93/94 by any other name

I usually try to write my posts when I'm travelling between Oslo and Gothenburg each weekend, but this time sleep took the upper hand of the ride. Currently, I have about 15 topics on my "to write"-list (apart from tournament stuff), but I still aim to update the blog about once a week. I much prefer to have a solid stream of posts throughout the year, than to simply post stuff once a day for a month and then get writers block. Also, posting once a day would be really time consuming ;)

Anyway, as I didn't do any brainstorming at the bus (I think this weeks topic were supposed to be about Goblin decks), I will "wing" this post with something completely different, and write about a topic that comes up quite a lot while discussing the Old School format; the name 93/94. People often ask why we don't allow Revised or Fallen Empires, and I'll try to answer this as good as I can.

An old Team 0-2 drop t-shirt motive. Always Juzam.
In the mid 2000s, I was a part of a fairly decent eternal team. In order to improve our general understanding of the game, we played, and tried to break, a number of odd formats. It was a lot of Mirage Block, Cap-Magic, and Ice Age going on. And we built a lot of strange decks. To make a fairly long story short, at some point early 2007 I built this deck, using only black bordered cards:

4 Erg Raiders
4 Merfolk Assassin
3 Sea Serpent
3 Dandan
2 Phantom Monster
2 Water Elemental
1 Wall of Putrid Flesh

4 Unholy Strength
3 Phantasmal Terrain
2 Unstable Mutation

4 Dark Ritual
2 Terror
3 War Barge
1 Sol Ring

10 Swamp
11 Island
1 Strip Mine

4 Cuombajj Witches
4 Frankenstein's Monster
2 Fallen Angel
2 Boomerang
2 Oubliette
1 War Barge

This is clearly not a very good deck. It is however a deck containing cards that I pretty much never even got to see when I was a kid, and the feeling of nostalgia was awesome. I would of course have preferred to have Mahamothi Djinn and Sengir Vampire over Sea Serpent and Air Elemental, but I didn't really feel that I could spend that money. At this time, I was a student trying to maintain a legacy card pool, and a beta Mahamothi was more expensive than a revised Underground Sea.

My friend Kalle liked the deck, and made an "old school" deck of his own. Kalle had a very impressive vintage collection even at that point, so we used to give my deck a handicap in the form of a handsize of 14 cards rather than 7. Kalle still won most of the time. A few people at our local gaming store Backstab looked interested in the format, and it was at this point we started to discuss which sets we should allow in an "old school" deck.

Rad dudes playing rad cards in the early days of the format
I got my first Magic cards in October 1994. Actually, it was my sister who got the cards, a starter deck of Revised, as a birthday gift from our mom. We didn't really play that much at home the first few months, but once a few friends at school picked up some cards, I was hooked. This was early 1995, in the transition period between Revised and 4th edition, and before Ice Age.

The cards you couldn't find in early 1995 felt mythical. No one at school owned any cards from The Dark or before. I really wanted cards like Goblin Wizard and Frankenstein's Monster, but I'd only read about them in magazines. Revised was everywhere, and of course Fallen Empires had been overprinted and you could buy 3 packs for 20 kr (about $1 a pack) in many stores. I once traded a Howling Mine and a Winter Orb for a single Sage of Lat-Nam, just to get a real old card, and felt great about the trade. This is why my first deck in Old School Magic contained expansions up until The Dark, but not Revised. This was old school to the huge number of players that started playing around that time.

Not pictured: New school.
Kalle had a slightly different vision at first. He started playing a few months before me (we got to know each other in 2004 btw), and he did not consider The Dark old school in the same way. In the end we kept it though, maybe because I refused to let go of my Merfolk Assassin/War Barge combo in my first deck. We also discussed Unlimited at length. On one hand, it was all reprints, but we decided to keep it anyway, as the manabase could become too expensive otherwise. At this point we obviously had no idea that there would be an international community a few years later. It's kind of amazing.

And rad players in Germany!
The name 93/94 became a mainstay first after the Gothcon calendar 2008, when the first tournament in the format was arranged (with 4 players). In the calendar, the format was simply called "93/94", and in many ways it is a much less misleading name than Old School Mtg. Many players considers Urza block, or even Psychatog, old school; it's a very subjective word.

So, we may consider our legal sets to be those that you only could find in stores during 93-94. If it was easily obtainable 1995 (such as Revised and Fallen Empires), it's not on our list. That's the name right there :)

In the end, it's all about nostalgia and your own interpretation though. If you want to play Revised (or Arena) in your local group; by all means do. The pillars of the format include a casual environment, historical eternal decks, a "build-with-what-you-own" mentality, and a huge amount of work and money to get to  your favourite builds. As long as you have that, you're doing it right, even if the Nordic players may jokingly refer to it as "proxies". I've been actively building my 2-color deck for well over year now btw, and I hope to be finished by new years 2014/2015. The journey is sweet.

Let's end the rant with a picture of triple Berserk on Serendib Efreet:



  1. I love everything about this, but wish like heck mana crypt were legal here. I know it's 1995, but totally fits the theme of nastalgia. Can't win them all, I guess. Has there ever been a push for this?

  2. I already posted about this issue on a different thread so I wont elaborate. But, no matter what I think about individual sets, I am obviously on here reading about an awesome format. I like the idea of house rules, anyway. That's real life.

    I still don't get what the Nordics deal is about the expensive cards/proxies. There weren't even any cards distributed there when I had begun playing! (I live about 20 km from WotC) :)

    You can buy a booster of Dark for $9-15, and Revised for $150-300. Which one seems more "pimp" to you?

    Anyway, I love magic and all that happened in 93/94. Thanks for the great article.

  3. If you want to play with manacrypt, you should try the Ancient format. It is about as old as 93/94 (first tournament was in 2007 I think) but allows a bit more cards than Oldschool als it runs up until Ice Age block, pretty much for the same reasons as mentioned above. After Ice Age block, it just did not feel old anymore. See www.ancientmtg.com for more info.


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