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Breaking into Oathbreaker

There is a new format taking the Magic community by storm and its name is Oathbreaker. Oathbreaker’s popularity has soared so high that even the Professor of Tolarian Community College has fallen in love. So what is this enigmatic new format which is enticing Commander players from all over the multiverse? Let’s find out!

What is Oathbreaker?

For those familiar with Commander, the hot new format Oathbreaker can be thought of as a Commander variant for those with time constraints. Instead of 100 card singleton with 40 starting life and a legendary creature as your Commander dictating your deck’s color identity, Oathbreaker operates as 60 card singleton format with 20 starting life, a “Signature Spell” and a Planeswalker as your “Oathbreaker” dictating your deck’s color identity.

The Signature Spell mechanic

The Signature Spell is an instant or sorcery spell which accompanies your Oathbreaker in the Command Zone. Just like your Oathbreaker, your Signature Spell also has a Commander Tax for each time it was cast of {2}, and can only be cast if your Oathbreaker is on the battlefield, under your control.

No doubt, having access to a spell in your Command Zone is extremely powerful. So much so that often one’s first reaction is to think that the Signature Spell mechanic is more busted than Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Just imagine having a counterspell like Force of Will in the Command Zone! While the notion is certainly powerful, Force of Will at your fingertips is not as strong as one might think. Recall those aforementioned restrictions; namely, that the Signature Spell can only be cast when your Oathbreaker is in play and the Signature Spell has its own Commander Tax that is applied even when using an alternate casting cost.  

Let’s try a concrete example. If we have Teferi, Time Raveler as our Oathbreaker, with the Signature Spell being the original Counter Spell, then the first time we cast it for {U}{U}. That is not so bad… but for the second ({2}{U}{U}) and third times ({4}{U}{U}) we could have cast counterspells with upside like Rewind or Spell Swindle! Not to mention that our ability to use our Signature Spell is tied to our Oathbreaker being in play under our control. Access to our Signature Spell can be suddenly bolted away, or forcefully taken from us with an old fashion beat down.

While Force of Will may no longer entice you due to the restrictions on casting conditions and diminishing returns, do not underestimate the power of having access to a key piece of your deck’s win condition in your Command Zone. Pairs like Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God with The Elderspell  and Narset, Parter of Veils with Windfall are not to be trifled with.

Brewers rejoice! In addition to the raw value that the Signature Spell provides, your Signature Spell also opens up an exuberant number of deckbuilding possibilities. Do you have a pet card that is not an instant or sorcery? Or a jank-tastic combo with a few pieces that must be assembled? Not a problem, with a tutor in the Command Zone you’ll be sure to find the cards you need.

Any other deviations?

While sharing many similarities with Commander, Oathbreaker has a separate Ban List, which can be found on Oathbreaker’s official site. The main difference between the Commander and Oathbreaker Ban Lists is that Oathbreaker places a heavy emphasis on banning fast mana (Moxen, Sol Ring, High Tide, etc) and stale (read as minimal effort) win conditions (such as Ad Nauseum, Tooth and Nail, etc). While such restrictions may be disappointing to some, in exchange fan favorites like Prime Time (Primeval Titan) and Prophet of Kruphix are at your disposal.

Flash in the Pan?

While Oathbreaker’s recent surge in popularity may make many in the Magic community cautious of Oathbreaker’s fate (R.I.P. Tiny Leaders), Oathbreaker is not a new format. It was created by the founding group, Weirdcards Social Club, over two years ago. While a small loyal fanbase (until its recent swell) does not provide Oathbreaker immunity from the fate shared by other fan-made formats, Weirdcards Social Club’s dedication to the format, in addition to the newfound popularity, may give Oathbreaker long-term staying power in the community at large.

Getting Started

Building a Deck

It is not unheard of for newcomers to start their first deck by pruning down one of their Commander decks. For the brewers among us it may be helpful to take a look at some of the prevailing Commander deck building templates and see how one might adapt them for Oathbreaker. Of course, these templates serve as guides, not absolutes.

The Command Zone Tomer's Template The 8 x 8 Method
38 Lands
10 Mana Ramp
10 Card Draw
5 Board Wipes
5 Targeted Removal
25 Standalone Cards
10-12 Enhancers
7-8 Enablers


37 Lands
13 Mana Ramp
10 Card Draw
3 Board Wipes
6 Targeted Removal
2 Graveyard Recursion
2 Flexible Tutors
1 Graveyard Hate
1 Surprise "I win" card
36 Lands
8 Theme 1
8 Theme 2
8 Theme 3
8 Theme 4
8 Theme 5
8 Theme 6
8 Theme 7
8 Theme 8


Adding up the number of specified cards per template we see that the Command Zone has 110-113 cards, Tomer has 75 cards and the 8 x 8 Method has exactly 100. So what does this tell us? Well the overabundance of cards from the Command Zone template emphasizes that your cards need to be doing at least double duty e.g. a board wipe that draws you cards like Decree of Pain or a creature that not only ramps, but offers life gain such as Crypt Ghast, etc. Tomer’s template is short 25 cards (the flavor / theme of your deck). His template also emphasizes some specific categories of cards you best not forget such as graveyard hate, recursion, and of course a win condition!

