Magic the Gathering has many complex mechanics. This makes every game interesting and different from one another. Nevertheless, the game revolves around the simple concept of life points. If you have more than 0 life you’re alive, and if you have less than 0 you’re dead and lose the game. Simple.
In the format of Commander, each player starts with 40 life points in contrast with other formats where the starting life point is 20. This makes life points not as important to conserve in Commander as in other formats, and the usage of life as a resource is even more prevalent.
This makes life gain strategies have a significant advantage over others and makes them be extremely powerful and fun to play with. So that’s why today I’ll talk about the Top 10 best life gain Commander cards.
But before we get into the list here are some honorable mentions:
Let’s start off by giving a shout out to these 5 enchantments. All of them are incredibly good additions to any life gain deck.
Authority of the Consuls is an excellent card against any aggro deck which looks to play a bunch of creatures, swing and win. This card prevents that by forcing every creature your opponents control to enter the battlefield tapped. Plus you get some life whenever that happens.
Ajani’s Welcome has this same effect minus the “Creatures your opponents control enter the battlefield tapped”.
Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood are incredibly synergistic with one another and basically go infinite with their triggers. The first lets you deal damage to target opponent equal to the amount of life you gain, and the latter lets you transform life you gain into damage. If you have both in play and trigger one, you basically win the game on the spot.
Lastly, Boon Reflection is just a simple way of doubling the life you gain. Simple, but great.
- Kambal, Consul of Allocation
- Blood Artist
- Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
- Soul Warden / Soul’s Attendant / Essence Warden
- Dream Trawler
- Linden, The Steadfast Queen
- Felidar Sovereign
Now let’s move to creatures. The first is one of my favorite cards in Commander, Kambal, Consul of Allocation. It punishes your opponents for playing noncreature spells by draining them for 2 life as well as giving you 2 in return. Just great.
Blood Artist is a Commander classic. It fits perfectly into any sacrifice deck due to its ability, and it makes for a great card to include in your 99.
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose is a new card introduced in Core Set 2021. It is a great addition to the Vampire tribe as well as any life gain deck. Its ability is powerful, but not broken which makes this card a joy to play with and a fun challenge to play against.
Soul Warden, Soul’s Attendant, and Essence Warden are basically the same card just with different names wording. The gist of it is basically that you gain 1 life every time another creature comes into play.
Dream Trawler is an incredible creature, which is incredibly hard to deal with. It is evasive due to the flying and it has the added benefit of having lifelink. You’ll draw a card, when you attack with it, which buffs its attack. It is an incredibly powerful creature that can get you back in the game with one swing.
Linden, The Steadfast Queen is a really great aggressive card in white. It rewards any go wide strategy by gaining you 1 life for each creature attacking. Super good in white or Selesnya aggro decks.
Lastly, Felidar Sovereign. This is another classic win condition in every life gain deck. It is an efficient blocker and attacker due to it having lifelink, vigilance, and a 4/6. But this is not why this creature is so good. It is because of its ability.
It basically says: “remain at 40 life and and win the game”. Of course the drawback is its mana cost and the trigger happening on upkeep, but if you execute a good game plan this card can win games.
Last on the list are artifacts. Unfortunately there are not many artifacts out there which massively improve a life gain deck. If there is an artifact in this type of deck is probably a mana rock or card draw engine, but not necessarily synergistic with life gain.
Anyway, there are some that can be used as utility artifacts in this archetype.
Well of Lost Dreams is a way of converting each life point gained into card advantage. Sure it costs four mana and you have to put more mana into it to start drawing cards, but the payoff is there.
Shadowspear is just great equipment to attach to any creature. It makes the attached creature bigger and it gives it lifelink which is helpful in certain situations. It has a low costing CMC and equip cost, and it comes with the extra ability of removing hexproof and indestructible from any permanent your opponents control for 2.
Fountain of Renewal is perfect for the early game costing only 1 mana and giving you 1 life each upkeep, with the extra ability of being able to give you card draw when sacrificed for 3 mana. Simple, yet useful artifact.
Whip of Erebos is a classic card which gives all your creatures lifelink and the ability of graveyard recursion. Good and efficient support artifact.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get into the list.
#10 Scavenging Ooze
This is one of my unexpected additions to the list. This creature does not come to mind when thinking about life gain strategies, but after reading its ability it fits perfectly into the archetype.
It’s cheap and has decent stats being a 2/2. And it has the great ability of allowing you to pay one green to exile a card from a graveyard and if this card is a creature it gains +1+1 and you gain 1 life.
The ability makes this card an efficient way to deal with problematic cards in graveyards, as well as giving you a way to trigger you life gain synergy cards.
This is a very simple but effective card. Its basic use is as an old regular Counterspell in Azorius colors. It has the extra ability to gain you life in the process. It can be played at instant speed, and the only setback that can be placed on this card is the color commitment.
Apart from that it is an efficient counter for 3 that gains you life in the process. Perfect for any life gain control decks.
