In last month’s article, I skimmed the surface of what most people assume is the primary barrier to entry: monetary co$t. In an effort to disprove that assumption, I settled on building two Old School 93/94 “precons” with a budget of $40 USD each. Sure, you can build cheaper decks, but I wanted to build decks that would leave you with a stack of useful cards afterwards.
In the aforementioned Persuasion Check article, I mentioned that there was no “unified” ruleset for Old School 93/94. This can lead to some difficulty for the purposes of building an event-legal deck. For the purposes of this article, and because I live in North America (specifically, New England), we will be using the Atlantic ruleset, which I consider to be a modified version of the Eternal Central (“EC”) ruleset that has restricted Strip Mine and unrestricted both Maze of Ith and Recall.
Most importantly, the EC allows Fallen Empires, gold-bordered Collector’s Edition (“CE”) cards, and reprints with the original frame and art, including, but not limited to, Fourth Edition and Timeshifted cards. This expands the cardpool while keeping the game authentic.
However, to avoid the risk of confusing new players for the sake of saking a few bucks, I am unilaterally placing an English-only restriction on myself.
The first deck is an aggro deck, Erhnamgeddon, which is a portmanteau of Erhnam Djinn and Armageddon. The strategy behind the deck is twofold, but simple. First, resolve some Green weenies, Mana Dorks, and fatties to create a threatening board state. Then, in an effort to maintain your favorable board state, destroy all lands. Finally, you overrun your opponent before they can recover.
From the very first turn, you should aim to be on the offensive by curving Ghazbán Ogre or a Scryb Sprites into Argothian Pixies or Whirling Dervish. Alternatively, you can drop a Llanowar Elves and hope to accelerate into a turn-three Erhnam. Erhnam Djinn may very well be the most cost-effective Green creature in the format. I added Thorn Thallids as a three drop in the event that you do not draw an elf and because, if left alone for three turns, they can trade up or even 2:1 as discussed in last week’s Knowledge Vault article. Rounding out the deck are quintessential removal spells Swords to Plowshares and Balance and a couple Jalum Tomes to help squeak out a win in games that take longer than expected. Don’t forget that you can use Giant Growth as a way to protect your creatures from Burn spells!
Personally, I think the deck is a great introduction to this format because it includes playsets of iconic cards (Erhnam Djinn, Swords to Plowshares) and powerful Restricted cards (Balance, Regrowth). These ten cards can be used in a variety of decks. Anecdotally, despite having always been a Black Mage at heart, I started my Old School 93/94 journey with a G/W for exactly this reason: affordability.
Finally, there is so much room to grow. If you end up liking Old School 93/94, I can’t see you regretting any of these cards. Many of the creatures find their ways into, at the very least, sideboards of very competitive decks. If you like the way the deck feels, the next step would probably be to replace the Jalum Tome with Sylvan Library and the Ogres with something safer.
Unlike Erhnamgeddon, this concoction is reactive, not proactive. Instead of establishing a board state, this deck is meant to “Draw. Land. Go.” You do most of your funny business on their turn. The idea of the deck is to sit back, and counter, bounce, destroy, and discard your opponent’s cards until it seems like they have run out of gas. Unless you draw a Hymn to Tourach, Blue is your early color. Unsummon is for non-Black/non-Artifact creatures. Boomerang is for artifacts and enchantments. Don’t forget that you can Unsummon your own creatures to “fizzle” your opponent’s Burn and Kill Spells! Finally, as a quasi-Time Walk, you can and should Mana Short your opponent during their Upkeep, leaving them with no mana during their own turn!
Once you feel like you are in control, slam down a four-toughness creature and protect it to victory. Serendib Efreet is certainly in the conversation for the best creature in Old School 93/94. Derelor is a budget alternative to what is likely the actual best creature in Old School 93/94: Juzám Djinn.
This deck is also a great introduction to this format, with playsets of no-brainers (Hymn to Tourach, Triskelion) and a rejuvenating Restricted card (Recall).
Edit: Members of the community have suggested Juggernaut (as a replacement for Triskelion) and Ghost Ship (as a replacement for Azure Drake). Both of these options were not included for their respective reasons: Juggernaut can be killed by a simple Lightning Bolt and the Azure Drakes are first on the chopping block to get cut for Serendibs. If you really want to, you can replace the Azure Drakes with Ghost Ships, but I see that as a waste of money, no matter how small.
After a handful of games, if this is the deck that intrigues you, then there are a couple different ways you can go. I suggest, at the minimum, replacing the Basalt Monolith with a Sol Ring for those X Spells and artifact activations. Then, if you think you are sticking with Blue, it would be advantageous to replace the three Azure Drakes for the remaining three Serendib Efreets. Alternatively, if you’re leaning towards Black, then Demonic Tutor, Mind Twist, Dark Rituals, Sinkholes, and Hypnotic Specters should be on your radar.
So, there you have it. Your choice of either “precon” for the price of a prerelease. Instead of a bunch of draft chaff, you and a friend can begin your journey backwards in time to the hayday of Magic’s art and flavor. In the event that neither of these decks interest you, but the format itself does, I recommend DFB’s list of budget-friendly Old School 93/94 staples and decklists.