EV Machine

Posted in Serious Fun on September 9, 2014

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

You want the card? I want you to want the card. Here's the card!

First off, hot damn! That's a great card! Rather than just dying and sitting six feet under, the creatures in my graveyard are going to be unstoppable blasts of insta-damage! I can just picture this fellow picking a ping pong ball out of a lottery machine, then grabbing the appropriate corpse and flinging it across the battlefield at you. Making full use of the corpses of your dead soldiers is the very definition of value! This is going to be awesome! The Kheru color combination of black, green, and blue is going to make loading up my graveyard easy! I'll blow people away! Gimme gimme gimme!

All right, now that we've all had our time to get all excited and giddy, let's take a deep breath and break this down carefully to see what we really have here.

The Basics

Kheru Lich Lord costs six mana, 3BGU. This shouldn't be too difficult to cast, but the color combination does limit the deck options. This is six mana, so don't be expecting to get this fellow out too early. Also, it is a 4/4 creature without evasion. You aren't going to be too excited about casting this for six if you aren't getting a chance to use the ability. On the other hand, a creature with 4 toughness is resilient to a lot of burn spells. It doesn't protect itself from removal spells, but a lot of the red removal is going to have a tough time dealing the 4 damage required.

A crushing blow to Commander players out there—this is not a legend. Kheru Lich Lord will not be leading your troops into battle. His ability to launch your deceased creatures at opponents for a final insulting blow is not something you are going to find in your command zone. It pays to keep this in mind if you find someone poised to die due to commander damage; don't be so quick to return your commander to the command zone when it could get a flying, trampling bonus for only three mana! On the other hand, four copies of this fellow in my next 60-card deck are going to make things interesting. Activating two of these guys in a single turn can make for some interesting turns!

The Meat

The part of this card that we really care about is the ability. Let's break it down slowly so we can see the benefits and the problems that aren't apparent on first glance.

"At the beginning of your upkeep..."

This is very limiting. It means that you won't get to use the ability the turn you play Kheru Lich Lord. You'll have to try to keep it in play until your next turn before you can use the ability for the first time. Having a way to flash creatures into play is beneficial here, beyond just getting to attack on your turn.

You'll have to pay the cost right at the start of your turn. You won't get to see what your opponents are going to do on your turn. You don't even get to see what you are going to draw for this turn. You'll pay the cost or not based on the information you have at the start of your turn. It also means that the mana won't be available for combat tricks or any plays you want to make (or bluff) or your opponents' turns. Three mana doesn't seem like much when you have ten or more mana in play, but spending three mana when you only have six mana out means that you really want the payoff, and during your upkeep, you're not always sure you are going to get it.

Compare this to Sedris, the Traitor King.[1]

Sedris demands the same mana to unearth a creature in your graveyard, but you can unearth at sorcery speed. This lets you get through your draw step and most of your precombat main phase, where you can try to goad your opponents into using up the cards they might use to stop you.

"...you may pay 2B."

While you pay this on your upkeep, it is not an upkeep cost. You don't have to pay it every turn. Since it is likely there will be turns when you wouldn't want to pay the cost, this is a good thing. It also says "may." Many groups aren't going to let you go back to your upkeep if you draw and forget to pay. My group might let me, but I just won't ask. Once I've see the card I'm drawing, I don't think it would be fair to let me go back to my upkeep and pay. If your group adheres closely to the rules, the optional payment can come back to bite you.

The wording also eliminates any chance of you paying multiple times. With the selection being random, you may want to pay again and again until you get to the creature you really want. Sedris will let you pay again and again, but with Kheru Lich Lord, you are out of luck.

"...return a creature at random from your graveyard to the battlefield."

That randomness is a bit of a killer here. If you assume that you have a few smaller creatures in your graveyard, along with a massive beast you were forced to discard early in the game, you know which card you want, but the likelihood of getting that card is left up to chance. Sedris lets you choose the card you want, so the massive beast will be the card you are getting, without question. I've played Sedris and in the early game, I often just wanted to get a Solemn Simulacrum back onto the battlefield just to get another land.[2] Getting the beast is fine, but I'm still in ramp mode. With Kheru Lich Lord, you have to take your chances.

The randomness reminds me of Deadbridge Chant.

