The Pros and Cons of Oathbreaker

Hello, fellow Oathbreakers! This is the first installment in my series of Oathbreaker Articles. You may be asking yourself: Who is this guy? What is an Oathbreaker? Well, my friends, allow me to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about myself and to go over this fantastic new format that is making waves on the internet.

I go by Emolink and my playgroup mainly plays Elder Dragon Highlander, better known as Commander. I’ve been casually playing Magic since the Theros block in 2013, but things really kicked off in Ixalan when some new friends told me about Commander. I found a nearby LGS and I’ve enjoyed tons of limited, commander, standard, and I’ve dabbled in modern and pauper. Commander has always been my standout favorite format however.

In Oathbreaker, you choose any Planeswalker to sit in the command zone. In addition, your Planeswalker is accompanied by an instant or sorcery spell that also sits in the command zone. This is known as a Signature Spell. Pairing characters up with a spell opens up many game plans for deck building. Before we discovered Oathbreaker, my playgroup had already been discussing the idea of having key cards in the command zone. The arguments against it were that it would be used for combo piece fetching, it would be consistently too good, and it would be broken beyond belief! (Prossh, Skyraider of Kher [] with Food Chain [] in the command zone seems pretty harsh). Oathbreaker found a way to allow us to have multiple cards in the command zone and to draw on my love for Commander.

In Oathbreaker you can only cast your Signature Spell if your Oathbreaker is out on the battlefield and it must return to the command zone upon resolving. Your deck is made up of 60 cards and your life total starts at 20, which makes games faster. We are still building singleton decks. It is an Eternal Format with a reasonable ban list for a multiplayer game. This really does seem like the best of all worlds, looking at the dynamics from a distance pieced together from other formats.

Keep in mind that the banlist is different than the one found in multiplayer EDH. Fast mana is not readily available (Sol Ring [] is banned). There are few Legendary Creatures that are not banned in this format, since they cannot sit in the Command Zone. Because of the Signature Spell, some instants and sorceries are too powerful to be allowed access to the command zone. In this format, I can use my copy of Karakas [], since your Commander is a Planeswalker!

Those of you coming from EDH should keep in mind that these matches will be faster. You’re gonna have to play more one and two drops and be sure to have impactful plays each and every turn. If you’re coming from Standard or other 60 card One-on-One formats, you’re gonna have to learn politics. I have played Oathbreaker in Multiplayer settings as well as One-on-One, and both ways feel pretty good. There are certain cards that get better with multiple people and others that get better with only one opponent. All in all, I have found that making multiple decks and making each one better for different amounts of players is the way to go. Narset, Parter of Veils [] with Windfall [] is really strong against one opponent, whereas Gideon Blackblade [] with Wrath of God [] works great in multiplayer.

Something I have really enjoyed and noticed is that a lot of strategies I relied on in EDH are simply not viable in Oathbreaker. Some strategies that I couldn’t use in EDH become viable in this format. Burn is much stronger due to the lower life totals and Mill is also an effective strategy. If you enjoy your Mono Red deck in standard, grab your favorite Chandra and play the singleton version in Oathbreaker. My mind is racing with deck techs that I’d love to share with you all!

The pros of this format outweigh the cons, imho. However there are still a few things that I find myself disliking.

You usually can’t play more of the mana intensive cards that commander uses. The best fast mana rocks are banned, so you typically need to rely on your 1-3 drops instead of the 4-5 mana drops in commander. With most people I play commander with, the first two or three turns are “land, mana rock, go”. Every now and then, you’ll get those cheap commanders out early, or turn Sol Rings into Signets into those spicy plays.

I’ve also heard complaints that the deck size is too small. The ceck is made up of 58 cards without your Oathbreaker and Signature Spell. You’ll typically want around 22-24 lands, meaning you get to pick 34-36 non-land cards to add to your deck. This means you will have to make some difficult cuts. Having 34 non-lands means you really have to focus on what you want your deck to do. You have to select the most impactful cards to help you get to your win-con this way. This is something non-EDH players will know to do, but this is singleton, my lovelies! You can’t throw your best 1 drop in four separate times, but you can get four different 1 Drops that do effective things for the deck.

There are currently no 4 or 5 color Planeswalkers and only a handful of 3 color Planeswalkers. Most of the time you are going to be limited to just 1 or 2 colors. If you want to play Naya, Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, or Mardu color combinations, you simply can’t. Cards made up of those color combinations can’t be played in this format. I’m unsure that 4 and 5 color Planeswalkers will ever be printed, but we can always hope.

Certain color pairings have a lot less options than others. For example, if you want to play Temur, then Sarkhan Unbroken [] is the only Oathbreaker for your deck, and you probably have to play a Dragons Matter deck. If you want to play Dimir, you’ll be taking one of the Tezzerets or Ashioks. You get your choice of mill or artifacts.
178 Planeswalkers feels limiting. Even so, there are enough Planeswalkers in general to allow for a variety of options. Here’s hoping for some more diversity in Planeswalkers in upcoming sets to help this format grow!

In short:


  • Best of both worlds for those who love commander and those that enjoy more traditional formats.
  • Signature Spells done right
  • Games are much quicker than traditional commander games
  • The birth of many new deck archetypes could find a home here
  • This format feels like what Brawl should have been


  • Somewhat limited options for Oathbreakers
  • Some color combinations are not available (yet)
  • Certain color combinations can only play certain archetypes well

I’m sincerely hoping this format takes off, and I’m here to do my part to keep it alive. Hopefully you all like what I have to say, and even if you don’t, I’m absolutely open for discussion on any disagreements you might have! Keep things respectful and let me know if you think Oathbreaker will make it as a popular format or not! Further articles, deck techs, and discussions on magic in general are on the way, so stay tuned!