Liliana, Waker of the Dead presented me with the option to put a new spin on the character, and I'm pleased to have the opportunity since it's a little narrow. It's tough to explain, but it was actually a perfect sweet spot. Let me try to articulate it: This Liliana, Waker of the Dead cares about the graveyard, but doesn't specifically incentivize us to work a reanimator angle like some others…

This Liliana, Waker of the Dead cares about discard shenanigans, but again not necessarily so much that we have to focus the whole deck around discard synergies or low resource game plans…

And this Liliana, Waker of the Dead doesn't specifically mention the word Zombie, allowing us to maybe figure out another angle there.

I wanted to explore the following concepts for this build, since I find them to be relatively open space: Skeletons & Escape.

Presenting the following bag of bones:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Liliana, Waker of the Dead by Andy Hurst

'Liliana, Waker of the Dead' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Andy Hurst

Event:

Rank:

Freeform (Casual)

Market Price: $35.99

Cards

Oubliette

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $1.47

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218925_200w.jpg

When Oubliette enters the battlefield, target creature phases out until Oubliette leaves the battlefield. Tap that creature as it phases in this way. (Auras and Equipment phase out with it. While permanents are phased out, they're treated as though they don't exist.)

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Dimir House Guard

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/13253_200w.jpg

Fear (This creature can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or black creatures.)
Sacrifice a creature: Regenerate Dimir House Guard.
Transmute {1}{B}{B} ({1}{B}{B}, Discard this card: Search your library for a card with the same mana value as this card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle. Transmute only as a sorcery.)

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Flayed Nim

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/11386_200w.jpg

Whenever Flayed Nim deals combat damage to a creature, that creature's controller loses that much life.
{2}{B}: Regenerate Flayed Nim.

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Dark Bargain

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212712_200w.jpg

Look at the top three cards of your library. Put two of them into your hand and the other into your graveyard. Dark Bargain deals 2 damage to you.

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Syr Konrad, the Grim

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.52

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222410_200w.jpg

Whenever another creature dies, or a creature card is put into a graveyard from anywhere other than the battlefield, or a creature card leaves your graveyard, Syr Konrad, the Grim deals 1 damage to each opponent.
{1}{B}: Each player mills a card.

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Nighthowler

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.15

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222529_200w.jpg

Bestow {2}{B}{B} (If you cast this card for its bestow cost, it's an Aura spell with enchant creature. It becomes a creature again if it's not attached to a creature.)
Nighthowler and enchanted creature each get +X/+X, where X is the number of creature cards in all graveyards.

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Puppeteer Clique

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $5.83

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/140013_200w.jpg

Flying
When Puppeteer Clique enters the battlefield, put target creature card from an opponent's graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. It gains haste. At the beginning of your next end step, exile it.
Persist (When this creature dies, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)

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Festive Funeral

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.03

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199414_200w.jpg

Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of cards in your graveyard.

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Lim-Dûl's High Guard

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/4187_200w.jpg

First strike
{1}{B}: Regenerate Lim-Dûl's High Guard.

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Tymaret, Chosen from Death

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206803_200w.jpg

Tymaret's toughness is equal to your devotion to black. (Each {B} in the mana costs of permanents you control counts toward your devotion to black.)
{1}{B}: Exile up to two target cards from graveyards. You gain 1 life for each creature card exiled this way.

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Death Baron

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $3.35

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/168696_200w.jpg

Skeletons you control and other Zombies you control get +1/+1 and have deathtouch.

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Gorging Vulture

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192793_200w.jpg

Flying
When Gorging Vulture enters the battlefield, mill four cards. You gain 1 life for each creature card put into your graveyard this way.

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Paragon of Open Graves

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/90852_200w.jpg

Other black creatures you control get +1/+1.
{2}{B}, {T}: Another target black creature you control gains deathtouch until end of turn. (Any amount of damage it deals to a creature is enough to destroy it.)

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Pharika's Spawn

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206675_200w.jpg

Escape—{5}{B}, Exile three other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)
Pharika's Spawn escapes with two +1/+1 counters on it. When it enters the battlefield this way, each opponent sacrifices a non-Gorgon creature.

