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Magic Memories: Lim-Dûl's Paladin

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
We're almost halfway through 2020 and the only new Memories thread I'd started this year was the Life from the Loam thread. I knew that I'd have a lot to say about Life from the Loam because it's such a prolific, useful card. I mean, it's good with pretty much any land in the game. As I went on and on in that thread, it's an amazingly flexible and distinctive card.

Having mostly covered my own recollections of using Life from the Loam and reviewing the history of the card from its origins in 2005 all the way up to its usage with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath (a card that wasn't even released yet at the time I started the thread), I think it's time to move on to Memories of some other card. And mulling it over, after analyzing one of the most uniquely useful cards ever, I thought it might be fun to look at a card that is, well, not so useful. Let's really scrape the bottom of the barrel! Here's a card I haven't used in almost 20 years.
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I have no idea why the Gatherer image for this card shows some kind of fake version. The real card does have an Alliances expansion symbol and doesn't look quite like that. Something is off with that image. The outermost black border is ridiculously thick. No idea how they screwed this one up, but they obviously did. Weird.

Anyway, this used to be one of my mainstays back in the 90's, when I didn't know any better. The problem is, it's just not a very good card! In my defense, the art is amazing. It just looks like it should be on a good card!
 

Ferret

Moderator
Staff member
It's not a bad card - just really really squishy. Back then all it took was a Lightning Bolt to make it go away...
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
It's not a bad card - just really really squishy.
Oh, I agree. It's not a bad card. It's just not a very good one. I think part of what's incongruous is how many lines of text it has to really not do very much.

And it is kinda too squishy, although at least when it's attacking it's either going unblocked or swinging in as a 6/6. You'd have to be in a really bad position to want to use this guy as a blocker.

Back then all it took was a Lightning Bolt to make it go away...
Exactly! If this had been a 0/4 instead of a 0/3, it would still be outclassed by today's standards, but it might have been of more interest back in its heyday. But Lightning Bolt was so ubiquitous...
 

Melkor

Well-known member
Actually, it is a bad card. Are we just ignoring that you have to discard a card every upkeep just to keep it around?
 

Mooseman

Isengar Tussle
Actually, it is a bad card. Are we just ignoring that you have to discard a card every upkeep just to keep it around?
Ahh, but for a discard engine that may work... madness decks and such. But the 4cc is too high and it is under defended. If it was hexproof, it would be much better.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Actually, it is a bad card.
I mean, I don't think I could bring myself to include it in any of my decks anymore, nor have I used it at all in over 20 years, so I can't really dispute what you're saying with any real conviction. The card is outclassed by newer stuff and had major issues even back in the 90's.

However, I'll say for my part that at some point I started reevaluating how I apply the phrase "bad card." I think I mentioned this here in a conversation with Spiderman at some point. I don't think I expounded on it much, so this is as good a place as any to do that. So I will. But perhaps not just yet. I'll have to mull that one over.

As bad cards go, I do think that Lim-Dûl's Paladin is definitely the worst card I've started a Magic Memories thread for. So it does have that going for it. Or against it? Whatever.

Are we just ignoring that you have to discard a card every upkeep just to keep it around?
Mooseman beat me to it. I'd started this post but had to leave it for an extended period. Came back to my desk and the message board had a little notification for me that a new post had been added to the thread. And yeah, I think I pretty much agree with what Mooseman just said. The upkeep cost could be exploited, such as with a Madness deck or Reanimator sort of concept, but Lim-Dûl's Paladin is a slow and unreliable tool for discarding your own cards, so it wouldn't really be seen as a good fit for the sort of deck that would take advantage of self-discard.
 

Mooseman

Isengar Tussle
Now a great exercise would be to create a deck that breaks Lim-Dûl's Paladin . Doesn't have to be a great tourney deck, but one that uses Lim-Dûl's Paladin to get a win..... somehow.
I did one to break Leviathan and it didn't have on island in the deck. It ended up being a decent casual duel deck.
I was working on a My Little Dwarven Pony deck at one point.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Now a great exercise would be to create a deck that breaks Lim-Dûl's Paladin . Doesn't have to be a great tourney deck, but one that uses Lim-Dûl's Paladin to get a win..... somehow.
I did one to break Leviathan and it didn't have on island in the deck. It ended up being a decent casual duel deck.
I was working on a My Little Dwarven Pony deck at one point.
I will take up this challenge. Not right this moment, and it's probably just silly anyway because I don't play in the sort of environment where this could really be a thing, but I'll come up with something.

