Life is everything to Liliana Vess. In the years after her brother's death, she travelled the Multiverse amassing the power she needed to maintain her youth and keep her spirit tethered to her body. She'll do whatever it takes to avoid experiencing the dark unlife of her reanimated subjects.
Life is everything in Magic, too. It doesn't matter how big your army is or how many cards you can draw. If your life total hits 0, that's it. You're dead. Game over.
From a flavor perspective, I've always had a healthy respect for my life total. Even though a win at 1 life counts as much as a win at 70 life, I've always felt as though I should try and stay as close to my starting 20 as I can. After all, what good is a victory if you don't have your health during whatever passes for peacetime in the life of a Planeswalker?
At any rate, if you like messing around with life totals as much as I do, you're going to love the preview card I have for you today. Meet Tainted Remedy:
Tainted Remedy depicts one of the most pivotal moments in Liliana's life. Here she is, giving her dying brother, Josu, a potion that she believes will restore him to full health. Instead, it twists him into an undead, evil creature. Liliana's necromantic powers, her obsession with life and death, and the ignition of her Planeswalker spark can all be traced back to this one fateful act.
Tainted Remedy does a great job of bringing this moment to life in a game of Magic. Once the card is in play, your opponents will be unable to gain any life whatsoever. In fact, much like Liliana and Josu, any healing attempt they make will cost them dearly.
If your playgroup doesn't feature a lot of life gain, you might not need to build around Tainted Remedy at all. But lifelink is a very powerful ability, and Tainted Remedy makes powerhouses like Wurmcoil Engine, Baneslayer Angel, Batterskull, and even Liliana's old friend Griselbrand significantly worse. The next time you're in a protracted game of multiplayer Magic, keep track of how many cards would be shut down by Tainted Remedy. I think you'll be surprised.
If, like me, you're a more proactive player, you might want to consider building a deck around Tainted Remedy anyway. Here's my attempt:
It's worth noting that False Cure doesn't do anything if you have Tainted Remedy in play. It's still worth running, though. If you play a couple of games with this deck, you'll inevitably run into a situation where one of your opponents will destroy your Tainted Remedy and decide that it's finally safe to gain some life. That's when your False Cure will prove them horribly wrong. If you're trying to recreate Liliana's big moment, this might be my favorite way to do it.
Benevolent Offering is the best support card in the deck by a wide margin. With a Tainted Remedy in play, Benevolent Offering gives you a stack of blockers while draining one of your opponents for at least 6 life. If someone at the table has a large enough army already, this card can kill them out of nowhere. Handing an opponent three Spirits is a Tainted Remedy indeed if they die before they can mount a counterattack.
The rest of the deck is full of cards that are pretty good under normal circumstances and are excellent with a Tainted Remedy in play. Target yourself with the first couple of Life Bursts early in the game and save the last few for your opponents once you have a Tainted Remedy out. Similarly, Wall of Shards transforms from a sweet early blocker into a hard-to-remove killing machine once you're Remedy'd up. Lifelink can be used proactively toward the beginning of the game, or as pseudo removal with Tainted Remedy in play. Swords to Plowshares goes from elite removal to elite removal that also burns your opponent under an active Remedy.
Tainted Remedy | Art by Izzy
Liliana, Heretical Healer is very good in this deck, but I won't begrudge anyone for running Liliana Vess in her place. I'd rather have the more on-flavor Liliana for the specific story we're telling, but if you're not drawing Tainted Remedy with enough regularity it's worth at least considering the version of Liliana that can tutor up a copy in a pinch.
While some people might question my use of white cards in a deck designed to highlight a major moment in Liliana's life, I think it's rather appropriate given the circumstances. After all, we're using Tainted Remedy to twist cards like Life Burst and Benevolent Offering the same way that Liliana's potion was turned around on her.
To that end, I like the idea of using really disparate basic lands in an attempt to capture the duality of life and death. For my Plains, I want the landscape to look as idyllic as possible—Lorwyn #282, say, or Shards of Alara #232. For my Swamps, I want the land to feel toxic and tainted. Theros #238 works well, as does Scars of Mirrodin #241 or any of the Dross Swamps from original Mirrodin.
That's all for this week! Until next time, may your remedies be fruitful.