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How to Oath (Commander 2016 Spoiler)


As you probably know, the latest edition of the Commander deck series is right around the corner, which means that it's preview time! The card we have to show you today is a sweet reprint that doesn't see a ton of play in Commander but might be the perfect preview card for me because it has some fun brew-around-me combo potential. I'm not a huge fan of preview articles that keep the reader in suspense, so let's get to the card, and then we'll talk about some ways the card can be used in Commander:

Oath of Druids, Commander 2016

That's right, Oath of Druids is getting a reprint in Commander 2016! While the green enchantment is most widely known for being a Vintage staple, being used to cheat things like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand into play (bonus for Vintage players: if you have $19,480 saved towards purchasing Vintage Oath but couldn't find the last $20, this reprinting could help), today we are going to focus on how to use Oath of Druids in Commander. While it might not be obvious right away, the card actually has quite a few layers and can work in several different styles of decks. 

So, how does Oath of Druids actually work? Basically, at the beginning of each player's upkeep, as long as at least one opponent has more creatures than the active player, that player may reveal cards from their library until they find a creature, put that creature on the battlefield, and then put the rest into the graveyard. So, what we have is a quasi-symmetrical effect that can help you cheat on mana and also fill your graveyard. 

While Oath of Druids has the potential to be extremely powerful, it also comes with some significant deck-building restrictions. If you are going to try to cheat big creatures into play, you probably don't want to be running Birds of Paradise and Joraga Treespeaker, because Oathing (the technical term for an Oath of Druids activation) into a one-drop mana dork is pretty bad. On the other hand, if your goal is to use Oath of Druids to fill your graveyard, you're going to want to keep the total number of creatures in your deck to a minimum or even play no creatures! Now, let's talk about some specific ways to break Oath of Druids in Commander!

Level 1: Use It to Cheat Big Creatures into Play

Probably the most obvious use of Oath of Druids is to cheat huge creatures into play for free early in the game. The first question we need to answer is, "How do I find my Oath of Druids?" and then, "How worried are we about triggering Oath of Druids?" In a four-player game, it seems likely that you can simply build a deck without any early game creatures and trust that at least one of your opponents is going to have a creature on the battlefield during your upkeep so you can trigger Oath of Druids and get the top creature in your deck for free. 

Finding Oath

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One of the challenges of building around Oath of Druids in Commander is that we have 99 cards in our deck but only a single copy of Oath of Druids. While it's perfectly reasonable to play Oath of Druids for value in some builds, one of the solutions to the problem is to play some tutor effect to make sure we always have an Oath of Druids on the battlefield. Black has a ton of different options, while white can also find it with cards like Idyllic Tutor

Making Sure Oath Triggers

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There aren't a ton of great ways to give opponents creatures, but there are a few. Forbidden Orchard is a Vintage trick. Acorn Catapult is slower, costing four mana to get on the battlefield and another one to activate, but it works like Forbidden Orchard. Forbidden Orchard is clearly the more competitive option, not just because you can get it on the battlefield quickly, but also because you can easily tutor it up with cards like Expedition Map and Sylvan Scrying. The good news is that none of these tokens are all that scary, and then the payoff is you get an Oath of Druids trigger to get a huge creature from your deck. 

Phelddagrif, on the other hand, is an interesting option for a general in a deck built around Oath of Druids because it offers a free, repeatable way to give opponents 1/1 Hippo tokens. While I'm not sure that Temur is the best Oath of Druids colors or that the typical Phelddagrif deck is suited for Oath of Druids, it's worth keeping in mind, since I believe the Hippo is the only legend that can be used to give opponents creatures to trigger Oath of Druids

Stacking Your Deck

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There are actually quite a few cards that allow you to tutor a creature to the top of your deck, which helps you manipulate what "random" creature you get with your Oath of Druids trigger. Vampiric Tutor and Worldly Tutor are probably the best because you can play them at instant speed, on your upkeep, with the Oath of Druids trigger on the stack and get any creature you want from your deck. Sylvan Tutor does the same thing, but as a sorcery, it's hard to use as a surprise, which means your opponents will have an entire turn of knowing what creature you'll get from Oath. 

