Oko, Thief of Crowns decks comprised 69% (nice) of the day one Standard metagame at Mythic Championship VI, and 71% of the day two metagame. It had a greater than 50% win rate and also ended up as six of the Top 8 decks of the event, with the other two being Edgewall Innkeeper strategies.

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That means that even though everyone knew Oko was the best strategy going into the event, and the non-Oko players only brought decks they presumably believed would beat Oko strategies, Oko still performed better than average. Many great players busted their chops for weeks trying to figure out a way to beat Oko decks and eventually just gave up and played those decks. If you can't beat it, join it.

The Standard Grand Prix at MagicFest Richmond the same weekend only boasted between 500 and 600 players, an incredibly low turnout, suggesting that not only is this format incredibly homogenous, it's also not one people are keen to play. The sentiment I gathered from friends over the weekend is that they had no interest in playing the main event because Standard, and I quote, "kinda sucks right now." Their words, not mine. But also mine, because I also think Standard "kinda sucks right now."

 

 

I've never seen that level of metagame share or dominance at a Pro Tour or Mythic Championship before. Even Hogaak was only about 20% of the metagame. I believe Jund comprised around 40% of the metagame at a Modern Pro Tour when arguably the best creature ever, Deathrite Shaman, was legal, but 70% is completely unprecedented.

I think it's fairly clear that we are going to see a change soon in Standard. Oko's dominance at the last Mythic Championship, plus an impromptu announcement for a previously unscheduled Banned & Restricted announcement on November 18th, plus a near unanimous cry on social media for the removal of Oko, Thief of Crowns paints a pretty clear picture. On November 18th, something is going to happen in Standard. Bans incoming.

No one: What should happen, what will happen, and what will that mean for Standard moving forward?

Me: I'm glad you didn't ask, because I'd love to share...in depth.

 

What Should Happen?

 

I don't have perfect answers, reasonable people can and will disagree with my conclusions, and there is some level of subjectivity to this. Nevertheless, I'll dive in.

To start with, I would recommend checking out my last article about Oko Standard. Many of my points in that article are relevant here, and I don't wish to rehash them.

If I were Wizards of the Coast, on November 18th I would ban Once Upon a Time, Gilded Goose and Veil of Summer. I would also strongly consider banning Oko, Thief of Crowns or Nissa, Who Shakes the World in addition to these three, or perhaps instead of Veil of Summer.

I don't think WotC can pull any punches. Green is so unreasonably powerful in current Standard that only banning one or two cards leaves a very high likelihood that green decks just carry on dominating Standard with whatever powerhouse cards remain. All eight decks in the Top 8 of the last Mythic Championship were green, and all eight of them played Once Upon a Time. Do you think canning Oko, Thief of Crowns by itself is going to put an end to that dominance? I certainly don't.

This could easily be Kaladesh and Energy 2.0, where three different times they had to ban cards that were propped up by the insane power and consistency of the Temur Energy base shell. They finally just banned some of the energy cards themselves, Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, which finally did the trick. I'd rather WotC just knock it out once rather than put us through that again.

The current Standard green shell of consistency and card advantage is so powerful that won't be easy to dismantle. I feel fairly confident that even if they ban three or four cards, green will still be one of the best colors in Standard, perhaps still the best color or second only to black.

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Once Upon a Time should go because of power level reasons. Free spells tend to break Magic. Beyond that, similar to Attune with Aether, Once Upon a Time provides a massive level of consistency and power rolled into one card. By itself, that's totally fine—but when green is already the best color, it becomes oppressive. When one deck is the most powerful and the most consistent, it's pretty tough to compete with. Even decks built to exploit Food can fall short because they just don't fire off consistently enough, or (like Adventures strategies) they are required to also be green Once Upon a Time decks to match its consistency.

On the fun spectrum, Once Upon a Time is bad for Standard because it homogenizes Standard gameplay. It drastically increases the games that begin with Edgewall Innkeeper, Gilded Goose or Paradise Druid and it drastically increases the games that end with a big Hydroid Krasis. Repetitive gameplay is the death of Standard, and this card paired with the London mulligan is pushing repetition to the max.

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One-mana mana producers like Gilded Goose should never be printed in Standard because they speed up the clock on how quickly interaction is required to unhealthy levels. They also trade incredibly favorably with interaction. If I play a Gilded Goose and you play a Shock, I have a Food token left over that can be used for Oko, Thief of Crowns or Wicked Wolf. Other than that, we're at parity. It's not like your Shock provided you with an advantage, all it did was leave you slightly behind against my turn-one play, and that's the best case scenario!