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Reassembling Skeleton

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.30

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/168595_200w.jpg

{1}{B}: Return Reassembling Skeleton from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped.

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Ransack the Lab

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/191758_200w.jpg

Look at the top three cards of your library. Put one of them into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.

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Unholy Hunger

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/180945_200w.jpg

Destroy target creature.
Spell mastery — If there are two or more instant and/or sorcery cards in your graveyard, you gain 2 life.

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Murderous Compulsion

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196762_200w.jpg

Destroy target tapped creature.
Madness {1}{B} (If you discard this card, discard it into exile. When you do, cast it for its madness cost or put it into your graveyard.)

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Cauldron's Gift

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199278_200w.jpg

Adamant — If at least three black mana was spent to cast this spell, mill four cards.
You may choose a creature card in your graveyard. If you do, return it to the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.

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Liliana, Waker of the Dead

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $5.49

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215353_200w.jpg

+1: Each player discards a card. Each opponent who can't loses 3 life.
−3: Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of cards in your graveyard.
−7: You get an emblem with "At the beginning of combat on your turn, put target creature card from a graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. It gains haste."

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Sanitarium Skeleton

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/226882_200w.jpg

{2}{B}: Return Sanitarium Skeleton from your graveyard to your hand.

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Liliana's Elite

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216021_200w.jpg

Liliana's Elite gets +1/+1 for each creature card in your graveyard.

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Skeleton Archer

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215882_200w.jpg

When Skeleton Archer enters the battlefield, it deals 1 damage to any target.

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Blood for Bones

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.49

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192685_200w.jpg

As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a creature.
Return a creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield, then return another creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

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Mogis's Favor

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/207146_200w.jpg

Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/-1.
Escape—{2}{B}, Exile two other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)

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Malefic Scythe

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215517_200w.jpg

Malefic Scythe enters the battlefield with a soul counter on it.
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 for each soul counter on Malefic Scythe.
Whenever equipped creature dies, put a soul counter on Malefic Scythe.
Equip {1} ({1}: Attach to target creature you control. Equip only as a sorcery.)

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Archfiend's Vessel

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.67

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215555_200w.jpg

Lifelink (Damage dealt by this creature also causes you to gain that much life.)
When Archfiend's Vessel enters the battlefield, if it entered from your graveyard or you cast it from your graveyard, exile it. If you do, create a 5/5 black Demon creature token with flying.

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Aid the Fallen

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188304_200w.jpg

Choose one or both —
• Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
• Return target planeswalker card from your graveyard to your hand.

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Swamp

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222820_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {B}.)

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Stitcher's Supplier

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $4.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/169236_200w.jpg

When Stitcher's Supplier enters the battlefield or dies, mill three cards.

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Skeletal Kathari

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.09

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/27802_200w.jpg

Flying
{B}, Sacrifice a creature: Regenerate Skeletal Kathari.

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Animate Dead

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $4.71

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/118424_200w.jpg

Enchant creature card in a graveyard
When Animate Dead enters the battlefield, if it's on the battlefield, it loses "enchant creature card in a graveyard" and gains "enchant creature put onto the battlefield with Animate Dead." Return enchanted creature card to the battlefield under your control and attach Animate Dead to it. When Animate Dead leaves the battlefield, that creature's controller sacrifices it.
Enchanted creature gets -1/-0.

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Demonic Embrace

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.33

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215731_200w.jpg

Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +3/+1, has flying, and is a Demon in addition to its other types.
You may cast Demonic Embrace from your graveyard by paying 3 life and discarding a card in addition to paying its other costs.

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Ghastly Demise

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/226971_200w.jpg

Destroy target nonblack creature if its toughness is less than or equal to the number of cards in your graveyard.

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Stupor

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.35

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/14649_200w.jpg

Target opponent discards a card at random, then discards a card.

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Tendrils of Corruption

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/233862_200w.jpg

Tendrils of Corruption deals X damage to target creature and you gain X life, where X is the number of Swamps you control.

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The Game Plan

We want to be aggressive, but our Skeleton army has a lot of recursive capability, so we don't mind the long game.

