Is Phylactery Lich Flagship?

M11 Rare Phylactery Lich – It sure ain’t a Role Player.

In the unlikely case you haven’t seen it:

Phylactery Lich

Phylactery Lich is certainly powerful. It is like a Phyrexian Negator… But instead of tearing apart your board when he tussles, Phylactery Lich annihilates eradicates anything that gets into the Arena with it. Not even a first striking Baneslayer Angel can walk away from a brawl with this indestructible Zombie.

And what a cut of Zombie it is!

Phylactery Lich is absolutely gorgeous. Usually I don’t cotton to Black cards’ art, but this painting is just perfect. It evokes the fear and flavor of the old AD&D Liches; great light; great variation of detail; great power-to-casting cost ratio.

Okay, back to the Magic: The Gathering strategy.

A 5/5 indestructible creature for only three mana is a near no-brainer in terms of playability… Only there is that whole:

As Phylactery Lich enters the battlefield, put a phylactery counter on an artifact you control.

When you control no permanents with phylactery counters on them, sacrifice Phylactery Lich.


  1. You need to have an artifact in play when you play Phylactery Lich.
  2. You need to have enough cheap artifacts in your deck to have an artifact in play when you play Phylactery Lich… and they have to be good enough to play in Constructed even if you don’t have Phylactery Lich in your opening hand.

That is the problem.

There are plenty of reasons to play a 5/5 for three mana… The question is if there are enough artifacts to play in Standard to play this particular 5/5 for three.

Blast from the Past:

Covetous Wildfire – Kai Budde

4 Cursed Scroll
4 Fire Diamond
4 Grim Monolith
2 Mishra’s Helix
4 Temporal Aperture
4 Voltaic Key
2 Worn Powerstone

1 Karn, Silver Golem
3 Masticore

4 Covetous Dragon
4 Wildfire

3 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
13 Mountain

1 Mishra’s Helix
1 Phyrexian Processor
2 Boil
3 Earthquake
2 Rack and Ruin
2 Shattering Pulse
4 Spellshock

Kai Budde won his first Pro Tour — if you can even count the 1999 World Championships as a Pro Tour — with the card Covetous Dragon; which is kind of like a Red parallel to Phylactery Lich. You had to have an artifact in play for Covetous Dragon — not a particular artifact mind you — but even that card (arguably less powerful than Phylactery Lich) was good enough to build around.

Some notes:

A well-placed bounce spell is going to kill Phylactery Lich. To death.

Multiple Phylactery Liches can all jump on the same phylactery counter-wearing artifact. That means if you run it on a Relic of Progenitous or Armillary Sphere (and you have to spend it), np.

Some artifacts that are cheaper than Phylactery Lich and might be worth playing:

Everflowing Chalice *
Basilisk Collar *
Executioner’s Capsule
Expedition Map
Pithing Needle *
Relic of Progenitus *
Armillary Sphere *
Dragon’s Claw
Prophetic Prism *
Scepter of Fugue
Mistvein Borderpost *
Veinfire Borderpost *

Phylactery Lich isn’t a Staple; it doesn’t “go in decks” (unless they are Black artifact decks!) … You have to build around it.

Phylactery Lich isn’t a Role Player; as above.

It’s really a question of Flagship or Constructed Unplayable.

Why it might be Flagship
Phylactery Lich is just TDG. Relic of Progenitus is good enough against Vengevine and Bloodghast, Scepter of Fugue is good enough against Mana Leak, and Phylactery Lich is good enough at rasslin’

Pepper with Consume the Meek, Consuming Vapors, and All is Dust.

Potential Problem – All is Dust doesn’t care that Phylactery Lich is indestructible.

Why it is probably Constructed Unplayable
You can make a deck… It just isn’t good enough.

We shall see.

I think that the presence of Nantuko Shade in M11 is a good omen for this cool new card. I’m pulling for you Phylactery Lich!


* Probably playable main deck.

facebook comments:


#1 dyee418 on 07.02.10 at 8:37 pm

Maybe it’s a new rating, “flavor flagship” and doesn’t really need to be anything but that, I mean it obviously is flavorful as hell, it’s actually pretty good despite having to “build around it” and it’s REALLY REALLY flavorful (yes it’s so flavorful I have to mention it twice), or it’s in constructed purgatory where it might get better after Scars of Mirrodin but for now is only good? Also I think it’s funny that half of those artifacts are leaving as soon as it’s October but hey that’s just me being a tiny bit cynical.

#2 guiltfeeder on 07.02.10 at 11:21 pm

Mike, interesting article as always.. Do you have a setting that prevents random people from messaging you on MTGO. I can never get you to respond and would love to play some games or chat sometime.

#3 Gifts Ungiven on 07.03.10 at 8:24 am

One of the limiters on the Lich’s awesomeness, at least for now, is the fact that Jund decks tend to run Maelstrom Pulse and W/x decks tend to run O-Ring, so there are a lot of generic solutions to stuff out there that can take down the phylacterized item.

I mean, it’s also BBB, which is pretty ugly, but would be totally worthwhile if people had to side in very narrow artifact hate just to deal with it.

#4 Alfrebaut on 07.03.10 at 10:12 am

Well, it’s obviously some kind of flagship. The only thing in question is the sturdiness of it. Anyway, Scars will probably have some friends for him to play with. I say “buy” on him. Also, isn’t it some kind of coincidence that Shade and Key were confirmed? They just happened to be two cards you talked about on the T8M podcast. Weird.

#5 ProdigalT on 07.03.10 at 3:11 pm

Sadly, this does not play very well with Stoneforge Mystic. Probably starts high in price, drops a little, then goes back up with Scars, which will surely bring some artifact goodness. Kinda funny that this bites it to Vampire Hexmage, which is just getting more and more playable with all the Planewalkers about, but mono-black is looking like a serious deck again with Corrupt and Nantuko freaking Shade back.

#6 KramlmarK on 07.04.10 at 10:43 am

As others have pointed out, it’s basically impossible to evaluate this card without knowing what’s in scars. It almost certainly is unplayable in the current standard, but Scars is (most likely) a freaking ARTIFACT BLOCK. That has to be worth something.

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