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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 30 2020 12:36pm
3.5
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Art by Wesley Burt

 SUMMARY OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

 One of the most popular planeswalkers in the game, and a constant protagonist of Magic storylines, Liliana has been around since the very inception of the planeswalker card type, consistently representing monoblack walkers in all her appearances (the only other planeswalker with more than one incarnation that has never branched out of monoblack so far is Ob Nixilis). As a character, Liliana embodies all traits associated with black: necromancy and mastery over death are the principal tools of her trade, a devil's pact is the basis for her back story, and her portrayal is that of a selfish, untrustworthy ally, the sardonic anti-heroine with insolent if playful manners, constantly in pursue of her own goals and schemes, and who might as likely come to the rescue and save the day as create an even greater threat to everyone else. Invariably and flawlessly elegant and stylish in every situation, she taps into the femme fatale archetype, the ruthless yet irresistible seductress (hence her recurring mechanical theme of hand disruption, representing her screwing with her victim's mind), and as such she's been one of the most overtly sexualized characters in the walker pantheon, often depicted provocatively, with a dress code that ranged over the years from goth belly dancer to sophisticated dark lady, favoring black and purple hues. In another typical element of the fantasy version of this archetype, she's actually more than 250 years old yet, due to her demonic dealings, still appears as a young, attractive woman with magnetic, Liz Taylor-esque violet eyes.

 Unfazed by anything that happens around her, sarcastic and distant, Liliana has had a long-running, toxic love story with Jace, whom she costantly ends up manipulating for her own motives since their first meeting, even if she secretly harbors genuine feelings for the nerdy telepath that she can't allow herself to prioritize over what she perceives as her own survival. It's the reason she eventually joined the Gatewatch, thus experiencing a degree of camaraderie in spite of herself, and building the basis for a few potentially meaningful relationships, especially with Gideon and Chandra, but ultimately always reverting to manipulations and self-serving decisions. In Chandra's words, Liliana "almost always looks mildly offended, or bored, or, if she thinks no one is looking, contemplative and a little sad." It's yet another trope of the fantasy femme fatale: she might have to deal with literal demons, but those that really eat away at her soul are the inner, metaphorical ones.

 Overall, Liliana has shown up very frequently, especially during the 2015-2020 period, when she had at least one incarnation per year – two in 2017, 2018 and 2020 due to the Planeswalker Decks increasing planeswalker frequency in general.

 Her powers, as represented on cards, include:

  • Reanimation: 6 instances (plus one other instance grafted onto another ability)
  • Power and Toughness reduction: 5 instances
  • Discard: 4 instances
  • Forced sacrifice: 4 instances
  • Recursion from graveyard: 4 instances (of which one directly onto the battlefield upon death)
  • Creature destruction: 3 instances
  • Token creation: 3 instances (Zombie)
  • Opponent's loss of life: 2 instances
  • Tutoring: 2 instances
  • Board sweep: 1 instance
  • Morbid card drawing: 1 instance
  • Ramp: 1 instance
  • Self-milling: 1 instance (plus two other instances grafted onto other abilities)

 Liliana's introductory lines from MTG Arena:

  • Good news, everyone. I've arrived.
  • Apologies for the smell. I've been... recruiting.
  • [Sinister laugh] You will watch me as I kill you!
  • Why hire servants when you can raise more? (or: when you can raise the dead?)
  • I have conquered death... as I will conquer you!
  • Ooh, I love what they've done with the place.
  • Mmh, I love what they've done to the place!
  • I've brought some... mummified assistants.
  • Yawn. It's you.
  • You're standing in my way.
  • Ugh! The living are just so needy!

BIOGRAPHY

< back to top >

 Liliana Vess was born circa 4300 AR into a wealthy family in the little town of Vess in the Caligo Forest, part of the Dominarian country of Benalia. Her first name suggests the fictional equivalent of a Latina ethnicity, which some artists (most notably Brad Rigney) have embraced, but there hasn't been any consistency in this regard, and she's often been described as being very pale; her Anglo-Saxon last name also seems to directly contradict such heritage, and might be a homage to fantasy artist Charles Vess (the fact that "Liliana Vess" is the anagram of "villainess" has been confirmed as entirely coincidental).

 During her youth Liliana was a healer, having trained under Lady Ana of the Forward Order. She nonetheless was a self-centered young lady at odds with her family, always ready to exploit her beauty to seduce people and indulge in various kinds of mischief. He did love her brother Josu, though, and when he was poisoned by his father's enemies, Liliana desperately tried to cure him; unfortunately, the glade where the root that could save him used to grow was razed by their enemies. This is when Liliana met for the first time the Raven Man, a mysterious figure that would manipulate her actions at key moments of her life, and might or might not be just a figment of her psyche.

