Rainbows and Unicorns Sale Ends Sunday!
   Sign In
Create Account

This One Goes Out to the Old School


In the world of casual Magic formats, there are purists, and then there are purists. Old School Magic, otherwise known by the unwieldy name of ’93/’94 Magic, is a European-created but widespread format of Magic that truly takes the game back to its roots.

No Proxies, No Reprints, Nothing but the Best

Officially, the sets that are legal in Old School Magic are Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark. That’s it. Proxies are not allowed, and you’re not allowed to use a later reprint of a card that originally appeared in one of the sets listed above, unless it was reprinted in Unlimited. (Don’t even breathe the word Chronicles.) That’s right . . . presentation is as important as deck-building and gameplay to Old School Magic players. Your deck has to look good and play well at the same time.

Old School Magic Is Not Vintage Lite

“’93/’94 is not at all like Vintage,” says Christoffer Andersson, an Old School Magic aficionado in Europe who’s one of the people responsible for kick-starting this format there. “You could compare it to Type 1 in the ’90s.” Of course, we now have the four-card limit that didn’t exist then, but close enough. The banned list somewhat mirrors Vintage though: no ante cards, unless you choose to play for ante, and most of the same cards that are restricted in Vintage are also restricted in Old School Magic. Note that Shahrazad is restricted rather than banned, and dexterity cards are, in fact, legal, though there’s a house errata for Chaos Orb.

Chaos Orb

The Rules Are Not a Throwback

You’ll notice that Old School Magic is not quite an exact throwback to slinging cardboard in high school when the game first hit stores (if you happen to be in your late thirties, that is). The muddled and inconsistent rules in place back then are not followed. The game is played just like a game of Magic today, with the most up-to-date rules there are. Technically, it’s not exactly Magic as you played it then, but this is a compromise to avoid silly rules situations, like damage on the stack, mana burn, and so forth.

What’s Appealing about Old School Magic?

“93/94 appeals to me based on the fact that it’s a casual format for adults,” says Andersson. “Most of us don’t have much time on our own away from family, work, and other adult responsibilities, but two to four times a year, we can get away to hang out with old friends.” Magic, like gallivanting around the cosmos, is a game for the young, so having a format designed for older Magic players with little free time and a lot of disposable income does sound appealing.

Fabien Sanglard, from Toronto, is one of those responsible for spreading Old School Magic across Canada. “I started playing back in 1993,” he says. “The format does bring back memories. I also find the rules and cards simple enough without the broken things I see in Vintage and Legacy.”

“I didn't play Magic at its inception, but I came relatively close,” says Sigmund Ausfresser, another Old School Magic advocate from Cincinnati. “I began playing in 1997, and at that time, there were still booster packs available of Ice Age, Fallen Empires, and Alliances. I loved the flavor of these older cards, and I'd argue they are very similar in "flavor quality" to the original sets.”

Ausfresser is among a number of players that find the awkward rules wording on the older cards endearing. “Our favorite was Disintegrate, which when killing a creature would “remove it from the game entirely,” not halfway, not mostly, but entirely!” he says.

Craw Wurm

It Can Be Expensive, but Doesn’t Have to Be

So with all these restrictions in place involving original printings of cards, wouldn’t Old School Magic decks run into the same expense issues as Vintage? Nah. You can build very good Old School Magic decks for only a couple hundred bucks, and since the card pool is much smaller than other Eternal formats, there’s not as much to worry about as far as degenerate decks, mandatory sideboard slots, or infinite combos. “Kristoffer Karlsson Top 8’d with his mono-black $300 deck on a regular basis,” said Andersson. “He also lost a final in a fifty-man tournament on an error, not due to the budget of his deck.”

For those who want to spend a little more, the format is designed for people who build their decks slowly, as they can afford it, over a period of years. It’s also a great drinking game, according to Andersson. “You build with what you have, borrow what can be borrowed, and go down to the local pub where we’re playing, drink a beer, chat with old and new friends, remember good times from your youth and have fun.”

“You can build a white weenie deck for $200 and kick butt,” says Sanglard. “This is the cheapest format of them all.” (That’s assuming he’s not counting Pauper.)

What Do Old School Magic Decks Look Like?

“The first deck I built was a five-color The Deck, based on the old Wiessman build,” says Andersson. “The deck I finally won the ’93/’94 World Championship with in 2014 was U/R Eel Aggro. I also play Stasis from time to time.”

“My first idea was Mono-Black,” says Ausfresser. “Other than Juzams, I figured it would be an easy budget deck since it would just need Black Knights, Hypnotic Specters, Dark Rituals, and most importantly, no duals. Since then, I've expanded the list to include white to splash Disenchant (a staple of the format) and Swords to Plowshares. I also bought a really, really budget R/G deck so I could have a deck for anyone who wanted to try out the format with me. Naturally, that deck has also evolved over time and now includes Erhnam Djinns (which are silly-expensive now) and a couple Taigas (still need two more).”

I’ll finish with a pair of decks that may look familiar to the originals among us. Sanglard’s group in Toronto recreated the 1994 World Championships, back when Zak Dolan’s Stasis faced off against Bertrand Lestree’s Zoo. Stasis won Worlds, but in testing, Sanglard and his group found that, ultimately, Zoo was more consistent. Here are the lists.

Order Oath of the Gatewatch at CoolStuffInc.com today!

Limited time 30% buy trade in bonus buylist