Way back in 1996 or so, I cracked this gold card from my Alliances pack. It wasn’t Lim-Dul’s Paladin, what we all hoped to open, but this necromancer apparently liked all sorts of gold cards, not just paladins, and it turned out to be Lim-Dul’s Vault. “Cool!” I thought, then I tried to figure out what it did and put it away in frustration for six years (this being an age before tl;dr).
Lim-Dul, I later found out, was like this old relative that would make you sit through all his long, boring stories before you got the candy. And it turns out, Lim-Dul, that ancient Cryptkeeper, had some pretty good candy. How about stacking your next five draws? If you don’t like those, what about stacking the next five? See, I thought I knew what Lim-Dul’s Vault actually said, but it turns out that the card functionally actually reads:
Pay between 0 and 5 life: look for a card in your library, put it on top of your library and then put another pretty good card below it. If I really like you, put a third one under it.
“Necromantic Tutors were always overshadowed by Vampiric Tutor”
So that means that we’ve got a card that works a lot like Vampiric Tutor in Legacy, one that’s been sitting around for years that we may have just been reading incorrectly (or not at all!). Obviously, our minds first go to using this ersatz Vampiric Tutor as a combo enabler, fueling up some storm; in that regard, it’s lacking, since we don’t have many combo cards that are worth tutoring for. However, Vampiric Tutor had an amazing history in Extended as a general toolbox card and tutor, getting merely “fair” cards like Haunting Echoes or Exhume. I propose that the downsides of Lim-Dul’s Vault are countered by its amazing power, meaning it’s probably far less played than it should be.
The card costs twice as much as Vampiric Tutor, and even requires another color. This means that it has to compete with the Mirage tutor cycle, which can grab specific cards if you give up a draw phase. The big perk to Lim-Dul’s Vault is that it has the same versatility of the later Vampiric Tutor — that is, you can get anything you want with it! Decks could use their “Vamp” to get a bullet card like Wasteland or Dust Bowl, like Sol Malka loved to do with Rock. In Vintage, the tutor can get unexpected cards like Library of Alexandria or Strip Mine, rocking someone who thought they could just counter the resulting spell. The Napster deck was masterful at this, snagging all sorts of hosers with Vampiric Tutor, capitalizing on its versatility. The Vault can play the same role in Legacy, giving its versatility the nod over cards like Mystical Tutor or Enlightened Tutor, both of which force you to build with certain cards in mind, making you run that Humility when you might have wanted Wrath of God instead (or vice versa).
However, using the Vault like this can sometimes require a lot of life. The Vampire only asks you for two life, but to see all your deck on the third turn, you might have to spend ten life. That makes hunting for a single bullet a lot harder, and makes the resulting strategy weaker. That said, running two copies of a card you’ll want to see often is a fine way around this. Further, what if you design your deck so that you want to see something like Brainstorm, Swords to Plowshares and a Flooded Strand on top? What if you’re not looking for bullets, exactly, just looking to make sure your next few turns are really good? The Vault is in Dark Confidant colors and can play reasonably well with Counterbalance, so there are some angles that it can already work with. The Vault is also Blue, which means, yes, that it ups your Blue count for Force of Will. I don’t like this argument a whole lot, but I found that a lot of the decks that I want Force of Will in are decks that also don’t want a lot of Blue cards; Vault lets you replace some copies of the juicier cards, like removal or beaters, with a Blue card that can go get them.
The gravy about Vault, though, is that extra card or two that you get to set up to draw the turn after that. Sometimes, you want to get two strong cards back to back that you know will be good, and Vault sets that up well. Sometimes, you’ll be unsure of what you’ll need after the card you set up on top. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re thinking “now I need to get through four more cards before I see something that might help!” Thus, perhaps paradoxically, I suggest running a lot of fetchlands in a deck with the Vault. You can set up your next draw or two and then reboot the deck to draw randomly, so if you need to try to mise that removal or counter, you can make it happen.
Lim-Dul’s Vault also lets you set up combinations that can put real pressure on an opponent or outright win the game. While the old Trix combination of Illusions of Grandeur and Donate is too fragile for Legacy for a million reasons, the Vault can set up other hot combos that can win quickly. For example, it can pick up Grindstone or a Painter’s Servant, it can put together the missing piece of the Dark Depths/Vampire Hexmage combination, or it can grab that missing Sword of the Meek for your Thopter Foundry. I’m serious when I say that I’m going over every deck I’ve thrown together in the past year to see if the Vault would make it better, especially when I can replace something clunky like Gifts Ungiven with it.
