A case for budget oldschool

Old school’s entry barrier is getting ugly in 2021, prices tripled since 2018 and people who are in their 30s and 40s fulfill their affluent dreams of getting long Moxen et al. as an alternative asset to counter inflation. But besides the physical joy of playing 500€ or 1000€ bills of card board there is some oddness creeping in, when you recognize that the format of your youth has become a bitcoinish bazaar. Especially when playing against old school neophytes who deem proxies unacceptable and proudly play their budget decks, only to notoriously lose against powered decks, so I get the impression to have an unfair advantage.

And while the SWE ABU4K hall of fame is limited and beyond reach even for the affluent middle agers, who prefer to buy houses for those sums, even the hobby ATL gates are getting heavier to crack these days. In early 2021 any decently ATL powered deck version including a handful of Duals starts with a solid 5.000 budget.

Maybe reflecting on a budget sub-format might be a strategy to invite interested players who ‚don’t wanna sell thy organs“ for access to the game. Indeed I read about ideas to make old school accessible on a fair basis: 7point singeleton or „unrestricted only“ are interesting options.  

But instead of allocating cards to points or banning the unrestricted I’d like to introduce a third option: oldschool100: an ATL based format limited to cards whose cheapest old card frame version is double-digit in value, i.e. accessible below 100 euros on a platform. So instead of pimping up the deck with older version or black borders, builders are biased to prefer the budget version reprints for additional brewing space.

I think this could yield an interesting new meta and would like to test this, so if you are curious just join us on https://discord.gg/DDU9WZk4 and let’s organize some webcam games 🙂

What deck would you play? Mono black, mono red sligh and white weenie are obvious choices, but in that meta I guess we mightt also suddenly have a look at Tier 3 tribal themes like gobo festival and merfolk attack.

The personal choice for our oldschool100 initiation are FleaCircus vs. JuggAtog.

FleaCircus derives from a brewing session with my 10 year old son who intelligently refuses to touch my powered deck, saying he doesn’t feel at ease handling cards that cost hundreds or thousand of euros, and asked me to co-build a fast UG budget deck. We decided to run the maximum flyers on steroids and 1/1s for Pendelhaven and imitate the UG typical infect archetype by going berserk after pumping everybody up with growth and unstable mutation. My son admires Flying Men, and I always wanted to bring my two Berserk into action, so FleaCircus was born.

Jugg-Atog is just what it is: a RedMud machine head going full throttle with ManaVault. Atog takes care of the residues. Old Shivan, Granite Gargoyle are pure nostalgic flavor choices over the usual Ball Lighting, and Mechanics back-up the Atog Artifact utility strategy for the vault and late black vise.

Happy for feedback and deck pics of your oldschool100 🙂

Decktalk „Deadguy Ale“

Most of us have vivid memories of their first booster pack, or mostly starter pack in 1994, and what was revealed sometimes tied us for a color or theme forever. I do remember my French exchange student who not only made me listen to Nirvana for the first time, but showed me his UR Deck and with his magical enthusiasm convinced me to buy into the game. Off we went to the local game store and exchanged pocket money for a starter and three boosters. Wow, was I fascinated by the Shivan Dragon that roared out of the pack, and kind of frowned upon the immediate urge to trade with Vincent who absolutely wanted my Serendib Efreet. He got it, and I was guided to build my first deck. The limited card pool held some WB build for me, and I remember how cool that Hypnotic Specter was, who stole cards from my opponent before getting bolted. And Serra Angel. Sure she looked kind of queer and cheesy to a 13 year old boy, but she had vigilance (a term to be invented later) and blocked that nasty looking Efreet for good. Here it was: a first love for Black and White, that was crushed very soon: too hard to play for all that double colored mana and no clue about a solid mana base. I went on with my quest to build solid Type 1.5 decks, started to collect Duals for their weird look, learned that Serendib and Sedge Troll do have an edge, and even spotted a real Juzam Djinn in a folder. The owner asked for 80DM at that time, about 60USD in 1995 (or about 100USD adjusted for inflation in 2021). It would have been to brash to buy it for that small pocket money I had. 

In Summer 1996 I quit MTG for other adolescent adventures, but I kept my cards, all of them, neatly packed in a folder and a box, that I rediscovered in 2011, thoroughly fascinated again. In early 2018 my old friends from school, now all settled men, delved into old school magic, and hey: even when our start was Revised or Foreign unlimited edition and our P9 are mostly from IE and CE, we’re deep in love with the format and organized the (EC rules) Miracle Worker cup in Frankfurt/Germany when live magic was possible.

