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Liliana, Death Wielder and Friends – A Magic the Gathering Planeswalker Deck Review

It’s no secret that Wizards of the Coast’s decision to replace the often-maligned Intro Packs with Planeswalker Decks was a success, even if it was short-lived. Sure, the exclusive planeswalkers featured with the decks are vastly under-powered compared to their expansion set counterparts. But, they are certainly interesting and still sought after by many players just for their exclusivity. 

Amonkhet’s two Planeswalker decks feature Liliana, Death Wielder and Gideon, Martial Paragon. While you won’t see these Liliana and Gideon planeswalkers tearing it up at top tournament tables, they have their own merits to be appreciated.

Today, we’ll take a look at Liliana, Death Wielder and this black & green deck build to support her, including three other cards exclusive to this deck. This Liliana walker and the other cards would be Standard-legal for as long as Amonkhet is in the format, so it’s worth taking a look at them all to see if any were actually playable in tournament play.

Liliana, Death Wielder costs a whopping seven mana to cast. Compared to Liliana, Death’s Majesty from the Amonkhet set proper, this is quite a hefty mana investment. However, Death Wielder’s abilities themselves are fairly good. She starts with five loyalty counters, a fairly high number, but a bit underwhelming when you factor in her seven mana casting cost.

Death Wielder’s +2 loyalty ability allows you to put a -1/-1 counter on up to one target creature. On its own, this is underwhelming, but it pairs with her second loyalty ability. Her -3 loyalty ability is to destroy a target creature with a -1/-1 counter on it. With the many -1/-1 counter interactions that can be seen in the Amonkhet set, these are very relevant abilities. Of course, spending two turns just to nix a creature with Liliana’s abilities alone is somewhat meh. Anyway, this Liliana’s “ultimate” ability costs a whopping ten counters, but it allows you to return all creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield.

Honestly, for a Planeswalker deck exclusive, this gal is pretty good in a deck that focuses on -1/-1 counters. She gets better when you consider another one of the exclusive cards in this deck, Liliana’s Influence. 

Each Planeswalker deck comes with two copies of a card that synergizes with the deck’s planeswalker. It not only allows you to search out a copy of the planeswalker that the deck is based around, but also comes with a useful effect to help set up that planeswalker. While Liliana’s Influence costs a whopping six mana to cast, it does a lot for the investment.

Not only do you get to seek out your library or graveyard for a copy of Liliana, Death’s Wielder, but also the ability to put a -1/-1 counter on each creature you don’t control. This works very well with Liliana’s first two abilities, allowing you to easily do away with a two toughness creature once she comes into play with her +2 ability, or destroy a bigger creature with her -3 ability. Hurray for synergies!

The deck’s two exclusive creatures are Desiccated Naga and Tattered Mummy aren’t super exciting, but are solid role player type creatures. The Naga has an ability for 3B (three generic and one Black mana) to “drain” your opponent for two life, gaining you two life and making your opponent lose two. While you can only activate this ability when you have a Liliana planeswalker in play, that’s a fairly good ability. Tattered Mummy makes each opponent lose 2 life when it dies, a very solid ability on a common creature. There are four copies in the deck, too.

Naturally, the Naga are only really useful in this exact planeswalker deck, especially as you need a Liliana planeswalker for it to be anything besides vanilla. However, Tattered Mummy is a  Zombie Jackal that can work entirely on its own. Not only does Tattered Mummy see EDH play in zombie decks even in 2022, but there were plenty of players who tried to work these Mummies into Standard decks, albeit not with much competitive success.

As a whole, the Liliana planeswalker deck has some other interesting cards, too. Here’s the list:

Planeswalker (1)

1 Liliana, Death Wielder

Creature (20)

  • 1 Festering Mummy
  • 2 Dune Beetle
  • 4 Tattered Mummy
  • 1 Channeler Initiate
  • 2 Baleful Ammit
  • 3 Desiccated Naga
  • 2 Gravedigger
  • 1 Crocodile of the Crossing
  • 2 Giant Spider
  • 2 Decimator Beetle
  • Sorcery (2)

2 Liliana’s Influence

Instant (2)

  • 2 Splendid Agony

Artifact (3)

  • 1 Edifice of Authority
  • 1 Luxa River Shrine
  • 1 Oracle’s Vault

Enchantment (7)

  • 2 Trial of Ambition
  • 2 Cartouche of Ambition
  • 2 Cartouche of Strength
  • 1 Gift of Paradise

Land (25)

  • 4 Foul Orchard
  • 1 Grasping Dunes
  • 11 Swamp
  • 9 Forest

Before I get into the creature line-up, we should mention the colorless utility land, Grasping Dunes. Not only can it tap for a colorless mana, but also has an additional ability. For just one mana and a tap, you can put a -1/-1 counter on a target creature. You can only play this ability at sorcery speed, but that’s some pretty effective removal early in the game.

Onto the creature line-up…

Festering Mummy is a cool little one-drop creature that allows you to put a -1/-1 counter on a creature when he dies. It’s a may ability, which is neat. There is only one copy of this guy in the deck, which is a shame. Dune Beetle is a 1 / 4 vanilla creature for 1B. You’re not going to see this guy played in Standard, really, but is decent value for two mana in an introductory-type deck.

