Oko, Thief of Crowns in Modern

Jacob Nagro

Jacob Nagro

Introduction

Oko, Thief of Crowns

It seems like it hasn’t taken long for 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》 to prove itself as one of the best cards in Standard. Often combined with 《Gilded Goose》 and other Food or artifact synergies, Oko has an incredibly warping presence on a game. Due to his 2nd ability being a loyalty gaining ability, he can usually just create an endless supply of 3/3s with the right support surrounding him, while also nullifying anything that might contest your 3/3s into an Elk itself. Seeing Oko’s immediate strength displayed in Standard made me think he’s likely strong enough for Modern, and we don’t even need the exact same support that we usually see him with in Standard.

Arcum's AstrolabeIce-Fang Coatl

It seems a lot of Magic Online players have already figured this out, but what you’re looking for to support Oko are artifacts and creatures that generate value on entrance. Luckily, Modern Horizons has recently given us two great tools to use in 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》 and 《Ice-Fang Coatl》. I expect moving forward for almost any deck with Oko in Modern to be featuring one or both of these cards, while also playing a few other cards that help out Oko.

Fook Token

Another part of Oko that makes me excited to play with him in Modern is simply the life gain aspect of making a Food every turn. In Standard we are seeing a decline Burn style red decks that we saw a bit of before Throne of Eldraine, and the red decks are moving more towards building around 《Cavalcade of Calamity》 to maintain a high damage board presence that life gain won’t be as effective against. That is not the case in Modern, in fact Burn seems to be the most played deck in Modern at the time of writing this article. While I’m sure it’s possible for Burn to overcome Oko every now and then, I have to imagine coming down on turn 2 or 3, going up to 6 loyalty, and making a Food every turn the rest of the game is going to beat them a high percentage of the time.

One last note about Oko before I dive into some decklists is regarding his last ability. I actually think this ability is kind of miss, while I’m sure there are some high value creatures that might be worth trading something for, the play patterns don’t usually end up with Oko playing that way. For starters, your opponent will know you have this option available to you if Oko’s already in play and they have some high impact creature in hand you could take, so they will probably just not play it.

The big reason it’s a miss in my book though is that instead of using his [-5] you could just use his [+1] on the permanent you’d like to take or the one you were planning on donating, and have 6 more loyalty on your Oko. In a world where most people are likely planning on getting rid of your Planeswalkers via combat damage, 6 more loyalty is just an absurd amount to give up. So just make sure when you’re thinking about trading your Food token for something that you keep that in mind. It will likely involve wanting to deal with something like 《Champion of the Parish》 or another creature with +1/+1 counters, as turning those into an Elk is a lot less effective.

Bant Decks

Bant Company

Like I mentioned earlier, it basically took no time for Oko to make an appearance in Modern. In the first Modern Challenge where he was legal we see UBERMIKEYB made the top 8 with a Bant Company deck featuring Oko.

Deputy of DetentionRanger-Captain of EosCollected Company

I think this is a great place to start when looking for a home for Oko. You play a lot of creatures that you can consider upgrading into an Elk, and in general generating board presence can allow you to use Oko on your opponent’s problematic permanents more frequently. 《Batterskull》 not only can outclass the 3/3s you give to your opponent, but you can also turn the Germ into an Elk to really dominate the board with a 7/7 vigilance lifelink.

Spell Queller

On top of that, Oko has a unique interaction with 《Spell Queller》, where you can turn it into an Elk after exiling a spell, and it loses the ability that returns the spell. Note however that this does not work with 《Deputy of Detention》 because the trigger that exiles is the same trigger that returns.

Bant Stoneblade

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the 《Collected Company》 aspect of this deck, and I think a lot of Bant Stoneblade decks also omit it. Recently Kelvin Chew wrote an article about how he would build Bant Stoneblade, so I made some updates to his list to feature Oko along with a couple other cards from Throne of Eldraine.

Stoneforge MysticSword of Feast and FamineTeferi, Time Raveler

While Oko doesn’t have quite the same function as 《Geist of Saint Traft》, it made sense to me as the proactive slot to try Oko in, while also maintaining the same blue card count for 《Force of Negation》.

Brazen BorrowerOnce Upon a TimeMoorland Haunt

I also cut a 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 to try out 《Brazen Borrower》, and a 《Giver of Runes》 for a 《Once Upon a Time》. I don’t really know how to approach 《Once Upon a Time》 in Modern, especially in a fair strategy like this. I figured with 1 copy you’re 11.66% to have it in any 7 card hand, and if you draw it later you might be able to leverage the fact that it’s an instant to bluff something like Coatl or Queller anyways. I also switched 《Gavony Township》 for 《Moorland Haunt》, because I liked the idea of making more bodies for Oko and equipments.

Urza Decks

Right now most people seem to agree that the various shells of Urza decks are the best thing you can be doing in Modern. While 《Emry, Lurker of the Loch》 has made an obvious inclusion to Urza decks, and even allowing you to combo off with 《Jeskai Ascendancy》 or 《Paradox Engine》, I believe Oko should also be included in most versions of Urza, in the sideboard at the very least.

Stony SilenceKarn, the Great CreatorCollector OupheLightning Bolt

Part of what makes the Urza decks so powerful is that they usually all feature an infinite combo, but they also just generate a lot of pressure and play a fair game extremely well. Oko fits right into this postboard plan by letting you turn 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》, redundant Moxen, or Thopters into Elks, while also giving you an answer to other problematic permanents you may be facing. In the face of 《Stony Silence》 or 《Karn, the Great Creator》 he lets you turn your useless artifacts into something threatening, and even just deals with 《Collector Ouphe》. A lot of these decks also usually play cards like 《Timely Reinforcements》 or 《Weather the Storm》 in their sideboard to help against Burn, and I think Oko will do a similar job of defeating Burn while also being more versatile in other matchups.

