An Old School Limited format tournament report

6 plucky Old School Magic pioneers spent one Saturday afternoon/evening drafting a cube using cards exclusively from the original Magic set (Alpha/Beta/Unlimited). Old School draft using only original Magic cards you say?



The various machinations of Old School constructed, often known as 93/94, are collectively regarded as the best constructed environment in Magic by those that play it. This is due to factors including, but not limited to: (i) the wonderful blend of 23-year-old (and counting) powerhouse cards with 23-year-old obscure cards which have not seen competitive play in 22 years; (ii) the format representing a huge nostalgia trip for many players; and (iii) a generally mature player-base full of good sportsmanship, where sharky angle-shooting is actively discouraged and where play is competitive but without being overly competitive.

Now imagine trying to create such a wonderful ethos in a Limited environment – how would one go about this? Well luckily for me, my good friend Scott has given this some serious thought, and came up with an Old School viable draft format.


Effectively it is an Alpha/Beta/Unlimited cube – which takes one of every card in the original set, but with a few twists and modifications to enable it to function in Limited play.

  1. Upping the numbers – The Beta set is 302 cards – however to have an 8-pod draft – we need 360 cards. This means that a number of key uncommons and commons have been repeated to build up the numbers.
  2. Consistency amongst card types and colours – Another consequence of increasing the number of key cards, is that archetypes can be made more consistent, colours can be balanced and key aspects of limited Magic (for example removal) can be made more of a feature of the draft environment. However as a rule there are never more than 3 of a certain card.
  3. Removing unplayable cards – The 5 ‘Lace’ cards (Chaoslace, Deathlace, Lifelace, Purelace and Thoughtlace) and Helm of Chatzuk were removed from the draft set on the basis that they are awful and unplayable.

Example of changes include:

  • 2 copies of key creatures in each colour, like: Water Elemental, Serra Angel, Craw Wurm, Fire Elemental and Sengir Vampire.
  • 3 copies of key removal like Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares and Terror.
  • 3 copies of ‘core’ creatures at common to help archetypes curve out, including Benalish Hero, Prodigal Sorcerer, Llanowar Elves, Hurloon Minotaur and Dredge Skeletons.

Full credit to Scott who had built up this draft environment based on a Magic Collectors Edition set and a trusty Excel spreadsheet! Scott had even recreated the original pack design from the ABU booster packs, urging players to visit the ‘shores of imagination’. Our draft was then complimented by a playlist of pop ‘anthems’ that had permeated the British pop charts in 93/94!


Draft Report 1

Sitting down, I had a broad idea of what I wanted to do. I knew that creatures were vital in a format that is going to have fairly minimal removal, and that evasion was probably more important than elsewhere. I thumbed the three ‘boosters’ – a set of three small resealable plastic pouches, each with 15 lovingly double-sleeved cards inside. Then the moment came and the first pack was “cracked”. I flicked through the cards looking for playables… Healing Salve, Ley Druid, War Mammoth…

And then suddenly there it was, staring back at me… the Black Lotus! In an instant I knew I had to take it – the icon, the most valuable card in the set. But was it the best card in this pack, let alone the set? An absence of fatties or removal (my rudimentary strategy) told me “yes” and I snapped it up.

From there on I was able to form a reasonable BR deck, taking a Nightmare second pick and then a Fire Elemental soon after. I padded this with some good value creatures lower down the curve – Black Knight, Orcish Artillery and Hypnotic Spectre. Later in the draft I took two Sengir Vampires and managed to table Sedge Troll and Badlands – leaving me with an effective deck!

I found that I was being cut primarily on Green and Blue, so saw little ramp or pure control cards like counter magic or Icy Manipulator effects, for example.

My removal suite was reasonable – I ended up with a Chaos Orb, (which Old School has taught me how to flip to a reasonable success rate of around 85%!) Fireball and Weakness. I also had some card draw in a Howling Mine, off-colour ramp in a Mox Pearl and another Old School staple – Mind Twist!

The main downside of the deck was that I saw one Lightning Bolt, where I think I took my first Sengir Vampire instead, and a sum of zero Terrors in the entirety of the draft. So my BR deck did lack one of the classic pillars!

