When I began laying out cool two-card combinations I saw enabled by Throne of Eldraine, something kept coming up over and over again:
The mysterious first Food reveal, Oko, Thief of Crowns is sure to grow into a controversy magnet. Is the card awful? Unplayable? Awesome? Unbeatable?
No idea, either.
But he sure enables some cool or at least interesting interactions with other cards you might want to play with. As such, it probably behooves us to pause for a moment and think about what the card does.
Oko, Thief of Crowns is a four base loyalty Planeswalker for the low low price of . Given all the new additions in War of the Spark, we are beyond the days when a three-mana Planeswalker was always one of the strongest cards in the format... But holler if you're old enough to remember Jace Beleren as a Top 10 card in Standard or have bumped up against one of the Liliana twins in Modern or even Legacy recently. For what it's worth, I watched a former US National Champion win a Modern MCQ with Teferi, Time Raveler last weekend, and it's not even clear Teferi is the best three-mana Planeswalker in Standard.
For his part, Oko has three abilities, and it isn't even clear if any of them are good. "Draw a card" we understand. "Kill that thing and leave me a body" we understand. "Win the game" (in any of its infinite variations) we understand... Even if it takes us a moment to process it all the way. But these abilities?
[+2]: Create a Food token
Is this worth a card? Did I mention I understood the value of drawing a card, or making someone discard a card, yet? I don't know that a vanilla Food token is worth a full card (Golden Egg, for instance lets you draw a card as well)... But to me, the big thing about this ability is that it brings Oko's loyalty immediately up to ; so that, unmolested, you can fire off the Ultimate and keep Oko. If nothing else, he's very good at getting to the finish line quickly*.
[+1]: Target artifact or creature loses all abilities and becomes a green Elk creature with base power and toughness 3/3.
This ability is weird. Like food-level weird. You know how we might not be altogether sure whether food is worth a card? Is a Pongify? I guess people played a lot of Pongify back in the appropriate day. Big difference here is that you might do it to your own stuff [see below]. Notably, this ability also increases Oko's loyalty. You can get there, get Ultimate in just one turn, even this way. You just have to be willing to give up the Thief of Crowns to...
[-5]: Exchange control of target artifact or creature you control and target creature an opponent controls with power 3 or less.
This is not a powerful Ultimate. Oko, the Trickster in other stories can be trading tinsel for 2-drops. It's quite intuitive that he can make a bunch of Food and then trade some of it for one of the opponent's creatures. Since he made the Food anyway, you're kind of ahead-ahead. But not so far ahead that you automatically win the game, as with many other Planeswalkers. Is this ability good? Great? Something you should try to do a lot? Something you should never focus on doing?
No idea, either.
I'm mostly in it for the expensive dinners.
1. Gilded Goose + Oko, Thief of Crowns
Check out Gilded Goose:
Yeah, you might chuckle to yourself. If nothing else, Gilded Goose might intercept a Healer's Hawk or three.
That second toughness and that ability to fly make this card not totally irrelevant on the stats. But it has two abilities; both Food-related.
Why would you want to do that?
Well, for one thing, the Gilded Goose can make Blue mana if you need it; and we already said if nothing else, club queen Oko is fast. Why not a little fast-er?
One of the upsides to Gilded Goose is that you can, presuming you have a spare lying around, make Food every turn; or mana every other turn. That said, here are some of the things you can do in Standard for two otherwise unspent mana:
Theoretically, you can spend to make Food and then two more to eat it.
... But that's a pretty expensive way to do it.
So you're asking me to spend two cards - one of them three mana - to get one card's utility in return?
When you put it that way, it sounds terrible!
But you don't necessarily have to use the Gilded Goose every turn (allowing you to stockpile Food), and more importantly, you're not just playing the build-my-own-Birds game... You're netting loyalty on Oko!
That little four in the bottom-right will be ever going up on this combo, allowing you to make exchanges when they make sense.
But that's not all!
Especially if you don't value your Gilded Goose much, you can immediately Pongify it. Oko will go up to five loyalty, and you'll have a 3/3 creature to defend. Planeswalkers sometimes get a bad rap for not being able to defend themselves, but a 3/3 on turn two is no slacker. Food might be a better Pongify target long-term (especially considering the tapped-ness of the Gilded Goose) but it's probably worth it to know this is in the potential range.
But to bring it all back around... There are many decks that are simply not going to be able to beat a fast Oko strategy that just sits around making Food every turn. We're about to lose The City's Blessing, but there are mechanics like that, or the Improvise on Whir of Invention that reward you for making a lot of random artifacts. While increasing loyalty, remember.
Lovestruck Beast is both a very good competitive card and an absolute triumph of game mechanics and flavor.
The Heart's Desire is both Belle and the enabler of the Beast.
The Lovestruck Beast itself is quite wonderful. A 5/5 creature for three is in the elite offensive class. It's not that it can't attack or block without Belle... It can always still block (just not attack) if you lose your 1/1.