Channeler Initiate is one of the two other rare cards in the deck. He’s a 3 / 4 for only two mana, which is great. But, when he enters the battlefield, you must put three -1/-1 counters on a target creature you control. Usually, these counters are going to be himself, but that’s okay. He has an ability to tap and remove a -1/-1 counter from himself to add one mana of any color to your mana pool. He’s a pretty neat creature, actually.

Baleful Ammit is yet another creature with above average stats, a 4 / 3 with Lifelink for only 3 mana. But, you have to put a -1/-1 counter on a creature you control when he comes into play. Of course, you can just put it on himself. Still, this is a decent creature, especially when you pair it with something like Channeler Initiate.

Gravedigger is an older Magic card that’s been reprinted in Amonkhet. He has a simple ability, return a target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. There are plenty of creatures you’d like to get back in this deck, so it makes sense to include two copies of the Gravedigger.

Crocodile of the Crossing is much like Baleful Ammit in that he’s an above average creature that comes along with a -1/-1 counter you have to stick on a creature you control. The difference  is that he comes with haste.  A 5 / 4 with Haste for four mana is nothing to sneeze at, even if it’s mechanically quite boring.

Giant Spider is yet another old Magic card reprinted for Amonkhet. This card actually originated from one of the first Magic cards ever printed! Being a 2/4 with Reach for 4 mana isn’t great by today’s Magic standards. But, in this deck, to be able to block fliers is enough reason for this classic Spider to hang out in this list.

The last creature in the deck is two copies of Decimator Beetle. Like many of the creatures in this deck, you have to stick a -1/-1 counter on some body when he enters. However, when he attacks, he can actually move a -1/-1 counter from a creature you control onto a creature that the defending player controls. This stag beetle is actually pretty cool!

Moving on to the non-creature spells, there are only two instant spells in the deck, two copies of Splendid Agony. For three mana, this card allows you to distribute two -1/-1 counters among one or two target creatures. This is a pretty flexible card and particularly good in this deck. The only two sorcery spells in the deck are the two copies of the aforementioned Liliana’s Influence.

The artifacts in the deck are all pretty interesting, featuring the “brick counter” mechanic new to Amonkhet. These cards all feature a first ability that costs a mana to do some minor thing and puts a brick counter on the card.

Edifice of Authority costs three colorless mana to cast. Its first ability stops a creature from being able to attack that turn, which is helpful. But, once you get three brick counters on the Edifice, you get to stop that creature from attacking, blocking, or activating its activated abilities. It’s a rather defensive card, but it’s cleverly designed and useful in this deck.

The second brick counter card is Luxa River Shrine. Paying 1 mana to gain 1 life seems underwhelming, but it’s worth doing to get to 3 brick counters. Once you do, you get to tap for a  free 2 life every turn, which is great for tempo.

The last of the three artifacts in the deck is also the other Amonkhet rare card in the deck, Oracle’s Vault. Its first ability is decent, if not exciting, allowing you to exile the top card of your deck and play it that turn if able. But, once you get to 3 counters, you get to use the second ability to play that exiled card for free! That could even be Liliana herself!

The Enchantments in the deck are very solid, too. It features two Trials and four Cartouches. One of the cooler interactions in Amonkhet, the Trials are enchantments that do something and stay in play until you play a Cartouche aura, when you can then return them to your hand. In this deck, we have two copies of Trial of Ambition. This 2-mana Enchantment forces your opponent to sacrifice a creature.  It then just sits in play until you get to play a Cartouche.

The Cartouches are Aura Enchantments which are pretty cool. There are two copies of each Cartouche of Ambition and Cartouche of Strength. The Cartouche of Ambition gives you a chance to put a -1/-1 counter on a target creature, as well as giving one of your own creatures +1/+1 and lifelink. The Cartouche of Strength allows the enchanted creature to fight an opponent’s creature and gives it +1/+1 and trample. Being able to reuse the Trial of Ambition multiple times in a game is a solid value loop.

The last non-creature spell in the deck is Gift of Paradise. It costs 2G (two generic and one Green mana) to cast and enchants a land. When it enters play, you gain 3 life; plus, that land can now produce 2 mana of any one color you choose.

My Final Thoughts on the Liliana Planeswalker Deck

Overall, for an introductory deck, the Liliana, Death Wielder Planeswalker Deck includes many great synergies. It plays well with the -1/-1 counter theme of the set, while giving you ways to accelerate your mana production to get to your Liliana planeswalker. Also, the creatures are overall aggressive, and there are ways to gain back life in the deck. So, while your big pieces in the deck have fairly high mana values, the deck has ways to keep you in the game while you prepare for a copy of Liliana, Death Wielder to hit the board.

While I don’t ever seeing this deck actually profiting you in regards to what the cards in it are worth, this is a nice start to a black/green deck that’s certainly playable at your kitchen table. Compared to the Gideon, Martial Paragon deck, this deck is the one I would choose between the two Amonkhet Planeswalker decks.

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy. Personal Website: https://www.thephoenixdesertsong.com

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