(UPDATE: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon A Time and Veil of Summer are banned in Standard. This article was written before the B&R announcement on 10/18/19.)
While I’m writing this, we are still waiting with bated breath to see if Oko, Thief of Crowns will be banned when Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) release the Banned & Restricted Announcement on 11/18/2019. I know we all have our fingers crossed.
What decks or card can come to power without Oko messing up the meta? That’s what we’re going to look at now.
Public Enemy Number One
Fight The Power!
First things first, the biggest winner is Golgari Adventures. This is a deck that has existed and, at moments, thrived even in a Simic and Sultai dominated metagame. All of the cards within are even better positioned if the scourge of standard is removed.
I do believe the build of the list in the wake of a banning changes. Questing Beast may not be needed in high numbers, or in the main deck at all depending on how other decks shake out.
Vraska, Golgari Queen has seen a recent uptick in main deck inclusion since Oko usurped the standard throne. There’s a joke there somewhere I’m sure. There is a direct correlation here; Vraska’s -3 ability reads “Destroy nonland permanent with a converted mana cost 3 or less”. Oko, Thief of Crowns is a 3-mana planeswalker, you see where I’m going here. While Vraska does answer a lot of the other threats in the format I see her in main deck numbers dropping as an outcome of a ban
“If they cut off one head, two more shall take its place...” - Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, Captain America: the First Avenger.
There are concerns about what will happen when and if Oko gets the ban hammer. Oko, Thief of Crowns gained significant footing with the removal of Field of the Dead from Standard. It stands to reason that this is something that could occur again. There are two notable heads that may rise in a bannings wake; Teferi, Time Raveler and Nissa, Who Shakes the World.
Teferi, Time Raveler was a major player in the format before the release of Throne of Eldraine and he will be if Oko is removed.
Esper Dance was the first breakout deck on the current Standard format after taking first place in the first Fandom Legends Magic Arena tournament piloted by Bryan Gottlieb.
The difficulty that Teferi decks faced when it came to Oko and his supporting cast of characters was quickly apparent and the decks lost favor. If you reach a point where WOTC makes the decision (the correct decision) to ban Oko, Thief of Crowns then Teferi is primed for a resurgence.
In a similar vein, Niss, Who Shakes the World was and remains a Standard powerhouse. Assuming that green decks are not going to lose anything other that Oko, Nissa based decks and green decks in general, remain very powerful. The likes of Gilded Goose, Wicked Wolf, and Once Upon A Time are a trio of the most powerful cards in the format. Maybe this doesn’t make Nissa a clear winner in the light of a banning, maybe she’s just a Standard stalwart.
Phenomenal Cosmic Power!
This next deck that I believe is a winner, if we give Oko the boot, is Temur Reclamation. Yes, this deck does contain one of my favorite cards printed in recent memory.
That’s it besides the point, he’s not even in the main deck...for now.
There are some innovations here that I have been playing with after a recent article by Autumn Burchett on starcitygames.com.
Banning Oko will give aggressive decks, that have been absent recently, a new chance at life in Standard. Improbable Alliance is key in aggressive match-ups, stemming the bleeding in the early turns while you get set up.
The removal of Niv-Mizzet, Parun from the main deck was mainly because you don’t want to pay the much mana for a 3/3 elk. This card is still a force to be reckoned with in Standard, going forward it may be in the best interest of anyone interested in this deck to test Niv back in the main deck. Glory to the FIREMIND!
Somewhere along the way aggressive decks became the last picked kid on the playground; the players who love those deck hit rock bottom. Oko, Thief of Crowns is so difficult to beat if you are an aggressive deck (or any deck). It is time for Mountains and 1-mana 2/1’s to rise again and with any luck it will soon be time to smash. I suspect that there will be all sorts of flavors of aggro that can possibly steal the crown and become the king of aggression in Standard.
As you can see, we have a lot of low-to-the-ground decks to try out!
First you have your classic; cast creatures, turn them sideways and send some burn at your opponents face. Mono Red, that’s right, the deck with the perfect mana base. Throne of Eldraine provided this deck with a number of new toys, the deck just wasn’t well positioned.
