Premodern: Why Is It Becoming Popular and Where Is It Headed

Premodern is an "old school" balanced format for nostalgic players but is not too expensive nor too limited when it comes to its card pool. Its future will depend on the players that it will attract, as well as the overall support it will get.

Imagine a valley between the old and inaccessible Mountains, Deserts, and Antiquities of the 93/94 Old School format and the noisy and over-developed cities and constructs of the Modern format. Imagine a valley of rivers full of Lotus Vales, an Undiscovered Paradise where strange creatures like Psychatogs, Wild Mongrels, Goblins, and Elves dwell.

Lotus Vale Undiscovered Paradise Psychatog

With a card pool consisting of all sets between Fourth Edition / Ice Age to Seventh Edition / Scourge, Premodern is an Old School format but without the Power 9, broken singletons, and super expensive cards. It basically includes all cards with the old base card frame printed after 1995, except special editions like from Portal and Anthologies. It has its own Banlist (there are no Limited cards) that include Balance, Brainstorm, Necropotence, Yawgmoth's Will, Entomb and most importantly, Force of Will.

Inspiration and Flavor

Premodern, like 93/94 Old School, is a static format which means no new cards will ever join the format. However, unlike its "rich" brother, Premodern is a more balanced and skill-intensive. It was born to relive old cards and early card designs with one main inspiration: to exclude excessively broken and/or excessively expensive cards, like Library of Alexandria and Mind Twist, except some lands that are played in certain decks, such as Gaea's Cradle and  City of Traitors, plus classic must-have artifacts like Mox Diamond and Lion's Eye Diamond. This gives players many possibilities to brew and build a quite a number of decks, allowing everyone to easily play the format without making huge investment commitments.

The result is a nostaligic and iconic format that isn't exclusive. It gives way to inventive deckbuilding and much creativity, since the card pool is wide and the strategies are multiple. This is the real deal of Premodern: Gather the players who love the old designs and mechanics of Magic, the ones who dislike planeswalkers and "white-looking" artifacts, and the ones who don't want to spend thousands of Euros to simply play a semi-amateur format.

Cards, Colors, and Premodern Strategies

Premodern, as a newly relaunched format, does not yet have a consolidated and affirmed metagame but it does have a consistent and acknowledged pool of cards. Just like Legacy and Modern, Premodern is a "4x format" without two of the most powerful tutors (Mystical Tutor and Vampiric Tutor) as well as Demonic Tutor, so decks have to be really homogeneous. However, there's still room for Combo decks, having manabase fixers, like City of Brass and Gemstone Mine and speeders, like Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual and Lotus Petal. In spite of the possibility to play fetchlands from Onslaught, mana bases are often built around the Ice Age painlands and Invasion taplands. Staples of the format are classic control cards, such as Swords to Plowshares, Counterspell, Wrath of God; card drawers, like Accumulated Knowledge and Fact or Fiction; manipulations, like Impulse, Sleight of Hand; tutors, like Intuition and Enlightened Tutor; and efficient creatures, such as Psychatog, Wild Mongrel, and Grim Lavamancer.

Fact or Fiction Intuition Wild Mongrel

I will not flood this article with tons of decklists, variants, and sideboard choices. (You can check this out yourself in the official Premodern website.) What I will try to do, however, is to summarize and introduce you to the best cards matched with the best archetypes, hopefully giving you a better idea on what the format is running and which staples to consider.

In a nutshell, all strategies of every Premodern deck are built around redundancies (3x or 4x) and strong sinergies between cards. The absence of broken cards and powerful singletons allow every game to be contendable, so different strategies are encouraged. This leaves space for rogue decks as well.

KEY CARDS Swords to Plowshares, Fact or Fiction, Counterspell, Wrath of God, Absorb, Standstill, Decree of Justice Psychatog, Time Warp, Horn of Greed, Gush, Exploration Illusion of Grandeur, Donate, Cadaverous Bloom, Prosperity, Yawgmoth's Bargain, Tendrils of Agony Price of Progress, Fireblast, Lightning Bolt, Cursed Scroll, Jackal Pup Wild Mongrel, Circular Logic, Werebear, Mother of Runes, Counterspell, Swords to Plowshares Goblin Lackey, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Warchief, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Gaea's Cradle
STRATEGY taking and keeping control of the board with removals and counterspells then closing the game accumulating resources and board/card advantage until the opponent has to concede to your threats just like in any other format... finding a way to put all the pieces of the combo in play and win the game! inflicting direct damage to the opponent without caring about the board state and card advantage using cheap and effective creatures surrounded by control elements and removals monocolored decks built around the raw power and the interaction of tribes, such as Goblin and Elves

First Results

Argothian Enchantress Decree of Justice Yawgmoth's Bargain

No much (yet) have been shown and revealed in tournaments. The first two relevant events were the Swedish Premodern Championship, held in June with 18 players attending, and the Italian Premodern National Championship, held in Massa last August with 24 players attending. These have been the biggest Premodern events held so far.

