Fournier’s Goblin Guide: Oko is Loko and Whirza is back


Wow, welcome to yet another edition of the Goblin Guide, where I take a look at what’s happened in tournament Magic over the last week and tell you exactly what you need to know going into the weekend’s events. Today, we’ll be looking at post-ban Standard for this weekend’s Arena MCQ and a quick peek at Modern ahead of Face to Face Games Opens in Hamilton and Quebec City as well as the SCG Open in Atlanta.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been playing any Standard whatsoever that the format post-ban is even more homogenous than it was beforehand. The banning of Field of the Dead resulted in a format absolutely dominated by the remaining tier one strategy, Oko and Nissa. This is a fairly low-to-the-ground midrange deck that has powerful, snowballing plays to make in the early turns and thanks to the absurd Oko, Thief of Crowns, has minimal vulnerability to aggro. It’s clear to me that if you’re trying to win in Standard this weekend, you should be playing this strategy, and tuning it to beat the mirror. This means that your best bet is probably to have access to the full set of Noxious Grasp, something that you should also expect your opponents to be doing this weekend.

If you want to tread a little bit off the beaten path, however, and try to take advantage of people doing nonsense like maindecking Noxious Grasp, then I think there’s one other reasonable approach. Players like Emma Handy have been having success with Cauldron Familiar/Witch’s Oven strategies as of late, and while I can’t pretend to have spent much time working on them, I’m willing to defer to others’ testing when it makes sense to me. And this sure as hell makes sense.

This deck rules. It’s very low to the ground, populates the board at a quick pace, and has an absurd amount of reach thanks to the Cauldron Familiar engine. Mayhem Devil is no joke at accelerating this plan, and there are two powerful cards in Priest of Forgotten Gods and Rankle, Master of Pranks that struggle to find a home in other decks, but are definitely at home in this strategy. A hypothesized way to deal with all the oppressive planeswalkers out of the green decks is taking over the board with flying creatures, but the relative absence of those in this Standard format has been an issue, to say the least. Rankle helps with that. If you’re playing this deck, I’d recommend cutting at least some number of Legion’s Ends from the sideboard, given that this list comes from the bygone era of Field of the Dead.

Ultimately I’m hoping that this weekend of events pans out exactly as expected, and Wizards somehow feels compelled to remove the travesty that is Oko from the Standard format before the Mythic Championship in Richmond, but that feels to me like a pipe dream at best. I’m concerned about the health of the format, and the fact that it’s been consistently dreadful to play feels like a death sentence for their flagship product of Magic Arena. It’s not like you can just play Modern or Pioneer on the software, so what exactly is their plan?

They hired a team of great and intelligent players to do Play Design, but things like Field of the Dead and Oko just keep slipping through their palms, causing irreparable damage to the asset that they’ve invested the entirety of their Organized Play budget into promoting. Other Magic events have felt the crunch, and the future looks bleak unless they can immediately reverse course, either by finding a way to make Standard fun and dynamic going forward, or by reinvesting in paper Magic and diverse formats. The former is a huge risk that any business would be foolish to make, and it seems to me that the push towards Pioneer is evidence that they’re taking the latter, more intelligent approach. Hopefully we can see a return to fun marquee tabletop events, rather than these stale digital events desperately scratching at the corners of a contracting esports market.

Anyways, Modern. I’ve lost some faith in Jeskai Ascendancy being the best approach for Urza decks, and a slight resurgence in both Burn decks and the concept of counter-magic as a whole has left me looking towards Thopter Foundry as a solution to both problems. Whirza is a proven deck with slightly less combo potential, but way more access to a toolbox and plenty of grindy potential. If you want to dig deeper into the strategy, I have to recommend Harlan Firer’s work on the deck, which you can check out on the Team Nova Patreon. SCG Tour stalwart Dylan Hand brought Harlan’s list to a Top 4 finish at Regionals in Boston, and it’s this list that I’d recommend – though Harlan has been talking about Emry over Goblin Engineer, with a few other changes to accommodate.

Good luck on the battlefield!