by Adrian Sullivan
At the beginning of the U.S. Opens, players spend more than a fair amount of time running around to find out what they should play. In the last minutes before deck registration. every player wants to be on the edge of the "tech" curve and have the best deck with which to beat the field.
In a single elimination field, competition is fierce since simply a single turn of bad luck, light land, or powerful play from an opponent could spell the end of a players' hopes for the tournament. A single sideboard card can make the difference for attending Nationals. With only four players going on from the U.S. Open to play in Nationals from each tournament, the competition is fierce.
Some players simply hope for the best when it comes to such stark odds. "I plan on 'mising' this grinder," said Memphis native Craig Wescoe. "You have to be optimistic if you want to do well. I've always played good decks in the past, and I am now too. I played Counterpost, Living Death, and Humility. This year I'm playing Trinity Green."
Other players have a more relaxed view on why they choose their decks. James Hustad, winner of 1998's first U.S. Open with Oath of Druids, decided to play "Maher-Oath", a mono-black deck by Mike Flores. "My logic: I had to play the black deck in the first Grinder - after all, I qualified the last time I played Oath in the Grinders." Jim lost early in this year, but went on to qualify in one of the Sealed Deck Grinders later in the evening.
As the first U.S. Open started coming to a halt, people begin flocking as they always do to the next one. Successful decks have a way of being copied quite quickly from Meatgrinder to Meatgrinder. Without a new set changing the flavor of Type 2, most people seemed pretty happy to compete with the same deck again in subsequent Meatgrinders. Previous years' events were often marked by rapid swings in the metagame. It was often said a week of Magic metagame would shift with each Grinder. This year, a less dramatic example of such an occurence happened after Chris Buonanni's version of a Pattern of Rebirth deck made Top 8 (losing to Bryce Currence). In the following Grinders, several copies of his deck sprung up in the events, inspired by his success with a much rarer deck type.
Even more common is for small innovations to creep into expected decks. Trinity Green variants proved to be one of the most common decks for all of the U.S. Open events, and with a variety of versions seeing play. Ski Potter's Trinity deck running main deck Ankh of Mishra took him all the way to Top 16 before he lost to Jason Moungey's Replenish deck. "The Ankhs really help break the synnergy in a balanced or stalled game," said Ski. "Plow Under and Fallow Earth can become very dangerous, and a lot of players will either incorrectly lay land or be forced to. That edge on life can really swing things."
As things wind down, a new batch of hopefuls will be readying themselves to play in U.S. Nationals for Friday's draft.