 The Raven Man offers Liliana a different, more dangerous cure, which in the end succeeds in saving Josu's life but at the cost of driving him mad. In his altered state, Josu goes on a rampage and slaughters everyone around him, including Lili's mentor, Lady Ana. To stop him, she raises the corpses of his victims, but the trauma of seeing her brother in this condition causes Liliana's planeswalker spark to finally ignite, instantly sending her careening off through the multiverse, thus marking the beginning of her planar adventures.

 As for Josu, the dark cult known as the Cabal would eventually put their hands on him and turn him into a Lich Knight at their service, until 260 years later, his sister, now a powerful planeswalker, would come back to put him out of his misery, but without ever earning his forgiveness.

   

 Liliana's spark took her to Innistrad, which would become her adoptive plane. Here, she would learn the ways of the "ghoulcallers" (rejecting the blue-aligned, scientific methods of the "stitchers"; so Gisa over Geralf), quickly becoming adept in the dark arts of necromancy, as an extension of her healer apprenticeship on Dominaria. She studied with vampires and liches for many years, but would always refuse to join them in death to increase her powers. At some point she even met and challenged Sorin Markov, who showed her she wasn't powerful enough yet to stand her ground against the Lord of Innistrad.

 A couple centuries went on, and the Mending happened, taking away Liliana's planeswalker immortality and superior powers. She got a chance to discuss it with Nicol Bolas, who told her how planeswalkers such as themselves were now reduced to just a pale shadow of the living gods they once were. The old elder dragon took an interest in the witty necromancer, and ostensibly to help her, but actually kicking off an extremely convoluted master plan, he brokered a deal on her behalf with four demons who Liliana swore to serve in exchange for power and eternal youth.

 This clique of Liliana's wannabe masters was composed by Kothophed, Griselbrand, Razaketh, and Belzenlok (the latter also at the head of the Cabal that would lichify Josu). They gave her some mystical, phosphorescent tattoos that only appear when she uses powerful magic, to signify her allegiance and their ownership of her "soul".

   

 Kothophed in particular regaled Lili with some proper arcane tattoo parlor time, writing down their contract on her very skin.

 After a period spent on Ravnica, where Liliana acted as a freelance hire for the Infinite Consortium (during the time when it was run by Tezzeret), and had a torrid affair with Jace, all while still secretly taking directions from Bolas, Liliana was tasked by Kothophed to retrieve The Chain Veil, a powerful, potentially deadly relic hidden inside a temple built by the ancient Ogre civilization of the Onakke on the drifting plane of Shandalar.

 Here, she killed a beast, accidentally angering Garruk, so she had to use the Chain Veil to defeat him, cursing him into madness in the process. Realizing the enormous power of the Veil, she went after Kothophed in his own sanctuary and killed him. One master demon down, three to go.

 Back on Innistrad, Liliana started tracking down Griselbrand, which involved resurrecting Mikaeus (freshly killed by Gisa and Geralf). Through him, she found out the demon was trapped inside the Helvault with Avacyn. Manipulating the Helvault's own guardian, Thalia, Liliana finally managed to have the monolith broken, and was therefore able to confront a desperate Griselbrand. Despite his last-minute attempt at a new bargain, another big guy bit the dust thanks to the immense power of the Veil.

 Eluding Garruk, who had been tracking her since Shandalar, Liliana returned to that very plane and to the Ogre temple, where she realized that the spirits of the Onakke, the Veil's original creators, were attempting to enslave her soul as much as the four demons. Unable to get rid of the Veil, with the incessant whisperings of the Onakke spirits haunting her mind, she went back to her former lover Jace, for whom she still harbored some sincere affection. Jace was wary of her after her betrayal, and worried about her irresponsible use of the Veil, warning her about the consequences of her greed for power. Their encounter was interrupted by the arrival of Gideon, who was asking for Jace's assistance to fight the Eldrazi on Zendikar. After refusing to join them, and being explicitly told you don't need seduction or bribery to convince people to help you, Liliana stormed off and had another of her Raven Man "episodes".

 Liliana's first real hero moment happened on Innistrad. After having returned to the manor she had built for herself in Stensia to quietly reflect on her next move, Liliana was visited by Jace following the events of Battle for Zendikar. The blue mage was seeking Sorin, and ended up entangled in the old vampire's war against his vengeful former ally Nahiri. Fallen under the maddening influence of Nahiri's Cryptoliths, Jace turned on Liliana, but her feelings for "Cloak Boy" spared him.

