Deck Construction Rules: Old School Baltimore

This is a casual playgroup, so players may show up to regular meetings with whatever they want, but these deck construction rules are for the formats collectively known as “Old School.” If the group hosts a tournament event, it will use one of these formats.

This group is a work in progress and this page may change periodically.

We will be using deck construction rules similar to those that Eternal Central has set up, with some more broad inclusion.

Your deck must be at least 60 cards, with a 15-card sideboard (if you wish to use one). Except for basic lands (Forest, Island, Plains, Mountain, and Swamp) and those cards on the banned or restricted lists below, a maximum of four of an individual card may be used in the deck and sideboard combined. There is no maximum deck size, but you must be able to shuffle your deck without assistance.

Sets Allowed: 93/94

  • Alpha/Beta/Unlimited
  • Antiquities
  • Arabian Nights
  • Fallen Empires
  • Legends
  • The Dark
  • The promotional cards Arena, Sewers of Estark, and Nalathni Dragon
  • Reprints (including Revised, Fourth Edition, Chronicles, etc.) in any language, as long as the card’s original printing was in one of the above sets.

When people refer to the “Old School” format, this is typically what they mean, but the set inclusions are not universal. Another large group based in Sweden does not use Fallen Empires.

In an attempt to make the group as egalitarian as possible:

  • Original art is strongly encouraged for this group, but not required. Just be aware that using the new card face or a different art can be distracting, which might violate the spirit of the format. Also, if you plan to play with other groups’ events, be aware that most will require the original art. (ChannelFireball is a notable exception, likely so their events can be sanctioned.) If you are choosing between two different printings when picking up new cards for your deck, you should keep this in mind.
  • Cards from the Collectors’ Editions, World Championship Decks (gold bordered cards, in sleeves), or other official products that aren’t tournament legal, and Artist proof card sketches (as long as the sketch is by the original artist of the card sketched) may be used for this group’s events and regular meetings. However, note that if we ever run sanctioned tournament, they will not be.
  • Proxies, playtest cards, and replicas may be used during regular meetings, within reason. There may be additional restrictions (e.g. number of proxies) if events or tournaments are run, and everyone should be aware that many other groups’ events don’t permit substitutions for the real thing. Any replicas, proxies, or playtest cards should be recognizably or clearly what they proxy so that games can be played smoothly. It is also recommend that you indelibly mark replicas at least on the back of the card so that they cannot be used fraudulently should they ever leave your possession. If you aren’t sure what is “reasonable” for a number of proxies, please read the Spirit of the Format. Also realize that if you are using numerous proxies without the original art, the game can get bogged down or your opponent can mistake which card is which, leading to unfair games. Always keep the spirit of the format in mind!
  • Altered cards may be used. Perhaps even encouraged!

Banned/Restricted List

We will use (for now) the Eternal Central Banned and Restricted List:

  • The following cards are banned:
    • Bronze Tablet
    • Contract from Below
    • Darkpact
    • Demonic Attorney
    • Jeweled Bird
    • Rebirth
    • Tempest Efreet
  • The following cards are restricted to a maximum of 1 of each card per deck:
    • Ancestral Recall
    • Balance
    • Black Lotus
    • Braingeyser
    • Chaos Orb
    • Channel
    • Demonic Tutor
    • Library of Alexandria
    • Mana Drain
    • Mind Twist
    • Mox Emerald
    • Mox Jet
    • Mox Pearl
    • Mox Ruby
    • Mox Sapphire
    • Recall
    • Regrowth
    • Sol Ring
    • Time Vault
    • Time Walk
    • Timetwister
    • Wheel of Fortune

Old School ’95

Ice Age and Homelands are added to the permitted sets. The promotional cards Arena, Sewers of Estark, Nalathni Dragon, Giant Badger, Windseeker Centaur, and Mana Crypt are legal.

Mana Crypt is restricted. Demonic Consultation and Necropotence are watchlisted for restriction.

This is a less-common format, but the addition of Ice Age to the card pool makes a few more archetypes possible.

Original Type 2 (OGT2)

See Timewalking for a full description of the format. The sets are limited to Revised, The Dark, and Fallen Empires. The Banned and Restricted lists are essentially the same (minus, of course, the cards that aren’t in the format).

Historically, this was the first Type 2 format and may be worth a look, especially for players without access to the cards from A/B/U, Arabian Nights, and Legends.


Chaos Orb has the following errata (wording directly from Eternal Central):

Chaos Orb
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.
(Note: because of how Chaos Orb is worded, with it being destroyed after a flip, it can still be Disenchanted or Shattered in response to the activation. This is consistent with the wording of Chaos Orb not being sacrificed upon activation, as it probably would with modern templating.)

Plague Rats
Creature – Rat
Plague Rats’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of creatures named Plague Rats on the battlefield.
A deck can have any number of cards named Plague Rats.


Current Oracle wording is used for all cards except Chaos Orb as errataed above. The modern ruleset is used with the following exception:

  1. Mana burn is in effect: At the end of each phase, when a player’s mana pool empties, they lose 1 life for each unspent mana in their pool. This rule is reinstated to restore the intended functionality of some older cards.

Alternative Older Rules

Some cards function differently under the current rule set. Interrupts, for instance, were fundamentally different from instants. Both players may agree to play a game with any of the following rules still in effect:

  1. Tapped creatures do not deal combat damage. In particular, this rule decreases the power of Mishra’s Factory, which is more powerful (possibly even problematic) in Old School than it was historically. Some cards in the format make more sense with this rule in effect, and some cards become quite a bit more powerful.
  2. Tapped Artifacts “turn off.” That is, when they are tapped, the triggered, static, and activated abilities of an artifact cannot be played. This is rule that was abandoned in 6th edition and there are several ambiguities that might arise, so both players should be familiar with play under this ruleset and have built their decks with it in mind. The rule also has a few interesting effects on deck construction the format: Mainly, there are now more ways for all colors to handle artifacts, since they can use Icy Manipulator and Relic Barrier to shut down artifacts with triggered or static abilities (such as Black Vice or The Rack). For players wondering why Icy Manipulator was such a popular answer even in aggro decks during the early days of Magic, this rule is part of the reason.
  3. The Original Stack and Interrupts: The “stack” of instants and fast effects resolves simultaneously, and Interrupts may not be responded to except with other Interrupts. Players should be aware that there are occasionally ambiguous situations that arise under this ruleset. This is quite far removed from most players’ experience, and even those of us who played quite a bit before 6th edition rules may have forgotten many of the subtleties and timing issues inherent in this rule. However, it does change the power levels of some cards like Giant Growth.
  4. Life totals are checked at the end of a phase. That is, you can go below 1 life as long as you have at least 1 life at the end of a phase. This rule is the reason that Mirror Universe could be used on its own as a win condition. I don’t highly recommend this rule for play, though, as it has very few interesting uses that aren’t abusive, and no cards in the format stop functioning as intended when it’s not in effect.