Magic: The Gathering has been on a run of incredibly popular sets in recent years and the high quality set design combined with constant improvements to Magic Arena are making the collectible card game just as popular as ever in both the paper and digital realms. As the competitive playing field shakes out after the launch of the new Throne of Eldraine set, some well-respected professional players are starting to claim that the new set of cards may contain the most powerful planeswalker ever printed.
Planeswalkers are powerful by their very nature (even after War of the Spark flooded the rare and uncommon slots with them) and are meant to provide a serious secondary threat for opponents to answer, but lots of Magic: The Gathering players are starting to feel like Oko, Thief of Crowns is up there at the Jace, The Mind Sculptor level of power and potential for format domination. So, what makes Oko so powerful and what will this mean for the current state of Magic: The Gathering competitive play?
This revelation may seem a little extreme, but predictions from the very start were that Oko was going to be a powerhouse. When Oko, Thief of Crowns was spoiled, the three-mana cost and high loyalty had a lot of players wondering how quickly the new walker would start to dominate the Standard metagame. Now, after just a month, the conversation has moved towards Oko dominating multiple formats, not just Standard. With the recent banning of Field of the Dead, the Standard playing field is wide open for Oko to dominate even further.
Why Is Oko So Powerful?
Let's first take a look at Oko in a vacuum and not consider its implications in various formats. Oko hits the table for just three mana, which is always something to keep an eye on when it comes to evaluating a planeswalker's power level. The card does require two different colors of mana, but that isn't going to be a problem by turn three of most constructed formats (especially when one of those two colors is green).
Once on the table, Oko isn't very fragile either, which is rare for a 3-drop walker. Entering with 4 loyalty and a +2 ability that can in theory have an immediate impact on the board state (although a small one) makes Oko hard to kill right off the bat. From there, things only get more ridiculous.
Oko's +1 ability has perfect synergy with it's +2 ability and gives the walker the opportunity to turn food (or any artifact or creature) into a 3/3 Elk. Later in the game, this ability is a perfect answer to overpowered creatures and can help protect the battlefield against any serious threats. The versatility of this ability is really a major factor in what makes this card so powerful. It's good whether players are behind, ahead, or at parity. As any competitive players know, that is the sort of characteristic that takes any card from the playable to bomb range.
In terms of ultimates, Oko doesn't deliver a game ending swing, but rather has a reusable ability that again makes it near impossible for opponents to developer a strong board state. The -5 ability allows players to "Exchange control of target artifact or creature you control and target creature an opponent controls with power 3 or less." Considering that Oko comes in at 4 loyalty and can spit out artifacts that can't do anything for most opponents but give them a few life, this ultimate is a serious threat and won't even kill Oko most of the time.
Magic Pro Sam Black recently wrote a piece for Star City Games Premium explaining why he thinks Oko, Thief of Crowns is the strongest planeswalker ever printed and it's hard to argue with his line of thinking. His case starts out by outlining Oko's dominance in Commander and serious potential in Legacy, but then mostly focuses on Modern and Standard.
"When it's cast on an empty battlefield, the only thing to do with Oko is to use the +2 ability and create a Food token. This means that you have a Food token and a six-loyalty planeswalker and your opponent has nothing, but it's their turn. If they cast a creatures that's 3/3 or smaller, you have a choice – you can either use Oko's second ability to go up to seven loyalty and turn your Food token into a creature that beats or trades with theirs in combat, or you can use Oko's third ability to give your opponent your Food and take their creature, leaving your Oko at one loyalty, and then you also get to cast another spell. Assuming that's just some creature, you now either have two creatures to their one and a seven-loyalty planeswalker or two creatures to their zero and a one-loyalty planeswalker."
As Standard and Modern adjust to the inclusion of Oko (and the Pioneer format begins to grow) it will be very interesting to see what kind of answers players come up with for the planeswalker. If there's nothing groundbreaking, it's about time to start renaming all of our favorite creatures...
Excited for Pioneer with all our favorite cards:— Ari Lax (@armlx) October 21, 2019
Elk, the Promised End
Elk, Vryn's Prodigy
Thassa, Elk of the Sea; Elk of Kruphix
Elk, the Fervent
Be sure to check back in the near future for more Magic: The Gathering strategy guides, news, and updates. Until then, draw well, planeswalkers!
Magic Arena is available now in select regions on Android and iOS devices. The Magic: The Gathering Throne of Eldraine expansion set will release October 4, 2019.