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.

Baltimore Old School 93/94

We use 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:

  • 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

Baltimore Revised 40

An explanation of the deck construction choices is below.

Baltimore R40 Deck Construction

Your deck must be at least 40 cards, with a 5-card sideboard (if you wish to use one). Decks may have a maximum of 10 uncommons and 5 rares (as printed in revised). 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.

Reprints Policy

Use any printing you want — but it you don’t use Revised, you’re probably not playing in the Spirit of the Format.

The following cards are restricted to a maximum of 1 of each card per deck in Baltimore Revised 40:

  • Balance
  • Braingeyser
  • Channel
  • Demonic Tutor
  • Mind Twist
  • Regrowth [recommended for removal]
  • Sol Ring
  • Wheel of Fortune

The following cards are banned in Baltimore Revised 40:

  • Contract from Below
  • Darkpact
  • Demonic Attorney

Recommended Ruleset

  1. Mana burn is in effect. If you take no other rules from this list, take this one, as the functionality of some cards is affected.
  2. Tapped creatures do not deal combat damage.
  3. Cards printed as the card type “Interrupt” in Revised can be responded to only with another Interrupt. This is not split second from the modern rules, but you could think of it as a miniature “stack within the stack.” This should be intuitive enough to work with the current ruleset.
  4. You can play “tapped artifacts turn off” if you like, but it is remarkably difficult to construct a situation where this rule will come into play. See if you can figure out what it is!

Atheros, of the Northern Paladins, created a wonderful version of Revised 40, a format where you play 40-card decks made to mimic opening the “perfect” starter deck and three boosters (Revised starters had two rares). There is another version of R40 whose only restriction is that you play 15 different cards besides your basic lands.

Some explanations on why I chose to create another ruleset for an extremely niche format:

I agree with many of the choices in Atheros’s version of R40 linked above, but have some issues. The biggest choice I have a bone to pick with is is unlimited commons. The first change this necessitated was upshifting Lightning Bolt to uncommon, which can be a little strange to explain. A major problem is that some commons are strictly better than other choices — for instance, Kird Ape is better than any other common creature in the format, and better than many of the uncommons — and the unlimited commons rules with no sideboards can often lead to stale play from some of the most competitive decks. One the one hand, it’s truly awesome that a creatureless deck that wins with Psychic Venom exists, and R40 is one of the only formats where that can be played. On the other hand, there are some decks that can’t win a game against it, which becomes very uninteresting quickly.

But in the end my primary reason for opposing unlimited commons is that the 4-of rule was in effect when revised was printed, and logically, if we’re mimicking the idea of opening the ideal starter and three boosters to get to five total rares, then you are only getting four of any common anyway. (Although I was unable to find the exact date, the 4-of rule predates the banned and restricted list; it almost predates tournament magic, period.)

To keep things consistent and as simple as possible to explain to newcomers, I’ve adopted the standard 4-of rule (instead of the 3-of rule for uncommons and commons) but kept the 5 rares and 10 uncommons for power balancing reasons. If the extra uncommons prove problematic we can always reinstate the 3-of rule. It turns out that in a 40 card deck, drawing a copy of a 3-of has a slightly higher probability than drawing a copy of a 4-of in a 60-card deck.

My second bone to pick was the lack of any sideboard whatsoever. While 15 cards is clearly too much, the bottom line is that some decks only need one or two spells in their sideboard to keep a matchup from being totally lopsided. Therefore, I’ve decided to try allowing a 5-card sideboard.

Finally, I will offer a ruleset that’s a compromise between the very difficult to implement rules from the Revised Rulebook and the modern rules.

So with that in mind:

96PT: 1996 Type 2

I wrote a whole post about this format and will not reiterate the reasoning, except to note that it’s designed to be inexpensive and accessible, different enough from Old School while keeping many of the common cards from the era, and to allow budget players access to a better manabase (one that arguably corrects the design mistake of the original dual lands). The rules, however, are summarized here:

Deck Construction Rules

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. You must play a minimum of 5 cards from each legal expansion (not including basic lands).

Legal Sets:

  • Fourth Edition
  • Chronicles
  • Fallen Empires
  • Ice Age
  • Homelands
  • Alliances

Reprint Policy:

Use whatever you want. Bonus points if it’s gold bordered!

The following cards are restricted to a maximum of 1 of each card per deck in PT96:

  • Balance
  • Channel
  • Ivory Tower
  • Mind Twist

The following cards are banned in PT96:

  • All Ante Cards

Watch List:

  • Strip Mine for Restriction [Historical]
  • Land Tax for restriction [Historical]
  • Necropotence to be restricted
  • Black Vice for restriction [Historical]
  • Force of Will to be restricted (if control decks prove overbearing)
  • Channel or Mindtwist to be moved to the Banned List [Historical]

Ruleset Suggestions:

  1. Mana burn is in effect. If you take no other rules from this list, take this one, as the functionality of some cards is affected.
  2. Tapped blockers do not deal combat damage.
  3. Cards printed as the card type “Interrupt” in Revised can be responded to only with another Interrupt. This is not split second from the modern rules, but you could think of it as a miniature “stack within the stack.” This should be intuitive enough to work with the current ruleset.
  4. Tapped Artifacts are turned off.

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.

Errata

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

Chaos Orb
2
Artifact
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
2B
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.

Ruleset

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.