Bringer of the Black Dawn is one of my favorite Oath of Druids tutor targets. While it requires a five-color build, imagine searching it up with Vampiric Tutor in response to Oath of Druids. You get Bringer of the Black Dawn for free, and then you get to use Bringer of the Black Dawn to tutor a creature to the top of your deck every turn. So, every turn, you get whatever creature in your deck is best for free with Oath of Druids!

Fatties to Oath into

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The options are pretty limitless, with pretty much any expensive, big, hard-to-deal-with creature making a good target for Oath of Druids. Progenitus is good because it's unblockable and extremely hard to deal with. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger dodges a lot of removal and can win through blockers by exiling away the opponent's library. Terastodon on Turn 2 or 3 blowing up three of your opponent's lands seems pretty good. 

The important thing to remember is that to make your Oath of Druids good, you want to limit the total number of creatures in your deck and leave "misses" out of your deck altogether. Ideally, with few exceptions, you probably don't want any creatures with a converted mana cost of four or less. For me, the bare minimum I'd be happy hitting off of Oath of Druids are five drops like Mulldrifter and Thragtusk. It's hard to gives exact numbers because it depends on your specific build, but in building your deck, it's important to be aware of Oath of Druids and let it dictate your creature choices. Since there are so many playable tutors in Commander, you should be able to have access to Oath of Druids pretty much every game. 

Level 2: Use It to Fill Your Graveyard

The other thing that Oath of Druids can do is fill your graveyard at warp speed. Take the above deck from a MTGSalvation user by the name of ryan.s.mason5 without any creatures at all. In this deck, you get Oath of Druids on the battlefield on Turn 1 or 2, and on your next upkeep, you mill your entire deck. The deck is pretty complicated, so here's how it works (according to the deck's creator): 

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Step 1: Play Oath of Druids with at least three mana available. 

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Step 2: Use Oath of Druids to mill your entire deck; then, use Memory's Journey like a Doomsday to stack the bottom cards of your library with Yawgmoth's Will, Mana Crypt, and Lotus Petal

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Step 3: Use Deep Analysis (flashback) to draw the cards you stacked on the bottom of your deck. 

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Step 4: Play all the mana from your graveyard, using Doubling Cube twice (with the help of Voltaic Key to untap it). 

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Step 5: Play Hurkyl's Recall to bounce all your mana producers and replay them to add even more mana. Double your mana with Doubling Cube.

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Step 6: Do the same thing with Rebuild. Double your mana with Doubling Cube (again). 

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Step 7: Play Exsanguinate or Mind Grind x200 with counter backup (for the potential Turn 3 win!). 

While I really like the idea of this combo, I've tried to play Doomsday decks before, and they are incredibly hard. While the combo in this build seems pretty straightforward, we are also running under the assumption that everything goes according to plan and our opponents don't try to disrupt us. So, what if we want an easy-mode combo for Oath of Druids that can kill nearly as quickly? 

Mizzix's Mastery

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Maybe my favorite idea for a creature-free Oath of Druids deck is Mizzix's Mastery, which is essentially "pay eight mana, you win the game" if our graveyard is full of spells. So, here's the idea. Play a deck that is overloaded with spells and no creatures. The important thing here is that Oath of Druids is a "may" ability, so even if you have the ability to trigger it, you can choose not to until you are ready to combo off. So, you get an Oath of Druids on the battlefield and choose not to use it until you have enough mana to overload Mizzix's Mastery (with the help of mana rocks and rituals) on the same turn that you mill your entire library with Oath of Druids. Then, you simply cast Mizzix's Mastery, cast everything in your graveyard, and win the game!

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While I'm sure there are other ways to win the game when you get to cast every spell in your deck for free, the simplest way is to use cards with the storm mechanic. You can use cards like Memory's Journey, Psychic Spiral, and Mnemonic Nexus to shuffle all the lands from your graveyard into your library so you don't die; then, you cast all of the cantrips and tutors; and then finally, after you've cast 40+ spells, you simply use Tendrils of Agony, Grapeshot, or Brain Freeze to kill all of your opponents at once!

Conclusion

Anyways, that's all for today. A huge thanks to Wizards for giving us a sweet Commander 2016 card to preview for you today! How about you? What do you want to do with Oath of Druids in Commander? Are there any other synergies or combos I missed? Let me know in the comments, and as always, you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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