Magic Memories: Lim-Dûl's Vault

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Mirage Block introduced a four-card cycle of "topdeck tutors" (and left everyone wondering where the red one was). The blue one and the black one are both banned in Legacy, the white was used to be banned but was eventually set free, and the green one was never banned but is no slouch. They set the standard for "tutor" cards that help you find something in your library and put it on top. Since these tutors arrived, few other cards in that category have been able to establish themselves. Some of the imitators offer additional benefits, but they cost two mana and are generally not worth it. So while Enlightened Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and Worldly Tutor are powerful and respected, two-mana stuff that lets you choose your own topdecks are generally fodder for scrubs. All except one...
    It doesn't take much life to find a card you need with this thing, especially if you have four copies of the card in question. But going through your library in five-card clumps, you're very likely to hit not just one card that you care about, but two or even three. When it comes to deck manipulation utility, almost nothing else comes close. You can get the pinpoint precision of Vampiric Tutor, the scorched earth total control of Doomsday, or the sky-high probability of unparalleled value offered by Lim-Dûl's Vault.
  2. Terentius The Instigator

    Could be a useful tutor for my Combo-animator, as well as scrying/manafixing. I think I have one from the Commander 2013 pre-con I can use.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Lim-Dûl's Vault has been one of my favorite cards for a long, long time. WotC, in tinkering with the color pie and trying to establish the flavor and function of the two-color pairings, stuck themselves in a bit of a corner with blue/black. Mark Rosewater is aware of this and has commented on it when expounding on the guilds of Ravnica. As an "allied pair" it's a more recurrent color combination, and owing to existing themes and historical circumstance, it's seen by many players (myself included) as the most powerful and most alluring color combination. Underground Sea remains the most expensive dual land for a reason. "I want the colors that let me cast Demonic Tutor and Ancestral Recall." And so the handful of blue/black cards that really capture the flavor of both colors in combination are special. Recoil, Dream Salvage, Notion Thief, Sleeper's Robe, Urza's Guilt. All warm my tiny, dark heart. And none more than Lim-Dûl's Vault.

    Manipulating the top cards of your library is so blue. Saying, "I do not want these cards and will pay life to get different cards instead of these ones" is so black. Put them together and keep the costs and results efficient: two mana, five cards at at time, just 1 life paid for each fresh set of cards, and you get one of the most flexible card selection tools ever.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    A lot of my early collection came from $1 "grab bags" that were brown paper bags a now-dead local game store packed with bulk cards from the mid-90's. I think I actually got one of my copies of Force of Will this way (it was an uncommon and had no real financial value back then). It was how Lim-Dûl's Vault made its way into my collection and my proclivity for blue/black decks had me using the card a lot since long before I learned to build decks that were particularly good. The one detail keeping LDV in check is that, unlike some similar spells that are otherwise not as powerful, it does not replace itself. And even as far back as when I was using LDV, card advantage was all the rage. And here was a spell that didn't "cantrip." You could stack the top of your library, but players wanted cards in hand, not on top of the library. I think that's the reason Impulse was far more popular.
    The two cards were used in similar roles, but Impulse only actually gave you one card and tucked the others on the bottom of your library. The "Shuffle your library afterwards" clause was a goof-up and was removed for later printings. It did put that card directly into your hand, which was important. Also important: you were digging exactly four cards deep. LDV started out digging five cards deep, but for a little life, you could go as deep as you needed to. Find anything. So really, the comparison shouldn't be to Impulse. Lim-Dûl's Vault is more like Vampiric Tutor.
    Of course, Vampiric Tutor is so strong that it has been banned or restricted in competitive formats, whereas LDV bears no such distinction. To find a specific card, LDV might cost more life than Vampiric Tutor, but sometimes it'll be less. The life loss is probably a wash overall. I suspect that for many decks, LDV could average less life cost than Vampiric Tutor. And obviously being able to stack five cards is better than only getting one. So really, the distinction is the mana cost. At a single black mana, Vampiric Tutor is so profoundly efficient that it pushes the envelope. That's why it's famous as one of the best tutors in the game. I do not claim that LDV has or should have such a distinction. But really, it's not that far behind!
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Did you know that Lim-Dûl's Vault can power an infinite combo by exploiting the same aspect of the rules as Waylay, the CPA poster child? Behold...
    First, get Skill Borrower onto the battlefield no longer afflicted with summoning sickness (give it haste or wait a turn). Then get Kiki-Jiki on top of your library. Next, wait until your opponent's end step, after any hypothetical tokens made by the Kiki-Jiki ability would die to a trigger (but there aren't any—yet). Activate Skill Borrower to make a hasty token copy of itself, then activate the copy to make another copy, and so on ad infinitum. Finally, your turn rolls around and you untap and kill them. Easy.

