In March, Wizards of the Coast finally gave credit where credit was due, by acknowledging Oathbreaker as an official format of Magic: The Gathering. Validating Magikids and their efforts to teach the next generation of Magic players. I was skeptical at first. Wizards isn’t necessarily trustworthy these days, and anything they say just seems to be another way to get our hard-earned money. Then I realized I was having a problem: I was bored with Commander.
Playing Magic at your local game store is the surest way to ensure that you have a place to play Magic. Spend your money where you live, whenever you can, so that others may do the same. But when you step into the LGS, you step into the arena of uncertinty. Playing with strangers is fun, and hopefully those strangers become friends. Let’s be honest, they usually never do. Also playing with strangers quickly reminds you, “you’re not that good at this thing you like.” Commander has suffered from significant power creep in the last few years. Mainly due to WoTC making Commander-specific sets, and the endless possibilities that the format offers. If you play Commander with any kind of regularity, then I’m sure you’ve noticed this. I don’t know about you but dying on turn 3–6 isn’t that fun. Commander was never supposed to be this strong. It was designed as something to do with old cards, between rounds at GPs and FNMs. I find myself less interested in Commander these days as the format is so fast paced, so powerful and so competitive (mind you, I do love to compete) that I rather just fine tune a constructed deck. If I’m going to go into every match against ultra-high-speed decks, I rather just play for actual money and prizes. And don’t get me started on cEDH. Ever watch Playing with Power? It’s a great way to watch $1200 worth of cardboard-rectangles crush adult dreams.
Now, I do want to clarify, I love Commander. It may not seem like it, given everything above, but I truly do. Some of the funniest moments of my adult life were made sitting around the table with my buddies' drinking beers, and slinging spells. Everyone who plays this game has an epic Commander story, be it something that resulted in a win or a loss. I just have reached a point where I’m…bored with it? I don’t know if that’s necessarily fair to say. But I’ve just not been enthused for a while now. If we’re going to compete, lets compete. Give me 60 cards, a limited card pool, and may the best brain win. Oh, and there’s money on the line? Now we’re talking! This may seem like I’m bashing Commander, when I’m really not, I promise. I’ll shuffle up and play whenever I get a chance. But when I read about Oathbreaker a few weeks ago, it was like the competitive spirit and creativity combined in perfect harmony. Oathbreaker can be the balance long-time Commander players and on-the-fence constructed players, were looking for.
I know Oathbreaker isn’t necessarily new. It’s been around for a few years but, based on various YouTube searches, I can tell it never really took off. Similar to Brawl, people seemed to take a “Why play this when I can just play commander?” approach. But since March 2023, the content has increased significantly. Oathbreaker is a 60 card, singleton format. Your commander has to be a Planeswalker and you get what’s called a Signature Spell. Your Planeswalker and Signature Spell hang out in the Command Zone until you can cast them, but you cannot cast your signature spell unless your Planeswalker is on the battlefield. This got me thinking:
“What if we made Oathbreaker into a ‘Standard’ format?”
Hear me out: If Oathbreaker’s card pool was limited to whatever was in Standard, unlike commander which is eternal, couldn’t Oathbreaker be played tournament style? Then we’d have competitive, sanctioned, no-power-creep commander, in Grand Prix’s and Magic-Con main events!? Do you see where I’m going here? Oathbreaker could easily be called Gamebreaker because the format can be made ridiculous. (Narcet, Parter of Veils plus Windfall, anyone?) So, I offer one caveat here: The Planeswalkers don’t rotate. Only the other 59 cards. If you set it to Standard rotation, you keep the format fair, variable and competitive. Like any format, there will become a meta. People, who are way smarter than me, will find some crazy combo of Planeswalker and Signature Spell, that will probably be borderline unfair. But what format doesn’t have a deck (or eight) like that? Planeswalkers are supposed to traverse the Multiverse right? They can’t be beholden to timelines! Also, this would be a much lower threshold of entry for people with limited funds, or willingness to spend big on cardboard (myself included on this one). I’m a husband and father of three little girls. I find it extremely difficult to justify spending $35 per shock-land, times 4. Oathbreaker could drive up the desire to buy new products, get people competing in tournaments all while being somewhat attainable to the average person. Because needing one of something, is a lot less than needing four. Or for Commander, it’s a lot easier than needing that $40 card, for ONE of your 15 decks. And truthfully that $40 card could probably fit into most of your decks, couldn’t it?
If you have the willingness to spend big, don’t mind dying (or winning) on turn 3, or have a consistent play group, then maybe it’s time you look into this same-but-different format. If you’re like me, a little more competitive but don’t really have the budget for cEDH, Modern or Pioneer, then this essay is definitely for you too. I’ve included some links explaining the format, gameplay and I’ll be doing some deck techs in the near future.
Oathbreaker has the potential to be the format that bridges the gap between casual and competitive players, unlike Wizards has ever truly had before. The real question is: does WoTC seize the opportunity? Or is this just another fan-made pipe dream? Only time will tell. I’ll be exploring the format, along with introducing it to my friends in hopes they’ll be interested. I hope you’ll try it too, if you’re reading this, I assume you own Magic cards. If you own Magic cards, I’ll assume you have a Planeswalker somewhere that isn’t being used. Give it a shot! Never know what new spark of creativity it may inspire.
Here are a few places to find other Oathbreaker content:
Here’s a quick break down of the rules: Quick Rules — OATHBREAKER (oathbreakermtg.org)
Here’s some gamplay