Looking At Ways To Break Underrealm Lich

Count Todd Stevens among those anxiously awaiting more Guilds of Ravnica previews! He wants to see even more enablers for this bizarre mythic! Here’s what he’s got so far…

Guilds of Ravnica
preview season kicked off at PAX West last weekend where we now know the
shocklands will be back in Standard as well as two of the mythics from
Magic’s newest set. The first is a planeswalker, Ral, Izzet Viceroy, that
Patrick Chapin
wrote all about earlier in the week
. The other? A Zombie Elf Shaman that I will be writing my entire article
about this week.

This is something different than what I’ve ever done in the past, but I’m
excited to spend an entire article diving deep into a single card, focusing
on the Standard applications it may have. This is a controversial card as
well, as I’ve seen plenty of people think that it’s incredibly good, while
others that believe it won’t see any play at all. So without further ado,
let’s take a look at what exactly Underrealm Lich does.

We have a few things to unpack here. Let’s start on the outside of the card
and work our way in. For a five-mana card to make it in Standard it has to
be incredibly good, so already Underrealm Lich has its work cut out for
itself. While both the Zombie and Elf tribes are desirable creature types
that bump up a cards value, being a 4/3 for five mana is below the going
rate for creatures these days. Three toughness in particular is an
unfortunate number because it means common red removal spells like
Lightning Strike can take care of the card. Thankfully, that’s not all the
text on the card, so let’s continue on.

If you would draw a card, instead look at the top three cards of your
library, then put one into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.”

Now we’re talking! Every time you would draw a card, you effectively get to
cast a Strategic Planning instead. This is a replacement effect, not a
triggered ability, so you will no longer draw cards for any reason while
Underrealm Lich is on the battlefield. This has plenty of application
outside of Standard. For example, with a Sylvan Library on the battlefield
you get to look at nine total cards, three at a time, during your draw step
and won’t put any back on top of your library since you didn’t technically
draw any. If you’re lucky enough you can essentially “go infinite” and mill
your entire deck if you have The Gitrog Monster also on the battlfield and
are able to mill over a land each time when resolving Underrealm Lich’s

There are many other cards besides these two that synergize well with this
ability, but that’s not what I want the focus of my article to be on today.
I just wanted to point out that if you play The Gitrog Monster or any
similar deck in Commander, you need to find room for Underrealm Lich. Back
to Standard, not drawing cards anymore means you can never lose the game to
not having cards left in your library with Underrealm Lich on the
battlefield. It also means your Teferi, Hero of Dominaria emblem won’t do
anything, but I’d be shocked if that was ever an issue.

If we’re going to want to take advantage of this ability, we need to be
able to draw cards with Underrealm Lich on the battlefield. Besides just
untapping with it, this can also be accomplished by waiting a turn or two
and casting a cheap card draw spell such as Opt or Chart a Course after
Underrealm Lich resolves. We’re also going to want to take advantage of the
self-milling ability, something I will look towards while designing some
test decks later on in the article. What else does Underrealm Lich have to

Pay 4 Life: Underrealm Lich gains indestructible until end of turn. Tap

Looks like Underrealm Lich can also protect itself from non-exile removal
at the high cost of four life. This ability looks to be very similar to
regeneration, except Underrealm Lich keeps the indestructible ability for
the rest of the turn. This ability also reminds me a lot of another current
Standard staple:

Both cards are 4/3s and can get exiled easily but are hard to remove
otherwise. Underrealm Lich tapping and Rekindling Phoenix going to the
graveyard but coming back are pretty similar, neither would be in combat if
they are killed beforehand, and both would still be able to attack the next
turn. While you don’t need to pay four life to save Rekindling Phoenix, you
do need both a 0/1 creature to stay alive and for the Rekindling Phoenix to
not be exiled from your graveyard. Of course, Rekindling Phoenix costs one
less mana and also flies, so if we were just looking at this ability it
would be the better card, but Underrealm Lich also provides much more while
having a similar body to Rekindling Phoenix. So before you write off the
second ability, remember how impactful Rekindling Phoenix has been in
Standard so far and how close the two abilities are to each other.

Even though there are only a handful of cards from Guilds of Ravnica previewed at the time I’m writing this,
Underrealm Lich is the kind of card that will go up in value when we know
more about the role players that will synergize well with it, it’s never
too early to start designing some potential shells for our new mythic rare.
Since Underrealm Lich is both a Zombie and an Elf, maybe there is potential
in a tribal deck, so let’s start there.

