Needle time?

I’ve had a sort of on-again, off-again appreciation for Pithing Needle in the current Standard season. I ran two main deck at Regionals, and then stripped them out of the deck entirely for the following PTQ only to add them in on the day.
Pithing Needle is an interesting card. It’s a generic solution to a swath of problems in Standard, but it’s also often a terrible topdeck because you needed to do something other than shut down an activated ability to win the game. Still, there’s a certain appeal to dropping a first-turn Needle on Windbrisk Heights against a tokens player (something I’ve done before).
So, with this little debate running in my head, let’s take a look at the questions and possible answers over the in extended entry.

First, our questions:
1) Do we want to run Pithing Needles at all?
2) Do we want to main deck them?
The main question should probably be the first, as if the Needles are mostly irrelevant, then we won’t run them at all. With that in mind, what does a Needle do to the major archetypes? I’ve tried to review Needle’s effects on different archetypes below, along with a quick evaluation of how effective I think a Needle is in screwing up the archetype in question.
With Daniel de Almeida Alves taking down Sao Paulo with Kithkin, you’re going to have to watch out for hobbit armies at least in the next week or two of PTQs. In this case, Pithing Needle can shut down Burrenton Forge-Tender, Cloudgoat Ranger, Figure of Destiny, Mutavault, Rustic Clachan, Windbrisk Heights, and Ajani Goldmane, as well as Elspeth and Stillmoon in the side. Realistically, you’re not going to waste time Needling Clachan, but the other targets can all be pretty relevant. Of course, is that better than having more aggression or mass removal? Hard to say. The biggest win here is against Heights and Ajani, since you can devalue multiple draws for the opponent with a single Needle (in this case, Needle can be better than, say, Pulse, because a Pulsed Ajani can be replaced by a new Ajani, but a Needle on Ajani leaves the poor guy in play, doing nothing, and makes more Ajanis into dead draws).
Effectiveness of Needle: Moderate
Doran decks offer a handful of relevant targets for Needle. There’s the obvious choice of Treetop Village, but note that you may also well want to Needle a Chameleon Colossus, Qasali Pridemage, Behemoth Sledge, or perhaps even a sideboarded Burrenton Forge-Tender. I almost overlooked the Colossus the first time around, but it certainly is a relevant target, as it changes from a possible immediate win into a hard-to-handle threat with the application of a Needle. The Village is still the most likely target, since it is the most recalcitrant to many forms of obvious removal. That said, in my particular case, I tend to be running Villages of my own much of the time, so it’s hardly an exciting target (although there is precedent for Needling key components of your own deck if your opponent hits them first).
Effectiveness of Needle: Moderate
B/W Tokens
See Kithkin, basically. Again, we’re highly likely to be Needling a Heights or an Ajani.
Effectiveness of Needle: Moderate
Depending on the build, you might find yourself Needling Glen Elendra Archmage or Stillmoon Cavalier, or, in a bad pinch, Mind Stone. Overall, none too exciting.
Effectiveness of Needle: Low
G/W Tokens/Overrun
Here, we see a range of targets including Cloudgoat Ranger, Dauntless Escort, Qasali Pridemage, Windbrisk Heights, Ajani Goldmane, and Treetop Village, as well as Forge-Tender in the sideboard. Interestingly, Allison Abe’s list from GP Sao Paulo has two Pithing Needles in the sideboard.
Effectiveness of Needle: Moderate
For the main deck, pretty much Seismic Assault, which is a decent enough target. There is, of course, Deny Reality to fight a Needle on Assault, but Needling it can buy you the time to beat the opponent to death before they can get going. Over in the sideboard, Needle can also be set to Fulminator Mage to stop the LD plan post-board, but that’s probably not superior to just turning off Seismic, since that makes their game plan much worse and your creatures much better. Once you’ve hit Seismic, you can start Needling the various manlands in the deck, as many builds include a full set of both Ghitu Encampment and Treetop Village.
Effectiveness of Needle: High
Faeries is pretty unexciting when it comes time to slap a Needle onto the board. Targets in common Faeries builds include Loxodon Warhammer, Faerie Conclave, Mutavault, and Jace Beleren. Of these, I think Jace and Mutavault are the best choices, as they have the most general impact on the game.
Effectiveness of Needle: Low
Cascade Aggro
Builds for Cascade aggro decks vary, but common targets include Putrid Leech, Anathemancer, and Hellspark Elemental, as well as Treetop Village in some cases. Turning off the Leech is probably the most exciting prospect here, although it’s nice to ice Anathemancer in the late game as well.
Effectiveness of Needle: Moderate
R/B Aggro
This is very similar to Cascade Aggro, minus Treetops and Leeches and with the addition, in some cases, of Ghitu Encampment.
Effectiveness of Needle: Low
After all that, we can’t, of course, just decide to average all this out and decide whether to Needle or not. Instead, we need to consider our expected metagame and the degree to which Needle helps us win in that environment. Expanding beyond that point, it’s worth thinking of the cases where Needle may buy you the time to win an otherwise difficult match up (for example, if your deck is not otherwise resilient to Swans, being able to shut off Seismic Assault until they can find a Deny Reality may just buy you the space to come through for the win).
In my case, I think I’m going to continue with the “two Needles main deck” plan going into this weekend’s PTQ. Needle is sometimes a “do nothing” or “do not quite enough” card, but it also represents an opportunity to generically stymie your opponent’s game plan, and given the particular deck that I’m bringing to the PTQ (more on that in a later post), it’s helpful to be able to randomly jam a needle through the brain of one of their threats or solutions, whether that means nixing all their Heights, turning off Ajani, or even simply making Leech a little less versatile.
Alternately, I may just be playing to some fetish for running Kamigawa block cards. Who knows?