I've seen it used very successfully in a commander deck.
I've given that some thought and I will use this card in a Commander deck at some point (I've used much worse cards on purpose, so this isn't a stretch for me), but so far, I believe I've never seen it in the format ever.

I checked EDHrec, and it looks like the main commander associated with Lim-Dûl's Paladin is Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.
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And I've got to admit, that makes a lot of sense. If you get the Paladin in your graveyard, Alesha can bring it back, tapped and attacking, for just two mana. If it survives, you can either let it die and draw a card, repeating the process on your next turn, or discard another creature and use Alesha's ability on that creature next turn. It's not a gamechanger for an Alesha deck, but it does seem to be a reasonably practical choice.
 
Yeah good choice. I would love to see a player's reaction to this combo. It's the new and unusual combos that win the commander games.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
There's a lot going on here, so I should break it down and explain why I still like this card. Other than the art, I mean. Yeah, it's mostly the art, though. This is probably my favorite Christopher Rush piece. It makes the paladin look imposing, when really he kind of isn't. One nice flavor tie-in, considering how much is going on with the card mechanically, is that the art shows the paladin wielding a sword in one hand and some kind of dark magic in the other. Since this is, after all, Lim-Dûl's Paladin, I always interpreted this to be showing how if his path to his target (the opponent) is clear, he unleashes death magic at the target, dealing no damage, but afflicting the enemy planeswalker with a life-draining effect. And if some pesky creature gets in his way, well then he hulks out and swings his sword, striking down blockers and trampling over to hit his original target anyway.

To be thorough...
  • Lim-Dûl's Paladin is a 0/3 on other players' turns.
  • Lim-Dûl's Paladin stays a 0/3 if it attacks and isn't blocked.
  • Lim-Dûl's Paladin causes the defending player to lose 4 life if it attacks and isn't blocked.
  • Lim-Dûl's Paladin becomes a 6/6 if it is blocked.
  • Lim-Dûl's Paladin has Trample, so if it does get +6/+3 on account of being blocked, some of that damage can trample over.
  • Lim-Dûl's Paladin has an upkeep cost of discarding a card.
  • If you don't pay the upkeep cost or can't pay it, you sacrifice Lim-Dûl's Paladin and draw a card.
That's somewhat convoluted for a typical Magic card, but really pretty manageable because they different aspects are relevant at different times: the upkeep ability is its own thing, the power/toughness boost and the Trample only matter if it's blocked, the life loss mechanic only matters if it's not blocked, and the rest of the time it's just a 0/3.

This all makes intuitive sense and the card does its job well enough. It's reasonable for a card from 1996. I've heard rumors that Lim-Dûl's Paladin was in tournament decks in Type 2 alongside Death Spark, Ashen Ghoul, and Nether Shadow.
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I didn't become even vaguely aware of how tournament play worked until a couple years after that, and records from back then are pretty spotty. But it seems plausible.

For all its mediocrity, the prospect of realistically getting good usage out of Lim-Dûl's Paladin in its day doesn't seem farfetched. Back then, a 6/6 was pretty big and anything bigger would come with a big drawback. Think Lord of the Pit or Colossus of Sardia. The 4-point life-loss was a weird tradeoff to an opponent letting it through, but that did negate all damage prevention, including Fog effects. So there was a kind of five-turn clock there. The upkeep cost was annoying, although it could be managed by thing like the aforementioned Death Spark. I mean, Masticore had a similar upkeep cost and was still considered a great card. Unlike other creatures with discarding a card as an upkeep cost, Lim-Dûl's Paladin came with a built-in payoff if you couldn't or didn't choose to discard a card. While that wasn't the primary gameplan (2BR for a creautre that just gets sacrificed to draw a card isn't a good deal), it did remain an option.
 

Melkor

Well-known member
Having looked through Gatherer, at the time it was printed your options for choosing and discarding your own cards into the graveyard were extremely limited. So, if you were trying to do Magic 96 B/R Reanimator, it's probably a decent option.
 
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