It's not out of the norm for my brother and I talk about Magic: The Gathering. In fact, it would be really weird if it didn't come up in conversation. We're constantly checking in with each other and saying, "Oh, did you know (insert random MTG news item)." This past weekend, the conversation started with my brother asking, "How excited are you that Oathbreaker picked back up? You love that format!"
It's true, I was an early adopter of the format and a big fan. I got a few friends at work to at least try it, but it never really took off among my playgroup, for reasons I'm still unsure about. But alas, my decks, while never taken apart, were left in my closet next to commander decks I'll never play. That was, until just a few weeks ago.
Now that Oathbreaker has be given sometime in the spot light, I followed my response to my brother with, "Are you going to build a deck finally? I would love to game with you." To which he replied, "Yes, but can I tell you one thing that disappoints me about the format?"
Without even a second guess, I answered, "You can't play some color combinations."
"Yes, and even some of the dual colors kind of lock you into a particular strategy based on the planeswalker's ability."
I verbally affirmed that yea, that sucks, and then the two of us did what any two nerds who like rules and game design would do...
We tried to come up with a balanced solution. It was a 30 second conversation that started with, "Wouldn't be great if..." and the entirety of my weekend became less "What if?" and more "Why not?
So, without any further introductions, let me introduce my proposed rule change to deck construction for Oathbreaker.
Proposed Rule Change for Deck Construction for OathBreaker
Rule consideration - Explained
It is a subtle, yet very impactful, change to the rules of deck construction and color identity of your deck. The idea is fairly straight forward. The signature spell needs to have some connection to the Oathbreaker, and having at least one shared color is the cleanest solution to that. It means mono-colored planeswalkers can continue to have signature spells in their same color or consider adding a color for the cost of a higher mana cost spell. Think like in D&D, it is like an up casted spell. This prevents people from jamming just any powerful instant/sorcery with any planeswalker just for the sake of power. The additional color comes with a built in downside of having to cost extra mana to get the extra color.
The biggest impact this has is that the dual color planeswalkers can then dip into the other guilds that share a color to create the shards and wedges that are missing, and more importantly, open up a much more diverse pool. No longer would you be locked into one of two Esper commanders or the single Jund commander, but instead could play Jund with a Golgari Oathbreaker tapping into the Rakdos or Gruul.
One of the biggest attractions to Commander is that every color is not only represented, but there are so many options that you can personalize your deck to a particular color combination or strategy. Until WoTC prints what is missing, there is both a hole in the represntation and a less diverse pool of combinations for deck building.
By saying that color identity of the deck is determined by BOTH the Oathbreaker and its signature spell, in addition to the shared colored connection between the Oathbreaker and Signature Spell, you are creating more opportunities for people to play what they truly want and isn't that one of the reasons to play a format like Oathbreaker in the first place?
Proof Of Concept
One example does not make a law, but consider the following deck:
I love Abzan. I love Siege Rhino. As it currently stands, I can not play Siege Rhino in Oathbreaker without some sort of rules adjustment or conversation with my playgroup. Conveniently, Abzan Charm shares two colors with Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, but that isn't a requirement. I originally had Vraksa, Golgari Queen and Dromoka's Command for this deck, and eventually decided I like what is above more.
What happens to cards like Command Tower that reference the commander?
Nothing changes. Cards that reference commanders refer to the Oathbreaker. In Command Tower's case, it would only tap for the colors of the Oathbreaker. You do not gain the extra color from your Signature Spell.
Why wouldn't you just pair any instant/sorcery with any planeswalker?
Ah, I see you're looking for the most degeneracy, have fun with your friends, but that's not the point of this consideration.
Instead of playing a mono-colored planeswalker with a dual colored or three colored signature spell, why don't you just play a dual colored or three colored planeswalker and follow the rules?
The easy answer is not all the shards and wedges are represented currently, so this is attempting resolve that issue. Second, if you are playing a mono-colored planeswalker with a three colored signature spell, you're likely hindering yourself and keeping yourself in check.
You can't be serious, that means I get to play x that combos with y?
Look, I'll admit, I didn't go through each of the couple hundred planeswalkers and match them up with the thousands of instants and sorceries. If you found something broken, it's a multiplayer format, your table will keep you in check (or at least should)
Why don't you just make your own Abzan Planeswalker in the meantime?
I've seen the card designs on Reddit...NO THANK YOU! This rules consideration works with official cards already printed.
At the end of the day, the deck presented above isn't doing anything that the other color combinations don't already do. What it is doing, is making me feel good by being able to play one of my favorite color combinations that isn't represented in the format. Don't punish me as a player because something hasn't been designed yet. Instead, let's look at a reasonable way to open up the format to more opportunities.
I hope my friends of Oathbreaker and the Oathbreaker Rules Committee take a moment to read this and heavily discuss this opportunity. I think yes, our very intelligent community will identify several cases as to why this rules change would be a bad idea. Overall, I believe that this small rules change is a net positive for the format and creates more accessibility to players to play the things they want, which is what a format like Oathbreaker should be about. The format literally started as, "We love commander, but we want to play a complete game over our lunch hour." This rule consideration is just and evolution of that core value.
And worst case, I just gave you an easy way to have a Rule 0 conversation with your playgroup. If you play with me, I hope you bring a deck like this to the table so I can play my Abzan pile!