Liliana's Mission

Posted in Savor The Flavor on August 31, 2011

By Doug Beyer

Senior creative designer on Magic's creative team and lover of writing and worldbuilding. Doug blogs about Magic flavor and story at

Liliana Vess had a problem.


Now that problem is dead.

That is how Liliana fixes problems.

Art by Karl Kopinski

The problem in question was a demon—a powerful demon lord named Kothophed who claimed ownership over her soul. Kothophed, along with three other influential archdemons, entered into a contract with Liliana whereby she would surrender one (1) soul in exchange for enduring necromantic power and long life. Liliana's over a century old at this point, and she's a feared death-mage who wreaks doom on any who stand in her way, so she's definitely reaping the benefits of the arrangement. Not to mention, thanks to her demon-granted youth, she manages to make ruthless necromantic ambition look so. Pretty.

Liliana Vess | Art by Terese Nielsen

But the cost, which seemed so harmless at the time—one pesky, slightly used soul—is now weighing on her. The terms of the contract are etched onto her very skin, constantly reminding her of her debt and those dark entities to whom she's indebted. At times, especially when she casts powerful magic, the etchings show up on her skin like phosphorescent tattoos, every arcane swirl and jagged rune a keepsake of the moment she surrendered her most precious possession.

Demonic Tutor | Art by Scott Chou

So she decided to take matters into her own death-dealing hands. When the demon Kothophed, one of her four demonic creditors, called in a favor of Ms. Vess, she discovered a way she might begin to get out of her contract. She went on a mission to search some ancient catacombs and to retrieve a powerful artifact: the Chain Veil. In doing so, she ran afoul of that nature-brute, Garruk Wildspeaker, and she managed to make a relentless enemy who will hunt her to the ends of the Multiverse. But Liliana also learned the grim potency of the Chain Veil, using it to defeat Garruk, leaving him weakened and afflicted with some sort of dark curse.

The Hunter and the Veil Part 3 | Art by Alex Horley-Orlandelli

When she returned to her master Kothophed with the coveted Chain Veil, she saw her chance. Whatever the consequences might be for using the Veil, removing the obstacles in her way was more important. If Kothophed was one of the reasons her soul was not her own, then he would die, and so would the rest of the demon lords in turn.

She summoned up all her strength, made even more potent by the power of the Veil, and destroyed the demon Kothophed—

The Veil's Curse Part 3 | Art by Mark Texeira

—but the etchings, to her dismay, did not come off.

No matter. She has the Chain Veil now, a seductive and potentially devastating ally. And she still has her youth and power. And her goal remains the same: get her soul back.

Three demon lords remain.

Which brings Liliana to Innistrad.

  • Liliana's Next Step

Concept art by Vincent Proce

The world of Innistrad suits Liliana well. It's crawling with undead—like a banquet composed entirely of naturally servile, unnaturally strong warriors—and it's suffused with darkness. The air is pleasantly masked with chilly fog most of the time, and the sky is almost completely unmarred by angels (those goody-two-wings annoy that Liliana to no end). And what can we say? The local fashions of Innistrad agree with her.

Liliana of the Veil | Art by Steve Argyle

Since Liliana procured the Chain Veil, and especially since she destroyed one of her demon masters with it, she's like a new person—or she's a version of herself who is taking an even darker path than before. Clearly she's taking more risks; anyone who actively seeks out demons is getting cozy with danger. Even her few allies are all but forgotten; her life has become an arrow aimed only at her own goals. She may be putting herself at great risk, using the unknown power of the Veil to further her ends—but she's having such fun doing it.

It's time we take a look at the Innistrad card that represents this new phase in her life: Liliana of the Veil.

  • Liliana of the Veil

The vampire Sorin Markov may have intruded on Liliana's place in Magic 2012, but she refuses to be silenced. In true Liliana style, she has busted down the doors of Innistrad to steal some of the spotlight for herself.

Liliana has appeared in a sleek new three-mana form—the only three-mana planeswalker other than Jace Beleren himself. She even has 3 loyalty, similar to original-flavor Jace, so it seems likely she'll find her way onto the tournament scene. We like it when our central planeswalker characters find their way into the spotlight (for example, Ajani Vengeant) and then fade away for a while (for example, a 2012 core set that doesn't feature Ajani), only to return with a vengeance. Of the five, Liliana is probably the character who least enjoys getting sidelined, and she's the last of that original five to get a new version—so it's definitely her turn to make an impact.

