What to Expect from the Return of Liliana of the Veil

The long-time Modern staple is coming to a format near you.

For those that didn’t catch all the spoilers for Dominaria United that were uncovered during the Wizards Presents show, let’s just say there are going to be some very impressive cards printed in Dominaria United. There is one card though that I would like to highlight, and it is one many players are already familiar with:

Liliana of the Veil

That’s right, Liliana will be present in her most powerful form in Dominaria United. While the card looks a little different because of the all-new art, make no mistake: Liliana of the Veil is back, and in a big way. Liliana of the Veil is about to be legal in both Standard and Pioneer. My goal is to break down what to expect in both formats with the addition of one of the most powerful planeswalkers ever printed.

Liliana of the Veil in Standard

Liliana of the Veil has been legal in Standard before, though that was all the way back when Innistrad was released in 2011, and a lot has changed since then. What’s important to remember is that Liliana of the Veil was never banned. She was certainly played during her original appearance in Standard, but never felt too good for the format. There’s a good argument that cards have become more powerful over the years, so in theory that means Standard has better cards than it had 11 years ago.

This should lead to Liliana of the Veil being a perfectly reasonable reprint for Standard right? Is Liliana of the Veil better in a format like Modern, when compared to Standard? Usually if a card is good in Modern it’s even better in Standard, but this isn’t always true.

Sometimes Modern cards see play because they have a very specific use in one deck. For instance, Amulet of Vigor never saw Standard play, but because of its interaction with bounce lands it became a Modern staple and the namesake of the deck Amulet Titan. In the case of Liliana of the Veil, however she is played in many different Modern decks, not just one. The card is more generically powerful than a card like Amulet of Vigor.

There are specific reasons that black Modern decks want to play Liliana of the Veil:

  • Some Modern black decks revolve around discard effects, and Liliana of the Veil works well alongside cards like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek.
  • Liliana of the Veil pairs well with cheap removal like Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push.
  • You can cascade into Liliana of the Veil off of Bloodbraid Elf.
  • There are certain decks that require discard outlets.

While Liliana of the Veil is a Modern staple historically speaking, the card has been seeing much less play than it used to in Modern. If I were to point to a single card that has influenced the decline of Liliana of the Veil, it is Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

Liliana of the Veil works best when your opponent has a single expensive creature in play and you can use Liliana’s edict effect immediately. Ragavan changed the landscape of Modern, so that decks now have cheaper threats than they used to, negatively impacting Liliana of the Veil.

Liliana of the Veil has a similar problem against the aggressive decks in Standard: she’s not good against decks like Mono-White or Mono-Green Aggro.


Mono-White Aggro

Market price: $144.20

Maindeck·61 cards

Creature (34)

  • 3 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
  • 4 Brutal Cathar
  • 3 Elite Spellbinder
  • 4 Hopeful Initiate
  • 3 Intrepid Adversary
  • 1 Legion Angel
  • 4 Luminarch Aspirant
  • 3 Skyclave Apparition
  • 3 Sungold Sentinel
  • 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
  • 4 Usher of the Fallen

Artifact (2)

  • 2 Portable Hole

Enchantment (3)

  • 3 Paladin Class

Land (22)

  • 4 Cave of the Frost Dragon
  • 1 Crawling Barrens
  • 1 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
  • 16 Plains

Sideboard (15)

  • 2 Archon of Emeria
  • 3 Guardian of Faith
  • 3 Legion Angel
  • 1 Maul of the Skyclaves
  • 1 Paladin Class
  • 2 Portable Hole
  • 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
  • 1 The Wandering Emperor

Whenever you play a planeswalker, you want to be able to protect it. If an aggro deck has multiple creatures on the board when Liliana of the Veil comes down, Liliana’s edict will only kill the weakest one, leaving the other creatures to wipe Liliana off the battlefield. You’ll often end up trading your Liliana of the Veil for one of your opponent’s one-mana plays, which is never ideal. Ticking Liliana of the Veil up to make both players discard a card is an ability you mostly want to use when the board is clear of creatures.

