A 60-card variant format of Magic: the Gathering, similar to the Commander format, centered around a planeswalker called an Oathbreaker. The additional layer being that each Oathbreaker will have a “Signature Spell” which will also exist in the command zone. The Oathbreaker’s “Signature Spell” must be an instant or sorcery card that falls within their color identity.

I wrote about Oathbreaker several times in 2019, covering Gideon Jura, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and Arlinn Kord, but eventually my passion for the format stagnated as time went on. This stemmed from the fact that I did not want to speak about a format I didn’t have a lot of experience with, and the metagame within Minneapolis proving to be so fast that I didn’t have fun over the handful of games I participated in. But after some self reflection, the legitimizing of the format by Wizards, and the gameplay done by Good Luck High Five, I wanted to give the format a second chance. The last few weeks have brought ideas which have really excited me, to such a degree I have decided that in the event I do not have a more timely, pressing subject, such as the Lord of the Rings or Commander Masters and their Eldrazi, I will pepper Oathbreaker in whenever possible this Summer.

In trying to approach a new Oathbreaker deck, I wanted to set myself up with a bit of a challenge by attempting to build around one of the most historically maligned planeswalkers: Sarkhan the Mad. Within the context of Oathbreaker, Sarkhan provides a fun challenge, as they do not gain any loyalty naturally. But knowing that I would be playing a faster game, likely having 8 to 10 turns as my sweet spot. I knew that I could use Sakhan as not only a way to hit on the color identity that I wanted, but also set up an incongruity for the rest of the table about what the deck was actually doing.

Instead of focusing on the dragons, I wanted to take inspiration from Sarkhan the Mad’s first ability and make the top cards of my deck the overarching theme. In some ways, this list is defined just as much by what is not included, with some notable cards not making the grade.

Oathbreaker: Sarkhan the Mad

Signature Spell: Kaboom!

Creatures: Ayara, Widow of the Realm, Barrage Tyrant, Conduit of Ruin, Distended Mindbender, Dread Defiler, Endbringer, Goblin Spy, It That Betrays, Oblivion Sower, Rapacious One, Reality Smasher, Sifter of Skulls, Solemn Simulacrum, Thought-Knot Seer, Torgaar, Famine Incarnate

Artifacts: Cryptic Gateway, Everflowing Chalice, Fellwar Stone, Inspiring Statuary, Lantern of Insight, Mystic Forge, Planar Atlas, Talisman of Indulgence

Enchantment: Sunbird’s Invocation

Instant: Calibrated Blast

Sorceries: All Is Dust, Erratic Explosion, Fevered Suspicion, Over the Top, Patriarch’s Bidding, Settle the Score

Lands: 8 Mountain, 6 Swamp, 2 Wastes, Ash Barrens, Canyon Slough, Forge of Heroes, Geothermal Bog, Isolated Watchtower, Smoldering Marsh, Spinerock Knoll, Sulfurous Mire, Sulfurous Springs, Temple of Malice, Underdark Rift

Going Over the Top

 0: Reveal the top card of your library and put it into your hand. Sarkhan the Mad deals damage to himself equal to that card’s mana value.

The inspiration for this deck came from wanting to explore what a singleton deck which valued higher mana value spells over efficiency. After realizing I could tie part of the theme to Sarkhan’s first ability, I considered using Erratic Explosion as my signature spell. I soon realized it would not scale to the multiplayer nature of Oathbreaker. I take some pleasure in the fact that I will be introducing Kaboom! as a Magic the Gathering card to an awful lot of people, whether through this article or anytime the deck gets played against an unsuspecting table. 

Knowing that the signature spell is generally something that an Oathbreaker player will cast all of twice, I was less focused on trying to pick a spell that would inherently synergize and bring the power level of my planeswalker up. Instead, I sought to play into the general focus of what I wanted the deck to be doing. In that spirit, I want the average mana value of my deck to be higher than would be generally appropriate, and chiefly use the Eldrazi as the catalyst for massive damage whenever I cast my signature spell.

Additionally, while I do think The Chain Veil could do a lot of good for Sakhan under different circumstances, I felt that it would be a determent in this deck. I don’t know that I will be using Sarkhan’s abilities enough to not have my life waste away under the legendary artifact. While I am not afraid of losing Sarkhan, I have Goblin Spy, Lantern of Insight, and Mystic Forge specifically in the deck so I can draw through my lands and make timely castings of Kaboom!. But, I am also employing Erratic Explosion and Calibrated Blast as single target copies of my signature spell, that can back up my game plan in the event I don’t have access to my dedicated cards.

Once I had my damage suite figured out, I knew I was going to need to have a plan for how I was going to afford all of these high mana value spells. My belief is that by having the suite of Everflowing Chalice, Fellwar Stone, Inspiring Statuary, and Talisman of Indulgence on hand, I should not only be able to get Sarkhan out quickly, but also ramp into the high cost spells I am looking to cast.

Putting the “Eldrazi” in “Dragons”

-4: Each Dragon creature you control deals damage equal to its power to target player or planeswalker.

If there are two constants in my deck building, they would be that I love destroying tapped creatures and I love eldrazi. The day that Eldrazi Displacer can be your commander, my job will be finished. I’ll clean up all the playmats on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me, as I ascend to my next calling.

I’ve already dedicated energy to building round tapped creature destruction in my Gideon and Sorin articles, so when the chance came to try to find a niche for Sarkhan the Mad to fill, it seemed only right for him to once again act as the warden of the Eldrazi. Of course, this is about more than just simply being contrarian, I have a history with the Eldrazi. Rakdos is a potent color identity for the Eldrazi, but I also think having an oathbreaker that most people will assume that they already understand as a lower threat will allow me to strike at the table, before they can properly threat assess what I’m doing. Even if the ruse is short lived, there is a lot of power in letting player’s biases get the best of them.

Of course, I could have included Conspiracy in this deck, so my eldrazi could also be dragons. In the end, I chose to lean into the nature of creating misplaced assumptions and not include dragons into this list. As the deck wants to fight on two different fronts, utilizing my signature spell and the mana value of most of my deck to be dealing a minimum of four damage to each opponent when casting Kaboom!. But, I know full well that eldrazi beatdown is a very solid strategy that can get us through the remaining dozen life points, that I would expect that I need to be handling myself. 

The name of the game is really trying to cheat out some of my largest creatures as soon as possible, hopefully with Cryptic Gateway. It That Betrays, an old-school eldrazi that always pays dividends, and Torgaar, Famine Incarnate, who has done me well in Commander and should be just as useful here. Finally, Barrage Tyrant and Dread Defiler are two hidden gems which essentially fill the same role, closing out the game with repeatable damage. Within the context of Oathbreaker, I fully expect I will be able to use either of their abilities all of once, but my hope is that the inevitability will win me a few games. 

I know the last few years have not really helped in-person play, but this format has evolved in such a way that I have high hopes for Oathbreaker, once it regains some traction in my area. I’ll be really excited to touch down on the subject in a few weeks, once I have gotten any of my ideas for the Lord of the Rings legendary creatures off my chest. I have at least one other deck in mind at the time of writing, so I hope that that can be the subject of an article as soon as possible. Until next time, thank you for reading.

Ryan Sainio (he/him) is a Graphic Designer exploring the Commander format and Magic history on a regular basis. Notable decks that value flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks include Shattergang Eldrazi, Doran Soul Sisters, and Chatterfang ProsBloom.

MTG Content Creator Awards 2022 nominee: Format Specialty Writing & Excellence in Writing Overall

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