The “Old School” Format

Jeremy Dezani

Jeremy Dezani

Hello everybody,

On 18th and 19th August there will be the Eternal Weekend Asia in Yokohama (Japan).

To prepare for this great event, I would like to talk about Old School. Many people don’t know the rules or even the existence of this format. In this article, you will find the detail, and With the help of the specialist of the format, Pierre Canali, we will try to go deeper and explain popular decks and the metagame.

What Is Old School

Legal Sets

Banned Cards

Bronze TabletContract from BelowDarkpactDemonic Attorney Jeweled BirdRebirthTempest Efreet

Restricted (max 1 copy of each in a deck)

American List:

Ancestral RecallBalanceBlack LotusBraingeyser Chaos OrbChannelDemonic TutorLibrary of Alexandria Mana DrainMaze of IthMind TwistMox Emerald Mox JetMox PearlMox RubyMox Sapphire RecallRegrowthSol RingStrip Mine Time VaultTime WalkTimetwisterWheel of Fortune

European List Differences:

Other Limited cards

ShahrazadMishra's Workshop

Unlimited cards

Maze of Ith

Reprinted Cards

Some reprinted versions of cards from these sets are also allowed. In order for a reprint to be allowed, the following must be true:

  • It must be a non-foil card
  • It must use the pre-8th-Edition border
  • It must have art that matches the art of any version printed in the above legal sets
  • It must be a legal Magic card (no proxies, no Collector’s edition, etc.)

Allowed to Play

Serra AngelSerra AngelLlanowar ElvesLlanowar Elves

Not Allowed to Play

Serra AngelSerra AngelLlanowar ElvesLlanowar Elves

Cards may be printed in any language so long as they obey the above rules.

Mana Burn

Mana burn still applies in Old School.

Chaos Orb

Chaos Orb

《Chaos Orb》got an eratta only for this format. The new text is below:

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 lands resting on the chosen permanent, destroy that permanent. Then destroy 《Chaos Orb》.

Players are allowed a “fair flip” on 《Chaos Orb》, that means they can move the targeted card to the center of the table for the flip.

You can check the full rules here: Old School Rules


Since years, the European Metagame for the Old School Format is dominated by THE Deck. It’s a 5 color control deck which gets advantage with the help of 《Jayemdae Tome》.

Jayemdae Tome

THE Deck

Swords to PlowsharesJayemdae TomeSerra AngelCounterspell

Underworld Dreams

Recently, decks using 《Hymn to Tourach》 and 《Underworld Dreams》 appeared to counter THE Deck.

Dark RitualUnderworld DreamsHypnotic SpecterHymn to Tourach

These 2 decks are the most popular now. For the rest of the metagame we can see:

UR Burn

This is the dream deck we all used to try to build at least once and none of us could achieve it when we were kids. In Old School, the strategy of this deck is great. 8 flying creatures, burn spells and counterspells. You can usually see a copy of this deck in top 8.

Chain LightningFlying MenSerendib EfreetLightning Bolt

UW Sky

It’s the white version of UR Burn. This Aggro / Tempo deck runs 《Savannah Lions》, flyings, 《Swords to Plowshares》 and counterspells. One of the biggest points of the deck is having access to 《Circle of Protection: Red》 in the sideboard and not being too scared to play 《City in a Bottle》. You can play 《City in a Bottle》 in the sideboard against 《Kird Ape》, 《City of Brass》, and 《Serendib Efreet》, assuming sideout of 2 copies.

Swords to PlowsharesSavannah LionsSerendib EfreetCounterspell

Disco Troll

Having some other permanents, the deck is mainly counting on 《Sedge Troll》 who can regenerate himself, and this enables to get clear advantage with 《Nevinyrral's Disk》. It is a great control deck but probably less powerful than THE Deck.

Maze of IthSedge TrollNevinyrral's DiskCounterspell

RG Aggro

Probably the fastest deck in the format. Small creatures supported by Burn and Boost spells are like berserks. It’s a great deck but fragile against decks with a lot of removals. It’s possible to splash blue for 《Serendib Efreet》, 《Ancestral Recall》, 《Timetwister》, 《Braingeyser》, and 《Time Walk》 instead of the Boost spells to make it more consistent, but it will decrease the speed.

BerserkKird ApeArgothian PixiesGiant Growth

White Weenie

It’s a classic ! Fast and consistent that can win a game just by playing 《Armageddon》at the right moment. The deck is very weak to 《Earthquake》, but this card is only played by UR Burn and Blue Moon.

CrusadeWhite KnightThunder SpiritSwords to Plowshares

Mono Red Atog

It’s a mono red artifact deck with 《Blood Moon》, 《Mishra's Workshop》, 《Triskelion》, 《Juggernaut》, 《Su-Chi》, and 《Atog》. The deck is nice but missing Blue spoilers.

Su-ChiBlood MoonAtogJuggernaut

The rest of the metagame is about some interesting combo decks. If you are interested in it, you can find more ideas and details here: Old School Decks

Eternal Weekend Europe 2018 (Paris, France)

During this weekend, 45 players fought for the title of the European Old School Champion. The happy winner was not a nameless one, but the old pro-player Pierre Canali.

Image Copyright: MAGIC BAZAR

  • Name: Pierre Canali
  • Age: 35
  • Nationality: France

Occupation / Hobbies outside MTG:

Father of a 2-year old boy / travels and every kind of games.

When did you start MTG? Which set? How did you first meet the game?

In 1995 with Ice Age. My best friend introduced me Magic: The Gathering when I was 13 years old. After my first game with my 《Llanowar Elves》 and 《Craw Wurm》, I thought that I was going to play this game a long time.

Previous achievements:

About the Champion’s Old School Deck

FireballSerendib EfreetBlood MoonCounterspell

Last year, I reached the 3rd place at the same tournament with a decklist very close to this one but with more red cards. This time I chose to play mainly blue and splash red with 《Blood Moon》 maindeck.

How did the deck work?

Like every 《Blood Moon》 deck in every format, 《Counterspell》, 《Power Sink》, 《Psionic Blast》, and 《Lightning Bolt》 to dominate the early turns. 《Earthquake》 to clean the board. Then, play 《Blood Moon》 to close the game against most of the best decks of the metagame. It’s still possible to cycling the useless 《Blood Moon》 with 《Recall》, 《Wheel of Fortune》, or 《Timetwister》. You finish the game with the help of 《Serendib Efreet》 and 《Fireball》. This deck is running more lands than classic UR Burn Decks (25).

I chose this deck because:

Sideboard Utilization

Against “THE Deck”

Against “THE Deck”


Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt
Psionic Blast Psionic Blast Psionic Blast Psionic Blast


Energy Flux Energy Flux Energy Flux Energy Flux
Red Elemental Blast Red Elemental Blast Red Elemental Blast Blood Moon

Against “Underworld Dreams ”

Against “Underworld Dreams”


Blood Moon Blood Moon Blood Moon


Control Magic Control Magic Earthquake

The rest of the sideboard is very easy to use. 《Red Elemental Blast》 against Blue decks, 《Blue Elemental Blast》 against Red Decks. 《Control Magic》 and 《Earthquake》 against Aggro. 《Blood Moon》 against decks with many colors. 《Energy Flux》 against Artifact decks.

Any changes

Maybe minus 1 《Fireball》 for 1 more 《Power Sink》.

Tournament TOP 8 decks / matchups:

Quarter Final: Mono Black 《Hymn to Tourach》 Splash Blue.

Semi Final: THE Deck

Final: URG Aggro


Old School is a blast to play and its games are super interactive and interesting.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article,


p.s. Special thanks to Pierre Canali

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