While Liliana of the Veil likely won’t be good against the most aggressive strategies, it should be effective against the slower Izzet-based combo, control, and ramp strategies. These sorts of decks don’t play early creatures, and often want to have lots of cards in their hand. Having a planeswalker that can come down and immediately deal with Hinata, Dawn-Crowned or tick up and eat away at the opponent’s hand is going to give black decks a very important tool for slower matchups in Standard.

Liliana of the Veil will be important in Standard, but its effectiveness will be dependent on the metagame, and what decks are most popular. Even though we aren’t used to seeing Liliana of the Veil as a sideboard card, it is possible this could happen in Standard.

What is the best home for Liliana of the Veil? I suspect the answer will be a Rakdos deck like this one:


Rakdos Midrange

Market Price:$282.91

Maindeck·60 cards

Creature (20)

  • 4 Bloodtithe Harvester
  • 1 Florian, Voldaren Scion
  • 1 Goldspan Dragon
  • 4 Graveyard Trespasser
  • 3 Immersturm Predator
  • 3 Reckless Stormseeker
  • 4 Tenacious Underdog

Sorcery (2)

  • 2 Shatterskull Smashing

Instant (7)

  • 3 Infernal Grasp
  • 2 Play with Fire
  • 1 Soul Shatter
  • 1 Voltage Surge

Enchantment (8)

  • 4 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
  • 4 Kumano Faces Kakkazan

Land (23)

  • 4 Blightstep Pathway
  • 2 Den of the Bugbear
  • 4 Haunted Ridge
  • 2 Hive of the Eye Tyrant
  • 3 Mountain
  • 1 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
  • 6 Swamp
  • 1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire

Sideboard (15)

  • 2 Abrade
  • 3 Duress
  • 2 Go Blank
  • 3 Nighthawk Scavenger
  • 3 Ray of Enfeeblement
  • 2 Soul Shatter

This deck has all the tools that a deck with Liliana of the Veil wants. Rakdos decks will be the most likely to be able to reliably cast Liliana on turn three. Also, this deck can start casting removal spells like Voltage Surge, Play with Fire, and Ray of Enfeeblement as early as turn one, so that when Liliana of the Veil comes down there isn’t more than one creature on the other side of the board. I suspect we will see multiple decks that play four copies of both Liliana of the Veil and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker in them.

I would cut the copies of Reckless Stormseeker here in order to fit in Liliana of the Veil. Liliana of the Veil is a threat itself, and in general a planeswalker can act sort of like a creature in the way it goes about attacking the opponent, which in this case means making the opponent discard cards.

I do suspect we see a decent amount of Liliana of the Veil in Standard, but I’m not worried about it being too strong for the format.

Liliana of the Veil in Pioneer

There are some powerful planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Karn, the Great Creator already in Pioneer, but the addition of Liliana of the Veil opens up a ton of possibilities for what black decks are capable of.

Rakdos is even better in Pioneer than it is in Standard. Currently some players view Rakdos Midrange as the best deck in Pioneer, and Liliana of the Veil should make the deck significantly better than it already is. Here is what a current version of Rakdos Midrange looks like in Pioneer:


Rakdos Midrange

Market Price:$492.85

Maindeck·60 cards

Creature (16)

  • 4 Bloodtithe Harvester
  • 4 Bonecrusher Giant
  • 1 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
  • 4 Graveyard Trespasser
  • 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • 1 Tenacious Underdog

Planeswalker (2)

  • 2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Sorcery (9)

  • 1 Cut // Ribbons
  • 3 Dreadbore
  • 1 Shatterskull Smashing
  • 4 Thoughtseize

Instant (4)

  • 4 Fatal Push

Artifact (1)

  • 1 Unlicensed Hearse

Enchantment (4)

  • 4 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

Land (24)

  • 4 Blightstep Pathway
  • 4 Blood Crypt
  • 1 Castle Locthwain
  • 2 Den of the Bugbear
  • 4 Haunted Ridge
  • 2 Hive of the Eye Tyrant
  • 2 Mountain
  • 1 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance
  • 2 Swamp
  • 1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
  • 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard (15)