 Acting against the suggestions of both the Raven Man and the Veil's spirits, Liliana decided not to abandon Innistrad, acknowledging a desire within her to feel needed by others. When Emrakul and its horrors started to overrun the plane on Nahiri's behalf, Liliana faced the Eldrazi Titan and used the Veil to stop its threat, almost dying in the process. Awakening to find her wounds healed by the other planeswalkers, she agreed to join the Gatewatch, taking a a very Liliana-esque oath.

 Now a member of the Gatewatch, Liliana however refused to live in their headquarters in Ravnica, buying a mansion for herself instead. She accompanied an upset Chandra to her native plane of Kaladesh, where Liliana acted as an adviser to the red planeswalker, mostly pushing Chandra to follow her already reckless impulses.

 During the Gatewatch's adventures on Kaladesh, Liliana convinced a reluctant Gideon to let her face her old boss at the Infinite Consortium, Tezzeret, still secretly working for Bolas while acting as Head Judge for the Consulate. In the end, the metal mage managed to escape Liliana's fury, but not before revealing that Bolas was on Amonkhet, the same plane where one of Liliana's remaining two demon masters, Razaketh, resided. That was the cue for Liliana to manipulate the Gatewatch into taking the fight directly to Bolas. After some investigations and assorted hi-jinks on Amonkhet, including a new fight between Lili and Jace, she managed to successfully erase Razaketh from her kill list, then fleed the plane leaving her allies behind to be resoundingly defeated at the hands of Bolas himself, now almost as powerful as he was before the Mending.

 The wounded members of the Gatewatch followed Liliana to Dominaria (except for Jace, who would find himself stranded and amnesiac on Ixalan). Liliana tried to explain to them that she wouldn't be able to help them fully until completely freed of her demonic chains, pleading for help in defeating the last and most powerful of her masters, Belzenlok. Angry at Liliana for her selfish actions, Nissa decided to quit the Gatewatch in disgust; Chandra was hurt by what she perceived as a friend's betrayal, so she also temporarily left to be alone. To Liliana's surprise, Gideon was the only one who remained at her side, and assisted her with her brother issues; together, the two also ultimately succeeded in vanquishing Belzenlok.

 

 While she was getting ready to rejoin her friends in Ravnica for the ultimate battle against Nicol Bolas, Liliana suddenly discovered she was unable to. The old dragon himself emerged from the shadows, claiming that the death of the last of the four original owners defaulted Liliana's demonic contract to its broker, i.e. himself. Bound by the threat of reverting to her centuries-old form and immediately crumbling to dust if she tried to disobey, Liliana had no choice but to follow her new master, a prisoner to the very destiny she had fought so hard to avoid.

 And then, Bolas's endgame commenced. On Ravnica, the Elder Dragon placed Liliana at the head of his Dreadhorde, the army of Eternals he ferried from Amonkhet through Tezzeret's Planar Bridge. Liliana complied but set up to do the bare minimum, trying to cause as little damage as possible to the plane and its inhabitants – by this point, she was sick of endlessly being the villain, exhausted to be recast in that role once again, this time against her will, right when she was on the brink of redemption. Able to directly control each Eternal, she deliberately caused Oketra to miss Gideon with her arrow. She looked at the ruins of Ravnica, at the civilians desperately fleeing for their lives and being mercilessly slain by the evil dragon's forces; she saw her young self in them, and her brother; suddenly, the weight of 250 years of self-serving death and self-imposed slavery crushed her, and she decided that she's had quite enough. She would rather end it all right then and there than keep being someone's else puppet. She recalled all the Eternals under her bidding and redirected them against Bolas, thus breaking the contract, starting to painfully disintegrate as a consequence.

  But that's where Liliana's aborted redemption paid off: sensing that Liliana was the only one who could stop Bolas, Gideon extended his invulnerability to her and took the dire consequences of her rebellious breach of contract on himself, dying on the spot. A man Liliana could barely stand had sacrificed his life for the selfish necromancer who had kept betraying him and his friends, again and again, but who just now had resolved to give up her life for the sake of everyone else.

 With Liliana now free to truly command the Dreadhorde, she allowed the once pure Gods of Amonkhet that Bolas had corrupted, subjugated and desecrated, to take their revenge. Oketra and Bontu attacked everyone's archenemy, and with an assist from Niv-Mizzet brandishing Hazoret's spear, they managed to subdue the dragon, who ended up losing his spark, his powers, and even his own name.

