The Top 8 Old School Decks from Cardmarket Series Paris

Mardu Good Stuff claims the trophy among thirteen players, defeating Four-Color Control in the finals. Let's take a closer look at these two and the rest of the decks that made it to the Top 8 at Cardmarket Series Paris in Old School — the most nostalgic and posh tournament format in the world.

Don't know what I'm writing about here? Check out this article for an introduction to Old School! Already a fan of Old School? You'll find some interesting deck choices below, ranging from the classic "The Deck" passing through powerful Mishra's Workshop builds to a sweet Goblin Aggro.

black lotus

The First Old School Main Event at the Series

I'm very happy that the Old School tournament at the Cardmarket Series was upgraded to the status of main event. Many of you may be thinking that this is a niche format dominated by expensive cards, with few deckbuilding choices and no room for skill or innovation. But personally I love the atmosphere of this kind of tournament and the sensation of seeing so many iconic cards on the tables, all with more than 25 years of history. If you can't imagine why Old School is unlike any other format, take the time to read my last tournament report.

Speaking of the metagame, don't take for granted that a static format without rotation or addition can't change in terms of strategies. When I started playing Old School, "Arabian Aggro" and "Ernhamgeddon" were among the top decks alongside Monoblack, but when people started including cards like City in a Bottle and Karma in their sideboards, the face of Old School changed quite a bit.

Also, the different banned and restricted lists used across countries and tournaments is a defining factor for the metagame …

A Few Words on Different Rule Sets


Despite its limited player base and reach, Old School doesn't have a uniform set of rules. The two main rule sets are the original Swedish, most popular in Europe, and the ones from Eternal Central, most played in the United States and used during the famous and widely attended Eternal Weekend.

The main differences are:

  • EC rules allow Fallen Empires cards. Swedish rules don't.
  • EC rules include "mana burn" while Swedish don't.
  • EC rules allow Collector's Edition cards. Swedish rules don't.
  • EC allows any language. Swedish rules allow only English cards.
  • EC allows up to four copies of Strip Mine, Mishra's Workshop, and Shahrazad, which are restricted in Swedish rules. Swedish rules allow up to four copies of Recall and Maze of Ith, which are restricted under EC rules.

Old School rules used at the Cardmarket Series, which you can find in full here, are very close to EC rules: Fallen Empires, four Strip Mine and Mishra's Workshop allowed, but without mana burn and with all the normal and actual Magic: The Gathering rules in effect.

The Top 8 Breakdown

Coming to the core of the tournament, here's a quick breakdown of the decks that reached the Top 8:

  • 1 The Deck
  • 1 Mardu Good Stuff
  • 1 Four-Color Control
  • 3 Mishra's Workshop Robots
  • 1 Esper Skies
  • 1 Goblins

Although this breakdown could speak of a varied and totally open metagame, you will see from the decklists that the artifact and control decks are quite similar, sharing much of the main shell. In the whole Top 8, there's no trace of cards commonly and often played in various decks: Savannah Lions, Erhnam Djinn, Armageddon, Argothian Pixies … but also Underworld Dreams, Howling Mine, Psionic Blast, and Blood Moon.

Nevertheless, some interesting choices are here to be analyzed: you will see that every noncontrol deck plays four Strip Mine. Many Old School enthusiasts have argued that this card alone decides many matches. A couple of Mines in a starting hand can end a match quickly, generating no-fun and noninteractive games. These considerations are very similar to the ones following the un-restriction of Black Vise in the Swedish rules. However, also consider that most Old School decks are playing five Moxen, Sol Ring, and Black Lotus, together with 18 or 19 lands.

strip mine black vise

Below I will try to analyze in some depth the deck choices the players made starting with the quarterfinalists, then moving on to the Top 4 players and to the finalist, with a dedicated section on the winner's deck.

