One of my favorite ways to evaluate a new card is when I can spot that it’s just an existing card with upside, weaknesses, or other differences that are easier to process than the entire new card effect in isolation. My first reaction to Liliana, Death’s Majesty was “Zombify with a ton of upside.”

The Zombify with Upside Vantage Point

This does cost 1 more than Zombify. You have to grapple with 4 versus 5, a difference that will always be significant.

Second, Zombify is often not a Constructed-playable card, “often” because it always depends on the targets available, the removal that kills those best targets, the discard you can use to enable it, and other factors.

But if the factors like enablers (cycling helps, as does Pull from Tomorrow) and the rest come together, bringing a creature back for 3 can be broken, 4 can be very good, and 5 needs some help but can be good too. That help here comes in the form of two other abilities.

The +1, create a Zombie token, mill 2 ability is itself an enabler for putting fatties in the 'yard. But it’s also a way to generate blockers to protect Liliana and set up her ultimate or just a later reanimation.

The ultimate is actually pretty underwhelming. Wrath (well, Damnation, I suppose) is a poor ultimate because when you’re overrun with opposing creatures, your planewalkers don’t get to ultimate. And your ability to sweep is “face up.” Damnation is so powerful for reasons that a planeswalker ultimate doesn’t fully capture. Still, the ultimate is the least important part of a planeswalker, and you do get to keep your Zombies. Lastly, there has already been spoiled a 2/1 Zombie (Dread Wanderer) that can block each turn and be resurrected each end step, so maybe blocking for a bit while the ultimate builds isn’t a complete fantasy (if they ban Heart of Kiran…).

The Black Xenagos/Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Vantage Point

Some of you may remember a somewhat obscure card called Gideon, Ally of Zendikar that could protect itself with 0: make a 2/2. Again, 4 is a lot less than 5 on the casting cost, but once you’re in the market for the -3 ability, you at least know that making a 2/2 every turn can be effective at protecting a planeswalker. The fact that you gain a loyalty when doing it somewhat makes up for the fact that Liliana costs 1 more.

A control deck that uses sweepers and/or other spells to keep the board under control and then uses either of Liliana’s abilities to start getting board advantage could be pretty cool. Take a look at this “Solar Flare” deck from back in the day when Cheon and LSV rode the bus instead of a gulfstream:

Solar Flare

Paul Cheon

The Zombie Tribal Vantage Point

Standard has some holdover Zombie tribal cards and Amonkhet is adding some new ones.

If the type line on that 2/2 token matters, Liliana might be a complete nightmare for the opponent on turn 5. Generating 3/3s is great. Boosting other effects like Dark Salvation is great.

The -3 ability does turn creatures into Zombies, but in reality how many non-Zombies are going to end up in your Zombie tribal deck?

Of course, it’s a long shot that a tribal deck is tier 1 in today’s Standard where the creatures are so powerful they don’t need a “lord” giving them +1/+1. But sometimes a tribal deck is a natural trump to other creature decks, and tools like Liliana will help the deck be competitive against control if you get that unlucky pairing.

Solar Flare 2017