Still today I do love the WB color combo that in the 2000s years got dubbed Deadguy Ale, apparently. I don’t know who coined the term, and if someone out there has some anecdote for me I’d be most grateful to read it. WB for me ist a perfect combination of the best disruption and removal that Old School can offer. And some version of Deadguy Ale, I learned, is known in every format, from Old School, to Legacy, to Modern, to Premodern. 

It surly rocks and delivers as a sturdy Midrange deck, with #sinkhole #hymntotourach and #hypnoticspecter as disruptive forces, #disenchant #swordstoplowshares as sweet removal and some #sengirvampire #underworlddreams and #su-chi beef for your opponent to chew. 

Add the notorious #stripmine and #mishra’sfactory playsets and off we go. 

The only weak point to my perception is what most mid-range decks lack: speed (only delivered through Dark Ritual) – do you guys see or experience other weaknesses? 

The sideboard – besides the CoPs and Divine Offerings and Terror – holds some surprise action in form of #disruptingscepter #kismet and #icymanipulator that I am eager to test against The Deck.

Thank you for reading and I am most open for any feedback, notably: who played some sort of Deadguy Ale and wants to share his thoughts?

Besides Juzam Djinn – obviously – what do you guys think are good options and add-ons for your preferred #deadguyalemtg ?

Decktalk „A Void Thing“

Lately I got thoroughly fascinated with Nether Void and did some research on deck options. As I cultivate a secret crush for underdog color combo Green and Black since my youth, it was decided to assemble a Golgari Void deck. And  oh boy, if old schoolers have a natural tendency to pity non-Blue brews for lack of Power, this one here will teach them a lesson: Void Thing has flavor and impact!

Let’s start with the name giving card: Nether Void puts everything in disorder and most decks will not be amused once every spell they play is countered unless 3 colorless are paid. Playsets of Crumble and Ice Storms don’t make their lives easier, and also handle the notorious Mishra’s.

Talking Mishra’s: Together with Uncle Juzam they make for a nasty win con, supported by 4 Black Vise that really start to hurt once the Void is set and the hand fills up with cards. If you get locked by your own Void which happens regularly, make sure to ditch an Ivory Tower and enjoy the Life Point breeze while building up your mana base with help of Sylvan Library.

I came to reduce my Removal ratio Main Board as the local meta tends to make creatures a rare breed, and opted for 1 Maze of Ith (1-2 more in SB) and 2 Drop of H(oney) – the latter being such a brilliant answer to Aggro… „come lick the honey weenie“

And the ultimate fun card? Storm Seeker! Bam!! 1 Main Board and 2 Side Board are set. Why? Besides creatures and Black Vise it is a third damage source, a surprise finisher that no one expects and… such a nasty move after opponent casts his Ancestral.

Other Sideboard options besides Maze of Ith and Storm Seeker might be Gloom against White, Terror against creatures, Scavenger Folk against artifacts and Erhnam Djinn in case Uncle Juzam needs some help.

3rd Miracle Worker Cup on March 23, 2019 – rise up and ramble on


Hey old school folks,

come celebrate the spirit of the olde cards at the 3rd Miracle Worker Cup, a premier casual MTG Old School tournament hosted by oldschoolarena.com.

Discover the benefits of the rambling new Atlantic format and enjoy the non competitive non discriminating atmosphere of friend- and companionship where crazy and creative deck builds rule the house.

Format: Atlantic Old School Sets, Rules and Ban/Restriction list apply.

Special: Proxies allowed without limits, regardless whether Revised, Italian Legends, 4th Edition, IE/CE or DIY Print-outs, original artwork recommended though.

Style: Swiss-system tournament, 4 rounds minimum

Fee: 2€

Trophy for the winner: one original altered The Dark Miracle Worker signed by all tournament players.

Trophy for most creative deck: one original altered Glasses of Urza.

Venue: Ginnheimer Höhe Pub

Adress: Diebsgrundweg, 60487 Frankfurt am Main

Timing: 23rd of March 2019 tournament starts at 2pm sharp. Please bring a Deckphoto on your smartphone for post-tourney documentation purposes.

Registration: until March 22 via email to jerome[at]oldschoolarena.com

About: the 3rd Miracle Worker Cup is hosted by the Frankfurt Germany MTG Old School Community Blog oldschoolarena.com and is a non-sanctioned private event for friends and fans of the 9394 MTG format.

To ensure highest quality deck builds and relieve all players from desperate urge to sneak counterfeits into their Decks we decided after thorough reflection to go with the adage of Liga Catalunya de Old School and allow „Proxies sin Limite“.

For those who’ve got the Power: Be humble, welcome the new players, fathom the chance to play in a creative and non-discriminating environment, where skills outperform wealth.

