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10 Best Cards in Oldschool Magic

Oldschool Magic is an unsanctioned format originally created in Sweden, which uses modern rules but a limited card set.  The original "Swedish Rules", allows cards from Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark.  Eternal Central or "EC Rules" allows cards from the original sets as well as Revised, Chronicles, Fallen Empires, the Collectors Editions, and any reprint which uses the same frame and art the the original sets.

This list will cover the 10 most powerful cards which are legal in Oldschool Magic, and provide a brief explanation as to why they were selected.  This list is not intended to be a definitive guide, and its rankings are a matter of opinion and personal experience.

Honorable Mention

Chaos Orb

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Chaos Orb represents colorless removal for any permanent in the game, effectively working as a swords to plowshares and disenchant combined.  It is an automatic include in every oldschool deck.  It never feels bad in an opener, and it is never a dead draw late game.  It was only kept out of the top 10 as a testament to the strength of the other cards in the running.

Top 10

#10 Black Lotus

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If you have only heard of one Magic Card is it most likely Black Lotus.  It is one of the original "Power 9", and has been the most expensive cards in Magic since very shortly after it was printed.  It can be used to ramp out powerful cards and effects earlier in the game than normal, and is both mana ramp, and color fixing.  It is kept from being higher up on the list due to its lack of utility in the late game, and the fact that early ramp in Oldschool most often produces a large turn 2 creature, or is used for an early game counterspell.  It is not as powerful in Oldschool as it is Vintage, where an additional 3 mana in the early game can resolve a spell which if not dealt with can end a game outright.

#9 Regrowth

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The ability to reuse spells from the graveyard is an effect that many magic players are familiar with, and Regrowth is the grandaddy of these spells.  It can be used to cast powerful restricted spells multiple times, give a second life to a creature which has been killed, and even be used to return lands from the graveyard to help mana fix.  The single green mana requirement means that it can be jammed into many decks, and often will be found as the only green card in a 5 color deck.

#8 Balance

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No game is truly over and lost, if you have a Balance in your deck.  Facing down an opponent with a full hand, multiple lands, and multiple creatures, a single balance can be a mind twist for seven, a wrath of god, and multiple stone rains all for just two mana.  Played early game it can also be used as effective hand disruption, and just knowing it is in a deck can keep opponents from committing to the board.  The single white mana requirement means that it can be jammed into many decks, and often will be found as the only white card in a 5 color deck.

#7 Time Walk

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Time Walk is a simple as it is powerful.  At its best it can win a game outright, and at its worst it is still a draw and an untap phase.  It is never a dead draw late game, and it is never unwanted in an opening hand.  Fun Fact: if the original core set was reprinted today, Time Walk is one of only two cards in the set which would not need to be reworded.

#6 Demonic Tutor

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Demonic tutor allows for all the powerful cards in a deck to be played more consistently, makes two card combos much more effective, and allows you to search for the late game answers which are needed to turn the tide of a game.  It is the original tutor from which all other tutors draw inspiration.

#5 The Five Moxen

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Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby, Mox Pearl, and Mox Emerald are powerful reusable mana rocks, one for each color.  They essentially allow for an extra land drop when in an opening hand, and allow for early ramp that is reusable the entire game.  They have the added benefit of allowing for protection against land disruption and land modification.  All five moxen are not always the best inclusion in every deck, but whatever color a deck is playing, an on-color Mox is always incredibly powerful and useful.  

#4 Sol Ring

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Turn 1 Sol Ring is one of the best starts in oldschool (or any format where it is legal), and the advantage of four mana available turn two should be self evident.  Similar to the Moxen its allows for early ramp that is reusable the entire game and gives the same added benefit of allowing for protection against land disruption.  As a drawback compared to moxen it is colorless, but provides twice as much mana each turn.

#3 Mind Twist

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The original hand disruption card for black, Mind Twist provides powerful disruption with the potential to be able to eliminate your opponents entire hand.  A Mind Twist cast at the right time can essentially end a game, creating a card disadvantage which is impossible to recover from.  The only thing keeping it from spot #1 or #2 is the fact that it can only be cast at sorcery speed, and in a late game top decking situation, it is less powerful.

#2 Ancestral Recal

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Many arguments could be made that Ancestral Recall deserves to have the top spot on this list.  The ways you could make the card worse, and still have it be one of the best cards ever printed help show the raw power of the card.  If it was a sorcery instead of an instant it would most likely still be in the top 3, if it was "draw two" instead of "draw three" it would still be in the top 5 at least.  Card advantage wins games, and it is almost always the best possible top deck turn 1 or turn 50.

#1 Library of Alexandria

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Library of Alexandria is such a good card, that some Oldschool formats have banned it from the card pool.  A first turn Library of Alexandria if not dealt with quickly essentially ends a game before it starts.  The ability to draw two cards a turn, while playing a land and casting a spell each turn, quickly creates so much card advantage that the opponent cannot recover (unless they draw land removal, or an equally powerful spell such as mind twist or balance).  As a land it cannot be countered, and its ability is always available for use.  The slower speed of Oldschool magic overall, and the limited options for land removal in the format elevate Library above the competition when compared to faster formats such as Vintage.  An argument could be made that  Library deserves spot #2 or #3, but nobody who has played Oldschool and faced a first turn library would place it any lower on the list than #3.

January - 2021

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