Oathbreaker: A New Commander Variant

Do you like EDH, but want planeswalkers as your commanders? What if Brawl included non-Standard-legal cards? Welcome to Oathbreaker! A new casual multiplayer format for quick EDH-style games. Here is an introduction to the potential of Oathbreaker as Ryan Scicluna gives his thoughts on this new way of playing MTG.

Have you ever wanted to play EDH using a planeswalker as your commander? Any planeswalker from the entire history of Magic: The Gathering and not just the ones currently in Standard? Or do you feel like Commander games take too long, and you want to play quicker games without sacrificing those things that make the format fun? Then, you might want to try out Oathbreaker!

Oathbreaker Logo
Oathbreaker Logo from Weirdcards Charitable Club, Inc.

Oathbreaker is a new format created by Weirdcards Charitable Club, Inc., a non-profit social club based in Rochester, USA. Similar to Brawl, Oathbreaker allows players to choose any planeswalker as their commander (the Oathbreaker), together with another sorcery or instant spell as their Signature Spell (both placed in the Command Zone at the beginning of each game). Players can then build a 60-card singleton deck (58 if you exclude the commander and Signature Spell) based on their Oathbreaker's color identity. The rest of the rules for deck building are the same as in Commander. This means that, unlike in Brawl, players can pick cards from all of MTG's history and are not limited to just Standard-legal sets. Also, players start their game with 20 life, making games much shorter and intensive. As Wierdcards Charitable Club explain on their website:

You may cast your Oathbreaker from the Command Zone. Doing so costs an additional two generic mana for each time it's been previously cast from the Command Zone. The same applies to your Signature Spell, but your Oathbreaker must also be on the battlefield under your control as you cast it. If your Oathbreaker changes zones, you may return it to the Command Zone. The Signature Spell must return to the Command Zone.

In order for players to cast their Signature Spell from the Command Zone, their respective planeswalker commander needs to be out on the field.

How Does This Spice Up Things?

It is too early to say whether Oathbreaker is the new Brawl or Commander, however, this original format has the potential for some interesting interactions. We all know a Commander player or two who has advocated for the inclusion of planeswalkers as commanders, and even though Brawl has allowed this, the format is still limited to what is currently Standard-legal. The rotation aspect of the format is a huge negative for some players.

Oathbreaker seems like a good answer that bridges both formats and combines both their elements. The fact that games start with 20 life means that games are shorter and might be more appealing to casuals who want to get in a few games during lunch breaks. One can argue that planeswalkers tend to make games longer, since they are basically an extension of the life total, but having 20 life instead of 30 or 40 life makes it more likely that opponents will prefer to attack you directly, rather than your planeswalker. It's just easier to finish someone off this way. This still needs to be seen, but I am confident that Oathbreaker games will not be as long as EDH or Brawl games.

Oath of Jace Oath of Ajani Oath of Gideon
Maybe the name of the format has something to do with the Oath of the Gatewatch…

Another interesting element of this new format is the card pool. Players can choose cards from all printed sets. However, since decks can only contain 58 cards (including lands), this makes it very hard to optimize for a particular strategy. In EDH, it is easier to include cards in a deck which are considered meta/essential/staples because you have more space. With Oathbreaker, one has to be careful not to include too many staple cards that might actually do nothing within a particular strategy. This means that decks will be less likely to include cards that are just good and more likely to include cards that actively help them achieve something. It will hopefully result in a variety of decklists with different takes, instead of everyone including the same cards in a deck just because they're needed. Deck building will be more challenging and, in my opinion, more fun.

What About the Signature Spell?

What if you always have access to a particular spell from your deck? Imagine the ability to cast Wrath of God or a Counterspell whenever you want without needing to draw it! Sure, your opponents will know it is coming, but that is what makes it compelling. How would knowing this information change your playstyle? Would you bait your opponent into using their Signature Spell early (knowing that it will get harder to cast each time they do)? Or would you play conservatively just in case? This makes interacting with other players tricky and challenging, which adds more skilled plays during a game. Even though Oathbreaker is a casual multiplayer format, that does not mean it is not skill-intensive. Similar to Vintage or Legacy decks, Oathbreaker decks will be very powerful, but only if piloted correctly. Its multiplayer element also makes it hard for one opponent to simply dominate the game. As with all multiplayer games, political navigation is usually the key to winning.

