Wizards of the Coast Officially Recognizes a New Format.

One of the reasons that Magic: the Gathering has had such a strong staying power for over 30 years is because of its ability to appeal to a wide range of players. This is achieved in a few different ways. Universes Beyond provides cross overs with other geek related franchises like Lord of the Rings, Fortnite, and League of Legends just to name a few. Another major draw is the existence of multiple formats for players to jump into. Draft, where players can just sit down and play with the cards that they open, and requires you to adapt every single time you build your deck. Pioneer, played with pre-constructed decks with cards from Return to Ravnica and newer. Then of course we have EDH / Commander which allows for the greatest amount of creativity in deck construction, played in a four player free for all, and usually played more casually than other formats. This allows players to to choose the format that most appeals to them. To that end Wizards of the Coast has officially recognized a new format, called Oathbreaker.

Who Came Up With Oathbreaker

Oathbreaker was created in 2017 by a group called Weirdcards. Weirdcards is a social charitable organization with the intent on bringing friends and families together through the love of Magic: the Gathering. They often run Magic events in order to raise money for different charities, and also helped found the Magic-based charity, Magikids. According to the Magikids website, they are a non-profit that turns unused Magic cards into learning and fun for kids across the U.S.

Quick Overview

If you have played commander before then you will be familiar with a lot of the rules for Oathbreaker. In a single sentence; Oathbreaker is a 60 card commander variant with two major twists.

Deck Construction

  • 60 Card Deck Size
  • 1 Planeswalker chosen as your Oathbreaker (Similar to your commander in EDH)
  • 1 Signature Spell (Instant or Sorcery)
  • 58 Maindeck cards
  • Each card can only exist in your deck once, and must match your Oathbreaker’s color identity. With the exception of basic lands.

How Do I Play?

  • Starting life total is 20
  • Your Oathbreaker and Signature Spell start in the command zone face up.
  • Usually played with 3 – 5 players free for all.
  • You may cast your Oathbreaker from the command zone.
  • You may cast your Signature Spell from the command zone only if your Oathbreaker is on the battlefield and under your control.
  • Your Oathbreaker and Signature Spell are both subject to the “commander zone tax”. These taxes are tracked separately between your Oathbreaker and Signature spell.

That is the general overview of Oathbreaker. If you want to get the full set of rules you can check them out on oathbreakermtg.org. You can also take a look at the official Wizards of the Coast page for the format here.

Powerful Synergy

Just like in commander, where by having access to a commander creature at the start of every single game, Oathbreaker also provides you your Signature Spell you can cast every game. This can lead to some very powerful synergies. To give you a glimpse as to what you can do with this we will highlight a few below.

Land Locked

While destroying your opponents lands is not likely to make you very many friends, this combination can be very powerful. Crop Rotation gets Wasteland out of your deck, and you use it to blow up one of your opponents lands. Then you use your Oathbreaker, Wrenn and Six with the first loyalty ability to get Wasteland back from your graveyard and repeat this every single turn.

One Sided Reanimate

This deck focuses on filling your deck with a ton of very large and powerful creatures like Sire of Stagnation, or Stormtide Leviathan and then reanimating them with Exhume. You start by casting your Oathbreaker, Ashiok, Dream Render. Then use the loyalty ability to mill and then exile all graveyards. If you read Ashiok’s loyalty ability closely you notice that you can mill your own deck, and then the abilitiy exiles every single opponent’s graveyard and not your own. This allows you to play Exhume, and reanimate one of your large creatures while each of your opponents get nothing because their graveyards are empty.

No Sol Ring!?

Another thing that separates Oathbreaker from similar formats like EDH is that one of the most popular commander staples, Sol Ring, is banned. This extends to Jeweled Lotus, Mana Vault, and Mana Crypt. This leads to a slower paced format compared to EDH.

Ban List

The official ban list can be found here but you can take a look at the ban list as of March 16th 2023.

  • Cards with the “Conspiracy” card type.
  • Cards that reference “playing with ante”. Click here to see those.
  • Silver-bordered cards
  • Any cards listed below
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Balance
1 Biorhythm
1 Black Lotus
1 Channel
1 Chaos Orb
1 *Cleanse*
1 *Crusade*
1 Dark Ritual
1 Doomsday
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Expropriate
1 Falling Star
1 Fastbond
1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Griselbrand
1 High Tide
1 *Imprison*
1 *Invoke Prejudice*
1 *Jihad*
1 Jeweled Lotus
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Limited Resources
1 Lion's Eye Diamond
1 Mana Crypt - Book Promos
1 Mana Geyser
1 Mana Vault
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Natural Order
1 Painter's Servant
1 *Pradesh Gypsies*
1 Primal Surge
1 Saheeli, the Gifted - Foil
1 Shahrazad
1 Sol Ring
1 *Stone-Throwing Devils*
1 Sundering Titan
1 Sylvan Primordial
1 Time Vault
1 Time Walk
1 Tinker
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Tooth and Nail
1 Trade Secrets
1 Upheaval
1 Yawgmoth's Bargain

Oathbreaker looks to be a fun format with some unique twists that allow for you to build decks that you wouldn’t otherwise see in commander. While Wizards of the Coast has no products planned specific to the format and it can’t be run as a sanctioned event. It still allows more players to hear about this format and consider jumping in.

Todd Silvia