Old School

This is all going to be very dangerous. Today I’m releasing the method for an amazing multiplayer variant, and along with that the steps necessary to create the environment within which it can flourish. This isn’t for the faint of heart. Yesterday I was at the bus station minding the closest thing to my own…

This is all going to be very dangerous.

Today I’m releasing the method for an amazing multiplayer variant, and along with that the steps necessary to create the environment within which it can flourish.

This isn’t for the faint of heart.

Yesterday I was at the bus station minding the closest thing to my own business. Muttering, pacing, it’s a public place so there might as well be something to display. When all of a sudden Joe Schmoe tops the escalator and espies my remarkable countenance.

Wisdom time: What does he say?

"That afro! Man, that’s HARDCORE."

Forget for the moment that that makes no sense. That is exactly the kind of attitude you’re going to need to get the full experience out of this variant.

Just don’t enter into this lightly. That’s all I ask.

The game is called … Old School.

You will need the following:

4 (Four) people, yourself included

Scrounge if you must, friends are hard to come by.

1 (One) copy of "Licensed To Ill" by The Beastie Boys
1 (One) copy of "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath

These will provide the necessary mood. It’s useless to be playing Old School unless you’re feeling it. With these, you can crank the volume and sing along. Don’t bother denying it; you know all the lyrics.

Even if you don’t, there’s enough repetition to ensure you’ll soon be following like an old hand. If all else fails, scream "SABBATH" at the top of your lungs because now and forever, SABBATH RULES.

Same goes for the Beasties. No other band has two top selling albums each with the word "Ill" in the title. Whatta buncha beat-droppers.

1 (One) deck of standard playing cards.

Use these to play a rubber of Euchre. It doesn’t matter that it’s the supposed lowest form of cards, lower even than Old Maid. (Although to be perfectly frank, nothing angers up my blood like a rousing hand of Go Fish, and that’s thought to be awful, too.)

I can’t abide this maligning. The problem is that people refuse to allow Euchre its natural progression, out of gamehood and into societal ritual.

I know that when we play, it’s much less about the result of the game and more about the second-level interaction — the way your behaviour changes in the game environment. The amazing thing about Euchre is that it has a low enough skill complement to be ritualisable while also having enough variety to avoid being mundane.

Because of this there is a rapid development in Euchre playgroups of Euchre Culture. This consists of a separate language and role-set.

The same development can be seen in Magic. Unfortunately, the diversity of the game slows down the creation of such a culture, and the widespread use of the Internet generalises it (and to an extent validates it.).

For goodness’ sake, just look at "mise."

Thus you play Euchre. Both to isolate your group, and to develop that feeling of community. You’d understand better where I’m coming from if I could somehow show you our latest Euchre game, but I’m pretty sure Phil is illegal in most states he’s the lynchpin.

200 (Two Hundred) Old School Magic Cards.

If you’ve got them, fine. Otherwise you’re going to have to counterfeit them. We used very fake-looking colour photocopies, but whatever works for you. You’re going to have to include all the expensive brokens. You MUST MUST MUST have the following stupid power cards:

Wheel of Fortune
Ancestrall Recall
Library of Alexandria
Time Walk

And any others you can think of.

Next include many HUGE monsters. Stuff like Shivan Dragon, Force of Nature, Lord of the Pit, Two-Headed Giant, Juzam Djinn. As many classic big bad dudes as you can find. Anything nostalgic.

You will also need many ridiculous artifacts and enchantments, as well as their enhancers. Root through Arabian Nights, Antiquities and Legends to find the absolute craziest cards. You want a Nether Void, Guardian Beast, Argivian Archeologist, Drop of Honey, The Abyss, Moat, Aladdin’s Ring, Sword of the Ages. And Chaos Orb. Most definitely.

Finally, round it out with some utility stuff. A Strip Mine, Moxes, Disenchant, Lightining Bolt, no more than six "Counter Target Spell" cards, Moxes, Mana Vault, Jayemdae Tome, Terror, Fireball. Stuff that fills the gaps. Keep the counters light because you want people to be able to accomplish what they’re doing. One or two will keep things interesting.

