Commander Showdown – Liesa vs Liesa

 

You Are Tearing Me Apart, Liesa!

Welcome to Commander Showdown, where we compare and contrast commanders with similar abilities to discover the overlaps, differences, and nuances of their strategies!

For years, Magic players had seen the trio of Gisela, Bruna, and Sigarda, and wondered about their long-lost, unnamed sister. Theories were crafted, stories were explored, and guesses were made. Then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, we got not just one answer to that question, but two! Liesa, Shroud of Dusk quickly rose to prominence with the release of Commander Legends, and now the new Liesa, Forgotten Archangel from Midnight Hunt is here to cause even more commotion!

I wasn’t at all surprised to see this pair win the poll from last month’s article! Both of these Angels sport a powerful set of abilities, but how do they differ? What different deckbuilding directions does each iteration of this character encourage you to travel down? Let’s find out!


Tax Evasion

Let’s start with Liesa, Shroud of Dusk, who immediately appealed to players by introducing a new take on commander tax. Rather than paying two extra mana each time this commander is cast from the command zone, Liesa requires you to pay life. She’s eternally cheap to play, but she forces players to pay costs in other ways. This is compounded by her life-loss triggered ability, nickel-and-diming everyone every time they cast a spell. However, this is a black-white deck, which means the odds are, of course, stacked in our favor: Liesa’s natural lifelink mitigates these costs by supplying us with her most valuable commodity.

The more time I’ve spent brewing around this commander, the more I’ve become impressed by her versatility. If you’d like to build a straightforward lifegain deck, the ingredients are all here: Rhox Faithmender, Sanguine Bond, and Authority of the Consuls just fit right in. Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose is both an enabler and a payoff. We’re already incentivized to gain life to stay ahead of our commander’s drain effects, so why not pair up Soul Warden with a Cliffhaven Vampire?

Alternatively, you can go extremely punishing with this deck. The pestering effects of Kunoros, Hound of Athreos and Kambal, Consul of Allocation will add up swiftly. Some players even dip into effects like Drannith Magistrate and Wound Reflection, which won’t be the direction I’m taking today, but definitely have merit. Liesa can cause so much life loss in such a short amount of time that a Norn’s Annex or Revenge of Ravens are genuinely huge deterrents.

Personally, I wanted to lean a smidge more into Liesa’s Voltron-ish capabilities. She’s just an efficient attacker, and she’s always easy to recast. The bigger she is, the more life we’ll gain, and the more we’ll be able to stay ahead of her downsides while our opponents struggle to stay afloat. Light of Promise and Sunbond grow as she does, and Blackblade Reforged scales up and up and up. If the card Hatred is available to you, it’s extremely deadly when used on a lifelinking commander, since the payment is immediately refunded.

No matter how you build her, Liesa brings the heat. Here’s a build that I think will be just as fun as it is fierce:

Liesa With An S, Not Lieza with a Z

Commander (1)
Creatures (19)
Enchantments (11)
Sorceries (10)
Instants (8)
Artifacts (15)
Lands (36)

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We’ve got the classics, of course: Alhammarret’s Archive and Well of Lost Dreams are lifegain regulars, as are Aetherflux Reservoir and Vizkopa Guildmage. I want to briefly shout out a few of my favorites, though.

First, Damnable Pact is good to draw cards, but it’s also just a good finisher. This card can very genuinely end games by targeting an enemy for X = 5. That’s how hard Liesa’s life loss can hit. This is the type of deck where Sign in Blooding an opponent is an actually viable strategy. I also have to shout out Heliod’s Intervention, a modal spell that does some of its very best work in this exact deck. Gain twice X life? Cool, Rhox Faithmender just made it quadruple instead of double, and Sanguine Bond just clocked someone for 16. Alternatively, it’s amazing removal. I like pairing it with Liquimetal Torque to also tag the occasional creature or planeswalker!

Finally, Tainted Sigil is just funny. Attack someone for a bunch, and gain it back. Get attacked for a bazillion, but crack the Sigil to invalidate the damage. Did someone cast five spells while Liesa was in play? Casual Sigil for 10 life, no biggie.

