Liliana Vess

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Liliana Vess
Liliana Vess
Birthplace Caligo Forest, Dominaria
Lifetime ~4300
Race Human Planeswalker
Sources see external links

Liliana Vess, sometimes affectionally called Lili, is a human planeswalker and a master of necromancy, using black mana to reanimate the dead, corrupt the living, and unlock power from death. She is charismatic, witty, and attractive, but profoundly egocentric. Though she appears to be in her 30s, she is actually over a century old. After the Mending, she made four deals with demons - Kothophed, Griselbrand, Razaketh, and Belzenlok - to secure her youth and power.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Concept art of an ageing Liliana for Magic Origins

Liliana Vess grew up on a place in Dominaria under the thumb of her father, a general and ruler of the lands he fought for. Even at this stage in her life, she was a temptress and more often than not, didn't care a thing for the kind of reputation that sort of activity would spawn. This infuriated those her father had entrusted to watch her, but her antics did not change one bit. Under the tutelage of Lady Ana, Liliana learned the healing arts, though secretly she also dabbled into the forbidden arts of necromancy, thinking the manipulation of death would enhance her healing abilities.

Liliana's privileged life would come to an abrupt end, though, when her brother Josu suffered a horrible corruption at the hands of her father's enemies. As a test, perhaps as much to rein in the reckless girl, Lady Ana gave her the task of gathering the required esis root to cure her brother. Unfortunately, she arrived too late, as her father's dark enemies had razed the groves where the Esis Tree had grown. She only learned of this fact when she encountered a strange man who claimed to be a supporter of her father. He offered his assistance and instructed Liliana to use necromancy to reactive the remains of the Esis Tree and prepare a potion out of it, though he warned that her family would not want her to use this cure.

She returned to the castle and despite the warnings of Lady Ana, she used the cure. Truly, it cured Josu of his affliction, but only at the cost of driving him insane and poisoning him anew. Realizing that she had to kill the crazed creature that Josu had become, Liliana turned his victims into zombies to fight him. At that moment, she unlocked her planeswalker's spark and ended up on Innistrad.[2]

On Innistrad, Liliana perfected her necromantic skills, preferring the black art of the ghoulcallers over the blue method of stitchers, for which she had no patience. She studied under vampires and liches but, fearing her brother's fate, refused to join them in death to fully master the art. At some point, she encountered the lord of Innistrad, Sorin Markov. They dueled and Sorin crushed her and pronounced her too weak to be a threat. Then he told her that Innistrad was his, and that she best be a civil guest—or he'd find and kill her. Once confident of her abilities, she returned to the ruins of Vess estate in Dominaria, vowing to enact revenge on the mysterious man who tricked her to curse Josu. During the confrontation, the so-called Raven Man escaped.

Once, We Were Gods[edit | edit source]

At some point after the mending a severely weakened Nicol Bolas met with a wizened Liliana Vess. She was jealous of the fact that he was seemingly unaffected by the mending. He berated her, stating that he had lost more power than she could learn in a dozen lifetimes. Bolas lamented that only a few years previously, planeswalkers like them were akin to living gods who exerted their power and influence throughout the multiverse.

Agents of Artifice[edit | edit source]

Liliana eventually found her way to Ravnica where she was a resident for some time and often acted as a freelance hire of Tezzeret's Infinite Consortium. She became acquainted with Jace Beleren whom she tracked down after his defection from the Consortium. She befriended the mindmage and his accomplice, Kallist Rhoka and eventually seduced Jace, having a torrid affair with him. Her loyalty appeared ironclad, staying with Jace even whilst he was in the throes of an identity crisis, believing himself to be Kallist. However, her motives eventually came to light as less than altruistic. She ultimately betrayed Jace, maneuvering him to fight Tezzeret even as he tried to run further from his troubles. Later, it is revealed that her actions were supported by Nicol Bolas, with whom she had made a bargain to free her of the demonic pact in exchange for control over Tezzeret's usurped organization. The deal amounted to naught in the end. Several times throughout her plot she considered backing down and running away with Jace, but each time her fear of her demons got the better of her affections for Jace.

Alternate art by Terese Nielsen

The Hunter and the Veil[edit | edit source]

Kothophed gave Liliana the task to search for an ancient and powerful relic known as the Chain Veil from the ancient ogre civilization of the Onakke upon Shandalar, a plane Liliana had visited before. On her way to the Onakke catacomb she was assaulted by a beast, and slew it, unknowingly earning the ire of Garruk Wildspeaker. Garruk attacked her in the temple after she had located the veil, and tracked her through the hidden tunnels until he was dispatched by the veil-enhanced Liliana.