    In theory, this interaction could be accomplished with no library manipulation whatsoever, but that's unreliable. An efficient alternative would be to get Skill Borrower out and then, once you're ready to combo off, cast Worldly Tutor to put Kiki-Jiki on top of your library. This is perfectly valid and I have no complaints with it. But for overall flexibility, I contend that one more mana for LDV (which is in better colors for such a deck anyway) is worth the investment. LDV can potentially find both components of the interaction, rather than just Kiki-Jiki. Also, it can be used to tuck Kiki-Jiki into the right place for later use or to dig up some form of preparation or protection before executing the combo.
    Psarketos likes this.
  6. Terentius The Instigator

    Now I definitely want it in my Sedris deck. I wish Skill Borrower copied triggered abilities like Annihilator, but there's a few cards in the deck with activated abilities I wouldn't mind copying as well.
    Oversoul likes this.
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    My longest-running use of Lim-Dûl's Vault was in my "HHT" deck, something I've written about here before. A few times, really. In fact, it was the subject of one of my early CPA articles (but take note of my obligatory warning about how articles from that era had some sort of software corruption thing happen that replaced a bunch of ordinary punctuation marks with unicode replacement characters, so the article can be read, but it looks weird).

    I also posted some stories and stuff about it over the years. Let's see...

    So yeah, it's generally territory that has been covered. I don't want to yammer on about Donate + Illusions at every opportunity. Also, this was primarily a Necropotence deck and I don't want to just blatantly stall ever doing some giant thread about Necropotence. But HHT is bound to come up in discussions about "memories" because it was probably my most-played deck ever. And LDV was a card in the deck. It played a prominent role.

    I linked to an assortment of threads that touched on the topic of Necro-Donate. My version was "Here, Hold This." Train called the same concept "Have a Cigar." The most popular version of the deck was known as "Trix" and that name was, inconsistently, extended to all decks exploiting the Donate + Illusions of Grandeur combo. Here at the CPA, Istanbul was the person vocally doing this. He had a severe dislike for the combo and it had been the kill condition in my favorite deck, so that was the root of some division between us. He's long-gone now and it doesn't really matter, but I always kind of regretted that afterward because I rather liked Istanbul otherwise and had a lot of respect for him, so the mere fact that we were on opposite ends of the liking/hating Donate spectrum seems like such a petty source of any potential resentment. Then again, I was probably just reading too much into it. Spiderman and I have argued about way sillier things than that like 5,000 times and I still hold him in high regard (just don't tell him I said that). Well, anyway, um...

