What the Playtest Teams Chose
The announcement of the Extended Rotation had pros across the globe worried. Pro Tour - New Orleans had already shown what a big shift could leave in its wake. The depth of the card pool combined with the need to start virtually from scratch meant that hard work and a bit of luck could catch the field unawares. This time the format had been cut off at the knees. Almost every deck lost staple cards. Figuring out what was good again was a daunting endeavor.
Once again, it was time for the dire secrecy of teams. Reputation and connections would mean the difference between being privy to the latest tech and crossing your fingers as you shuffle up mountains and goblins. Below is a list of some of the higher-profile teams, and what decks they chose to play.
CMU - TOGIT
On the face of it, this is a powerful collection of minds. From CMU you get Mike Turian, Eugene Harvey and Ken Krouner. From TOGIT, Osyp Lebedowicz and Gerard Fabiano. And they're just the marquee men for collections of incredibly strong players. However, the groups were testing amongst themselves, and cross-pollinating results. It's only natural to give precedence to what you're seeing in your own games rather than statistics that come in through the mail. As a result, there is a schism of deck choice. CMU are mostly playing The Rock and Mike Turian echoes Ken Krouner when he says that the deck wins even the seemingly unfavorable matchups. His one concern is the Aluren decks, which he anticipated but might be out in larger numbers than he would like.
The TOGIT boys, however, preferred the raw power of Reanimator over the slow, controlly Rock. Lebedowicz said that the inclusion of blue seemed to shore up all the matches they were worried about. At the close of round five, though, he was ready to concede that CMU made the wiser decision.
Your Move Games
Last year YMG took New Orleans by storm, so eyes were on them again this time around. Rob Dougherty is happy with the way their testing turned out. They had versions of just about everything being run out there today. However, they couldn't find one deck that consistently put up better numbers than another, so they selected their decks based on play style. Their results attest to that, with Reanimator, Rock and Cogniv-Oath all putting up good numbers.
The Scandinavian powerhouse are running with two decks this weekend. On one hand, you have Tomi Walamies, playing his crazy Awakening deck. Since he was really only coming to Houston for the Masters anyways, he took one of his team's playtest decks because it was "fun". The rest of the team is playing the much more sensible Aluren combo deck because of its speed and tutoring power.
Getting a lot of oohs and ahhs is this new take on Reanimator. Noah Boeken and Kamiel Cornelissen are lighting up the top tables by activating Hermit Druid, dumping their whole library in the graveyard while netting a lone mountain to turn on Anger, then Reanimating Sutured Ghoul and swinging for the win. Bob Maher, Jr. and his partner in crime Neil "J.T. Money" Reeves have also got their fingers in that pie, and are thankful for it. Said Maher "I don't know what I would be playing if I didn't go partying with these guys at GP Copenhagen." However, not everyone on their squad was swayed by it's big turns. A number of their players, worried about it's inconsistent draws, stuck with more established decks like Reanimator and Tinker.
Kibler and friends
It's no secret that Brian Kibler likes constructed formats. He tore into the new Extended with nothing on his mind but finding the best deck. The only problem was that he had no-one to playtest with. Bosom buddy Ben Rubin didn't have a computer, so long-distance Apprentice wasn't an option. He played the majority of his games against Josh Ravitz, and designed the deck virtually without outside input. The end result is Gush-A-Tog, tuned within an inch of its life. Though working closely with William Jensen, the two were working on completely different decks, and Jensen abandoned his at the last minute when it became clear that it wasn't going to cut it. Lots of players are putting their faith in Kibler's design. Matt Linde put it another way "I'm playing this deck because Kibler likes it and we didn't have a second deck." Not the most glowing endorsement.
Sometimes called Kai & Co., but that's not really fair to their players who can't help but be less famous than The German Juggernaut. As he always does, Budde stated the matter plainly. "We think Reanimator is the best deck." However, though his expectations for a wide-open field were met, he and his teammates have been up against a wall of hate that they didn't think players would pack. Budde has already stared down main-deck Coffin Purge. So though their numbers might support their choice, it looks like the rest of the tournament is one step ahead of them.