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You Can Play Any Liliana of the Veil Deck That You Want


Been a minute, but Barbarian Class!

In General

Joy of joys! In general, you can play any - and I mean any - Liliana of the Veil deck that you want. Are you into a classic Mono-Black Control, but with not-Snow-Covered Swamps and the classic 3-drop Lilly in lieu of Lolth? Dominaria United Standard may already feel like home.

Were you more of a bw battlemage last format around? You might not be able to come out with a curve of Luminarch Aspirant at the two anymore, forking in every direction from The Restoration of Eiganjo // Architect of Restoration to Invoke Despair Ninjas... But Dominaria United Standard has got some updates and upgrades (and options!) for players like you.

What about Ninjas? What about Rogues? What about an already crowded three? Believe it or not (and three paragraphs in I'm guessing you already believe it) Liliana of the Veil is sharing Grixis space with multi-archetype All-Star Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki and one-deck pony (if, "what a pony") Corpse Appraiser. Don't see the super sick synergy quite yet? Don't fret: You will.

And what if you were one of the true faithful? The kind who knew - knew in your bones - that Ob Nixilis, the Adversary and his br machinations were the best out of the gate last time; and never stopped being the best; who recognized that old Ob Anvil was losing next to nothing. In fact might just sub out Deadly Dispute for... Let's see here... Liliana of the Veil. Might you think there is room in this metagame for Rakdos folks like you? You might just be right!

The first Standard Challenge did not seem to be much of a challenge if you were a Liliana of the Veil fan; or fan of basic Swamp, at least.

Of the Top 8 decks, all eight were Black decks. The lowest number of basic Swamps represented were two in the seventh-place Mardu Mid-Range; and that scaled up to twenty-one in the first place Mono-Black Control. Of these, seven of the eight played Liliana of the Veil, with a full four packing the full four copies.

... But don't worry! Not only was this only the inaugural Standard event; but it doesn't come close to the record in new card / new format first swing dominance. That would belong to an October 2016 Standard Open which saw - brace yourself - thirty-two copies of Smuggler's Copter. Smuggler's Copter, kind of a Swiss Army jerk that was friend to both beatdown and somehow Reanimator, would of course go on to be banned in multiple formats.

One thing I'd like to point out before continuing was a clear miss on the part of this writer and this column. Last week we talked about old cards that would be getting new paint jobs and new life with the set rotations. While some predictions like Reckoner Bankbuster (19 copies across seven of the Top 8) and Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton (four-of main deck in two archetypes, including the winner) have been spot-on already, they pale compared to this knockout artist:

Tenacious Underdog

Twenty-four copies across seven of the Top 8 decks!

When you think about how pervasive Liliana of the Veil looks early on, it becomes easy to see why Tenacious Underdog would be such a top performer. The Underdog's main claim to playability is in fact its tenacity; or, ability to come back again and again from the graveyard.

Liliana of the Veil's most commonly used ability is for both players to discard a card. While even Steven on its face, Liliana's [+1] can be made asymmetrical in a number of ways, and boy did this Standard Challenge's top performers explore those ways! But that said, an essentially free buyback... And for that matter a "free buyback" creature that also replaces a card in hand, is the most obvious synergy since peanut butter and chocolate. Moreover, playing Tenacious Underdog - and lots of copies of Tenacious Underdog - must be the format's most obvious source of Liliana insurance. You give up next to nothing, and depending on play / draw and land drops, might just give you an immediate way to kill the opponent's Planeswalker at a pittance of a cost.

Buy these. Craft these. Own these.

So long as Liliana of the Veil is a centerpiece of Standard, Tenacious Underdog will be, perhaps, even more effective.

In Specific

Let's start with the lone not Liliana of the Veil (but still black) deck from the Challenge Top 8.

BLESS_VON's deck doesn't really have a specific coherent offense. It's not brimming with tricks or synergies, but does draw on a pretty compelling deck-building paradigm. It's brimming with value. The Planeswalkers - Elspeth Resplendent and The Wandering Emperor - are each more than one permanent if you want them to be. Every creature is at the very least worth an extra Blood token; others draw a full extra card or are in fact one-card buyback machines.

From Reckoner Bankbuster to The Meathook Massacre, BLESS_VON's many artifacts and enchantments are also overflowing with more cards, more triggers, or more cards and more triggers. While the deck might not have an obvious offensive game plan, the old saw of drawing twice as many cards as your opponent probably holds true.


It does have an even more compelling anti-offensive game plan.

Look at Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity.

Take a second glance at Spirited Companion.

How about newcomer Serra Paragon?

