When starting to play Magic today, people have a great variety of formats to choose from.
Want to jump into a FNM with the latest sets? Go for Standard!
Like a little more power level and finer mana bases? Enter Modern!
Think that blue is the best colour, once and for all? You might be interested in Legacy!
Want to play with the most busted cards of all time? Vintage is here for you!
But, as most people know, all these formats are the result of an evolution that began as more and more cards entered the game that the players just called “Magic” in the first place. Personally, I was not a player yet in these mysterious times, where people needed to figure out if giving your opponent life by using a Swords to Plowshares was actually a good thing. You were severly hindered in your deck building by the cards available in your playgroup and maybe even more by your negotiation skills to get that super cool Shivan Dragon from your friend. It was a time where you couldn't just pick up every new rare weeks in advance and where you encountered new ideas and strategies on a weekly basis.
Of course, nobody can turn back time to get to this point again, but it sure has a fascination of its own. That is probably one of the reasons that led a few guys from Sweden to the conclusion that playing “oldschool” Magic could be a lot of fun. They invented a format called “93/94” (sometimes “oldschool”) and the rules are pretty simple (see on the right).
Thinking about this from a modern perspective, it sounds pretty reasonable. Nobody would have proxxied up an Ancestral Recall in 1993 and played with it. You had the card or you didn't have it. You played with what you had. Also, as far as reprints go, they just don't have the same mythical aura that the oldest version of the cards have – mostly, they could be found in mass produced products after the first year of Magic and could be easily acquired back then. The cards allowed in 93/94 were hard to get **even back then**!
For sure, this format is not meant for everyone. This format is played just for the love of the old cards, the style of the old game “Magic”, and not for big tournaments or winning prizes. For many, it is just a long sought after excuse to finally aquire a playset of Juzam Djinns that they always dreamed about as a child. Well then, go for it!
I learned about 93/94 at the start of 2015 after reading some posts of MtG's oldschool blog, and was immediately fascinated. At that time I was working on a set of nine Alpha Duals (plus Beta Volcanic Island) for my cube, the first real meaningful Alpha cards that I aquired in my life. Really enjoying the hunt for Alpha cards in a nice condition and reading MG's blog, I finally found a reason to pick up other Alpha goodies, ones that were just too bad for my cube, but so iconic that I always wanted to own them. One of my very first rares as a kid was a Shivan Dragon from Fifth Edition, so I can't really say that it's amazing to own a Shivan – but to own one of 1100 Alpha Shivans ever printed is still something I'm working on and I'm excited for.
So, if you are someone who wants to play for money or prizes – or are used to just pick up a deck at a dealer in one go – this is not a format for you. If you're the type of player that is also a collector and enjoys searching and picking up cards at a one-by-one rate, then you might be at home here!
You should understand that this format was explicitly created to be “pimp”. If you ask yourself why you can't just play your 4th Edition Savannah Lions (or even worse, 8th Edition!) then just try to hold that card next to an Alpha or Beta version of the card. If you can't see the difference… well, then, I can't help you 🙂
Alright, being done with the introduction part, jumping right into the decks. “What can I play in such a limited environment?” I hear you asking. Are there even good cards apart from the Power Nine? Well, you'll certainly need to redefine “good” to understand what 93/94 decks are about. I'll try to give you an overview of what has been played in recent oldschool tournaments with a little description of what the deck does and what the most important cards are (altough it is mostly obvious). Continuing a tradition of the Swedish community, I'll post the decklists as pictures of the decks – just to emphasize once more that this is more about presentation and style than about running 2 Serra Angel or 3 in your favorite build.
Possibly the most famous (and infamous) deck in Magic history. It has all the best removal spells (Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant) as well as Counterspell and sometimes even adds Lightning Bolt to have even more board control. The strategy is “Draw, Go” and Jayemdae Tome fits nicely into that strategy. Before starting to play oldschool I didn't understand how good the Tome can be, but believe me, it is an absolute powerhouse in any control mirror. Apart from that, all the broken cards are included to do a maximum of unfair things (such as Mind Twist-ing you opponent for his full hand or Regrowth-ing a Time Walk). One of the best decks in the format.
Probably the most played deck in the format recently, as it is pretty easy to build and has a big thing going for it: Juzam Djinn. Argueably one of the most iconic creatures in Magic, being able to play a complete playset of Juzams is one of the best feelings ever. Apart from that, Sinkhole and Underworld Dreams are huge powerhouses as the format is indeed pretty slow and there is not a lot of enchantment removal available.
Be sure to play a set of Black Knights – they elegantly dodge Swords to Plowshares and Serra Angels.
A very strong aggro deck with control elements, this deck features one of the most undercosted creatures of the early days in Serendib Efreet. The djinn was even banned at one point in the early days of Magic for being just way too powerful in the early game. Also, the double playsets of Lightning (Bolts + Chains) plus some occasional Psionic Blasts add a lot of reach if the board state ever gets out of control. This deck also has one of the best sideboards in the format with Red Elemental Blast, Blue Elemental Blast, Blood Moon and Energy Flux – attacking every major archetype with the perfect answers.
This deck type was played by Bertrand Lestree in the 1994 Magic World Championships. Altough he “only” got second place, many consider this to be the best deck played that day. It's aggressive nature and, again, a lot of burn to back it up are a true force in the oldschool metagame. The keys are fast creatures to eat away a lot of your opponent's life in the early game and then use burn spells to get through the last few points after your opponent has stabilized the board. After all those years, still a tier 1 deck!
Actually, this was the deck that sold me on the oldschool format, as it just looked too good to be true. The list is copied from MG himself and I loved how flexible the deck was when I first played it. You have the absurdly powerful synergy between Guardian Beast and Chaos Orb (infinite flips!) as well as Nevinyrral's Disk, which is reuseable when combined with the Beast. The finishers might look a bit random, but the diversity helps you in a lot of situations and, most importantly, makes the deck look even sweeter!
Other decks you might encounter are
and whatever else people come up with. It's really just important that you like your deck, have nice cards and a good time!
So, I hope this gives you a nice impression of the format and what to expect. Let me know in the comments what you think about the format and the decks. I'll be in Prague simply to enjoy some Serra Angels and Juzams attacking – if you meet me, please say hello!
All the best,
“Twiedel” Marc Lanigra
Note: It's pretty tough trying to maintain the spirit of the game while also opening the format up to more players. Therefore, we think it's better to allow the use of sets like Renaissance, 4th Black Border and Revised.
Chaos Orb (2)
1, Tap: Choose a nontoken permanent on the battlefield. If Chaos Orb is on the battlefield, flip Chaos Orb onto the battlefield from a height of at least one foot. If Chaos Orb turns over completely at least once during the flip, and touches the chosen permanent, destroy that permanent. Then destroy Chaos Orb.