When last we spoke about matters of lichdom, we had a different metagame and were in a pre-M19 world. In the intervening weeks, some things have changed—no surprises there, it’s 2018 and information replicates like a virus—and thus it’s time to bring us back around to the noble goal of breaking Lich’s Mastery.

Which, to be frank, has been adjusted to “finding a good shell that can use Lich’s Mastery.” After some hours of testing, it’s clear that this is far more Ad Nauseam than Necropotence. That’s all good, though: you can carve out a niche as the Ad Naus player, as the dedicated Storm player, as the maniac who brings Dredge to the EDH table.

The obsessively damned are compelling characters in fiction, from Faust to Ahab, and what’s more obsessive or damned than a Lich? Part of the glory of Necropotence is the commitment it forces upon you—you don’t just feel like you’re playing a game, but making a decision before you even sit down. The moment you slide a BBB “you lose the game” enchantment in your deck, you make a pact. To that end, for those obsessives, here’s what I’ve learned over the last month:


The original decklist can be found here.

I made the following changes to the maindeck in June:

-2 Azor’s Gateway
-2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
-4 Essence Extraction
-1 Mastermind’s Acquisition
+1 Vraska’s Contempt
+2 Aethersphere Harvester
+3 Ravenous Chupacabra
+2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
+1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
-2 Ifnir Deadlands
-1 Swamp
-1 Plains
+4 Aether Hub

From the last article in this series: “Weaknesses: I’m keeping an eye on the Sunmares; they might be better off as three copies of Lyra.” Past Rob: you’re adorable. This deck runs on horsepower; and Lyra, while powerful, isn’t what you want to be doing.

On the other hand, I’ve learned that Azor’s Gateway is too slow and too low impact for what you’re trying to do. I have faith in it in another shell, but it doesn’t suit this deck, which seeks to maximize its mana each turn. In its place, I’ve been informally testing out a real dark horse pick: Fountain of Renewal, which becomes a Phyrexian Arena once you have Lich’s Mastery out, and helps you live long enough to cast it if you don’t. It also helps you make horses in an invulnerable way, and I’m going to test it at the first post-M19 FNM. It’s been performing well initially, but obviously I can’t test in a more formal setting. More on the M19 picks below.

Without the Gateways, I’ve caved to the lure of going off-strategy with Ravenous Chupacabra—they can buy time, do speed-bump duty, and be a cheap exile for the purpose of Lich’s Mastery. Same with Gonti—both Gonti and Ravenous Chupacabra lend themselves to some grindy games that end up being quite fun and are imperative for crewing Aethersphere Harvester. To that end—and because I was having trouble hitting white mana early—I bowed to the necessity of Aether Hub to the tune of a set. The Liliana goes in to loop the Chups and to provide Mastery fuel worth three “cards” in a pinch: the Zombie token and the two milled cards. The Chupacabra has been great to me, so far.

Side note: it’s interesting that we have “chupacabra” in Magic, right? It’s a portmanteau arriving directly from modern Spanish—“chupa” meaning “suck/sucker” and “cabra” meaning “goat,” paralleling the behavior of the mange-ridden feral dogs that started the Chupacabra myth. It made me think of this Quartz article that crossed my radar this week that encourages de-italicizing non-English words in English text, something Magic did without any real fanfare in Ixalan block. It’s similar to how Magic started using “avatar,” a concept pilfered from Sanskrit, back at the game’s inception.

And here’s how I modified the sideboard this month:

+3 Seal Away
+2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
+1 Profane Procession
-1 Arguel’s Blood Fast
-3 Twilight Prophet
-2 Desert’s Hold

Kambal only comes in against Blue-White and traditional control, so there was no need to have him in the maindeck. Plus, he’s fetchable via Mastermind’s Acquisition. Blood Fast was entirely too cute. Never flipped, never needed it to flip. Seal Away is good against Hazoret, iffy against Goblin Chainwhirler, and an excellent panic button against random vehicles. Twilight Prophet didn’t impress me and ended up being removal bait, so out it goes in favor of the overperforming Profane Procession. The Battle at the Bridges have also been putting in work at tearing down a God or killing something outright.