For those without significant 9394 card pool: be bold, get inspiration on Wak-Wak, let creativity free flow and build your favourite deck.

As we favor the true and old flavor of the 9394 era of MTG we value creativity and fun over competitiveness and discrimination in this tournament, so besides Proxies and casual table talk we don’t mind a few beers neither.

Registration is open and we’re happy to have you taking part in the 3rd Miracle Worker Cup on 23rd of March 2019

Decktalk „LockAtog“

Lately Atog Decks have become en vogue, so I’d like to grant the Old School community an Atog architecture that has some special twist: the LockAtog.

Personally I think it is the Italians who made Atog decks great again, and while we continue to see lots of Atog brews where the strategy built around our lil‘ red brownie muncher focuses on the so called „smash“ theme with Juggernauts, Su-Chi, Triskelion and a decent burn suite, we witnessed a slightly different approach from Valerio at Noobcon X where he landed Top 8 with his SerendibAtog build, tuning a traditionally mono red artifact architecture with Psi Blast, Effreets and blue power spells.

When I started thinking about an Atog theme a couple of weeks ago I was especially inspired by a good friends prison deck and his mighty and notoriously hated Winter Orb / Relic Barrier combo – a combo that could easily be played in the low mana curve Atog deck I was about to design.

The good thing about Atog decks are the diversified damage sources: artifacts, creatures and burn spells. An opponent will have difficulties handling all of them, so you attack from different angles in early game and install a late game lock to stop your opponent and buy enough time to draw the finisher, i.e. Atog or cheap burn.

Artifacts first: with the help of Moxes, Lotus and 2 Mana Vault one or two early round Black Vise can be quite common here; together with an early Ankh of Mishra those cards alone will easily eat half of your opponents life. Then it’s time for a Su-Chi before getting your Winter Orb / Relic Barrier lock in place.

Meanwhile an Atog might show up and say a frightening „hulloh!“ – of course your opponent will send him to exile or burn him, but in late game we might have one of his siblings, and when he comes… he comes big thanks to the 4 or 5 Artifacts on your side

LockAtog proved to be quite versatile against control as well as aggro decks. A decent sideboard might include REBs, Shatters, Blood Moons, Earthquakes, a Fireball and – depending on your adversary – even Howling Mines that work well with Relic Barrier too.

Decktalk „The Rodeo Deck“

How can you balance aggressiveness and responsiveness, vehemence in killing and creativity in staying alive? How is a deck possible that is non-linear enough to be full of forward options and defensive answers?

Finding answers to these questions led to building the „Rodeo“ deck: a White & Green body that is strengthened with artifacts and a basic red burn suite – and optionally refined with black and blue power splashes.

At its very core „Rodeo“ works as White Green red mid-range deck, where you hold fast with cheap removal and build ground with a broad Mana base to bring out your midrange beaters and your opponent to his knees in the late game.

Starting with the body or core of the deck: 3 Erhnam Djinns and 3 Serra Angels form an army with a play set of mighty Su-Chi to steadily make your opponent fall. But you will have to stay alive until that army builds.

We have Sylvan Library and the tome for tuning your draw step and indispensable white removal to keep early threats at bay.

A broad mix from Duals, Fellwar Stones, Moxen and Lotus helps to develop your mana base while red burn spells harmonize the balance between defense and offense.

In recent play testing this deck earned its name „Rodeo“ for holding fast while White Weenies and Black threats flooded the early board. Red burn, white power suit and Su-Chi made those aggro horses lame and tired, and even  a ratio of 5 to 28 life points had been reversed to a late game win after Rodeo took its Angels out for a fast ride home.

Variations: For those who are not (fully) powered: You can always replace Moxen with lands, and Lotus with Mana Vault. This deck also perfectly works as a 4 color variant without the blue splash by replacing Ancestral Recall and Time Walk with another Lightning Bolt and another Swords to Plowshares. Also: for the Mana Curve it could make sense to replace 2 Fellwar Stones with Birds of Paradise.





Luck, Skill and the Cards


Old School Magic is not just about the cards as we elaborated in our recent post „Posh vs. Budget“, and winning any MTG tournament is always the result of the right mix between luck, skill – and the appropriate cards in your deck.

Thus although Old School might have an entry barrier due to small supply of super rare, .ie. super expensive old cards, it is far from guaranteed that you’ll automatically end in the Top 4 only because you’re the rich pimp with all available Power cards stacked together in a deck you’ve copied from the latest Noobcon list.

Actually yesterdays local Old School trial tournament for the Magic Bazar Eternal Weekend showed quite surprising  results, that we’ll share with you today to make our point clear.

