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Budget Oathbreaker: A Tale of Two Okos


Throne of Eldraine is upon us and with this set's release a new fey Planeswalker joins the fray. Who is this new the simic trickster, the glutton grifter, the elk-centric imposter? None other than Oko, Thief of Crowns. At the moment, Oko, Thief of Crowns is climbing in price towards $30. I'm hoping you can open or trade for him.wink

Oko, Thief of Crowns [PELD]

Honor Among Thieves

Oko, Thief of Crowns is a unique simic Planeswalker and offers many avenues for deck building. As food tokens are artifacts, artifact matter decks are viable. Likewise, food promotes life gain strategies. Since Oko, Thief of Crowns can help with life gain and targeted removal, strategies that are geared towards the mid-to-late game are also viable. Below I'll break down two different Oko, Thief of Crowns builds. Both of which mess with our opponents. If you enjoy a more roundabout way to victory, these builds are for you.

Oko at Face Value

As the saying goes, reading the card explains the card. I will be honest with you, after reading Oko, Thief of Crowns, I found Oko, Thief of Crowns hard to build around especially on a budget. Oko, Thief of Crowns's text is the kind of text that when read shoehorns you into a lane. There is a glaring interaction on the card screaming for one's attention; namely, that Oko, Thief of Crowns's abilities work together in order:

  1. First, we +2 Oko, Thief of Crowns to make an artifact food token.
  2. Then, we +1 Oko, Thief of Crowns to make sure our opponent has a creature with power with 3 or less.
  3. Finally, we can -5 Oko, Thief of Crowns to do the thieving bit.

Rinse and repeat. While this sounds awesome, Oko, Thief of Crowns is a very slow pickpocket. If we want to use Oko, Thief of Crowns as fast as possible to steal something and keep Oko, Thief of Crowns in play, then we need to hit six loyalty. So if Oko, Thief of Crowns enters play on turn two, we can immediately +2 Oko, Thief of Crowns to six loyalty and on turn three steal something. Oko, Thief of Crowns's blatant thievery will leave him at one loyalty point. Assuming he sticks on board, it is another two turns until we can steal again (turn five), losing Oko, Thief of Crowns in the process... unless we hold out until turn six. That is a tall order, as Oko, Thief of Crowns's food tokens do not chump for him, nor do they bolster his loyalty counters. Further, if we steal what Oko, Thief of Crowns transforms, we are jumping through a lot of hoops for a measly 3/3. 

Having Oko, Thief of Crowns consistently elk our opponent's mana rocks and threats is amazing value. The magical Christmas land where Oko, Thief of Crowns steals all of our opponent's stuff... is well just that. We will likely not see more than four to five permanents swiped by Oko, Thief of Crowns's hands throughout the course of the game (21-26 additional loyalty needed) in the best of conditions. If we want to maximize Oko, Thief of Crowns's theft, then we will have to aggressively spam the food token generation ability.
 

While food is flavorful, food on its own is not all that powerful. Therefore if we wanted to get Oko, Thief of Crowns into the Thieves' Guild then we have to make a choice. We can do everything feyly possible to increase Oko, Thief of Crowns's loyalty - hop on the proliferate train - or cut our losses and accept the off-brand solution: clones. Thus begins the tale of two Okos... at least two different Oko Oathbreaker decks.

Before diving into their differences let us cover what they have in common.

Simic Staples

Not every Oko build needs to include the following cards. Rather, I found that they worked well enough for the strategies we are building here.

Scouting the Wilds of Eldraine

Both of our Oko, Thief of Crowns builds will require a lot of mana. To help achieve this end we have an extensive ramp package. Given that we want to play Oko, Thief of Crowns early and keep him on the board, we run a fair amount of creature-based ramp that can dive in front of any incoming damage including: Embodiment of Spring, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Burnished Hart, and Ranging Raptors. From Throne of Eldraine, we also will run the Beanstalk Giant. Spell-wise, we will be utilizing Farseek and Rampant Growth. It would be remiss to neglect Wayfarer's Bauble.

