Magic’s design flaws with Oko and Reach disrupt the meta in Throne of Eldraine

Not everything in ELD is fairy tale perfect.

Image via Wizards of the Coast

The newest Magic: The Gathering set in Standard is a breath of fresh air,  but not everything in Throne of Eldraine (ELD) is optimal for a balanced meta. 

Two weeks after the release of the ELD set, there are a couple of major flaws that the MTG design team might have overlooked. All of the top-performing decks in the Standard meta have Green in them, from Bant and Simic to Golgari.

The lopsided balance in the metagame is primarily due to Oko, Thief of Crowns and a lack of decent creatures with Reach in colors outside of Green. 

Planeswalkers

Following the release of War of the Spark, the fatigue from 36 planeswalkers entering the Standard meta via one set was evident to just about everyone in the MTG community. Reducing the number to three in ELD was smart, but the design team dropped the ball with Oko, Thief of Crowns. 

Oko is an awesome planeswalker with killer OP design features. But he never should have been a three-drop. And despite untapped dual-lands rotating out of Standard, it’s too easy to drop Oko on turn two when combined with Gilded Goose. 

The disruption of Oko is equal to that of Teferi, Time Raveler, who happens to still be in Standard. And it doesn’t help the metagame when all but one removal card in Standard has a mana cost higher than or equal to that of the crown thief.

Outside of typical permanent removal spells, Questing Beast was designed specifically to disrupt planeswalkers. But Oko shuts the beast down by turning him into a 3/3 elk while still earning a loyalty counter. 

Oko should have been at least a five-drop in ELD with his current design text. As a three-drop planeswalker, his ability to turn artifacts and creatures into a 3/3 elk, while removing all abilities, should have been a minus-two or minus-one at the very least.

Adjusting the mana or loyalty counters during the design stages would have been an easy fix that could have kept Oko from being the broken planeswalker that he is.

Reach

In a set full of creatures with flying and angels from previous sets, the design of cards with Reach in ELD is questionable. And considering Hydroid Krasis is still around (Simic, like Oko), there could have been better answers to flyers. 

Wildborn Preserver and Stonecoil Serpent are both solid cards with Reach and the latter is versatile in just about any archetype. The problem with Reach, however, is that all the decent cards—besides Stonecoil Serpent—are in Green.

And with a Giant theme built into the ELD set, the MTG design team missed an opportunity to give cards like Realm-Cloaked Giant (as a 6/6) and Bonecrusher Giant the ability to rip flyers out of the air. 

It’s a Magic thing to predominantly have Reach in Green and there’s nothing wrong with that. In a set like ELD, however, it throws off the balance of the metagame by having top-performing archetypes tied to specific colors. And that’s a broken design.