First Impressions: Oathbreaker

Today we’re going to be look at the new casual format that has been picking up steam recently, Oathbreaker. Oathbreaker is a multiplayer format somewhat similar to EDH with a few twists. Unlike EDH, decks are 60 cards instead of 100. Additionally, players choose a planeswalker to be their “Oathbeaker.” An Oathbreaker functions virtually identically to the Commander/General role. Players also get to choose a “Signature Spell” to put in their command zone. This instant or sorcery must share a color identity with your Oathbreaker and can only be cast while they are on the battlefield. The Signature Spell mechanic opens up a whole new world of deck building and allows players to really express themselves.

Sample Decklist
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Signature Spell: All Is Dust
Lands (30)
1 Eldrazi Temple
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
1 Spawning Bed
1 Tomb of the Spirit Dragon
25 Wastes
Creatures (19)
1 Bane of Bala Ged
1 Blight Hereder
1 Breaker Of Armies
1 Conduit of Ruin
1 Deathless Behemoth
1 Endless One
1 Hand of Emrakul
1 It that Betrays
1 Oblivion Sower
1 Pathrazer of Ulamog
1 Ruin Processor
1 Skittering Surveyor
1 Spawnsire of Ulamog
1 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Ulamog’s, Crusher
1 Ulamog’s Despoiler
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 Void Winnower
1 Walker of the Wasters
Spells (11)
1 Eldrazi Conscription
1 Eldrazi Monument
1 Gruesome Slaughter
1 Karn Liberated
1 Myr Turbine
1 Scour from Existence
1 Skittering Invasion
1 Titan’s Presence
1 Trinisphere
1 Ugin, the Ineffable
1 Warping  Wail
60 Cards Total

This deck list is borrowed from OathReccer which is a site that specializes in Oathbreaker decklists. This Ugin list is just one example of the almost infinite amount of options you have for customization. One of the big draws to these formats is the ability to cast massive spells that you generally wouldn’t in a competitive setting. Ugin is the perfect Oathbreaker for people who want to unleash their inner Timmy.

Positives about the Format
My favorite aspect about Oathbreaker is how deep the deck building is. The Signature Spell idea adds a new angle that makes brewing incredibly fun. There are tons of iconic and powerful instants from throughout Magic’s history and it’s awesome to explore them. While planeswalkers are far less plentiful than creatures, War of the Spark really helped to make this format viable. Singleton formats require players to dig deeper to find good cards than traditional constructed formats. That means that it is significantly easier to slip your favorite pet card into your deck without taking a massive hit on power level. Additionally, it’s a casual format. Decisions can be made more around what’s fun than what’s optimal.

The games in Oathbreaker tend to be fairly fast for a multiplayer Magic format. Games are estimated to last between 30-60 minutes. This can be a nice change of pace from the seemingly never ending EDH games that can occur. This also makes it very convenient. You can get a round in when you’re early to a tournament, during your lunch hour, or at your board game night without monopolizing the whole thing. Oathbreaker has some very positive things going for it. If you’re into mutiplayer formats, it’s definitely something to check out.

Negatives about the Format
Most of my critiques about the format are critiques that I would apply to most casual mutiplayer Magic formats. Most of these formats are incredibly easy to make frustrating  for others if that’s the goal. Politics and deck building allow plenty of opportunities for bad apples to ruin games. With that said, I think the accessibility of game winning combos and game ruining locks is significantly higher in Oathbreaker. Things like Narset, Parter of Veils/Windfall, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries/Mana Severance, and Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God/The Elderspell just basically require the mana to cast them. It’s possible that none of these combos are format breaking, but Oathbreaker lends is significantly more prone to brokenness due to the extra card in your command zone.

Another negative about the format is convincing people to play. Commander variants like Tiny Leaders have fizzled off in the past. Finding other players or convincing your playgroup to adopt this new format can also be a barrier. Oathbreaker is a grassroots effort and not pushed from Wizards of the Coast which is also an uphill battle. However, recently it has been gaining steam. I think the format is incredibly fun if you try to make it that way, and I hope you will check it out.

Oathbreaker can be an incredibly deep and fun format. If it continues on as a casual format, it has an incredibly bright future. I think that it has some issues as a competitive format due to the accessibility of broken combos. With that said, I’d highly recommend you give Oathbreaker a try. Can you think of anything that should be on the ban list? What would your Oathbreaker list look like? Please share your ideas with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back on Monday with a spotlight on SCG Louisville. Until then my friends.

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