A New U.S. Nationals for the Year 2000
by Adrian Sullivan
The U.S. Nationals begins every year the same way - with hopeful competitors trying to qualify for a chance to play in the National Championship in a series of Open Tournaments, called "the Meatgrinders" by the players. While U.S. Nationals opened the same way this year, there were a number of major changes.
In previous years, the country's largest gaming convention Origins has been the home for the National Championship, but this year it has moved far away from its regular stay in Columbus, Ohio. Disney's Wide World of Sports Center provided a change of atmosphere as well as climate, with a wide variety of experiences for all players.
As the first major tournament to showacase new cards from the most recent set, all over the world the top players often looked to both the U.S. Open and U.S. Nationals for information about the best decks to play at the World Championship. Yawgmoth's Bargain, Oath of Druids, Masticore, and Survival of the Fittest were just some of the top cards that received their first real notice at these tournaments. This year is the first time that the newest set is not legal for play, shifting the real importance of these tournaments from the decks being played more to a question of which players will shine.
This year's Open also marks the first time that Sealed Deck will be used to qualify for Nationals. There has always been strong support among Sealed Deck enthusiasts to give people a chance to qualify for Nationals with Limited. Some critics felt that the single elimination nature of the U.S. Open combined with a lack of a Draft portion of the event would reduce the skill factor in the tournament, making the event "an exercise in Sealed Luck", as one competitor joked. Overall, though, it seemed that the option to play Sealed was a welcome change, especially for players who felt that the rigamarole of trying to figure out the best deck in the Metagame was also really determined by luck of the matchup.
In previous years, the Meatgrinders started at Midnight with two competitors qualifying in each of the six events. With a total of five Meatgrinders qualifying four competitors each, an additional eight people will qualify for Nationals, and far less people will find that themselves with a sleepless Thursday, including much of the thankful staff.
While the country's best vie for a spot on the national team, the Junior Super Series Championship is also going to be underway. With $50,000 in scholarship money at stake, these 15-and-under competitors were just as serious about the competition as everyone else. Many used the U.S. Open to playtest the decks they'll use in the Junior Super Series Championship, an opportunity that has never been available to them. One competitor, Tyler Pohle, was qualfied for both U.S. Nationals and the Junior Super Series Championships spent long hours watching former Super Series great Jason Moungey qualify in the first Open, as well as get a feel for what he wanted to play the next day. "I'm not going to play in Nationals," said Tyler. "I'm going for the scholarships."
With so many changes, its sure to be an exciting experience for all of the competitors.