The Decks

Philippe is a well known Old School player, here with a quite peculiar version of the most classic, loved, and hated deck of the format. Old School experts will immediately notice some strange features of Philippe's list. The main one is the choice of colors played: white-blue-red with just a splash of black for Demonic Tutor instead of the classic five-color version, to be virtually immune to Blood Moon and color screw. The other important difference is the absence of Moxen, Black Lotus, and Fellwar Stone. This is a choice that I've never seen in this archetype, maybe due to the fear of artifact hate brought about by the "4 Workshops" metagame. Playing four copies of Jayemdae Tome and Serra Angel without Moxen and fellwars seems quite ambitious and problematic, also considering Strip Mine

On the other hand, I like the variety of the sideboard and in particular the choice of Disrupting Scepter for mirror matches and against control in general.

  • PROS: Solid and consistent.
  • CONS: Slow. Could suffer from the lack of artifact mana.

An interesting evolution of the classic Skies deck, with the introduction of black to gain access to Hypnotic Specter, Dark Ritual, Sinkhole, and Sengir Vampire, other than the mandatory Demonic Tutor and Mind Twist. This list is quicker than the classic version and four copies each of Strip Mine and Sinkhole can gain the right time to make Hypnotic Specter and Serendib Efreet lethal.

Nice sideboard choices too, with Chains of Mephistopheles to fight card draw, Energy Flux for Robots and artifact decks and one of my favorite cards — Psychic Purge — against discard decks playing Hymn to Tourach and Twist.

  • PROS: Considerable early pressure with back-up for the midgame.
  • CONS: Bad against The Abyss and creature hate. Would play at least three Chains and three Flux in the sideboard to see them more often.

Here you can find a version of Robots that's monoblue. I will discuss the archetype further when we come to the blue-black build in the Top 4. In comparison, the one without black loses obviously powerful cards like Demonic Tutor, Mind Twist, and Animate Dead. On the other hand, Laurent gains a more stable mana base and a nice sideboard with Counterspell, Blue Elemental Blast, Mana Drain, and Hurkyl's Recall, able to combat threats like Energy Flux, Shatterstorm, and Nevinyrral's Disk.

I also like the sideboard Disks and the Mirror Universe, even if there's no way to tutor for it. Two copies of City in a Bottle seems the right amount, but not having The Abyss and Gloom to board in seems the real negative consequence of not playing black.

  • PROS: Very solid and synergistic shell.
  • CONS: Missing real and effective solutions against creatures like The Abyss.

Here's a nice example of what you can do with four Mishra's Workshop! I like the choice of playing four Fellwar Stone and all the jewelry. Basically, this deck will have many spots with four or more mana on the second turn, to drop Triskelion, Su-Chi, Juggernaut, and Tetravus for the win.

I like very much the Winter Orb/Icy Manipulator/Ankh of Mishra interaction, but I must say that I don't like the three Jalum Tome and the singletons like Primal Clay and Clockwork Avian, having zero ways of tutoring for them. I would have rather played some copies of Relic Barrier also in the main deck to block the opponent's artifact mana and to tap Winter Orb at the end of the opponent's turn to untap all lands.

  • PROS: Quick and deadly deck with a synergy.
  • CONS: Suffers from mass artifact hate like Energy Flux and Shatterstorm.

I love this shell! Always good to see the old Goblins as first seed at the end of the Swiss. Xavier reached the Top 4 playing an aggro Big Red with some original choices: only two copies of Black Vise and only two Goblin King. Honestly, I just don't like the two Blood Lust in a deck that doesn't play Berserk. I like the Ball Lightning considering the fact that the format has little first strike.

The sideboard adds the white cards and useful tools like Red Elemental Blast and Shatterstorm.

  • PROS: Devastating against slow decks/starts and those without specific hate.
  • CONS: Missing recovery tools. Lack of important hosers like Blood Moon.

Guillaume is a very good player and famous Old School collector. In Paris he played the "deck of the moment," Blue-Black Robots. To give you an idea, this deck is competitive and even quite strong in the Swedish metagame, where only one Mishra's Workshop is allowed. Imagine it with four Shops and four Strip Mine!

