We're excited to continue Coast to Coast Casual (CCC), a blog series written by East2West, published on MTG Cardsmith.
I'm in my local game store, it's 2009 and I'm just starting to understand the game of Magic. It's FNM and I'm running a deck that I thought was an amazing Black midrange build. I didn't have any understanding of what a format was and so I had wandered my way into the Modern format that night. Playing that deck, whose win condition was a single copy of Hellcarver Demon, against actual modern decks was like swinging a rolled up newspaper at a dragon. I got lucky though, the people I was playing against were nice to me and through one dumb luck win and one guy having to leave in the middle of our game I ended up winning a two packs. I was handed a pack of Worldwake and one of Rise of the Eldrazi. I opened them and quickly removed the rare, putting them facedown on the table (This was just how I opened packs back then.) With a quick flip followed by an immediate freak out I'd found my first Planeswalker. That's right, the most powerful card in the format, Sarkhan the Mad! Sarkhan would quickly become a staple of my trade binder, where he has remained for the past 10 years. When I first opened him I thought he was great before quickly being corrected in practice. And so he was banished from my decks always on the back of my mind for being the first walker I ever opened. Fast forward. It's 2019 and I'm on twitter, someone has just retweeted a tweet from a charity called Magikids. They're talking about a new format, something called Oathbreaker. I go down the rabbit hole and find a new format, one that seems original, fun, and incredibly interesting. I can hear Sarkhan cheering from my trade binder.
Oathbreaker is a format similar to EDH with a few key differences. Life totals start at 20, decks are singleton but only 60 cards, your commander must be a planeswalker (and not just the ones that can already be commanders), and most interestingly, a signature spell. This spell, specifically an instant or sorcery, exists in your command zone with your commander and can only be cast while your commander is on the battlefield. The spell gains commander tax and returns to the command zone once cast. This creates a new level to game play since the spell is public information. The command tax on the spell is also super smart, making what would otherwise be snap picks like Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile into bad signature spells. Here's a link to the website for the format since I'm not here to just go over the rules and intricacies. While you're over there consider looking into and donating to Weirdcards, the charity that created this format.
When going through my binder to find playables for Oathbreaker I realized something. See there's an infinite etb trigger combo I've had for maybe a year that I haven't really found a home for, that is until I saw my Xenagos. Now this janky combo is the win condition in a deck that I'm proud to say is perfectly playable. So please allow me to present to you alongside Sarkhan his best bud Xenagos.Sarkhan Decklist
Let's start with Sarkhan, the direction I went here is a sort of Dragon Tribal and Aristocrat Hybrid. Since Sarkhan won't be on the battlefield long due to his minus abilities and other players wanting to deal with him we have to get that value quick. To this end there's two strategies to try out here. We have some fast mana in the form of Dark Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, Seething Song, and a few others, we play these to possibly power out some dragons in the early game. This will let Sarkhan minus 4 himself upon entering and deal a whole bunch of damage. We also run small creatures with self recursion or death triggers, allowing Sarkhan's minus 2 to give us fuel for an eventual -4. Other than Sarkhan himself we have the signature spell of Crux of Fate. This works almost exclusively in our favor, killing our death trigger and recurring creatures while leaving our dragons alive to swing in without any obstructions. The biggest problem I've found with the deck is that it's not rare to end up with too many high cost cards in hand, don't worry though, this is where politics can save you. Oathbreaker being multiplayer means you can strike a deal if this happens. Still though, Sarkhan the Mad is a fine deck and a good use of the man himself.Xenagos Decklist
Next up is Xenagos and my janky combo. The way the combo works is as follows; with a Panharmonicon and any enters the battlefield payoff on board (such as Altar of the Brood or Impact Tremors) cast Burning-Tree Emissary to add 2R and 2G, then off of that mana play Horned Kavu and return both Burning-Tree Emissary and the Kavu itself. You have enough mana floating to cast the Emissary all over again and repeat the loop. The rest of our slots are dedicated to fetching and protecting this combo. Our signature spell is Autumn's Veil to protect us the turn we go off. We run Prowling Serpopard and Gaea's Herald to keep our creatures safe on the stack. We also have Heartwood Storyteller, Beast Whisperer, and Primordial Sage to help us draw into our pieces. Xenagos helps us stall as well, generating ramp and small blockers to get us to the long game. One thing you'll notice here is a high price tag, this is because I had a few cards laying around that worked well in the deck but happened to be high value. If you want to see a budget build let me know.
Oathbreaker is a fun format that I can see really taking off in the future. It's something that can be either casual or competitive based on the people you play with making it a really unique experience. In my opinion it's a format to be treated like EDH, the point isn't to break the format just to have fun with it. When you're out there playing and brewing keep this in mind. Thank you so much for reading, if you want to read more Oathbreaker articles let me know. As always this has been East2west with CCC, I'll see you guys on the battlefield.
East2West is an aspiring writer from NJ currently seeking fame and fortune on the internet. She's been playing Magic since Zendikar block (the original one) and is a commander player with one deck for each two color pair and one for each single color. The only non EDH deck she plays is her own personal Pauper brew, Pauper Eggs. Follow her on her newly created and probably soon to be underused twitter @East2WestMTG.