Farseek isn't flashy like Sphinx's Revelation, or devastating like Mizzium Mortars, or particularly flexible like Orzhov Charm. But what it is is the glue that holds several decks together and enables some of the format's best strategies.
At the top of that list is certainly the Kessig Wolf Run Bant deck that propelled Melissa DeTora to her first Pro Tour Top 8. Without it, it is unlikely the deck could have supported the splash that let them play Kessig Wolf Run. And without Kessig Wolf Run, it's unlikely DeTora's midrange Bant deck would have had the punch to hang with the control decks. And without the acceleration that the innocent-looking two mana sorcery provides, it's unlikely they could have hung with some of the faster decks in the format. As a bonus, it provides the mana boost that makes the fourth card on our list just that much more powerful (as if it needs the help).
But it also enabled the Jund Midrange deck that helped earn Owen Turtenwald his first Top 8 as well. The Jund deck has some pretty strict mana requirements: BB for Liliana of the Veil and Vampire Nighthawk, GGG for Garruk, Primal Hunter, and even RRR for Mizzium Mortars, and Farseek really ties the room together. Without it, we might never see all of these cards piled into one place. In a world where mana is already pretty good, Farseek takes mana bases to a whole other level.
If you're reading this and are at all surprised to see Sphinx's Revelation on this list, you clearly have not been paying attention. Living hand-in-hand with Azorius Charm, Sphinx's Revelation was a devastating sight for anyone sitting across the table from the Blue instant. It was the most powerful card in the most played deck of the weekend – UWR – and the Top 8 was actually filled with decks relying on its power.
Runner-up Joel Larsson and his Quarterfinals opponent Gerry Thompson had dueling Revelations, as did Larsson and Ben Stark's Esper control deck in the semis. The Esper deck, even more than the UWR deck, leaned on Sphinx's Revelation and played the full four copies. Over the course of the weekend, former R&D member Zac Hill repeatedly talked about how powerful the card was and the debates over whether it was too good to print. Ultimately, he said, they wanted to enable Blue-White control decks, and this card was one way to do just that.
Who would have guessed that releasing Boros Reckoner, Stomping Ground, and Sacred Foundry would come together and make Mizzium Mortars look so exquisitely attractive? Coming into this event, it was clear that creature decks ruled the land. With the format becoming more and more clogged with creature decks, they really needed a trump card to ensure victory in the mirror matches. Mizzium Mortars was a perfect answer to fill that void, able to sweep the board, but leaving their own treats unharmed. Unfortunately, fulfilling the triple red mana cost was very difficult to do, especially considering how heavily many decks relied on Cavern of Souls for mana. With the release of Stomping Ground and Sacred Foundry, decks like Naya and Jund gained the extra help they needed to make it a reality.
Another interesting wrinkle in the tale of Mizzium Mortars is the release of Boros Reckoner. As powerful as the Reckoner is against the creature decks in the format, control decks took to using it as their early defensive play, slamming the brakes on hard. As such, Supreme Verdict became a much less desirable sweeper. Enter Mizzium Mortars. Mortars does everything that the control decks want. It can act as an early removal spell if the situation warrants it. It can act as a sweeper if you want to keep a Geist of Saint Traft or a Boros Reckoner around. It provides the biggest thing that a control deck can ask for: alternatives.
2. Orzhov Charm
Coming into the weekend, almost no one had this card on their radar. Conventional wisdom was the one of the modes was good and the other two were situational at best.
But situational cards is pretty much the hallmark of a Sam Black brew, and Team SCG's deck, The Aristocrats, used every part of the Charm better than anyone would have imagined. On his march through the Top 8, Tom Martell used every mode on Orzhov Charm, and every time he did it was something of a blowout.
In Vendetta mode, Martell killed everything from Flinthoof Boars to Restoration Angels to our number one card, clearing the way for his attackers and keeping the board clear.
In self-Unsummon mode, Martell made one of the sickest plays of the tournament. Facing Thragtusk and two Beast tokens all attacking him in the quarterfinals, Martell used Orzhov Charm to return his Restoration Angel to his hand, then recast it to blink out his Zealous Conscripts, stealing Thragtusk. From that point on, Melissa DeTora never recovered.
The reanimating a one-drop mode did a ton of work as well, most notably in the Finals when Martell pulled a Doomed Traveler out of his graveyard to pump his Falkenrath Aristocrat for lethal.
It slices, it dices, and it just goes to show that the right card in the right deck can exceed all expectations by magnitudes.
Coming into this weekend, there was no Gatecrash card with as much riding on its shoulders as Boros Reckoner. From the moment that the card was spoiled, it was incredibly apparent that it was a ridiculously powerful card, capable of doing everything you want a creature to do in Standard. Its size and abilities dominate creature decks. Its aggression and reach make it a nightmare for most control decks. Women love him; men want to be him.
After seeing the Reckoner in play this weekend, it is clear that not only did it fail to disappoint, but it may have even surpassed people's expectations. While it was clear that the deck would be a boon to the aggressive decks in the format, it was incredible to see how much better it made the control decks. Reckoner gives control decks a way to interact with creature decks in the early turns of the game in a way that leaves a much bigger impact than just Searing Spear or Pillar of Flame. In addition, as most control decks are inherently interested in card advantage and incremental advantages, the effective two-for-one offered by the Reckoner's triggered ability can be absolutely backbreaking for opponents.
All in all, half of the decks that made Top 8 here in Montreal featured Reckoner. It was found in Gerry Thompson's UWR Flash deck, Eric Froehlich's Saito Zoo deck, Joel Larsson's UWR Flash deck, and Tom Martell's winning Aristocrats deck. Four very different decks each featuring the Reckoner in a way that best fit their strategy. Incredibly powerful and versatile, the Reckoner was a force this weekend and will undoubtedly be a major player in Standard for months to come.