The two metagames were slightly different. The Swedish one was more Combo/Control-oriented with two Enchantress decks (both in the Top 8 and one winning), two Bargain decks, one Pande-Burst, and one Trix. The Italian event, on the other hand, had Control and Aggro as the main and successful archetypes with three UW Landstill decks (two in the Top 8 and one winning), four Sligh decks (two in the Top 8), and three "The Rock" decks (two in the Top 8).

Below are the decklists of the two winners.

With much variety, Premodern has a long way to go in defining the dominating deck. The format seems well-balanced at the moment with Yawgmoth's Bargain as the only card on "the edge" of the watchlist.

Perspectives and Conclusions

Premodern has definitely brought nostalgic and long-time players a new and interesting perspective on Magic play without having to invest thousands of Euro in an almost "for fun" format. (Although the breath of card choices and deck constructions allows the format competitive play as well.) The variety of decks and the absence of broken cards (the Power 9 above all) brings the format closer to Legacy than Vintage or Old School. However, the vintage and static components of Premodern bring it closer to the spirit of 93/94 than of any other Magic format.

To be objective, I will now summarize the differences between the main Eternal formats. I'll let you decide which one(s) you like the most.

Here are the main differences and instances to consider:

Environment Competitive Casual Casual to Competitive Casual
Cost for Playing Medium to High Low High High
Community of Players High Restricted Low Restricted
Rogueness Low High Medium High
Brokeness Low to Medium Low to Medium High Medium to High
Skill Intensity High Medium to High Low to Medium Medium
Deckbuilding Possibilities High Growing Limited Growing
Card Pool Growing Fixed Growing Fixed
Support & Tournaments High Low Low Low
Fun Component Low to Medium High Medium High
Nostalgia Component Low Medium to High Medium to High High

I think that Premodern occupies an interesting and previously empty space in the Eternal endeavors. Furthermore, despite not being an official Wizards of the Coast format, Premodern is becoming more and more established – It has its own website and even a community on Facebook.

So… do you wanna ride aboard the Premodern train?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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DIZI33(29.05.2020 15:34)

Love old frames
Im building two decks in this format

Thks for the article

Ps: we need an old frame Filter in CM !

Leidnix(28.09.2018 19:51)

Well that would be a great way to play the "Academy Deck" once again. Since most of the stuff comes from Tempest and Urza Block that could be cool^^

novalore(26.09.2018 07:10)

Interesting introductory article.
Premodern is going to be very big on 2019, I think.
Let's see how many players will Battle in October 28th in Genoa for the European Champion title during Fishliveroil Cup.

Just a note: tendrils of agony is currently banned. It shouldn't be listed in the table.

petroliereq8(25.09.2018 23:38)

ERRATA CORRIGE: in my article I state in the possible "combo cards"Tendrils of Agony.
The information is false since the card is banned.
Thanks and sorry

gustav-h(25.09.2018 22:07)

Premodern is definitely an interesting format, and, as I see it, it has great potential to grow and mature.

The main problems with it are, in my opinion:

1. Why are the Starters sets (Portal & cia.) not allowed? Including them would be consistent with the idea of the format, and would increase the card pool without breaking it, as only one card (Imperial Seal) would need banned.

2. The banned list seems to still need some refining. Particularly, some allowed cards (Gush, Hermit Druid, Oath of Druids, and Yawgmoth's Bargain) have great potential to break the format at some point, and thus should probably be banned. On the other hand, some cards currently banned (Brainstorm, Entomb, Flash, Frantic Search, Grim Monolith, Mystical Tutor, Show and Tell, and Tendrils of Agony) could well be allowed without negatively impacting the format. Remember, there is no High Tide or Ad Nauseam in this format!

I am currently mostly playing Classic, another nostalgic format, which is basically Old School + Premodern but without restricted cards: mtgclassicformat. Wixsite. Com/classic

Anyway it is very nice to see all these nostalgic formats flourishing... 1993-2003 was definitively the best Magic time!

fablodibongo(25.09.2018 19:39)

I like the idea of a legacy format without griselbrand or emrakul and their friends
Turn one akroma was fine. Now it's stupid

But I don't like the banlist
I want to play brainstorm, show and tell and grim monolith
Also there's some broken cards that are missing like hermit druid, oath of druids...

Most importantly, it's just the old legacy.
A lot of player already experienced this format in the past
New players have just to adapt old winning lists to the banlist differences.
And with no new cards...

torfismo(25.09.2018 18:46)

I hope MKM supports this format!

Obscurus(25.09.2018 18:01)

Premodern seems to be an exciting new way to experience our favorite game. In our community, a few friends and I just started with a variety of decks that feel not only nostalgic, but also powerful (except CounterRebels, those just want to play).
I can only recommend taking a look!

h4xxx0r(25.09.2018 17:15)

I see more and more premodern games popping up on Xmage and have to say, I'm pretty stoked about it, any format that allows me to play a viable Madness List or jam Accumulated Knowledge is a good format!

fury86(25.09.2018 16:37)

I would defenitely go aboard the Premodern train. I started to play in this format even the story board is never forgotten :) gerrad and the weatherlight crew, love it! Dominaria had it all.

Astrosyn(25.09.2018 16:17)

Sweet format that needs more attention and tournaments. Looking forward to Nebraska's war Premodern event.

Risketron(25.09.2018 16:13)

Who made this graph of formats? I disagree totally