On the morning of Friday November 8, Mythic Championship VI will start in Richmond, Virginia. The three-day tournament features hundreds of competitors from all over the world, awards a total of $500,000 in prize money, and will be livestreamed on twitch.tv/magic. The principal format for the majority of the rounds, following Throne of Eldraine Booster Draft on Day One and Day Two, will be Standard Constructed.
Simic Food (Perhaps with a Splash) is the Deck To Beat
It has been less than three weeks since Mythic Championship V. That tournament was dominated by Bant Golos, but the Standard metagame has changed drastically since then. Field of the Dead was banned right after the event concluded, leaving Standard in the hands of Oko, Thief of Crowns.
This trio has cemented itself as the core Food engine from Throne of Eldraine. Any game where you can curve into these three spells by turn three will be hard to lose.
Oko in particular has proven to be extremely powerful for a three-mana planeswalker. It can come down as early as turn two (making it hard to counter), can go up to six loyalty right away (making it hard to attack), and turns everything into 3/3 Elks (thereby invalidating big creatures or artifact strategies). But it's the synergy with Gilded Goose and Wicked Wolf that is often responsible for overpowering opponents.
This trio of Food spells are most commonly found in green ramp-based decks alongside the following supporting cast.
From this base, you can go into several directions:
- Simic Food: Round out the deck with cards like Brazen Borrower to exploit a relatively painless, consistent mana base. This version can play a good tempo game and is best at damage races.
- Sultai Food: Splash for Vraska, Golgari Queen and main deck Noxious Grasp at the cost of a slightly more powerful and less consistent mana base. This version is the most popular one because it maximizes main deck answers to opposing Okos.
- Bant Food: Splash for Teferi, Time Raveler to improve against opponents who rely on countermagic or instant-based strategies.
These decks all have a similar core, and are referred to collectively as blue-green-splash Food. All in all, green in Throne of Eldraine Standard has the best ramp, card selection, card draw, removal, answers, game-winners, and mana engine. This has resulted in a powerful, resilient, and consistent strategy that is hard to beat, even with main deck Noxious Grasp or Aether Gust.
Over the last two weeks, Food decks have truly dominated Standard. In the MTG Arena Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend, 67% of the Day Two metagame was Food. At Grand Prix Lyon and Grand Prix Nagoya, a combined 75% of the Top 8 players were on Food, and both events were won by a Food deck. Finally, for the Eldraine Split MPL Pearl Division, 88% of the players brought a Food variant. Here is a sample list.
So going into Mythic Championship VI, the battle lines have been drawn: It's Oko versus the world. You need to be either join the group of Oko players or find a way to beat them. These two directions yield two questions that I will aim to answer after decklists get submitted and the Standard rounds in Richmond get underway.
Question 1: What is the best Oko deck?
For the players in the "join them" camp, they will have to figure out which Oko deck to choose. Simic Food, Sultai Food, and Bant Food all have their advantages and disadvantages, and there is a lot of flexibility in how to fill out the final slots.
Antoine Lagarde won Grand Prix Lyon with a Bant Food list featuring main deck Mass Manipulation, while Riku Kumagai took down Grand Prix Nagoya with a lean, nimble Simic Food list featuring main deck Aether Gust. Meanwhile, many Sultai Food players are trying to go over the top of other Oko players with Casualties of War. As of right now, there is no consensus yet regarding the best way to build Food for the current Standard metagame, and it will be interesting to see what the Mythic Championship VI competitors settle on.
So far, I have used "Food decks" and "Oko decks" interchangeably, but that's not entirely accurate: The set of Oko decks is a superset of Food decks. In other words, there are other potential homes for Gilded Goose; Oko, Thief of Crowns; and Wicked Wolf. For example, they appear in decks like Four-Color Sacrifice (which can sacrifice the generated Food tokens to trigger Mayhem Devil, grow Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, and/or return Cauldon Familiar) and Temur Superfriends (which uses Sarkhan the Masterless to turn Oko and other planeswalkers into Dragons). Whether these decks are better or worse than the stock Food decks remains to be seen, but they are certainly options to be considered as well.
Question 2: Is there a way to beat the Oko decks?
For the players in the "beat them" camp, they will have to try and find a deck with a favorable matchup against Food. I believe this will be difficult but, with several weeks of preparation and many prizes on the line, there's a chance that some Mythic Championship VI competitors manage to break the format.