Sanitarium Skeleton is the biggest workhorse we've got. It chump blocks forever. If we have some spare mana sitting around, it combos great with Liliana, Waker of the Dead plus ability. Its recursion triggers Syr Konrad, the Grim. We're psyched to dump them into the graveyard with Ransack the Lab, Stitcher's Supplier, or Gorging Vulture. They're probably our MVPs and we're always happy to see them.

Dimir House Guard is a weird creature in this deck, because we kinda care about the transmute, but we also care a lot about the Skeleton part. It tutors up a few great cards for us (Paragon of Open Graves, Blood for Bones, Tendrils of Corruption, Liliana, Waker of the Dead herself) but none of them are rares. So we're maybe incentivized to play it face up as an evasive Skeleton body.

Pharika's Spawn isn't a Skeleton, but flavor-wise it's basically a cousin. It's a recursive threat that comes back bigger and badder than ever, and our other cards should do a fine job of providing escape fuel. It helps that for such a powerful effect, we don't really have to escape that much! Three cards isn't a terrible price to pay.

Our removal suite is strong. Ghastly Demise and Mogis's Favor are both potent, but they don't play terribly well together, so be sure to sequence things carefully when you're dealing with both of them. Murderous Compulsion is perfectly acceptable as a two-mana sorcery, but if we can get the "free" card out of it by pitching it to Liliana, Waker of the Dead, we'll be toasting to the good life. Tendrils of Corruption provides a nice life boost in a deck that otherwise doesn't have much lifegain. Oubliette is a very fun reprint—I wasn't positive it was getting assigned to these decks, but I opened it in a pack and felt compelled to include it. Unholy Hunger is a nice Liliana, Waker of the Dead flavor hit.

The Rares

Before this got reprinted a few years back, I'd never have thought to include it. The price tag was actually getting somewhat prohibitive—being somewhere over $10. But once they reprinted it in a recent Core Set, it went right into the spare rares box I have for this project and eventually found its home here. Providing not only +1/+1, but also deathtouch to our Skeletons is extremely powerful on a three-mana body. The dream scenario is a turn three Death Baron followed by a turn four Skeleton Archer—because it now has deathtouch, the one damage it deals upon entering the battlefield is enough to take out whatever it targets. Yay synergy!

With our Gorging Vulture, Stitcher's Supplier, Ransak the Lab, and Liliana, Waker of the Dead, anticipate having a bunch of cards in the 'yard. Because they can be recursive, we're looking to trade off our early Skeletons as often as possible. This primes Nighthowler to be large and in charge. We can always use a potent threat, and having one that isn't terribly expensive on its own OR as a threat pulling double duty is a nice bargain for us. We'll always be psyched to see this.

Puppeteer Clique is a real nice one. Talk about value! Evasive threat. Has to be killed twice. Has an enters-the-battlefield ability we get twice with its persistence, and each of those abilities can generate a ton of value, often resulting in "trading" cards. Given many possible setups, we can expect the Puppeteer Clique to just run our opponent right out of cards. It's such a massive headache, and removal isn't often effective against it.

I know Liliana, Waker of the Dead is free of her four demon contracts, but for me, part of her flavor will always be connected to demonic benefits. And boy Demonic Embrace is a hell of a benefit! +3/+1 and flying is awesome, especially since we don't have a huge number of natural flyers. And because of its recursive capability, we never mind putting it on something that trades off, or milling it over with one of our graveyard fillers. This card just seems rather workmanlike to me, and I think has the ethos of what this deck is trying to pull off.

Unsung Hero

What's something that a Skeleton deck could use when we're looking to constantly trade off cards? How about something that becomes more powerful the more our creatures die! The Malefic Scythe either gets super large, or its mere presence—alongside something like a Sanitarium Skeleton—completely shuts down opposing combat steps for fear of fully enabling it. And that's all for a two-mana package with only a one-mana equip cost! Talk about efficiency. That one-mana equip cost is clutch—as the game goes on it'll be trivial to move around from attackers to blockers. And I think the Malefic Scythe kind of encapsulates this whole deck's Big Idea: solid early, devastating as the game goes on, extremely difficult to derail late.