This card is an incredibly efficient boardwipe. It’s a sorcery for 5 mana, which is not a lot to pay for a board wipe. Besides, it also has the insane ability to gain you life equal to the amount of destroyed creatures.
It is a must in any decks with white in it, and, of course, in any life gain Commander deck. Not much to say about the card apart from that it is a regular costing board wipe that also gains you life. Pretty good.
#7 Alhammarret’s Archive
This card is probably the best artifact for a life gain deck. It doubles the effect of your game plan by doubling the life you gain, and it also has the ability to double your card draw.
Of course, in a life gain deck it is not the easiest to draw cards, but with other synergistic pieces this card becomes incredibly powerful.
The biggest setback to it being higher on the list of best life gain Commander cards is its mana cost of 5.
#6 Approach of the Second Sun
This card is kind of “cheap way” to win games. It was a staple during its time in Standard. Many control decks looked to play it and then draw to it. This card was more powerful in Standard, as could have multiple copies of it on your hand and play one after the other. This is not the case in Commander.
This makes this card less efficient in the format, but it still retains some of its best qualities.
First, the fact that it is a win condition, so it serves as the focus of your opponents. This means that they would try to either kill you before you play it again or deal with it in your library. Either way, it presents the opportunity for you to win in another fashion whilst they are distracted.
Second and lastly, it buys you time by giving you life. 7 mana for 7 life is not nothing. It is not the best but it is useful.
Good audition as a backup or as the main strategy for any control oriented deck.
#5 Dawn of Hope
White in Commander is usually not as efficient as the other colors in Commander. It is known for the color for tokens or life gain. Its struggles with one of the most important factors in Magic; card draw.
This card gathers the two things white excels at and adds card draw to the mix. It has the ability of drawing you a card if you pay 2 when you gain a life. It’s second ability of creating a 1/1 lifelink Soldier is also useful and synergistic. This card has the ability to give you a blocker, and to capitalize on your life gain.
It is a must in any life gain Commander deck.
#4 Aetherflux Reservoir
This is another “cheap” or “cheesy” way of winning a game. That’s because it’s super efficient to use. It is probably the easiest way to one shot any of your opponents with your life gain Commander deck.
This card was a regular win condition in many decks when it was in standard due to its ability to easily storm off. This is the same in Commander. In Standard it was a bit harder to pull off because the starting life total is 20 and the cost for the ability is 50, but in Commander that’s 10 more than the starting life total. This makes Aetherflux Reservoir way more efficient.
This is the easiest way to get a one shot kill in any deck that looks to storm off or that has life gain as its main strategy.
#3 K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth
K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth is one interesting card. I have always been fascinated with the concept of Phyrexian mana as seen in my last article Top 10 Best Free Spells in Commander. He has lifelink and his ability allows you to pay 2 life instead of black mana in any card, which is incredibly powerful. It’s last ability is to put a +1+1 counter on him for every black card you play.
This card shows the power of Phyrexian mana, and has the possibility to be extremely broken in a deck tune to exploit this ability. K’rrik is an incredibly fun commander, as well as an addition to the 99 in either mono black or Commander life gain decks of other colors.
#2 Blind Obedience
This is another Commander staple. It is good in any deck with white in it. Its ability is one of the most powerful in the game. It makes not only creatures but artifacts as well to enter the battlefield tapped. This not only stops any aggressive strategies with creatures, but also the important mana rocks from being able to be used once played.
It slows the game down for everyone else except you, and it gives you the extra ability to pay one black or white to extort.
The greatest quality of this card is its mana cost which is a low 2, and also it being an enchantment which are the hardest permanents to deal with.
In general, this card is probably one of the most powerful cards in the whole game. If you have white in your deck, it is a must, especially if you’re playing a life gain Commander deck.
#1 Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
This card is one of the most popular life gain Commanders in the format. It basically does everything you want out of a general.
The first ability gains you two life at the beginning of your upkeep.
The second ability, lets you pay 1 for each life you gain to draw a card and drain your opponents for the same. This is incredibly efficient.
The third ability is basically the first one, but it triggers even if he is in your Command Zone, which is nuts.
This is one of the most complete commanders ever. It does the three most important things in Magic:
- gain life
- draw cards
- drain your opponents
Its colors are also super flexible and powerful. In general, this card makes a great commander, but it’s also a great addition in the 99.
In conclusion, Commander is a format that allows you to experiment with wild and broken mechanics and interactions, but in its essence it is all about keeping your life over 0 and your opponent below it.
Overall, building a deck around the concept of life gain or life usage is intrinsically powerful. It is a strategy that allows you not to worry about your life total. So, having cards that can allow you to do so is important.
I hope this article has helped you to find some cards to aid you efficiently use this strategy. As always, if you agree or disagree with any of the inclusions in this list, comment down below.
If you’re looking for more Commander articles, you might want to check some of the following ones: