aka: Oath Control


Oath of Druids has an effect too powerful even for Legacy, and the Oath deck is uniquely vintage, with no real analog in other formats.

By playing a deck with only a handful of extremely strong creatures, Oath of Druids combined with Forbidden Orchard can put cards into play that have no business costing two mana. Against aggressive decks that need to get creatures into play, Oath of Druids can single-handedly decide the game.

Oath decks allow for tons of personalization, and throughout vintage history have ranged from pure combo, to fish-like tempo, to their most common iteration today, a controlling list that plays defensively with a big finish.

Why Play Oath

Mox. Orchard. Oath.
Got a Force of Will? So do I.

One of the most feared openings in vintage, and you get to run four. Oath is a deadly, fast, compact combo that puts your opponent on the defensive from the first turn.

Vintage these days is more creature-centric than ever, which means even just the threat of an Oath of Druids in your deck can impact the way your opponent has to play the game.

Oath lists have tons of variety between them, and small changes in creature makeup can have a big impact on how games play out, making it a great deck for tinkerers.

Why WOULDN'T you play Oath?

As much as Oath can do with a few good cards, sometimes it has real trouble drawing a few bad ones. Oath decks run a lot of cards that can occasionally make you lose to yourself. A hand full of Forbidden Orchards might leave you dead before you draw an Oath of Druids. A hand full of seven-cost creatures might not do anything at all. Even a great Orchard/Oath opening could leave you stranded with no library if all of your creatures have to be on the bottom of your deck.

Experienced Oath players know how to minimize these problems, but variance will still bite you now and again.

The unique requirements of the card Oath of Druids mean you can't run any cheap utility creatures if you don't want to Oath them up by accident, and while Forbidden Orchard is one of the deck's strengths, it does put some tension on the way you build your manabase.

Notable Cards

The Combo

Maximum copies of Oath of Druids and Forbidden Orchard are what make an Oath deck in the first place. Some Oath decks will run Show and Tell for extra ways to get giant creatures into play.

Oath decks will often run cantrips and draw spells, similar to most blue control decks, to smooth out draws. Because of the high variance in cards an Oath deck wants to draw or avoid, filtering cards, like Dig Through Time and Brainstorm are even better than they usually are, and raw draw spells slightly worse.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is particularly notable as a hand-fixer, while acting as a secondary win-condition that doesn't get in the way of Oath activations.

Creature Feature

Oath usually runs somewhere between 2 and 4 extremely threatening creatures, often a mix designed to handle different situations. A creature's raw power, their resistance to different answers, and their castability are all important considerations.

Griselbrand is the gold standard of Oath creatures, winning almost every game he comes into play. Inferno Titan is currently a popular choice as a card that's easier to cast if you happen to draw it.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is hard to remove and usually kills in a single hit, Blightsteel Colossus or Sphinx of the Steel Wind can be brought into play with a Tinker if needed.

Some Oath players will run even more specialized creatures in their sideboard, the full list of options would be too large to list here.

Disruption and Defense

Oath runs Force of Will and specialized counterspells like Flusterstorm to slow their opponent down and force through their threats.

Because an Oath deck actively wants creatures in play, dedicated creature removal is less critical, though a postboard answer to a pesky Containment Priest is useful.

Grafdigger's Cage is by far the most common anti-Oath sideboard card, so any good Oath deck is prepared for it. Abrupt Decay is versatile removal for the manabases that support it, and Ancient Grudge is a nice answer which happens to be very useful against Workshop-style decks as well.


Salvagers Oath, Kelly Oath: bant-colored with the Auriok Salvagers/Black Lotus combo, heavy on control elements
Griselbrand Oath, Fenton Oath: Aggressive Oath deck featuring Griselrbands, Show and Tells and the Time Vault/Voltaic Key combo
Punishing Oath: runs the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo as board control and a secondary win condtion
Golden Gun Oath: runs Dragon's Breath to attack with a lethal Blightsteel Colossus or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn the turn Oath is activated

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last edited by Brass Man

Nice write up! I find it telling that Oath continues to be a contender in the Vintage metagame in spite of many people writing the deck off. Sure, there's a lot of variance with the archetype, but it has a lot of game despite that fact.

