Will Omnath Keep Dominating Standard?


There was finally a good enough reason to pull the trigger and ban Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. However, right now, the new Omnath decks appear to be much more problematic and much less reliant on Uro than the banning would suggest. Is there any chance this still balances out the Standard format?

Honestly, I was hoping that Wizards of the Coast had learned their lesson and would know better than to print such overpowered cards. I'm all for raising the power level of Magic over time, but I'm skeptical about the way that this is being done and where all the additional power is concentrated.

Sure, cards like Uro and Wilderness Reclamation weren't overpowered by themselves, but decks based in green and blue still ended up mostly broken. They're recieving so much continued support that the feeling of playing post-rotation Standard never even set in. Instead, we already have to deal with similar strategies that rival last season's most egregious excesses.

Omnath remains free to run ramp-ant more than ever!

As mentioned, Uro is finally banned, but the timing was overwhelmingly off. What turned out to be the last straw was the rise of Four-Color Omnath, a deck that focuses on Omnath, Locus of Creation and Lotus Cobra, not Uro. Wizards claimed that the banning was intended "to bring these decks down to a level where […] natural metagame forces are enough to keep them in check." This earned the ridicule of many voices from the community.

Not banning new cards too quickly, before the player base has had the chance to try them out, is legitimate. But the community did have the chance to play with Omnath and figured it out almost immediately. There may be a financial consideration at play here, and it is destroying certain Magic formats, especially Standard. Just look at the deck variety on this scoreboard.

The Deck

The typical Omnath deck pursues a weird kind of ramp strategy. Initial progress is often somewhat slow, with maybe a Lotus Cobra or an additional land drop. But once Omnath, Locus of Creation gets involved, the battlefield more or less explodes. One possible turn four play is Omnath followed by Fabled Passage followed by Escape to the Wilds. Either of the two creatures plus Fabled Passage is enough to generate Genesis Ultimatum mana on turn five.

lotus cobra omnath, locus of creation genesis ultimatum

When the deck gets going and the opponent doesn't intervene, they are buried in cards, lands, and landfall triggers. When Cobra and Omnath stick, it's not a rare sight to see someone chain one Ultimatum into an Escape, or vice versa, or one of the sorceries into another copy of the same. Turn two Cobra plus turn three Omnath can enable what are sometimes effectively and sometimes literal turn four kills.

Most of the earlier versions of the deck ran Felidar Retreat as a win condition, and many still do, though other options have been proposed — see further down for some. But first take a look at the following list, which serves as a pretty good starting point.

As you can see, Tiu, who is a former Rookie of the Year and Worlds semifinalist, chose to include but two Uros in this build. Whether that's correct or not — most others ran three or four copies — is of course moot now. Though when it comes to making additional land drops, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is better; when it comes to sourcing lands, Cultivate is better; and when you come up against aggro, something else entirely, for example Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp, is better than 3 extra life.

Uro was great at playing multiple roles and unparalleled as another resilient backup for the late game — in case someone countered all the sorceries, for instance. However, it wasn't even necessary while legal. Imagine a deck that has the colors and whose game plan fits, but that does not see the need to play such a strong card …

The New Decks

In fact, the latest top results from Magic Online from the day before the banning saw people ditching Uro almost completely.

The Standard Challenge went to a variant going all-in on Ruin Crab. With seven fetch lands, plus Cultivate, Dryad, Escape, and Ultimatum, it's easy to trigger landfall. At some point, the lands start falling at a rate of three to five a turn. There are 26–33 of them in total here because Spikefield Hazard and Glasspool Mimic can also be played as such. At the same time, Mimics mean that there are up to seven Crabs here, and they are easier to squeeze into a mana-tight combo turn too.

This might be just about the most consistent combo-focused build of the bunch. Ruin Crab probably still remains underrated, since there always used to be the worry of giving the opponent a free Uro to escape. In a metagame with no Uro whatsoever, however, milling suddenly becomes a very attractive win condition.

Finally, the newest version of them all integrates Omnath into Temur Adventures. The list that "lampalot" (better known as Michael Bonde, of Mythic Championship I fame) piloted to victory at the weekend's Standard PTQ already attracted a lot of attention. It does have it all: removal for smaller and larger creatures, access to silver bullets in the sideboard, even ramp — all in the form of Adventures, all of which turn from their regular two-for-one nature into a three- or four-for-one via Lucky Clover and Edgewall Innkeeper.

