The Star City Open in Cincinatti has given us a first glimpse into the New Standard. After the landmark bans of last month and the release of the 2012 Core Set, we've all been dying to see what new archetypes emerge. The usual suspects have shown up, but with some twists.
Valakut was everyone's consensus for a "Level Zero" benchmark, and it made its fair showing in Cincy. It didn't crack the Top 8, but it brought attention to a few cards that should surprise no one. Urabrask, the Hidden has been spotted in Valakut decks, which should be an indicator of things to come. Once Valakut disappears from Standard, other decks will surely take a hint and find a use for Urabrask. He's still very inexpensive for a Mythic Rare, but he will remain so until the right deck comes along to really leverage his potential.
Solemn Simulacrum is also a natural fit in Valakut, but it seems like he fits in very few other decks. This should not be so. No one managed to put together a Smallpox deck at this particular event, but the inclusion of Jens in a Smallpox deck should be a foregone conclusion. New archetypes take longer to evolve, so expect Solemn Simulacrum to hold steady while brewers find him a home. He may end up dropping a bit, so don't rush to finish your playset.
Thrun, the Last Troll is climbing again, but many can be had in trade binders for a pittance. Mana Leak is here to stay, so Thrun will still have a role to play. He can carry a [card Sword of Feast and Famine]Sword[/card] and blank removal; two qualities that never go out of style. Thrun isn't the sort of card that will see play as a four-of, which will temper his price, but he seems cheap right now!
Caleb Durward's Puresteel Paladin deck is for real, so take notice. Building it as an aggro deck seems to be a poor choice, as the Puresteel engine needs both time and resources to function. That said, Caleb's deck choices seem to imply an understanding of this fact, supported by his Top 8 finish at Cincinatti. His deck uses a lot of the Living Weapon equipment to get the max value out of Puresteel Paladin, but most interestingly, it uses Etched Champion as a potential finisher.
Etched Champion's ability to, again, swing a sword, keeps it very relevant, and in a deck focused on metalcraft, it is rarely targetable by colored spells. Doing its best Thrun, the Last Troll impression, Etched Champion is fairly costly on paper, but represents an exceptional opportunity on MTG Online.
Timely Reinforcements has turned out to be an immensely popular card, both in sideboards and main decks. Though an Uncommon, traders have a play here: foils. This card can utterly blow out aggro decks, and likely accounts for the lack of mono-red decks in the Top 8. Get these foils before they hit $10.
Blade Splicer has been on the radar for a while, but it's starting to see mainstream play. 4 power for 3 mana is never bad, and splitting it between two cards is usually better. First Strike is just gravy. Blade Splicers can be had for $1 in trade, but as time goes on, they'll be getting harder to find and thus, more valuable. Don't expect a big spike or anything, but enjoy getting marginal value.
Mirran Crusader isn't "everywhere", but it seems to be one of the most powerful creatures in the 3-hole. Holding a Sword of War and Peace makes it instantly lethal, putting games out of reach in a single swing. Keeping it safe from Grim Lavamancer and all the quality red burn is gravy, and it is already immune to all the best removal in Black. This card is going to be crucial post-rotation, but it's not cheap right now. Just keep it on your radar.
Two Tempered Steel decks made Top 8 in Cincinatti, which makes me glad I got a playset of the full art Game Day promos early. Tempered Steel is an absurdly powerful card, and once Lightning Bolt leaves the format your Memnites and Signal Pests get even scarier. Combined with the NPH artifact creatures, and it's easy to see why Tempered Steel is so good. Get in on this.
Finally, Sword of War and Peace seems to be the consensus "4x" sword now that Stoneforge Mystic is gone. Most decks find that multiple copies of Feast and Famine don't quite do enough, and the Protection from Red is quite crucial against all the powerful burn around. Most decks that are using Swords are going to focus on the beatdown, so the life swing provided by Sword of War and Peace is far more important than any of the other effects on any other sword. Long-term, this is the Sword to have for post-rotation Standard.