MTG Arena Bans Oko, Thief of Crowns and More
I believe it was the wise prophet “Meatloaf” that wisely said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” That goes double here. We’ve known for a week or so that some intense bans were coming to MTG Arena, and it’s not just Oko, Thief of Crowns banned.
The Bant/Simic Food Decks are going away, never to return, as of today in MTG Arena. As soon as today’s update to the game goes in, the cards go out. Usually, there are a few days between the announcement and the actual ban. I’d rather see them go away immediately, personally.
Gone, Gone for Good: Oko, Thief of Crowns Banned
That’s right! Let out a cry of joy and happiness unless you ran Oko. Oko is banned! So what cards vanished? It’s not a surprise to anyone that Oko, Thief of Crowns is banned in all forms of standard play (best of three and best of one). Alongside it is Once Upon a Time, and Veil of Summer. As of today, these are gone, gone forever.
Green has been overwhelmingly powerful this set, and if these cards were left in, I can only imagine the horrors they’d inflict with the addition of whatever power cards come with Theros: Beyond Death. At Mythic Championship Richmond, almost 70% of decks were “Food Decks,” relying heavily on these cards.
The announcement points out that out of the top 10 decks in high-ranked Arena Best-of-Three play, only one other deck out of the top ten decks could even break a 50%-win rate against Food. That was Simic Flash (my main deck, as it happens).
You don’t have to be a pro player to know that that number is terrifying. For the most part, seeing Oko on the board turn two means a fair amount of people give up, unless they have a solution to kill him. Even then, it’s a matter of hoping your Oko-owning foe doesn’t have a card like I dunno, Veil of Summer.
Unstoppable Early Game
Once Upon a Time can do something that no other card in the present standard meta can do: Fix your opening hand. You can cast it for free on turn one and look at the top 5 cards of your deck. Reveal a land or creature, put it in hand.
It lets you fix whatever mana curve problems you have in your starting hand or get an early game creature to start doling out damage. Plus, it’s green. Green means it works in a ton of decks right now. It’s still good in the late game, as it’s only a 2-drop. But in turn 0 / 1 moves? It just can’t be beaten.
On turn 0, there are no answers to counter it. Sure, in Legacy, you’d have answers for it, but this isn’t Legacy. Their data indicated that without removing Once Upon a Time also, Green would ultimately be too powerful still, no matter what.
In addition to these, Veil of Summer is removed as of today. It’s only an uncommon, but it’s a truly mighty one. As a 1-cost uncommon, Veil of Summer lets you draw a card if your opponent played a blue or black spell this turn. Also, spells you control can’t be countered this turn. That by itself would be amazing, but.
“You and permanents you control gain hexproof from blue and from black until end of turn”
With one blue mana you nullify anything those colors can do and is the ultimate color-hate card in this set. Green just has too many answers to problems presented by virtually any deck in the game.
A Sickly Meta
I know so many people who quit playing MTG Arena because they were tired of every single game starring Oko. It would almost always go the same way:
Turn 1: Once Upon a Time, Gilded Goose
Turn 2: Oko
The rest of the turns weren’t relevant because their opponent seldom musters up any defense from the army of Elks. If they did? Oko could steal away whatever they had by turning it into an Elk and swapping control.
It wasn’t merely enough that Oko could steal creatures that got him banned. He could also do this to artifacts. I think the worst part of him is that he had two powerful upticks. The +2 Food Token wasn’t the worst, but it allows so many decks to turn on.
Changing creatures from whatever to a powerless 3/3 Elk is obnoxious. Even worse that it’s a +1 uptick on Oko. Just using one ability gives him access to his ultimate (-5) the next turn. That’s the one that exchanges control.
I think Oko might have been reasonable if something was changed, but it’s a bit too late to do that now. Now, I’m not saying Blue-Green decks are going away. If anything, this will give Simic Flash its time in the sun.
Many Simic Flash decks run Once Upon a Time, but it can easily be replaced by something like Opt as a turn-1 Scry/Draw. Not as powerful, but still useful.
When a meta becomes “run this card or else,” it stops being fun. That means it’s time to consider what decks have a chance to stand out with this significant change to the meta. That’s my next project this week. I’ll be dropping what I think the “best deck” contenders could be.
For a full list of bans across game types and reasoning, click this link.