Over time, I realized my favorite cards in this deck all had the same thing in common, the same thing I praised about Liesa just a few short paragraphs ago: they’re versatile. Liesa is so unexpectedly flexible, and so are her spells. They might be there to help out as med kits, but just as easily could flip around and become rocket launchers. It’s easy to spot the inherent versatility of classic commanders like Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, but Liesa’s a lot more subtle about her diverse strategic options, which was a terrific thing to discover, even if it cost a lot of life to learn.

That was just the first version of Liesa, though. What do we have to learn from her second iteration?


An Angel’s Favorite Font is Sans Seraph

Liesa, Forgotten Archangel is also a beefy five-mana Angel with flying and lifelink, but she plays with life force in a different way. Her ability is somewhat reminiscent of Athreos, God of Passage, who can also return dying creatures to hand by punishing his enemies.

Athreos is famously associated with Shadowborn Apostles, since their multitudes can sacrifice themselves en masse, summon out huge Demons, and return right to their owner’s hand. Athreos is also famous for using sacrifice outlets, Blood Artists, and Edgewalker effects to cause super-deadly loops with those Apostles, too.

Since Liesa’s ability operates on a delay, we aren’t invested in creating those types of loops, but this similarity is certainly strong enough to inspire the direction I’m most excited to try out with Liesa:

Liesa is nothing if not a friend to the creatures that her pious sisters despise. Rat Colony, like Shadowborn Apostles, are made all the more terrifying when your commander returns them to your hand over and over and over. Naturally, we can invite Athreos, God of Passage to this party as well for extra redundancy, in case Liesa gets held up.

A non-singleton deck also begets the usual Thrumming Stone and Secret Salvage, of course, and I’m definitely a fan of Echoing Return. Since this gathering is full of Rats, we can’t forget to ask Marrow-Gnawer for help with catering, and Piper of the Swarm will liven things up with a little music.

However, there are a few other friends Liesa definitely wants to make sure we add to the guest list. Species Specialist and friends keep us safe from setbacks by refilling our hand. Combined with Liesa, Selfless Spirit is a repeatable protective spell for our big board. Oh, and who doesn’t love a one-sided board wipe? Citywide Bust won’t affect a single copy of Rat Colony.

Let’s see what Liesa’s up to when she lets a few Rats take over the kitchen:

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I’d like to quickly shout out two of my favorite black-white cards for non-singleton decks. Remembrance and Desperate Research often get overlooked, but they keep a hand full. Rat Colony decks will swell the battlefield, which means it’s key to be as relentless as possible. The thing that stops us in our tracks is a well-timed board wipe. Liesa will mitigate this issue, but efficient hand-refill effects will too.

Not only that, but Liesa even synergizes with some hilarious aggro cards. Eldrazi Monument gives our huge beefy army evasion and indestructible, but requires a sacrifice to stick around every turn. Liesa’s recursion keeps that ability extremely well-fed.

You may also notice that I’m keen to try out the new Storm of Souls in this deck. If a bunch of Rats do end up in the graveyard, it sounds pretty good to bring them all back, where they’ll pump each other up anyways, and they’ll even get evasion, to boot!


A Web of Lies-a

I’ll admit, neither of Liesa’s cards immediately appealed to me. Thalisse, Reverent Medium stole my heart away when it was given to the EDHRECast as our Commander Legends preview card, and I was content to never bother looking back. I’m glad I did, though, because Liesa turned out to be an astounding brewing experience, and no matter which version of her you pick, you’ll find surprises waiting just around the corner.

Liesa plays fast and loose with traditional rules and the usual expectations. She’s an Angel, but doesn’t need to conform just to tribal strategies if she doesn’t want to. She loves the classic Orzhov lifegain, but she also loves to put her own spin on it. She’ll even cheat death, but if enemies are expecting just another Aristocrats deck, they might be digging their own graves before the battle even begins.

So, which version of Liesa are you most interested in? More than that, how would you build that version? This feels like a Commander Showdown I could repeat in one month, and come up with entirely new 99s for both commanders, and it’s not every day we see that from such a terrific pair of cards, or from such a terrifically enigmatic character in the lore.

PS – don’t forget to vote on the next Commander Showdown you’d like to see!

Til next time!

Joey is the lead editor and content producer for EDHREC. You can find him hosting and creating tons of great videos over at https://www.youtube.com/edhrecast or give him a follow at @JosephMSchultz on Twitter, where he likes to celebrate Commander, coffee, and corgis.