Oldschool Team Rochester Draft

The other week I got to sling physical OS Magic for the first time in almost exactly a year. Sure, there's been a few one-on-one games with e.g. Hardy since last August, but any kind of group gathering had been sorely lacking. But suddenly local hero Thomas Nilsen wanted to entertain a slow Thursday evening, and the whole pandemic thing appeared to be on the back burner. So he turned on the bat signal and invited some local nerds to his place for OS cube drafting.

Thomas's Cube is a sweet one. I've played a handful different non-proxy OS cubes (belonging to e.g. Berlin, Brorsan, Oldschool-Viktor, and Kalle), but Thomas's is probably the most oldschool of them all. Fully black bordered, with only A/B The Gathering and the four horsemen (i.e. Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends and The Dark). So no fancy new-fangled Fallen Empires with their complicated copyright line and expertly saturated dot-gain. We're Year One oldschool here; August 1993 to August 1994. A few other notable things with the cube are

  • No Library of Alexandria. This is basically just good etiquette for OS Cubes. Mind Twist, Sol Ring and Ancestral Recall are all fair game, but Library is just too stupid in this kind of limited card pool.
  • Two of each dual. I believe Berlin was the original mastermind of having two of each dual in OS Cubes, and I just love it. It makes building two-color decks (or perhaps splashing a third color) viable draft options.
  • Three City of Brass. Again, thumbs up. I think having three (or even four) City of Brass makes it a far more interesting draft experience. Being able to cast cards is neat.

If one is to leave the house to finally play some physical cards, a cube like this is a spectacular excuse.

Six heroes gathered at Thomas's place on the short notice, which made us a perfect number for Team Rochester Draft. It is a wildly sweet way to play Magic.

Rochester Draft is one of the oldest Magic formats, with roots way back in the 93/94 era. I suspect it was the first formalized draft format. Rochester Draft was named after the city of Rochester, NY, where the format was first introduced at a gaming convention.

Via AskWizards

I've also recently learned that oldschool cubes present a fiscally responsible way to enjoy these kind of retro drafts, as sealed '93 era Magic products are a bit expensive these days.


In Rochester Draft, instead of each player opening his or her own pack, one booster is opened for the whole group. The fifteen cards are laid out on the table, with all information visible to everyone. After everyone has looked at the cards, players take turns picking one card at a time to build their decks. The last player to pick a card from a booster ("the wheel") gets two picks, and then the pick order continues back in the opposite direction. When the pack is gone, the guy who had the second pick on the last pack gets first pick on the new one, and so on.

The single biggest difference between normal booster draft and Rochester draft is the amount of information available to everyone. Other notable differences are that Rochester drafting takes a bit more time than ordinary drafting, and that the draft itself is an even more social experience.

In a six-man Team Rochester, two teams of three people are formed, and players will try to pass as useful cards as possible to their team mates (in addition to opting their own deck). As the team mates are free to communicate (and all information is open), Team Rochester can be a nice approach for someone new to the draft format, as they can get real-time coaching and help with their picks.

As I am a bit of a n00b, I forgot to take a picture of my draft deck to show off here. I ended up with a pretty sweet powerless black deck with a small blue splash. My first enemy was Audun who had drafted some sort of weird Audun-deck with a bunch of Diamond Valley and Bazaar of Baghdad shenanigans. Lots of cool things, but I went turn one swamp, ritual, Hypnotic Specter in the first match and curved out with non-fancy disruption in the second.

To flex some additional prowess for the team I also got to fight Gaute. Here my deck somehow went into full constructed-mode and went Strip Mine -> The Rack -> Sinkhole -> Hypnotic Specter. "Magic is a fair game where the best player always wins", as my old friend Flax used to say.

All in all, this was a splendid gathering of fine cards and finer people. And I am so much looking forward to having a pub meetup routine here in Oslo again. 'Til then, may all our first picks be Chaos Orbs.


  1. Is the full cube card list published somewhere?

    1. I believe this is Thomas's current list: https://www.cubetutor.com/visualspoiler/77671


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