There are a multitude of different ways to win in Magic the Gathering. You can mill your opponent, slowly burn their life away, or just swing a bunch of creatures in their face. Unlike these methods, gaining a tremendous amount of life in order to stall out your opponent doesn’t really help you win. Sure, a thousand life might be enticing, while an opponent only has twenty, but that doesn’t win you the game. However, having a strong storage of life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Today, we’ll be discussing the pros and cons of life gain decks.
Having a high amount of life helps to protect yourself from losing the game by combat and burn damage. If you have a hundred life, you don’t have to immediately worry about not having a blocker or answer spells. High amounts of life allow you to utilize your utility creatures more, since you won’t have to worry about using them to block all the time. Since having a high amount of life can help allow you to keep more utility creatures on the battlefield, control decks and other decks that run rampant amounts of utility work extremely well with life gain decks. Once you have a high amount of life, control and protection cards such as: Windborn Muse, Pariah, and Crawlspace, can prevent your life from decreasing too quickly.
Life gain decks can also counteract the negative costs of certain powerful cards, such as Bitterblossom and Pherexian Arena. Counteracting this life loss allows you to play extremely strong abilities without having to pay large amounts of life each turn.
Not to mention that life gain decks can also counter burn decks very efficiently, as most life gain decks can heal you more than your opponent can damage you.
Lastly, life gain decks can play very well with certain cards in Magic. They can power up cards like Aetherflux Reservoir in order to blast your opponent in one fell swoop. Life gain strategies also effectively synergize with cards such as Serra Ascendant and Ajani’s Pridemate, allowing an all out aggro strategy.
The major problem with life gain decks is that they typically lack a strong, reliable win condition. Even though most of them are also strong control decks, they still lack that big push that really counts when looking to win a game (besides Soul Sisters). Aetherflux Reservoir and similar cards can be seen as a win condition, but they require a large amount of life, are somewhat predictable, and can be disrupted easily. Control and protection based cards can help stall out a match, but still lack the push that other decks have. Also, when a player can simply mill every card in your deck or create an infinite combo, a high amount of life seldom matters.
At the moment, Magic: the Gathering is a game where a player’s life total only matters when they’re in range of dying from an attack. Sadly, other strategies work much better and receive more support than life gain decks. If there were more ways to use life than just Aetherflux Reservoir, damage prevention, and the few creatures that synergize with it, then life gain would become a more popular deck type. But right now, life gain is incredibly mediocre and is similar to that of a one trick pony. It is much better as a supplement, or helper to another strategy, rather than being a strategy on its own.
Just because the negatives somewhat outweigh the positives, doesn’t mean that you should avoid life gain decks. Remember, Magic is about having fun; not just winning. So just because Bounteous Kirin and Beacon of Immortality are far from perfect, that doesn’t mean you can’t run them in a deck. Maybe you can find out some sort of way to make life gain work! Not to mention it can still be incredibly powerful as a secondary strategy within a deck.
Have you ever used a life gain deck? If you have, tell us how it went. Do you know any reliable win conditions for life gain decks? Also, remember to support us on Patreon so that we can keep making articles!