Counterspell Wrath of God

Another way to look at the Signature Spell is as card advantage. In the game, you still start by drawing seven cards, though technically, you already have access to two extra cards: your Oathbreaker and the Signature Spell. In reality, this feels more like starting a game with nine cards in hand. Depending on the other cards in the deck, this might make it easier to mulligan and have access to better starting hands. It will be interesting to see when or if the format becomes popular, and what cards will be more likely to be chosen as Signature Spells paired up with which planeswalker.

Final Thoughts on the Oathbreaker Format

As a casual player, I am always on the lookout for new ways to play Magic: The Gathering. Oathbreaker seems like an interesting and fun way to incorporate planeswalkers as commanders in an approach similar to EDH rather than Brawl. Currently, there are over 168 planeswalkers with 37 new ones coming out in War of the Spark, which is ideal for a format like this. Of course, some card interactions might be too broken for such format, but Weirdcards Charitable Club, Inc. already has a Banned Card List out to mitigate some of the most over-the-top synergies. If you are interested in looking at how a game of Oathbreaker unfolds, I recommend the Loading Ready Run Friday Night Paper Fight — Commander Oathbreaker episode and similar episodes on the Weirdcards Charitable Club, Inc. YouTube channel.

MTG Planeswalkers
How would the 37 new planeswalkers from War of the Spark play in Oathbreaker?

What do you think of this new format? Will you try it out? Let us know in the comments below!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

20 Comments

TheRed(2019-05-11 14:26)

60 card in one copy of each and only 20 hp? When they understand that is not funny win at the second turn is too late.

yojim29(2019-05-08 13:39)

60 cards is no fun. 20hp is no fun.

Ocarion142(2019-05-08 09:34)

New Lilly+ Elderspell is just gamebreaking.

Obscuritas(2019-05-08 00:01)

Lol. How about demonic tutor as signature spell?

helldanno(2019-05-07 22:32)

Why can't the signature spell have different colors as the commander? So both would define the color identity for the deck. There are just so few Multicolor PWs, and the amount of possible signature spells isn't that much bigger.
And maybe we could get rid of the old expensive cards and the reserved list, so only cards starting from 8th edition would be legal.
Maybe I can convince my playgroup to try this out.

rsci1(2019-05-07 14:40)

I am glad that this article is generating a lot of discussion about Oathbreaker. Let me address a few concerns I see popping up.

First of all this is intended as a fun casual format, like all other formats, one can decide to play as competitive as they wish. If their playgroup is thinking on similar terms, then go ahead, but keep in mind that there is nothing wrong in choosing not to play like that. The main aim of Oathbreaker is to play MTG similar to EDH but in quicker games. If you like to play more powerful MTG then play powerful MTG in the formats they are more suited for. If your intention is to try and go off infinity, you can try but other players might be trying to stop you or do the same. How is this different from EDH? The ban lists are there to make it fun for everyone but since fun is subjective always communicate with your playgroup first about the power level of your decks.

Secondly, I myself, have built a number of Oathbreaker decks, which are not necessarily the best they can be but they are fair enough against each other, just so that I can introduce the format to my friends. I had to proxy a few just so that I can get the word out. Oathbreak is also very easy to teach to new players and kids, especially ones with planeswalker decks because they can easily be converted into Oathbreaker decks with cards they have lying around. I think I am the only one in my country, who visits the local game shops who actually plays Oathbreaker regularly but when I go to the shops, I bring more than one deck so that I can introduce the format to players in between matches of commander or drafts.

Thirdly, the restriction on colors and cards is a good thing. Why are some MTG players so greedy that they want to have access to everything and want to play with everything? That is why there are different formats, so that players can choose the level of power they want to play without dominating one single format. The challenge of deck building exists because you don't have access to everything. Again, this might be subjective but deck building stops being fun when everyone plays and builds the same decks. Oathbreaker currently is an open book and maybe one can't build the deck how one wishes but that does not mean a deck can't still be playable. In a multiplayer format it is often the case that players police themselves so that no single player dominates the game. Instead of thinking of how to build the best deck, just pick a planeswalker and build a fun strategy around it. Play some games and have fun.