 Liliana had no time to join the victory celebrations, though, as Jace, still tragically smitten with the death mage, urged her to leave Ravnica as soon as possibile. Once the Immortal Sun was deactivated, Liliana grabbed Bolas's Spirit-Gem, which had remained unclaimed on the ground, and instinctively planeswalked to her ancestral home on Dominaria. Emotionally drained by the recent, dramatic events, her conscience now unshielded from the guilt she was experiencing for all the awful actions she has committed against people who called themselves her friends, she briefly contemplated suicide. Finding the resolve to keep going in the vision of a mysterious figure in white, and resolutely shutting up the offers for help of both the Raven Man and the Onakke spirits, she finally reached her family's old estate, surprisingly restored to its past splendor. An impostor woman working for the Cabal and calling herself "Liliana Vess" had taken hold of the manor and enslaved all the people living around it in the Caligo Forest, by exploiting the powers of the djinn Zahid.

 Liliana at first succumbed to the mind control as well, only to be rescued by the very group sent by the new Living Guildpact Niv-Mizzet and the Ravnican guildmasters to execute her from her war crimes. With the help of Kaya, Teyo and their friend Araithia, Liliana ultimately gets rid of her impersonator, and manages to convince the others she had tried her best to minimize the carnage during the war, even if she defected later than she should have. The trio of unwilling assassins request the Chain Veil as a proof of death to bring back to Ravnica; Liliana is hesitant, with the Raven Man and the Onakke making a lot of noise in her head to prevent her from renouncing the powerful artifact. It's Ugin, communicating via the Spirit-Gem, who eventually persuades Liliana she can find in herself the courage to make a new start. The Veil is brought back to Niv-Mizzet and placed in a puzzle box, and Kaya's team, now the only people in the multiverse to know Liliana is still alive, promises to go find her on Fiora, the plane she has chosen to rebuild her life from scratch. There, she even takes a new identity: Ana Iora. The first name is adopted after her old mentor in those healing arts she so rarely put to use. The last name... she can't even tell where it came from; she never knew anybody with that name. Did she?


INCARNATIONS 

1.    

  • Name: Liliana Vess   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: October 2007
  • Versions: Lorwyn, Magic 2010, Duel Decks: Garruk vs. Liliana, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2010 Promo, Magic 2011, San Diego Comic-Con 2014 Promo, Magic 2015
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Mild, it might not do anything
  • Self-Defense: None
  • Role: Strategic Assistant
  • Evaluation: At her first outing, Liliana desperately wanted for you to love her, but was unfortunately mostly unsuccessful. At this early stage, the designers were still wary of infusing too much power into these brand new planeswalker cards, even in their five-mana forms. Which caused Liliana Vess to have arguably the least meaningful first-turn impact of all the Lorwyn Five: she fails the test of self-defense, since she doesn't come equipped with any way to prevent or mitigate attacks, and you really don't want to spend five mana only to get a player to choose and discard a card, which sometimes (and increasingly more with every passing year) might even mean helping them with their own graveyard synergies. Her ultimate feels like something that you only hit in very casual games, and even if you do, it doesn't guarantee much, as you might be playing against a creature-light deck, and there are certainly better and faster ways to reanimate your own creatures than to have Liliana self-discard them along the way to her one-sided Living Death. Her only useful ability then is the Vampiric Tutor effect, which still comes too late in the game to be actually reliable. It's good in slower formats like Commander, though, where you take all the tutoring you can get.
  • Rating: 5

2.  

  • Name: Liliana of the Veil   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: September 2011
  • Versions: Innistrad, Modern Masters 2017, Ultimate Masters, Ultimate Masters Box Topper
  • Converted Mana Cost: 3
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Moderate
  • Self-Defense: Severe, forced sacrifice on an early turn can get rid of anything, even a cheated-into-play indestructible/hexproof fattie
  • Role: Board Controller
  • Evaluation: It wouldn't be until four years and five waves later that we'd get a new Liliana, but the result was well worth the wait. The second three-mana planeswalker after the original Jace Beleren, Liliana of the Veil's power level is more on par with Jace's infamous Mind Sculptor incarnation, and was indeed destined to make her into one the most coveted and expensive planeswalkers in Magic history. In an almost complete makeover since her previous version, she relinquished both reanimation and tutoring, only keeping the disruption aspect, which is now mutual. Easily dropping on turn two with the help of, say, Deathrite Shaman (which would have been printed just one year later), she commands the early game in a way her original incarnation couldn't aspire to. Her cycle of Diabolic Edict, discard, discard, repeat, coming online so early, is game-breaking in most cases, and perfectly suits aggressive strategies, especially shining in Golgari-based builds like The Rock or Jund. With her +1 being simultaneously discard outlet and disruption, she could also play the role of a reanimation enabler that supports such battle plan with additional control elements. Her ultimate is effective enough, despite not being particularly decisive, but it's mostly the kind of goal you rarely try to build towards, since her minus is just too alluring and frequently needed. The flavor here is also rich: the Chain Veil is what pushes Liliana's power to its peak, and Innistrad is the setting that best suits her Gothic persona.
  • Rating: 10

