Black is the new blue.
The last Extended season saw blue in all its glory; dual lands allowed Force of Will and Counterspell to be jammed into every deck imaginable—combo decks, creature decks, and control decks. But the new format takes a darker approach to problems, handling them with proactive discard spells like Duress and Cabal Therapy, and non-targeted board control cards like Chainer's Edict and Pernicious Deed.
The end of Day 1 saw YMG's Darwin Kastle in first place with his Rock deck, and he ended day two in third. But in between were some tense moments for the long-time PT star. After conceding to teammate Justin Gary in the late rounds, he lost to Ireland's John Larkin, forcing himself into a tight spot. He had to win his last round Italy's Dario Minieri. A Wished-for Stronghold Taskmaster ended Game 1 against Minieri's black weenie horde. Spiritmonger finished the job in game 2, and Kastle joined his teammates Gary and Rob Dougherty atop the standings as the Swiss rounds came to a close.
The three YMG'ers proved that there isn't one broken deck in the format, but rather that any of a number of decks tuned to the expected metagame will give good results. Dougherty played a mono-black Reanimator deck called "Benzo," which harkens back to their decks from PT New Orleans last year, and Gary played "Turbo Oath" with Cognivore as the main kill card. If you expected Cognivore to appear in the Top 8 of this event, raise your hand. Me neither.
John Larkin, fresh off his Top 8 at Worlds, dodged—or played around—all the hate in the format and made the Top 8 with a copy of the German Blue/Black Reanimator deck, somewhat vindicating Kai Budde's 4-3 record with the deck.
Bob Maher, winner of the Extended Pro Tour three years ago, makes his return to Sunday play as well. This time it is not with his "signature deck" that he had been working on for months, but rather with an eccentric combo deck featuring Sutured Ghoul that he bought from Victor van der Broek and other Dutch players the night before the event. The Ghoul deck contains some of the most narrow and trashy cards currently being played, but the deck's penchant for turn-two kills cannot be ignored.
The rest of the top 8 indicated the diversity of the format: Denmark's Peter Myrvig with Psychatog, Sweden's Mattias Jorstedt with Aluren Combo, and the Netherlands' Jeroen Remie with The Rock, the only true duplicated deck in the Top 8.
The rest of the Top 32 is like a Rogues Gallery of crazy decks. Matt Ranks, brother of US Team member Andrew Ranks, finished 11th with Piledriver Sligh. Nicholas Labarre finished 10th with Black Weenie. Ruud Warmenhoven finished 16th with Battlefield Scrounger Oath. Jinpei Hassaku finished 24th with Erratic Explosion/Draco (don't ask). Jeff Cunningham finished 26th with what looked like an OBC deck packing Wild Mongrel and Aquamoeba. And Mike Hron finished 31st with Rancor/Auratog/Enchantress. The deck that everyone was SURE would be good once the rotation occurred, Tinker, didn't end up near the top. It was here, and it could quite likely be tuned to win in this metagame.
The format is wild, wide open, and full of huge off-the-charts plays like "attack with a 38/38 trampler" and "Oath up a 16/16 flyer" and "Draw 51 cards with Wirewood Savage." Tomorrow will determine which of these monster decks will be the Pro Tour Champion.