Most exciting for me, though, is the way Lim-Dul’s Vault interacts with Treasure Hunt. To understand it, let’s step away from that interaction to go into the mists of history, where we had this crazy card-drawing combo of Intuition and Accumulated Knowledge. The tutor grabbed the draw, setting up three cards in hand for five mana that split across two turns. The great thing about it was that you only needed Intuition to make it work, and if you drew an Accumulated Knowledge before casting the tutor, you were seeing seven cards as a result of that Intuition! Vault and Treasure Hunt remind me of that, but with a far crazier power level. The reason is that if you see a Treasure Hunt in your Vaulting, you can put it on top, put any lands below it and then put the best card, the one you wanted to draw anyway, under all of those. The end result is that you draw a Treasure Hunt and then cast it for as many lands you could find in the top five and then a sick spell. That’s going to be always two cards and often three, rivaling Intuition/Accumulated Knowledge! If you already have that Treasure Hunt in hand, you can go Vaulting for the cards you want and then pick up more lands along the way as well. You can imagine an end-of-turn Vault that stacks Swords to Plowshares, Land, Land, Engineered Explosives — imagine Treasure Hunting into that the next turn! The synergy between Vault and in-deck Treasure Hunts and in-hand Treasure Hunts gets me thinking about what we can do with lots of cards in hand, but there are always some places we can start looking.
Vampiric Tutor also historically shone in Rock decks, getting those bullets I talked about earlier. Rock has inherited a lot of cool cards like Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kitchen Finks, but it’s got to look at wonky cards to hunt down its game-stopper cards. This is where I think Lim-Dul’s Vault shows the most promise, as I’ve previously had to cram Gifts Ungiven in alongside my Pernicious Deeds to track down something like Volrath’s Stronghold. Now, we can run Recurring Nightmare and Damnation and Haunting Echoes(!) and be able to cheaply track them down. We don’t have to spin Sensei’s Divining Top to get good cards with Dark Confidant and we can use lifegain like the Kitchen Finks to offset the life loss from the Vault. The Blue requirement isn’t hard to meet and it could present tremendous gains for the whole Rock archetype.
Another consideration is a controlling UB list with cards like The Abyss and the Thopter Foundry combination to win the game. This would be a likely home for Treasure Hunt, too. One could run the neo-Morphling, Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and could dip into Green for Pernicious Deed or Tarmogoyf. This archetype has traditionally been bad in Legacy because it can’t react very well if something gets past a counter, but maybe the Vault can improve it by giving better reactivity and enabling a combo-kill that was much harder to assemble in the past.
There are probably crazier applications for Lim-Dul’s Vault out there as well; I’ve been asking myself where I want a Vampiric Tutor and going from there. A lot of decks might not require it, but many might want it. That is, CounterTop lists may see an improvement by being able to go track down a specific card or two, even though that ability was not necessary for its performance before. What about in a Reanimator deck that ran it for cards like Chain of Vapor or a miser’s Contamination for a Nether Spirit? While many have found Mystical Tutor to come up wanting in Reanimator, I could see Vault shining where the Tutor fell off, like when you want to get a Putrid Imp to discard that Iona in hand.
As a wrap-up, it’s important to understand how to manage your time when you play with Lim-Dul’s Vault. The card can enable a lot of operations, so have a method to go through those operations quickly. If I am Vaulting several times and spending life, I track it by putting a die on the physical card to indicate how much life I have spent. If I have enough life and enough of a need to loop through the entire deck, I’ll make sure that the card combination I am looking for is going to line up the second time around. First, this requires that your deck not contain cards that are a multiple of five, otherwise you’ll just see the same cards. Second, it requires a method; if I want two cards to show up right near each other, I’ll put say, the Thopter Foundry on the bottom of the pile when I find it and then the Sword of the Meek on top of the pile; the next time I see them, they might be in the same five cards. Finally, remember that you shuffle after all that deck manipulation; put the five cards you want on top aside, shuffle your deck, put those five on top, and then put the Vault in your graveyard and mark the lifeloss you incurred. Any misstep while shuffling (like forgetting to shuffle!) can result in a game loss, which is bad times.
Let me know if you’ve had successes with non-traditional applications of Lim-Dul’s Vault via email or the feedback thread here. You can also comment on Twitter (where you would have seen a sneak peek of this topic!). If Vault were a preview card for the next set, we’d be going totally crazy looking for uses. In the coming weeks, I hope to show more of my experiments with the card as addenda to other articles.
Until next week…
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