November 18 Standard Ban Announcement Predictions and Metagame Preview
Wizards of the Coast will be making a banned and restricted announcement tomorrow on November 18, and there is a wide consensus that there will be a change to the Standard banlist. In this article, we will review how the Standard metagame has shaped up so far, what we think will happen tomorrow, and how the new metagame may adapt. We also have a small giveaway at the end, so read on!
Overview of the Standard Metagame So Far
On October 21, Field of the Dead was banned on the back of its 42% share of the metagame in Mythic Championship V. It had only been a month after the release of Throne of Eldraine, and the focus was largely on Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Field of the Dead. Food decks were still a big player in the metagame but due to its relative weakness against Field of the Dead, it remained somewhat under the radar.
After the banning however, it did not take long for the Food decks to take the sole crown as the top deck of Standard. It revolves around the core cards of Oko, Thief of Crowns, Gilded Goose and Wicked Wolf, supported by powerful green cards such as Once Upon a Time, Nissa Who Shakes the World, Hydroid Krasis and Paradise Druid. The metagame breakdown of recent tournaments since the banning of Field of the Dead were as follows, in chronological order:
- October 27 – Mythic Championship VII Qualifier: 94.1% of the top 102 decks decks containing green cards and 66.6% of them containing Oko, Thief of Crowns. Top 12 of the top 16 qualified players had Oko in their decks.
- November 3 – MagicFest Nagoya: 56% of 339 decks were the Food decks and variants. Azorius Control shows a strong result by the finalist.
- November 3 – MagicFest Lyon: 40% of 163 players in the second day of the tournament were Oko decks. Temur Reclamation shows some strong results.
- November 8 – Mythic Championship VI: 65% of the 519 players have chosen to bring Oko Food decks and its variants. The breakout deck of the tournament is Sultai Sacrifice/Aristocrats, which combines the Oko Food package and the sacrifice synergy of Cauldron Familiar, Witch’s Oven and Trail of Crumbs.
- November 10 – MagicFest Richmond: 569 players registered for the main event that shows the waning interest of players for Standard 55% of the metagame are Oko Food decks. 13% are the Sacrifice variants and also the winner of the tournament.
As we can see here, the metagame is heavily warped. In fact, it is so warped that sideboard cards are now being used in the mainboard – namely Noxious Grasp, Aether Gust to fight the green cards, and Veil of Summer in the green decks to counter these strategies. It is then an unfortunate side effect that other completely different decks that happen to fall within those colors become weaker as well.
Looking at all of this, it is no surprise that players are eagerly waiting for the announcement tomorrow and face a fresh metagame. Reading the Field of the Dead banning announcement, the same things can easily be applied to what is happening right now:
“The deck has not only maintained a high win rate and metagame share, but has also restricted the space of viable competitive strategies in Standard … This has forced the metagame into extreme positions … We’ve observed a marked increase in matches going to time in tabletop tournaments and in average game length in digital play … Finally, we’re aware of a few other community concerns regarding the Standard environment, including that early acceleration into planeswalkers can be frustrating and that the color green is strong across a variety of Standard archetypes.”October 21 Banned and Restricted Announcement
As we countdown to the Monday’s news, we make some predictions on what could happen. It may seem like a straightforward result for many, but Wizards have surprised players in the past so it will be interesting to see what happens.
Oko, Thief of Crowns
The top candidate for Monday’s banning. It is already known that this mere 3 mana planeswalker will be powerful wherever he is legal – and be the crux of 3/3 Elk jokes and memes in the MTG community. Oko is even being played in tabletop Magic formats such as Legacy and Modern, where the bar for playable cards are much higher than Standard. Wizards have even addressed that his power was underestimated while playtesting the card.
Oko has already been banned from Brawl in MTG Arena, and will likely follow suit in Standard and possibly other formats as well. Some players argue that Wizards will avoid that as he is one of the faces of the new set, and target his cronies instead. What are the other candidates then, other than Oko?
Once Upon a Time
We are not too sure why and how this card made it into Magic. Once Upon a Time increases the consistency of a deck significantly and crafts your starting hand to your liking. In combination with the new London Mulligan rule, you can be assured to find almost anything you need.