Knights is the next stop on the beatdown deck tour.
With the release of Throne of Eldraine an archetype that has been on the fringes of Standard viability since Dominaria was given a shot in the arm, Knights. This is an aggressive deck that has an emphasis on synergy within the Knights tribe. Personally I like just going with a straight Rakdos build, the mana base is a lot less forgiving. Let’s not beat around the bush, Embercleave is a hell of a card. That fact has already been proven and it is not going to change without Oko. Fervent Champion and Knight of the Ebon Legion and fantastic 1-drops for the deck. Meanwhile, Blacklance Paragon is waiting in the wings to come down at a moment's notice with Flash. The deck can be filled out in a variety of different cards in the 3 and 4-mana slot, such as Rotting Regisaur or Oathsworn Knight.
The end of our tour of aggression is a deck that is lovingly referred to as “Smash Mouth”. The name is derived from a line “All that glitters is gold.” in the song “All-Star” by the California-native band Smash Mouth. What the deck actually is, is an amalgam of affinity and bogles wrapped up into an artifact fueled package.
As mentioned above, the deck takes full advantage of the card All That Glitters and Gingerbrute to push out large chunks of pseudo-unblockable damage. While this is an aggro deck a heart, we are more synergy focused when it come to this deck. As you look at the deck you can tell that it is greater than the sum of its parts.
Emry, Lurker of the Loch really shines in this deck. Emry allows you to have late-game staying power if the earlier aggressive assault falters.
Lastly, we have Steel Overseer, a card that was scoffed at during the Core Set 2020 preview season. This is the perfect home for this former Modern powerhouse.
Like A Shadow In The Night
It wouldn’t be one of my articles if I didn’t mention an Izzet deck when discussing new possibilities. So, here it is, we’ll call it Izzet Tempo.
Brineborn Cutthroat really shines in this list. The fact that Brazen Borrower and Bonecrusher Giant give you threats that also serve as instants for your flash-like game plan. This deck is just that, a tempo deck, and it does it very well. Gadwick, the Wizened gives you an over-the-top, late game X spell to refill your hand and keep the tempo in you favor by tapping creatures when you cast a blue spell.
Tempo isn’t really an archetype that we have had in Standard in some time, feel good to have it back. We also get a chance to play with counterspells in Ionize and Mystical Dispute.
The Royal Scions is really at home in this deck as well, all of the abilities are applicable and useful in this deck and in any given game. Just think about giving your large Brineborn Cutthroat first strike and trample, *chef’s kiss*
I have also been attempting to put Embercleave into this deck and it’s been ok so far. When the card shows up it is very powerful and game breaking, rightfully so.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capabilities of tempo strategies in Standard.
If This Is To End In Fire, Then We Shall All Burn Together
Now I want to discuss the elephant in the room and the second deck I am excited to dive into. There is one card that I do fear is going to rise to power with Oko out of the format and that is Fires of Invention.
There have been multiple builds of Fires decks throughout the card’s time in Standard; I believe this trend will continue.
The biggest winner here is the Cavalier version of the Fires deck made popular by Martin Juza and Ondrej Stratsky, two pro players from the Czech Republic. Your gameplan here is to use Fires of Invention to cast Cavalier of Flames and Cavalier of Gales in the same turn.
Cavalier of Flames allows you to give your creatures +1/+0 and hast until the end of turn; you can do this as many times as you can pay the corresponding cost of 1 and red. This usually means that on turn 5 you’re attacking for 14 damage, 7 of which is flying.
This best-case-scenario aside, you also get to play standard powerhouses such as Teferi, Time Raveler, Kenrith, Returned King and Deafening Clarion.
All Lost... Like Tears In The Rain
If (when) Oko is gone and Standard is free of his tyranny, I believe we will have a standard format full of fun and interesting decks and interactions.
If you’re not sure what to play in this new free world and I have not covered it in the article above, all I have to say is give it a shot. We won’t know what is good in a new format until we try and succeed or fail.
I hope the B&R goes the way we all want it to.
Good luck, I hope you lose!