The Lich Get Licher

Posted in Savor The Flavor on June 30, 2010

his is to testify that _______, Dark Mage (hereafter SIGNANT), on this ___the day of ____ (year), hereby agrees to the terms, rules, and conditions specified in this and all associated documents (hereafter COVENANT). SIGNANT agrees to assume, to the furthest extent of all applicable legal and/or mystical jurisdiction, all responsibility for the property and services rendered by the providing party (hereafter DARK FORCES).

The SIGNANT agrees to provide one (1) artifact to serve as soul-storage receptacle (hereafter PHYLACTERY) thirty (30) or more days before bodily death.

DARK FORCES agree that, upon completion of the natural life of the SIGNANT as defined by applicable necroregulations, and following the transfer of the soul of SIGNANT into the PHYLACTERY at the appointed hour of demise, certain trans-mortal mystical privileges shall ensue for SIGNANT. SIGNANT shall thenceforth be known as a:

The PHYLACTERY and the continued soul-containment therein shall enable post-mortem ACTIVITIES including, but not limited to, locomotion, speech, mana-bond utilization, selected skills and talents, and/or other established pre-demise capacities as listed hereafter (refer to Form A), in PERPETUITY so long as the conditions specified in the COVENANT hold. DARK FORCES are not responsible for any alterations in the cosmetic appearance, moral character, and/or other noncritical personal traits of SIGNANT.

The SIGNANT agrees to become one of the active deceased (hereafter UNDEAD), and to assume all conditions and unholy stigmas pursuant thereto. No guarantee of acceptance and/or social status within the UNDEAD or necromancer community is implied by DARK FORCES or by this COVENANT. DARK FORCES assumes no responsibility for altered status within, or expulsion from, any ideological, mystical, and/or religious institutions, societies, or organizations.

The PHYLACTERY must conform to any and all applicable spirit-vessel regulations and any conditions specified hereafter by the DARK FORCES (refer to Form B). In the event that the PHYLACTERY be a living artifact minion, be it Golem, Construct, or Other, the minion's given name and creation date must be provided in writing at time of transfer (refer to Form C). DARK FORCES assume no responsibility for any loss or damage to any soul or consciousness already contained within or possessed by the PHYLACTERY, living or nonliving, incurred by the transference process.

The SIGNANT shall be exempt from bodily degradation due to mundane aging and immune to normal forms of material damage (hereafter INDESTRUCTIBLE). DARK FORCES assume no responsibility for the psychological, mystical, and/or spiritual degradation due to the neverending anguish of non-terminal existence or for any other personal toll and/or cost of INDESTRUCTIBILITY.

The SIGNANT assumes immediate and eternal responsibility for PHYLACTERY, and releases DARK FORCES from any indemnity in the event of contingencies concerning PHYLACTERY, including but not limited to loss, theft, accidental damage, disintegration, unexplained fires, mold, ingestion, demonic disensoulment, reckless use of giant fan(s), nightmarish retribution from DARK FORCES or from any other party from the netherworlds below, divine sanctification, or acts of stomphowler. Consequences of these contingencies, up to and including utter destruction of the immortal soul, are understood by SIGNANT and imply no liability on the part of DARK FORCES, nor will DARK FORCES be responsible for jeering, taunting nightmares that haunt SIGNANT throughout the timeless eons of post-undeath torment, as appropriate.

Finally, SIGNANT agrees to assume physical resilience and bodily power deemed suitable by DARK FORCES, with or without consideration of SIGNANT's former corporeal form, and pending appraisal of SIGNANT's former stature and distinction of magical career.



