Magic: The Gathering players now have a new way to shuffle up and play that isn’t exactly Commander. Oathbreaker maintains the multiplayer aspect of the trading card game’s most popular format - among a few others - but shifts the deck’s focus towards Planeswalkers cards.
MTG publisher Wizards of the Coast unexpectedly dropped an official page for the Oathbreaker format last week, laying out all of the ground rules for this Commander sibling. Players will bring a 60-card singleton (only one of each card allowed) deck to the table where anyone can target anyone else with attacks, spells and abilities. Instead of legendary creatures, Oathbreaker decks are championed by a Planeswalker card - the ones with loyalty counters and the small suite of plus and minus abilities - and a signature spell.
Like Commander, the signature spell and the other 58 cards must follow the Oathbreaker’s Mana colour identity, meaning the contents of a deck helmed by Nahiri, the Unforgiving can only be red, white or a combination of the two. And yes, this new format trades the Commander title for Oathbreaker, a nod to the in-universe Oathpact forged by a coalition of well-known Planeswalkers - presumably, the events at players’ tables are the results of a violent dissolution of that bond.
Players must have their Oathbreaker on the battlefield before being able to cast their signature spell, and the format has adopted Commander’s taxation rule on successive castings - two colourless Mana is added to the cost each time they return from the Command Zone. If anything would remove a player’s Oathbreaker from the battlefield, or their signature spell resolves or fizzles, both will return to the Command Zone and be ready for another - if more expensive - casting.
Savvy players will already know that Oathbreaker has been kicking around since 2017, the creation of Minnesota-based non-profit Weirdcards Charitable Club. The faster-paced, big table experienced immediately gelled with a portion of MTG’s players, and they’ve maintained an active rules committee, banlist and other resources. This story sounds extremely similar to Commander’s beginnings, before Wizards of the Coast similarly adopted it into the official fold and then pivoted a growing amount of design and packaged goods to that hungry audience.
And that’s where the similarities end between Oathbreaker and Commander. Wizards of the Coast did not announce any boxed products - preconstructed decks, Jumpstart-esque boosters or starter kits - alongside the official adoption. For the moment, Commander remains the favoured child of publisher and player, alike. It’s still a welcome addition, as faster play and only needing to accumulate 60 cards instead of Commander’s 100 is an easier ask for new or interested players.
Planeswalkers have taken a recent back seat since their use in Commander remains limited. MTG’s head designers have hinted that the trading card game is on the cusp of a monumental shift in design and storytelling that will be fully revealed in the upcoming March of the Machines set. Perhaps Oathbreaker’s officiation is a portent that Planeswalker cards will come more to the mechanical forefront in the months and years ahead. Regardless, now’s a great time to brush up on who these powerful worldhopping Planeswalkers are and what we think are the best picks out there.