If you aren't really setting it up, Deadbridge Chant will often find lands you don't need, or an instant that just doesn't work at that moment. To really make the Chant work for you, having a way to keep your graveyard tidy and loaded only with the things you truly want is essential. This sort of graveyard control is something you'll be looking for with Kheru Lich Lord. The benefit of the Lich Lord is that it does focus on just creatures. By only returning a random creature, you limit how hard you have to work keeping your graveyard just so, and make controlling what is in your graveyard so much easier. Deathrite Shaman works wonders with Deadbridge Chant, and it will do the same for Kheru Lich Lord.

"It gains flying, trample, and haste."

What Kheru Lich Lord gives up with randomness, it makes up for with evasion. Sedris brings your creature back, but if it didn't have a way to get through before, that isn't changing now. With the Lich Lord, your creature will not be stopped! Flying and trample ensure the bigger creatures in your graveyard will be doing damage to an opponent or they'll be taking several creatures down with them.

I love this obvious effort to encourage attacking. While you can use the creature in some convoluted combo antics, what the Lich Lord really wants is for you to tap your new, short-term buddy and send it into the breach. Since the creature is coming onto the battlefield on your upkeep, you aren't going to be blocking with it, so why not throw it out there?

"Exile that card at the beginning of your next end step. If it would leave the battlefield, exile it instead of putting it anywhere else."

This is just there to shut down any attempts to repeatedly bring the card from the graveyard. Bounce it to your hand? Kill it? Sacrifice it? All of those end up with your creature being exiled. Kheru Lich Lord brings a creature from the graveyard and you get it for that turn. No longer. No funny business.

Ah ah! Don't even think it.[3]

So what kind of a deck do you want to run with Kheru Lich Lord?

Kheru Lich Lord

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I want all of my decks to run some kind of removal. It is just too dangerous to let your opponents play any creatures they want. With the Lich Lord around, I want creatures that kill other creatures when they enter the battlefield or do combat damage to an opponent, since the Lich Lord is going to double their effectiveness.

Shriekmaw was an easy addition here. It is big enough to be a threat on its own and you can evoke it if something needs to be dead right away and you just don't have the mana. Acidic Slime is an all-purpose tool, taking out all sorts of troublesome permanents when it enters the battlefield. That Kheru Lich Lord lets that happen twice with the same creature is just a wonderful thing.

I'll include Riptide Entrancer in the removal category. While it doesn't remove the creature, it takes it away from an opponent, and that is just as good. On top of that, you were going to lose the Riptide Entrancer at the end of the turn, whether you stole a creature or not, so sacrificing it hardly seems like any sacrifice at all!

Grave Titan and Griselbrand are the big guns. They both provide potent single hits as flying, trampling, hasty creatures. Grave Titan brings some Zombie friends that stay long after it's gone. Griselbrand may not leave creatures behind, but the ability to draw a huge swath of cards should get you out of many troublesome situations. It may also be what you need to get cards into your graveyard.

Entomb isn't going to come back to your hand with Kheru Lich Lord, but it can search out just the creature you need and throw it in the graveyard. A well-timed Bojuka Bog, followed up by an Entomb, will get you exactly what you need on your next upkeep.

Deathrite Shaman can eliminate extra creatures in your graveyard to lessen the randomness of the Lich Lord. I loaded the deck with plenty of lands that end up in the graveyard, so the Shaman can also act as ramp if you are looking to actually cast creatures directly onto the battlefield. Harrow and Gaea's Bounty act as further ramping, since you'll want to get to at least six mana fairly quickly.

With a card like Kheru Lich Lord, the options are huge. Let your Johnny run wild. This is a deck that you can build and rebuild every week so your friends are never sure what is coming up next. I expect Kheru Lich Lord will be invading your casual games in the near future!

Bruce Richard

1: Get comfortable with this comparison. Sedris is very similar and a known quantity. I like to compare new cards with older cards we know to get a better sense of just how good the new card in question really is. (Return)

2: And no, you don't get to draw a card at the end of the turn. Solemn Simulacrum allows you to draw a card when it dies, not when it is exiled. Both Sedris and Kheru Lich Lord exile creatures at the end of the turn. (Return)

3: All right, yes, you could let your commander die and stay in the graveyard, using Kheru Lich Lord to bring it out again for a turn, then exile it to the command zone where you could cast it again and do it all over again, but you get what I'm saying. (Return)

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