This card is obviously powerful, but Sin Collector was also all over the place this weekend, single-handedly putting Orzhov-based strategies on the map. Everything from the very controlling Esper decks to midrange Borzhov decks to aggressive Junk lists chose to play the 2/1 and it paid dividends for all of them.
Sin Collector was especially impressive in Brian Kibler's Junk Aggro deck, where it would strip a card—often Supreme Verdict or Sphinx's Revelation—and then serve as sacrificial fodder for format Top 10 card Varolz, the Scar-Striped. Simple and effective, Sin Collector is much more than a Duress-on-a-stick, providing a way to both break control mirrors and slow down token strategies. It's disruptive, cheap, and exactly what you don't want to see when you are the only casting instant and sorcery spells.
To be honest, this slot belongs to basically the entire Boros Blitz deck that carried Josh Utter-Leyton to both the Top 4 and the Player of the Year trophy, but Firefist Striker certainly typifies the red-based hyper aggressive decks that served as a check on the speed of the format. Many of the deck's cards look like so much draft fodder—including powerhouse Foundry Street Denizen and Gore-House Chainwalker—while playing an important role. In the case of Firefist Striker, its job was to be a two-drop that could push larger creatures out of the way.
Earlier in the weekend Ben Stark, who played the same list as Ochoa, said the deck was probably the best in the format, but that it could almost never beat a non-token 3/3 or larger. Unless of course Firefist Striker was triggering battalion. Since the quality of the burn that can serve as removal is somewhat limited in this format, it's entirely possible that the Mono-Red and Boros decks simply wouldn't exist without Firefist Striker providing a limited but repeatable Falter affect.
When we asked players what the best finishers in the format were, the answers for the second best finishers through the worst were wildly varied and deck dependent. The choice for number one, however, was no contest.
Ætherling, the latest update of formerly unbeatable Morphling, is just as unbeatable as Morphling used to be. Control matchups often came down to who could resolve an Ætherling with free blue mana first, and players had to resort to gimmicky cards such as Debtor's Pulpit and Pithing Needle to battle the six-drop.
With enough mana, Ætherling is unkillable, unblockable, plays defense, and is an incredibly fast clock. The only thing holding it back from taking over the world is the fact that it costs six mana. It is, however, worth every bit of mana you spend on it.
Realistically, this slot could go to a number of cards in winner Craig Wescoe's deck, including Advent of the Wurm, Selsenya Charm and Loxodon Smiter, but if any card could challenge our number one card on pure numbers this weekend, it's the mythic 2/2 elemental token creator. Aggressive Selesnya strategies played it, midrange decks played it, Rob Castellon's 4-Color Midrange deck played it, and even control decks played it. It slices, it dices, it attacks for 2, and leaves behind a potentially giant token.
Its power was certainly on display in the finals where even Supreme Verdict couldn't help David Ochoa's Esper Control list catch up. Historically, Green-White decks have a hard time competing with Supreme Verdict, but with cards such as Voice of Resurgence and Advent of the Wurm around, those types of sweepers aren't quite as damaging anymore.
The sheer number of control decks that showed up this weekend—not to mention how many made the Top 8—were a testament to the power of blue-based control. And while Sphinx's Revelation and Supreme Verdict were certainly responsible for much of the power in control decks, Jace, Architect of Thought stands head and shoulders above even those powerhouses. While players were seen siding out Sphinx's Revelations and Supreme Verdicts all day long in the right circumstances, the latest iteration of Planceswalker—Jace almost never came out post-board.
The Return to Ravnica mythic was largely responsible for Dusty Ochoa's march to the finals, helping him out-draw and outmaneuver both Rob Castellon and former World Champion Makihiro Mihara. We even saw Jace's ultimate snag a win in the quarterfinals, when Ochoa fired it off—for the first time in his life—to find a pair of win conditions when he was having trouble finishing the match.
While Jace, Architect of Thought hasn't quite broken through to Standard just yet, its dominance at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze heralds good things to come for the bluest of planeswalkers.