M19 Potential

We’ll soon have M19 adding to the cardpool. I’ve been testing Infernal Reckoning in the sideboard. It’s excellent against Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger, and seems apt to supplant Seal Away in the board. Ajani’s Pridemate is a possibility, but I’ve been burned by them before. These aren’t the days of Miracle-Gro anymore. I’m also concerned that the days of Sunmare are limited—Resplendent Angel seems quite a bit better, unless you’re on a budget.

Mares eat oats: we should talk about the Horse cycle. I think there’s a place for Shield Mare, yes—in fact, I have it earmarked to replace Gifted Aetherborn when they rotate out—but I’m avoiding Plague Mare. Chainwhirler has diminished the presence of X/1’s enough that he wouldn’t do much when he enters the battlefield, and a three-drop without much of an impact isn’t where the deck is looking to go, even if it is indestructible with a Sunmare out. Shield Mare, though, is a bad Aven Riftwatcher. If you’re running into heaver aggro, he’s an excellent buffer; but he doesn’t do enough to maindeck, and falls by the wayside for the same reasons as Azor’s Gateway.

Matchup Info

Against Red Decks (Decklist and Decklist, for example):

Your Gifted Aetherborns and Gontis match up very poorly against Chainwhirlers and Scrapheap Scroungers, so I side them out in favor of Aethersphere Harvesters. Your goal here is to invalidate their early damage with cycled Renewed Faiths before taking control of the game with a herd of wild horses. The Seal Aways are in the sideboard in order to deal with Hazoret; your hope game one is to race them or toss horse tokens in her way. That hasn’t worked great for me.

Thankfully, they don’t have Rampaging Ferocidon, which would be lights out against us.

Against God-Pharoah’s Gift:

They’re attacking you on a different axis—trying to overwhelm you with Anthems and attackers. I’ve had luck with Fumigate. I’ve played around with a Settle the Wreckage or two in the sideboard against their Eternal army, but so far—in the two matches I’ve played—I haven’t needed to stretch that far. It’s worth watching—this seems like one that can come down to draws and pilots.

Against the Scarab God:

Ah, yeah, this is a problem. They’ll strip out your Masteries or Sunmares with Duress, use your Gontis against you, and generally invalidate your gameplan. Seal Away is a necessity, as is Profane Procession. Luckily, the deity’s stock has fallen in Standard a bit—because in preliminary testing? This is a tough matchup.

Against U/W Control:

I started building this deck back when aggro was the main metagame. The matchup against control decks comes down to landing a Sunmare and cycling Faiths. Teferi is a hideous nuisance, and he’ll tuck your ‘Mares. Luckily, you’re primed against Settle the Wreckage, as you can hit them with a horse token or two and leave your real creatures back. At the end of the day, they’re trying to overwhelm you with card advantage—and that’s essentially impossible if you can get a Mastery down.

Here’s my current build befor M19 drops:

End of June Mastery

Creatures (13)
Gifted Aetherborn
Crested Sunmare
Ravenous Chupacabra
Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Spells (22)
Renewed Faith
Aethersphere Harvester
Mastermind's Acquisition
Vraska's Contempt
Liliana, Death's Majesty
Lich's Mastery
Sanguine Sacrament
Lands (25)
Isolated Chapel
Concealed Courtyard
Aether Hub

Sideboard (15)
Kambal, Counsel of Allocation
Seal Away
Profane Procession
Lich's Mastery
Battle at the Bridge
Ritual of Rejuvenation

Next Steps

With M19 on the horizon—and rotation sadly nearing in September—the one direction I’d be most excited to take this is away from a pure Lich’s Mastery deck and towards an aggressive Zombie deck that uses Mastery to slam the door on an opponent. Here’s where I’d take it:

Lich's Mastery—M19 Future Build

Creatures (25)
Dread Wanderer
Diregraf Ghoul
Metallic Mimic
Graveyard Marshall
Wayward Servant
Lord of the Accursed
Death Baron
Unraveling Mummy
Josu Vess, Lich Knight

Spells (12)
Renewed Faith
Liliana, Untouched by Death
Liliana, Death's Majesty
Liliana's Mastery
Lich's Mastery
Lands (23)
Concealed Courtyard
Isolated Chapel
Unclaimed Territory
Field of Ruin

If we’re going to embrace undeath, we might as well really, truly embrace it along with our dead buddies, right? I’ll be testing both of these more fully in the next few weeks, and can’t wait to see what my second life with Lich’s Mastery turns into.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.