We saw a number of really quite unexpected themes appear this year: two players ran Claws of the Dragon Prefecture warbands, one ran Lords of Izu Ito, and Jack Holking even ran a Bastions of the Mountain warband. The usual suspects were there in abundance of course, Righteous Warriors and White Mesa were the two most popular themes. No surprise given that they give a free 4 rice model.
I was a little surprised no one brought the Jung Pirates though, as their warbands are pretty easy to build, though most people build very unsophisticated warbands with them. I have only just started to fit all the pieces together recently to make some cool combos, so I think they'll appear next year once the player base develops their warband construction. There were no ninjas this year either, but that was not surprising given how recently repeated ranged attacks were nerfed and how most people seemed to be building warbands that heavily relied on Hail of Steel and Shurikens. It's another faction where warband construction is still evolving.
Chris Hales won again this year with his Alphas Savage Wave warband. He was the only Savage Wave player too, though he did have to dodge a few bullets. He managed to avoid a Death and Decay Cult warband, and his VIM avoided the Dim Mak from Master Enos despite being on fewer dice. Other than that though, his warband looked heinously difficult to deal with, having 3 oni in it and a decent amount of expendable chaff. He even brought 2 copies of Unearthly Rage, which is something I wasn't expecting to see.
After the tournament there were some spoilers about the Minimoto Clan: release roughly slated in for GenCon next year. They wear metal armour, and one of them will have Armour (4). They also bring their smiths to battle and that will have some form of mechanic associated with it. Of course there will be a bear at some point, it may even have armour.
I did get to spend a good deal of time chatting with Gordon and Jason of GCT though, and it was nice getting the scoop on what's in the future. I also got to bounce some ideas off them, which were well received but I think they're things for the fairly distant future. A common player discussion point was whether there was so much errata now that a new edition of Bushido would be on the table, so I think that's been added to the GCT list of Things To Do.