very year at US Nationals, hundreds of players show up on Thursday to try their hand at the "meatgrinders", a series of single elimination tournaments that each qualify four lucky individuals. This year there were a full seven of these tournaments, four Constructed and three Limited, with the first one beginning at 9 AM and the last one at the stroke of midnight.
There have been many high-profile players who have qualified in the Grinders in the past. Eugene Harvey made the National team in 2001 after winning the first Grinder of the day. Craig Wescoe, Jon Finkel, Bryce Currence, and Ben Stark are all name players who have emerged victorious from at least one of these grueling tournaments.
This time, though, the only notable thing about the list of winners is the lack of how notable it actually is. Out of twenty-eight Grinder winners, there is a single Grand Prix Top 8 (contributed by Michael Krumb at the last event in Kansas City) and no other premier finishes. Josh Lytle has made a name for himself as an occasional Internet writer. Beyond that, well, there are a bunch of players who now have the chance to show the world what they can do with the Magical cards.
In the Constructed tournaments, Affinity was nowhere near as dominant as some suspected. Out of sixteen qualifying decks, only five ended up being Ravager Affinity. Despite Skullclamp only being present in half of the decks, it continued to warp the environment, with nine decks running maindeck Oxidize. In fact, every single deck except for the lone copy of Mono-Red Control ran either Oxidize or Skullclamp, with two decks (Affinity and Goblins) choosing to run both.
The next most successful deck was the Red/Green build of Goblins that uses Wooded Foothills to provide easy access to Oxidize. It took an impressive three slots in the fifth Grinder, which was also the only Grinder to completely shut out Affinity. Perhaps inspired by those results, Don Huang also grabbed a slot in the midnight tournament with the deck.
A lot of Slug-lovers seemed to be upset that Molder Slug ended up being a Beast, but both Paul Thomas and Tony Menzer must feel differently. They ran a metagamed version of Beasts that included four Oxidizes and four Viridian Shamans to help with the common Affinity matchup. A combination of large men, Contested Cliffs, and card advantage through Pulse of the Tangle proved to be a winning formula for these two.
The rest of the decks showed a fair amount of variety. There were two copies of Mono-White Control that also dipped into Green for Oxidize. Bob Young took a slot with an interesting Mono-Black deck that used Skullclamp along with Zombies and a full four copies of the powerful Death Cloud. Grave Pact also made a two copy appearance. Finally, Rob Packwood grabbed the last slot with the Elf and Nail archetype that has a lot of players talking.
It doesn't seem crazy to predict that at least one or two of these Grinder qualifiers could make the Top 8 on Sunday. Michael Krumb is a head above the rest of the pack with his previous high profile finish, but anything could happen. Keep an eye on these players as more results unfold.
Grinder 1 Constructed Winners
Frederic Rust - Mono-White with Oxidize
Paul Thomas - Beasts
Hampton Maxwell - Ravager Affinity
James Beltz - Mono-Red Control
Grinder 2 Limited Winners
Grinder 3 Constructed Winners
Josh Lytle - Ravager Affinity
Rob Packwood - Elf and Nail
John Winters - Ravager Affinity
Bob Young - Mono-Black Clamp
Grinder 4 Limited Winners
Grinder 5 Constructed Winners
Tony Menzer - Beasts
Trevor Jones - Goblins with Oxidize
Robert Peacock - Goblins with Oxidize
Alexander Bourgeois - Clamp Goblins with Oxidize
Grinder 6 Limited Winners
Grinder 7 Constructed Winners
Mike Hall - Ravager Affinity with Oxidize
Ben Rose - Mono-White with Oxidize
Don Huang - Goblins with Oxidize
Zachary Mullen - Ravager Affinity