Generally, when you are trying to beat a deck there are two main approaches: Go over them (i.e., beat them in the late game) or go under them (i.e., beat them in the early game). Given the makeup of Food, going under them seems structurally difficult. Their planeswalkers have absurd amounts of loyalty, they can deploy big blockers early on, and they can restore their life with Food tokens. This makes it difficult to attack Food with an aggro deck.
For a while, it seemed like going wide with Selesnya Adventures might work, as Edgewall Innkeeper could exploit the relative lack of removal in Simic Food, and their aggressive starts were not easily brick-walled by Wicked Wolf. However, once most Oko players settled on Sultai Food, they gained Massacre Girl to answer the creature swarm and swing the matchup.
Instead, I expect that going over Food will prove more successful. Without Field of the Dead going over them isn't easy, but I believe that it is still possible by combining the right interaction with powerful spells. Based on the results of the MCQW and the Grands Prix, two non-Oko decks stand out to me as having the most potential.
At Grand Prix Lyon, Azorius Control won 55.4% of its matches against Food, which was the highest such win rate among all major archetypes. Moreover, both Grand Prix Lyon and Grand Prix Nagoya had an Azorius Control player in the Top 8.
The deck can answer the key threats of Food with Prison Realm and Absorb in the early game, and goes over the top with spells like Mass Manipulation in the late game. Alternatively, Time Wipe returning Gadwick, the Wizened is every control player's dream. Also, exiling Hydroid Krasis with Prison Realm and then returning the enchantment with Teferi, Time Raveler is just great.
Interestingly, this is actually one of the few decks remaining that plays main deck Teferi, Time Raveler, which is a big part of the reason why this deck is so well-positioned right now. Indeed, the average main deck of a Day Two player at the MCQW contained only 0.29 copies of Teferi. With Teferi strongly in decline, control players can once again cast their Absorbs and Dovin's Vetos.
Control mages still have to deal with Veil of Summer in Games 2 and 3, but that's where they might outmaneuver opponents during sideboarding. For example, if control players cut countermagic while adding Sorcerous Spyglass and additional threats, then the Veil of Summers that their Food opponents had expected to be sideboard trump are turned into duds instead.
Overall, in the hands of experienced control players, Azorius Control may prove to be capable of beating the Oko decks.
At Grand Prix Lyon, Temur Reclamation won 58. 8% of its matches against the field, which was the highest such win rate among all major non-Food archetypes. It similarly had the best record in the MCQW Day 2.
The reasons for this excellent performance are similar to the ones I listed for Azorius Control: Teferi is on the decline, and big spells (in this case, enormous Explosions fueled by Wilderness Reclamation) provide a way to go over the top of Food.
As long as Sultai Food remains the most popular build, Temur Reclamation seems particularly well-positioned. Since Wilderness Reclamation is neither a creature nor a planeswalker, Temur Reclamation has no non-Elk targets for Noxious Grasp, thereby potentially stranding dead cards in their hand in Game 1.
Finally, the main deck Aether Gusts and Mystical Disputes are not only ideal for the current metagame but also let you use Wilderness Reclamation mana during your opponent's turn. I expect that unless too many Food players switch to Bant, Temur Reclamation players can make deep runs at Mythic Championship VI. And who knows, there may be other deck archetypes that can tussle with Oko. We'll have to wait and find out.
Given the recent dominance and inherent power of Food—it's an Elk world we're living in—it is very well possible that no natural predator exists in Standard. Oko might prove too oppressive, and maybe none of the Mythic Championship VI competitors will find a reliable way to decisively beat the Oko decks. I have to acknowledge that possibility.
But I still have hope.
A lot of experienced deck builders are qualified for the event, and they have had the time and incentive to break the format. If there is a way to beat Food, we will see it in Richmond for sure. With that in mind, I am genuinely excited to find out what the metagame will look like, what kind of spice will show up, and who will emerge victorious. Will it be Azorius Control? Temur Reclamation? Or something else entirely?
Decklists are due on Wednesday November 6, and they will all be posted on Friday along with my metagame analysis. We'll all be watching what happens at Mythic Championship VI on twitch.tv/magic beginning Friday, November 8 at 9 a.m. EST / 6 a.m PST / 2 p.m. UTC.