The Veil's Curse[edit | edit source]

Reveling in the power granted by the Veil, Liliana assaulted a fortress on yet another unnamed plane and conquered it in short order. Sitting upon the throne, she realized that Kothophed had sent her after the artifact and should have expected her to use it for herself. She then planeswalked to Kothophed's sanctuary and confronted him. A fight ensued after she refused to relinquish the veil to the demon, and she blew him apart while his words echoed in her mind. She collapsed to her knees afterwards in pain as the tattoos that Kothophed himself had given her began to bleed.

The Raven's Eye[edit | edit source]

All throughout Liliana's life, an ominous conspiracy has followed her. From the poison she used to cure Josu to her acquisition of the veil, it was all seemingly orchestrated by the same mysterious figure, a being known only as the Raven Man. Even when pursuing her own business, she was never far from the veil's influence, unknowingly even being in the same room as the key to the veil's location once before, dispatching an angel sent to protect the world from the artifact's secrets.

After her battle with Kothophed, she sought whatever knowledge she could gain to end the constant bleeding and enduring pain that wracked her body and soul. She returned to the plane of the Onakke and resurrected the body of the wisest man who knew of the Onakke. However, her desecration earned her the ire of every citizen of the town and they tracked her to a farmhouse and set it on fire with her inside. Much to Liliana's frustration and surprise, the man she had raised did not act at all like the shambling corpse she expected, going so far as to bodily carry her higher as the fires spread, speaking in cryptic riddles centered around Liliana herself all the while.

As the necromancer was about to give up and succumb to her woes, the corpse tilted his hand and revealed his true identity, that of the Raven Man himself. He used a vial of what appeared to be the same potion Liliana had used on Josu, and its golden glow spreads throughout her tattoos, turning them the same color and healing her wounds. Aware now of the being she had been speaking to, she stabbed him. Donning the veil once more, she planeswalked away.

Liliana in a new dress to match her cursed veil

Innistrad[edit | edit source]

Liliana traveled to Innistrad to deal with another of her demonic masters. However, Griselbrand had gone missing after a duel with the archangel Avacyn, leaving Liliana with the problem of searching for her tormentor if she wished to possess her soul once again. Unfortunately, she was not the only one hunting, as Garruk had tracked her to the world. He crossed her path once in Nephalia, but she raised a swarm of ghouls to defend herself. He slew all of the undead, but it was enough to allow Liliana to escape.

Her searches then pointed her towards the Church of Avacyn, and she refused to let them stand in her way. That search brought her to the high cathedral of the city of Thraben at the critical moment where an undead army, commanded by Gisa and Geralf, had besieged the city. Geralf killed Mikaeus the Lunarch, the highest official in the Church of Avacyn, and probably one of the few who could tell her where Griselbrand is.

With her purpose firmly in mind, she retrieved and resurrected the corpse of the dead lunarch, turning him into a zombie. Her machinations bore fruit, and she learned the resting place of her prey. Unfortunately, she could do little to free him from the Helvault herself, but she knew of ways around that. She wove a spell upon the Helvault and gave the choice to the cathar Thalia. The spell would either destroy the vault, or kill the soldiers under her command. The choice laid in Thalia's hands, and as Liliana predicted, Thalia chose to save her men.

The spell shattered the Helvault, freeing Griselbrand and Avacyn. Liliana then tracked Griselbrand down, slaughtering both angels and demons alike until she finally cornered him. Griselbrand attempted to bribe her with promises of power, but Liliana saw through his lies and used the Chain Veil to kill Griselbrand once and for all before leaving Innistrad.

Echoes of the Past[edit | edit source]

After killing Griselbrand, Liliana was besieged by whispers emanating from the Chain Veil itself. Seeking answers, she returned again to Shandalar and journeyed to the Onakke Temple. Arriving at the ruins, she was confronted by an angel guarding it. Ignoring the angel's pleas and warnings, Liliana killed her. At death's door, the angel mumbled that Liliana was a vessel for the Onakke spirits seeking to release themselves. As she recovered from the after effects of using the veil, Liliana was beset by a vision of the Onakke civilization in the past and its subsequent destruction. She once again saw the Raven Man who seemed to be the architect of the Onakke's destruction. As the vision ended Liliana taunted the spirits in the veil about learning a similar civilization ending spell. The unamused spirits replied in kind.

