Magic Memories: Lat-Nam's Legacy


The Tentacled One
This site is focused on casual play. One of the things I think is great about this is that there's a wide variety of approaches to most aspects of the game, with different players focused on their own environments and interests. Sure, there aren't that many of us, but when these topics do come up, it's not hard to spot that this isn't a tournament-focused place. And I don't mean that in the sense of "we're all scrubs" or anything so outmoded as that. I mean that in it shows because in tournament-driven communities, standardization inevitably sets in. People are playing in the same environment or in similar environments, so it's just a natural progression.

It takes over in other aspects as well, but it's readily apparent in blue card-drawing stuff, a classic standby of gameplay. In Legacy, it's always Brainstorm with fetchlands. the setup gets some support from other cards, notably Ponder and Gitaxian Probe, but the particular interaction between Brainstorm and Onslaught/Zendikar fetchlands has so many different minor advantages that they accumulate into a kind of monolith. When that engine is available, if you're going down the road of using blue card-drawing spells for the purposes of digging through your deck to find the cards you want to use to win, well, Brainstorm and fetchlands will be your choice. It's not that everything else is completely outclassed, it's just that the engine has so many little advantages that add up to something definitive.

This isn't a rant about Brainstorm! To be clear, I am of the opinion that the Brainstorm + fetchland interaction is too format-warping in Legacy tournament play and should be dealt with, but that's not my point in this thread. I've played with Brainstorm a lot. A whole lot. A whole helluva lot. I like the card. It's a classic. But it's perhaps the longest-running example of how card-drawing in tournament play has become standardized. More generally, this has taken the form of one-drop card-filtering "cantrips" that in some way feed into other strategies. In Vintage, it take the form of a cabal of restricted blue spells alongside Preordain and Dack Fayden. In Legacy, it's Brainstorm, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, and fetchlands, and also sometimes Preordain. In Modern, those spells are all banned, but when blue card-drawing is successful, it's generally powered by Serum Visions.

It's been this way for a while. It's become the new normal. But once upon a time, there was something else that was king, completely different from these one-mana "cantrips." Magic's premier card-drawing engine was...

Intuition and Accumulated Knowledge!

I used this engine so much. Sadly, Intuition is now a $40 card. It was originally pretty cheap. Sure, there are more options now, but I think it was a good card from the start. Accumulated Knowledge gave blue decks a means to consistently squeeze value out of Intuition. I don't want to overstate the power of this combo: after all it really has fallen by the wayside. Tough to compete with Brainstorm and friends when they're faster, have more bonus utility, and ultimately dig deeper. But I'd still say that Intuition + Accumulated Knowledge is stronger than it looks. A blue control and/or combo deck can generally use either spell once it draws them. They're good on their own. Both are instants and can be held until the end of the opponent's turn, keeping countermagic and other utility ready to fire. Accumulated Knowledge on its own is just card-drawing, so you're not unhappy to see it, and it gets better in multiples. Intuition on its own can be used to set up combos or just as a scorched-earth tutor. And both cards play nicely with anything that lets you cast spells from your graveyard or retrieve them from your graveyard.

I forget how many decks I built with that engine. I was leaning on it pretty heavily for a while. They're good cards. Going further back in time, there was another card I used for this purpose. Lat-Nam's Legacy isn't the most obscure draw spell, but it's mostly forgotten...


The Tentacled One
Commons in Alliances each had two different versions of artwork. All the ones I can think of have both illustrations by the same artist, but I'm not sure if that holds true for the entire set. I pasted one version into my previous post, but Gatherer doesn't actually show the other version. Instead, if I attempt to view the other version of Lat-Nam's Legacy from Alliances, Gatherer shows the image for the reprint from the Coldsnap "Kjeldoran Cunning" Theme Deck. This is a silly mistake.

Seen below, this card is not from Alliances. Note the new card frame.

Shame on you, Gatherer.


The Tentacled One
I don't think that Lat-Nam's Legacy was ever really in competition with Brainstorm. Both are blue instants and both have the draw something and put something back thing going on, but that's where they part ways. Brainstorm lets you immediately draw 3 cards, but then you have to put 2 cards from your hand on top of your library. Lat-Nam's Legacy initially draws nothing and has you put 1 card from your hand into your library, but it gets shuffled in and then at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep, you get to draw 2 cards. Brainstorm costs only a single mana and gives you more cards right away, but in order not to leave you drawing the cards you put back on top, you need a shuffle effect. Lat-Nam's Legacy nets the same amount of cards, but does so on a delay, with the upside that you don't need to have a shuffle effect. So really, Lat-Nam's Legacy synergizes with Brainstorm, providing a shuffle effect.

The card that Lat-Nam's Legacy was probably competing with in its day was another two-mana instant, Impulse. And I think Impulse saw a lot more play. But I always preferred Lat-Nam's Legacy. Impulse may have been more popular and I can't argue with results, but this comes down to a matter of personal preference, influenced by deck composition and playstyle. Impulse sees more cards, but Lat-Nam's Legacy does more change the contents of one's hand.