    I covered "Trix" briefly in my Combo Breakfast article. It got its name because of the existing trend of naming combo decks after breakfast cereals and because Illusions of Grandeur had a white rabbit in its art. In that last forum post I linked to, I mentioned the convergent evolution of my "HHT" and the slightly older Extended tournament deck, "Dance, Dance Donate Illusions." I'll probably go into more detail on that story some other time. But one big point of interest is the use of Lim-Dûl's Vault in the contrast between Trix and "Dance, Dance Donate Illusions." Ultimately, Trix was by far the more popular and more successful deck, but both had their advantages and disadvantages. There was a kind of initial philosophical difference between the two. Both decks started with the premise of using Donate/Illusions as the kill. Both decks used Necropotence as an engine, which is enhanced by the lifegain from Illusions. Both decks used Dark Ritual to accelerate Necropotence and/or Illusions. Both decks used two of the best disruptive cards in the format: Force of Will and Duress. Both decks used Demonic Consultation as an instant-speed tool to find a game-winning combo piece. But DDDI acted as a control-combo deck, playing more countermagic and aiming to keep the opponent from doing anything important for the first few turns while setting up the combo. Trix was all-in on a fast win, using Mana Vault for more speed. And, of course, Trix used Vampiric Tutor. DDDI (and HHT) used Lim-Dûl's Vault. Vampiric Tutor made more sense for sheer speed, but LDV was the crucial tutor for a control-combo build.
  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I already compared LDV to Vampiric Tutor and I don't want to dwell on the comparison. The cards have overlap, but their roles differ. The analogy with Lightning Helix seems apt. Healing Salve as lifegain isn't efficient enough for me to want to use it. Lightning Bolt is definitely worth it. But if I can basically staple a Healing Salve to a Lightning Bolt, say, "You get both on the same card, but you have to pay the mana for both of them" then is Healing Salve worth it? The answer appears to be "yes, definitely." Lightning Helix may not be quite as useful or ubiquitous as Lightning Bolt, but it's a fine card. But where Lightning Helix is like stapling Healing Salve (but worse) to Lightning Bolt, Lim-Dûl's Vault is like stapling Index (but better) to Vampiric Tutor. It's not going to beat the overall utility of the single-mana spell, but paying more to get more does have its niche.

    As far as the faster/slower Necro-Donate builds are concerned, an all-in version can use the efficiency of Vampiric Tutor to fetch a single combo piece. Under Necropotence, getting the card might be delayed a turn, although Trix decks could use Brainstorm to compensate for this. But the slower, more controlling Necro-Donate decks really benefited from being able to dig 5 cards deep. With HHT, LDV set up wins for me entirely without Necropotence. I just held the game for the first several turns with Duress and countermagic, then used LDV to sculpt my topdecks so that I could combo off. This meant that even if opponents could stop my Necropotence, they weren't necessarily stopping me from winning.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I've been describing Necro-Donate with Lim-Dûl's Vault as "control-combo." That's because the faster "Trix" version was mostly acceleration and support with only modest protection. Notably, the faster version had far more tournament success. But the slower version wasn't really built for long games like a traditional control deck. It aimed to keep opponents from doing anything to win or to stop the combo while also setting up, and my version usually cast Donate on turn 6 or so. That's slow for a pure combo deck, but it's not grinding out games for 20 or 30 turns, and the deck wasn't built to be able to do so. Rather, it had very good tools for controlling the game early on and, barring bad luck, it had ways to deal with most opponents. LDV was great here...
    • It could find Necropotence, the deck's engine.
    • It could enable wins without Necropotence, sometimes digging for both pieces of the combo kill.
    • It could set up my topdecks for what might very well be the rest of the game.
    • It could give me advance knowledge of what cards I'd hit with Necropotence.
    • If the game ran a little longer, it could set me up to have more hard control with Arcane Denial and Force of Will.
    • It could be pitched to Force of Will.
    • If Duress revealed that I wasn't facing dangerous disruption, LDV and/or Demonic Consultation could be used to rush out a Donate + Illusions.
    • If I could hit a single blue mana and a single black mana, it could reverse a manascrew by a clump of 5 cards with multiple lands, salvaging an otherwise doomed game.
    • In a pinch, it could serve as an overcosted Vampiric Tutor.
  10. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    It may not be a tournament staple, but Lim-Dûl's Vault does have its uses in Legacy. I've even seen Vintage lists using it, although I'm at a loss to understand how it would pull its weight in that environment. Its biggest home these days is probably Commander, which is a quirk of the current play patterns and popularity of Magic formats, as LDV tends to shine a bit more in decks with higher redundancy because it has better odds of hitting a strong stack of 5 cards and doing it earlier.

    I do think it's still a very good card, but in some ways, LDV is becoming a relic of a bygone age. These days, it is entirely common for Legacy decks to use Brainstorm, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe and, sometimes, Preordain. In a world where everyone is slinging one-mana spells that provide utility and replace themselves, a two-mana spell that doesn't have the phrase "draw a card" just isn't as efficient. LDV has always been a niche card, but the ubiquity of the "cantrip cartel" has been sidelining it even more.

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