Wizard Is About to Die

Posted in Card Preview on August 10, 2017

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

"Wizard . . . is about to die!"

A deep computerized voice would float from the back of Neutral Ground (my old game shop) where a group of future Magic luminaries were huddled around the arcade game Gauntlet. This was a warning that the player represented in the dungeon crawler by a wizard character was perilously low on life and would need a potion (or simply more quarters). It was not something you wanted to hear while playing the famous multiplayer game.

"Wizard . . . is about to die!"

In the famous multiplayer game of Commander, you will be much happier to hear that phrase. It will almost certainly be intoned as a warning from your opponents, who will be much less pleased about the impending doom of this brand-new card from Commander (2017 Edition).

See! I told you that the Wizard dying was going to be a good thing . . . for you. For your opponents? Not so much. Let's break the card down and see where it might fit into the Commander landscape.

This card does everything you want to do in a game of multiplayer Magic and should find the perfect role against each type of player in your game. Is there someone with a lone giant monster that you have not quite been able to deal with? Maybe a Geist of Saint Traft player has just played their Commander onto an empty board? Maybe someone just cleared the board with a Desolation Giant? Whatever. You will never have any problems finding someone at whom to aim the "sacrifice a creature" mode. Even when it is not getting the best creature, you will get something. Maybe you could even team up with another player who controls their own Vindictive Lich to strip four cards from one player's hand and make another lose 10 life. You will probably have to lose another creature in this pact, but maybe you've made a copy of Vindictive Lich . . .

How about that second mode? There is always someone who has been desperately trying to hit that critical threshold of mana to unlock a super sweet card in their hand. (I am picturing a devious Nate Holt of Walking the Planes holding onto Rise of the Dark Realms against my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant-Spider Spawning deck, being crestfallen when I make him discard that and a strategically held-back Storm Crow as the last two cards from his hands.) This is going to be back-breaker for someone at the table if you time it right.

Speaking of timing, how about that third mode? Think about almost every game of Commander you have ever played. Who won? More often than not, it was that person you never quite got around to finishing off. You have all been there. One player takes an early pummeling and then kind of hangs around while everyone else bickers amongst themselves. Eventually they claw back some life, randomly gain the benefit of someone else sweeping the board for them, and eventually—and inevitably—win the game. I am here to tell you it doesn't need to be that way. Just kill them. You don't even need to sink a resource into it. While the other two threats at the table are having their Commander dealt with by mode A and a Rise of the Dark Realms stripped away by mode B, you can just kill that other person with mode C.

Unless it's me. I just cast Mulch; what kind of threat could I be? Just make me discard instead. No, seriously.

I am not going to talk to you about ways to kill your own Vindictive Lich (although I will say that Skullclamp gives you a mode D that says "Target you draws two cards") since that should be easy to accomplish for any player with Swamps in their deck. Instead let's look at some ways to abuse Vindictive Lich.

First and foremost for me when I look at this card is trying to figure out how to have more than one copy of it. With every eight copies of this card, you can generate one dead opponent, eight sacrificed creatures, and sixteen cards discarded. I am not saying you need to win your game with 24 copies of this dying eventually, but I am also saying you should at least try.

There are no shortage of clone effects to play with this card, from Clone to Vizier of Many Faces. Vizier is sweet because it represents two copies thanks to embalm. Phantasmal Image is a great and easy-to-kill clone, but if you really want to Lich it up, you should be looking at Sultai and the always reliable Progenitor Mimic for a slow and steady stream of Liches during each of your upkeep steps. Taking additional upkeeps with Paradox Haze is strongly encourage anytime you play with the Mimic.

Art by Toma Feizo Gas
Art by Toma Feizo Gas

Speaking of the word "mimic," can I interest you in a Mimic Vat in which to store your Vindictive Lich when it dies? You will need to find a way to sacrifice your token copy to get the dies trigger (since the token gets exiled at end of turn and does not trigger any of the fun stuff we are trying to do), but you get the added value of being able to evict your Vindictive Lich from the Vat should you force your opponent to sacrifice something extra sweet that you want to upgrade to.

The card I am most interested in pairing with my Vindictive Lich is Rite of Replication. I don't want to dawdle about making one extra Lich per turn. I am looking to jump straight from one to six copies of my new favorite Zombie Wizard. I am always looking for new ways to use and abuse Quicken—a card I like to have in all my spell-heavy blue-based Commander decks—and I look forward to playing Rite of Replication on my Vindictive Lich at instant speed in response to a board sweeper.

Of course, you don't have to rely on blue cards to make Vindictive Lich great. Again, assuming any number of possible sacrifice outlets, you can just kill everyone in the game with Vindictive Lich; Mikaeus, the Unhallowed; and Solemnity. Mikaeus gives all your non-Human creatures undying, Solemnity says that counters can't be placed on permanents, and Vindictive Lich says win the game while also clearing away any Platinum Angels that might be standing in your path to victory.

Needless to say, I am excited about our new Lich overlords in Commander and am looking forward to the moment when my opponents breathlessly worry that "Wizard . . . is about to die!" You can experience these thrilling deaths for yourself when Commander (2017 Edition) is released on August 25!

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