Oko, Thief of Crowns
First it was banned in Standard, then in Pioneer, and now Modern. Legacy players, you’ve been warned.
This menace of a mistake from 2019’s troublesome design record simply did too much, for too little investment, in a whole range of game situations from empty board to facing down a problematic creature or artifact, to low life total needing to stabilize. It doesn’t single-handedly beat Valakut, but you can Elk Titans and gain life. It doesn’t single-handedly beat Eldrazi—oh wait, it mostly does. Enough is enough, and although we can all be sad that yet another group of players purchased cards only to see them banned a few weeks or months later, we can be happy that playing against Oko isn’t a thing in the three most popular formats.
Players who bought their Okos from ChannelFireball in the last 30 days can send them back in for store credit.
What did my sweet little Moxy ever do to deserve this?
4 Blinkmoth Nexus 4 Darksteel Citadel 4 Inkmoth Nexus 3 Spire of Industry 2 Mountain 4 Arcbound Ravager 1 Master of Etherium 2 Memnite 4 Ornithopter 4 Signal Pest 4 Steel Overseer 4 Vault Skirge 4 Galvanic Blast 4 Cranial Plating 2 Experimental Frenzy 4 Mox Opal 4 Springleaf Drum 2 Welding Jar Sideboard 2 Ancient Grudge 2 Damping Sphere 2 Dispatch 2 Etched Champion 1 Experimental Frenzy 1 Karn, Scion of Urza 1 Relic of Progenitus 2 Rest in Peace 2 Thoughtseize
As Sam Black once said, (paraphrase) we’ve now seen winning Modern decks in the form of Mox Opal aggro (Affinity, Hardened Scales), Mox Opal prison (Lantern), Mox Opal combo (KCI), Mox Opal midrange (Urza w/o Cryptic), and Mox Opal control (Urza w/ 4 Cryptics). Moxes are really powerful. Arcum’s Astrolabe solidified Opal’s position as a card too strong to remain in the format. If it was just Oko getting banned, there would still be an Urza deck spitting out permanents so fast that more normal decks would struggle to keep up. I like the decision to finally get Opal out of the format.
Karn, the Great Creator was not itself created with this lock in mind. It wasn’t the card’s intended function. So even though Lattice didn’t come out in 2019, it certainly had its day in the sun thanks to 2019 oversights. While Oko and Opal are big changes intended to nerf entire strategies in a big way, Lattice’s ban will weaken the big colorless mana decks a bit and stop making getting completely locked out, even with a Force of Vigor in your deck, a rite of passage for newer players. Which sounds fine to me.
The Cards They Didn’t Touch
As I said above, name a core card from the Urza deck and someone was advocating for its ban. Do I personally think Arcum’s Astrolabe was a huge mistake? Of course, as readers of this website well know. But I’m fine with banning the clearly broken Oko and the repeat offender Opal and then waiting to see what happens. Maybe Astrolabe will just be a simple cantrip now in a format where mana fixing was already pretty good.
Pioneer: No Bans
Pioneer is pretty healthy right now from the looks of things, and Theros Beyond Death is about to drop (including the Heliod Ballista combo). So I think it makes sense to leave it alone for the time being. There may be a broken deck out there, but all I’m seeing so far is very good decks. I’ve heard a few complaints that mono-colored aggro decks are too strong, but having them be strong in one of the popular formats seems like a good thing to me, not a bad thing. The gold cards get old too.
It’s now clear there won’t be bans prior to the Players Tour events in Nagoya, Brussels, and Phoenix in early February. Keep a close eye on what does well in those first professional level events with the Pioneer format to get a sense of the watch list for the format and possibly a break-out or even truly broken strategy.