3.  

  • Name: Liliana of the Dark Realms   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2012
  • Versions: Magic 2013, San Diego Comic-Con 2013 Promo, Magic 2014
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Low, it might prove pointless
  • Self-Defense: Mild, it needs setup to perform best, and consumes all loyalty if used right away
  • Role: Ramp Enabler
  • Evaluation: In the summer of 2012, Liliana was coming from a very successful year where her entire public image was rebranded thanks to that powerhouse that is Liliana of the Veil; so she basically received a bit of a post-Mind Sculptor Jace treatment here, making sure not to give her two over-the-top cards back to back. Liliana of the Dark Realms feels particularly strange because with it the sassy necromancer apparently ditches all her previous strategies (discard, graveyard interactions) in favor of ramping via Swamps, which, although typically black, wasn't typically her thing so far, and would never be again. So here we have a midrange Liliana doing some innocuous-looking Swamp-tutoring (or, to be more precise, Bayou-tutoring and Watery Grave-tutoring), with the final goal of getting a flashy emblem whose main issue is that it's more or less the epitome of "win-more", since short of a game-ending Drain Life (or maybe Torment of Hailfire), there aren't that many incentives to ramp from 8 mana to freaking 32. It's the reason she works better in Commander, where she's actually a minor staple. In regular formats, the only thing she brings to the table aside for all that ramping and mana fixing is limited removal in the form of a localized Mutilate (a Liliana spell, according to later versions), that in a pinch might double as pumping. That's not really enough to compete with her Veil-enhanced self, I'm afraid.
  • Rating: 6

4.     

  • Name: Liliana, Defiant Necromancer (transforms from Liliana, Heretical Healer)   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2015
  • Versions: Magic Origins, San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Promo, From the Vault: Transform
  • Converted Mana Cost: 3
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4 (starting from the turn of the transformation)
  • Ultimate's Power Level: High, though it requires further resources to bear fruit
  • Self-Defense: Mild, only immediately online if a two-drop is already in the graveyard
  • Role: Reanimator
  • Evaluation: After three years of silence, Liliana resurfaces in another core set, this time as part of the cycle of creature-into-planeswalker transform cards depicting the origin stories of the five Gatewatch founders. Thus we get young Liliana as a 2/3 lifelinker for three mana, which is decent, but certainly not enough to make the cut in Constructed; triggering her transformation from troubled healer into swaggering necromancer is key to her success as a card, and that involves sending another of your creatures to the graveyard, which might not be too hard to accomplish in black, but it's still something your deck should be prepared to proactively do, as opposed to idly wait for the right occasion to chump-block. Once you're done with that, you get a free 2/2 Zombie token (representing Lili's own brother Josu Vess, one might assume; or maybe one of the other family members and acquaintances Josu killed and Lili zombified in order to try and restrain him), plus your freshly sparked planeswalker. Interestingly, Liliana's plus ability in this form is the same as her most celebrated Veil incarnation, but she also gets to Reanimate something with her inus, which means she's able to function as both a reanimation enabler and a reanimator spell, although dependent on loyalty (which in this case directly works the same way life does when casting the actual Reanimate). Considering the turn after her transformation she'll be able to reanimate a four-mana creature and survive, the deal seems good enough to justify the sacrifice shenanigans required to ignite her. Her ultimate is also quite powerful, essentially turning every removal spell or combat trade into Entrancing Melody (albeit combo-proof, since it waits for the next end phase to trigger); it's very slow to attain and contingent on creatures dying, though, which is definitely a theme with this Liliana.
  • Rating: 8

5.    

