Sudden cardiac death (SCD) remains a public health problem of major magnitude. Contrary to earlier expectations, and despite decreased overall cardiac mortality, SCD rates appear to be rising in concert with escalating global prevalence of coronary disease and heart failure, the two major conditions predisposing to SCD. With the exception of the implantable defibrillator, there are few effective approaches to SCD prevention and even fewer clues concerning patient phenotypes predisposed to life-threatening arrhythmias. Clinical variables such as ejection fraction predict mortality but are not sensitive enough to identify many high SCD risk patients. The predictive power of autonomic dysregulation and markers such as lipid levels, hypertension, diabetes, and smoking is quite low in subclinical heart disease, the population in which the majority of SCDs occur. This review addresses advances in genomic science applicable to the SCD public health problem in both rare and common forms of heart disease. These include novel bioinformatic approaches to both identify candidate genes/pathways and identify previously unknown functional genetic elements, as well as methods to comprehensively screen these elements. We also discuss the possibility of applying high-density genome-wide SNP analyses to examine genetic contributions to arrhythmia susceptibility in community-based, case-control studies of common forms of SCD. The development of novel strategies to identify contributors to susceptibility in common cardiac phenotypes is most likely to lead to new and relevant therapeutic targets for SCD.