We all knew it was coming, but few of us actually expected the full three bans:
The Food decks were an overwhelming majority of the format until this announcement, and things clearly had to change. Wizards decided to torch the whole thing this time around, owning up to their own mistakes in the power level of these cards. Green decks simply had too few weaknesses and far too much consistency. But that's the past. Now that Food isn't the be-all, end-all of the format, what are the new terms of engagement? What are we suddenly allowed to play with in the absence of Oko?
The first and most obvious cards unlocked by Oko's banning are the powerful artifacts in Standard. The Great Henge, The Cauldron of Eternity, The Circle of Loyalty and Bolas's Citadel are suddenly much more appealing when 70% of the format isn't maindecking removal that not only embarasses the investment these cards represent, but also doesn't even cost a card. Each of these powerful engine cards becomes a potential tool again to go over the top of the other decks and fight engines like Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven.
Cat Oven was so popular because it thrived off of the Food core but wasn't weak to it, giving it a strong edge in the mirror. Oko's ban may allow for some serious competition in endgame scenarios.
The other class of card that Oko suppressed is creatures whose primary contribution to the game relies on their stats and their text box: cards like Gatebreaker Ram, Feather, the Redeemed, Irencrag Pyromancer, Crackling Drake, God-Eternal Kefnet, God-Eternal Oketra and Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Engine creatures, top-end threats and cheap beatsticks alike were all held down by Oko's incredible +1 that turned anything and everything into textless 3/3s.
All these cards are capable of competing with the other Food engines remaining in the format. Cat Oven thrives behind even board stalls, and many of these cards can compete in those board states or prevent them altogether.
Before we get too carried away with these four-plus mana creatures, I want to remind you that Teferi, Time Raveler is still legal. Oko was actually one of the cards holding Teferi back, because Oko would embarrass Teferi head-to-head by either providing a stream of attackers or forcing Teferi to bounce a mere Food Token in order to not get immediately killed.
The Veil of Summer ban opens up even more space for the types of decks that Teferi and Co. supported. Thought Erasure, Absorb, The Elderspell and Mass Manipulation are incredibly powerful cards that were absolutely embarrassed by Veil of Summer.
As if that weren't enough, it also countered all of the black removal spells while drawing a card. This ban unlocks a lot of potential to play midrange and control decks in Standard again. Thought Erasure and removal was simply not an acceptable game plan with Veil of Summer legal in the format. (Welcome back to existence, Grixis.)
Once Upon a Time did not directly oppress anything. There's nothing "unlocked" by its absence. But Once Upon a Time did make green decks more consistent than everything else. Better mana, consistent access to engine or accelerant creatures, there just wasn't a good reason to skip your playset of Once if you were in green and playing creatures. This ban gives green decks their base fail rate back and allow other decks to compete with them on fair terms. Decks like Rakdos or Mardu Knights and Rakdos Sacrifice were reasonable in the format even when all of these cards were legal, but the built-in fail rate of these decks was just so much higher.
So if these are the effects of the ban of each individual card, where can we expect to see the metagame going forward?
This list, heavily built from Aaron Gertler's Clover Knights, tries to take advantage of a shell that remains intact and still has a strong resilient gameplan. There's reach, a lot of cheap cards that pull you ahead, and Edgewall Innkeeper.
Incubation // Incongruity was already in the previous list in small numbers and tries to make up for the lack of Once Upon a Time here. You do have to pay for it and it can't find lands, but it will still help you assemble the engine of the deck. I think this is a reasonable place to start in new Standard, and has room to improve.
Cat Food loses Oko and Once Upon a Time, but it's quite possible that we can still get away with playing the same core thanks to Massacre Girl. Girl picks up a lot of slack, slowing down aggressive decks and allowing you to still play the engine trio of Witch's Oven, Trail of Crumbs, and Cauldron Familiar.
Gilded Goose and Paradise Druid give you the mana you need to feed all of this, and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman is a strong top end but may be unnecessary here. Casualties of War is an incredibly appealing sideboard card with Veil banned.
Isn't this just Bryan Gottlieb's Fandom Legends list from week one? Yes, yes it is. I think this deck gets to come back without Veil and Oko ruining its parade. Kaya's Wrath, Thought Erasure, Teferi, Time Raveler and Doom Foretold all benefit from the bans.
Esper mages rejoice, I think this is an entirely reasonable option, especially early on. Just make sure you play all four Doom Foretold.
This deck wasn't touched by the bans, but it does lose some of its premier prey. Noxious Grasp likely has to leave the deck, but otherwise this is another strong Cat Oven shell that has a lot of power and is going to beat up a lot of people early on.
Another deck in colors completely untouched by bans, this deck hits HARD. People may get to play more removal and maybe interact with this deck, but it's still going to put players to the test. Can you or can you not answer this Rotting Regisaur? This Embercleave? If you can't answer either, I recommend fixing your deck.
This is another anti-aggro deck that I think is pretty well positioned. Fires of Invention is a powerful tool and Fae of Wishes is still a powerful option. I recommend against maindecking Aether Gust this week, but both the Fae of Wishes versions and the Cavalier of Flame versions have a lot of promise.
If you play with Fae of Wishes remember to adjust your wishboard to the new format. I think it's a good week to be playing Ethereal Absolution in the board.
This archetype was really hurt by the prevalence of both Oko and Food in general. Crackling Drake and Irencrag Pyromancer often ended up as Elk before they could really do anything, and "Arclight Phoenix plus chip damage" is an unexciting plan when your opponent is generating a bunch of Food Tokens.
I don't have a specific list I can recommend, but this one seems like a strong starting point.
This deck is ridiculously powerful, and while it is going to miss Veil of Summer, it's not going to miss getting its key spells countered for a single green mana. You can probably take this deck as-is with 13 sideboard slots and do well at an event.
I recommend adjusting the 75 for the new format, but the core will remain powerful, and this archetype has already been refined quite a bit in recent weeks. The main slots I'd want to adjust are the Mystical Dispute and Aether Gust as the metagame gets a lot less inbred.
Another early-format deck that was tossed to the side, Aaron Barich's Mono-Red Aggro is probably a great place to be if you just want to watch your opponents burn. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is incredibly powerful if your opponents are trying to do their own thing instead of interacting with you, and there's still a lot of burn in this format. Cavalcade of Calamity is also an option, but a far less exciting one with the prospect of Deafening Clarion returning and Cauldron Familiar plus Massacre Girl sticking around.
This is the deck I have the least idea of how to build or what it would look like. There's simply no good list to pull from because many of these were built around consistent access to Edgewall Innkeeper and Venerated Loxodon via Once Upon a Time. The mana was also worryingly inconsistent and held up by the combination of Once and the London mulligan. I'm absolutely sure someone will try and make it work, but as it is I don't know where to start.
If you want to see two full days of post-ban Standard action, I recommend that you watch Twitch Rivals both today and tomorrow starting at noon Pacific. I'll definitely be glued to my screen all week catching up on various player's VODs and trying things out on my own stream as well.
And I definitely won't miss Oko.
Adam "yoman5" Hernandez is a streamer, brewer and competitive player with a keen sense for what makes a deck tick. He writes about changes in the Standard metagame and the art of deckbuilding.
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