Oathbreaker: An Introduction to Magic's Planeswalker Multiplayer Format
Anyone at the Commander tables recently will be talking about the Oathbreaker format. Not as new to the block as many would expect, Oathbreaker has seen an enormous uptick in play since Loading Ready Run uploaded some gameplay on their Twitch Stream. The committee testing the format has been developing it for many years, and the release of War of the Spark has sparked player interest in the format.
So What is Oathbreaker?
Oathbreaker is a multiplayer Commander variant. Four player pods play free-for all games with some differences. The Commander is a Planeswalker, not a Legendary Creature. You can see now that getting 37 new Planeswalkers in one set would spark interest in a format like this. Also quite uniquely is the signature spell. Alongside your planeswalker in the Command Zone is one Instant or Sorcery spell. While your Planeswalker Commander is out, you can cast your Signature Spell from the Command Zone, and it goes back to the zone with a plus two Commander Tax. The same goes for if your Planeswalker goes back to the zone from the battlefield.
A few things that carry over from Commander is that the colour identities matter. Someone playing Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God can't have Green or White Cards in their deck. What's quite freeing, is that the signature spell doesn't have to match the colours of your Commander. Nicol Bolas could have Cruel Ultimatum or Dark Intimations for flavour, or something simple like Fraying Omnipotence, The Elderspell, or even something janky like Role Reversal.
Other big differences is that decks are 60 cards, not 100. When you start a game, you put your Commander and Signature Spell in the Command Zone, shuffle the other 58, and begin with 20 life, not 40. This makes Oathbreaker games quick and swingy.
What to Build?
What not to build? There are 171 possible Commanders (Saheeli the Gifted is banned in the format and the flip walkers don't count). Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter with Inspiring Call sounds like a great +1/+1 counters deck while Sarkhan Unbroken paired with Sarkhan's Triumph sounds like a flavourful Temur Dragons deck. Teferi, Timebender yes, that one; would be an out there taking turns deck paired with one of the big Timewalk spells like Karn's Temporal Sundering or Part the Waterveil.
Decks I'm looking to build are Ral, Storm's Conduit and Kiora, Master of the Depths. Let's tech them together.
New Ral is probably the strongest spellslinger Commander in the format. He was one of the first War cards I shuffled into my Mizzix, of the Izmagnus Commander decks, and I feel that it could play very similarly. The attitude I take when I build Commander decks is to have them be strong with or without access to the Commander. Mizzix is possibly one of the first cards I'd consider shuffling into this deck, along with other "Electromancy" effects to make your Instants and Sorceries pack maximum punch; cards like Goblin Electromancer, Baral, Chief of Compliance, and Jace's Sanctum.
Primal Amulet pulls double duty here, both adding mana and copying your spells. We'd want more copying effects than a high school classroom during test day. Cards like Doublecast, Refuse (Cooperate), Reiterate, and the new Narset's Reversal all make the cut. Fork is a strong contender if you can swing the classic price tag, but I feel like in this category, Ral's Signature Spell may just be Bonus Round. Copying EVERYTHING leads to unstoppable, and classically Izzet turns which cannot be ignored, often leading to a win on the spot.
With all the copy effects, we should ask what spells we're copying. Since we're on the Mizzix package, big X spells can be ramped into with unnatural speed. Value effect cards like Mass Manipulation and draw spells like Blue Sun's Zenith all go to great effect here. The big X damage spells like Jaya's Immolating Inferno and Comet Storm also fit this bill. Of course, you can just combo kill your opponent with Ral's infinite copy trick, but there's something more satisfying about dealing lots of damage with one spell.
And now for something completely different. There's a real power to the War of the Spark Planeswalkers. It's because of their passive effects. Unseen on Planeswalkers before, having a single line of text that's true all points of the game is incredible, and one that says "draw a card" is one of the most. Even if Kiora can only tick down, there should be ways in the deck to pump her loyalty back up.
So this Kiora lets you untap target permanent. This pulls so many duties in this deck. She can untap creatures to give them vigilance, that's nice. The real power comes from untapping things to generate a great load of mana. Cards like Grim Monolith, Basalt Monolith, and Mana Vault all come to my mind. Adding other big mana rocks like Dreamstone Hedron or even something simple like Hedron Archive is a lot of ramp.
With all this mana, what will you spend it on? For that you have to look at her triggered ability. Drawing cards whenever a large creature enters is a sure way to keep yourself in gas during a drawn out game of multiplayer. There are a plethora of enormous Green monsters for a player to call on – but one's that are good in Commander are good here. Whiptongue Hydra, Woodfall Primus, Woodland Bellower, Gaea's Revenge, and too many more to list. Bringing the colours together gives you Arixmethes, the Slumbering Isle to crash in with then untap for mana.
Blue knows how to go big when it wants to. Creatures that Kiora herself would approve of really make the cut here. Lorthos the Tidemaker, Mesmerizing Benthid, Stormtide Leviathan, Tromokratis, Shipbreaker Kraken, Scourge of Fleets, and other sea monsters from below. Going deep on this theme gives me an idea on a Signature Spell. Certain Gideon decks use Wrath of God as his signature spell (bonus points if you use the Heliod art of the From the Vault printing). A card like Whelming Wave is deeply flavourful and the tempo board wipe that would clear away most enemy creatures to let your sea monsters crash in multiple times a game.
Now we want to hear from you. Are you bringing Oathbreaker to your play group, because if you are, you can find the singles you need to start a deck or make one from scratch right here on Arcane Card Shop. Thanks for reading, and take a look at my deck lists below.
Bonus Round x1
Izzet Signet x1
Shivan Reef x1
Steam Vents x1
Sulfur Falls x1
Simic Signet x1