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What's the New Standard?


Well, we did it!

Also, it is Wednesday, my dudes!

Welcome back. It feels like we've been talking about cards being banned in Standard - or, god, in every format, really - for a month straight now. In fact, I bet we actually have been. Between bannings in Pioneer, and bannings in Standard, it's basically been one week of change after another. This week was no different.

This week, Standard finally did away with the bogeyman that has been plaguing it for the better part of the past month. While there were no new Pioneer bannings this week (neat!), there were three more (!) cards banned in Standard. That brings the current number of cards banned in Standard up to four right now, which is...a lot for Wizards' flagship format, especially when three of them are rare and in packs that are still being sold. It's a whole lot of cringe face all around.

Let's talk about the cards that are no longer going to keep us up at night. (Well, at least not in Standard anyway.)

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Come on. Just come on. This dude didn't stand a chance. Out of the three cards that were banned this week, this one was the most obvious. This card was a mistake, plain and simple. While Oko may have a ton of longevity in older formats, like Modern and Pioneer...and Legacy...and, uh, Vintage...his time in Standard needed to come to an end. Creating a permanent every turn, that interacts favorably with not only himself, but other staples in the format like Gilded Goose and Wicked Wolf, was powerful enough, but he was also able to invalidate every viable artifact or creature in the format.

I remember being really excited about playing a Griselbrand to stabilize in a Cube draft and thinking about all the life I was going to gain, forgetting that my opponent had an Oko on board, and that I was going to gain no life. Conversely, I also remember my opponent playing an Inferno Titan against me and wondering how I was going to deal with, before realizing that I had an Oko on board. It's comical how good this card was and is.

Once Upon a Time

I don't think Once Upon a Time is broken, no more than I think Oath of Nissa is broken in Pioneer. They're both just very good cards. The problem is that both of these cards are helpful components among a sizable concentration of good Green cards, and you really want to make sure you make those good Green cards just a little less efficient and powerful. Getting rid of Once Upon a Time helps that, disallowing players to essentially "search" for a removal spell (Wicked Wolf) or a card draw/life gain spell (Hydroid Krasis).

Veil of Summer

I don't think we need to say anything else about this gem. If you want to know my thoughts on Veil of Summer, be sure and check out last week's article, where I wrote about it at length. Everything I wrote about the card through the lens of Pioneer equally applies to Standard, maybe more so, as we have a smaller card pool.

All in all, I'm fine with all of these bans. Standard didn't feel healthy, and while I don't know exactly what I personally would have banned to rectify that, I can't rightly disagree with any of these choices.

What Now?

Well, that's the question, isn't it. I think It's likely that I'll enjoy Standard for a little bit, but I'm not entirely sure what it's going to look like. If I had to guess, I would say Standard is likely going to settle between three and six major archetypes. Here's what I think they may be.

Sacrifice Decks

This seems like it might be the biggest problem going forward. Along with Oko, the Mythic Championship taught us how efficient the Witch's Oven/Cauldron Familiar combo could be, especially with cards like Midnight Reaper and Mayhem Devil supporting it. The Jund version of the deck loses practically nothing, and they can even free up some slots by moving some number of Noxious Grasp to the Sideboard. Personally, I would just add something like Legion's End, a card that I expect might go up in value if Cauldron Familiar because a legitimate problem in the future.

Trail of Crumbs is also a great engine card that premiered at the Mythic Championship, and this might be just the deck we can expect to pick up where Simic Food left off in terms of value and versatility.

Fires of Invention Decks

These were already super popular. Not only are they powerful, with Fires being a really unique and fun card to build around, there are also a lot of possibilities. From Niv-Mizzet Reborn, to the Cavalier version of the deck, you can pretty much customize Fires of Invention decks however you like. Some versions run Fae of Wishes, some don't. Fires as an engine is really strong, but it also has a built in safeguard in only allowing you to play two spells per turn and disallowing you from casting spells on the opponent's turn.

Fires of Invention was one of my favorite Throne of Eldraine cards, and it was sad to see such a unique design stifled by the oppressive Oko metagame at the Mythic Championships. Maybe we'll see that change moving forward.

Teferi, Time Raveler Decks

This is a little more broad of a category. I think you're either going to be looking at multicolored decks that take advantage of Hero of Precinct One, that can fall under Bant or Esper, or you're looking at control decks that can now come out of hiding thanks to the ban of Veil of Summer. I think this is the category I'm least excited about, simply because I think Teferi only stopped seeing play once Oko was printed. Now I worry the format will devolve into a Teferi-dominant metagame, but only time will tell, really. For now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the other three-mana planeswalker doesn't drop the ball here.

Adventure Decks

This one seems like a no brainer. The only non-Oko decks in the Top 8 of the Mythic Championship were two Adventure decks, both bg andwg. That definitely says something about the archetype. If two different versions of the deck could flourish - okay, maybe "flourish" is too strong a word - in an Oko-heavy metagame, they should do even better when that deck has been taken down a few pegs.

One thing this deck does end up losing is Once Upon a Time, but I don't think that's a huge issue. It does make finding things like Edgewall Innkeeper, an integral engine for the deck, a little bit harder, but that's a minimal concern. Now the decks can simply play more Adventures. Or more removal. Or...whatever they want to! Losing Once Upon a Time definitely isn't going to break the archetype, especially when it was one of the few who could manage a Top 8 berth before the bannings.

Gruul Aggro

This was a deck that was designed to beat the Food decks. That does not, however, mean that it will be capable of beating the decks that rise up in the food deck's place. It stands a good chance, because the cards themselves are all quite powerful, but when you build a deck to combat a very specific metagame strategy, that deck might fall short when trying to combat other, more diverse strategies. But we'll see.

There's also a Gruul Aggro list that could technically be filed under "Adventures," played by Javier Dominguez, with Edgewall Innkeepers and everything, so this could just be another Adventure variant.

Knight Decks

This is the only one I'm not sure of, but there were quite a few Knight decks at the Mythic Championship. N1 managed to make the Top 8, or even the Top 16 I don't think, but we did see them in coverage, so some pros were definitely a fan of the Mardu synergies (although I think the majority were just br versions). A deck like this also gets to take advantage of a card like Embercleave, which is immensely powerful, so that's another perk here.

If these are some of the archetypes that end up representing Standard, and they represent it less oppressively than the previously stalwarts of the format, then it's very possible Standard could be healthy again. I'm sure looking forward to finding out, especially when the past few months have been an emotional rollercoaster, where each week we would wonder what cards would still be legal in a given format. There's been a lot of bannings in the past month, folks.

Do me a solid and leave your thoughts below in the comment section. Are you looking forward to an Oko-Free Standard format? Do you envision any problems arising? As always, I love you guys, and thanks so much for reading. I'll be back next week, and be sure to use promo code FRANK5 for 5% off!

Frank Lepore

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