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” that will also exist in the command zone. That 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 that I didn’t have a lot of experience with. The metagame within Minneapolis proved 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.

This Summer, I explored Oathbreaker through a Sarkhan the Mad Eldrazi deck and Jace, the Mind Sculptor as a Caw Blade inspired build. In an effort to continue this exploration of Oathbreaker, I wanted to dig into a theme that I really, tap down, but not through the lens of planeswalkers like Dovin Baan or Tamiyo, Field Researcher. After some thought, I was compelled to dive into a pet card of mine as the backbone of a new kind of tap down deck which should fit my general vibe very well. This week, we’ll be building around Ajani Vengeant to explore a control deck in the wrong colors. The potential of this deck has only been heightened by the last year of cards in a way that has made me really excited for what a refined version of this deck could look like.


Signature Spell:








Multiplayer’s Best Mechanic

The early inspiration for this deck was trying to maximize the effectiveness of Onslaught. This quirky enchantment became a pet card of mine back in high school. As such, the color bending effect of turning all of my creature spells into an ambush effect has been something that I’ve wanted to capitalize on for most of the last 20 years. Unfortunately, singleton formats that are determined by color identity make playing such a strategy a tad more difficult. After some consideration, I saw the synergy with Ajani’s first ability as a potentially strong starting point. Add in Angelic Benediction and suddenly we get to consider the use of dash creatures like Mardu Scout or Zurgo Bellstriker and adjacent effects on Glitterfang or Reinforced Ronin as sources of repeatable creature spells to tap creatures.

This felt like a strong starting point, but I knew if I was going to go down the route of this strategy I was going to need a strong secondary effect to allow me to keep my opponents creatures tapped down. Enter goad, a mechanic I love for the way it encourages combat interaction. I had explored the mechanic previously with Fumiko the Lowblood, but so much has changed since then. I was happy to discover additions like Bothersome Quasit, Death Kiss, and Spectacular Showdown

But as I consider goad to be one of the best multiplayer mechanics, I knew I wanted this to be most of the identity of the deck. This means my win condition was probably going to be attacking very little as the rest of the table has to subject themselves to a lot of infighting. To facilitate this I have also included Geode Rager, Glóin, Dwarf Emissary, Laurine, the Diversion, Martial Impetus, Shiny Impetus, so the mechanic is making an appearance in every game that I play with Ajani.

The Right Signature Spell

I haven’t gotten the feel for choosing a solid signature spell yet. For at least a day Righteous Fury was earmarked for the placement, but it kept feeling too linear. In fact any spell that destroyed a tapped creature felt underwhelming. I wanted this spell to not only be something helpful in the opening turns of the game, but sure up my card selection as the game went on. This desire informed each consideration before eventually landing on my signature spell. 

While I had put a lot of thought into Spectacular Showdown, I soon realized that choosing a goad spell might not necessarily be the right call. While it would certainly play well with the theme I was looking for, the strong push I was making towards goad was creating a scenario that opened me up to a subset of cards I had not considered. Goad means we would be dealing with a lot of attacking and blocking creatures. White often cares about this, but it often falls under the radar as solely Limited combat tricks. After some deliberation, I realized Judge Unworthy fit my needs well. The spell is cheap enough to be played multiple times, while also acting as removal and a solid card selection spell. 

The Planeswalker, Himself

For all the thinking that I have put into this deck the choice of Ajani Vengeant might seem as if it could be any red-white Oathbreaker and work pretty much the same. And I don’t even know that I have a very good defense for putting the leonin on the marquee, besides the fact that he creates a contrary opposition to the rest of the table. I like the fact that he can indiscriminately lock down a permanent, remove a creature and provide me with a small amount of life gain. If the game calls for it, he can wipe out everyone’s lands. I feel his Armageddon-effect might be the biggest cause of people overestimating what the deck is capable of and may result in it being hard for me to keep my oath breaker on the table. My hope is the actual gameplay should make it clear that that is only my emergency eject button and not the way that I would like to have the general discourse of the game play out.

I have high hopes for Oathbreaker, once it regains some traction in my area. For the time being I think I’m going to return back to Commander for the remainder of the year, as we have a lot of stellar things to look forward to with Wilds of Eldraine. I have a strong feeling I know exactly what I will be writing about next week which ironically plays a part in this week’s article, as I have the desire to upgrade my Tap Down Commander deck, which I will be highlighting 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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