Lich’s Mastery And Lyra Dawnbringer

Patrick Chapin’s been around the block a few times, and his sixth gaming sense is telling him Lich’s Mastery is broken until further notice! Come for the Lich’s Mastery brews, stay for the insight on Lyra Dawnbringer!

I’ve got a theory about Lich’s Mastery.

Lich’s Mastery harkens back to every Necropotence (i.e. Lich) variant ever, but actually looks like it might have a fairly new set of puzzles that go along with it on account of the Lich input (as opposed to Necropotence / Yawgmoth’s Bargain / Greed), along with the “hexproof” and “You can’t lose the game” abilities.

The card looks awesome, which brings us to my theory.

You see, R&D has some passions, and while there have been plenty of Dark Confidants and Phyrexian Arenas, it’s been a hot minute since we saw anything remotely Necropotence-esque… And Lich? Forget about it.

My theory is that this card might actually be incredibly good and that they plan to get out of it with trace-busters coming in the next few sets. This card looks like the product of an enormous amount of design and iteration. It looks like a work of art. It also looks too perfectly crafted to have extremely pronounced vulnerabilities to cards that don’t currently exist, but easily could. There’s just no way this is an accident.

So, maybe there’s just no getting out of the “mythic four- and five-drops” thing going on in the format. Maybe. However, what I’m going to do is work on breaking Lich’s Mastery (and maybe develop a Torrential Gearhulk deck or two as a backup plan).

So, to me, it looks like there are basically three color combinations for Lich’s Mastery decks: Mono-Black, B/W, and anything else. Likewise, there are basically three types of Lich’s Mastery decks (though they don’t line up exactly on the above color combinations):

  • Dedicated Midrange/Control
  • Dedicated Combo
  • In small numbers in a deck with only modest support or as a one-of in a deck with tutors.

What would Guillaume Wafo-Tapa do?

He would play Torrential Gearhulk.

No, I mean, in terms of where to start with the Lich’s Mastery options.

Same answer?

One of Wafo’s starting points is beginning with a monocolored deck that does the thing you want to be doing. When you’ve ruled that out, you move on to the various two-color possibilities. If none of those work, three colors. If none of those work, five colors.


Cabal Stronghold would be dope in a lot of formats, but there are a lot of incentives to not play (mostly) all basics in the current format, even in monocolored decks.

Heck, you might just want some cycling lands.

Nevertheless, if we are going to try our hand at Cabal Stronghold, we’re going to want some mana outlets that give us big ways to leverage the massive amounts of mana we’ll sometimes be generating.

X-spells are obviously good places to start, as are kicker and repeatable activated abilities that cost mana. Razaketh’s Rite is also interesting in terms of having fairly low opportunity cost early while giving you a lot more looks at your big mana sinks, all without glutting your hand as much in the games you don’t get Cabal Stronghold going.

Here’s a first crack:

This style of Lich’s Mastery deck seeks to play a Mono-Black Control game, trading with threats one-for-one, gaining an advantage with Cabal Stronghold-fueled mana sinks or Lich’s Mastery drawing extra cards with all of the incidental lifegain.

Azor’s Gateway is particularly interesting in Cabal Stronghold decks. It’s a reasonable source of card selection for a color that doesn’t always have the most options. Getting to trade your removal spells in for business can really swing certain matchups. What’s more, actually flipping the Gateway gives us an absurd amount of mana, especially with all of the lifegain. Cabal Stronghold decks are likely to have a much greater number of ways to put that mana to good use.

While Razaketh’s Rite has less opportunity cost than most Diabolic Tutor types, there’s definitely merit to some of the others. Mastermind’s Acquisition is particularly attractive, costing just four and giving us access to even more situational sideboard cards, including possibly Torment of Hailfire.

Of course, we could just play Torment of Hailfire maindeck, but the spots where we’ve got the kind of mana that makes Torment of Hailfire attractive generally seem nearly as good as just playing Mastermind’s Acquisition. Meanwhile, the Acquisition is a hail of a lot better when things aren’t going swimmingly.

This style of Mono-Black deck isn’t necessarily best constructed as a Lich’s Mastery deck, as we could just rely on planeswalkers like Karn, Scion of Urza to draw our extra cards.

For instance:

I think there’s a reasonable case to be made for Liliana, Death’s Majesty; however, it’s not exactly the best with Walking Ballista, Josu Vess, or Tetzimoc.

Liliana definitely received some support, however, and if we’re going to Liliana, Final Parting starts looking a lot more attractive.

Having the option to Entomb a fatty into your graveyard and a Liliana to get it back is an awesome combination, and who knows? Maybe we even find room for a graveyard threat that brings itself back, such as Oathsworn Vampire, for those spots where you’ve actually got to use the Tutor to find something defensive.

Of course, we don’t necessarily need to get more fancy. It’s boring, but maybe there’s something to a streamlined deck along the following lines:

I think it’s too early to tell if Divest gains enough from the ability to hit artifacts to justify its inclusion, but I do generally like it more than Harsh Scrutiny.