__________________________ (print name)

__________________________ (date)

  • Lethal damage, damage from a source with deathtouch, and effects that say "destroy" won't cause an indestructible creature to be put into the graveyard. However, an indestructible creature can be put into the graveyard for a number of reasons. The most likely reasons Phylactery Lich would be put into a graveyard are if it's sacrificed (perhaps due to its last ability), or if its toughness is 0 or less.
  • Phylactery Lich's first ability doesn't target the artifact. You can choose an artifact that has shroud, for example.
  • If you control no artifacts as Phylactery Lich enters the battlefield, its first ability won't do anything. As soon as it enters the battlefield, its last ability will trigger (unless you control some other permanent with a phylactery counter on it) and you'll have to sacrifice it.
  • If Phylactery Lich and an artifact are entering the battlefield under your control at the same time, you can't put a phylactery counter on that artifact. You must choose an artifact you control that's already on the battlefield.
  • Phylactery Lich's last ability is a "state trigger." Once a state trigger triggers, it won't trigger again as long as the ability is on the stack. If the ability is countered and the trigger condition is still true, it will immediately trigger again.
  • Phylactery Lich's last ability checks whether you control any permanents with phylactery counters on them, not whether you control any artifacts with phylactery counters on them. If an artifact with a phylactery counter on it somehow ceases to be an artifact, Phylactery Lich doesn't care.
  • Phylactery Lich's last ability checks your permanents for any phylactery counters, not just the specific one that it caused you to put on an artifact. For example, say you put a phylactery counter on a Demon's Horn as Phylactery Lich enters the battlefield. Then you put a phylactery counter on a Crystal Ball as another Phylactery Lich enters the battlefield. Then Crystal Ball is destroyed. Since you still control the Demon's Horn, the last ability of neither Phylactery Lich triggers.
  • The game continually checks whether you control a permanent with a phylactery counter on it. The moment you don't, Phylactery Lich's last ability triggers. The ability doesn't check again, so you'll have to sacrifice Phylactery Lich when it resolves even if you wind up controlling a permanent with a phylactery counter on it by then.

    What Up, Liches

I love this card, no ancient bones about it. First of all, check out Michael Komarck's incredible art. There's the unholy glow in its eye sockets. The dangling phylactery with matching soul-glow. The details of its robes and armor, hinting at its former career. The papery, mummified texture of its hands and fingers. The haunting quality of the light streaming partway down into the cavern. This thing isn't just a card—it's a freaking creepy-beautiful fantasy collectible.

Phylactery Lich | Art by Michael Komarck

Plus its abilities perfectly express the flavor of a lich, a nigh-immortal undead creature that protects its immortality by hiding its soul in a special magical container. The way to kill a lich in Dungeons amp; Dragons, for example, is to find the lich's phylactery and destroy it, severing the link between the lich and its deathless state. I enjoy how Phylactery Lich delivers on my Vorthosian expectations of a lich in creature form, while still lining up with the high-risk, high-reward feel of Lich cards from Magic's history. This is what liches do.

Fittingly, to get the full power of this three-mana, 5/5 indestructible lich, you'll need to be able to pay the price. The Lich will likely show up in heavy black decks that are stocked with enough artifacts, so that he'll be castable and have no lack of safe places to store that phylactery counter. Here are some ideas to get you rolling:

  • Run handy Equipment to hold your Lich's soul that your Lich can also wield for big damage, like Sigil of Distinction, Trailblazer's Boots, or Basilisk Collar (5/5 indestrucible lifelink deathtouch Lich? Yes, have some).
  • Pack quick-to-cast "phylacteries" that can also draw you into your Liches, such as Prophetic Prism or Sensei's Divining Top.
  • Go the "my phylactery is a giant difficult-to-kill monster" route and store your Lich's soul in an untargetable Inkwell Leviathan or an indestructible Darksteel Brute.
  • Protect your potential phylacteries with reactive permanents like Metallurgeon, Welding Jar, or the long-forgotten Guardian Beast. Or keep danger away from your receptacles with proactive cards like Duress or Tidehollow Sculler, emptying your opponent's hand of effects that could blow up artifacts (or 5/5 indestructible dudes).
  • If you're building a deck around black creatures and artifacts anyway, use black Esper critters such as Glaze Fiend or Salvage Titan to cover both. This deck sounds really, really immune to Terror ...
  • Take advantage of the fact that your Lich is a Zombie by using tribal effects such as Cemetery Reaper, Lord of the Undead, Necromancer's Covenant, or Unholy Grotto to power up and/or rescue your indestructible menace. Use Grave Titan to make even more pulse-challenged buddies.
  • If your Lich is going to bite the dust anyway, you could take advantage of it. Use a Carnage Altar or Erratic Portal for your Lich's phylactery, and if the phylactery is threatened, you can bounce or draw off the Lich before the artifact perishes.