Even though Dominaria and Core Set 2019 added some
powerful Elves into Standard, there aren’t enough quality cards for an
Elves deck yet. And while Zombies looks better, we’re still another couple
pieces away. I certainly wouldn’t be thrilled about registering Walking
Corpse in a Standard tournament, but sadly I prefer it over the other
options at the moment. Besides Underrealm Lich, green would be able to
provide useful sideboard options to the deck like Naturalize effects.

Even though Underrealm Lich provides card selection which is more valuable
the longer the game goes, playing it in an aggressive shell is beneficial
as well because when you’re the aggressor and less worried about your life
total, paying four life to keep this alive isn’t as high of a cost. What if
we explore another option of playing Underrealm Lich in an aggressive

Here we’re trying to use the explore creatures from Ixalan to
ensure we hit our land drops to curve into our planeswalkers, which we
should also be able to reliably find. I didn’t include very much removal in
this deck, similar to B/G Constrictor decks from last Standard season, so
that’s an issue that the sideboard would need to address. Unfortunately,
while we’re curving out with creatures there aren’t many quality ways to
take advantage of the self-milling we are doing, but I’m quite intrigued by
one option:

I wasn’t excited for Bone Dragon when it was previewed in Core Set 2019 because I thought seven cards would be too many to
reliably have in your graveyard; however, there are so many good self-mill
options in Standard right now, and it’s possible Bone Dragon’s time to
shine is ahead of us. What if, instead of an aggro plan, we take these
explore creatures and self-milling plan up to eleven?

The plan with this deck is to get as many lands onto the battlefield as
possible and then finish the game off by casting a Sylvan Awakening and
attacking with said lands. You need to be careful for Settle the Wreckage
which isn’t worried about your attacking creatures having

In order to get a ton of lands onto the battlefield, we’re using World
Shaper and The Mending of Dominaria, which also synergize well together.
All of your early creatures fill the graveyard, ramp, and help you stay
alive in order to play one of these two spells. You’ll want to attack with
World Shaper early and often to fill the graveyard, hoping it will die so
you get to return the lands from your graveyard to the battlefield. If it
does, you then get to use The Mending of Dominaria to return it back to
your hand and start over, all while working towards the third chapter which
also returns your lands from your graveyard to the battlefield.

If all goes well and you’re able to use your creatures as a road block for
long enough, you’ll be able to cast a Sylvan Awakening with enough lands on
the battlefield to attack for lethal in one turn. While these have just
been two color decks so far, there looks to be a quality value midrange
deck if we add a third color, which is exactly the type of deck I want to

This was a pretty tough deck to build, as the number of different cards I
wanted to put in it was really high. The goal is to take advantage of
Muldrotha, the Gravetide to be able to treat your graveyard as essentially
another hand.

Muldrotha is an incredibly powerful creature, one that I hope will gain
even more support from Guilds of Ravnica. Playing a three-color
manabase is pretty challenging, and it’s likely having a base of two colors
and then splashing the third is the way to go. If that’s the case, I
believe green would be the best splash color in this deck, which would mean
moving away from Jadelight Ranger and Thrashing Brontodon and towards more
card draw, removal, and counterspells. Karn, Scion of Urza and Treasure Map
are other considerations.

I really wish there were more good legendary creatures to fit in this deck
because I love the synergy Mox Amber has with Muldrotha by providing an
extra mana boost. There isn’t enough support for Mox Amber at all
unfortunately, especially considering colorless legendaries like Karn,
Scion of Urza and Weatherlight don’t help the card function.

Only the Beginning

I expect the options with Underrealm Lich in Standard to increase more and
more as Guilds of Ravnica continues to be previewed over the next
couple weeks. Surveil, undergrowth, and jump-start are all mechanics that
care about the graveyard, and Underrealm Lich can expand the graveyard
rapidly while also providing the card selection you need to pull ahead.
Plus, who knows, maybe there is an off-the-wall interaction that will be
good enough for Standard?

Take Lich’s Mastery for example. With it on the battlefield, you can’t lose
the game which is already a good start, but for every life you lose you
need to exile a card from your hand, graveyard, or the battlefield. If only
there was a fast and efficient way to put more cards into your graveyard to
fulfill such a clause! Imagine having these two cards on the battlefield
and then casting a Pelakka Wurm and not only gaining seven life but then
Lich’s Mastery would cause you to draw seven cards, which means Underrealm
Lich would allow you to “Strategic Planning” seven times and fill your
graveyard and your hand.

I’m not sure how to fit those cards in a deck yet, but it’s an interaction
I’ll have in my mind as I look through the other Guilds of Ravnica previews coming up. And at this point in the
preview season these are the kind of interactions that I want to be
knowledgeable of when putting together decks.

Next week we will hopefully know more cards and be able to start designing
more coherent decks for week one Standard, but until then, happy brewing