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Wizards of the Coast recently recognized the fan-favorite format Oathbreaker as an official format. In Oathbreaker, each player picks a planeswalker and a "signature" instant or sorcery around which to build a 60-card deck. Color identity rules, as in Commander, apply to what cards can be included in an Oathbreaker deck, including the signature spell.
Both the oathbreaker and their signature spell begin the game in the command zone, and similar to Commander, can be cast from the command zone repeatedly throughout the course of a game. Each successive casting of an oathbreaker or their signature spell costs an additional two colorless mana. Additionally, you cannot cast the signature spell unless your oathbreaker is in play. Personally, I really like this particular requirement as I dislike Commander decks whose Commander isn't a part of their plan and thus often remains on the sidelines.
A Disclaimer Before We Dive In
Oathbreaker has existed as a fan-driven format for several years. I even built a deck or two when my group first heard about it. We didn't find the format as fun as regular Commander and it fell out of favor quickly at my local game store (LGS). Wizards of the Coast making Oathbreaker official will almost certainly move some cards financially. The format will likely be given some side event opportunities at MagicFests, and demand for the best cards will likely cause price jumps as folks figure out the best cards in the format.
Targets For Speculation
When building decks for Oathbreaker, a number of powerful combos for oathbreakers and signature spells immediately jump out. Wrenn and Six and Crop Rotation, Narset, Parter of Veils and Winfall, and others. Many of these cards either have an established price thanks to other formats, or a significant volume of copies out in the wild, minimizing opportunities for speculation.
The challenge for us in finding speculation targets for Oathbreaker is identifying cards that are desirable in the format, but not already in demand for Commander or other formats. Cards that meet those criteria are the ones that are most promising. Here are six cards that I've got my eye on. I've broken these up into a few categories: signature spells, oathbreakers, and others.
This seems like an auto-include in every Oathbreaker deck with black in it given that one's Oathbreaker is critical to each deck. The fact that you can three for one with this card and ramp your own Oathbreaker towards ultimating seems amazing. Just as importantly, while many Commander decks do play Planeswalkers, enough don't that this card isn't a Commander staple in most environments. It shows up in only 1% of decks on EDHREC.com.
Thanks to TCGPlayers' sales data, we can see a lot of copies of The Elderspell already started moving on March 16th, the day Wizards of the Coast announced the format was official on Twitter. It's also important to note that despite it feeling like War of the Spark is a recent set, it came out back in 2019 before Wizards started doing all the variant printings. This means that for The Elderspell, your choices are limited to non-foil, foil, and prerelease copies. As Oathbreaker is a singleton format, I expect the foil versions to maintain a premium price.
Our second signature spell is a powerful one for any mill Archetype. Mill decks tend to be beloved by their pilots but are rarely competitive in most environments. Tasha's Hideous Laughter is much more powerful in Oathbreaker than in Commander where it sees the most play, partly because the decks in Oathbreaker are 41 cards smaller. The card has additional value in that it exiles the cards it mills, and hits all opponents at once. In more competitive environments, where the average converted mana costs are typically lower, Tasha's Laughter is even more potent. I imagine casting it three times is enough to end most games with a win.
Xenagos, the Reveler is actually the only oathbreaker I have on my list right now. The number of decent planeswalkers that aren't mono-colored is not all that big, giving him an immediate upside. Equally important is that Xenagos is one of the few that can generate large amounts of mana. A common strategy with him as the oathbreaker is choosing a signature spell that makes a lot of creature tokens. His +1 ability will generate more mana than its previous Iteration. This combo can allow one to repeatedly cast their signature spell and hopefully swarm the board. I also like that Xenagos is currently in the "bulk" Mythic price range despite having only two printings.
Other Cards For The Deck
I've been a fan of Vadrik, Astral Archmage in Commander, but the blue and red mana requirements greatly limit what decks he can be in for Oathbreaker. That said, the fact that the mana cost reduction scales with his power means it can be very abusable in the right type of deck. I think that finding cards that can help eliminate the "tax" on the signature spell may end up being some of the best cards in the format.
While the potential mana reduction for Semblance Anvil is limited to two, the fact that it is colorless means it is one of a few options that can be used in non-blue or red decks. I could see it fitting well in any Oathbreaker deck that wants to cast its signature spell multiple times, but not use it to combo. The biggest issue with Semblance Anvil is that it has inherent card disadvantage thanks to the nature of the Imprint mechanic itself.
This card was in the bulk bin for a long time, but every time new cards are printed that care about counters, Hex Parasite gets better. It serves as a repeatable way to kill opponents' Oathbreakers. As most of the Oathbreaker decks typically want to abuse their signature spell, if you can keep the board clear of planeswalkers, your opponents can't cast those signature spells. It also provides a way to repeatedly lose life for no mana if you have a reason to do so. The Parasite only has a single printing way back in New Phyrexia, and is sitting in the $2+ range as of this writing.
To be fully honest, I'm not sure where Oathbreaker will go. It will be hard to dethrone Commander as the most beloved and played format. However, there are definitely players who love to brew and build and a new format provides ample opportunities to do so. A lot of new Planeswalkers have been released since the format was initially founded, so I do think there is plenty of room for players to create new and interesting decks. I think the signature spell is the most interesting part of the format, and it creates a lot of unique opportunities to build around.
What do you think about Oathbreaker? What decks are you building, and what cards do you have on your radar? Let me know in the comments.