This build is quite classic, with the usual assortment of beasts supported by Sage of Lat-Nam, Animate Dead, and Copy Artifact. Candelabra of Tawnos is a true bomb with four Shops, and Forcefield together with Icy Manipulator takes care of Serra Angel and Serendib Efreet. I partially like the sideboard: totally agree with three The Abyss and three Gloom, not enthusiastic about the single Nevinyrral's Disk, not having Transmute Artifact in the deck. Also, four Serendib Efreet alone aren't enough for a transformational sideboard and four copies of City in a Bottle frankly is too much.

  • PROS: Powerful, quick, and efficient, with zero dead cards.
  • CONS: As any Robot deck, it suffers from mass artifact hate like Flux and Shatterstorm.

Here we are with the first player reaching the final. Arnaud played quite a classic control deck mixed with White-Blue Skies: Serra Angel and Serendib Efreet close the job quickly while the usual singletons and utilities control the board.

While I believe that four copies of Jayemdae Tome are too many and too tough to sustain, only one copy cannot be good either. I also don't like some sideboard choices, specifically the single copies of Circles of Protection, Dust to Dust, Sleight of Mind, and Karma, with just Demonic Tutor to fetch them.

  • PROS: Solid and able to face every metagame and matchup.
  • CONS: Too many one-ofs, especially in the sideboard.

The Winner

Romain Laroche De Roussane
Romain Laroche De Roussane

Romain played a deck that truly incarnates the Old School spirit, featuring some of the most iconic creatures of the format: Serra Angel, the mighty Juzám Djinn — which I personally celebrated in an article already — with Sedge Troll and Hypnotic Specter to press an advantage and threaten the opponent's life and cards in hand.

winner deck

Rest of the deck is built around utilities like Lightning Bolt, Disenchant, Terror, and Swords to Plowshares, together with bombs like Demonic Tutor, Fireball, Mind Twist, and Chaos Orb. A special mention goes to The Wretched here!

The sideboard too features a sweet mix: four Red Elemental Blast for blue decks, three Gloom for white, three Dust to Dust for artifacts, and Hymn to Tourach for control decks. Chatting a little with Romain, he told me that Fireball was the MVP in two or three games … It's a card that you're not sure to expect in a deck like this and which can be crucial when an opponent takes control of the game at 6 or 7 life.

  • PROS: Consistent and synergistic with strong sideboard options.
  • CONS: Vulnerable to The Abyss and creature hate. Few solutions against strategies that aim to outdraw.

As always — if you want to comment, interact with us, or add some reflection, please share your opinion!

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


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wangermee(27.02.2020 21:41)

Hi, very cool article, tanks for the description of my goblin deck. I am very proud to show how could be competitive a deck in old school format without playing P9. I used to play only two goblin king 'cause they die quikcly and became dead cards. The 2 blood lust are very strong cards, playing it turn 2 on a goblin, or using it for killing all strong creature like serra angel, and serendib efreet, juzam etc etc. The two fork allow you to copy your spell and the others players spells like counterspell, braingeyser, ancestral recall etc....

jeronte(25.02.2020 06:11)

Hi, great article, I also love the PROs and CONs, but in EC rules is allowed up to four copies of Maze of Ith

sal196(25.02.2020 01:07)

Great article - love the PROs and CONs (even if I cringed a little to see "Old School" decks being described as "Mardu" and "Esper")

petroliereq8(25.02.2020 07:31)

Sal196 yes. I agree. Also WU WBR are not the maximum indeed..!

Negace(24.02.2020 16:15)

Thank you for nice analysis. Related to "Monoblue Robots", is it really a problem "Missing real and effective solutions against creatures like The Abyss"? While having access to 4 Triskelion, 4 Disks, Maze of Ith and Icy Manipulators? Even without The Abyss it still looks pretty solid to me. I might be wrong indeed.

petroliereq8(25.02.2020 07:29)

Thanks for your comment! Triskelion imho not a big deal against creatures as he kills only hyonotic specters and factories and costs 6 mana. Disk also is symmetric. Icy you re right!

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