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Cosplay: Liliana, Heretical Healer


Liliana, Heretical Healer by Karla Ortiz

Fair play: You can just scroll down to the photos now—or you can stick around and listen to me wax poetic about why I love Liliana so damn much.

I thought so. Everyone loves to talk about Liliana. Especially Liliana.

And that’s what you’ll see now on the Mothership Liliana page. Great flavor, except I imagine her saying it in the third person, pro-wrestler style: “ . . . Liliana Vess’s hands will be the hands taking pleasure in giving you the final push!”

Girls are often raised to be nice, which is just as damaging as excusing behavior under the catch-all “boys will be boys.” I remember one day in fourth grade a boy who had a crush on me snuck up behind me and kissed me on the back of my head. I turned around and threw him on the blacktop, but the principal had caught me doing it. Know what she said? Yep.

“MJ, be nice.”

Know what Liliana says to that?


Liliana Vess has given herself permission to be an unapologetic asshole, treading hallowed ground usually reserved for old men guarding their porches and male action stars. Liliana can say what she wants, go where she pleases, and do what and whom she desires, and the only person she has to answer to is herself. Well, and those pesky demons. And that dragon.

Demonic Tutor by Scott Chou

Liliana is empowered and free. Well, a free spirit with some baggage—okay, maybe she’s just empowered and mired at the baggage check. Maybe this is better: She’s an independent woman with a lot of work stress. Every professional has those toxic coworkers, middle-manager jerkoffs, and skeevy bosses. Hers just happen to be demons. And that dragon.

Liliana is a contradiction, a modern muse. We paint her even when it’s not required, and applaud when she does things Black shouldn’t be doing.

Morphic Tide

Liliana is the antithesis of perfection—she’s remarkably flawed. And, endearingly, she wears those flaws on her sleeve. Er, on her skin. Scarred from you childhood/past? Who isn’t, right? But Liliana wears her full body art with panache, queen of the dysfunctional family catwalk. And all those sous chefs with full sleeves think they’re so hard—pah!

Liliana’s really real. And in real fashion, she cocked things up. Boy, did she mess things up. She knows it, and she’s working on it. She’s not durdling around, waiting for someone else to save her. She’s in trouble, but she’s no damsel.

Now, with Magic Origins, we’ve finally gotten a look at Liliana’s “softer side” in card form. The girl behind the woman, so to speak. I wouldn’t say that much softer; she’s always had that core of steel. I mean, look at Necromantic Summons. She done punched that poor moose. Elk. Whatever.

Right before she reanimated him and made him do her bidding! That’s a cold b.

Liliana “Surrak Got Nothin’ On Me” Vess and her new four-legged friend. Art by Ryan Yee.

My apologies for the way that I start writing like I’m a character in a teen movie whenever I’m worked up. Liliana gets me that excited. I hope the rest of you out there who bleed Black will understand and forgive me. Just hit F6.

I’m breathless for what lore may come in Liliana’s future. Something tragic, perhaps? Or will she find redemption? Whichever it is, it’ll certainly be entertaining. It’s always feast or famine with Liliana, always fun.


To put on some heretical threads and be her for a couple hours was awesome. I hope you like the pictures. As usual, all credit for photo editing to my accomplice James “Teferi” Arnold and his wizarding ways.

“New strength grows from old pain.” Something my father, a military man, liked to repeat often and loudly. Especially when he had wine with dinner. Josu and I mostly ignored him.

My entire childhood was spent finding ways to escape the boredom of our estate. I vowed to the crows at my window that no walls would ever hold me, that no man’s rules would govern my life.

Then the wars came. My father took Josu away, because it was his duty to kill other men. It was my duty to stay behind the walls. Every night the woods rang with the clash of steel. Every night the wounded were brought back through the gates. Until one night, it was Josu they carried.

I made my way to Caligo Forest, remembering all the times Josu and I had played there. My brother, my best friend. Always keeping me from harm. Could I do the same for him now?

The forest was alive with evil that night. The shadows moved around me, dogging my search. The mists whispered at my heels, taunting my weakness. I was just a girl, and terrified.

But my determination was greater than my fear. I found the grove of the Esis plant—burned to the ground. That, of course, was when he showed up.

“Yes,” I told him. “I do have power. I can save my brother!” I responded to his taunts with bravado, but my hands trembled as I began the spell. Maybe that’s why things went wrong.

When I returned, every fool in the castle questioned me. I lashed out to shut them up, and when they were all cowering, I mixed the medicine. I remember the feeling of cold sweat running down the back of my neck. I remember murmuring a prayer with every revolution of the pestle.

I went to my brother’s bedside with confidence. “Let me show you what true power can do,” I said to no one in particular, the idiots in my father’s employ standing around like useless ninnies, wringing their hands and weeping. I remember pouring the liquid between Josu’s lips, a promise in my heart that if only this would work I would never ask anything of the world again.

Josu’s eyes opened, but they were not his eyes. “What have you done?!” was what he said. I think I fought him, but I can’t really tell you much about it. When my spark ignited, it was a white light that shattered my vision and carried me away from Josu . . . forever.

When my head began to clear, I knew I was not in Caligo Forest, not at my father’s estate. But somehow, it felt like home.

Mostly, I remember Josu’s screams. I hear them all the time, usually just before I fall asleep. But I can live with that.

And father was wrong. “New strength” doesn’t come from old pain. Power does.

So far, we’ve seen mostly Liliana’s darker side, and I love that she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. But I suspect that, somewhere deep down, she’s still got more compassion than she’d like to admit, and maybe that will surface one of these years. Who knows what 2016 will bring? Like another controversial heroine once said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Prophetic Prism
Gatherer of Graces

If you crave more Liliana, I write a helluva lot of character-driven Planeswalker fanfic on my blog. Rated M, but tastefully done and seriously considered.

Till next time, may Magic be your tool to change things for the better.



Moxymtg Cosplay

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