Who would have believed that a neat and clean powerless White Weenie would catch the trophy in an Old School tourney? Sure enough the navigator of this Weenie Deck is an apt MTG player who knows the rules of the game from the heart, but apparently he also knew all the tricks of his army of lil‘ creatures and how to navigate his budget deck through the mists of Powered Decks and Black brews. According to the winner it was the double main decked Land Tax that made all the difference, together with that unstoppable flood of one and two drops under Crusade.

Black indeed. Swamps quickly become the dominant land drop in Old School when Fallen Empires is included: Hymn to Tourach simply rocks the house, and we saw quite a few 1st round Hymns cast with help of Dark Ritual or Mox Jet.

The 2nd place was conquered by a CermakAttack version that successfully played 4 Psychic Purge in Sideboard to give the Black breed appropriate fodder: a Hypnotic, Hymn or Mind Twist drawing Psychic Purge resulted in 5 damage right in the face. Together with 1st round Lions and 2nd round Efreets and Psionic Blast as finisher this tournament classic was a success.

The rest of the Top 8 list was dominated by 5 Black players: ranging from brutal MachineHeads on 3rd and 4th place, a brilliant take on JuzamNetherVoid on 5th, to extreme DiscardRack on 6th and UB Tempo on 7th.

Two of the Top 8 Decks:

Winner: White Weenie

3rd place: Black red MachineHead


Decktalk „Green Machine Head“

Attempting a green Deck in Old School will often yield a smile from more seasoned players. In the Top Tiered league of UWR Skies, Juzam Dreams, The Deck and the like Green is rarely featured. Actually a pity because Green can do a lot for you. It has this perfect mix of mana ramp, big beaters and spells to protect or tune your weapons.  Nevertheless you will learn that splashing red for Burn and Sideboard Options as well as the 2 black power spells is indispensable to make Green fit for tournament.

The Deck we present today has been named „Green Machine Head“ in reference to the classy Old School Machine Head combo Juzam Djinn + Berserk. Other names this deck attracted was „Green Party Crasher“ or simply „The Green Machine“.

The core are 8 mighty fast beaters, i.e. Doc Erhnam Djinn and his artifact cousin Juggernaut, two 4 mana creatures you will most likely drop in turn 2 or 3 at latest thanks to the power of ramp: 4 Llanowar Elves, 2 Birds of Paradise, 1 Elves of Deep Shadow as well as Moxes, Lotus and/or Mana Vault.

With the help of 4 Giant Growth and 2-3 Berserk your Green Machine gets awfully big and will destroy everything that comes in the way, or just reduce your opponents life total to 0 in minutes. 1-2 Avoid Fate might prove useful to defend your Juggernaut who notoriously attracts Disenchant and Lightning Bolt.

The 2 Spitting Slugs proved to be essential: as 3 drops they perfectly fit the mana curve, they are Lightning Bolt prove and they will easily block Mishra’s Factory, White/Black Knights and Kird Apes.

Finally a small collection of basic red burn spells as well as Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist are included to harmonize the Deck.

At the latest tournament the „Green Machine Head“ landed Top 4.

Posh vs. Budget: Old School is playable without the Power9

Old School Magic is for everybody, but many people shy away from the format thinking they must invest some 7 to 10.000 bucks to build a decent deck. Let’s be frank: while playing the Power9, LoA and the like may give you a natural edge (and a lot of fun), it is by no means the conditio sine qua non for an initiation into the world of Old School Magic.

So before swapping your retirement plan from stocks to Black Lotus (and feeling reluctant to play it for fear of card loss/damage), the authors of this blog encourage budget deck building to attract more MTG players to this charming format. As a matter of fact – if technically possible – we will always try to show a budget alternative when we discuss a deck in our Decktalk blog posts. And for a start we will show how you can quite easily replace (or handle) most of the power cards and still build a competitive deck:

Budget Replacements

Black Lotus / Mana Vault

Black Lotus, the most expensive and iconic of all Magic cards… okay let’s try to put the fascination and buzz aside, we know it’s hard to do, but let’s have a rational thought here: yes, a first round Lotus plus land drop can basically be enough to win a game, but at its base a Lotus is a bigger Dark Ritual with open colour choice, so it’s a huge ramp into something big or a play to diversify your spells.

On the other side if a Lotus is drawn at a later stage sometimes the same play might eventually be replaced by a Mana Vault that had been played one round earlier. So basically it’s round two ramp into Juggernaut instead of first round Juzam Djinn, and it’s the same when it comes to boost your Fireball or Mind Twist.

