OathBreaker, The Format
What is Oathbreaker?
Oathbreaker is a casual format inspired by commander and kitchen table multiplayer that emphasizes the epic power of Planeswalkers. It provides players new and interesting deck building challenges in a faster format, with casual big spell feel.
When was Oathbreaker pulled from the Aether?
In March of 2017, as the Gatewatch prepared to face Tezzeret and Nicol Bolas, the Oathfather began devising a new format that highlighted the powers of the Planeswalkers. After seeking the council of other Planeswalkers, Oathbreaker began taking form. In June of 2017 the first games were played, leading us to the format that we have now: Planeswalkers breaking the oaths they took to protect the people of the multiverse to fight each other.
Why 20 life and 60 cards?
The combination of 20 life and 60 cards was found to provide a perfect balance of power and resource management. Twenty life makes aggro a viable deck option and forces combo players to find creative ways to survive to their combo. This is also cushioned by the damage that your Oathbreaker is going to absorb through the game. Sixty cards allows for players to have more focused deck building, and making harder cuts than seen in a 100 card deck. We often find that moving back to the base life total and library size that Wizards designs cards for was ideal for providing faster more focused game play.
Oathbreaker was founded as a fun and fast casual multiplayer format. As with any format, cards can be broken with enough time and effort in a competitive setting. If you enjoy playing competitively and want to try Oathbreaker in that light, just be sure to ask your playgroup first, as Oathbreaker is intended to be a social and multiplayer casual format.
We are lucky! We are not starting from scratch. We are sitting on the shoulders of a giant! The Commander format is the gold standard of casual multiplayer Magic and its approach to banning cards is no exception. Card bannings are used to encourage game play according to the spirit of the format. The Oathbreaker format wants to be multiplayer, casual, friendly, interactive, memorable, planeswalker-focused, and quick. Our banlist list will reflect these aspirations.
The Oathbreaker Rules Committee considers the following criteria when banning cards:
Ban Category: Extreme early mana acceleration. This is typically permanent mana sources that produce more mana than they cost to cast. Limiting fast mana early in games is necessary given players have access to multiple spells in the command zone and decks are only 58 cards. Fast mana has the tendency to end games too quickly. Ban example: Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and original Moxen.
Ban Category: Instant and Sorcery Cards that win the game with minimal work. These are cards that need to be immediately answered or else the game ends. These types of cards usually lead to stale or monotonous game play. Ban example: Ad Nauseum and Biorhythm.
Ban Category: Planeswalkers that interact too well as an Oathbreaker. These are planeswalker cards that easily abuse the rules of the format, especially the Signature spell card. Because Oathbreaker tries to focus on the power of planeswalkers, we want to avoid banning planeswalkers whenever possible. However, sometimes this becomes necessary. Ban example: Saheeli the Gifted.
Ban Category: Cards that essentially restart the game. These cards typically invalidate all previous gameplay, reset the game state drastically so most players have limited options, and extend games too long. Ban example: Sway of the Stars, Upheaval, and Worldfire.
Ban Category: Cards that lead to unreactive game states or unmemorable games. Cards that take over games in an undesirable way, that leave most players locked out of the game and unenthused. These types of cards are usually too hard to answer, under costed, or enable quick combo finishes. Ban example: Trade Secrets, Limited Resources, and Recurring Nightmare.
Banning New Cards
The Oathbreaker Rules Committee believes all cards deserve a chance to be enjoyed. Cards will not be banned for at least 3 months from its pre-release date. Only under the most dire circumstances will an emergency ban be issued for a new card.
You can find the current ban list here.