You know those moments where everything just shifts into focus, and you
realize something innocuous is actually a huge deal?
For a lot of you, this is going to be that moment for Oko, Thief of Crowns.
A lot of the reviews of Oko so far have been pointing out that three-mana
planeswalkers are good, talking about weird Dreadhorde Invasion setups, and
other minor stuff.
But Oko, Thief of Crowns is going to be the card from Throne of Eldraine that drastically warps Standard moving forward.
Food for Thought
A huge part of the reason people aren’t quite parsing the implications of
Oko, Thief of Crowns is they don’t get Food tokens. It isn’t really their
fault, because when we first saw Oko we didn’t even know what they did. You
parse the card as +2, do something unknown, and that’s what’s locked in.
Then you see Food, and you compare it to Treasure and Clues, and long
ingrained Magic theory kicks in. Drawing cards is great. Mana is good. Life
gain is not great. And that +2 seems more like do nothing.
I think it’s easiest to see how warping Food tokens are by looking at a
Gilded Goose reads like Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves. When you
think of a mana accelerant like that against Mono-Red Aggro, you think
“liability” especially after over a year of Llanowar Elves dying to Goblin
You’re playing against a Mono-Red Aggro deck. You play Gilded Goose on the
play. They Shock it. You sacrifice the Food token later, congrats that’s
basically Arashin Cleric or Healer of the Glade or one of a million similar
creatures you would love to sideboard in against Mono-Red.
But what if they don’t Shock it. What’s the worst that happens.
You pay two mana. You make another Food token. You start deploying some
bigger threats than they can handle. You gain six life later. You still
have Gilded Goose, threatening to let you turn mana into life.
Oh, that’s a problem.
What if you can’t Shock the cheap permanent gaining them all that life?
What if you can’t remotely consider attacking it because the best-case
scenario is it costs you six damage now plus the Food life?
Oh. Crap. That’s a big problem.
If you’re at all interested in playing a deck that exchanges cards for
damage, I have horrible news for you. If Gilded Goose and Oko, Thief of Crowns are playable, I have no clue how you can possibly do that in Throne of Eldraine Standard. Rampaging Ferocidon is legal for two more weeks, better get in your jams while you can.
I want to make the point that +2 on Oko’s Food ability is so much more than
the usual planeswalker +1. You really need multiple threats attacking Oko
to break through the constant loyalty buffering.
If you want to play aggro, you’re going to have to approach the game in a
Look for stuff that goes wide and has incremental damage output. Burn
spells will be more removal with utility than a real plan. Venerated
Loxodon is the super obvious one to port over as Mono-White Aggro’s best
draws deal lethal damage with actual twenty power on the battlefield, but
the Knight payoffs are things I have my eye on.
There are other pillars of aggro past burn and go-wide though.
What about all these Gruul bulky goodies? They outsize three life a turn,
why can’t they hang with the go-wide strategies as aggressive options.
Because no matter what their printed text is, Oko says those creatures are
3/3. And still keeps adding loyalty. As long as you also have a 3/3 or
bigger creature to block, Oko can probably tank a hit, downgrade their
thing, and still threaten to keep doing stuff after eating a hit from a
giant Gruul threat.
Also, don’t forget that Oko, Thief of Crowns just makes 3/3s that can
attack down the assorted planeswalkers on the other half of these midrange
decks. Oko isn’t just an anti-aggro planeswalker, it has play patterns that
proactively impact the game.
So yeah, you aren’t going to beat an Oko in single combat any time soon.
For a three-mana planeswalker, that’s pretty absurd.
Building for Midrange Mirrors
Let’s talk a bit about that Thragtusk era I mentioned. While I was off in
my own Pyreheart Wolf – Hellrider world, people were solving how to win
games where you always have to deal EDH levels of damage to win.
I don’t think Oko, Thief of Crowns will be quite as egregious as that era
where sometimes people survived Craterhoof Behemoth attacks, but we can
port some of those lessons over.
Or maybe we can port from a different era, with similar life gain
imbalances. In general, a few things broke these mirrors open.
- Planeswalker ultimates
- Giant flyers, but Oko makes this much worse than the Wingmate Roc era
- Huge scaling mana sinks
- Something completely lateral to the stally, lifegain grind
What do we have that does this in the current era?
Options. That’s what we have.
Before I dive into lists, I will note that Mark Rosewater has verified
there isn’t a rare dual land cycle in Throne of Eldraine.
