An Introduction to Premodern

Ron Taylor • November 8, 2018

I'm sure most people haven't heard of Premodern, and that's okay. It's a ton of fun and it lets you dust off some of your favorite older cards that don't get to see a lot of play in other formats. Let me give you a little background information first and then I'll show you how awesome it is.

Premodern was created in 2012 by Martin Berlin. It is comprised of all cards from standard legal sets printed from 1995-2003. In other words, everything from 4th Edition through Scourge. Also, all tournament legal reprints and preprints are legal to play in Premodern. What this means is that if you want to play a Wrath of God from Eternal Masters, you can. Want to play your sweet Alpha Wrath? Go for it! Unfortunately, you can't play one from Collector's Edition or gold bordered World Championship decks. However, if you're just building decks to play with your friends, I won't tell anyone if you do. Many people prefer to play with cards printed on the old card frame, but it's not required. I suggest just putting a deck together that you can, and slowly acquiring the original versions when you are able. The format also has its own ban list that is available for viewing at

What drew me to Premodern was nostalgia. I see a lot of people playing Old School (93/94) for nostalgia, but those aren't the cards that I grew up playing with. I started in Urza's Saga, playing on lunch tables in the school cafeteria. Premodern is chock full of all of the cards that I loved playing with in my childhood and teenage years. I've never cast a Juzam Djinn in my life, but I can't even imagine the number of Accumulated Knowledges that I've resolved. Which leads me to my next point...

Have you seen how much a Thunder Spirit costs these days? $160 for a 2/2 flying first strike for 3 mana? That's just absurd. Fact or Fiction is one incredibly powerful Magic card that can be had for a whole $0.93 (Cardsphere Index price at the time of writing.) While Premodern is slightly hamstrung by the reserve list, there are really only a handful of expensive cards in the format and plenty of highly competitive decks that can be built for less than most standard decks. The Premodern online open that just finished was won by a Sligh deck with Cursed Scroll being the most expensive card in the deck by far.


While Premodern is currently more popular in Europe that it is anywhere else, there is still a pretty strong online community that plays over Skype,, Cockatrice, Xmage, and MTGO. I'm sure people play on other platforms, but these are the most common ones. There are Facebook groups and Discord servers where you can usually find a game with someone. We also just finished an online tournament with 25 players and there are plans in the works to hold more soon.

My favorite part about the Premodern format is that it's new enough to most people that it is far from a solved format. There is so much room to brew or take old strong decks and tweak them with cards that weren't available to those decks at the time. Some of the favorite old decks that have been performing well include Full English Breakfast, Sligh, Goblins/Goblin Bidding, 4 Color Control, UW Landstill, The Rock, UG Madness, Trix, and Rector Bargain. That's a veritable Who's who of old extended and standard powerhouses. However, there is still a lot of unknown space in the format that you can play pretty much anything you want.

The best resources and discussion for the Premodern format are available at, in the Premodern Facebook groups, and on the Premodern Discord server. The community is full of fun and enthusiastic players that are just looking to play Magic in a way that reminds them of a time when spells were strong, creatures didn't have spells stapled to them, and the cards were printed on frames that actually looked like Magic cards. Even if you don't have a deck built, pop in and check it out. We're always discussing what could be good and helping each other with deck ideas. I recommend building something inexpensive and fun to give the format a try. Then you can figure out what decks you really want to play and start trading.

Come find me on Discord, and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have about the format. It's been my new favorite format ever since I discovered it, and it's growing quickly.

Just for fun, here's the decklist that I played to top 4 out of 25 in the Premodern online open (with the help of several lucky breaks):

Mirari's Wake Control

3 Mirari's Wake
1 Palinchron
4 Wrath of God
4 Decree of Justice
3 Swords to Plowshares
3 Moment's Peace
3 Counterspell
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Cunning Wish
1 Absorb
2 Intuition
1 Fact or Fiction
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Grand Coliseum
3 Adarkar Wastes
1 Brushland
1 Yavimaya Coast
1 Coastal Tower
1 Elfhame Palace
2 Forest
4 Plains
5 Island
1 Thawing Glaciers

1 Beast Attack
1 Elephant Ambush
1 Counterspell
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Capsize
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Wing Shards
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Hydroblast
1 Stifle
1 Misdirection
1 Submerge
1 Moment's Peace

Don't forget to check out my profile. You might have some of the Premodern cards I need!

-- Ron Taylor