In a tournament as big as this one, the best barometer you can manage is to look at what the players with three byes are playing. Starting the tournament at 3-0, they can expect to face a more homogenous set of opponents. As a result, they can choose a deck to trump the popular designs. If they choose wisely, they will be greatly rewarded. What follows is a rough breakdown of the decks piloted by those who have it easy today.
Mono-Black Control - 20
Of the fifty-five players catching a few extra hours' sleep, nearly half are running this powerhouse. It's been tweaked here and there, but the principle remains the same. Early game untargetted removal keeps the pressure off while you build your mana base. After a bunch of swamps hit the table, your overpowered spells take over. Mind Sludge
does its impression of Mind Twist, Mirari
takes card advantage to the next level, and Haunting Echoes
is usually game over. Nantuko Shade
shows up just to get rid of the body. These designs seem to be taking greater use of Grotesque Hybrid
and Faceless Butcher
, no doubt a nod to an expected field of blue-green.
Quiet Speculation - 6
These dedicated Speculation builds seek to take full advantage through Catalyst Stone, Roar of the Wurm and Grizzly Fate, as well as some utility one-ofs. The Fate, in particular, is a card that gives most decks fits. Mental Note and Careful Study ensure threshold, and better, dig to Wonder to make quick work of opponents.
Upheaval-Infestation - 5
After Kai Budde's Upheaval-Psychatog deck fell flat at Grand Prix - London the Upheaval-Infestation version seemed to pick up the slack. Gabriel Nassif took it to a respectable eleventh place. Borrowing most of mono-black's creature control, it survives to the late game where it can win in one spectacular turn. Cabal Therapy makes sure Envelop poses no difficulty.
Mirari's Wake - 4
As shocking as it is to see a new deck, it's even more outrageous to find it in the hands of accomplished pros. A pair of English players piloted a this deck into Day 2 at London, but a mediocre performance from there left it under the radar. Victory is achieved by surviving until a Wake can be resolved. From there, Time Stretch
and Crush of Wurms
reduce the opponnent to tears.
Blue-Green Threshold - 4
Straight off Dave Humpherys 6-0 Worlds performance, this little number runs the most efficient creatures in the format. Standstill makes a good combo with undercosted dudes.
Blue-Green Hybrids - 3
These decks borrow a little from both the Madness and Speculation schools, sometimes with Werebear, just for fun. The tutoring power of Speculation compliments the aggressive beatdown, giving the deck a catch-all for bad situations.
Blue-Green Madness - 3
Enablers, madness creatures, Circular Logic and bounce. These decks don't give the opponent much quarter off an early stumble.
Punisher Blue-White - 3
The deck designed by Team Punisher, driven by Tomi Walamies to a 6-0 finish at Worlds. Quiet Speculation
searches out Battle Screech
, Prismatic Strands
and Deep Analysis
, to go with a standard white weenie base.
Red-Black Sorcery - 3
These decks will definitely delight, provided they make the cut into Day 2. Fortunately their pilots are expert enough to make that happen. Keying off the power of Recoup and Burning Wish, they otherwise resemble a mono-black control deck, with one exception: Four main-deck Earth Rifts to stand alongside Rancid Earth.
Miscellaneous - 4
Surprisingly, only one each of green-white madness and blue-black Braids are being played by those with three byes. Rounding out the "other" group is a very rogue blue-black-green Holistic Wisdom Control deck, and a mono-red Dwarven Bloodboiler deck, as played by Dan Paskins at Grand Prix - London. Perhaps mountains should not be so quickly counted out of the metagame.