Let's not even talk about the games where you don't draw the removal spell for Gilded Goose. Or when the one-mana removal you included to compete with Gilded Goose does nothing against the rest of their deck in later turns. There is so little effective counterplay against Gilded Goose, making it really hard to beat with the limited Standard card pool. Kraul Harpooner is quite good against the Goose, but that's about where it starts and ends in Standard. Kraul Harpooner also costs two mana, which should be the perfect cost for counterplay in the context of Standard, but on the draw it means their Oko, Thief of Crowns might already be in play to invalidate all the advantages the Harpooner provided.

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You might be sensing a theme here. Veil of Summer also costs one mana, and is incredibly powerful in non-rotating formats like Legacy, Vintage and Modern. It's already been banned in Pioneer and will probably eventually ruin other formats if it hasn't already. Gilded Goose and Once Upon a Time speed up the clock and consistency of green decks to unhealthy levels and Veil of Summer renders nearly all counterplay options invalid. It's too much to overcome in a five set Standard environment.

Hell, I think one-mana accelerants like Gilded Goose, Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic are possibly too good for Pioneer as well, and Veil has already been banned there. It's hard to imagine they are somehow healthy in Standard.

The three cards I want to ban all cost zero or one mana. If you cut the legs out from Oko decks and reduce their speed, consistency and defense against counterplay, then they're probably totally reasonable for Standard. The cards that are oppressive are the ones that come down way too early to reasonably fight against.

I actually don't mind too much if Noxious Grasp is a maindeck card—people maindecked Self-Inflicted Wound for a period of time and that was a healthy Standard—but Noxious Grasp should always work on what you want to kill, and you shouldn't have to have it exactly on turn two or you just lose.

I could easily see a base-Simic Food deck still being the unquestionably best deck in Standard even if you ban all three of those cards. That's why I would not find it unreasonable to also ban Oko, Thief of Crowns or Nissa, Who Shakes the World, two planeswalkers who are well above the curve of what's normal in Standard. Oko is dominating so many formats other than Standard that even though I think it's probably fine without Gilded Goose, it may still be too risky to not ban.

My take:
Must Ban: Once Upon a Time and Gilded Goose
Should Probably Go: Veil of Summer and Oko, Thief of Crowns
Reasonable Considerations: Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Bad Ban Choices: Wicked Wolf, Hydroid Krasis. These are both products of their environment.
Not a Ban Consideration but Shouldn't Have Been Printed: Paradise Druid. Please stop putting hexproof on mana accelerants. Promotes unfun gameplay.

 

What Will Actually Happen?

 

I really don't know. WotC has surprised me a number of times over the past year when it comes to banning or unbanning cards. I no longer feel like I can predict their actions like I once believed I could.

However, I do find it incredibly likely that Oko, Thief of Crowns will be banned. That's the card that people are railing against the most, and if they don't ban Oko and it continues to dominate the format, the backlash and mass exodus of Standard players could be really damaging to WotC, MTG Arena and the long-term health and trust in the Standard format. I remember how bad things were when Caw-Blade dominated Standard in terms of attendance and consumer trust, and I think the current Oko-mania is significantly worse than Caw-Blade ever was. The safest thing they can do is just ban Oko, so I think that's exactly what they will do.

I suspect that they will also ban one other card, and I bet it will be one of Veil of Summer, Gilded Goose or Once Upon a Time, in that order of likelihood. I'm personally hoping they ban many of these cards or all of them, but I don't actually think they will do that. I'd love to be wrong.

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If they only want to ban two cards and Oko, Thief of Crowns is one of them, the other one should definitely be Nissa, Who Shakes the World. That would then cut the power structure out from Hydroid Krasis and Wicked Wolf. I think banning only two cards, and not going for the two most powerful ones (Oko and Nissa), would be a mistake that would require more future bannings.

My Take:
Two cards will be banned: Oko, Thief of Crowns, plus one of Veil of Summer, Gilded Goose or Once Upon a Time.

 

What Will That Mean for Standard?

 

That really depends on what WotC actually decides to do.

If WotC follows my advice and busts up three to four cards in Standard (Gilded Goose, Once Upon a Time, Veil of Summer, Oko, Thief of Crowns), then it's pretty likely that nongreen decks will actually get a chance to be relevant players in this format. I think black is the second best color in Standard and I suspect we'll see it thrive out of the gates in Eldraine Standard 3.0.

