Old School Magic 96 is another fun “throwback” style format, which utilizes playing with only cards from the first four years of the game. After a period of rapid growth from 1993-1995, Magic was on its way to worldwide popularity, but one set in particular from 1996 would radically shift how the game was played moving forward.
In the summer of 1996, Wizards of the Coast unleashed Alliances on the world, and with it forever changed the face of Magic. The card Force of Will dramatically shaped how Magic was played from that point on, changing frequent lines of play and interactions. Not long after, Mirage was released, and with it came such hits as Hammer of Bogardan and the beginning of the instant speed topdeck tutor cycle (Enlightened Tutor, Mystical Tutor, etc.).
Old School 96 Rules
All Old School 96 tournaments that Eternal Central hosts will use the rules below.
Note: last updated February 1 2019, to reflect Updated Errata and Wording for Falling Star, Chaos Orb, and Ring of Ma’rûf.
Old School 96 decks may consist of cards from the sets printed in 1993-95:
Collector’s Edition (CE)
International Collector’s Edition (IE)
Chronicles & Renaissance
Additional Sets and Cards Allowed
Tournaments hosted by Eternal Central also allow all non-foil cards from the sets above, that were reprinted IN ANY LANGUAGE with the original frame and original art. So for example, a Fifth Edition Wrath of God, Time Spiral Psionic Blast, and Collector’s Edition Mox Ruby would also be legal (original frame + original art). The misprinted Revised Serendib Efreet (with Ifh-Biff Efreet’s art, and green border) is of course allowed, because it was printed in one of the original sets in 1994 (Revised). We always encourage you to seek out the oldest and coolest versions of cards you can find, but these can serve as your de facto substitutes for the cards printed in 93-94. Absolutely no proxies and fake cards allowed. Finally, the following cards that were Book Promos from 1994-1996 are also legal: Arena, Sewers of Estark, Nalathni Dragon, Giant Badger, Windseeker Centaur, and Mana Crypt (note: Mana Crypt is restricted). Arena League Promos that were printed in 1996 (Fireball, Counterspell, Disenchant, basic lands) are also legal in Old School 96.
Constructed decks must contain a minimum of 60 cards (no maximum deck size; however, you must be able to shuffle your deck with no assistance). If a player wishes to use a sideboard, it can contain up to 15 cards. With the exception of basic land cards (Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest), a player’s combined deck and sideboard may not contain more than 4 of any individual card, counted by its English card title equivalent.
The following cards are banned by EC in 96 tournaments:
• Bronze Tablet
• Contract from Below
• Demonic Attorney
• Jeweled Bird
• Tempest Efreet
The following cards are restricted by EC in 96 tournaments (maximum of 1 of each card per deck):
• Ancestral Recall
• Black Lotus
• Chaos Orb
• Demonic Tutor
• Library of Alexandria
• Mana Crypt
• Mana Drain
• Maze of Ith
• Mind Twist
• Mox Emerald
• Mox Jet
• Mox Pearl
• Mox Ruby
• Mox Sapphire
• Sol Ring
• Time Vault
• Time Walk
• Wheel of Fortune
The following cards are on the Watch List by EC in 96 tournaments (unrestricted, but constantly being monitored):
• Demonic Consultation
• Enlightened Tutor
• Force of Will
• Mana Vault
• Mystical Tutor
Notable Rules/Differences from Modern Era of Magic
– MANA BURN STILL HAPPENS (as in, players lose 1 point of life for each unused mana in the mana pool at the end of each phase)
– THE FOLLOWING CARDS WILL HAVE THE UPDATED ORACLE TEXT, AS SHOWN BELOW:
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 360 degrees 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, which will nullify the ability to flip, since it is no longer on the battlefield. This is consistent with the wording of Chaos Orb not being sacrificed upon activation, as it probably would with modern templating. Also note that Chaos Orb chooses, but does not target.)
Choose any number of non-overlapping creatures on the battlefield. Flip Falling Star from at least a height of one foot. If Falling Star turns over completely at least 360 degrees during the flip, it deals 3 damage to each chosen creature it lands resting on. Any creatures damaged by Falling Star that are not destroyed become tapped.
(Note: Falling Star chooses upon resolution, but does not target.)
Ring of Ma’rûf
5, Tap, Exile Ring of Ma’rûf: The next time you would draw a card this turn, instead choose a card you own from exile or from your sideboard, and put it into your hand.
For more details on these cards, read the Updated Errata and Wording for Falling Star, Chaos Orb, and Ring of Ma’rûf here.
No Draws in EC Tournaments
In order to encourage the maximum amount of Magic and matches being played (and disincentivize draws and concession for seeding), we enforce a strict no draw policy (intentional or otherwise). After 50 minutes if there was a tied match, the tie breaker will be a sudden death Chaos Orb flipping contest, similar to a hockey or soccer overtime shootout. If both players make or miss the Chaos Orb flip in the same round, repeat the process. The first person to make it while the other person misses will be declared the winner of the match. The point of Old School is to play Old School, so we always encourage everyone to play quickly and have fun each round, and this tournament structure has worked very well to that end.