Cabal Stronghold doesn’t necessarily lock us into Walking Ballista and Dread Shade. Maybe we can actually sidestep having creatures at all?

Faith of the Devoted looks like a potentially awesome Lich’s Mastery enabler. Not only does it give us a repeatable source of lifegain, it’s a victory condition we can use without having to actually get involved with combat.

While I’m more interested in Faith of the Devoted in B/W, it might do enough to pull its weight even in a mono-black list.

This list looks too slow, but there is a lot of power here if we can speed it up a little.

Orazca Relic is an attractive accelerator for getting to Lich’s Mastery early, assuming there aren’t overwhelming numbers of Abrades floating around. Lich’s Mastery isn’t the worst at getting the city’s blessing, and getting to sacrifice it to draw four cards is pretty solid.

Still, once we’re playing Faith’s Reward, it’s hard to not want to play white.

The floor on Renewed Faith is pretty high, and comboing with Lich’s Mastery to draw six is just so good, we’re likely to overpower most opponents as long as the rest of our deck isn’t too fancy.

Gideon of the Trials sometimes does a funny dance with Lich’s Mastery “lose the game” triggers, as long as we remember that we’ll need a Gideon still on the battlefield. Of course, nothing is stopping us from sacrificing the Lich’s Mastery to itself and not sacrificing Gideon.

Speaking of Gideon’s emblem, I can’t help but wonder if we can take advantage of Lich’s Mastery’s “can’t lose” trigger in other ways…

Oh, hell yes!

As for the aforementioned Orzhov shell, we’re also well-poised to take advantage of Approach of the Second Sun.

Not only is Approach another reliable road to victory that dodges removal, it’s also a great combo with Lich’s Mastery. You get to draw cards, plus the second Second Sun isn’t long waiting.

As far as battlefield control elements go, Fumigate is one of the best to start with. That it incidentally further fuels Lich’s Mastery is just gravy. It’s not the only incidental lifegain we might be interested in out of white, however.

Dabbling in creatures might be dicey, but Lyra really does live through a lot. Besides, maybe Doomfall can clear a path. Besides, Baneslayer Angel was the same sort of card. Besides, getting to drop Lich’s Mastery is just so sick when you get to attack for five points of lifesteal, right away.

I’m not sure if we actually want to resort to Seal Away, but the card does seem great. Cast Down is also potentially an option, but I’d be a lot more inclined to use that one in a U/B deck.

I do worry that the above list might not have enough lifegain to really capitalize on Lich’s Mastery.

We can’t even begin to scratch the surface of Lyra Dawnbringer’s potential, but while we’re on the topic of Orzhov decks:

I’m not super optimistic about Knight tribal, but it’s not completely without potential.

There’s not really that much incentive to stay dedicated, but a bunch of the Knights are just good cards.

Dauntless Bodyguard is especially good at protecting Lyra, and Benalish Marshal buffs your whole team, no matter who they are, what they’ve done.

As long as you love the Orzhov aggro, anyway, Knight of Grace and Knight of Malice want to be played side-by-side. All first strikers also open up Kwende, Pride of Femeref as a potential “lord.”

I don’t think we want to bend over backwards to play all first strikers or anything, but a lot of our creatures have first strike anyway. Besides, combo Kwende with Lyra and you are doing it.

I’m still trying to make the mana work for many-colored Lich’s Mastery decks, as you really get pulled a lot of ways. Hour of Promise is the big payoff, but there might also be a case to be made for blue, maybe with Faith’s Reward.

There might also be a way to incorporate The Scarab God and Final Parting, but it’s really going to depend on how much we’re actually a Lich’s Mastery deck. I kind of want to avoid Drake Haven, at least maindeck.

I guess we could look at red, but it’s not like Cathartic Reunion and Tormenting Voice are really offering us all that much. Still, it’s possible that we end up playing five colors and get a red splash for free.

As for combo, I touched on several here, but there are many possibilities. At the moment, I’m most interested in Aetherflux Reservoir / Battle at the Bridge.

Aetherflux Reservoir is a repeatable lifegain engine requiring no mana to fuel. It’s also a victory condition, since once we’re drawing cards with Lich’s Mastery, we’ll be drawing more and more from the escalating lifegain. Lich’s Mastery doesn’t actually set our life to zero, either, so paying the 50 actually works, as long as we’ve actually got it and don’t need to sacrifice Lich’s Mastery itself.

It might be the case that we don’t want to add a third component, but adding Foundry Inspector to the mix lets us potentially win that turn by reducing all of our one-cost artifacts to zero.

Here’s my current list:

Between Renegade Map, Pyramid of the Pantheon, Traveler’s Amulet, Navigator’s Compass, and Spire of Industry, we’re actually really well set up to splash whatever colors we want.

Glorious End might actually just be super-sick with Lich’s Mastery, sidestepping the problem of Foundry Inspector needing to live. What’s more, when combined with Gideon, we can use it as a makeshift accelerator, dropping Lich’s Mastery a turn or two ahead of schedule.

Now, if we can just figure out how to dodge opposing River’s Rebukes