BLESS_VON might not have played Liliana of the Veil in this seventy-five, but I have a hard time imagining a Liliana of the Veil deck that is really interested in tangling with BLESS_VON. 1/1 detritus? 1/1 that draws a card? The mere presence of these creatures (or creature tokens) almost invalidates Liliana's [-2] ability. While not as heavy on either Reckoner Bankbuster or Tenacious Underdog as some of the actual Liliana of the Veil decks, BLESS_VON probably has enough mana most of the time to make her [+1] kind of unproductive. And don't get me started on Serra Paragon.

This deck might not be a Liliana build, but it does run Fable of the Mirror-Breaker; Takenuma, Abandoned Mire; and Blood tokens. Serra Paragon is going to be doing good work in the abstract, great work against other black decks.

A fair number of today's Black decks went Red for removal or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. We just looked at one! But what would compel you to go Blue in addition to red?

Looking at ANDYAWKWARD's deck, one incentive is Kaito Shizuki. The always-overrated Ninja Planeswalker is demoted to two-of in this deck, in part to make room for Liliana of the Veil. Like The Wandering Emperor and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Kaito Shizuki can be more than one permanent for one card... But I don't think that's what's important here.

Examine closely the three on this curve. Kaito, Fable, and Liliana of course have something in common: They all allow you to discard a card. It can be a non-cost as with Tenacious Underdog, or it can allow you to transform an extra land into an active resource. But given this deck doesn't even play the full four copies of Liliana of the Veil, that doesn't seem like the most compelling reason to muck up your mana.

Of course it's this card:

Corpse Appraiser

Don't get me wrong. There are lots of ways to get a creature in your graveyard. We mentioned many. There are also Blood tokens and being forced to discard by the other guy. Speaking of the other guy, you can kill one of the opponent's creatures! Corpse Appraiser isn't that discerning. But put all these incentives together, overlap them and add Evelyn? You might just have a good enough reason to add blue.

And now for some Rakdos decks:

In a nearby universe - but still not this universe - WILLPULLIAM's would have been my favorite deck of the week. It's a working man's deck. Lots of four-ofs. Starts on Evolved Sleeper but really comes out swinging at the three and the four. I'm loving Jaya, Fiery Negotiator; but I have an itching suspicion The Elder Dragon War is the most article-catalyzing card in all of Dominaria United.

Despite having lots of four-ofs, this deck is of (at least) two identities. Evolved Sleeper makes it potentially the fastest out of the gate; but with a bigger Planeswalker, I can see it leaning back to play the Control in a lot of games.

That will be too bad because look at the next Rakdos deck:

There is a danger for a deck that is fast sometimes - but not reliably all of the time; but that can be the Control sometimes (but usually only when it hasn't closed out with beatdown). And that danger is often just another - but bigger - mid-range deck.

This one is a good example. Of the Top 8 decks of the first Standard Challenge, this is the only one to feature Ob Nixilis, the Adversary main, despite so many being both Black and Red. To be fair, it's not a great Ob Nixilis deck. There aren't a lot of value 1-drops to set the deceptively big mob boss up, though I can hardly think of a better destiny for Knight of Dusk's Shadow.

The more important point is just that it plays Invoke Despair. I think with so many decks playing chip shot card advantage, running around the mid-field, Invoke Despair may never have been better. Like Liliana herself, Invoke Despair might be killing exactly the wrong value creature, but the ability to go essentially over the top (and take out the opposing Liliana or even more powerful Planeswalker) is an incentive to slowing down.

Finally, if you took a quick look at COLY2's deck and immediately wondered where Ob Nixilis was, the answer is "the sideboard".

Look for this sort of archetype to flourish, but probably starting Ob soon.

The victor this week seems to indicate that the fewest colors, the better. MOGGED beat an even slower bw deck in the finals, having obviously out-lasted Grixis and Mardu challengers along the way.

This deck combines sometimes getting out quickly with Evolved Sleeper with the full four-of compliment of Invoke Despairs.

But more than that, this deck seeks to exploit Liliana going both ways. With Concealing Curtains // Revealing Eye and Duress, MOGGED doubles down on Liliana's [+1]. Can they work together to lock down the opponent's hand?

MOGGED is one of only two players in the Top 8 to be playing a Level Two game. Lots of people figured out Liliana. About the same number of people figured out Tenacious Underdog. Shockingly, their overlap was not a large circle. But what about people who figured out to fight people who figured out Tenacious Underdog in a Liliana shell? MOGGED can eat your Underdog right out of the bin with Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton. Sometimes the Trespasser (or Glutton) can run right up to Liliana and munch on that piece in one bite.

Even Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is aware of its surroundings. Bigger than a Tenacious Underdog. Very, very, punishing of an opposing Underdog.

Not surprisingly, I find this a great deck to start from.

In Rebuttal

Straight from the MOGGED's mouth!

The good news is, despite first appearances, it doesn't seem like Liliana of the Veil will be quite this format's Smuggler's Copter.

And that's very good news indeed.



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