Yeah, most of the times it is far from equivalent but we recommend players to replace Lotus with Mana Vault in a budget deck.

Mox / Land

Again, let’s put the fascination aside: after all a Mox is a land that doesn’t count as a land. Thus it will always be a great first turn to play land and Mox to go into White Knight, Sinkhole, Hymn… Fellwar Stone is just no alternative here and just loses when compared.

But when we assume your Mox shows up in turn 5 it’s a different story and a land will do the same job. Fellwar stone might or might not work here, depending if you share the colour with your opponent, so in the end our budget players don’t really replace a Mox with Fellwar Stone, and we recommend players to replace Mox with Land, especially when building an aggro deck

Juzam Djinn / Juggernaut

A lightly played Juzam Djinn cost under 300€ a couple of years ago. In 2018 you must pay over 700€ for the same condition. Something is very broken in the market, and there are even rumors that a bunch of people are cornering the market by buying all available Juzams outright to increase the value. So most of the Old School Players who want to build a Mono Black or Machine Head Deck, will never be able to afford a Juzam.

Here comes his little nephew Juggernaut, and he has some good aspects indeed: Juggernaut is The Abyss, King Suleiman, Protection from Black and CoP: Black prove while Juzam is not, Terror won’t remove him (same as Juzam), as an artifact he is totally mana flexible – and he costs a fraction from what you pay for his big Black Uncle.

Of course Lightning Bolt and Disenchant will kill him, and a White Knight in Crusade will stop him, while he must attack, but overall we think he is a good replacement for the Djinn.

Other Posh versus Budget replacements

Timewalk / Mana Short

Timetwister / Wheel of Fortune

Handling broken cards

Ancestral Recall / Fork

Playing Ancestral Recall gives a huge advantage or brings you back in the game after a Hymn or Mind Twist. It is one of the greatest top decks and maybe the most iconic one drop. It is the perfect reason to play or at least splash blue in every deck, so you can be pretty sure to meet Ancestral Recall more than once in tournament. Thus for a budget player, we recommend to main deck Fork and/or Red Elemental Blast in order to participate in the card spree –  or just counter it.

LoA / Stone Rain, Blood Moon, Sinkhole

„The Library wins games“, is the laconic answer you always hear after being beaten by an early LoA play. It is next to impossible to catch up with a talented player who knows how to use it. That is exactly the reason we recommend budget players to build some LoA insurance in their decks, i.e. a couple of Stone Rain, Blood Moon, Sinkhole, Ice Storm, especially in the European Old School formats where Strip Mine is restricted.


It is not a prerequisite to own the Power9 in order to succeed at Old School Magic. Although it is much more fun and you feel so mighty potent with a Mox and an Ancestral Recall in your deck, we have seen budget Goblin decks smash the choreography of The Deck with as much fun and potency. Budget players might always feel a bit handicapped, but the satisfaction resulting from a won match against some power player is a far bigger reward.

Rules: describing a format, defining a standard

Old School Magic is a non licensed and mostly casual format that was born in 2007 in Sweden, and slowly but steady took to other countries. In the last two years the interest in this charming format rocketed (with prices for the old cards doubling and tripling in value) and today we have established Old School communities in Scandinavia, the USA, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Belgium, and a nascent community in Germany.

While other MTG formats like Modern or Legacy have official rules from Wizards of the Coast / DCI, the Old School universe remains quite autonomous, so basically every community has variations and their own sub-standard. While the more orthodox communities would only allow Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends and the Dark, the most liberal end of the spectrum additionally allows not only Fallen Empires, but all kinds of later reprints (same artwork though). With the prices of ABU cards skyrocketing and touching ridiculous levels, there is increasing pressure from newcomers to allow even IE/CE or DIY proxies in order to participate in this great game.

Nevertheless as the formats cradle is Sweden, the Old School Mtg blog acts as an orthodox reference for most of the European communities. Although being very strict in defining the format, they have done a great deal in nurturing not only their own format with a constantly evolving ban/restriction list that serves as blueprint for most of us, but also in describing the variations of the format, i.e. Ravenna Rules, EC Rules etc.

As the authors of this blog are part of a local German Old School community with their own liberal variation of the format, you will find pictures of decks with cards from 93/94 (sometimes including Fallen Empires) with reprints from Revised/FWB/FBB, 4th edition, Chronicles and Renaissance.

For tournament purposes we created the mighty Miracle Worker Cup – a non-sanctioned private tournament format in Frankfurt that is based on the Atlantic Rules set, but would allow proxies without limits in order to not discriminate players who don’t have access to significant 9394 card pools,  to encourage highest quality deck engineering and to build a solid and diversified meta game.