Commander Spotlight: Library of Lat-Nam

One of the best attributes behind card games like Magic is that they are constantly changing their appeal due to an influx of new mechanics, new themes, and new ideas. Unlike a board game, where it’s largely the same experience from one playthrough to the next, games with customizable decks are always in motion. It’s hard for such games to truly get stale if they’re designed correctly. If you don’t like how a particular period of the game is functioning – maybe you don’t like the storyline or current mechanics being highlighted – all you have to do is give it some time and try again during the next cycle.

That being said, this ever-flowing nature cuts both ways. There can be a heavy completionist pull for players to always participate in new expansions for fear of missing out on a great experience or ‘falling behind’ the people they play with. You don’t want to be the only person in your group not partaking in a set the rest of your friends are excited about.

Likewise, if you’re the only person in your gaming group who buys into a set. Your reason for doing so may reside with a particular mechanic or the setting being offered, though, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play with those cards to ensure that you aren’t wasting money. Still, this can instill that age old notion that your investment is simply buying wins.

As such, the volume of cards a casual player buys can be precarious. For those who don’t have a stake in the game beyond the desire to play with friends, there’s a subtle unwritten need to balance how much you invest in the game at any given moment with the frequency that those cards get used.

(This is all predicated on the fact that you even have the disposable income to spend on it in the first place, which is a whole other topic.)

When I first got started playing Magic: the Gathering, it was almost exclusively with my older brothers and their friends; I didn’t know anyone else who played. It would take a couple years before I built up my first consistent group of Magic-playing friends. However, when my brothers’ friend group turned their attention elsewhere, during that interim period I didn’t have anyone to regularly play with.

To stay involved, I took to set collecting sets. My first completed set was Revised, which took me nearly a year to accomplish. It involved me saving up money from odd jobs and then visiting the local flea market on the weekends to pick up the more valuable cards from a vendor there. (This was before the internet really had taken off mind you. Also, I was 12.) I enjoyed the feeling that when I wasn’t able to play the game, I was able to feel involved by tracking down cards and finishing sets. Which is why once I started playing again with regularity, I still kept up the practice.

Over the years, that tactic has helped me during the down times when those around me weren’t playing much. Although it’s proven pretty handy to keep me interested, I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to lean on it as my primary Magic outlet. In fact, the last major lull among my Magic-going friends was around the Time Spiral block.

That is, until now.

As most things that ebb and flow, 2017 has been pretty sparse on the gaming front for most my meta group, and so once again I’ve fallen back on set collecting.

It’s not all bad, though. For one, it means less self-imposed guilt over never updating my decks. For another, it gives me the levity to appreciate the library of cards I already have versus the constant allure of focusing on what’s due out next.

And so, in honor of appreciating one’s own library comes this week’s card.

Today we have: Library of Lat-Nam

Name: Library of Lat-Nam

Edition: Alliances / Sixth Edition

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Card Draw / Tutoring

Highlights: Among Magic’s many tales, the Ice Age period of Dominaria’s lengthy timeline is not one of its strongest. It wasn’t bad pe se, but it could have been a lot more cohesive. Case in point: although Alliances takes place after the Ice Age brought on by the Brothers War between Urza and Mishra, the Library of Lat-Nam itself was supposedly destroyed before the Ice Age began.

Of course, that isn’t the only odd thing about this card. Library of Lat-Nam is an early modal spell that offers two choices: draw three cards during the next upkeep, or tutor for any card. The catch is that an opponent chooses what you get, not you.

Now, the vast majority of the time your opponent is going to let you draw three cards – cards that you must wait until the next player’s turn in order to draw. (It was a thing back then.) This turns the Library into an admittedly weaker version of Concentrate, which in turn is why the Library has often garnered a lot of derision and dismissal over the years. And in isolation, those criticisms are absolutely justified. Make no mistake, paying five mana for a delayed three card draw in Blue is not particularly ideal.

In multiplayer games like Commander, however, the Library is redeemed thanks to table politics. This is where its second option comes into use, as Library of Lat-Nam is a rare example of an unrestricted nonblack tutor. That fact alone should make it worth considering.

It could be entirely within another player’s interests, for instance, to let you search for an answer in your deck to a major problem on the board currently affecting both of you. Because the dynamics of an EDH game can often make strange bedfellows, a well timed Library used on the right opponent gives you much better odds to maximize its tutoring capabilities than you may think.

In totality, the Library of Lat-Nam makes for a more interesting five mana card than it may otherwise seem. Sure, there are times when it will seem overcosted. But there’s also the potential for it to be well worth the mana – especially if the circumstances call for player collusion.

Like any good book, don’t be so quick to judge this card by its cover. You’d be surprised what you may find by looking a little deeper.

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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