Liliana eventually reached the altar where she originally found the veil. She prepared to return it stating that although she acknowledged its power, she would not trade two masters for a million more. To her shock, her own body refused to heed her and release the veil. In desperation, she animated the skeleton of a dead Onakke and ordered it to carry the veil back to its altar. The skeleton took the veil but refused to follow her orders. In frustration, she tried to walk away but the skeleton followed. Even canceling the animation spell failed as in its last moments, the skeleton lunged forward and laid the veil on her arm. In her fury she tried to shut out the returning voices but finally one voice spoke directly to her with alarming clarity.

Liliana saw another skeleton standing before her. Within seconds, an illusion appeared over it showing the skeleton as belonging to an ancient Onakke. Furious, Liliana attacked but her spells passed through the spirit. The Onakke referred to her as their vessel and called the chain veil a veil of deceit. He stated that soon Liliana would learn its truths. Tiring of the ogre's taunts, Liliana drew on the veil's power and dissipated the ghost. Pain racked her body as she began to realize that the veil's after effects were getting more painful and damaging with each use. As she hoped that the curse was finally over, Liliana realized that the veil would still not leave her and the whispers were still there. Tired, in pain and utterly defeated, Liliana Vess left Shandalar and planeswalked away.

A Day Off[edit | edit source]

Liliana arrived on Ravnica and met with her former lover Jace to persuade him to help her kill her two remaining debtors. Jace was much warier of her and questioned her on her actions in the past few years. He was furious with her actions on Garruk Wildspeaker and berated her for using the Chain Veil which would try to turn her into a demon. She managed to assuage him and persuaded him to join her for dinner. It was interrupted by the arrival of Gideon Jura who begged Jace for help with the Eldrazi on Zendikar. When Jace asked her to help him she refused. She then questioned him on why he would go with the muscle-bound gorilla and not help her. Jace replied that Gideon had openly and eagerly asked him rather than seduce, blackmail and attempt to bribe him like she was doing.[3] A furious Liliana stalked off where she was waylaid and taunted by the Raven Man, who offered her help. Liliana, knowing how any past deals with the mysterious entity had worked out, attempted to assault him but the Raven Man vanished again, his taunting words and mocking laughter in her ears.[4]

Shadows Over Innistrad[edit | edit source]

Innistrad's Last Hope

During the period of time that Jace and the Gatewatch fought and defeated Kozilek and Ulamog, Liliana returned to her estate on Innistrad to rest after her encounter with the Raven Man. She quietly observed the strange happenings on the plane and tightened her own defenses. When Jace arrived being chased by several werewolves she directed her zombies to drive them off. She then played host to him and questioned on his recent actions on Zendikar as his reason for coming to Innistrad. Upon learning that he was searching for Sorin Markov she was startled and attempted to dissuade him. [5] At Markov Manor Jace found only death and destruction and at the Drownyard he found zombies. Under the influence of the Cryptoliths, he began to suspect Liliana. he returned to her manor and tried to mentally assault her. However, the Raven Man protected her and tried to convince her to kill him. Liliana refused to, bringing Jace back to his senses. During the course of their talk, the maddening influence of the cryptoliths reasserted itself and Jace asked Liliana for the direction of Thraben in order to confront Avacyn. A hunched over man named Gared, presumably human, then appeared from the shadows. He informed Liliana that his "master", the geistmage Dierk, was ready for her and asked her to bring the Chain Veil to him in his tower. [6] With a witchbane orb, they tried to exorcize the Onakke spirits from the Veil, but were unsuccessful.

After Emrakul arrived on Innistrad. Sorin Markov and Olivia Voldaren assembled a vampire army and went to war against Nahiri, berating Liliana for destroying the Helvault and releasing the Lithomancer on the plane. Liliana was ready to abandon Innistrad as a lost cause, but changed her mind when she considered her feelings for "Cloak Boy". Telling herself it wasn't that she needed Cloak Boy but that she needed people to need her (so that she would have some protection against her demon enemies) she began to raise a zombie army to fight the Eldrazi Horrors overrunning the plane. [7] When Liliana arrived in Thraben, where the concentration of Eldrazi Horrors was highest, her reception by the Gatewatch was poorly, especially since Nissa felt the dark magic radiating from the Chain Veil.[8]

Confronted directly with the Eldrazi Titan, Liliana began to lose control over her zombie servants. Both the Chain Veil and the Raven Man urged her to flee and leave Innistrad behind. Asserting herself against both, she drew even more on the power of the Chain Veil than ever before, feeling close to the power she had wielded before the Mending. While that power protected her against Emrakul's insidious influence and allowed her to attack the Titan directly, it also took a great toll on her body, leaving her near death.

