Magic: The Gathering’s Liliana Vess is one of the game’s most ancient and powerful planeswalkers. She’s a powerhouse of a necromancer with more than a few dodgy deals in her past and a thirst for power the likes of which are rarely seen. She’s still generally one of the heroes of the game, though – despite her morally grey stand on a lot of things, and the inherent selfishness that controls many of her decisions.
MTG’s Liliana Vess has been a constant presence as a planeswalker since 2007, when the new planeswalker card type was originally introduced, and she’s been a mainstay since then, with twelve different outings as a Planeswalker – plus plenty of cards and story points revolving her, her dark arts, and her tragic backstory.
If you’re looking for the lowdown on this mistress of death then you’re in the right place. We’ve got all the information you could want about her, along with a few key cards that are worth knowing about if you want to add her to your next deck.
Who is Liliana Vess?
While her specific age is unknown, Liliana Vess is actually well over two hundred years old – but retains her youthful appearance because of a pact she made with four demons: Kothophed, Griselbrand, Razaketh, and Belzenlock. She was born on Benalia, which is on the plane of Dominaria, and studied under a great healer. Thinking it would help her abilities, she also dabbled in a little bit of Necromancy, as one does. She was then tricked into accidentally turning her brother Josu into an undead lich, at which point her spark ignited and she warped away.
From that point onwards she did anything she could to gain more power – making deals with demons, acquiring ancient artifacts like the Chain Veil, and constantly being harangued by a mysterious being known as the Raven Man. Her troubles and triumphs eventually led her to meet Jace and the rest of the Gatewatch, with whom she teamed up to help fight off the Eldrazi.
She initially only wanted to use them to break the contracts with her four demons, but eventually fell into an on-again-off-again relationship with Jace Beleren, and grew to care about all of the Gatewatch. After defeating Nicol Bolas, she was then controlled and impersonated before being found and rescued by Kaya, Teyo, and Araithia, who claimed the Chain Veil as proof that they’d “assassinated” her. She’s now living a new life as Ana Iora – and has also been seen playing Professor Onyx on Strixhaven, although she’s since gone back to using her actual name.
Liliana Vess Cards
MTG’s Liliana Vess has an impressive twelve Planeswalker cards with her name on, but the true figure is actually thirteen because of Professor Onyx. She’s also one of the few planeswalkers to have stood firm in a single colour, and has only ever been monoblack.
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana of the Veil is one of the mightiest planeswalker cards around, having spent a large chunk of time as a key card in both Modern and Legacy decks. This three-mana iteration can have each player discard a card, have a single player sacrifice a creature, or give one player a tricky choice.
Her ultimate, which costs six mana, has a player “Separate all permanents target player controls into two piles. That player sacrifices all permanents in the pile of their choice.” As long as players can protect this card long enough to get that ultimate off, she’s literally game-winning.
Liliana, The Last Hope
While not as inherently powerful, Liliana, The Last Hope is another three-mana version of the planeswalker that has a fair amount of power. This time around she can weaken a creature by giving it -2/-1, allow you to mill two cards and choose a creature from your graveyard to return to your hand, or become a zombie generating engine.
For seven loyalty, Liliana, The Last Hope, grants you an emblem that allows you to create 2/2 zombie tokens equal to the number of zombies you control plus two. Even on an empty field, you end up with two defenders that can quickly snowball into an army.
Liliana of the Dark Realms
Liliana of the Dark Realms is a potent card in MTG Commander, mainly due to being one of the few sources of ramp in monoblack decks. She can have you search your library for a Swamp to put into your hand, make a creature stronger or weaker based on the number of Swamps you control, or give you quadruple the mana from each swamp you control.
Her abilities can overturn a game in an instant thanks to cards like Dark Salvation, Death Cloud, Exsanguinate, and the absurd Torment of Hailfire. Each of these spells has an X cost, which means you can make the most of all of your mana.
Liliana, Death’s Majesty
Finally we have Liliana, Death’s Majesty. This is another Commander favourite, and an essential card in any Zombie tribal deck. She can create tokens and have you mill two cards, return a creature from your graveyard to the battlefield, or just straight up destroy all non-Zombie creatures on the battlefield.
Her five-mana cost makes her less competitive in formats like Modern, but there’s no denying the appeal in the slower and more showboaty Commander formats and all of its offshoots.