There are three ways to qualify for the U.S. Open. The first is placing highly at your regional championships (top 8 for most regions, top 2 for Alaska and Hawaii). The second is to qualify based on the strength of your past performances - via high DCI ranking or Pro Tour points. Then there are the Meatgrinders.
Five U.S. Open tournaments are held throughout the day before Nationals. Two players earn an invitation in each of the single elimination events. It isn't easy to think up a more difficult tournament. Over 100 players compete in each one, it is a single elimination event and even if
you do qualify, better hope you are well-rested enough to compete the next day.
Still, people love these tournaments. Many stay up all night, playing in the very first U.S. Open which takes place at midnight, then go on to play in as many of the other Opens as they can enter. Typically a 6-0 record is necessary to make the finals (at which point the two players need not play it out, first and second place get identical prizes).
Opens are the testing grounds for the new type 2 decks. Many of the players qualified for the Nationals watch this event closely to see which deck types are doing well. Some feel no need to even playtest before the Nationals - Meatgrinder technology should be good enough to stand its grounds, they reason.
Metagame shifts wildly during the Opens. Players learn of the popular deck types and build something to combat them, and that goes on until the very last Open.
This year seems to have proven that the same old strategies, perhaps supported by some new cards,
are on top of the game. Living Death, suicide black, monored, white weenie and monoblue were among the strategies successful enough to qualify players for Nationals.
For the most part deck lists speak for themselves. If Opens are any indication, we now have a healthy type 2 environment where a variety of decks can do well. Much anticipated Yawgmoth Bargain decks were hardly present at the Open, and those that were there lost pretty early. Another combo deck played revolved around Iridescent Drake/Altar of Dementia/Abduction infinite combo was also present and also did not do exceptionally well.
Several well-known players managed to fight their way through the 'Grinders. Jamie Parke of Team Sped and John Shuler known for his Internet writings both qualified in the midnight tournament. Bill Macey of Senor Stompy fame navigated a white-green 'Moa-Boa' deck to victory. Finally, David Williams played a Death variant that is rumoured to have been designed by Brian Schneider in the last open and managed to qualify at 4 am, only hours before he would have to get up and play in Nationals.
Among Destiny cards the two biggest hits are Powder Keg and Masticore. While Masticore was relatively obvious, few people managed to predict just how much impact this card would have on deck construction. Most players missed out on the power of Powder Keg entirely. This card quickly rose from $2 to $8 among dealers and traders here at Origins.
Tomorrow's type 2 portion of Nationals may be somewhat different from the opens. There will certainly be more Bargain decks present and one can expect a lot more refined "tech". Still, if Opens are any indication we can look forward to the balanced and fun environment in this most popular Magic format.