Magical Challenges

I read a lot of MTG content on the internet, and today two posts jumped out at me.

Stealing more than crowns.

Frank Lepore’s numbers on Oko, Thief of Crowns’ dominance across the major competitive formats is staggering. I didn’t think much of Food as an archetype for Standard, but it’s winning. Then again, it might just be Oko. I have been vocal in my personal circles recently about the possible need for an Oko banning in all the formats but Vintage, but maybe Vintage, too? Scary. Wizards seems to ban on the basis of causing homogenous deckbuilding and invalidation of swathes of decks/strategies. Those are basically two ways of saying that a card is so good that it’s a must have and wrecks all the other cards around it. If you didn’t read the article linked above, the description of Oko turning Emrakul into an Elk is pretty sobering.


That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Elkrakul doesn’t really inspire the same kind of gravitas. The same with a Marit Lage token, which the article also mentions.

Marelk Lage???

Those are the 2 biggest, baddest creatures out there. Griselbrand might be more broken in a lot of ways, but he gets the Elk, too.


The next big question is ‘what’s the answer?’ In many senses. Is there anything playable that reliably kills Oko? If not, do they have to ban a three week old card? In what format? Standard is the clear favourite, but also where banning a card that people had spent upwards of $50 a copy on could do the most damage. The other formats are slower and often have less cohesive ongoing data available, so it’s tough to tell if Oko is as dominant as he seems. The early returns don’t look good, but it might be a while and some oppression before there is any action. It’s pretty clear though that Oko was a terrible mistake.

Banning is definitely worse than being turned into an Elk.

The recent record on bannings isn’t good, either. The new Ravnicas did well for staying clean, and War of the Spark somehow managed to dodge hammers for Teferi and Narset across various formats, but Modern Horizons produced at least one massive mistake so far in Hogaak, and the jury is still out on Urza and possibly Wrenn and Six.

No Elk here. All the Zombie Elk are in real life, apparently.

M20 then produced Field of the Dead, which was emergency banned earlier this month. If Oko was banned, that would be three major releases in a row, not counting the Commander 19 products, that produced a banned card that needed emergency measures. Going back a few sets farther, we’ve actually seen a fairly steady stream of cards in Standard that needed banning. The Magic design and development departments have had a rough stretch. I hope they get the ship righted.

The time for strong leadership is always now.

If it were my company, and I could grab the reins, so to speak, I’d start with ‘answers’ as in removal spells, etc. I’ve played a bit of Eldraine limited and it’s clog after clog unless you get lucky with removal. Removal should be abundant. I know that promotes control strategies, and Wizards hates to see people watch their beloved creatures die, but part of the fun of playing spellslinger is Lightning Bolt, and Fireball, and Doom Blade. Efficient, creative answers would go a long way towards making the game better. If Wizards doesn’t want that in their draft environment, they can produce an ‘Answer Supplement’ of common and uncommon level cards in a precon bundle that’s Standard legal. It’s not rocket science to produce reactive products that suit the specific needs of your customer base, it’s actually good business.

Hot fix, anyone?

The second article is this one here, a leak of spoilers from the upcoming Theros set. Since this is on MTG Goldfish, it’s kind of out of the box for good. I’m going to refrain from mentioning anything specific in this post, just in case you want to avoid spoilers. Don’t hover over the link in this paragraph if that’s the case. I’m sure if you have a conspiracy theory about the leak, or want to find one, you can search Reddit, but there’s actually a couple of cool silver linings here.

This story’s getting a little old already.

First off, I’m a little over Eldraine. I like a lot of the cards for Commander, but I’m already ready for whatever’s next. Oko has a lot to do with that. Second, for some absurd reason, the Hasbro-owned Wizards barely does any kind of Christmas product at all. Hasbro is a toy company. There seems like a minor logical leap missing there. But over this period of the year, there’s a dearth in new product. There’s nothing to get excited about unless Standard or some other format is hot potatoes. Commander is always good, because it doesn’t care what set is currently in what rotation, but even Commander players don’t get any new toys to put under the tree. I’m not saying we need more holidays products/purchasing pressure/packaging, but it’s odd that Wizards doesn’t do something fun for the Holidays. Having a peek at Theros cards, especially these ones, scratches a few itches.

Need more new cards!!!

First off, New Cards! Hey, cool new cards. I’m going to review them. They all actually look cool on some level, and they’re a welcome sight. Second, we get some indication of mechanics, both old and new. I’m always excited to get a window into what new builds could be possible, or what old builds might get some life injected into them by some new cards. Last, we get some story spoilers. Again, don’t look if you want to remain an innocent lamb, but the Greek-myth inspired Theros will be on us before we all know it. And that means the Holidays, too.

Ah, the Holidays!

If Wizards were my company, I would do an annual holiday supplement. Mmm, supplements. They currently do an annual silver-bordered thank-you card, sent to specific people, but I’m talking about a single pack, almost like a Signature Spellbook, though I think a $10 MSRP would be ideal. There’s plenty of room to do holidays for any and all celebrants, regardless of belief. The celebrations/cards themselves could focus on the planes of the year. For example, this year’s supplement could contain 15 cards, including 5 Standard-legal, efficient, uncommon-level answer cards, one in each colour, an alt-art ‘holiday lights in 5C’ Niv Mizzet Reborn, an alt-art Witch’s Oven, 2 ‘Holiday Dinners from the Planes’ Food tokens, a silver-border Holiday themed card, and 5 holiday-themed basic lands. The lands could be snow, or have specific art, or be the results of an annual poll (North Poll!) of which classic land artwork to reproduce in full-art, or even just have a holly and ivy watermark or something. I would buy this product. Just putting that out there. The 5 uncommon answers could include reprints like Fatal Push as a ‘standard staple.’ If a card could be in a Core Set, it could be in a supplement like this. The only rules regarding how Wizards releases product are self-imposed (and defined by logistics, of course). If they want to make something legal/illegal for any format, they can just do it. It’s their game. There are consequences, naturally, but I feel like they need to try to be as reactive to their product as their customers are (not possible, but they need to try) and not rely on some nebulous answer coming in the next set, several months away, to balance out the current mess Standard is in.

Hey Rules Committee! Make Silver legal again for Dec 15-Jan 15.

Anyway, Hallowe’en is tomorrow, and I hope you’ve all got your costumes, candy and pumpkins ready. Or your door locked and lights out, whatever it is you like best. The holiday season will some be upon us, and hopefully Magic will work through some of these challenges in time for the new year. Thanks for reading.

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