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Oathbreaker: Live Deliciously

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Give in to the temptation. You may have partaken in the rich delights of casual formats before. Or you may have shied away from the revelry, only glimpsing the lighted tables from afar, hearing murmurs of laughter. Don't be afraid. Not every multiplayer format requires a hundred-card deck or a long commitment of playtime. Taste the forbidden pleasure of building your deck around a Planeswalker. Come, into the velvety darkness of a new night, and try Oathbreaker.

In this new sixty-card casual format, you start the game with twenty life and two paired cards in the command zone. We call it the locket. The first is always a Planeswalker, and the second signature spell is an instant or sorcery. Cards that care about a commander, such as Loyal Subordinate, will work with your Planeswalker, and if your 'Walker is in play, you may cast their signature spell.

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
Feast of Blood

Sorin has much to take pride in. His sire, Edgar Markov, succeeded where other alchemists failed, in creating eternal life. All he needed was the ambition to make a pact with a demon and the will to command a new bloodline of ravenous immortals. Vampirism on the plane of Innistrad is no disease but potent magic. Sorin's veins thrum with it.

As bold as his forefather had been, Sorin was bolder. He secured the survival of the vampire's only source of food by creating human chattel a guardian, the angel Avacyn. You can see her represented behind him in the art of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord. He watched on as Avacyn and her priesthood slaughtered half his kin on Innistrad, satisfied with himself for doing what needed to be done. No vampire thanked him, but thanks to him vampires would rule the night forevermore.


But where is my favorite vampire?

The decklist includes my favorite fanged darlings. You most certainly should shuffle in yours, but you will find more than enough exquisite nighttime strangers to fill your sixty-card deck. The vampires I chose tend toward the Gothic. If you love the wildness of Zendikar's bloodsuckers, do indulge. For myself, I am more than satisfied casting Dark Ritual, into Sorin, into first turn Epicure of Blood. On the second turn I pumped the vampire with lifelink and attacked the table for twenty total points of damage, and it would've been twelve more if my follow-up Feast of Blood had resolved.

You may yet yearn for a different signature spell. Do tell in the comments any card suggestions you have for making the power of the deck even more intoxicating. I chose Feast of Blood for its flavor, even over New Blood. As Machiavelli warned, stealing something and then flaunting it enrages your opponents more than merely destroying their property. I feared having New Blood visible in my locket would make me too much of a mark. That spell I prefer to keep within the fifty-eight and secret.

Feast of Blood
New Blood

You will, of course, wish to invite a variety of vampires to your...drinking party. Find a few that can contribute to the blood banquet over and over, such as Oathsworn Vampire and Bloodghast. Include ones that relish gaining life, such as Bloodthirsty Aerialist, and those with predilections for +1/+1 counters, such as Bloodtracker. You won't forget the honored guests, those Sorin will escort in personally with his -3 ability, such as Thief of Blood and The Haunt of Hightower. Last and somewhat least, Vampire Lacerator and others can arrive early in the night to protect Sorin and hunt other Planeswalkers.

Vampire Lacerator
Vampire of the Dire Moon

Brave New Night

What a pity that Commander has no place for Planeswalkers. Or rather, they must live in squalor in the margins of the battlefield, cowering behind enchantments, knowing they'll always be the first to die. Oathbreaker, on the other hand, gives Planeswalkers the night of their lives, short as they may be. Though 'Walkers must be killed in Oathbreaker, the lower starting life total of twenty means it's no longer always correct to attack them first. It may not be safe to do so, leaving your own Planeswalker vulnerable. Whereas Commander favors spells, Oathbreaker favors creatures as repeatable ways to kill and defend Planeswalkers.

With no Sol Ring in the format, it's less common for a single player to take an early lead. Instead Oathbreaker games often begin with a growing tension, a prickling down your neck, a deepening joyous sense that anything can happen in the darkness and if you don't be careful it will. With the life totals so low and the benefits of keeping your Planeswalker alive so high, you may be afraid to venture out into a gloom full of gleaming eyes. The suspense may drag on for some turns. Not all Oathbreaker games will be short, and the first player who overextends will not live long.

Life gain is more important here, in the howling suddenness of Oathbreaker, and you will be grateful for the lifeblood Sorin bestows. Likewise, life loss matters more, and drawing too much attention to yourself matters most. For that reason, you will see Ancient Craving in the shadowed parlors of Markov Manor but no Necropotence. You will learn to prefer quick and dirty card draw, rather than more powerful but slower methods such as from Well of Lost Dreams. Cards that exemplify the Commander format such as Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond may get you killed in Oathbreaker first.

Exquisite Blood
Sanguine Bond

Do not mourn the dead. Instead celebrate the chillsome magic beating within your undead heart. Venture out into a night bright with starlight, discover new cards for multiplayer, hold them hidden beneath your cloak, and then when the time is right, strike hard, strike fast, and strike last.