Understanding the Power of Library of Alexandria.

Unlike the Juzam Djinn, Library of Alexandria did not make itself known to me early on. I’m not certain that I was even aware of the card earlier than three or four months ago – when I got into the 93/94 format. I’m sure I came across the Library more than once online over the years but, as I never played the game very seriously, I spent much of my time infatuated with creatures. So I wouldn’t have thought much of it if I saw it.

For a while, Library of Alexandria would have been forgettable to me.

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Whether you’re in Egypt of late antiquity, the U.S. in 1993, or basically anywhere in 2016, the Library is still very alive.

I’m also not certain when I became aware of its reputation but I do know I was aware of it around the beginning of when I got into 93/94. I know this because I remember being very confused about it. Doubting its power, I thought there were certainly better cards to use for card drawing. How often does anyone have seven cards in their hand? Typically only on the first turn I thought – I had not made the connection yet about the Library and the first turn.

Library of Alexandria was a puzzle to me. I often would think about it and theorize about situations where it might shine. I never came up with much though.

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Here’s one more picture of it – just to admire the awesome, flavorful art!

I eventually consulted the all-knowing Google search bar. I typed in how is Library of Alexandria so good? I realized that I wasn’t the only one confused about its power. There were tons of forums where people had asked the same question.

There was always an answer about having to draw it on the opening draw and playing the right amount of cards each turn so that you can use its card drawing ability each turn.

And then the option of the colorless mana also meant that it was never a bad draw even if you drew it late in the game. It always serves a purpose.

I read this and still had a doubts. Does drawing one extra card each turn really help that much? And wouldn’t it be better to play as many spells as possible early in the game?

The power of Library of Alexandria is not obvious and therefore evades the beginner’s mind. It evaded mine for a long time. I recently bought one so I could experience it myself. I wanted to understand this alleged power through experience.

I did a mock game by myself to experiment with power. I shuffled up two decks – a blue aggro deck and a B/W deck. With the blue one I drew seven cards. With the B/W I drew six and added the Library of Alexandria to the hand to make seven cards. This was to emulate playing a game where the Library is in the opening draw. I would play the right amount of cards each turn to make sure I’d be able to use the Library to draw the extra.

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I shuffled the deck normally but kept the Library out.

I felt weird not playing spells that I could have played and felt that I should have played. But in the long run, it was the right decision. I moved through the deck much faster and therefore had many options to use. The deck with Library of Alexandria won. I thought it might be a fluke though. When these two decks are played against each other, the B/W typically wins.

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The opening hand with the Library placed in it. Even without the Library it’s a decent opening hand.

So I played the decks again but this time I put the Library in the opening hand of the blue aggro deck. This would be interesting because I wouldn’t be able to play many spells right away – which is how you win with the deck. The Dead Guy deck got out an Underworld Dreams off a Dark Ritual turn one. I thought for sure the blue deck would lose because of this. I played one or two cards in order to draw the extra card for about five or six turns which brought the blue down to about 10 health from the Underworld Dreams. At this point, however, I had been chipping away at the B/W deck with some Flying Men. In my hand I had a Serrendib Djinn and a Mahamoti Djinn with enough land to cast the Mahamoti – that is if I use the Library for its mana. I cast the Mahamoti and on the next turn cast the Serendib which in the end won the game for the blue deck.

Once again, the deck with the Library of Alexandria won.

I decided to use it again in the blue aggro deck but play it against a R/G deck I have which has eight land destruction cards in it. In this case, the Library was destroyed on turn three and the blue deck lost.

So in my experience of a few games with the Library, it certainly does give a huge advantage to any deck. Even though the chance is low that it will be drawn on the opening hand because of its restriction, the slim chance makes it worth putting in the deck over most cards. This bad boy now has a spot reserved in every deck I have or build! I’m actually more excited about the Library than I was about the Juzam Djinn I bought a few weeks ago.

In the 1994 MTG world championship final, American Zak Dolan played against the Frenchman Bertrand Lestree. Dolan won two out of three games to take the victory. Now, most people consider Lestree’s deck to be superior to Dolan’s. Why did Dolan win? There are probably a lot of factors but I think it’s significant to point out that Dolan drew a Library of Alexandria in his opening draw the two games he won. According to Mark Rosewater, Lestree said that he knew he would lose each time he saw Dolan put down the Library on his first turn. Technically in the third game Dolan won because Lestree got angry and left the game. He still had 10 life left. Dolan, however, had 37.

Dolan’s deck was by no means weak. He was in the world championship final. But when compared Lestree’s deck should it have really won the way it did? Well, I’m not really seasoned enough in the game to really say much on that level but people who know more than me find it surprising that it did indeed win.

Can the Library of Alexandria give enough power to a deck that it can cause an inferior deck to win against a superior deck? I don’t know. I can’t say for sure. What I can say is Library of Alexandria is certainly an incredible card and if you don’t have one yet, buy one right now. I’m glad I did. I’m excited to play with it. I can’t wait to get lucky enough to draw it in my opening hand!

So we’ve reached October and there’s a lot of good stuff happening this month. I mentioned last week about the 93/94 meet up at GP Providence on October 22nd and there’s also a meet up planned in my personal 93/94 group in southern New Hampshire one night during the week of October 10th (it’s set for the 11th but will probably change to the 12th or 13th). And being October, it’s the month of Halloween! I love holiday stuff so I’m probably going to do a couple Halloween themed blog posts. One thing I know for sure is I’m absolutely going to put together a Halloween deck. I’m sure it’ll lose every game but it will be fun!

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4 thoughts on “Understanding the Power of Library of Alexandria.

  1. Your discussion of Dolan’s win in 1994 via Library is factual, but there were many other nuances which played into the situation that are often discounted. Unfortunately, there was rampant, permissible cheating at the tournament (Lestree played with a marked deck the entire time, for example, which impacted his sideboarding strategy, or lack thereof), and the specific tournament rules were remarkably quirky even for that era due to Steve Bishop’s approach (head referee of tournament, before “judges” existed), so it is difficult to gauge today how meaningful the actual play results were, aside from becoming an infamous historical event.
    Source: I was there.

    Like

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