It’s that time of year again, when Magic Online opens the vaults and lets us play with the (recently renamed) Vintage cube. Everyone can play with a powered cube, even those of us who aren’t graced with the incredible fortune of knowing someone who owns one (or has proxied one, or owns one themselves). It’s a rare and special treat that only comes for a short period each year. And because it only comes around infrequently, we don’t have much time to learn from our mistakes. I wrote on this very same subject two years ago, but I think that there is perhaps no more common enormous Vintage Cube mistake than passing this card:

Library of Alexandria

(I know it’s not the original artwork…

…but you still ought to recognize it.)

Library of Alexandria is one of the strongest Magic cards ever printed. It produces massive amounts of card advantage for little to no setup cost. It can win the game by itself. It’s better than Timetwister, one of the Power Nine. If you’re passing this card, you’d better be taking an amazing Magic card like a Black Lotus or a phenomenal archetype enabler, like Skullclamp in a tokens deck or Tinker in a heavy artifact deck. Otherwise, you’re probably making a big mistake and making the person next to you very happy.

Arm with Æther

It’s easy to overlook the power level of the library. It taps for colorless mana in a format where one can easily be playing five color control. It works slowly, building advantage over time in a format where turn one ForestMox Emerald + Channel + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is possible. It only draws a card when you have exactly seven cards in hand, which rarely happens in Magic. I’ve heard these three points brought up by people who don’t think the ol’ Library is that good. To these three points, I say:

  1. There is indeed a real setup cost to colorless lands. However, Strip Mine and Maze of Ith are both exceptionally strong cards that tend to make main decks and neither one taps for mana (Strip Mine technically does, but one is most often using it to immediately destroy an opponent’s land, or all of them with Crucible of Worlds or Sun Titan). With Library of Alexandria, you can benefit from its ability and then switch over to mana production if you need it. In short, the library is more flexible than most other colorless utility lands.
  2. Just as in Vintage, many games can be surprisingly slow and grindy. Yes, you’re going to lose on turn zero a small percentage of the time, but that’s going to happen regardless of the deck you’re playing (unless you’re rocking Force of Will, a card whose value goes way up in Vintage cube). You simply can’t judge cards by the worst possible scenario, since almost every card in Magic fails that test. The Library also allows you to play a grindy game you might not otherwise be able to, because it allows you to draw twice as many cards as your opponent does. For free. Its power level is off the charts.
  3. It’s quite easy to have seven cards in hand at the beginning of a game of Magic. If Library is in your opening hand and you don’t mulligan, you get to draw a card on your second turn on the play and on your first turn on the draw. If you mulligan and are on the draw, you still get to draw a card on your first turn. Yes, drawing Library later in the game is worse, but most cards have a shelf life (Mox Ruby is rarely better than a mountain when you don’t have any lands in hand, but it’s still an amazing card). And if you draw Library late and can’t use it, you’re probably not suffering much for it tapping for colorless mana.

Library of Lat-Nam

Seriously, take Library of Alexandria. If you don’t believe me that it’s up there with the Power Nine, I encourage you to try it out. Just once. Playtesting makes perfect.

Oh, and Umezawa’s Jitte isn’t nearly as good as it looks. It’s strong, but in a creature-light format, it does a lot less work. There are very, very, very few decks that would prefer to have a Jitte to a Library.

Or at least, that’s what I think.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is finished with finals and is very pleased with that fact.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.