Magic: The Gathering adopts the Oathbreaker format

Wizards of the Coast introduces a new format for Magic: The Gathering called Oathbreaker, which shines the spotlight on Planeswalkers.

Magic: The Gathering adds a new way to play the game as Wizards of the Coast formally introduces the Oathbreaker format, which centers on Planeswalkers.

Wizards of the Coast introduces a new format for Magic: The Gathering called Oathbreaker, which shines the spotlight on Planeswalkers. (Images: Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro)

For fans of the most popular fantasy collectible card game (CCG), the new Oathbreaker format will have familiar elements. It has some fundamental similarities to the Commander format, which itself began as a fan-created play style that eventually became an official format. However, there are some key differences that gives Oathbreaker its own flavor and nuances of play.

The official rules for playing Oathbreaker were posted on Magic: The Gathering’s Format Hub page. The premise behind it is simulating the scenario of Planeswalkers breaking their oath and challenging others of their kind for supremacy of the multiverse.

But while Wizards of the Coast has essentially formalized the Oathbreaker format for MTG, it actually originated from the game’s fans. The Oathbreaker format was created as far back as 2017 by Weirdcards, with its own website and subreddit. Weirdcards itself is a charitable group of MTG players that holds events to raise money for good causes.

Oathbreaker is intended as a casual multiplayer style of game for Magic: The Gathering. Up to 3 to 5 players can participate in an Oathbreaker game. Each player must have a 60-card deck, one of which is the Planeswalker their deck will focus on. Plus, one instant or sorcery card of the player’s choice will be their Planeswalker’s signature spell.

All MTG sets and cards are allowed in the Oathbreaker format, including Secret Lair and Universes Beyond cards such as the Warhammer 40K and The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth crossover sets.

In the Oathbreaker format, both the Planeswalker and signature spell begin the game in the command zone, similar to the Commander format.

Once the player has chosen their Planeswalker (the titular "oathbreaker" of their deck) and the signature instant or sorcery spell, that leaves 58 cards for the rest of the deck. The signature spell and the rest of the cards must match the color identity of the chosen Planeswalker.

For example, if the player chose Teferi, Time Raveler from the War of the Spark set as their oathbreaker, all the other cards in the deck must have only blue or white mana symbols in the mana cost (and any mana symbols on the card’s rules text). Colorless cards and basic lands are exceptions to this rule. On that note, no two cards in the deck may have the same name (also referred to as the singleton rule) except for basic lands.

The Oathbreaker Planeswalker card and the signature spell are both placed face up on the command zone. Similar to the Commander format, the player may cast the Oathbreaker Planeswalker from the command zone for its printed costs. However, each subsequent casting from the command zone costs 2 additional colorless mana. Thus, if the Oathbreaker will be cast a third time, it will require 4 colorless mana plus the card’s printed mana cost.

Also similar to the Commander rules, when an Oathbreaker would leave play from the battlefield due to losing all its loyalty counters, being sent to the graveyard, the library, exiled, or similar effects, the player may return it to the command zone instead.

The signature spell can be cast whenever the Oathbreaker is in play. When the signature spell resolves, it is placed back on the command zone. This overrides any effects that would otherwise send it elsewhere, such as being counterspelled, returning to the owner’s hand or library, or being exiled from the game. And just like the Oathbreaker itself, the signature spell increases its cost by 2 colorless mana for beyond the first time it was cast.

All the Oathbreaker players begin with 20 life, with the order of turns following a clockwise progression. As it is a free-for-all format, players in an Oathbreaker game can target and attack any other player, regardless of how they are positioned on the table. They may even attack multiple players during the combat phase. The game ends when only one player remains.

Although there are similarities to Commander, the Oathbreaker format for Magic: The Gathering has its own set of rules. Which Planeswalker will you choose?

Although the Oathbreaker format has similar roots as the popular Commander format (otherwise known as Elder Dragon Highlander/EDH), WoTC has not yet announced any plans to release sets and exclusive cards specifically for it or if it will be adopted for Magic: The Gathering Arena.

Magic: The Gathering will be releasing March of the Machine, the latest expansion that closes out the Phyrexian invasion saga, on April 21, 2023.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.