Also Oath is responsible for my most Vintage-ey play I've ever had; Hard-casting Griselbrand from my graveyard with Yawgmoth's Will. 😄

@islandswamp I'll add on by saying that it has a lot of game BECAUSE of that fact. (Oath's variability.)

An "Oath' deck, is really just any deck that runs Oaths. Assuming that it runs 4 of those and 4 Forbidden Orchards, plus a minimum of 2 Fatties... that's only 10 cards. Leaving some 50 cards to metagame with, which can really be any color thanks to Orchards.

To add to Andy's list, there also exists - Paradoxical Oath, Rune Scarred Oath, Tidespout Oath, OathStill, Saheeli Oath, Non-Saheeli Titan Oath, as well as the potential to include any number of metagame creatures like Gisela, Sphinx of the Steel Wind, and the notorious, Dragonlord Dramoka. Heck, somebody just sent me a really interesting, blueless Oath list this week.

The myriad categories of Oath decks, really reflect the wonderful underlying liquidity offered by Oath and the tremendous deckbuilding space that the Combo leaves.

Personally, I love Oath because it is one of the most wide open deckbuilding opportunities left in Vintage. (My two cents.) Loving Oath... thanks for the thread fellas.

@topical_island agreed, this writeup was tricky because Oath decks feel more variable than the lists I've done before. I expect to run into the same problem when I do BUG and Landstill.

I see this is a both a weakness and an opportunity. It's a hard list to netdeck, but an easy list to tweak to your own personal strengths as a player. Players like @brianpk80 have been exploiting this opportunity for all that it's worth!

@brass-man For sure... as a solid medium Oath player (I mean, I got this 56th percentile on lockdown), I would suggest tying in the other pillar decks. Again, something I love about Oath is that it really requires one to know the whole metagame. So some Oath builds get better games against tempo blue. (Really Powerful ones like Paradoxical for example... especially when the Tempo deck has no Null Rod effect.) While others have better games against Shops (OathStill, in my opinion, gets a decent game here by virtue of the extra blockers and lands in the form of Mishra's Factory and basic islands.)

I would love to have a discussion about how we see the various potential card choices from Oath, as they relate to the metagame overall, since my feeling, as I said, is that Oath doesn't usually drive the meta, but it's fluidity allows it to quite often prey on the metagame, if it can narrow it's sights accurately on what that metagame really is.

I'd really like to try an oath list with no artifact mana and a dack/cantrip engine. Does that seem worth doing?

@john-cox said in Oath:

I'd really like to try an oath list with no artifact mana and a dack/cantrip engine. Does that seem worth doing?

How are you playing a T1 oath without artifact mana? IMHO if you're not trying for the T1 oath then theirs no point playing the deck.

@supertimland I mean, clearly you play it off one of the eight Spirit Guides you are running... right?

@john-cox In serious consideration of your post, you are going to want artifact mana. At one point I ran an Oath deck with Standstill (for a long time actually, almost a year) and because of the Standstill I only ran 4 moxen and the Lotus. I was told again and again how mad that was, but it worked ok. Since then I play a lot more aggressive builds, and I will say, the few more percentage points of dropping that turn 1 Oath are really worth it. Even without Orchard, you can trap so many decks. There are all sorts of lines that develop with moxen. Theres the two moxen hand with Oath against Shops, where you play non-Orchard land and mox, and say go, without playing Oath. And if they play the Revoker on your Mox, you just drop Oath. (If I was also holding a Force, I would do that every time by the way... without Force, it's about a 50/50 gamble against most decks and you should probably just land the Oath if you can.)

Dack is great in Oath though. So I would for sure run that. He's great because the most common problem is what to do when you get the fatties in your hand. Dack is nice, because you can toss a creature and hopefully pick up a more useful card. Brian Kelly also likes just casting the big creature... which, it turns out, is pretty good. Casting huge creatures is good... huh... who knew?

last edited by Topical_Island

The thinking is that you shore up the blue matches with a more business dense deck. Kind of like what delver did in the 4 gush era.

@john-cox yeah, I'm just telling you. After boarding, you will likely be crushed, since by carrying the Oath's and Creatures, you will never be able to touch how dense that Tempo blue deck is. So I would guess that they would be your worst matchup in fact. You would be fighting a density battle down 10%-15% in density. Not to mention that they would actually be running some Moxen. So you still get to lose to Baby Jace on turn 1, and you are kinda cut off from running JVP and snapcaster and because of Oath. I would also guess that lightening and slowing the mana base makes the Shops matchup worse...

But if you want to cut Moxen, try Standstill I guess...

I think this all is all a pretty good illustration of why Oath kinda wants to be in a big blue, or at least a heavy mana shell. Ramping up to just casting fatties is very real. Casting turn 5 Gris after an early counter battle is quite possible.

@supertimland said in Oath:

@john-cox said in Oath:

I'd really like to try an oath list with no artifact mana and a dack/cantrip engine. Does that seem worth doing?

IMHO if you're not trying for the T1 oath then theirs no point playing the deck.

This seems like a rather odd limiter. Granted, the potential of a T1 Oath is scary and is one of the advantages of playing Oath, but why would T1 Oaths be the only reason to play the deck? There are plenty of legitimate reasons to do so which do not involve slamming the T1 Mox, Orchard, Oath opener.

@John-Cox I do think a Cantrip/Dack engine is a solid engine to base an Oath deck on. You'd essentially be taking on a xerox-style of filtering and racing through the deck, but I do think you should still play the off-colour moxen if you were to do this. You can always filter them away with Dack/Cantrips if you don't need them anyway. Oath can also get some awkward draws, which this engine can try to fix by design.

You can potentially trim the other artifact mana when doing so. I don't think running 5 Moxen in addition to this engine will dilute it too much, however.

last edited by Hrishi

@hrishi yeah xerox is what I'm going for. I'l try it with 5 moxen.

last edited by John Cox

It is worth noting here, that there is a diminishing return on additional Moxen when it comes to casting Oath early. Adding the first Moxen, increases it infinitely of course. (Going from 0% to about 1.5%) Adding the second Moxen increases your chances of casting Oath turn 1, by an additional 1.2%. The next one is about 1%. So on...

By the time we have all the Moxen and the Lotus, and are adding things like Mana Crypt, we are only adding an additional 0.5% or so... So not running the full jewelry isn't totally nuts.

Not running any jewelry is actually nuts though. If you are running Oath and trying to be competitive, you really want to maximize the Game 1's you just steal on a busted draw. You really should be just taking down about 1 out of every 5 games on a nuts draw. If your deck isn't doing that... well, I guess you better be making up those percentages other places... drawing hands that have 3 Oath's and 2 Creatures in them also does happen more than you think.

So if i'm playing BUG oath would on color moxen + lotus be worth trying?

Framing the discussion as 5 Mox vs 0 Mox seems unnecessarily extreme to me. Cantrips are great, and cutting mana for cantrips is a tried and true option. Don't think of things in terms of "4 Preordains means 0 Mox" ... figure out how many mana sources you want, then figure out how many of them NEED to be on-color, and the rest are your Moxes ... maybe that leaves you with 3 or 4. I don't think there's any reason you can't build a functional Oath deck with 3 or 4 Mox. Vintage is pretty slow right now, a turn 2 Oath is still a good play a lot of the time.

In and of itself, Dack Fayden is a great card, and non-creature advantage-generating permanents like Planeswalkers seem good to me in Oath in general.

Still, I think there's some things you might not be considering.

Gush and "The Best Draw Engine in Vintage"

The reason Delver beat other blue decks wasn't just the low mana count, but the strong synergies between Gush, Dack Fayden, and Delve spells. Delver ran such a low Mox count because it needed to keep its Island count high enough to support 4 Gush.

Without a steady stream of Gush and Delve spells, Dack Fayden doesn't put you ahead on cards same way it did before.

So there are a few problems here. Of course many these cards are restricted now, making the whole package worse, but many decks still run them. Gush is problematic for Oath because of the Forbidden Orchards, though some lists run it anyway.

Oath has a unique problem with spells that draw a bunch of cards - getting stuck with creatures in hand. This is why you'll see a lot of Oath decks with Dig through Time but no Treasure Cruise ... and without Treasure Cruise, Dack Fayden gets a little worse.

If you're going to be running Dack Faydens, I would imagine it's necessary to run some way of mitigating the damage caused by Dack'ing into creatures. Maybe use something that shuffles, like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn? Personally that's one of my least favorite Oath targets, but it might be necessary.

Note that the -2 ability on Dack Fayden is just a little worse than it is in a Mentor deck, which leads me to ....

Where are you trying to position yourself?

Let's say you could cut mana and make your deck better against blue. That might be true. Is this something you want? The reason Oath Control has made its way to the Decks to Beat page isn't because it's dodging blue decks. (And make no mistake, while there are dozens of Oath variants, only one has really proven itself tier 1 in the metagame right now). Anything involving more Preordains is a worthwhile experiment as far as I'm concerned, but I would be REAL careful that you don't inadvertently kill the Workshop matchup while you're at it.


Still ... It's a worthwhile idea, there's just tradeoffs. Keep in mind why this isn't normally done, and what else you'll have to change to do it.

@john-cox I would say yes... but more than that, I'd say never believe random yay-hoos like me on forums and test for yourself. I firmly believe testing is king. There are savants among us who seem to be able to close one eye and squint, and discern the true value of a card in Vintage, and the tightness of one build or another... but I am not one of those people (Rich, I'm lookin' at you buddy).

I suggest using a cockatrice type program to test against known good deck lists... ESPECIALLY if you are running Oath. Since Oath has all this room to metagame with. For example, just imagine your standard Oath list with a ton of Grudges and Dacks... If you want to kill the crap out of Shops with this thing, it can be done...

But you should do some math on both your metagame, and use a hypergeometric calculator http://stattrek.com/online-calculator/hypergeometric.aspx
to look at both your good and bad draws. And as you change cards in and out, you can make better decisions about what odds you are really shifting... For example, I run Paradoxical Oath right now... so if I am getting crushed by Null Rod, then maybe I should mainboard a Grudge? What would I take out? Probably a mana rock if the reason I'm putting it in is to hedge against Null Rod? But that has me go down a permanent... Should Grudge be Seal of Primordium then, as crazy as that sounds? Should I take out Sol Ring rather than the Mana Crypt, even though most people would call me nuts, since Sol Ring is a "better card"?

If you run the math, you tend to get an advantage over all those players who are running stuff because they "like it" or because its a "good card" without thinking about the effect it has in specific likely matchups. And then you still lose to the Rich Shay's of the world, because they are actually wizards. (And Andy... who I've never played against, but who is a really good player even though he'll never admit it.)

So short answer is yes. Try it.
Long answer is, test is deeply, and you will almost certainly find a configuration that gives you an edge over the bulk of the field because most people don't test... not really.

Is Burning Oath, still viable in the current meta? I notice most people do not mention it as an option.
List for reference :


Im still a fan of life from the loam in oath. It provides lands to discard to dack much like gush used to, and with stripmine or punishing/grove it has other uses. Also gets back orchard and can turn on library after a counter war.

last edited by marcb

@john-cox said in Oath:

The thinking is that you shore up the blue matches with a more business dense deck. Kind of like what delver did in the 4 gush era.

You can absolutely play LESS artifact mana, but playing none is a horrible idea.

One of my best performing Oath lists ran Lotus Petal. Why would I run the "worst" "moxen" in my list? Because the plan was to maximize my broken openings. I ran Lotus Petal, Five Moxen, Lotus, and Mana Crypt (but no Sol Ring!) just to increase the number of turn one Oaths.

Landstill Oath is a neat deck, and while some folks have done well with it I find that it does not fit my play style. The lowered amount of zero drop mana means that the deck loses one of its biggest threats.

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