Now take this monstrosity (that should have no more than six lands in it, and one Conquer), shuffle it up and rochester draft it between the four of you. After drafting a card, you may instead throw it away. Any card you decide to keep is in your final deck.

You will play whatever multiplayer style suits you. We play attack-left, but it’s all in your hands.


The rules of the game have changed. This is why you don’t need any lands.

Begin as normal, drawing hands of seven cards. You may not mulligan. You begin with 30 life.

Untap, upkeep, draw as normal.

Spells may be cast in three ways. One, you may pay the converted mana cost in mana of any colour. Thus Fat Moti (cost 4UU) may be played by spending any mana totaling 6, regardless of from whence it came. Notice this makes Mishra’s Workshop quite good. Be sure to include one.

Two, once during your turn you may choose to play a spell for free. Simply announce it as your free play.

Three, you may play any spell by paying 2 life instead of its casting cost.

Lands cost 2 life to put into play. You may play only one land per turn.

Activation costs in excess of tapping may be satisfied in a similar manner. You may pay the converted cost in any colour of mana (as well as meeting any other requirements, let’s not get carried away), you may activate once for free on your turn, and you may pay 2 life to satisfy the mana cost of an activation.

At any time you may pay 2 life to add one mana to your mana pool.

Casting an X spell by paying 2 life (or as a free play) means that you have paid for any non-X mana in the casting cost, as well as getting one mana towards X. For example, if I tap my Mana Vault for 3, then choose to pay 2 life for Disintegrate, I may choose to do up to four damage.

Attack as normal.

If, at the end of your turn, you haven’t played a card then you lose 2 life.

During your opponents’ turns you also get one free spell and one free activation cost, but not one per player. Only one free spell and activation cost for the duration that it is not your turn.

All set?

Here’s an example of a round of play.

OMC: Play Shivan Dragon for free. Play Mox Sapphire for 0. Play Juzam Djinn for 2 life (28). Tap Sapphire for 1, cast Lightning Bolt on The Champ (27). Play Siphon Soul for 2 life (26), gaining 6 (32). Play Timetwister for 2 life (30).

The Champ: Play Counterspell for free.

OMC: Get a mana for 2 life (28), Spell Blast the Counter for 2 more life (26). Shuffle, draw seven, done.

The Champ: Play Aladdin’s Ring for free. Activate it for free targeting OMC.

OMC: Ouch, shotgun. (22)

The Champ: Play The Abyss for 2 life (23). Done.

James of Tomorrow: Play Force of Nature for free. Play Sengir Vampire for 2 life (26). Play Serra Angel for 2 life (24). Play Craw Wurm for 2 life (22). Play Sword of the Ages for 2 life (20). Play Time Walk for 2 life (18).

Phil: Uh oh.

JoT: Free Activation to upkeep the Force. Here they come Phil.

Phil: What do you expect me to do about it? (6)

JoT: Goodbye, OMC. Sacrifice Sword of the Ages and all my dudes.

OMC: Um, Healing Salve for free! (3) How are your two cards now?

JoT: Pretty good. Ancestral Recall for free. Fork it for 2 life. (16) Done.

Phil: What am I at? Six! Pay four life for 2 mana (2). Free spell, Fireball OMC for three.

OMC: Just dandy.

Phil: You don’t mess with Phil.

OMC: I didn’t mess with anyone!

Phil: That’s right.

The nice thing about this variant is that you get to play with the classic feeling cards in non-abusable ways, as well as getting to smash your friends open with the biggest-numbered monsters of years past.

Be sure to keep your Old School deck free of newer cards. It’s aptly named.

The following will improve your play:

Shouting out "OLD SCHOOL!" or, if you prefer, "Old School. Old School!"

Watching the Transformers movie. Bonus points for each you can name on sight. Double Bonus for knowing the lyrics to those irrepressible 80’s hair-rock tunes. Triple Bonus for loudly mourning the fact that this movie signaled the end of the careers of Leonard Nimoy AND Orson Welles.

Lamenting about how much you dislike the New School.

Thinking about Phil. (Not only is Phil Old School and Hardcore, he is also Extreme, giving him an unholy edge)

The rest is up to you.

Josh Bennett

If I want to spend the rest of my life watching Wrath of Khan, I suppose I should get right on it.