In Modern leagues we’ve already seen Oko see play in the archetype, here is a list from MTGO grinder Pascal3000:

Urza Outcome

Emry, Lurker of the LochSai, Master ThopteristEnsnaring Bridge

There are other Urza lists very similar to this one that also play 1 Oko main deck and 1-2 more in their sideboard. I think a split like that is reasonable, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end up purely a sideboard card, as it plays better in a slower games. If anything, I would expect to see more copies of Oko show up in the Thopter-Sword variants of Urza, because that deck is usually a little better at playing a slower game. They also have the ability to combine Oko with a copy of 《Ensnaring Bridge》, allowing you to effectively make anything you turn into an Elk useless.

Here is an example of a deck that 5-0d a league this week as well.

Urza Thopter-Sword

Whir of InventionThopter FoundrySword of the Meek

This version really starts to take on a midrange gameplan in game 1. Recently, Sam Black made a comparison to the current Urza decks reminding him of 《Birthing Pod》 decks of the past, and I’m inclined to agree. They both have a toolbox element, they both play a fair midrange game that threatens to win with a combo, and they frequently get to utilize any powerful new cards that get released, making them only get stronger set after set. Urza decks in particular usually have access to 5 colors, making almost any powerful card something they should think about playing.

Temur and Sultai with Oko

Naturally, Oko can still find a home in Temur or Sultai shells, but there aren’t really any fleshed out versions of those decks already existing in Modern. I suspect if one pops up, it will likely be featuring 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》 and 《Ice-Fang Coatl》 already, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Oko fits right in as well.

Sultai Planeswalkers

Once again, someone has already done so in the first week of Modern leagues:

Karn, the Great CreatorThoughtseizeInquisition of Kozilek

While not exactly the Sultai shell I was expecting, the deck features pretty much only powerful cards. 《Karn, the Great Creator》 is likely a nod to the huge amount of 《Mox Opal》 decks seeing play in Modern right now, the deck also has hand disruption for combo, and now Oko to help against Burn. This deck is likely leaning more on Oko’s ability to produce a 3/3 every other turn rather than supporting it, but with enough disruption that’s also a reasonable game plan. If anything this decklist is a testament to the raw power level of Oko without building around him, and simply being a 3 mana Planeswalker that generates pressure is good enough.

Temur Planeswalkers

Lightning BoltOko, Thief of CrownsWrenn and Six

I’ve yet to see any Temur midrange decks featuring Oko so far, but I really think he might help the archetype with some of its weak points. Temur traditionally struggles with dealing with large creatures, and turning one into a 3/3 can let your 《Lightning Bolt》s remove it or your 《Tarmogoyf》s outclass it. In addition to that, the life gain from Oko is especially welcome with 《Wrenn and Six》, who’s play pattern usually results in a lot of fetching. Here is where I would start with a Temur deck featuring Oko:

Snapcaster MageTarmogoyfJace, the Mind Sculptor

Once again, this deck doesn’t feature much to turn into an Elk, though 《Snapcaster Mage》 gives us a few more targets than the Sultai deck, but this deck is just trying to rely on the raw power level of its Planeswalkers to take over the game.

Mystic SanctuaryIrencrag Pyromancer

It also features the new card 《Mystic Sanctuary》, which can be fetched up in the late game to rebuy something, and even later bounced with 《Cryptic Command》. In the sideboard I’d like to try 《Irencrag Pyromancer》. It’s possible this card won’t play out well enough, but with a decent amount of cycling and 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》 or 《Wrenn and Six》 + 《Lonely Sandbar》 to give you an actual repeatable engine I figured it might be able to shine.

Conclusion

It seems like people are already having moderate success with Oko in Modern. Obviously people are always going to try out the new cards, and they might be hurting their expected win rate but winning anyways by doing so, but Oko seems to clearly stand out as something powerful enough for Modern.

PongifyBeast Within

I’m really curious about the design process regarding him, especially his 2nd ability. Effects like 《Pongify》 or 《Beast Within》 have only seen niche play historically in Magic, so I understand the initial impression that this ability might not be too warping in a game, but when you have access to it every turn and you can use your mana on other resources to play the game around Oko it proves itself as incredibly powerful.

I expect to keep seeing Oko in pop in Modern, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of copies go down, even just to singleton in the 75 of any given deck. Because Oko is so powerful in the context of Standard, it can be worth it to draw redundant copies because controlling one usually means you’re in a favorable position. In Modern that’s much less likely to be the case, and Oko is simply a powerful card in a sea of powerful cards. On top of that a lot of his power comes in the fact that he gives you a lot of options, and traditionally in Modern cards like that are moved into sideboards as in game 1 you want to be as lean and powerful as possible. That being said it’s possible Oko is just lean and powerful enough to make the main deck anyways.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share any cool places you see Oko with me on Twitter @JacobNagro.

Jacob Nagro (Twitter)

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Jacob Nagro

Jacob Nagro Jacob Nagro is a pro player from United States. His first appearance was GP Denver 2016 where he made top 8 with UW Flash. He keeps trying hard and his effort was paid off as the Silver Level Pro in the 2016-2017 season. He played a spicy RB Bridgevine deck featuring Greater Gargadon and Bloodghast at the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. His team went 7th place and he became a Gold Level Pro with the impressive record. Read more articles by Jacob Nagro