First turn Gilded Goose and second turn Oko that is hard to beat especially if you are playing first. Finding the second land in a one land hand? This card will find the second one for you. Need Edgewall Innkeeper? You got it. Being a free spell, it can easily go into almost any deck as well. This card is even more broken in other formats, and this will be our forerunner for the other card that may be banned. Other pro players have said this well about this card – if we are heavily reducing variance from Magic, why not just play Chess?
Veil of Summer
Veil of Summer is our pick for the third likely card to be banned on Monday. This card has already been banned from the Pioneer format “to better allow for natural metagame forces to provide counterpressure against these strategies”. This card is compared to a one mana [c]Cryptic Command[/c], and not a far-fetched analogy at that.
It is at this point we mention the existence of Teferi, Time Raveler, another 3 mana planeswalker that has warped the metagame since he entered Standard back in May. He has suppressed much of the instant-based control decks and has forced them out of the metagame for a while. Veil of Summer also contributes to this issue. Instant speed interaction is what makes Magic: The Gathering so unique, and without control decks there will not be an interesting dynamic of a rock-paper-scissors metagame we have seen not too long ago.
Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Gilded Goose are also mentioned among the community as cards that may, or should be, banned on Monday. Nissa has been a Standard staple since her introduction and will be a metagame defining card (as we saw in previous Standard) for the next year. Gilded Goose continues green’s tradition of having a one mana accelerator like Llanowar Elves but without Oko it may be a bit more manageable.
The State of Standard
Having said all this, as an anecdotal experience playing ladder on MTG Arena has surprisingly been diverse the last week or so. Oko does not seem to be as prevalent, and many decks seem to be well equipped to battle against it and players are learning to adapt to the strategies as well. Not that this means that we should leave Standard as is at the moment, as Magic obviously exists outside of the realms of ladder play.
There is another Mythic Championship coming up in a few weeks time, and it will not be a positive thing to continuously see the same decks based on Oko and Cauldron Familiar (the issue being the speed of sacrificing it and bringing it back over and over in MTG Arena). Bannings are also not good for tabletop Magic players, as Oko was once a $67 card at its peak but now steadily going down in anticipation of its ban. Banning cards that are still in Standard will definitely not help with consumer trust also. At least Wildcards are refunded in MTG Arena!
It is not hard to see that many players have lost interest in Standard by now, and with still about 2 long months left until Theros: Beyond Death the future of Standard will lie on this banning announcement or a miraculous deck discovery. What are the odds we will see an awesome, diverse Standard format like we experienced before Throne of Eldraine and rotation happened? Will Theros be enough to fix it?
Metagame Without Oko
If we hypothetically say Oko was the only card banned, we think the Simic or Bant Ramp strategy will still be top tier as we have seen last Standard season. Risen Reef still exists as a powerful ramp card in combination with Leafkin Druid and Cavalier of Thorns. Agent of Treachery, Mass Manipulation and Hydroid Krasis are powerful payoff cards for ramping and they will still be around especially if Once Upon a Time is still legal.
Sacrifice/aristocrats decks will likely be top tier as well, with Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven being the core with the options to add the powerful payoff cards like Priest of Forgotten Gods, Mayhem Devil, Trail of Crumbs and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. Unlike Oko however, the strategy has a lot of options to counter it, ranging from Sorcerous Spyglass, artifact destruction, graveyard hate and things like Cry of the Carnarium.
Teferi, Time Raveler may be back in higher numbers, pushing instant speed decks such as Simic Flash and Temur Reclamation back out again. We may see the traditional Esper Control again or Esper Stax do slightly better.
Aggro decks will be better without Oko, such as Gruul Adventures, Rakdos Knights and perhaps even Mono Red Aggro may resurface. Gilded Goose and Wicked Wolf is still good against these decks, but without another planeswalker to deal with it will be more manageable.
Closing – Giveaway Time!
Update 2: All codes have now been given out. Thank you for participating!
Update: Thank you for everybody’s responses so far! We will now be giving away up to 26 codes. Remember you have to be following us on Twitter to be eligible and we will directly message you with the code over there so keep your inbox enabled!
So readers, what do you think will happen tomorrow? We want to know what you think and what your predictions are! For this article we will be doing a small giveaway – follow us on Twitter, let us know on this article’s thread or the Twitter thread what cards you think will be banned, and we will randomly choose 26 correct or closest answers (if there are no correct ones) and send you a MTG Arena code for 6 Core Set 2020 Booster Packs!