The 8 x 8 deck building template is a bit more flexible in its conception than the other two. Rather than stating “have around X cards of ramp,” the 8 x 8 methods works by selecting 8 “themes” for your deck (things you want your deck to do) and then picking 8 cards to fulfill that role. For example, theme 1 might be mill, and one of the 8 cards dedicate towards mill might be Mindcrank. While in practice you can choose anything for your 8 themes, ramp, draw, and removal is highly suggested to be among them.

So how might one go about adapting these templates for Oathbreaker? Of course one could just “scale” each of these templates 60%:

The Oathbreaker Zone Tomer-breaker The 6 x 6 Method
23 Lands
6 Mana Ramp
6 Card Draw
3 Board Wipes
3 Targeted Removal
15 Standalone Cards
5-6 Enhancers
4-5 Enablers


22 Lands
8 Mana Ramp
6 Card Draw
2 Board Wipes
3 Targeted Removal
1 Graveyard Recursion
1 Flexible Tutor
1 Graveyard Hate
1 Surprise "I win" card


24 Lands
6 Theme 1
6 Theme 2
6 Theme 3
6 Theme 4
6 Theme 5
6 Theme 6


However, a bit more consideration should be applied.  First, Oathbreaker is a faster format. Instead of the 11-13 turns one might expect in your average game of Commander, Oathbreaker clocks in at the 7-9 turn range. Coupled with the bans on fast mana, there are not as many of the early turns dedicated to worry free set up of ramp or having late-game mana for casting massive spells. Second, your Oathbreaker is a Planeswalker. While, in general, there are less removal spells that target Planeswalkers, your opponents creatures can hit their loyalty points directly! Therefore cards that serve double duty like Sakura-Tribe Elder, a Rampant Growth on a body that can block for your Oathbreaker, should be prioritized.

After querying the Oathbreaker community to get a consensus of the meta at large a starting template might resemble:

An Oathbreaker Deck Template

23 Lands
6 Ramp
6 Draw
4 Targeted Removal (Planeswalker inclusive)
2 Board Wipes
2 Tutors
2 Recursion
1 Graveyard Hate
12 Theme / Support

This template is meant to serve as a starting point for those eager to start brewing one’s own Oathbreaker deck and does not include your Oathbreaker or your Signature Spell.

A Deck for Everyone

Magic: the Gathering has a large and varied community. Among the community, there are also several player types. Regardless of your playstyle, Oathbreaker can accommodate you:

Tammy / Timmy

So you like casting big spells that leave an impact? How about sending dragon after dragon at your opponents’ faces? With only 20 life, aggro is a viable strategy, and Sarkhan, Fireblood with Sarkhan’s Triumph will soar you to the heights of victory.


Johnny / Jenny

So you like to set up your contraption and combo off? How about an infinite stack of copied spells that drain your opponent’s life? Ral, Storn Conduit and Expansion // Explosion is a one-way ticket for the combo kill.


So you want to win, no matter what it takes? How about a powerful adaptation of a classic? Nissa, Who Shakes the World  will lead your elf mana production factory into a tidal wave... or should I say Genesis Wave.


So you appreciate Magic’s expansive lore? Well, how about you dwell among its townsfolk… but beware they are hiding something! Arlinn Kord and Moonmist will unveil what your denizens are hiding and have your opponents scrambling from your tribe’s howls.


So you appreciate the intricate interactions of Magic’s many mechanics? How about a deck that leverages the interworking of Magic’s token mechanisms from across the multiverse? Huatli, Radiant Champion and March of the Multitudes curates and then unleashes a hoard to overwhelm your opponents with tokens.

You Made it to the End!

What’s next?

Pick or brew a deck, grab some friend’s or make some new ones at your friendly local game store, and enjoy this fun, casual, multiplayer format!

Like Oathbreaker content on MtG Goldfish? Want to see more? Email us or tweet to us on twitter @mtggoldfish to let us know!

Want to engage in the Oathbreaker community?

Oathbreaker is on:

Additional Resources

Bonus brew:



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