Over the last few months, you may have heard of the somewhat new format that is Oathbreaker. I say somewhat, as it’s been played by a very small number of players since its inception two years ago, but has gained popularity since the release of War of the Spark, which added a slew of new Oathbreakers.
For those who don’t know, it’s a 60-card singleton format with a planeswalker at the head as what is effectively a planeswalker Commander. In addition to this, each deck runs a ‘signature’ spell that plays from the command zone only while the Oathbreaker is on the field. Much like Commander, the deck-building restrictions are colour-identity, and an arguably reasonable ban list. Unlike Commander, however, games tend to be significantly shorter and less battleship-y.
One phrase I’ve personally heard that I believe best describes the format is “multiplayer-singleton-legacy”, and frankly, it’s not wrong. Certain Modern and Legacy deck archetypes are feasibly adaptable to this format, and can be a lot of fun, much like their counterparts. I myself have been running variants of Affinity and Bant Spirits for the last couple of months, with mixed (but mostly positive) results. Due to the format being a bit slower than Modern or Legacy, slightly higher-cost and interesting cards can actually be played in popular archetypes. For example, Nissa Who Shakes the World can be played as mono-green Tron, using Nissa’s Triumph to fetch all three Tron lands. This quickly allows the deck to play a range of high-cost Eldrazi that the counterparts normally wouldn’t run, making for some explosive plays.
However, despite the success of some archetypes, others don’t work as well in the format. Decks that have a slightly slower plan don’t tend to fair as well against more aggressive decks that put out a lot of power on board, namely midrange and control, despite the multiplayer aspect of the format.
Another noticeable restriction of the format is the currently limited range of colour identities. At the time of writing, Wizards have produced planeswalkers that fit all of the two and one-colour identities, but have a limited number of three-colour walkers, and none in the four or five-colour slots. While it is a shame, the format currently has a reasonable amount of diversity, especially as each Oathbreaker can be built a number of different ways.
In conclusion, while the format is currently in its early days, it’s very enjoyable, and I believe that provided the player-base lasts, it’s got a lot of potential to be a popular version of Magic.