Liliana's first ability, which gains her loyalty, makes everyone discard. It might seem a little harsh that she forces you, the one who summoned her, to discard, too. But in Innistrad, the graveyard can be used as a tool, and that discard ability can be a powerful advantage. Set up a reanimation spell by dumping a huge undead-servant-to-be into the graveyard. Build a nest of fresh corpses from which zombified abominations can be constructed. Crank up the size of your grave in order to max out effects that rely on fully-stocked graveyards. Or get tricky by discarding flashback spells—did we mention that flashback is back?—spells that function just as well when not cast from your hand. Liliana's loyalty-gaining ability may be subtle, but it can reward clever deckbuilding in a haunted world.

Liliana's Caress | Art by Steve Argyle

Liliana's second ability is a Cruel Edict indeed. Having a collaborator who can demand a sacrifice at an opportune time—the same turn you summon her, if you like—can prove brutally powerful. Liliana can fit well into a control strategy that wears your opponent out of resources, combining with your other removal and discard spells to keep your opponent's board clear and hand near-empty. Or she can provide cover fire for a creature deck that slashes at your opponent before they can get set up, serving to clear blockers out of your way. Planeswalkers that have a way to protect themselves often prove strong, and so Liliana's "edict" ability can help her stick around for a long time. Then you can tick her up with her +1 ability for a while, getting her ready to fire off another "edict."

...Or you can save up for her devastating ultimate ability. Imagine this: if your opponent controlled Liliana of the Veil and was +1-ing her to make you both discard all the time, how would you play? You'd probably be dumping everything important in your hand onto the battlefield, keeping less important cards in hand to pitch to Ms. Vess. But the more Liliana makes everyone discard, the closer she is to her -6 ability—which punishes the very act of building up one's board.

The Hunter and the Veil Part 3 | Art by Alex Horley-Orlandelli

Use Liliana of the Veil's ultimate ability to shred half of what your opponent worked so hard to cast. Divide all his or her possessions down the middle and offer the painful choice of which half to keep, and which half will be "taken" by Liliana. Far from Jace Beleren's rarely activated -10 ultimate, Liliana of the Veil's quite reachable -6 ability comes online before you know it, and will certainly put your foe on edge long before that.

Liliana's back. She's got the tools she needs to slay a demon. All she needs now is its current home address.

  • Griselbrand

If you checked out the introductory segment of A Planeswalker's Guide to Innistrad last week, you may have heard whispers of the name Griselbrand. Griselbrand (GRIZZ-el-brand) is many things: a powerful demon lord, a figure of worship to the secret cult known as the Skirsdag—and currently a missing person, having disappeared around the same time that the archangel Avacyn (AV-uh-sin) did.

Griselbrand is something else, as well: he is one of Liliana's four three demon masters, one of the same four three who, according to Liliana's contract, lays claim to her soul and commands her devotion.

Liliana's visit to the plane of Innistrad is not just for fun and games. She's on a mission of destruction. She's on a mission to reclaim her soul. She only needs to locate her target—and to find it, she will turn this world upside down if she has to.

Concept art by Adam Paquette

  • The Cursed Hunter

But wasn't there another piece to this story? What about the towering, muscle-headed nature-mage whom Liliana cursed with the Veil? The brute who is sworn to track her wherever she goes? The man whose hunter's senses may even allow him to pursue her here to the plane of Innistrad? What of him?

The Veil's Curse Part 1 | Art by Steve Prescott

Find out later this week, and I'll see you next week with another Innistrad preview!

  • BONUS: Letter of the Week

Subject: Magic World-Building Panel at PAX
Dear Magic Creative Team,

Can you please put up a webcam so people that want to see the panel, but can't be there, can?

--Zach H.

You're in luck, Zach! You can check out this video of the entire PAX world-building panel, thanks to The entire Magic Creative Team showed up in force, and we talked about Innistrad and issues of art and flavor for about an hour. Thanks to Mark Purvis for being our emcee and Trick Jarrett for filming.

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