan Port in Extended because of all the dual lands and lots of decks will run a couple. After that I expect Unmask to be second most popular Masques card, showing up in both Necro decks and Suicide Black decks. Crumbling Sanctuary might only show up in Suicide Brown or it could sneak into some other sideboards as well. I'm sure some people will try out Squee, Goblin Nabob, but I don't expect those decks to do well. Meanwhile Thwart and Gush sure sound like they should improve Turbo Stasis. No one I talked to had that deck as his or her top choice, but it could be an interesting deck if anyone has found a new twist to put it over the top.
That's really what this Pro Tour is all about - new twists that put your deck over the top. Whoever comes up with the most effective twist on a well-understood deck should win. I predict that there will be at least 5 distinct archetypes in the Top 8 and that number might go as high as 6 or 7. In a field this diverse it usually makes sense to play whatever you are comfortable with so look for top players to run their trademark decks - Finkel is running Forbidian, Geertsen is running Stompy, etc. If I was still playing I'm pretty sure I would go with mono-blue control. My theory in a field this diverse is to run counterspells - whatever you get paired against, it's sure to involve spells.
One final thing I'll be keeping an eye on is Olle Rade. I only listed three colors of beatdown up above, but if someone handed Olle a white weenie deck last night I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him make the Top 8. He hasn't played a Pro Tour since London, but he has made top 8 of each of the previous Extended Pro Tours by running a white weenie deck that was handed to him on Thursday night. Without Savannah Lion it shouldn't work, but Olle has pulled off a lot of things that shouldn't work.
Stay tuned throughout the day and we'll be putting up feature match reports, an official archetype breakdown chart, and other goodies.