Why play Varina, Lich Queen?

Zombie tribal is the most popular tribal archetype in commander, and for good reason. Zombies are definitely the most interesting tribe, they pump each other up like the other tribes and relay heavily on graveyard recursion. I'm a big fan of graveyard recursion, since a commander deck has to be able to bounce back from a constant stream of removal and board wipes throughout an average game, and graveyard recursion is a good way to recover.

I have to be honest, I'm not a fan of tribal decks. Tribal decks all run similarly to each other, all elf decks ramp like crazy and pump each other, all goblin decks have haste and pump each other, and so on. Zombies seem to have a wider range of options. I wanted to make a zombie deck a few years ago, however I found one glaring problem w/ Zombie decks, they suck at making tokens. All that ended up happening was my zombie lords pumping each other up and sitting there not attacking, because I didn't want them to die, there was no army for the lords to pump. Varina solves this issue.


  1. Varina has the capability to create an entire army of zombies on her own.

  2. The deck runs a ton of graveyard recursion.

  3. Varina fills up the graveyard for the graveyard recursion.

  4. Varina has life gain... for some reason.


  1. The deck is pretty slow, since the deck doesn't run much ramp

  2. You need to have a decent chunk of creatures on the battlefield to do any damage, which makes the deck fragile to board wipes, even w/ all the graveyard recursion.

  3. Weak to graveyard hate, and just exile effects in general.


Bone Miser- Seems to of been created specifically for Varina, it gives us a huge bonus whenever we discard cards, which happens a lot thanks to Varina, 5 mana is a lot, but this card is well worth that cost.

Carrion Feeder- A zombie that protects our creatures from exile effects, and serves as a sacrifice outlet for the Gravecrawler + Rooftop Storm combo.

Cemetery Reaper- A zombie lord that creates zombies and acts as graveyard hate for creatures.

Corpse Knight- A zombie that hits each opponent for one whenever another creature you control enters the battlefield, which includes the few non-zombie creatures we use in the deck.

Cryptbreaker- Creates zombie tokens and can draw you cards.

Death Baron- A zombie lord (& skeleton lord for some reason?) that gives deathtouch, making combat much more difficult for your opponents.

Diregraf Captain- A zombie lord that also drains an opponent.

Diregraf Colossus- A giant zombie factory.

Eternal Taskmaster- A solid way to recur your zombies back to your hand.

Fleshbag Marauder- An edict effect that can easily be recurred attached to a zombie.

Gempalm Polluter- A cantrip that does direct damage to an opponent that can be easily recurred from the graveyard.

Gisa and Geralf- A one per turn zombie recursion creature.

Graveborn Muse- I normally don't play this card in zombie decks, because the life loss ends up being too much, but Varina does a good job at mitigating the life loss.

Gravecrawler- A persistent one drop that is part of the Rooftop Storm combo.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel- A finisher that can drain your opponents for a good chunk of life.

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born- Creature removal on a zombie, it's also a sacrifice outlet to protect your creatures from exile and as a sacrifice outlet for the Gravecrawler + Rooftop Storm.

Lord of the Accursed- A zombie lord, that gives you the option to give your zombies menace.

Lord of the Undead- A zombie lord, that gives you access to zombies in your graveyard.

Noxious Ghoul- Often a one sided board wipe, or it's just really good at killing X/1s.

Plague Belcher- A zombie that drains your opponents, and has menace for some reason.

Relentless Dead- A zombie that comes back when he dies, often w/ a little zombie buddy.

Risen Executioner- A zombie lord, that is easily recurred from the graveyard.

Shepherd of Rot- You gain life quite regularly, because of Varina, so you should survive the life drain from this guy, and kill off your opponents first.

The Scarab God- The zombie god, he lets you scy, he drains your opponents, gives you graveyard hate, and converts creatures from the graveyard into your zombie army.

Undead Augur- Solid card draw attached to a zombie.