  • Name: Liliana, the Last Hope   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2016
  • Versions: Eldritch Moon, San Diego Comic-Con 2016 Promo, War of the Spark Mythic Edition
  • Converted Mana Cost: 3
  • Turns to Ultimate: 5
  • Ultimate's Power Level: High, it takes a few turns but it eventually reaches inevitability on its own
  • Self-Defense: Moderate, she can only get rid of a single one-powered creature, but still reduces the damage output of any other
  • Role: Strategic Assistant
  • Evaluation: The return to Innistrad couldn't be complete without a Liliana incarnation, especially given the crucial role she plays in the narrative (as hinted by her Last Hope moniker). If we disregard the fact that Defiant Necromancer requires more than just mana, this is the third Liliana planeswalker that only costs three, a fact that always causes competitive players to take notice. Although not entirely Liliana of the Veil's second coming, this new three-drop form plays a similar role on the battlefield (replacing self-discard with self-milling), and is deceptively effective. Given her dropping speed, her plus ability is able to find more significant early targets than it might look at first sight (Dark Confidant, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Delver of Secrets, all manners of mana dorks) and constantly alleviates the opponent's offensive potential, while her minus sets up a good deal of unconventional card advantage in a deck that uses the graveyard as a resource, which is why she's beloved by archetypes that feature cards like Lingering Souls and Snapcaster Mage. She's great at creature recursion, makes for a good complement in Zombie decks, and her ultimate is unforgiving in any situation, almost immediately lethal in a tribal environment. And she's also the first Liliana whose art doesn't make her look like an exotic dancer, so that's another turned corner for our cheeky ghoulcaller.
  • Rating: 9

6.   

  • Name: Liliana, Death's Majesty   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: April 2017
  • Versions: Amonkhet, San Diego Comic-Con 2017 Promo, Mystery Booster
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Turns to Ultimate: 3
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Moderate, generally useful to control the board, but only crucial as one-sided sweeper in tribal setups
  • Self-Defense: High, worst case scenario: a 2/2 token always stands guard in front of her; best case scenario: Zombie Griselbrand does
  • Role: Reanimator
  • Evaluation: Same sensible dress code as the previous year's incarnation for Liliana's Egyptian adventures, again giving her an appropriate focus on the graveyard and her trusty Zombies. This is the first Liliana to return to a five-mana cost since Liliana Vess, but it's a straightforward design that clearly speaks for itself: she's a bottomless token factory paired with unconditional reanimation that even comes with a built-in setup due to the self-milling attached to the plus ability. The only caveat, in fact, is to pay attention not to pack any key wincon that is not a creature, or otherwise something that you can cast from the graveyard, lest Lili will inexorably mill that away. Other than that, one can just go crazy with her, assembling a token army until a juicy target for her minus ability presents itself – or is purposely engineered. Her ultimate, which is her only interactive ability, can come in handy on occasion, but it's generally not something to actively pursue, unless you're trying to come back from a bad board position – though in that case it's hard to imagine she'll be allowed to hit the required loyalty undisturbed.
  • Rating: 8

7. 

  • Name: Liliana, Death Wielder   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: April 2017
  • Versions: Amonkhet (Planeswalker Deck only)
  • Converted Mana Cost: 7
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Mild, it's only a game-changer if you set it up to be
  • Self-Defense: Mild, you'd need a -1/-1 counter already on the target to kill something of consequence the first turn
  • Role: Board Controller
  • Evaluation: What the first "casual" Liliana from her Amonkhet Planeswalker deck only accomplished is to ruin Liliana's average casting cost up to that point (increasing it from an excellent 3.83 CMC to 4.28). Her non-ultimate abilities are all about killing creatures, but seven mana seems way too large an investment for that, considering she's not even able to do it right away, nor she's allowed to exile. And her ultimate is a strictly worse Rise of the Dark Realms.
  • Rating: 3

8.  

  • Name: Liliana, Untouched by Death   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2018
  • Versions: Core Set 2019, San Diego Comic-Con 2018 Promo
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Turns to Ultimate: N/A
  • Ultimate's Power Level: N/A
  • Self-Defense: Moderate in a Zombie deck
  • Role: Tribal Leader
  • Evaluation: Liliana's bond with her Zombies reaches its apex in occasion of the core sets' reinstatement, depicting a younger Liliana at the time of her first encounter with Bolas, as shown in the Comic-Con promo: back in midriff-baring outfits, and only caring about her undead slaves throughout all her three abilities, all of which are immediately available. Like Nissa Revane and Elves, there's no putting this Liliana in any deck other than Zombie tribal, since, unlike previous incarnations, she's not able to create Zombies on her own. Ideally, you'll keep self-milling with her plus ability, getting a few points of lifedrain across in the process, and then you'll cast those Zombies from the graveyard using her tribal Yawgmoth's Will. She can also exploit her minions to defend herself with her other minus ability, though it's probably not going to kill very large targets in the early stages of the zombie apocalypse. All in all, this is a very specialized Liliana, caught in a support role that might not even be needed by the archetype she seeks to enhance, as Liliana, Death's Majesty is probably a better option even in dedicated tribal builds.
  • Rating: 6

9. 

