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Vintage 101: Breaking an Oath


 

 

Breaking the Oath

With Monastery Mentor decks being all the rage on Magic Online, I've turned my attention to a strategy that's an old favorite of mine. This is an archetype that's great against people packing creatures into their deck lists. Today's article will talk about my absolute favorite Green two-drop of all time, Oath of Druids.

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One of the simplest combos in Vintage...

 

Vintage Oath decks always had a favorable match up against creature-based decks, and there are more creatures being played in Vintage today than ever before. Fast combo decks can be an issue for Oath decks because Oath is sometimes slower to close out a game. Luckily the key parts of an Oath of Druids deck are unrestricted, so it's one of the easiest combos to assemble in Vintage, 

There have been many iterations of the Oath of Druids deck since the Green enchantment was first printed in Exodus. The history of these decks stretches all the way back to an Extended deck that was widely considered the deck to beat of its era. Bob Maher won Pro Tour Chicago in 1999 with an Oath deck, and Dirk Baberowski also made Top Eight of that event with a similar Oath build. 

A quick glance at this Oath deck and you can see that it is very different from what Oath decks look like today. This deck was a control deck, and it used Oath as a sort of card advantage generator. The deck would be recycled constantly with Oath activations and Gaea's Blessing. The opponent would be eventually finished with a Morphling in most cases. Some versions played Spike Weaver along with the Spike Feeder to aid in defending against a creature-based assault. Once the deck got going it could be very tough to beat as it had a never-ending supply of removal spells and utility creatures. 

Go Big or Go Home

The next major development for Oath decks was the printing of Forbidden Orchard in Champions of Kamigawa. Now Oath decks had a free, uncounterable way to ensure opposing decks had creatures on the battlefield. This addition opened the door to the use of Oath strictly as a way to cheat an expensive creature into play. One of the first major successes with the Orchard / Oath duo came from this gem:

Developed by Team Meandeck, this Oath list was powerful, consistent, and faster than other Oath builds. The creature package of Akroma and Spirit of the Night was selected so that a activated Oath of Druids would provide a three-turn clock on average (eighteen damage, accounting for two damage from fetch lands or Force of Will).

The deck listed above was used by Jacob Orlove to win a Black Lotus at a StarCityGames Power Nine tournament in 2004, and it benefited greatly from a very different restricted list. This deck was able to play with four copies of Brainstorm, which makes it much easier to keep your Oath targets in the deck where you want them to be. The entire deck is Blue and Green, without splashing for a third color as is common today.

Even with all of the raw power that Oath of Druids brings, it wasn't until 2014 that an Oath of Druids deck would win the Vintage Championship.

Fenton's Oath

This list, originally developed by master Oath player Greg Fenton, took down the 2014 Vintage Championship in the hands of Mark Tocco. When the entire room was full of people playing creatures, mostly Delver of Secrets decks fueled by Treasure Cruise, showing up with a play set of Oaths was a fantastic idea. There were two Oath decks in the Top Eight, and both were Blue, Black, and Green. 

Being in Sultai colors gives this style of deck access to some powerful removal spells like Abrupt Decay, as well as the best tutors available in Black. Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor are fantastic at getting your combo pieces together. Having access to Abrupt Decay is important as two of the biggest Oath-hosers die to it: Containment Priest and Grafdigger's Cage

The cherry on this sundae is that this deck has access to the single most powerful Oath target ever printed, Griselbrand. The flying Yawgmoth's Bargain with lifelink is a nightmare to deal with, and he usually closes games out in short order. Griselbrand offers an amount of card-advantage that is far above what most cards can produce. Having a full grip of spells at all times means that the Oath pilot is able to hold an advantage for the rest of the game. Most importantly Griselbrand aids in finding either a Time Walk and Yawgmoth's Will or a Time Vault combo.

Fenton's particular build eschewed the Time Vault combo, as the combo didn't end up being critical in that day's metagame. Mark was able to crush Delver deck after Delver deck on his path towards claiming the title. 

The Oath deck that I've been playing in my spare time is based on this list, save for the addition of Time Vault and Voltaic Key. Four Oaths and three copies of Show and Tell are great at ensuring Griselbrand shows up on time. 

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Oath of Brewage

For a few years, BUG Oath decks built around Griselbrand were considered the best type of Oath build. Innovation is alive and well though. Vintage has many talented deck builders who have done interesting things with classic Oath of Druids decks. There have been Oath decks built around Blightsteel Colossus, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and Dragon Breath dubbed "Golden Gun Oath" for their ability to kill with one shot. There was an "Omni-Oath" deck being played in the Vintage Super League that combined Omniscience with Show and Tell in a BUG Oath Shell. At one time there were even decks built around Tidespout Tyrant. Recently, a combination Landstill/Oath deck popped up with the potential to be a game-changer. 

Further proving that there is a lot that one can do with an Oath of Druids shell is this next deck:

 

This year, just like the previous year, the winning deck from the Vintage Championship ran a play-set of Oath of Druids. Champion Brian Kelly's unique and innovative brew was highly-tuned to exploit holes in the Vintage metagame at the time. 

Brian chose to go farther than the Fenton Oath plan of Griselbrand or bust. Dragonlord Salvagers Oath is essentially a hybrid of the "Bomberman" archetype and a more traditional Oath list. This deck could certainly have the broken Oath opening of "Orchard, Mox, Oath, go!," but hidden away in this list is another combo altogether.

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The combination of Black Lotus and Auriok Salvagers creates infinite mana. Once infinite mana is assembled, the Bomberman combo can kill someone with a Pyrite Spellbomb. This combo has the potential to catch opponents off guard, and it adds another angle of attack to this deck. Grafdigger's Cage isn't as good against Brian Kelly's deck because many of the creatures can be cast. Also, a full graveyard often sets up the Salvagers combo by binning a Black Lotus and spellbomb. 

No single piece of sideboard hate could stop this deck. Even with a Grafdigger's Cage and a Containment Priest on the battlefield this deck can still hard-cast a Dragonlord Dromoka and attack with a four turn clock. Dromoka also has the ability to stop opponents from playing and spells during her controller's turn. Dromoka acts as protection for the Auriok Salvagers combo. 

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An innocuous-looking artifact that's deadly in the right deck.

 

If you're looking to pick up an Oath deck, this is a great list, but it is likely more difficult to pilot than a BUG Oath deck. Practice makes perfect, and I suggest reading the champ's tournament report as a reference. 

Conclusion

Today we looked at four different Oath decks. Each one has pros and cons, but they all have the power to end a game quickly by cheating a huge creature into play. I think that Oath is always a decent choice to play, as its most broken cards are not on the restricted list. This omission gives Oath a consistency that many other combo decks would die for. 

The main anti-Oath cards people play are Containment Priest and Grafdigger's Cage. Luckily for us Oath players, those cards aren't that hard to beat. Most Oath lists have access to Abrupt Decay which kills both Cage and Priest. Oath decks can also play Hurkyl's Recall which is great at sweeping multiple Cages off the table at once. 

I don't think that Oath is the absolute best deck, and its position in the metagame is up for debate. I do believe that Oath can hold it's own against a wide variety of strategies, especially when you consider the large amount of "nut-draws" the deck can have. This is why I'm choosing to play it. I'm not particularly concerned about the main anti-Oath sideboard cards as there are plenty of ways to fight through them. Also, there's nothing I love more than drawing cards, and Griselbrand is great at satiating that desire. Most of the time, a resolved Griselbrand is game over. It's not that hard to get the Demon into play. 

See you in seven days! If you have any questions about Oath, you can hit me up in the comments or on Twitter @josephfiorinijr Islandswamp on MTGO


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