Undead Warchief- Makes your zombies cheaper, and pumps up your zombies.

Vengeful Dead- Drains each opponent whenever a zombie dies.

Vengeful Pharaoh- Has great synergy w/ Varina since you can discard him to Varina's discard ability.

Vesper Ghoul- I didn't think that a zombie mana dork existed, but alas it exists, the deck doesn't have much ramp, so having ramp attached to a zombie is something we can't pass up on.

Wayward Servant- Great way to slowly drain out your opponents, it's also a way to kill off your opponents when you have the Rooftop Strom + Gravecrawler + sac outlet combo.

Zombie Master- Gives your creatures some resilience and swampwalk, which combos well w/ Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.


Land Tax- Is already one of the best cards in commander, however this card becomes ridiculously powerful in this deck, since you can use the lands as discard fodder for Varina's looting ability.

Mystic Remora & Rhystic Study- Are both auto-includes in any deck, they're just a powerful way to draw cards.

Phyrexian Arena- Solid & consistent card draw for any deck running .

Phyrexian Reclamation- One of the most reliable and effective ways to recur creatures from your graveyard.

Rooftop Storm- An obvious choice in any zombie deck running .

Smothering Tithe- An auto-include for any deck running , especially in this deck where the mana can be used by the commander.


Arcane Signet & Fellwar Stone- The best 2 cmc mana rocks in commander.

Lightning Greaves & Swiftfoot Boots- Varina's ability triggers on attack, so the quicker you can attack the better, and providing some protection is a nice bonus too.

Sol Ring- This card is good.


Anguished Unmaking- An auto-include in any deck, the card is so versatile that it would be silly not to include it.

Arcane Denial, Counterspell, Countersquall, & Negate- Are all the solid 2cmc counterspells that I play in any deck that wants to run counterspells, you don't want to use any counter magic above 2cmc in this deck, so you can hide the 2 mana acting like it's for a Varina activation when your actually holding up counter magic.

Cyclonic Rift- Goes in every deck, an incredibly powerful instant speed, one sided board wiper.

Path to Exile & Swords to Plowshares- Goes in every deck running , these two are the most efficient removal in commander.

Return to Dust- An auto-include in any deck, just a solid, efficient, and effective way to deal w/ artifacts/enchantments.


Cemetery Recruitment- Graveyard recursion that's also a cantrip.

Demonic Tutor- An auto-include in any deck running .

Diabolic Intent- There's plenty of sacrifice fodder in this deck to pay for the additional cost of this spell for a powerful tutor.

Kindred Dominance- A one sided board wipe.

Living Death- This card can be easily set up for using Varina's looting ability discarding your creatures to the graveyard.

Toxic Deluge- One of the best board wipes in commander, the life loss is even less of an issue in this deck thanks to Varina's ability to gain life.

Zombie Apocalypse- Solid graveyard recursion for any zombie deck.


Cavern of Souls- An excellent card in any tribal deck, not only does in fix your mana for creature spells, but it also prevents a zombie from being countered.

Caves of Koilos, & Underground River- I'm a big fan of the pain lands, since the come into play untapped and the one life is no big deal in a format that starts you at 40 life, especially when your commander has lifegain attached to them.

City of Brass, & Mana Confluence- I put these two in every multicolored deck, it's silly not to use redundant Command Towers at the low price for a couple of life, especially in a format that starts you at 40 life.

Command Tower- An auto-include in every multicolored commander deck.

Drowned Catacomb, & Isolated Chapel- I'm a fan of check lands, they will usually come into play untap.

Exotic Orchard, & Reflecting Pool- Usually just redundant Command Towers.

Flooded Strand, Marsh Flats, & Polluted Delta- Fetch lands are the best lands in magic, and they feed the graveyard for Varina's ability.

Godless Shrine, Hallowed Fountain, & Watery Grave- Shock lands are amazing are auto-includes in every multicolored deck.

