One Way or another

There was a time that I used to take bets on cards getting banned. 

And then Hogaak happened, where Wizards first decided to ban an auxiliary card in a format’s new and overwhelming deck, and I lost money because I didn’t think that they would just let it go.

After that, they DID ban Hogaak, causing me to lose money again because I figured they’d made it clear that the old cards were the problem, not the new one that could still be opened.

Now I’m wiser. I don’t have any idea at all what’s going to happen on Monday. Will Oko, Thief of Crowns be dethroned? Will there be collateral damage?

What I do know is, there’s plans to be made in either scenario. 

First, let’s take a moment and appreciate something truly special about Oko’s price: the heavy weight of an expected banning.

Yes, dear reader, CoolStuff was selling Oko for a month at $90, while it was being opened. Then the oppressive nature of the card, and its compatriots in Standard, started dragging the price downwards. 

There’s some hay to be made about how the value of any set goes down over time, and I’m planning on exploring the effect that Collector Boosters are having on the finance of the game, but really, Oko ought to be much more expensive than it is. 

The saturation is quite real:

  • 69% of the Day 1 metagame at the Mythic Championship was some form of Oko deck. There’s a lot of variations, and I appreciate snappy deck names such as Cat Food, but the dominance of the deck in Standard got more profound in Day 2, where the percentage went up, despite the pros knowing it would be popular. Noxious Grasp and Aether Gust were in maindecks all over the place and it didn’t matter much.
  • Oko is showing up in a lot of Modern decks. Whirza likes a copy. Amulet Titan has a couple to play with. There’s some artifact-based decks that are trying to go off with Oko. 
  • Legacy has copies in winning Temur Delver lists.
  • Vintage is rocking Oath of Druids with Oko, powering down their artifacts and giving them creatures to let your Oath resolve. Nasty and powerful.

It’s Oko’s world, until Monday. Oko’s price has been dropping since the dominance started, in defiance of all expectations. When Wizards banned Field of the Dead on October 21, you’d think that Oko (and Oko-related cards) would spike as that deck took over, but it seems people bought in quite reluctantly.

So, we have two scenarios coming next week:

If Oko gets banned

I won’t be shocked if some other green cards get the hammer too, for the record. The only thing that will shock me is if Wizards just unbans Field of the Dead and tells the pros “You figure it out!”

Oko’s price will fall some. Not by much, due to demand in the other formats, and that includes Cube and Commander. Oko’s flexibility and power cannot be denied. I doubt the price will go much below $25, frankly. A lot of Oko’s current price point is tied up in the expectation of getting banned. 

Long-term, however, I think Oko has a lot of potential. Foils of Oko are very low price compared to the original. On TCGPlayer, you can get NM foils for $40, which seems like a very good price even if it’ll never get the heights that the borderless foil has gotten to. Oko is too good in too many formats to stay cheap. Around the time that we start opening Theros: Beyond Death boosters, I want to be picking up Oko for the long term.

What gets unlocked if Oko and some accomplices get banned? Aggro decks get a lot better, and the card I love most in those lists is Embercleave. 

Yes, it’s no longer $5 but it’s gettable at $7.50 and a total face-wrecker. Aggro decks are generally playing three, and if the format swivels to being super fast, this is going to hit $20 again.

I’m also a big big fan of picking up Murderous Rider at about the same price. We’ve seen what powerful, flexible removal spells do over time, and the trajectories of Vraska’s Contempt and Hero’s Downfall tell me to buy while it’s cheap: 

If Oko isn’t banned

It seems super implausible that Wizards would try something like banning Once Upon a Time, Gilded Goose, and Nissa, Who Shakes the World but not banning Oko directly…but it could happen. 

My impulse would be to snap-buy all the Oko copies currently languishing on eBay in the $25 range, hoping to resell at $45 or $50 to the people playing Standard or realizing how good the card is in other formats. 

Given that everyone already expects a banning, this might not work, though. Maybe the price doesn’t change because everyone will expect the next banning to finally take down the menace. Maybe people will expect that the card sucks, without all the good accessories to play with.

To those folks, I’d point to Hogaak. The meta immediately settled on a Bridge from Below build that self-milled wonderfully and then really kicked into gear. Banning the Bridge merely made the deck change to a more Vengevine-focused one. Trying to ban around Oko is going to make some currently cheap cards into very expensive ones, and my best advice there is to make sure you’re primed and ready on our Discord channel.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Oko was going to be $100 and going to be banned. Eventually, Wizards will see the light and ban the card, and from the ashes, a new Standard will rise.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.