Hello and welcome back to another edition of A Seat at the Table. .

This week, I’m taking a closer look at Varina, Lich Queen.

Varina is a 4/4 Zombie Wizard for 1WUB that makes you cycle through your deck like crazy if you’ve got a board full of Zombies. Let’s look at that textbox:

“Whenever you attack with one or more Zombies, draw that many cards, then discard that  many cards. You gain that much life.  

{2}, Exile two cards from your graveyard: Create a tapped 2/2 black Zombie creature token.”  

Given the popularity of Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver and The Scarab God, we know that Zombies are a very beloved tribe in Commander, but they both beat out Varina by a lot on EDHREC. Why is that? Varina offers card draw like Wilhelt and something to do with the graveyard like Scarab God. Hell, she even looks really cool and offers up a whole other colour! So why aren’t more  people playing Varina?

There’s an abundance of cards to pick from in a Zombie deck and tech like Rooftop Storm with the non-stop parade of Blue/Black Zombies means that Esper isn’t exactly considered the Zombie colours. Varina is here to mesh the Blue/Black Zombies of Innistrad and the White/Black Zombies of Amonkhet. This was expressly stated by the designers.

With that said, let’s take a look at some inclusions to Varina that will hopefully get you to build her after drafting her in Double Masters 2022. More specifically, let’s take a look at some cards that don’t necessarily slot neatly into the more popular Zombie builds – excluding the regular Esper removal suite as well.

Bone Miser  

Bone Miser is a creature version of one of my favourite enchantments, Waste Not. Except this time, rather than caring about what your opponents discard, you care about what you discard. That means you’re in control. It’s a big beefy Zombie so it attacks for lots, and when you discard, you get to decide what you’d like to discard. Remember that Varina makes you discard in combat, so discarding a land with Bone Miser during combat means you’ll lose that mana if you change phases. Don’t be afraid to use your generals ability and make some more Zombies.

Wayward Servant / Corpse Knight  

As a die hard aristocrats player, I can tell you that these are my favourite cards in any Varina deck. Anytime a Zombie enters will trigger both of them and I can safely assert that the only reason we don’t hear about Wayward Servant more is because it requires the entering creature to be a Zombie. We’d all know about it if Varina were more popular because this guy can take games!

Haunted One / Folk Hero 

Shout out to Backgrounds in general! Folk Hero is just a solid include because you can draw a card whenever you cast a Zombie or Wizard for the first time a turn. That’s pretty good!  Haunted One is here to end games, though. Undying makes sure your non-token Zombies or Wizards have a shot at coming back and it’s gravy if they’ve got a good ETB. Varina doesn’t have a tap ability but she’s got 4/4 that gets turned into 6/4 if she swings. Cowards will prefer the Springleaf Drum, but I say send her in for the kill!

God-Eternal Oketra  

One of White’s only way to generate Zombie tokens… and not just any Zombie tokens: 4/4 Vigilant Zombie Warrior tokens. Oketra is a Zombie herself, so she will trigger Varina; she is resilient and comes back to hand when she dies, and she’s got Double Strike meaning Haunted One! Haunted One! Haunted One!

Tormod, the Desecrator  

You want more Zombies don’t you? Tormod doesn’t get the respect I think he deserves. Toss him in Kethis decks! Tortured Existence and Tormod is a “one mana per Zombie” making machine! In this deck, you are going to be shockingly aggro. Varina loves turning Zombies sideways and Tormod just makes more of them. These aren’t the lumbering Zombies, these are the speedy ones that go for the throat.

Wonder / Aven Wind Guide  

This is pretty self-explanatory. Give your tokens evasion. Wonder sees play in The Scarab God if it’s pretty dependant on the God’s activated ability. That said, Varina can get Wonder in the graveyard as a surprise for combat. Surprise unblockable army is very powerful. Aven Wind Guide isn’t a surprise, but you can chuck it to the yard early to Embalm later, or you can play it for alpha strike turn. Either way, these are bigger swings than people expect.

Archfiend of Ifnir  

Read the card and read Varina and tell me this isn’t a one-sided board wipe every turn. This card won me a game this weekend at CommandFest Montreal in my Anje Falkenrath deck and is partly what inspired this article! Shout out to a great card!

Master of Death / Haunted Crossroads / Phyrexian Reclamation  

Returning stuff to your hand to pitch is useful. Master of Death can see some Wilhelt play (rather, should see play), but doesn’t make it beyond 22% of the Rotcleaver’s decks on EDHREC.

Haunted Crossroads gets your cards back to the top of your library, so if you’re in danger of decking yourself before it’s time (see LabMan), or if you just need something back, you’ve got some utility here.

Phyexian Reclamation is one of my favourite enchantments in the game and the way Varina keeps pumping up your life, this card is a winner to keep getting threats to hand.

Welcome to the Fold  

This is a fun lil card that doesn’t see much play anywhere. It steals a creature based on toughness. At its base, four mana to steal something with toughness 2 or less isn’t great at sorcery speed. But turn that into Varina discarding Welcome to the Fold during attack step, Madness casting for something important, or just sneaking away a blocker? You’ll have the table mesmerized.

Feast of Sanity  

Each card you discard drains any target. Swing with five Zombies, looks like you can take out that Oracle of Mul Daya and your other opponents’ dorks. Gain life, too? Don’t mind if I do!

Honorable Mentions:  

Laboratory Maniac / Jace, Wielder of Mysteries  

You cycle through your deck like crazy, so it is very likely that if combat damage doesn’t close it out, this is a solid backup wincon.

Aetherflux Reservoir  

Another wincon on the table! Considering you’ll be gaining a ton of life through out your attack steps, I think Reservoir is a classic kill that people will see coming, so might distract from the real plan of Lab Man or combat damage. The looming threat of activation when someone does something at the table to threaten you is also very enticing!

And that does it!

I picked ten this week because I really, really, really like Varina and hope more people play her! Thanks for reading.

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