This morning, Wizards of the Coast banned Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, and Veil of Summer from Magic: the Gathering’s Standard format.

Addressing an Unhealthy Standard…Again

“Over the past several weeks, the Standard metagame has been in an unhealthy state, so we’re taking significant steps to rectify it,” Wizards said in their announcement. “The two major issues are the dominance of Simic-based Food decks featuring Oko, Thief of Crowns and the general overrepresentation of green in the competitive metagame.”

UGx (Simic-based) Food decks have dominated Standard over the past few weeks. At Mythic Championship VI earlier this month, over 60% of the field played UGx Food and nearly 70% of all players included Oko, Thief of Crowns in their deck. The archetype also put up similarly dominant numbers at the Grand Prix Nagoya and Lyon the week before.

Despite being the clear best archetype in Standard, and thus having a huge target on its back, UGx Food still achieved an impressive 53% win rate against non-Food decks. Only one of the other 10 most-played Standard decks, Simic Flash, had a somewhat favorable matchup against Food decks—though according to Wizards its win rate was barely above 50%.

Standard Simic Food by Ondřej Stráský

Creatures (17)
Gilded Goose
Hydroid Krasis
Paradise Druid
Brazen Borrower
Wicked Wolf

Planeswalkers (7)
Oko, Thief of Crowns
Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Spells (10)
Aether Gust
Once Upon a Time
Mass Manipulation
Lands (26)
Breeding Pool
Castle Vantress
Fabled Passage
10 Forest
Temple of Mystery

Sideboard (15)
Veil of Summer
Voracious Hydra
Gadwick, the Wizened
Mystical Dispute
Questing Beast
Wicked Wolf
Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Oko, Thief of Crowns is on of the strongest cards in the UGx Food archetypes, especially when it can be played on Turn 2 thanks to Gilded Goose. Wizards says that the power level of Oko, Thief of Crowns has “proven higher than is healthy for the current metagame” and that the card has “reduced metagame diversity and diversity of gameplay in Standard by shutting off build-around creatures and artifacts.”

Oko was also banned in MTG Arena’s Brawl format two weeks ago and was banned in tabletop Brawl today, as well.

Once Upon a Time and Veil of Summer

In addition to Oko, Thief of Crowns, both Once Upon a Time and Veil of Summer have helped make Green into the most dominant color in Standard. In fact, Once Upon a Time was actually the most-played card at both Mythic Championship V and Mythic Championship VI.

Once Upon a Time is one of the key reasons Green has been overrepresented in the [current Standard] environment,” Wizards said. “It contributes to a high consistency of strong starts and provides a level of early mana fixing that other colors don’t have access to,” which is especially potent in a small (five set) Standard. Additionally, “Arena data indicates that, without also removing Once Upon a Time, Green decks would still continue to be too powerful and consistent going forward.”

Veil of Summer, on the other hand, didn’t enable any of Green’s powerful strategies. Instead, it prevented the Standard metagame from self-correcting by providing a cheap and powerful way for Green to fight the most effective counter strategies.

“Cards that played similar roles in the past, like Autumn’s Veil and Display of Dominance, proved a lower power level than desired in their respective Standard environments, leaving Green with a weaker option compared to the other ‘color hate’ cards in those cycles,” Wizards said. However, adding “draw a card” to Veil of Summer pushed it to “the other end of the spectrum,” making it “too much more efficient than the other cards in its cycle, and by comparison to other tools available in Standard, gives Green decks too much resilience against removal and disruption.”

Veil of Summer was also deemed to good at preventing effective counter strategies in Pioneer and was banned last week.

More Standard Bans

The banning of Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, and Veil of Summer come less than a month after Field of the Dead was also banned from Standard.

Similar to UGx Food decks at Mythic Championship VI, Golos decks leveraging Field of the Dead made up over 40% of the decks at Mythic Championship V and dominated the tournament despite being the obvious best deck. At the time of the first ban, many players are worried that Wizards had opened the door for cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns to dominate Standard. Wizards said that they aware of those concerns and said that they would “continue to monitor the health of the environment, but [felt that it was] important to allow the metagame to adjust to the absence of Field of the Dead before” banning additional cards.

Outside of the current format, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, and Veil of Summer are the 12th, 13th, and 14th cards banned from Standard in the last three years.

First, in January 2017, Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage were banned due to Emrakul and the Copter’s oppressive effects on Standard. These were the first Standard bannings in Magic since June 2011, when Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic formed the core of the nigh-unbeatable Caw Blade deck in that Standard format.

A few months later, Wizards realized that it had printed a Turn 4 infinite combo with Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian. They banned Felidar Guardian in April 2017, three months after it was printed in Aether Revolt, then banned Aetherworks Marvel two months later in June 2017.

But Aetherworks Marvel was the tip of the iceberg when it came to the Kaladesh block’s Energy mechanic warping Standard. After the Battle for Zendikar and Shadows Over Innistrad blocks rotated out in the Fall of 2017, Energy took over the metagame, forcing Wizards to issue bans in January 2018 for Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, as well as the powerful Red cards that would have dominated Standard without the presence of Energy decks, Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon.

Standard went through a relatively quiet period after the January 2018 bans. But a year later, after the printing of Nexus of Fate as the Buy-a-Box promo for Core Set 2019, Wizards banned the card in the Standard Best-of-One format in February 2019. Now, eight months and one Standard rotation later, Wizards again has four cards on the Standard ban list: Field of the Dead, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, and Veil of Summer.

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