Morphic Pool, & Sea of Clouds- Lands that will usually come into play untapped.

Path of Ancestry- A tap land w/ such a huge upside that it's well worth running P.S. I will often forget to scry 1, so don't be stupid like me.

Prismatic Vista- An auto-include in any multi-colored deck that runs a decent amount of basics.

Silent Clearing- A solid land that can be turned in for a card in a pinch.

Unholy Grotto- An auto-include in any zombie deck, having graveyard recursion on a land is incredible.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth- An auto-include in any deck running .

2x Island, 2x Plains, & 13x Swamp- This deck plays a ton of Swamps since the deck is about 2/3 black.

Zombie Swarm

Obviously the best way to win is by dealing damage w/ your undead horde, make zombie tokens w/ Varina, then pump up those zombies using the many zombie lords in the deck.

Rooftop Storm Combo

Rooftop Storm + Gravecrawler + Sac Outlet (Carrion Feeder or Grimgrin, Corpse-Born) = infinite death and ETB triggers

Once this combo is active you can win using Diregraf Captain, Plague Belcher, Vengeful Dead, Wayward Servant, Corpse Knight or you can just swing in w/ an infinite/infinite Grimgrin, Corpse-Born or Carrion Feeder, also the combo will clear out any non-zombie creatures using Noxious Ghoul.

Ravnica Allegiance Update:

Replaced Anointed Procession for Smothering Tithe, Smothering Tithe is an auto-include in any deck running , and Anointed Procession's performance has been mediocre in the deck, simply too much mana at 4 for an enchantment that is too often a do nothing card.

War of the Spark Updates:

Replaced Havengul Lich for Eternal Taskmaster, since Eternal Taskmaster is much more mana efficient.

Replaced Talisman of Dominance for Dovin's Veto, Dovin's Veto is an auto-include for every deck and ramp isn't particularly useful in this deck when compared to other decks.

Modern Horizons Updates:

Replaced Evolving Wilds & Terramorphic Expanse for Prismatic Vista & Silent Clearing, these lands are clearly better and the less tap lands in the deck the better.

Replaced Corpse Connoisseur for Undead Augur, Corpse Connoisseur is too much mana and Undead Augur adds some much needed card draw in the deck.

Commander 2019 Update:

Replaced Josu Vess, Lich Knight for Bone Miser, I've ended up casting Josu for it's kicker cost a grand total of 1 time in the 50+ times I've played the deck, and I ended up losing right after too, which was pretty annoying, 10 is just way too much for this deck, and usually I'd rather have some mana open for counterspells and Varina activations rather than tapping out for him, Bone Miser is obviously perfect for this deck, since Varina discards cards.

Random Update 1:

Replaced Sidisi, Undead Vizier for Demonic Tutor, a 5 mana tutor is just too awkward in this deck, even if it is a zombie, Demonic Tutor should of been in the deck since the beginning.

Throne of Eldraine Update:

Replaced Orzhov Signet & Dimir Signet for Arcane Signet, since it is strictly better & I haven't been impressed by the signets in the deck, since the deck is so color intensive & it doesn't need to ramp much. This leaves open another slot that let me add Corpse Knight to the deck, a worse version of Wayward Servant, but still a powerful zombie that is also a combo finisher.

Random Update 2:

Replaced Dovin's Veto for Phyrexian Arena, I have no clue why Phyrexian Arena wasn't on the decklist, I've been playing it in my deck the whole time and it is an auto-include for any casual deck running , and Dovin's Veto's strict color requirement of was just too difficult to cast, since the deck is so heavily .


Updates Add


Date added 1 year
Last updated 2 months
Exclude colors RG

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

8 - 0 Mythic Rares

40 - 0 Rares

20 - 0 Uncommons

14 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.98
Tokens 2/2 Zombie, None Copy Clone, None Treasure
Folders Uncategorized, the deck list, Interesting, Draft Commanders
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