  • 1 Damping Sphere
  • 2 Duress
  • 2 Epic Downfall
  • 3 Go Blank
  • 1 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
  • 2 Lifebane Zombie
  • 3 Rending Volley
  • 1 Unlicensed Hearse

This has all the makings of a deck where Liliana of the Veil should thrive. Cheap removal and discard like Thoughtseize will help ensure that when you cast Liliana of the Veil, it is going to be on a favorable board state. The only question is what to cut in order to make room for Liliana of the Veil, since it means adding another three-drop to the deck.

My recommendation for how to add Liliana of the Veil into this preexisting deck is the same as it is for Rakdos Midrange in Standard. Don’t cut cheap removal spells or interaction, as they are still important, if not even more important once adding in Liliana of the Veil. Something has to go though, and it may end up being Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Tenacious Underdog.

The issue is this deck has an abundance of quality three-mana plays, and Liliana of the Veil only adds to the dilemma of which are best to play. Bonecrusher Giant isn’t only a three-drop, since it can act as a two-mana removal spell as well. Graveyard Trespasser provides a threat that’s also graveyard interaction against decks like Greasefang and Izzet Phoenix. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is a really strong card generally speaking, but this deck likely won’t want a full 16 three-mana cards in it. Playing around with the numbers by cutting a card here or there is likely going to be the correct direction to take this deck.

While Rakdos Midrange may seem like the obvious home for Liliana of the Veil in Pioneer, it’s important to remember that this planeswalker can serve as a discard outlet. Greasefang strategies stand out to me as an ideal place for Liliana of the Veil. Greasefang decks revolve around putting Parhelion ll into the graveyard or sometimes an Esika’s Chariot, and then putting a Vehicle directly into play from the graveyard with Greasfang, Okiba Boss.


Abzan Greasefang

Market Price:$320.91

Maindeck·60 cards

Creature (16)

  • 4 Greasefang, Okiba Boss
  • 4 Raffine’s Informant
  • 4 Satyr Wayfinder
  • 4 Stitcher’s Supplier

Sorcery (12)

  • 4 Can’t Stay Away
  • 4 Thoughtseize
  • 4 Witherbloom Command

Instant (4)

  • 4 Grisly Salvage

Artifact (8)

  • 4 Esika’s Chariot
  • 4 Parhelion II

Land (20)

  • 4 Blooming Marsh
  • 1 Boseiju, Who Endures
  • 4 Concealed Courtyard
  • 2 Darkbore Pathway
  • 1 Godless Shrine
  • 2 Overgrown Tomb
  • 1 Swamp
  • 1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
  • 4 Temple Garden

Sideboard (15)

  • 3 Abrupt Decay
  • 3 Duress
  • 4 Fatal Push
  • 2 Graveyard Trespasser
  • 2 Tamiyo’s Safekeeping
  • 1 Unlicensed Hearse

While I do think Liliana of the Veil can be successfully utilized in a Greasefang deck, it may be difficult for the Greasefang decks to protect Liliana of the Veil once she is in play. Greasefang strategies have to use a lot of slots up on the combo aspect of the deck, which means they won’t have as much interaction like the removal and discard we see in Rakdos Midrange.

Wrapping Up

The biggest concern I have with Liliana of the Veil is that it could turn Rakdos Midrange in Pioneer from “good” to “too good.” If that happens, it likely won’t be because Liliana of the Veil is too overpowered for Pioneer, but because the sum of all the parts in the Rakdos Midrange deck are too strong. The upcoming Regional Championships featuring Pioneer will provide some important data on how good Rakdos Midrange has become with the addition of Liliana of the Veil.

In terms of Standard, I have no complaints, and believe this will be a healthy addition to the format. If you are a player who likes the idea of a planeswalker that sees play across Standard, Pioneer, and Modern, Liliana of the Veil will check that box for the foreseeable future.