Magic Memories: Hypnotic Specter

Melkor

Well-Known Member
It's been mentioned above, but with the way removal has gotten better (as has card selection to make sure you have the removal), creatures really need to be either dirt cheap, give immediate card advantage, or have some sort of built-in protection. When the only efficient ways to stop a first turn Hippie were Swords and Bolt, it was stronger. Long term card advantage isn't as strong. When I was replying above, I kind of compared it in my mind to a reverse Library of Alexandria, which wouldn't nearly be as strong today in Legacy as it would have been in the past.
 

Psarketos

Metacompositional Theoretician
I remember how much I disliked Specter when we first started plating Magic so long ago. I would even cite it as a reason I settled on CounterBurn early on (Force Spike + Shock). These days, I agree with Rosewater - while I still take some pain from Modern Specter variants some times, I would much rather see it than a lot of other cards, and there are so many great answers from Path to Exile and Select for Inspection to taking control of it and even Flinging it back at them after hitting their hand.

Magic has become vastly broader, deeper, and more complex in deck construction (in terms of potential) since those days. Very much a classic though :)
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
When I was replying above, I kind of compared it in my mind to a reverse Library of Alexandria, which wouldn't nearly be as strong today in Legacy as it would have been in the past.
Library of Alexandria is a very strange card. In Vintage, it sometimes just acts like a Wastes that can optionally be hit by Wasteland, which is really lackluster. So it kinda-sorta looks just barely worth inclusion in some slower control decks or in combo decks with lots of of other options for mana production and card-drawing: such decks are likely to fill their hands up and it is, after all a source of card-drawing that costs zero mana, but even then it feels a bit unreliable. And then in control vs. control matchups its potential skyrockets and it becomes one of the most broken topdecks possible. I once thought that if card availability had no bearing on it, that Library of Alexandria should be unrestricted in Vintage. But my perspective has shifted since then and I think it's just too much of a distorting influence. Interestingly, there has probably been very little competitive gameplay in any environment with Library of Alexandria unrestricted while Strip Mine wasn't around to counteract it, and there have been multiple instances in which Library was restricted and Strip Mine was unrestricted. I suspect that in the old days, this circumstance muddled the perception of Library of Alexandria's role in competitive play.
 

Spiderman

CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant
Staff member
I'm not sure how you're talking about the Library except in your last sentence with "the old days", but I know from experience, with the limited card drawing back then, this card was king with card advantage. Obviously it was in Zak Dolan's World Championship deck (which is what I tried to copy and why I got it and it's the *only* individual card I've spent money for, at $20 back then) so it was U/W, but you just had to keep your hand full and you could outdraw your opponent and presumably get your "answers"/cards you needed much faster. In the early game, you could do that with Land Tax, for later, maybe Wheel of Fortune if you wanted red or Braingeyser or whatever.

Obviously now there are soooo many card drawing options that a mere land isn't going to necessarily cut it, but "in the old days", in that card pool, it was Very Strong.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I'm not sure how you're talking about the Library except in your last sentence with "the old days", but I know from experience, with the limited card drawing back then, this card was king with card advantage. Obviously it was in Zak Dolan's World Championship deck (which is what I tried to copy and why I got it and it's the *only* individual card I've spent money for, at $20 back then) so it was U/W, but you just had to keep your hand full and you could outdraw your opponent and presumably get your "answers"/cards you needed much faster. In the early game, you could do that with Land Tax, for later, maybe Wheel of Fortune if you wanted red or Braingeyser or whatever.

Obviously now there are soooo many card drawing options that a mere land isn't going to necessarily cut it, but "in the old days", in that card pool, it was Very Strong.
While there are certainly lots of major difference between then and now that affect the position of Library of Alexandria, it remains a very strong card. The decklist you mention existed in an environment where players could (and frequently did) run multiple copies of Strip Mine (Zak Dolan used 2 copies, and Bertrand Lestree's second place list included a full playset). While I'm not an expert on the nuances of the competitive environment in 1994, I'd guess that Library of Alexandria and Mishra's Factory were probably the two most prevalent high-priority targets for Strip Mine. When it wasn't blowing up those lands or neutralizing opposing Strip Mines, it was great for keeping opponents off of a color, and in an environment with no fetchlands, that's an especially big deal. Obviously not every Library is going to get taken out by a Strip Mine, though.

Probably the biggest difference is that because most decks were slower back then, Library could potentially be used as a card advantage engine even against aggro decks. In Vintage these days, a Ravager Shops deck or Dredge deck can have such a fast clock that Library as a card-drawing engine isn't really relevant, but because it still functions as a mana-producing land, it's not really a dead draw in those matchups anyway. I think Vintage players mainly want it for the control mirror. I've also tested it myself in an application I occasionally see crop up in Vintage deck records: Library of Alexandria is useful in Storm combo decks as an anti-control card. To win against control, the combo player has to either play through disruption and grind the game out or take advantage of an opening when the control player overcomits to playing a threat. Library of Alexandria is a zero-mana card advantage engine that is resilient against most anti-combo disruptive measures, and this puts pressure on the control player to either present a clock or risk letting the combo player set up.

But I do suppose that overall, you've got it right that there are so many options now and old stuff won't necessarily cut it anymore. Hypnotic Specter is in that boat. Library of Alexandria isn't, but Melkor's idea that a "reverse" version of the card would be is probably correct.
 
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