That means we just have the enemy-color Temples, shocklands, and the Core Set 2020 common gain lands (friends still don’t let friends play Guildgates). Scry is so much more powerful than life gain, and I
expect that to be reflected in enemy-color and wedge-based decks massively
outperforming decks based around allied color pairs. You can still make
those work if there’s a big payoff, but you shouldn’t start there unless
that payoff is really going to carry you.
someone with solid Elspeth, Sun’s Champion experience, Garruk,
Cursed Huntsman is the closest we have gotten to that card. Multiple tokens
per activation without costing loyalty is the key. pic.twitter.com/eRXrxP5XOV
Ari Lax (@armlx) September
I wanted this to look as close to my Khans of Tarkir Abzan decks
as possible since the general cards and payoffs look so similar. Keep the
maindeck full of generically powerful cards and generic answers, sideboard
into the specific ones as needed. What this deck really needs is a Hero’s
Downfall or Vraska’s Contempt. Your only removal being Assassin’s Trophy in
a format where people are trying to go big is dicey.
In case nothing shows up, Vraska, Golgari Queen is a card I really have my
eye on for that role. She cleanly kills Oko, Thief of Crowns, but also can
turn floating Food tokens into real cardboard. Her and Oko play well with
similar cards like Gilded Goose, just in opposite directions.
In case you missed the interaction, Oko, Thief of Crowns lets you turn the
Dreadhorde Invasion Army token each turn into an Elk, which means Invasion
makes a new Army next turn for you to convert. These also end up as 4/4s,
so if you ever have to use Oko on their threat your creatures are still
bigger. Hydroid Krasis also offers a similar turbo mode where Oko can add
three power to it at the cost of flying and trample, which also makes the
card one of the few big threats that is actively good against Oko’s +1.
I do think an alternate version of this deck could go much harder on the
Command the Dreadhorde plan currently in the sideboard. You have a really
powerful spread of planeswalkers to recur in Sultai, and the lifegain of
Food helps offset Command the Dreadhorde. Bolas’s Citadel is a similar plan
if the self-mill and midrange grind here isn’t sufficient.
- 4 Hydroid Krasis
- 3 Arboreal Grazer
- 4 Risen Reef
- 1 Voracious Hydra
- 4 Leafkin Druid
- 1 Cavalier of Gales
- 4 Gilded Goose
Turn 1 Arboreal Grazer into Turn 2 Oko, Thief of Crowns is Wild Nacatl.
All the numbers here are based on the Arboreal Grazer Bant Ramp list I
tuned for War of the Spark Standard. The all-in ramp to Turn 3
Nissa, Who Shakes the World plan I had before is noticeably worse with
Gilded Goose being one shot early game and more tapped dual lands, so I’ve
balanced with Risen Reef and the Elemental mana accelerant counterpart. You
still have Oko at three mana, so the one-drop ramp creatures are the better
component anyways. Tapped duals also pushes you back to two color from the
free Bant splash.
Please don’t tell me to put Cavalier of Thorns in this deck. Please don’t
put Cavalier of Thorns in your decks. I can’t think of a card I want less
facing down Oko, Thief of Crowns and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman than a 5/6
with no evasion and just a land for enters the battlefield value. Cavalier
of Thorns was good because it would die and recur something, now they will
just chump block it forever or make it an Elk.
If you want to know why I have Cavalier of Gales in here…. well, it’s
probably wrong, but I just want to cast it, Brainstorm, and hit a land off
Risen Reef once. At least Cavalier of Gales finds your next threat up
On the subject of Cavaliers, I took a look at various Temur Elemental
builds of Oko, but it keeps coming back to the mana issue. Almost all the
Elementals I currently want to play are low drop and Gruul colors, and that
points away from adding enough early blue sources to cast Oko. I think the
Elementals decks just want the eight blue shocklands to splash Omnath,
Locus of the Roil, not to be actually blue centric.
Here’s the Bant Golos list we claimed number 1 Mythic
with *twice* this stream! Deck is – super resilient, fun to play, with
lots of angles of attack!
Also attached a sideboard
guide, since y’all love those so much
Autumn Burchett (@AutumnLilyMTG) September
The other Simic-centric shell you could immediately slot Oko, Thief of
Crowns into is the Golos, Tireless Pilgrim decks. Autumn Burchett had a
great run with that deck recently, but my concern here is that Oko is just
running on its own in this shell. There aren’t really bodies to upgrade,
you don’t want to play mana accelerants, you don’t even really want to play
things that would block down their 3/3. You are playing a totally
uninteractive combo to Field of the Dead game, and Oko in that context is
just a life gain card. I would expect to see Oko as a sideboard option in
these decks, especially if Arboreal Grazer sticks around, but that’s about
I would expect to see a lot of Field of the Dead action going on. That’s
the kind of scaling, repeatable engine that you need to go over the top of
Oko. I also have my eye on Wilderness Reclamation plus Explosion in a
similar role, but that one needs a drastic metagame shift where no one
plays Teferi, Time Raveler and instants are unbanned.
There’s still a couple hundred cards to be revealed from Throne of Eldraine, but for every one of them my first thought it
going to be “how does this line up in Oko, Thief of Crowns fueled midrange