I suspect that early Magic theory might have influenced the relative lack of interest in Lat-Nam's Legacy. One of the first concepts espoused in Magic theory is "card advantage." And in terms of raw card advantage, Lat-Nam's Legacy is actually neutral...
Cast Lat-Nam's Legacy: -1
Shuffle away a card from your hand: -1
Draw two cards at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep: +2
Total: 0

Of course, the same applies to Brainstorm and Impulse, but they were viewed not as card-drawing, but as card-selection tools. Filters. That doesn't really apply to Lat-Nam's Legacy. It doesn't show you cards and then let you pick. You shuffle something away and then, on the following turn, you draw two cards.

What I think this doesn't properly capture is that Lat-Nam's Legacy was often tantamount to "It's the end of your opponent's turn and you didn't need to cast Counterspell or Arcane Denial. You still have mana open. So take that card in your hand that you can't use right now an shuffle it back into your library. Then untap for your turn and, with all of your mana now open, go ahead and take a double Howling Mine." That situation isn't guaranteed, but I ran into it a lot, and it sounds a lot better than "Net card advantage: zero."


The Instigator
Blue is my least-played color, but I do have a Biovisionary deck with countermagic, and I've found Lat-Nam's Legacy to be quite useful for instant speed draw power.


The Tentacled One
Blue is my least-played color, but I do have a Biovisionary deck with countermagic, and I've found Lat-Nam's Legacy to be quite useful for instant speed draw power.
I like Biovisionary. One of the Duels of the Planeswalkers games had an AI opponent that used a control deck with copying Biovisionary as its win condition and it was terrifying, especially once the third Biovisionary on the board showed up.

Oddly, most of my Lat-Nam's Legacy gameplay probably predated my prolific combo deck construction. The card is fine in run-of-the-mill blue/black control decks, among other things. But I do think it's better in control-combo decks because you can shuffle a redundant combo piece back into your library and draw two new cards. I used this approach in the earliest incarnations of my Tolarian Academy deck. It's similar to, but less efficient than, the use of Brainstorm in Legacy Sneak & Show decks.


The Tentacled One
Perhaps the best use of Lat-Nam's Legacy is in combo decks that rely on some key card being in one's library when the deck is supposed to go off. I've seen it used with Polymorph, although I haven't tried that myself...

But yeah, a lot of combo decks cheat creatures onto the battlefield, and sometimes that involves cards that pull them directly from the library. This has the advantage that you don't need to assemble a two-card combo of some broken creature and another card that cheats it out from your hand (most of which have drawbacks anyway). But it does mean that if your creature winds up in your hand, you won't be able to use the library-based card to grab it. Brainstorm is probably the most efficient solution to this problem. A more specific tool I've tried out is Body Snatcher...

You do need to have a way to kill your own Body Snatcher for this to work. But if you do, this has its advantages.

Lat-Nam's Legacy is flexible and pretty close to ideal for the purposes of tucking that inconvenient combo component back into your library while also getting some value. Realistically, for tuned competitive decks, it can't beat the utility of the Brainstorm + fetchland interaction. But then, what can? Notably, I've seen Lat-Nam's Legacy in some Vintage Oath decks, and I can see the appeal there. Brainstorm is restricted in Vintage, but still, Lat-Nam's Legacy pairs pretty well with it. You could even play Oath of Druids as a two-drop against an opposing creature and then during your upkeep, with the Oath trigger on the stack, cast Lat-Nam's Legacy to get a creature from your hand back into your library.


Metacompositional Theoretician
Oversoul, I like See Beyond better than Lat-Nam on the grounds that giving up instant speed is worth it to see the two cards I draw both right now and before I have to shuffle one into my library (draw awkward second copy of combo piece? Back you go!).

Also Modern is superior to Legacy. Discuss ;)



The Tentacled One
I've never actually seen anyone use See Beyond, but then, I stopped using Lat-Nam's Legacy long before See Beyond came out. Seems like I probably would have used it if it had existed. While I tend to think that most competitive players overvalue instant speed, it really can be the deciding factor. When it comes to See Beyond vs. Lat-Nam's Legacy, the composition of the rest of the deck is what really matters. In the blue/black control decks I was using, I was trying to hold mana open for Arcane Denial, Counterspell, or Mana Leak. See Beyond doesn't function as well in that context. But I could certainly see myself building a deck in which See Beyond was a viable option and Lat-Nam's Legacy would not.

As for the purported superiority of Modern, I've probably said most of what I should over in this thread. I'm biased, but I think that Legacy is better. After all, there are zero cards that are legal in Modern but illegal in Legacy. Any Modern deck is also, technically, a Legacy deck. And anything you can do at least as well in Legacy and maybe better.