This week, Wizards decided to ban Field of the Dead in Standard. Not a particularly surprising move, especially after only 10 days’ notice of the new ban list announcement date.
Almost everyone playing Standard will agree that this was a necessary move. The Bant Golos deck made up a significant portion of the metagame in Standard and was most notably very hard to combat. Whilst aggro mechanics – Gruul, Knights or just plain old Mono Red –offered a decent matchup, they came out poorly against a lot of the other decks in the meta.
So what does this banning mean for Standard moving forward? Here are my thoughts:
Oko, Thief of Crowns is now the best card in Standard
Whilst it was fairly common knowledge that Golos was the best deck in Standard, there were a cluster of decks occupying the second place slot, all headlined by Oko, Thief of Crowns. Oko is just the latest in a long history of horrifically powerful 3-mana Planeswalkers – following in the footsteps of Liliana of the Veil, Liliana, the Last Hope, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (yes, he costs 5, but also untaps 2 lands immediately…), Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils. Furthermore, the last two are also legal in Standard.
Still using Hydroid Krasis, Oko has tightened without Field of the Dead to focus on green ramp and powerful creatures. This is the Oko list Huey Jensen and the rest of his team played at Mythic Championship V:
Arboreal Grazer and Gilded Goose both make Oko castable on turn 2, to generate a food token (i.e. 3 life) per turn, generate a 3/3 creature every other turn, turn troublesome permanents into Elks with no abilities… all whilst having one of the highest starting loyalties of any cheap planeswalker in the history of the game!
Short of dying immediately to Murderous Rider or Noxious Grasp, there is a good chance that a turn 2 or 3 Oko will still be in play a few turns later and this is likely to prove to be the strongest strategy once Golos is finally banned. Simic decks in general have a ton of powerful options along with all of their mana creatures: Hydroid Krasis, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Wicked Wolf, Questing Beast, Brazen Borrower, Frilled Mystic, the list goes on. Simic-based midrange and ramp decks were already good against the field, and no longer have Golos to contest with, so it stands to reason that they will take the top spot of the format, at least at first.
Aggro decks are going to be very bad
The main reason to play an aggro deck at Mythic Championship V was their strong position against Golos decks. By Javier’s own admission, he picked Gruul a day before decklists were due to be submitted, with the positive Golos matchup as being the most relevant factor in his decision. With those gone, the aggro decks in the format have no good matchups to fight against. Oko is a nightmare for aggro decks to deal with. A turn 2 Oko effectively represents 9 extra life for an aggro deck to have to plough through, and without access to cards like Noxious Grasp this will likely push at least Mono Red decks out of the format. At least until…
Control decks now have the potential to emerge
Control decks could not have possibly existed in a world where Field of the Dead is legal. Control decks needed to stop the Golos deck before it ever got going. But if it did get going, an endless stream of Zombies would be impossible for a control deck to overcome. Even more so, when a control deck is able to stop a Golos deck do their thing, it’s only a matter of time before they naturally draw the right number of lands and then the Zombies still cannot be stopped.
With Field of the Dead now gone, Standard doesn’t seem to pose any insurmountable problems for control decks. In time, Control can adopt methods to fight each of the decks that creep to the top of the Standard metagame. My initial instinct would be that these will need to be based in blue and black at first, because Murderous Rider and Noxious Grasp are two of the best answers to Oko. Red doesn’t have anything efficient enough to deal with Oko itself and white’s answers, such as Prison Realm, can be dealt with by green. Esper Control is probably a good start, perhaps based around Doom Foretold and Dance of the Manse such as this deck designed by Bryan Gottlieb, that he won the first Fandom Legends tournament of this format with:
2 Murderous Rider
This build centres around Doom Foretold by putting out expendable non-token permanents to sacrifice to it whilst your opponent is forced to sacrifice permanents that they care about. Given that Food tokens cannot be sacrificed, this does make it a good plan against Oko and might be a good place to start.
Once control decks are able to establish themselves in the metagame again, aggro decks may be able to also come back as a logical counter to them. The traditional triangle of matchups in Standard will be complete. There is however, one final caveat to all of this:
Oko, Thief of Crowns is probably the next card to be banned in Standard
Standard is healthiest when aggro, midrange and control decks all exist together. It means that if you choose one of them then you have good matchups against some of the field and bad matchups against the other. However, Oko might be far too powerful for this model to stay balanced. Many pros were speculating that Oko, Thief of Crowns could have been banned alongside Field of the Dead this week, but it wasn’t. The next ban list announcement is on November 18th, which gives Standard more than enough time to develop and adjust to this new metagame. Only time will tell if Oko is able to exist in the format much longer.
Tell us your thoughts in the comments. Is Oko, Thief of Crowns doomed, or will another card take the hit?
Find more of Andrew’s articles, including tournament reports and announcements via his author page.