When she reawakened, Emrakul had been sealed in Innistrad's moon by the Gatewatch and Tamiyo, and her wounds had been healed by the other planeswalkers. Seeing that a group of allies could be useful for her long-time plans, she decided to join the Gatewatch, albeit with the intention of directing them for her own plans.[9]

Kaladesh[edit | edit source]

When the Gatewatch established her headquarters in Jace apartments on Ravnica, Liliana refused to move in, but instead bought her own mansion. She was present when Dovin Baan arrived to hire the Gatewatch, but reminded him that they worked only against greater interplanar threats, like other planeswalkers or entities like the Eldrazi. She then took care of the upset Chandra and planeswalked along with her to Kaladesh.[10] Arriving in Ghirapur, Liliana goaded Chandra to act against the Consulate that had murdered her parents. Searching for renegade sympathizers, the pair came across a mosaic of Kiran Nalaar, Chandra's deceased father. Upon hearing the story how Chandra's spark had ignited, Liliana advised her to seek revenge against Baral. On their further way through Ghirapur, the pair came across an unrest, seeing a hooded man referred to as the Head Judge confronting an inventor referred to as Renegade Prime. Liliana reckognized the man as Tezzeret.[11]

When Renegade Prime, revealed to be Pia Nalaar, was captured, Liliana persuaded Chandra to retreat instead of head-on confronting Tezzeret, remembering what the artificer had done to Jace. The newly arrived Nissa berated her for taking Chandra to Kaladesh without first approaching the others and for provoking Chandra to act against the Consulate. Knowing she could not risk to lose two valuable assets to her long-term plans, Liliana left the pair to find her own answers.[12]

Note concerning Test of Metal[edit | edit source]

Liliana makes an appearance in Test of Metal, but given the nature of clockworking, the veracity of Liliana's appearance, and indeed the fact that many alternate reality versions of Liliana are used without any sign of the Chain Veil, makes it questionable if this Liliana is the same one pursuing the goals set forth in the Hunter and the Veil.

In this appearance Liliana has bound herself to Bolas's service, and was used as a pawn to further the Elder Dragon's goals. At one point she met Tezzeret on the plane of Bant and tried to warn him of a plan that Bolas had been working on; something that would result in the death of many planeswalkers. In the end, Tezzeret managed to free Vess from her bond to Bolas.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Brady Dommermuth revealed that Liliana was born long before The Mending, and her planeswalker spark ignited before the Mending, also. Her deal with demons was made afterward, in an attempt to secure more power and longevity for herself.
  • He also revealed that she made four different deals with four demons, but used the results from one deal to broker another.
  • 'Liliana Vess' is an anagram of 'a villainess', a fact that Brady Dommermuth insists is coincidental.[13]
  • Liliana's third visit to Shandalar and the Onakke Temple seems to have taken place between the events of 'Return to Ravnica' and 'Theros' simultaneously as the temple was destroyed after the events of 'Theros'. This can be seen via Elspeth Tirel's "death" and Ajani Goldmane's subsequent usage of her cloak to honor her having occurred at the same time as Jace Beleren was rushing to stop Garruk. The temple's destruction only occurs after Jace had already become the guildpact and encountered Vraska.

In-game references[edit | edit source]

Represented in:

Depicted in:

Associated cards:

Quoted or referred to in:

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Magic Duels: Origins
  2. James Wyatt. (June 17, 2015.) “Liliana's Origin: The Fourth Pact”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Kelly Digges. (July 22, 2015.) “Catching Up”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. James Wyatt. (July 29, 2015.) “Unkindness of Ravens”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Kelly Digges. (March 16, 2016.) “Unwelcome”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Kelly Digges. (April 20, 2016.) “Liliana's Indignation”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Doug Beyer. (June 29, 2016.) “Innistrad's Last Hope”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Nik Davidson. (July 20, 2016.) “Battle of Thraben”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Ken Troop. (July 27, 2016.) “The Promised End”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Chris L'Etoile. (August 29, 2016.) “Homesick”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Doug Beyer. (September 5, 2016.) “Torch of Defiance”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Mel Li. (September 14, 2016.) “Renegade Prime”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Mark Rosewater. (June 12, 2014.) "It's my Birthday Today, so could you give us some trivia on Lilliana?", Blogatog, Tumblr.