It will be interesting to see which version proves best in the new environment. With no more broken escape cards, Standard should maybe consider the Crab builds first. However, Felidar Retreat certainly remains a viable option as well, while Scute Swarm is still undeservedly forgotten. The Adventure version might win out on pure resiliency and flexibility but is far less explosive. That deck can't ever win on turn four, and only absurd sequences allow for a turn five kill.

Uro was much more crucial for Sultai Control decks. It was the only reason why they even went into green. Without it, they'll probably be gone for good. It is unclear what, if anything, will be able to stand up to Omnath, so expect an even bigger level of format dominance. When all is said and done, Uro might have been a card that needed banning, but probably much, much earlier. Its banning now, without any other bans, may indeed exacerbate Standard's problems. There is no happy end this time around — only Omnath.

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Cees007(30.09.2020 12:53)

This title is a Joke right?

Knight925(30.09.2020 11:12)(Edited: 30.09.2020 11:16)

I not only quit standard because of all the cheap cheating-in-cards-tacts. The same happens on arena aswell. Have only been playing Brawl for the last 6 months. Now my Brawl deck rotated out too. Might make a new Brawl-Deck. Sure as hell won't start standard! My favorite decks are control-decks with counters, removal and big finishers. With all the cheating and flooding the board this tactic hardly works anyway.

The only decks that use mana past turn 3 are the ones that have 12 mana turn 4....

CyberDevil(30.09.2020 18:07)

@Knight925 Have fun only playing against Omnath decks in Brawl.

Ralvarado(01.10.2020 08:57)(Edited: 01.10.2020 08:57)

@Knight925 play EDH !!! ;)

MissingNerd(30.09.2020 10:10)

Good thing I don't play Standard

realalien1(30.09.2020 02:50)

@SirLunch-A-Lot I could not agree more. And then some people claim power creep would be a myth… In the long run I am also worried about the new land/spell cards, though. When there is no totally overpowered card like Omnath with 5 Million positive effects, it seems a bit like the new companions here: is there any reason not to play those? I mean the choice to always have a land when you need it and otherwise a neat spell seems also unbalanced to me, albeit it is nice that it reduces the chances to be short on mana or get flooded.
Maybe it is time to go back to Ixalan and slow down things…
By the way voting with your wallet seems easy when it is drained by 20 new products a month.

AnotherNamelessUser(30.09.2020 21:11)

Realalien1 I disagree about the land/spells. Of course it is an insanely powerful mechanic, but it does not come without a cost: those lands enter tapped (well, except the mythics, but they still cost a lot of life). You actually need to consider how many of these lands you can include before they slow you down too much.
If it were only the uncommon ones, they'd be pretty well balanced too

realalien1(30.09.2020 22:43)

AnotherNamelessUser I am not sure, what you disagree with exactly? That I am worried they (and with 'they' I obv did not mean the commons or uncommons) might be an auto-include, if there are no overpowered cards like Omnath around, or that they are unbalanced (or both)? Especially the mana expensive ones will be played in slower 'controlish' decks, right? I guess a tapped land does not matter too much there. But maybe (and hopefully) I am wrong and they are just fine and fun to play with (which I believe anyways).

Vayra86(06.10.2020 13:29)(Edited: 06.10.2020 13:32)

Realalien1 Power creep works both ways, if you catch my drift. Those new land/spells are expanding the options for any deck building that happens now. The only problem with Zendikar Rising is the focus on Landfall that comes with it, and most notably the fact that literally every overpowered card in the set is a Landfall card.

By next rotation its likely the new land/spells have become commonplace and no longer just or primarily serve to accelerate Landfall strategies. And even in the current rotation they open up more 'space' in the rest of deck which provides lots of responsive options, and some irony here... Most of those responses actually do serve to counter what's in the meta right now, Omnath among them.

SirLunch-A-Lot(30.09.2020 00:57)

Omnath is the Money-Mythic of the set. Unfortunately it won't get banned for as long as it is in proper print, they're counting on the secondary market to sell their boosters.
Most likely we will see a ban long after it is relevant, when the sales reach the profit margin they expect, same that happened with Uro, T3feri and Brazen Borrower... Oh wait, last one's still legal. No wonder I see about 18 of them each time I'm doing my dailies on Arena.
The current state of the game is really sad. At some point Wizards figured out that printing 1-2 OP Mythics or Rares to blow up in price on the secondary market is much better for booster sales than a balanced meta.
I can only recommend to not buy into it until they get their stuff together and we don't see at least one ban (or complete overhaul of a mechanic) per set anymore. Vote with your wallet, it's the only language they will understand.