Being the first Flip Planeswalker spoiled, I may myself have been spoiled by Liliana, Defiant Necromancer. I was immediately struck by the elegance of the card’s design, and the wonderful synergies she represents. In stark contrast to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, whom I’ve criticized as clunky and uninspiring, Liliana, Heretical Healer is a card worth building around.
First, a 2/3 with lifelink for 3 mana is solid. Not “Mythic Rare” solid, but still a board presence that can build up an early advantage. Her flip-trigger is outstanding, but is somewhat limited because the opponent has a great deal of control over if and when she does a 180. Still, if she is preceded by 1- and 2-drop creatures, your opponent will be in a tough spot, deciding whether to block and activate your face-down card or just keep taking hits from your attackers.
She gets a lot scarier if you’re running a deck with a lot of self-sacrifice and recursion engines. My current Commander deck is Teysa, Orzhov Scion, and it focuses on making tokens and using them to feed recursion engines on creatures with good ETB abilities. So, this Liliana will almost assuredly make the cut, as she produces a token, blocks well, triggers Teysa if she dies before flipping, recurs my Soul Wardens, and disrupts my opponent all in one. I can also be assured of flipping her the turn she enters the battlefield, as I have numerous non-token creatures like Viscera Seer that will trigger her “morbid” criteria.
The trouble continues once she becomes Liliana, Defiant Necromancer. First of all, I love the way her +2 and -X interact. It’s easy to build around these two abilities if you don’t want to just ride +2 up to the ultimate. It’s very easy to break the symmetry of her global discard, by pitching things with unearth, for example, but you can also just discard inexpensive creatures and alternate +2 and -X (for X=1,2 or 3) to build a board position while slowly draining the opponent’s hand. Frankly, this might be my preferred method of using Liliana’s Planeswalker form.
Her ultimate is not to be ignored, especially in long-form games like Commander. Despite a low starting loyalty of 3, she ramps up to her ultimate with only 3 activations of +2 (and her ultimate is pretty good, to boot). Combined with the fact that she can, with proper planning, flip on her first turn in play, her ultimate ability is attainable much sooner than Jace’s is. It also creates a very powerful board state, helping to make your end game nigh-unbeatable in creature combat.
She’s currently pre-selling for $20 on TCGPlayer, which feels appropriate. As a rule, I don’t pre-order, but I would consider doing so in this case if I had a clear and immediate need for Liliana’s dark services. I’ll definitely try to trade for a playset at the pre-release, though I doubt many people will be willing to deal.