  • Name: Liliana, the Necromancer   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2018
  • Versions: Core Set 2019 (Planeswalker Deck only)
  • Converted Mana Cost: 5
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Moderate
  • Self-Defense: None
  • Role: Strategic Assistant
  • Evaluation: It's hard to fathom what exactly the role of this very unimaginatively named Liliana should be, since her plus ability just hits the opponent for two, and the only other advantage she reliably offers is an old-fashioned Raise Dead, while her solid yet not necessarily decisive ultimate requires a lot of turns of doing next to nothing. At least she doesn't cost seven mana like Liliana, Death Wielder, but certainly these nerfed incarnations from the Planeswalker Decks don't agree with Liliana's usual moxie too much.
  • Rating: 3

10.    

  • Name: Liliana, Dreadhorde General   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: April 2019
  • Versions: War of the Spark, War of the Spark Japanese alternate art, Secret Lair Drop Promo
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Severe, not instantly game-winning but extremely hard to recover from
  • Self-Defense: Severe, she comes close to sweep the board right away, plus you always have to pass through a zombie minion to reach Liliana on the ground, and her starting loyalty is pretty high
  • Role: Tactical Superiority
  • Evaluation: Strangely enough, despite her huge amount of personal power, Liliana had never been given a card that could act as a proper finisher; luckily, her incarnation as the reluctant general of Bolas's invading forces during the War of the Spark finally remedied such an omission. Dropping at six mana, the Dreadhorde General is a perfect curve-topper for both control and midrange lists, with particular affinity for sacrifice decks due to her static ability. Perfectly able to take over the game from the very moment she hits the battlefield, this warlord Lili can populate your board, decimate the opponent's, regardless of the resilience of their creatures, and draw a ton of cards in both processes. Even simply creating tokens to chump-block with nets you one card per turn, putting Liliana closer to a thoroughly crippling ultimate, one of the kind that's worth actively pursuing (proliferating with Planewide Celebration is one way to do it – it's no surprise that Liliana's idea of celebration involves the utter massacre of her enemies).
  • Rating: 9

11.   

  • Name: Liliana, Waker of the Dead   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2020
  • Versions: Core Set 2021, Core Set 2021 Showcase, Core Set 2021 Borderless
  • Converted Mana Cost: 4
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: High, although predicated on some amount of setup and slow to end the game with in normal circumstances
  • Self-Defense: Moderate, the graveyard must be already filled if we aim to kill a large target
  • Role: Strategic Assistant
  • Evaluation: Post-War Liliana still sports a magnificent purple dress (whose beauty is accentuated by the showcase treatment), but in her regular art looks a bit crestfallen – maybe she's still thinking of Gideon's Sacrifice? Her powers are not at their zenith anymore since she gave the Chain Veil up (admittedly, it's not clear if Core Set 2021 portrays her after the events of Forsaken, as she still seems to be on Dominaria, not on Fiora). More to the point, the symmetrical discard has only a modest payoff, and the minus is situational, possibly even meaningless on turn four. The ultimate has some allure, but in order to get there you'll have to share the same hand disruption with the opponent – which, admittedly, is the same pattern of the glorious Liliana of the Veil, but for one more mana and accompanied by a less effective interactive ability.
  • Rating: 6

12. 

  • Name: Liliana, Death Mage   >> back to top
  • First Appearance: July 2020
  • Versions: Core Set 2021 (Planeswalker Deck only)
  • Converted Mana Cost: 6
  • Turns to Ultimate: 4
  • Ultimate's Power Level: Mild, potential game-winning, but it might just do nothing at all against certain decks
  • Self-Defense: High, one creature is gonna die, no questions asked
  • Role: Strategic Assistant
  • Evaluation: Death Mage might just be the strongest a Planeswalker-Deck Liliana ever felt. It's not the Dreadhorde General by a long stretch, but unconditional destruction is actually a first for Liliana, and even if it leaves you with a single loyalty on a six-mana planeswalker, it still accomplishes more than most of these beginner-oriented cards. The mere Raise Dead as a plus is underwhelming, but it can be combined with cycling, for instance. All in all, surprisingly close to playable.
  • Rating: 5

