Rather than try to beat the best deck, this week I'm playing it! I don't love the way Oko, Thief of Crowns is dominating this Standard format, but you can't deny its power level. The Simic Food deck was the most popular version of the food strategies until recently, but it makes sense for pretty much every deck to try to play Noxious Grasp if they can. Noxious Grasp is the single best removal spell in the format against this deck.
As expected, we mostly played against similar decks to this one. The format is in a place where being able to win the mirror matches is actually the most important thing. Sometimes the opponent will simply nut draw you, and there isn't much to be done. Other times the games go long, and cards like Noxious Grasp are able to stop the early aggression. The one copy of Casualties of War has been good for me in the maindeck. I actually don't like it as much as a sideboard card because it runs into Veil of Summer more easily.
The core cards in this deck are battle tested, so you don't have to worry about whether they are good enough. There are only a few flex slots here in my opinion, and because we have access to black mana, playing cards like Vraska, Golgari Queen and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman makes sense. The power of the deck really comes from the planeswalkers, as they are what you want to be ramping into. Once Upon a Time unfortunately can't find the planeswalkers, but it does a nice job of smoothing out your draws. Often I shave on Once Upon a Time after sideboard when your nut draws are a bit less important.
The sideboard is where you have the most room to maneuver. Veil of Summer is probably the best sideboard card in the format. It is why control decks can't effectively answer this deck. While you can build a control deck to be favored versus Sultai Food game one, it won't be in a three-game set. Veil of Summer is too efficient, neatly gets around most removal, and of course makes countermagic ineffective. Duress and our own countermagic are also nice options to have against decks like Temur Reclamation, which has picked up in popularity.
The other half of the sideboard is for the creature-based matchups. It's a bit scary to play against decks that make Noxious Grasp ineffective in game one, so you need a way to take those out of your deck. Food decks will remain the top dog in Standard until a banning takes place. The next date for a potential ban is November 18th, so I wouldn't be surprised if Oko only has a few weeks left in Standard.
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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