Let me say that there is absolutely zero relevant IBC or Type 2 or Draft knowledge that can be gleaned from the story of Okk. It is written merely because, well — someone has to know. I won’t let Okk’s death go unsung, and the only other way to ensure this (except by writing this article) is to take the deck to an Extended tournament and win with it – and dammit, I lose enough to eight-year-old kids as it is!
Many many formats ago, after the Mercadians made an appearance but before the time of Nemesis and fattyderm, in a house in Jerusalem sat two people – and between them was a pile of random cards. These two people were playing what is referred to in most places as a topdecking competition — an important exercise in developing topdecking skills. Said players would alternately cut the pack of cards and flip over the top one, then compare the power of said cards, and whoever had flipped over the best was the winner of the round.
Towards the end of the competition, with few cards remaining in the pile, our competitors were neck and neck. The score was even and every one of the following rounds would be of critical importance. One player flipped over a Sporogenesis and the other an Okk. It was then that an argument arose between the two players: Which was the better card?
The Sporogenesis player said that his was clearly the better card. The other loudly objected.
I mean I know Okk’s not perfect, and probably not even good. But compared to Sporogenesis??!?!?! There is no way in hell any, and I mean any, card can be worse than that. When Okk came out I seriously considered him for a Sligh deck with Ball Lightnings and Goblin Mutants. I didn’t play him, but I did consider him. He was, at least for a time, an option. I’m a relatively open and trusting person, but my mind can’t even stand the though of giving even the slightest bit of credibility to anyone who tells me that he has ever considered, even for a millionth of a millionth of a second, Sporogenesis to be anything more than a contestant for the card with the longest text.
Leshem (Sporogenesis man and one of the four Magic players in Jerusalem) disagreed, and so a bet was made in order to resolve our difference in this matter: Each one of us would have to build a deck based around his card, and the one with the worst deck would have to do something truly humiliating. I wish to god every day that I could remember what it was so that I could force Leshem to do it. When I say”based around,” I don’t mean Accelerated Blue with four Okks instead of four other cards; I mean a deck that uses the card and uses it well. A deck in which the card is so good that it’s case could be argued even against an off-color card with cycling!
After we had finished the bet, Okk looked at me, tears in his eyes.
“You’re my only hope,” he said.
“All my life, all I’ve ever wanted was to be like the other creatures. To attack, to block — I would think of nothing else in my waking moments, and dream of nothing else at night. Combat was what gave meaning to my life. When Urza’s Saga came out and nobody played with me, I understood. I knew I was no Morphling, and even he wasn’t getting much attention. My buddies and me just sat and bided our time.”
“One be one they left me,” he said, his voice shaking,”One by one they went out into the world and people played with them. Now I’m the only one left. My time on this earth is pure agony. I cannot bear to live with these unfulfilled dreams inside me, torturing me no matter where I go, following me everywhere. I had all but given up hope, until you arrived. Please don’t let me down. All my hopes and my dreams are now on your shoulders. You’re my only chance.”
Wow. After hearing that, I understood that there was more than Leshem’s humiliation at stake here – I had a chance to make someone’s dreams come true. I decided that I would take this deckbuilding mission very seriously
During my next few bible lessons in school I started thinking about the idea. The beginning wasn’t hard. In order to use Okk, a deck would obviously have to play creatures with power greater than four. The obvious fatty colour was green, with such monsters as Emperor Crocodile and Hunted Wumpus for the cheap price of four mana. Green also provided creatures pumpers like Giant Growth, Invigorate, and Rancor, which would allow the deck to pump smaller creatures and attack with them and Okk.
This deck was obviously going to beat the tar out of Leshem’s Sporogenesis, but it still wasn’t using Okk well. Only very rarely would Okk be able to attack on turn 3. I tried thinking of cheap fat creatures – only something that costed one would allow me to attack with Okk on turn 3. I added Elves and Birds which would sometimes allow this with multiple creature pumpers, and would also let me cast my fatties faster. I then also added the card that pushed the deck over the top (or the top of the bottom). Hidden Predators! This card could be a cheap 4/4 if the other player had a creature with power four or more. How would I assure this of happening? By pumping his creatures with Giant Growth and Invigorates of course!
Manlands would provide added pumpable creatures to attack with the Okk, and the deck was all but made.
After a little online testing, in the process of which I was very much ridiculed, I came to the following decklist:
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Ghitu Encampment
3 Treetop Village
2 City of Brass
4 Hidden Predators
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Birds of Paridise
4 Giant Growth
2 Uktabi Orangutan
4 Hunted Wumpus
2 Emperor Crocodile
4 Cursed Totem
3 Yavimaya Elder
3 Harmonic Convergence
2 Uktabi Orangutan
The Uktabi Orangutans and Shocks were there mainly to deal with Mothers of Runes/Skyshroud Poachers and Masticores/Kegs. Playtesting showed, surprisingly, that the actually beat creature decks most of the time. It had good matchups against Stompy, Suicide Black, and RDW2000. The problem was that it would lose horribly to Bargain, Replenish and Accelerated Blue – Accelerated Blue the most. Damn, but Treachery was broken. Against the remaining decks — Trinity and Rebels – the deck would sometimes win and sometimes lose. The sideboard was designed to deal with all the matchups but Accelerated, which was deemed a lost cause. Totems were great against Trinity, Bargain, and Rebels. Harmonic Convergence was amazing against Replenish. The rest of the cards just came in instead of cards which were suboptimal in the other matchups.
I took the deck to the next Sealed tournament so that I could play with it between rounds. Leshem hadn’t managed to come up with anything yet, which wasn’t very surprising considering the card he had to work with.
Before the first round, I played a few games against suicide black which actually went pretty well. Here’s how the first one went:
Him: Swamp, Ritual, Negator.
Me: Forest, Elf.
Him: Swamp, Dauthi Horror, attack with the Negator.
Me: Block with the Elf and Invigorate it.
He conceded on that very turn.
In another game against a green white deck, turn 5 saw me attacking with a double-Rancored Hidden Predators, two Okks, and a Treetop Village. I won that game, too.
I had done it. Okk had attacked. He had been in a deck, and not as a random card, but as a cornerstone. Now that the cards have rotated out of T2, Okk is no longer with me. I hope, wherever he is, that he is finally happy.