Get a Life (Redux)
The Nagoya GP is only a few days away, but I’m already back in brew mode. If you’ve been following my posts about the metagame then you know that a majority of the decks hit fast and hit hard. But what if you could counteract this? Back during the last block with Scars of Mirrodin, I made a life gain deck that used big creatures like Wurmcoil Engine and Thragtusk to win, but it didn’t work too well. I would gain a lot of life, but I couldn’t do anything with it and the deck eventually ran out of steam. I think I was going about it all wrong.
Don’t use creatures to win in a life gain deck and attack their life, attack their library.
Draw. Life. Mill.
- 4 Cathedral Sanctifier
- 4 Centaur Healer
- 4 Rhox Faitmender
- 2 Tree of Redemption
- 4 Mind Sculpt
- 3 Saving Grasp
- 2 Jace, Memory Adept
- 2 Sphinx’s Revelation
- 4 Think Twice
- 4 Heroes’ Reunion
- 4 Chalice of Life
- 2 Plains
- 2 Island
- 2 Forest
- 4 Temple Garden
- 4 Hallowed Fountain
- 3 Glacial Fortress
- 3 Sunpetal Grove
- 3 Hinterland Harbor
- 2 Thragtusk
- 4 Dramatic Rescue
- 2 Elixir of Immortality
- 4 Fog
- 3 Faith’s Shield
Everybody and their mom has been putting Thragtusk into any deck running green, but this is one deck where I don’t think it’s a good idea. This life gain deck is A LOT faster than the previous life gain deck I had, and for one reason:
I want to maximize the effect of
The highest casting cost in the main deck is 4, so you don’t really need mana acceleration to get you going. Play a Cathedral Sanctifier first turn (23 life), block on the second turn and cast a Heroes’ Reunion (30 life), and on turn 3 lay down a Chalice of Life and flip it.
It’s as simple as that. Against slower decks they just lost. You’ll be drawing life gain or card draw for the remainder of the game and can stay at a comfortable total. If you need to block their incoming creatures, do it. But what if they take out your Chalice? What other choice do you have? Well, you could then switch over to Mind Sculpt. It’s cheap and easy to cast, and takes 7 cards out of their library. If you use 53 as a starting point for their library, you can get them down to 28 cards with these cards alone. Consider that they’ll be drawing cards as well, you could have them down in the teens by the time you use all of them. If you can keep the life coming, you’ll be able to kill them with 2 uses of Jace, Memory Adept’s mill ability.
So what do you think so far? Like it? Before I continue, I think it’s important to spend some more time discussing life gain as a strategy.
The Mechanics of Life gain
In this deck there are a lot of life gain spells. By themselves they are pretty nifty, but teamed up with our good friend Rhox Faithmender, they become an impenetrable wall.
As I stated in my old article a few months ago, his ability stacks, giving you an incredible amount of life gain for very little investment. Two of them will gain you x4 life, three will gain you x8 life, and four will gain you x16 life. Putting this in perspective, a Cathedral Sanctifier or Centaur Courser will gain you 6, 12, 24, and 48 life respectively. A Heroes’ Reunion will gain you 14, 28, 56, 112 life. It boggles the mind, and you can be sure that every zombie player will hate you for playing this deck.
Life gain is a great tactic at stalling, and with that much life filling your “paper”, you’ll have plenty of time to search through your deck for those win conditions. I also want to talk a little bit about Tree of Redemption as well.
Tree of Redemption lets you switch your life total with its defense. However, did you know that if you switch your life to a higher number (its defense), that it’s considered life gain? So if its defense is 20, and your life is at 13 at the end of your opponents turn, if you use its ability with Rhox Faithmender in play again on your turn, it’s considered life gain and you’ll gain 14 life when you switch back (7×2). This is an interesting mechanic that can help you gain life if you’re not drawing the proper cards. It’s also an amazing blocker in this format, smiling at cards like Silverblade Paladin, Wolfir Silverheart, and Thragtusk and taking everything they can throw at them.
I think the inclusion of Sphinx’s Revelation is pretty much a no brainer, but you might be wondering a little about Saving Grasp. Saving Grasp is a simple card from Dark Ascension that lets you bring a card back to your hand, effectively saving it’s life. In this deck it works two fold.
Most of the creatures in this deck have an enter the battlefield ability, so on your opponent’s turn when you block and return them to your hand, you can cast it again on your turn and keep up building that life. There are lots of removal spells in standard right now, and when they see that Rhox Faithmender hit, they aren’t going to want to let it live. Keep it alive and save him when they target it! It wastes their card and keeps you fighting. Its flashback cost is just as easy to use.
The Ultimate Price . . .
There are other decks like this using Chalice of Life/Death as their win condition, but many of these are running cards like Restoration Angel and Thragtusk main which give the deck quite a heft price tag. This deck is pretty low cost compared to those, and you could put it together from scratch for around $250, rivaling the low cost of RDW (Red Deck Wins, the mono red deck that has risen in popularity recently). The lands are going to be a little expensive, as well as the Thragtusk in the sideboard (which isn’t really necessary but I thought it might be good in match ups where you need more oomph), but a lot of these cards are commons and you probably have a lot of them already which makes the cost even lower.
And with those words my article about life gain is done. What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions as to what cards would work in this type of deck? Do you foresee any problems? I’d like to hear back from you so please leave a comment if you feel inclined! Thanks for reading!
I have some info up on what happened at SCGO Baltimore from last weekeend if you wanted to take a look see. Life gain was reliable, but only if you had ways to counteract removal.
Like supreme verdict? So I need something like Rootborn Defenses to keep them alive?
Yup Yup, or something like a regenerating card
Oh, also just small removal, like syncopate, dispel, ect. They were everywhere.
I run a black life-gain deck. A measely four mana gets you Desecration Demon on the board, and another three for Essence Harvest gives them 6 damage and you 6 life gain. More if they’ve tapped DD-chan.
How’s it been doing against the big 4 decks in the meta? UWR midrange, BR zombies, GW aggro, and Frites? It’s not all about gaining life, I’m also worried about the win conditions.