To me Ranging Raptors is almost the perfect creature based ramp. Yes, Ranging Raptors does not ramp us upon entering the battlefield. However, Ranging Raptors can potentially ramp us multiple times. With Ranging Raptors's respectable 2/3 body, removal via burn spells stills results in us getting a land and even some exile spells like Path to Exile will net us a land. In addition, unlike mana dorks, we don't mind sending Ranging Raptors to greet our opponents faces. If they block, we get a land (and maybe remove a creature) and if they don't we get some chip damage.

There are other types of creature-based ramp. In my playgroup,  I most commonly encounter the elven mana dorks, such as Llanowar Elves. While these dorks are generally good one drops, in multi-player formats with more removal being flung about, I rather have creatures that bring lands into play when possible. This way, when the creatures are eventually removed, our ramp has not. If mana dorks are required, I tend to consider creatures such as Overgrown Battlement, Vine Trellis, and Sylvan Caryatid. Their larger toughness allows for the ability to block if needed and not remove our ramp.

Word-Point Diplomacy

For card selection, we will be running Abundance (to negotiate with the Magic Gods for what we need).  Without the over-budget Propaganda, Curse of Verbosity will incentivize damage elsewhere while drawing us cards and our trusty Fog Bank will serve as Oko, Thief of Crowns's personal damage sponge.

Tiny Threats

Now let's take a moment to talk removal... right after we re-read Oko, Thief of Crowns's -5 ability:

Exchange control of target artifact or creature you control and target creature an opponent controls with power 3 or less.

Recall that shoehorn I mentioned earlier? It is time to finally address it. There is no doubt that we will heavily rely on Oko, Thief of Crowns's ability to pick off threats from our opponents. However, if we turn an eldrazi into a 3/3 elk, is it really as tempting to steal? Not to me, and certainly not to Oko! So the Signature Spell of both decks will be none other than Polymorphist's Jest.

Polymorphist's Jest [C17]

Why? Well partially for the obvious. Polymorphist's Jest gets around shroud and hexproof by targeting a player rather than a specific creature. Polymorphist's Jest also hits all of an opponent's creatures making them tiny 1/1's with no abilities. With Oko, Thief of Crowns in play, we can threaten to steal anything an opponent might play. Yet these are not all of the merits of Polymorphist's Jest. We can use Polymorphist's Jest aggressively, weakening our opponent when we want to attack. We can use Polymorphist's Jest defensively, shrinking an incoming stompy style assault into a barrage of frogs. We can also use Polymorphist's Jest diplomatically. If an opponent sets up some indestructible, hexproof, hard to deal with threat, we can offer to use Polymorphist's Jest to take their shields temporarily down if another opponent is willing to send some burn their way.

Unfortunately, as strong as Polymorphist's Jest is, Polymorphist's Jest only targets a single player. Reuse will become costly. To help ameliorate Polymorphist's Jest's rising commander tax, we will also run Mass Diminish. Although it costs 1 blue mana less than Polymorphist's Jest, if it was in the Command Zone as our Signature Spell, we wouldn't be able to use it on our opponents turns. Further, we would never be able to use Mass Diminsh via flashback. Seeing that Oko, Thief of Crowns makes food tokens, which are artifacts, we will also run Vedalken Humiliator. Vedalken Humiliator is basically Polymorphist's Jest on a respectable 3/4 body, with the only requirement being metalcraft (having 3 artifacts in play).

There are four other cards in both decks excluding lands. The first is Spark Double. Since our goal is theft via Oko, Thief of Crowns, having an extra Oko is another way to make that happen. It is worthwhile to note that Spark Double would enter as Oko, Thief of Crowns at 5 loyalty, so we could immediately steal if needed. Along this same line of reasoning we have Mimic Vat. Mimic Vat will let us abuse some of our creatures in ways they were not designed for, and also let us steal our creatures from our opponents in death. To help play the part of trickster, both versions run Insidious Will and should the board really get out of hand Whelming Wave can bail us out.

