Posted in Arcana on March 15, 2004

By Wizards of the Coast

Let us confirm your suspicions: R&D is very fond of liches.

The word "lich" (pronounced "litch") literally means "corpse," but in the fantasy genre it means more than that: a lich a corpse that, through powerful magic, has risen from the dead to carry out foul deeds.

In Magic, Lich-type cards prevent you from dying provided you pay for the damage you take with another resource, like permanents in play or cards in your graveyard.


The original lich card was Lich from way back in Magic's first set, Alpha. Like many Magic cards, Lich bends Magic's own rules: You don't lose the game from having zero life or less. Also, whenever you gain life, you draw that many cards. Being an unnatural animated corpse seems like it has its benefits -- until you read the fine print. The price is that if you take damage, you must sacrifice that many permanents, and if Lich leaves play, you lose: game over, the end, you're a pile of dusty ex-lich. So it's not exactly immunity to damage; it's more like trading your life total for your permanent count. It's tricky to pull off -- but incredibly powerful in the right circumstances.

Nefarious Lich

It was a long time before we saw another Lich-type card, but R&D enjoyed the effect so much they tried again. Nefarious Lich was next, in Odyssey. Since Odyssey block was the graveyard-matters block, instead of demanding your permanents in play, Nefarious Lich demands cards from your graveyard. Again, if Nefarious Lich gets Naturalized, you're done -- and if you run out of payment to the enchantment, you're done. But again, lifegain becomes a potent card-drawing resource.

Lich's Tomb

But R&D wasn't done. Mirrodin block is the artifact block, so this Lich variant naturally became an artifact. Like the original Lich, Lich's Tomb demands a payment of permanents in exchange for dismissing that pesky you-die-at-zero-life rule. It doesn't have the card-drawing ability of the original, but conveniently also doesn't have the you-lose effect if it leaves play. And it's much handier to cast at instead of .

Will Magic see Lich variants in the future? As long as there are still players willing to take the diabolical plunge of becoming an animated corpse, you can bet on it.

Latest Arcana Articles


December 10, 2015

Best of 2015 and Holiday Treats by, Blake Rasmussen

With the holidays upon us, the crew at DailyMTG and the rest of Wizards of the Coast is going to be taking a bit of a break. But that doesn't mean there's nothing going on for you, gentle...

Learn More



Arcana Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All