Is there any good deck which uses Lich?

Sure, there is some very corner-case where having it in the battlefield will help you, such as if you have fewer life than permanents, and you are about to kill your opponent, but even in that case, you'd rather have a card which actually kills him, rather than this…

So: is it just a terrible card, or is or has there been any actual use?

The question is if there is a deck where it would make sense to put this card and not another one, NOT if there is a strange corner case where if you magically happened to have this card in your hand, it would make sense to play it.

  • 2
    This question seems incredibly questionable, and I would argue primarily opinion based. Literally every card in mtg can have a use.
    – Waterseas
    Feb 23, 2015 at 15:02
  • 4
    @Lohoris The added paragraph sounds combative. I would recommend rewording the entire question to the tune of "Are there any good decks that use Lich" or "How do you go about building a Lich deck"?
    – GendoIkari
    Feb 23, 2015 at 15:22
  • 4
    The linked 'lich' page has a 'view decks with lich' link: magic.tcgplayer.com/db/… have you looked through these decklists for an answer to your question?
    – Colin D
    Feb 23, 2015 at 15:28
  • 2
    Voted to close as primarily opinion based. It looks like the author wants a single example to convince him that the card is not terrible. It seems argumentative to me.
    – Rainbolt
    Feb 23, 2015 at 16:00
  • 2
    @Rainbolt and why is this in-topic, instead? It's exactly the same question (about a different card, ofc).
    – o0'.
    Feb 23, 2015 at 16:19

4 Answers 4


Why was Lich created?

I think this is the real subtext of your question: why does Lich exist?

I think to understand Lich, you've got to put it in context: it's a flavor-first design from Alpha. Lich is, first and foremost, supposed to feel like lichdom in fantasy stories, particularly Dungeons & Dragons: undeath, power and immortality at a grave price.

One thing the card does well is establish a big theme for black: trading away your life for power in near-suicidal ways.

However, one of Alpha's biggest shortcomings is that it's all over the map about what cards are worth as a resource. On the one side, you've got cards like Ancestral Recall. On the other, you've got Lich.

So, Lich is an early attempt to do something pretty tricky in Magic, and it is, by most standards, a misfire (part of what hurts it now is errata which forces "cards" to "nontoken permanents," thereby cutting off many strategies for artificially inflating your permanent count). You can see attempts to refine this design in various cards like Nefarious Lich and Necropotence.

What can you do with Lich?

Nearly any card this weird is fodder for at least a few combos.

  • Lich turns life gain into cards. This is very pretty powerful because it's easier to gain 1 life than to draw a card, but any deck built around this as an enabler is going to be rather fragile.

  • Lich sets your life total to zero. You can try to abuse this with various cards, such as Mirror Universe.

  • Lich makes life loss that isn't damage meaningless to you. (Look at Ad Nauseam for instance). Note that you can't pay life, either, though.

  • Lich will kill its controller when it goes to the graveyard. You could try to set up some Donate-style combos with this, but it's pretty bad because you need other cards to ensure you don't die at zero life.

Is it good in a competitive environment?


But most Magic cards aren't.

  • 1
    No mention of Mirror Universe in the "What can you do with Lich?" section?
    – Powerlord
    Mar 2, 2015 at 18:57
  • @Powerlord "Such as Soul Conduit." >.>
    – Alex P
    Mar 2, 2015 at 19:21
  • Right, but the reason I mentioned Mirror Universe is that it was a well known and highly effective strategy in Alpha/Beta... the same sets that contained Lich in the first place.
    – Powerlord
    Mar 2, 2015 at 20:40
  • @Powerlord Mirror Universe is originally from Legends, so several years after Alpha/Beta.
    – bwarner
    Mar 5, 2015 at 14:48
  • 1
    As a note, look at the new Lich's Mastery, which is a "fixed" variant of Lich + Nefarious Lich.
    – Samthere
    Jul 6, 2018 at 11:59

You can use Lich with Death's Shadow or Magus of the Mirror or Repay in Kind.


Lich, at a cost of BBBB, is too expensive to be part of a competitive tournament combo given it's only playable in Legacy (compare to the 6 mana win with Painter's Servant + Grindstone) or Vintage (compare to the 4 mana win with Time Vault + Voltaic Key). There is also the big downside that you can lose the game to a Disenchant or have to sacrifice all of your lands to a big swing from an agro deck. But there are a lot of cool things you can do with it in casual play (possibly with Platinum Angel as backup).

Lich is actually a really interesting card for it's combo potential. Most combo cards have one ability you can combo off of. Lich has three. These have been partially discussed by @VolleyJosh and @AlexP, but I want to go more into detail. Here they are:

  1. It let's you be alive with 0 (or less) life. This means you can use it to kill a player using cards that give your life total to someone else like Mirror Universe, Magus of the Mirror, and Repay in Kind. It also makes Death's Shadow a 13/13 for one mana.

  2. It lets you turn life gain into card draw. This can create a powerful draw engine with cards like Essence Harvest, Consume Spirit, and Sapling of Colfenor.

  3. It lets you ignore any non-damage loss of life . Because you don't die for having less than 0 life, and the only penalty from Lich is for taking damage, other sources of life loss don't matter. This combos great with Delaying Shield, which converts all of that pesky damage into irrelevant life loss. This also negates the downsides of cards like Ad Nauseam, Dark Confidant, Reanimate, and Sapling of Colfenor.

  • I don't think the mana cost is the reason it isn't good in competitive play.
    – Joe W
    Jul 6, 2018 at 14:38
  • @JoeW As shown in point 1, Lich can be used in a 2-card win combo that only requires one color of mana. What is different about Lich's win combo from other "competitive" ones? It's either the mana cost or the risk of losing the game that comes with playing Lich. I've rearranged the answer a bit to make this clearer.
    – Zags
    Jul 6, 2018 at 15:57
  • How many other multi card win combos also set your opponent up to be able to win the game with a single card? The fact that there are so many cards that can cause the lose of lich and thus the game is a bigger issue then the mana cost especially in a mono color deck.
    – Joe W
    Jul 6, 2018 at 16:36

Lich is an extreme card advantage card. If the battlefield is balanced - no advantage to either player in attacking - and your opponent is not playing direct damage, and you have any repeatable life gain at all, you will draw your whole deck in short order.

It isn't a card you could drop into any Black deck; it requires you to construct a deck around it. But a good combo deck is designed to reproduce the conditions that are good for the combo. So the disadvantages are mitigated and you have a powerful card drawing engine.

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