 

With the similarities out of the way, we can move on to how these builds distinguish themselves.


Oko's Epidemic

Proliferate is a crazy powerful mechanic. I may be completely misguided in saying this (if so, let me know down in the comments), but once I started to included proliferate into Oko, Thief of Crowns, I felt the mechanic proliferate pulled me away from what Oko, Thief of Crowns's wanted to do. What does this mean exactly? Well, it felt wrong to include so much proliferate only for Oko, Thief of Crowns's loyalty counters. While simic +1/+1 counters is a powerful strategy, that is not what our Oko, Thief of Crowns is about. Oko, the Trickster on the other hand...

Taking a look at the 23 budget cards that say proliferate on them under Oko, Thief of Crowns's color identity, there are several repeatable proliferate engines:

So what else could we proliferate besides Oko, Thief of Crowns's loyalty? What about that mechanic on Viral Drake: infect. We could proliferate poison counters! After all, it does not matter if Viral Drake is the only card in our deck with infect. Once our opponents see proliferate and infect on board, we put a massive target on our back. This is because once an opponent has been infected, we can proliferate them to death no combat required.

In addition, given Oathbreaker's lower starting life total compared to EDH, there is not as much of a stigma against the infect mechanic. However, your play group still might not appreciate it. So our options are either to dilute our proliferate plan and exclude Viral Drake or embrace the proliferate poison plan. Side note, while these cards vary in power, I especially like Throne of Geth as it gives our food tokens a way to nourish Oko, Thief of Crowns.

What were we doing again? Oh right, trying to steal our opponents creatures by rapidly increasing Oko, Thief of Crowns's loyalty. At this point, all Oko, Thief of Crowns will be doing is either feeding the Throne of Geth or running point on targeted removal. It seems that stealing things takes more of a backseat. Although we should be able to steal more often with all the proliferate. So what might an infectious Oko, Thief of Crowns look like?

Infectious Agents

Our first two poisonous pals are Blight Mamba and Blighted Agent. While the former will die to most anything, we can regenerate Blight Mamba as needed. Further, since creatures with infect deal damage in the form of -1/-1 counters, when we do use a Diminish effect (such as our Signature Spell Polymorphist's Jest), any previous blockers of our infectious creatures will die! Next up are creatures that can at least stomach a hit from a 1/1 frog with Blightwidow, Cystbearer, Ichorclaw Myr, Plague Myr, Rot Wolf, Tangle Angler and Viral Drake. Topping off our viral curve is Phyrexian Swarmlord. While most infect creatures are small, Corrupted Conscience will let us take a beefy threat from an opponent and ail it.

Prophylactic Proliferation

We are running effects to proliferate whenever we do anything. Evolution Sage triggers on lands coming into play, Flux Channeler triggers on non-creature spells, Thrummingbird will trigger when it connects, and Inexorable Tide triggers on any spell we cast. Karn's Bastion and Merfolk Skydiver will serve as a mana sink when we have mana to burn. Lastly Fuel for the Cause serves not just a counter to our opponent's disruption, but a full retort.

All together our decklists looks like:

 

Oko's Palinclones

Although infect can be potent, I find clones an enjoyable archetype to pilot. Generally, a Clone effect costs four mana, which makes running a bunch of clones not the best for the mana curve. There are exceptions with drawback, however, in the form of Phantasmal Image and Dance of the Many, as well as spell-based variants with cards like Quasiduplicate and Cackling Counterpart. The spell-base variants, while good for the mana curve, can be dangerous to run in excess. For example Quasiduplicate can only clone a creature we control. If we do not have a creature on board, we are in a bad spot. Especially since many of our creatures are more expensive costing clones! Clones that target any creature can circumvent this as it is atypical for the board to be completely devoid of creatures.