The first deck I'd be looking to play is Rakdos Aggro. I haven't been too impressed with the Rakdos Sacrifice strategies that try to employ the Witch's Oven + Cauldron Familiar synergies around a Midnight Reaper, Mayhem Devil and Priest of Forgotten Gods shell. Personally, I'm way more interested in straight-up aggro versions, like Rakdos Knights or just pure Rakdos "Good Stuff" Aggro.

Here's an example of Rakdos Knights. This is Willy Edel's updated version of the deck that he played at the Mythic Championship.

 

 

 

Rakdos Aggro would eschew Willy's Knight subtheme and instead play cards like Spawn of Mayhem or Rankle, Master of Pranks as just generic great aggressive and evasive creatures to pair with black's removal and other great aggro cards. Knight of the Ebon Legion and Rotting Regisaur are some of the best aggressive black creatures ever printed. Their near-unplayability in the current Standard is definitely an indictment of green's power creep.

 

 

 

One deck that everyone always thinks will come back as soon as X is out of the format is Doom Foretold Esper. People thought it would come back when Field of the Dead was banned. It did not. I suspect people will also be hyping it up if (when?) Oko, Thief of Crowns gets banned, but do not count me among them.

Don't get me wrong, this deck is sweet as hell. I had a blast when I was playing with it. Problem is, I don't think it's very good. It's not that the core strategy is bad, it's just so inconsistent and loses a lot to those inconsistencies. It can easily lose to missing land drops, flooding out, not finding a Dance of the Manse or Doom Foretold, drawing too many cards like Dance of the Manse without the payoffs. When it does its thing, it's high-octane gasoline—it just doesn't do it often enough for me to invest into it as a tier 1 strategy.

 

 

 

I think Selesnya Adventures could also be one of the best decks in Standard. Selesnya Adventures is just fairly great against other creature decks and has a reasonable anti-control sideboard plan. If people are trying to Rakdos or Gruul or what have you, then Selesnya Adventure is probably going to be great. That said, the loss of Once Upon a Time would be huge for this strategy, which uses the card better than any other deck. It might be too much.

 

 

 

I don't feel the same about Golgari Adventures. I think Golgari Adventures is significantly worse against "random" decks and thrives mostly in the current format because it has a great game one matchup against Oko decks. Veil of Summer is one of the best cards against Golgari Adventures, and banning that card could make this deck better, but I don't think it will be enough in an open format.

I actually think Nissa/Hydroid Krasis green decks will still be playable, even if they ban all four of those cards I suggested above. Most likely, they will become Bant to take advantage of Teferi, Time Raveler and options like Time Wipe to help shore up creature matchups. They may not be good enough, like how Ramp was just outside the cusp of being great last Standard format, but I would still test them and I would guess they'd be a tier 2 strategy.

If WotC only decides to ban Oko plus one other non-Nissa card, then my inclination is that a Nissa/Hydroid Krasis deck will still be tier 1 and likely the best deck in Standard.

If that card they ban is Veil of Summer, then I suspect black aggro will be able to adequately compete with this deck. If Veil remains legal, then I suspect an Adventures deck will compete with it, especially if Once Upon a Time is also still legal and Gilded Goose is banned.

Ultimately, if they ban too few cards, I suspect the format will just be comprised of Nissa ramp decks plus the one or two decks that are highly metagamed to compete against it, similar to our current format, although slightly less egregious. This would be solved by just banning Nissa alongside Oko and denying decks the ability to go over the top.

 

 

 

Decks like Temur Reclamation always spring up as decks that can theoretically compete with Ramp, but I honestly don't believe that Temur Reclamation is a good deck, and the numbers from the last Mythic Championship helps confirm this. People get roped into believing this deck is good time and time again, similarly to how pros continually gravitate toward believing the same about Azorius Control in Modern, but the numbers from high-level events rarely support it.

Temur Reclamation was played as a deck that supposedly beat Oko but lost to basically everything else, and it turns out it just lost to everything including Oko. I don't think this deck will be good, regardless of what gets banned. It actually went 50% vs. non-Oko, but only 43% vs. Oko.

My Take:
If Only Two Cards Are Banned: Nissa Ramp is still a tier 1 deck (Unless Nissa is one of them).
If Three to Four Cards Are Banned: Rakdos Aggro and Selesnya Adventures start out as the best decks, format develops naturally from there. Ramp is still viable.
If Veil of Summer Is Banned: Black competes with green as the best color in Standard. Murderous Rider is back.
If Gilded Goose Is Banned but Once Upon a Time Is Legal: Edgewall Innkeeper strategies are likely the de facto best decks out of the gate.