My first draft deck – RB midrange

Match 1 – 1-1-1 vs . UB midrange

My first game was against Graham who had drafted a deck with zombies, tricks and little removal.

Game one itself was someone one-sided- after an even start I was able to take control with a Black Lotus into a Two-Headed Giant of Foriys to repel Graham’s zombies. I was then able to get over the line with my fliers and a swamp-walking Bog Wraith.

Game two saw me board in my Smoke, anticipating more zombie hordes. I deployed this threat early, and we were so in a board-stall, with my Bog Wraith chipping away for three a turn.

This time however Zombie Master also appeared and we were soon in a race between a swamp-walking Scathe Zombies on his side and a Bog Wraith on my side.

The tide then turned again as Versuvan Doppleganger came down, followed my the tempo play of Unsummon on my Wraith.

Action from game two

45 minute rounds, and some distraction in helping our friends work out how Raging River worked (!) meant that there was little time for game 3. I felt that my deck had the upper hand in the skies. Whereas Graham had me beat in the swamp! But we will never know….

Match 2 – 2-1 vs GW midrange

My opponent Matt had been lamenting his draft deck from roughly the third pick! But it later emerged that he had once played in the Pro Tour, and was an ex-GPT/PTQ grinder (for about 18 months, 8 years ago, or thereabouts) – so clearly he was used to better things (or didn’t windmill slam a Black Lotus…)

I took game one after establishing a solid board presence of Sengir Vampire and Two-Headed Giant – to trump his War Mammoth and Grizzly Bears!

Game two saw my opponent ramp a Force of Nature into play using Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves, as I developed with Dragon Whelp. Facing down and 8/8 trample I was able to make the race interesting by Fireballing the two mana producers, leaving my opponent with only two Forests and thus unable to avoid taking 8 from his Force of Nature!

On the pivotal turn my opponent put me to 7, however was facing lethal, on 10 life himself and without the mana to pay Force of Nature’s upkeep cost! However there was, of course, a contingency: deploying a Serra Angel. I had been holding a Chaos Orb in my hand for such a threat , and my plan from then on was very simple. I simply needed to destroy Serra Angel, attack with Dragon Whelp for 5 (owing to a likely Healing Salve!) and then let Force of Nature do the rest…

…I positioned the Serra Angel ready for the fateful flip and dispatched my Orb to the table at a pretty decent pace! It connected perfectly with the centre of the card – but the Orb was in mid-revolution as it hit! As such its momentum continued after the initial impact and it slid off the Angel, coming to its final resting place about 0.5 cm from the edge of the target!

Onto game 3 – we did not have much time – but I was able to overwhelm my opponent’s smaller creatures with an early Hurloon Minotaur, Fire Elemental and then a Black Lotus into Sengir Vampire, before Fireballing a Serra Angel and swinging for the win.

Match 3 – 2-0 vs RG Aggro

Both games were almost identical- my opponent’s fast start neutralised by my bigger creatures on the ground (Sedge Troll and Two-Headed Giant) before Sengir Vampire finished him off in the air.

My opponent remarked that his Giant Spider wasn’t really enough as the sole resistance for flying creatures…

Early-game action from RG aggro (my round three opponent) vs. UR counterburn

This article has been split into two parts, the second will contain another draft and my thoughts on the Oldschool card pool and how that interacts with drafting and cube.

Richard Stebbing

Richard Stebbing
Richard started playing Magic in the 1990s, first opening packs of Ice Age. He is a big collector of old and interesting cards and when time permits is a Eternal Magic and Cube enthusiast. He enjoys decks where you can cast Delver and/or Gush and his most notable finish was making the top 4 in BoM Annecy’s 2016 Vintage event.
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6 thoughts on “King of Drafts: Part One

  1. Any chance we could get a full list of changes made to get from the 302 cards in beta to the 360 cards needed for a cube?

    1. Hi Niko – thanks for the comment. I’ll work with the cube’s curator to get a new article on this topic written up over Christmas – so watch this space!


    1. Hi Gunnar

      Thanks for your comment. Whilst there are some times when Banding can be good, we found the Helm to be rather clunky and situational, so decided to take it out. A secondary consideration is just how bad a mechanic Banding is from a playability perspective!

      But I would love to hear of your experiences if you have found differently/found the power of the Helm!

      Best wishes

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