Copy Cat

Some of our direct clones are Altered Ego, Cryptoplasm, Gigantoplasm, Illusory Gains, and Wall of Stolen Identity. Both Altered Ego and Gigantoplasm can be more threatening than the originals. In addition Infinite Reflection is included as it can lend to some broken stuff depending on what our opponents play.

Mind Games

My personal pet card, Permeating Mass, helps out the lower end of our curve. While not a clone itself, Permeating Mass makes other things into copies of itself. This can lend itself towards interesting lines of play, such as Polymorphist's Jest an incoming assault and then permanently locking down a threat by making it into a copy of Permeating Mass. Permeating Mass is the little engine that could. Even if it dies in combat, at least we can return it by sending one of our food-turned-elks to greet it.  Following Oko's lead, Agent of Treachery will let us take what we want. 

Perhaps the best card in the deck is Willbreaker.

Willbreaker [ORI]

Willbreaker will let us circumvent Oko, Thief of Crowns's -5 ability and still steal. How? Well Oko, Thief of Crowns's +1 ability, targets a creature an opponent controls. So we can just elk-ify and herd our opponent's new found elk in one fell swoop.

Nourish-mint

If we are spamming Oko, Thief of Crowns food token ability, how might we profit? Sai, Master Thopterist, can help us up-cycle our leftovers. As Trading Post's name implies, we can trade in our food for cards, or make a goat token to trade with Oko, Thief of Crowns's theft ability.  In addition, we will run Fangren Marauder. Now when we eat some food, we can gain 8 life. Further, if an opponent eats the food we traded them, we can still gain life. Less food related, we have Momir Vig, Simic Visionary serving as both a tutor and card advantage.

 

Altogether we have the following deck:

 


Renovations

I won't spend too much time running over the usual suspects. If you got money to burn, duals, shocks, fetches for the mana base. Maybe toss in a Burgeoning, especially if you opt to replace our creature removal with spells like Cultivate that also put lands into our hand. Since we have green in the color identity, Doubling Season will make Oko, Thief of Crowns far more potent in stealing things. Also, since both versions are creature-based a Leyline of Anticipation would not hurt in providing some extra tricks up our sleeves.

If you are planning on piloting the infect build, Inkmoth Nexus can take a land slot. You could double down on the poison and swap in Triumph of the Hordes as the signature spell if you want to scare your opponents. Deepglow Skate can also help you win out of nowhere and Survival of the Fittest will help you find it. Likewise, Rogue's Passage might help with getting your infect to connect. Since there are plenty of proliferate effects in our deck, Lux Cannon might be fun to include as well.

If you want to up the clone game Phyrexian Metamorph, Rite of Replication, Phantasmal Image, Vesuvan Doppelganger, Mirage Mirror and Narset's Reversal are all great options. While not non-budget, the bulk of clones together really adds up. For this reason Clever Impersonator, Cackling Counterpart, Stunt Double, Progenitor Mimic and the Vizier of Many Faces did not make the cut. They can be slid in for cards like Omnibian and Illusory Gains.

Both versions I preset rely on Oko, Thief of Crowns for targeted removal. So you may wish to bolster this area depending on your meta. Cyclonic Rift is of course a great staple to include and I would toss in Propaganda in a heartbeat.

 


Outro

With two deck lists done, we are coming to a close.  I am excited to welcome Oko to the Oathbreaker format. He makes a niche for himself among the other simic Planeswalkers (Nissa, Kiora, and Tamiyo). What do you think of Oko? Which build do you like better and how would you build an Oko Oathbreaker deck? Let me know in the comments down below.

Like Oathbreaker content? Requests for budget deck techs? Suggestions or feedback, let us know! Contact us via email at contact@mtggoldfish.com or on twitter at @mtggoldfish.


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