This is just another way to play MTG. You can try it, like it and find others who think like you or don't find it complex or engaging enough, so you go back to playing commander/legacy, etc... It is all about playing MTG and having fun.

bluemud(2019-05-07 13:36)

It seems like the intention of the folks over at Weirdcards is to avoid a "solved" format, via mass bannings. Turns out that being able to recast a spell an infinite ammount of times can be troublesome.

I want this format to take off, but it's gona have a few hurdles to get through.

First of all, the article repeatedly mentions how you can play with Legacy cards, but the banlist is so extensive (and likely to keep growing to avoid format solving), that many people might get disapointed in what they can actually play.
Secondly, like with all new formats, people are wary to invest the time, money, and/or cards to build a deck that they might not have anyone to play with. This is only made worse by the fact that it is a multiplayer format.

Myself, I'm planning a handful of different decks, but I'm likely not building any for a couple of months. In all likelyhood, I'll end up turning some of my more straight-forward, mono coloured EDH decks into Oathbreaker decks. (This reminds me of another minor issue with the format, that there aren't planeswalkers of all colour identities, and the vast majority are 2 or less colours).

That said, if there ever was a time for a Planeswalker Highlander format to show up, it would be right when the planeswalkers-matter set is released.

Stefouch(2019-05-07 10:47)

Liliana of the Veil + Dark Ritual... Since you can't cast your signature spell without your oathbreaker already in play, that's not synergistic. And pushing 1 player to sacrifice a creature in a table of 4+ players is weak compared to other PW options.

yousaidforever(2019-05-07 01:04)

Wow. I'm truly amazed about this format.

RoaldL(2019-05-07 00:53)

This seems really really breakable. Fun thing to try for womeone like me who has a medium to large Legacy collection and enjoys deckbuilding, but the sixty card twenty life format will lead to the format being 'solved' pretty fast. Something red with Fireblast as the signature spell maybe? Countertop Miracles with Teferi or Aminatou(WoG or Armageddon as the spell)? Ral Zarek Storm with either a wincon or Timespiral Signature?
I really like the idea of the format, but I think competitive players like me will ruin the format before it gets a real chance in the spotlights like we did tiny leaders and brawl.

DsoAce(2019-05-06 21:22)

Interesting! Actually sounds a little bit like Force of Will. :)

Sedosch(2019-05-06 17:47)

Interesting, but personally for me not interesting enough to try it out. Besides having more options in using Planeswalkers as Commanders, I don't exactly see the purpose of it. Brawl was somehow useful, especially for the new players who wanted to try out casual Commander but are often overwhelmed by the vast options in building a Commander Deck. With Oathbreaker they would face the same issues.
I also don't believe, that these games will be shorter than normal Commander games. But they pretty sure would be shorter than Brawl games due to the mentioned increment in deck building options and acceleration. Nevertheless, I just love my long Commander games where every player can shine and/or go completely crazy.

Cees007(2019-05-06 17:46)

Oath-breaker? Really? A magic brand new MTG format called after an valyrian steel sword from GOT? >

Fjandaud(2019-05-06 17:16)

Liliana of the veil and dark ritual in command zone ?

FunBun7(2019-05-06 17:03)

What if you have a signature spell with buyback? Could you let it go to your hand? You have two replacement effects for the same situation so technically you would be able to do that, right?

And say I have Karn Liberated as commander, could I have Warping Wail as signature spell or play Reality Smasher in my deck?

hitman-47(2019-05-06 16:58)

Finde ich eine gute Idee

ProPeanuts(2019-05-06 16:39)

This actually sounds not even that bad. I'm quite skeptical about new formats or made-up things, but I might even try it out with a friend.

Fjandaud(2019-05-06 16:34)

Liliana of the veil and dark ritual...

LegacyBoss(2019-05-06 16:24)

I'm so lazy to start listing those turn-3 (or sooner) combos this format would enable...

sluggy10(2019-05-06 16:02)

Problem is : format needs to be know to survive.
Don't know in USA how it is, but here (France) Brawl is considered dead. And it was supported (more or less) by wizard.
I love alternative format, but now i wait 2-3 month before actually trying to play it...

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