  • Even if your Lich gets bounced, the phylactery counter sticks around (unless something happens to that artifact as well). Recast your Lich and you can do a cheaty thing—spread those phylactery counters around to other artifacts!
  • Also, as you cast more than one Lich, they only need a single phylactery counter to be out there. So keep those valuable phylactery counters distributed. It may screw up the flavor, but it works (and believe me, we thought about templates that would disallow this for flavor reasons, but they really junked up the card). This can help to ensure that your Liches will stick around to keep on terrorizing the living.

I can't help being fond of the Phylactery Lich. It's a flavorful, fiendish, beautifully illustrated menace that will stop at almost nothing to make your opponent deader than it is. I hope you have a great time cracking open booster-vessels at the Prerelease Events, to unlock the soul of Magic 2011! Just be sure to seek a lawyer before you go signing any contracts with DARK FORCES.

    Letter of the Week

Dear Doug Beyer,

I was looking through the new visual spoiler today and noticed the blue card Diminish, or more specifically, its Lewis Carroll flavor text. I know in the past you have addressed the reasons why Wizards stopped including real world quotes, but what`s with the switch in philosophy? Is it something that slipped through the cracks? Has Wizards really changed their attitude about such things? Or is it just an exception that you felt fit the flavor of the card enough to include in a core set?

I`d love to hear the reasons, as I`m a bit torn over the inclusion. On one hand, I loved the old cards quoting Shakespeare and classic poets, but on the other, I completely agreed with the decision to exclude such things to keep Magic flavor its own entity.

As always, thanks for all of the wonderful things everyone there contributes to Magic! I`m really digging the flavor of Magic 2011 so far.

Best Regards,

You're right, Brendan—we don't use real-world quotations in most sets these days. For sets and blocks that are strongly themed to a particular setting (such as Rise of the Eldrazi, set on the plane of Zendikar), quoting historical Earthlings just feels wrong to us. We prefer to use flavor text to build the setting, populate it with a huge cast of characters, shine a light on its unique and surprising aspects, and make it feel like a world. Besides: Reality? A bit played. We get the real world pumped into our heads 24/7. When I'm playing or reading about or ruminating on Magic, the last thing I want is another vector for the actual.

Diminish | Art by Eric Deschamps

However, many players enjoy the classic feel of the real-world quote now and again. There's an itch that only gets scratched by a certain deft combination of literary observation with Magic text and imagery. So we use core sets like Magic 2011, along with a few promotional cards here and there, to deploy those literary gems and give that itch a good scratchin'. Magic 2011 follows in Magic 2010's footsteps by bringing together a collection of classic fantasy creatures and spells rather than emphasizing a particular planar setting. We feel that the real-world quote is less disruptive in that context (or in the context of a one-off promo card, or a card inside a Duel Decks product like Divine vs. Demonic).

That's the policy in a nutshell. (That's also a baloth that could just about fit into a nutshell, once you cast Diminish.) Next week: a card that planeswalkers (both kinds) may like. Until then, however, you should check out the other previews already unveiled and don't forget to get to a Prerelease Event on July 10-11!

Latest Savor The Flavor Articles

Daily MTG

December 24, 2012

Is This Your Fateful Hour? by, Doug Beyer

Before the city-plane of Ravnica devoured the spotlight, the shadow-lurking forces of Innistrad were the ones doing the devouring. In this interactive article, you play the role of a tr...

Learn More

Daily MTG

March 28, 2012

Thanks and So Long by, Doug Beyer

Today I'm hurling huge explosions of gratitude and appreciation at you. To everyone who has read these articles and shared this enthusiasm for Magic flavor: you are awesome. I've loved ta...

Learn More



Savor The Flavor Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All