Almost a better way of playing this card than Belle-first is Elves-first. Llanowar Elves into 5/5, just like
Garfield Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve** intended.
What's the problem?
[card]Llanowar Elves" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/Llanowar Elves" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/[card]Llanowar Elves">[card]Llanowar Elves">Llanowar Elves" href="/p/Magic+The+Gathering/[card]Llanowar Elves">[card]Llanowar Elves is in Dominaria.
Would have been a happy partnership, but the Beast has no eyes for Llanowar Elves. Less a non-bo than a not-possible-bo, but what about a polyamorous Beast?
2. Lovestruck Beast + March of the Multitudes
The Lovestruck Beast is already in Green.
A noble brute, this Beast Noble has a well-known vulnerability. Without its Belle, the Beast can only block. Some opponents will concentrate fire on your 1/1 to neuter the Beast in a kind of wannabe two-for-one; especially if they don't have removal appropriate to 5 toughness.
You can mitigate these counter-strategies somewhat by playing more 1/1 machines than just Heart's Desire itself. Finale of Glory has become the White token maker of choice for Green (or Bant) decks in recent months, but 2/2 Soldiers are not going to help us out here. The Beast might want Belle... But it'll settle for 1/1 Soldiers.
Any of the old Selesnya token makers will probably synergize just fine. Play a Trostani, all of a sudden the Beast will be in The Red Zone. This is an important pattern to recognize playing against Lovestruck Beast: If you're aiming for the 1/1, the Beast, however long at bay, will always have a kind of pseudo-haste, given the appearance of a 1/1 playmate.
Speaking of playmates, let's jump back to Oko and his merry bag of, um, edibles.
3. Oko, Thief of Crowns + Shimmer Dragon.
Oko costs three mana.
Shimmer Dragon costs six mana.
Ergo if you make Food on turns three, four, five, and six, the turn you [can] play Shimmer Dragon, you'll have four Food in play already.
Shimmer Dragon is the card I most want to be good.
Shimmer Dragon has two different powerful abilities, both of which benefit from having multiple artifacts in play. Food is an artifact, and as we've said repeatedly: Oko is a cheap as hell way of getting a ton of Food in play.
Imagine Shimmer Dragon just said this:
I don't know if that card is great or not; but a world where it's not a playable card is scary to me. Any four artifacts will do, but these ones just happen to be free, and the mana points line up perfectly.
The additional ability to tap artifacts to draw cards is a clear way to transform Oko's Food-making abilities into real card [cardboard] advantage.
Because I love tapping out for big Blue theats, this may be the most interesting implementation of Oko, for me.
4. Wishclaw Talisman + Oko, Thief of Crowns
Wishclaw Talisman is the kind of card that really gets the gears turning. There are a number of ways this card can be good by itself.
If you don't care what the opponent is doing, you can get two Demonic Tutors out of it. You get one, they get one, you get the last one. In some cases, the advantage you get out of this card will be so profound that there will be nothing the opponent can realistically do to get out of even your first Demonic Tutor. Imagine a Red Deck facing a deck with a singleton Circle of Protection: Red. There will be many matchups where you can get a profound advantage from, say, a Wrath of God-type effect... Versus some dudes. Sometimes the opponent just won't use it back because the prospect of your getting a second swing is just too scary.
Or, If you're just going to WIN RIGHT NOW, you can just get a three mana Demonic Tutor out of it (over two turns if you want). Imagine just using this to get the last burn card you need to win against an opponent at low life. The opponent might not have a chance to use Wishclaw Talisman back if you end it right there. A cute variation, therefore, might be using it just to find Flood of Tears.
This of course will allow you to get the Talisman back, ostensibly before the opponent gets a tap. Wishclaw Talisman into Teferi, Time Raveler will work. Bounce that! Because Wishclaw Talisman can only be used on one's own turn, the opponent will not be able to respond by using it. You even get to draw a card!
Oko works in a similar way.
You can use the Talisman and then exchange, say, a Food for it thanks to Oko's [-5]. You can also activate Oko's [+1] on the Talisman and then respond by activating it. You might only be able to use Wishclaw Talisman on your own turn, but you can still do it at instant speed. Is a 3/3 Elk good to get? Maybe. Probably not better than a Wishclaw Talisman with some toothpaste still in the tube.
5. Oko, Thief of Crowns + Wicked Wolf
Oko, Thief of Crowns is a three.
Wicked Wolf is not only a four... It's a pretty plausible four.
Compare to this tournament Staple:
You might not necessarily have a lot of protection for Oko to start, but Oko can kind of protect himself with a little loyalty. Come next turn, Wicked Wolf can fight off a potential attacker AND leave a solid body to defend against the next one.
A 3/3 for four mana isn't the biggest thing ever, obviously; but how about a 4/4 (or larger) one... That can't be killed at all? All of a sudden there is something we can do with all this Food. If will be common to have two or more Food on the battlefield when you play your Wicked Wolf, allowing it to beat - and eat - 4/4 or even 5/5 enemies.
*The missing shirt and leather pirate pants might have been a tipoff, honestly.