Magic: The Gathering's Standard metagame and environment can shift and change drastically, with its yearly rotation and constant influx of new cards. A dominant deck or archetype is usually crippled when key cards rotate away or Wizards of the Coast decides to slip a juicy hate card into the next set to let some steam out. Other times, and I'd argue we're in one currently, Standard is defined less by decks and archetypes as much as it's by individual cards. The decks function less on synergy and more on inclusion of a couple key format-defining cards all wrapped together in a list. During these times, it can be useful to see a snapshot of which cards are being played most, as a new deck might very well be waiting in the wings just by experimenting with how you can combine a few of the top cards.
This list is based on the Top 8 deck lists for the 2014 Grand Prix Cincinnati, Star City Games Open: Los Angles, GP Buenos Aires, SCG: Seattle and GP Melbourne. These represent the five most recent larger tournaments, which not only give us a good sample size but also have the added benefit of being fairly diverse. The metagame for a South American GP is going to look pretty different than one in Australia, so only the truly best cards should be bubbling up.
If you're interested in seeing the raw numbers you can see the compiled deck list: here. Before we move into the individual cards, there are a few immediately interesting things that stand out. Not that anyone needed to see the math backing it up necessarily, but there are a lot of Swamps in Standard right. While decks like Green/Red Monsters and Red/White Burn have been making strides lately, the current Standard metagame is still 35% Black. The other colors round out at 26% Blue, 17% White, 12% Red and 10% Green. This is perhaps no better encapsulated than there are equal numbers of Dark Betrayal as there are basic Forests in these lists. Yes, you read that right. Black decks killing other Black creatures is just as important as playing anything in Green right now.
For the purposes of this article I'm dealing just with the raw counts of each card. While looking at the % appearance gives us a different view, and helps to note cards that are important but not playset worthy - something like Ætherling would fit that role, I'm most concerned with the core frequency of which cards you'll be seeing across the table.
But before we jump into it...
Honorable Mention - Scry Lands
I'll admit. I grumbled about scry lands initially, like a lot of us did. I thought I was rather clever musing that if they had the basic land types on them they would be much more interesting for other formats, which they probably still would. But Scry lands have proven a lot of naysayers wrong; they end up higher on this list than Shocklands. Certainly there are times when having a tapped land is going spell doom, but ultimately the free scry is worth it in the long run. Smoothing out your draws, ensuring you're getting better odds of drawing the lands or spells you need is pretty crucial for decks of all types. Heck, the latest iteration of Esper Control runs a full 12.