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Oko, Thief of Formats

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Well, this week has been a real doozy for the public enemy planeswalker #1. If you didn't know, Oko, Thief of Crowns is set to be one of the most quickly oppressive planeswalkers of all time. And by that, I mean the planeswalker that became the most oppressive, the most quickly. I think that makes sense, but it was a difficult thought to get on paper. Syntax, amirite?

The reason I'm able to make this claim is because Oko utterly dominated multiple formats this weekend, finding a home in the winning or Top 8 decklist in Standard, Modern, Pioneer, Legacy, and Vintage decklists. In case you didn't know, that's basically all of the competitive Constructed formats. What I want to do today is talk about the decklists that were present in their given formats, and we can try and figure out if Oko is the most oppressive three mana planeswalker ever printed.

Vintage

The Vintage decklist that won the Vintage Challenge this past weekend, on October 27th, was won by user ChubbyRain.


Oko, Thief of Crowns
I don't know Vintage archetypes well enough to name this correctly, so you'll have to forgive me if this deck has an established name that I simply don't know about. I think the larger point is that a deck with two copies of Oko (which is a decent number for a single card in Vintage) managed to win the entire event. This planeswalker is brand new, which makes the fact that it has already established itself as a Vintage powerhouse all the more alarming. Do you know how powerful a card has to be to see two copies in a Vintage deck? Do you know how few free slots most Vintage decks have after including all of their "must have" cards? And then the deck goes on to win an entire event? Heck, for comparison, the deck only has one copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor!

I have to imagine one of the best parts about Oko in Vintage is not only being able to turn all of your artifacts into 3/3 attackers when they've outlived their usefulness, but also being able to shut off countless other oppressive artifacts, such as Null Rod, Sorcerous Spyglass, Lodestone Golem, Ensnaring Bridge, you name it! And while Narset, Parter of Veils was also a three-mana planeswalker that found a home in Vintage, I don't believe she also saw play in the following format, unlike Oko.

Legacy

I think we can all admit that Vintage isn't the most accessible format, or the most commonly played. So let's move on to Legacy. This weekend's Legacy Challenge, while not having any Oko in the main deck, did have two copies in the sideboard.


Oko, Thief of Crowns
As you can see, we have a typical Temur Delver list, with two copies of Oko in the sideboard. Admittedly, Legacy and Vintage are two of the formats we should be the least concerned with, because they're the formats that are meant to have the highest power level in the game. That in and of itself, however, does seem to be a reflection on C. The formats with the highest power level in the game wasted no time including multiple copies of Oko in their main decks and sideboards.

Legacy is another format where you can turn a Marit Lage into a 3/3 Elk. Or anything from Ensnaring Bridge, to Griselbrand, to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Have you ever seen someone put an Emrakul into play, maybe via something like Show and Tell, only for you to turn it into a 3/3 Elk before they get to attack with it!? It's embarrassing for everyone. I don't have much more to say about Oko in Legacy; we're mostly just showing off the ubiquitousness of the card here.

Modern

While Oko didn't win the Modern Open or the Modern Classic this past weekend in Atlanta, the card was present in ten of the Top 8 decklists across both events - that's ten out of 16 decklists - seven of which looked like the following Whirza deck.


Oko, Thief of Crowns
Of course, this deck also had copies of Arcum's Astrolabe, another card that we should discuss banning, but we're not here to talk about that piece of junk today. Today we're talking about the four copies of Oko in this deck, leaving a total of 35 copies across both Top 8 events. That's a pretty insane spread, with the planeswalker appearing in eight copies of Whirza, one copy of Devoted Devastation, and one copy of Amulet Titan.

As of these events, Throne of Eldraine has been legal for three weeks, which is a ridiculously short amount of time for a single card to penetrate three separate formats the way it has. And we're not just talking about a card that helped a single archetype in a single format here; we're talking about an addition to multiple tournament winning decklists, all in a single weekend. Not a card that was slowly discovered to be good in Standard, then in Modern, then maybe in Legacy, all over the course of a few weeks or months. The stupid card was in every single format this weekend, and it won every event but Modern, where it came in second in both tournaments.

Pioneer

Pioneer isn't even a "real" format in paper yet, and it still crushed there. This was the winning decklist from the Pioneer Challenge!


Yup, another deck with the full four copies of Oko in it. In addition, there were another 14 copies in the remaining Top 8 decklists. This even beat out the established Arclight Phoenix decks, which only had 12 copies of their namesake card in them.

As I mentioned, Pioneer isn't even an established format yet, and the format has already been loosely defined by the card we're talking about today.

Standard

While we likely don't even need to mention Oko in Standard, we want to be thorough. This past weekend there was also an SCG Standard Classic, where, you guessed it, 20 copies of Oko were found in the Top 8, including the winning Sultai Food deck. And the second place Sultai Food deck. As well as the third place...you get it.


Oko, Thief of Crowns
In addition to the Standard Classic, there was also a Mythic Championship VII Qualifier on MTG Arena There were 16 players that got 10 match wins. Of those 16 decks, an insane 14 of them were playing Oko. All 14 were playing the full four copies. That's 56 copies of Oko in the "Top 16" decklists, in flavors of Bant, Simic, and Sultai. These are not healthy numbers.

Standard seems to be where the card is actually the most oppressive, and that's for two reasons:

  1. The card pool is smaller, so you have fewer cards to choose from.
  2. There are fewer answers (which is somewhat related to number one).

Unlike the other formats listed, we don't have things like Force of Will, Force of Negation, Abrupt Decay, Oblivion Ring, etc. I mean heck, in Standard, even Questing Beast, with all its power, can only knock a freshly played Oko down to two loyalty before it's dealt with. By Oko.

I'm pretty sure these numbers are unprecedented. When I informed someone that Oko was in the Top 8 of every single event, in every single format, in multiple different decks, winning all but the Modern events where it came in second in both, they asked me if that had ever happened with a card before. And I sincerely don't think it has. If someone has information to the contrary, I'd be interested to hear it, because that's a pretty incredible statistic.

But what do all these numbers mean? I'm not entirely sure. I think I'm trying to illustrate how much of a problem Oko is in Standard by pointing out how powerful and readily accepted he has been in all these other, even more powerful formats. I'm not sure that's entirely effective, but I think the one thing that can't be argued is that Oko is an absurdly versatile and powerful card himself, and perhaps too much so in Standard.

Should we ban the card in Standard? I seriously think so. Should we ban the card in older formats as well? Well, I'm not sure. I don't think so, but I do think it's worth keeping an eye on. Is this a fluke or a trend? That's an important distinction to make. Unfortunately in Standard, unlike these older formats, it's a lot harder for the entire format to course correct against a card that can be (and is) easily put into any deck running Blue or Green, especially as a four-of that keeps you alive (Food), gives you threats (Elks), and neutralizes enemy threats (also Elks). Unlike something like Teferi, Time Raveler, or even Liliana of the Veil, Oko is a three-mana planeswalker that quite literally does it all. It does all the things you want a planeswalker to do, for 3 mana, and with a starting loyalty of "essentially" six.

So...what would you do? I'd love to hear all your Oko thoughts in the comments below. This data is pretty eye-opening to me, and I wonder if you feel the same. As always, I love you guys, and thanks a ton for reading. Remember to use promo code FRANK5 to get 5%, and I'll catch you all next week!

Frank Lepore

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