Conditions Allow - King of the Oathbreakers

Ben Doolittle • August 21, 2023

(King of the Oathbreakers | Art by Tatiana Veryaskaya)

This Deck Was Made By Those Who Are Dead

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow. In this series I take a legendary creature with a drawback and build a deck to turn it into a strength. Continuing in our string of Tales of Middle-earth commanders, this week I'm building around one of the most interesting legendary creatures in the set, King of the Oathbreakers.

Phasing is a strange mechanic from Magic's past that perfectly captures how spirits of the undead can be present, but not entirely there. Whenever a permanent phases out the rules treat it as if it no longer exists, but it never technically leaves play. This means that your spirit tokens can phase out and still exist, bringing reinforcements with them as long as King of the Oathbreakers is in play. The only problem is a lack of good ways to phase creatures out.

While Orzhov colors give you all the tools needed to abuse Guardian of Faith, you can't always count on having a particular card. Luckily, King of the Oathbreakers has a built-in method to phase your spirits out, but it comes at a steep price. Targeting your own creatures with spells will phase them out and help build an army of spirits, but it prevents those spells from actually resolving. Defiant Strike won't draw cards, and Ephemerate can't blink any of your spirits. Of course, giving each of your removal spells the optional ability to phase out one of your creatures isn't a bad thing. It also means that any spell that can target multiple creatures has the potential to quickly build a lethal army of tokens.

Army of the Dead

Before we get to swarms of tokens, we need a few spirits to start with. Priest of the Blessed Graf may not be a spirit itself, but is easily the best token producer in the deck. It isn't unusual for it to make three spirit tokens a turn. Clarion Spirit works well alongside Staff of the Storyteller and Idol of Oblivion to replace the two spells a turn it takes to trigger. There are fewer ways to consistently trigger Twilight Drover, but it helps replace spirits used for chump blocking and the occasional Village Rites.

While King of the Oathbreakers is very good at keeping your spirits safe from removal, I still want to include a couple non-creature token makers for the deck. Your commander has flying, so Andúril, Flame of the West can regularly recruit more spirits to battle. The flip side of The Restoration of Eiganjo also helps to steadily build up tokens, while incidentally providing card advantage and ramp. Finally, no Orzhov spirits deck would be complete without Lingering Souls.

Of course, not all your spirits need to create tokens. King of the Oathbreakers is a token engine on his own, so you just need spirits in play to start raising an army. Grey Host Reinforcements and Remorseful Cleric are graveyard hate, while Hollowhenge Spirit and Kami of False Hope protect your life total. Kami of Ancient Law helps pick off troublesome enchantments, and Lost Legion provides a little card selection.

A Whole Necropolis

The next step is to phase out as many spirits as you can at once. I am, of course, including Teferi's Protection and Clever Concealment, but the best actual phasing effect for this deck is Guardian of Faith. As a creature this is the spell King of the Oathbreakers is best able to reuse multiple times. Haunted One is a particularly flavorful method of resurrection, but I'm also including Sun Titan and Ascend from Avernus. Robe of Stars has been a powerful tool in every deck I've played it in, and is the only persistent way to phase creatures out in this deck. It can only generate one spirit a turn for you, but sometimes that's enough.

For when just one token isn't enough, we have several spells that target any number of creatures. Eerie Interlude is the most played of these, but you may also have come across Cauldron Haze. Scapegoat is another surprisingly useful card, and joins Touch of Darkness and Heaven's Gate as the only one mana effects that can phase out all of your creatures with King of the Oathbreakers in play. Because phasing doesn't destroy tokens, these each double the number of spirits you control each time you cast one, as well as protecting them from removal. Once this deck starts moving it is incredibly resilient.

In order to keep the deck moving, I'm including as many ways to draw cards from tokens entering play as possible. Staff of the Storyteller even comes with a spirit of its own. I'm also including Tome of Legends in this category because King of the Oathbreakers will usually have a safe attack. Having at least one of these draw effects in play is vital for this deck to function smoothly, and having more only helps. The goal is to chain one Heaven's Gate into Touch of Darkness and so on to quickly overwhelm the board. Pact of the Serpent is excellent at digging to your next phasing spell, easily drawing eight or more cards.

Handy in a Pinch

Just being resilient isn't enough, however; you need to hit hard as well. Mirror Entity is a staple of token decks, and stacking anthems is a tried and true strategy for victory. Haunted One and Inspiring Leader are your best anthems, closely followed by Flowering of the White Tree. Normally I avoid anthems on creatures, but King of the Oathbreakers helps protect Celestial Crusader, Phantom General, and Beckoning Will-o'-Wisp safe. And for those times you really need to punch through, nothing gets the job done quite like Akroma's Will.

King of the Oathbreakers

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Commander (1)
Creatures (25)
Enchantments (5)
Artifacts (12)
Sorceries (4)
Instants (16)
Lands (37)

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When I first looked at King of the Oathbreakers I wasn't sure how well it would come together. There are a surprising number of spells in these colors that can target all of your spirits at once though, making this deck shockingly difficult to deal with. It hits hard as well, giving King of the Oathbreakers a sense of inevitability that can be hard to find in token based decks. How would you build around King of the Oathbreakers? Are there any cards or synergies I've overlooked? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.