Are you ready for some food for thought? Then prepare yourselves! This is going to be an article about the card that has the potential to bring Food into Constructed play. Yes, I am referring to Oko, Thief of Crowns. This card plays very nicely alongside other cards that generate Food, but even on its own the card is quite strong for a three-mana planeswalker.
You can put Oko, Thief of Crowns into a straight blue-green midrange style deck, where it has no synergy with the rest of the deck and it should be fine, or even very good in the right matchups. However, the way to make this card great is to be as synergistic as possible. Let's take a look at a Sultai version of an Oko deck.
This is an example of a way to fill a deck with cards that play to the strengths of Oko, Thief of Crowns. Perhaps the next best option as far as good standalone cards that create Food is Gilded Goose. Gilded Goose is the only one-mana ramp creature in the format, with Llanowar Elves rotating out. The fact that this card can make a mana of any color really helps in a deck like this that needs three different colors. This is essentially a one-time use creature though until you have the time to make additional food. However, the best possible curve with a Gilded Goose is to immediately play an Oko, Thief of Crowns after it.
We will see these cards in the same deck a lot since they pair together so well. Gilded Goose is the only way to cast Oko, Thief of Crowns on turn two, which feels amazing when it happens. After getting an Oko, Thief of Crowns on the battlefield you essentially have all the Food you want, to turn into mana with your Gilded Goose. Playing Gilded Goose definitely impacts decisions with the manabase. You want to prioritize turn one untapped green mana, and since Gilded Goose itself is a mana fixer you can shave on some of the non-green mana sources.
One of the other cards that should stand out in this decklist is Dreadhorde Invasion. There is a ton of incidental life gain in this deck, so you won't be straight up dying to Dreadhorde Invasion, which has usually been the biggest liability of the card. Dreadhorde Invasion works nicely with Oko, because Oko can make the amass creatures much larger with its second ability. Dreadhorde Invasion is also great with Woodland Champion, Vraska, Golgari Queen and Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire. Woodland Champion can grow every single turn, so it will quickly become absolutely massive.
Woodland Champion also triggers off of the creation of Food. This is truly an amazing card in this deck, and I expect that players will start to realize the power of this card soon enough. Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire provides another way to make tokens, and you can set up attacks with it from amass or the Human token it makes itself. Vraska, Golgari Queen is another very important addition to the deck. With lots of random tokens on the battlefield you will almost always have a permanent worth sacrificing to draw a card.
In a deck without a ton of maindeck removal Vraska, Golgari Queen plays an important role as both a source of card advantage and a form of removal. There will be times where you want to prioritize sacrificing your Zombie token so that your amass will generate more tokens, and Vraska, Golgari Queen allows that to happen. Vraska can kill opposing three-mana planeswalkers, and there seem to be a lot of those in the format right now. I expect we will be seeing a lot more of this card moving forward.
Rounding out the deck we have Gleaming Overseer for some additional redundancy in terms of amass, and some removal. I like having some amount of interaction, and Assassin's Trophy is so versatile I included it as the removal spell of choice. As the format continues to evolve we should start to have a better idea of whether playing Assassin's Trophy in a deck like this is the right call. The more mana sinks being played, the more relevant giving the opponent an additional land in the late-game becomes.
The other removal spell is a card we will be seeing a ton of, and that's Murderous Rider // Swift End. This is just an amazing card and any black deck needs a very good reason to not play four copies. It ends up being a nice way to flesh out a deck like this, and once again there is a ton of life gain to offset the life loss. I could see wanting some more top-end threats like Garruk, Cursed Huntsman or Hydroid Krasis, so a later version of this deck might makes room for those. I didn't create a sideboard, but cards like Enter the God-Eternals against aggressive decks, Veil of Summer and some combination of discard and countermagic is where I'm going to start.
Another direction you can take the Sultai colors is to try to build around Yarok, the Desecrated. We've seen decks like this be successful in the previous Standard format. These decks may not have quite as much synergy with Oko, Thief of Crowns specifically, but they can certainly still play the powerful planeswalker.
Yarok, the Desecrated is a card we already know can be tremendously powerful in the right deck. We are used to seeing it in Field of the Dead decks, but it can still be good even if you aren't playing that card. Getting additional triggers off enters-the-battlefield creatures is really nice. Risen Reef means there is an additional Elemental card advantage package. We know triggering that card a bunch of times can be pretty insane.
Gilded Goose is going to be perfect here as a mana fixer, and it still works great alongside Oko, Thief of Crowns. This version goes in the direction of capitalizing Wicked Wolf. Generating Food to sacrifice with Wicked Wolf is going to be pretty important. You can actually double fight with a Yarok, the Desecrated on the battlefield, which is pretty nice. This deck is a bit more based on ramping, so we see more top end to go alongside the mana creatures.
I like Once Upon a Time more in this deck, because there are more creatures to go find with it. In the other Sultai deck, there aren't quite as many hits, so I didn't include it. It's going to be very interesting to see which decks end up playing this card. I like that it smooths the decks out a bit in terms of its draws and provides some consistency. Being able to increase your chances of a turn-one Gilded Goose for example is a pretty big deal, and Once Upon a Time does that. Playing four copies isn't necessarily correct since drawing two in your opener is a bit awkward.
Looking to build a deck completely around Food? Well that does sound fun. I'm not sure how great this is just yet, but Trail of Crumbs is a very powerful card in the right deck. Here is a take on Simic Food.
This deck clearly revolves around making your Food cards as great as possible. I wish there were more options to generate Food, but we have to work with the ones that are available. Trail of Crumbs allows you to get a ton of card advantage, so on the flipside the deck can play some cards that are not very powerful on their own. Feasting Troll King is going to be how this deck closes out the majority of its games, though you can go on a grindy plan that involves copying Sorcerer's Broom a bunch of times.
Once the game gets past the first few turns you will still have a ton to do with your mana because of all the mana sinks here. This is the perfect deck for Wicked Wolf—it's the only removal spell in the deck, but it's a really good one. The deck should have some extra Food lying around to sacrifice because if it doesn't than it really isn't doing what it's supposed to. Witch's Oven allows you to turn your creatures into Food, and Giant Opportunity is really important even if it simply generates three Food.
Initially I thought Curious Pair // Treats to Share would be very bad, and it is low power, but it fills an important role. Cashing it in for a Food and having a blocker turn two is a fine use of your first two turns of the game. The deck also wants a lot of permanents in it because they can be found off Trail of Crumbs. The deck is base green to take advantage of Gingerbread Cabin and Castle Garenbrig. Also, the important food cards seem to all be green.
As of right now this deck is a brew. There certainly could be a card I overlooked that fits here. It should be a very fun deck to play, but I'm not sure how it will stand up to some of the top tier strategies. Oko, Thief of Crowns definitely stands out as the most important card in this deck though, as it combos so well with Trail of Crumbs.
Seth Manfield is a professional Magic player and member of both the Magic Hall of Fame and the 2019 Magic Pro League.
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