LILIANA'S CARDS

   

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 All the non-planeswalker cards with Liliana in their name:

 Liliana has had so far seven Story Spotlights focusing on her:

  • Final Parting depicts Lili's goodbye to her brother Josu.
  • Settle the Score sees our anti-heroine killing her last demonic master, Belzenlok.
  • In Bolas's Clutches is the moment she realizes Bolas tricked her and is now her only master.
  • Command the Dreadhorde is Liliana leading the Eternals to Ravnica's conquest.
  • Price of Betrayal is the moment when she decided that she tried so hard, and got so far, but in the end, it doesn't even matter.
  • Gideon's Sacrifice is the one time in Liliana's long life somebody spontaneoulsy gave his life for her.
  • Despark is Bolas's defeat.

   

 Other Liliana-centric cards:

  • Lili and her zombies: in Cemetery Recruitment she's raising some of them (and a particularly massive one in Rise from the Grave); in Endless Obedience, she's controlling them; in Rise of the Dark Realms, she's using them as transportation; and in Macabre Waltz, she's just having fun with one of the guys.
  • Young Lili: in Dark Dabbling, she's trying to come up with a potion to cure her brother; in Tainted Remedy, she incautiously gives him the cure the Raven Man suggested; Cruel Revival depicts her first necromantic experiments on Innistrad and  Demonic Pact her first deal with some devil or other. Dark Petition might represent her first encounter with Griselbrand. In Necromantic Summons, she's fighting some beast, but it shouldn't be the one she killed on Shandalar, provoking Garruk's anger.
  • Heroic Lili: in Dark Salvation, Lili and her zombie army are liberating Thraben during the war against Nahiri and the Eldrazi; in Deploy the Gatewatch, she's fighting side by side with Gideon, as strange as that felt at the time.
  • Bad confidants: in Demonic Tutor, Lili's getting some questionable advises (and tattoos) from Kothophed; and then in Diabolic Tutor, she's the one giving them to Chandra (but not the tattoos; Chandra wouldn't be able to stay still long enough, anyway).
  • Lethal beauty: in Killing Wave, Lili's obliterating herself some angels (she does hate angels); in Snuff Out, she's generically extinguishing people's lives. A tattooless version of this art also exists.
  • The Veil-Cursed: Triumph of Ferocity and Triumph of Cruelty depict two moments of her feud with Garruk, after he stalked her down from Shandalar to Innistrad. Of course Lili ends up on top in the squabble, but the first of the two cards attracted considerable criticism for its tasteless depiction of violence against women.
  • During the War: Commence the Endgame is Liliana at Bolas's feet, forced to obey his master, or else. In Finale of Eternity, she stops doing so and commences her endgame.

 An especially happy-looking Liliana illustrated in a manga style appears in the art for the Cast Down promo inserted in the Spring 2019 issue of the Japanese magazine CoroCoro Aniki.

 She's also featured in the Planechase 2012 phenomenon card, Morphic Tide.

 Planeswalker Deck exclusive cards:

THE TALE OF LILIANA'S HEADDRESS

 Did you ever look closely at the art for Archangel of Tithes? Let's do it now.

Art by Cynthia Sheppard.

 Doesn't that thing on her head look a lot like Liliana's signature headdress? That's because it is! I mean, it's the Archangel's own headdress that Liliana, in typical Liliana fashion, stole for herself. It happened during a break in her necromancy studies on Innistrad (you might have in fact noticed how in all of the cards depicting her youth she's not wearing anything on her head), when Lili came back to Dominaria, and the golden-armored, barefoot Archangel immediately sensed she was dangerous.

Art by Lius Lasahido.

 And dangerous, in fact, she was, as Liliana immediately proceeded to raise some undead and have them feast on the imprudent angel (I guess she was tapped!); then she thought that shiny headpiece looked cool, so she grabbed it as a memento. It's a scene depicted on Magic OriginsUnholy Hunger. From that moment on, Lili and that angelic tiara would become inseparable!

Art by Lius Lasahido.


IMAGE GALLERY

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Liliana, the Dark Salvation. Art by Cynthia Sheppard.

Enjoying the mummy service on Amonkhet. Art by Chris Rallis.

Changing some angel's attitude. Art by Steve Argyle.

A lifelike Liliana with Latina hair and skin tone. Art by Brad Rigney, detail from his famous Planeswakers Pantheon.

Liliana, the Dancing Queen. Art by Will Murai.


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