How to Approach the Oko Standard

Sebastian Pozzo


Gilded GooseOko, Thief of CrownsNissa, Who Shakes the WorldHydroid Krasis

Recently the Magic community was mostly upset about the state of the current Standard after the ban of 《Field of the Dead》. It turns out that the other “best deck” in the Golos Standard (Goose-Oko-Nissa-Krasis shell) is even more dominant now than what Golos was before. However, I have a glimmer of positivism in this aspect and I will explain in this article why playing 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》 is not the only option if you want to win in this format. What I don’t really love about the format is how the Oko decks are centered in mana acceleration into planeswalkers, and a lot of games if you don’t answer the planeswalkers right away they will keep increasing their advantage to a point of no return.

However, Standard is usually a very dynamic format, and the best deck for a given time is usually not the best deck afterwards because people will target it more. So, the way to gain an advantage is to be a step ahead of what most of the people will play.

Noxious GraspVeil of Summer

For example: When Golos was banned, the “best decks” left were Bant and Simic Food. A lot of people anticipated this move and decided to add black to the Simic deck for maindeck 《Noxious Grasp》 and 《Vraska, Golgari Queen》. But once this became the most popular deck there were basically two paths to try to gain an advantage. One is to go back and play a deck that isn’t targeted by 《Noxious Grasp》 (Temur Reclamation, Rakdos Sacrifice, Azorius Control) or go even further leveling the Sultai Food metagame maindecking 《Veil of Summer》:

Now, if some people are succeeding with Noxius and also Veil maindeck, then the strategies that don’t get touched by these cards (I’ve seen some Rakdos Knights decks appearing lately on Magic Online) will start to be real even though their power level is lower than Oko-Nissa-Krasis.

And what would this lead us to? Stage one! If the metagame starts leveling a lot, there will come a point where the predators of week one decks will be diminished and week one decks will start to pop up again. That would be a more tempo-oriented version of Simic Food for example.

So, let’s review some decklists that I liked from the last weeks sorting them by leveling.

Metagame: Stage 1

For Stage one I will choose the Simic decklist that Shouta Yasooka used to win his MPL Split.

Brazen BorrowerQuesting BeastMobilized District

This is obviously very similar to any Sultai Food deck, so winrates shouldn’t differ a lot by playing this or Sultai. This deck will expect that some players choose to play fringe strategies such as Rakdos Sacrifice (hoping for 《Noxious Grasp》s in your opponent’s maindecks) while also having a less painful manabase against Knights and Gruul decks.

Veil of SummerAether Gust

Also it’s nice to point out that 《Veil of Summer》 doesn’t interact with 《Aether Gust》 when you chose to use it as a 《Memory Lapse》, because it’s not countering the spell.

Metagame: Stage 2

Noxious GraspVraska, Golgari Queen

Stage Two would be adding black for 《Noxious Grasp》 and 《Vraska, Golgari Queen》, as most of the MPL players of this split chose to do:

Liliana, Dreadhorde GeneralAssassin's Trophy

This is what Matthew Nass and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa played with, and I liked it because they even tuned it for the mirror, replacing 《Garruk, Cursed Huntsman》 with 《Liliana, Dreadhorde General》 to not get your top end targeted by 《Noxious Grasp》. It even has 《Assassin’s Trophy》 in the sideboard in case your opponent is also playing Liliana.

This deck is what I consider to be the strongest strategy of the format in itself. And no matter how much it can get targeted it’s hard to imagine the winrate going low. Even though in the MPL Split Simic Food won I think playing black should give you a little edge for this matchup.

Metagame: Stage 3

For stage 3 I’d like to point out two decks that I really liked from the MCQW:

Temur Reclamation

First of all is the one my friend Matias Leveratto chose to play, coming a win short to making it again to the Arena MC:

Wilderness ReclamationExpansion+Explosion

This strategy can be a little weak to aggro strategies, but in these Oko days there aren’t many Mono-Reds, Knights or Gruuls. Adding some 《Noxious Grasp》s in your opponent’s maindeck makes this deck can be very strong.

Shouta’s Simic decklist can be very problematic though. Bouncing 《Wilderness Reclamation》 before it triggers with 《Brazen Borrower》 into 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》 could be impossible to overcome.

Rakdos Sacrifice

Let’s move to the deck that Antonino De Rosa used in the MCQW to earn a qualification for MC VII.

Claim the FirstbornPriest of Forgotten Gods

I’ve played with this deck a little bit and it’s very interesting how it can do crazy stuff (mostly with the combination of 《Claim the Firstborn》 with 《Priest of Forgotten Gods》) but it can be a little disfunctional from times to time since it’s very synergy-based.

Witch's OvenCauldron FamiliarMidnight ReaperMayhem Devil

The combination of 《Witch’s Oven》 with the 《Cauldron Familiar》 is really strong, and totally insane if you also add 《Midnight Reaper》 or 《Mayhem Devil》 to the mix. Sometimes you can even be super mana screwed but if you have one or two Ovens with the Cat you will just chumpblock and drain your opponent to death. My guess would be that the perfect hand is 1 Cat 4 Ovens 2 Lands. I can’t imagine ever losing with that.

Golgari Adventures

Lastly, I’d like to mention what the better performing Challenger so far this year, Chris Kvartek used to qualify (again!!!) in the MCQW.

Questing BeastNoxious GraspVivien, Arkbow Ranger

This Golgari Adventures deck is designed to not suffer much against 《Noxious Grasp》 (no more 《Questing Beast》s and 《Vivien, Arkbow Ranger》s, they are very good but you don’t want to trade down on mana in this format).

Rankle, Master of PranksLiliana, Dreadhorde General

Instead he decided to run 3 《Rankle, Master of Pranks》 to even discard his own maindeck playset of 《Noxious Grasp》 in case they are useless (also making opponent to sacrifice a creature when you have the Human token provided by 《Lovestruck Beast》 is usually great). Notice 2 《Liliana, Dreadhorde General》 as a very strong top end to fight the Sultai Decks, very hard to kill for them.

Two GP Results and Conclusion

After seeing the results of GP Lyon and Nagoya, Oko decks were pretty dominant.

Mass ManipulationTeferi, Time Raveler

In Lyon there were two copies of Bant Food with 3 《Mass Manipulation》 maindeck and 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 in the sideboard as a 《Veil of Summer》 protection, and one of them won the whole tournament in hands of Antoine Lagarde. An interesting approach of how to go over the top of other Oko Decks.

Brazen Borrower

In Nagoya Riku Kumagai won the tournament with the same Simic shell but instead of going over the top with 《Mass Manipulation》 it focused on the tempo fight with 4 《Brazen Borrower》, similar to what Shouta Yasooka did winning his MPL split.

That’s all for today, even though I’m not giving you a clean answer on what decks are good and which ones aren’t, I think it’s great that there isn’t a clear answer. Sure, Sultai Food is great, but it’s not unbeatable and people hating it too much will make the metagame more diverse with other strategies taking an advantage on that.

Sebastian Pozzo (Twitter)

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Sebastian Pozzo Picking up the title of Standard Master this season, he has reached the Gold Level Pro. He also is being the first player from Argentina to qualify for the 2017 World Championship Holding the title Standard Master, his strength is in the constructed format, and is outstanding when picking decks for the format. At Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, he has chosen the most favored deck, Ramunap Red, leading him into the title Standard Master. He is joining Hareruya Hopes with his teammate from the same country of Argentina, Luis Salvatto. Read more articles by Sebastian Pozzo