Holistic Wisdom: Top 10 Life Gain Cards

by Freyalise on 12 October 2016, Wednesday


"Holistic Wisdom" is all about LISTS! This series are a result of Freyalise's exploration of Dominaria! Let's follow recent trends, hot decks, metagame calls, Magic pop culture and pretty much everything! Each week, we'll pick a topic and make a list that's both informative and fun to read!


Holistic Wisdom


Holistic Wisdom: Top 10 Life Gain Cards


It's not easy to find a good life gain card for Constructed application.


Sunspring Expedition Rest for the Weary Feed the Clan


While narrow cards like Sunspring Expedition, Rest for the Weary and Feed the Clan have seen sideboard play for their raw life gain power, they're not exactly Constructed superstars worthy of maindecking!


What are some of the best utility cards "stapled together" with lifegain that have made them great in 60-card formats?


Together, let's take a quick trip down the "life gain" memory lane!




10th: Renewed Faith


Renewed Faith


In terms of pure lifegain, Renewed Faith is probably one of the rock stars. Not only can it be cycled for a fresh card while gaining you a couple of life, it can also be fired off for six life right away when the emergency arises. Because of that, it has seen play alongside Lightning Rift and Astral Slide which further accentuate the prowess of the cycling mechanic.




9th: Scavenging Ooze


Scavenging Ooze


Will Scavenging Ooze still see play even if it didn't gain us a little bit of life here and there? Probably yes, but it is really the little something that pushes it over the top. It is useful in racing aggro decks and forces them to answer it rather than ignore it.




8th: Baneslayer Angel


Baneslayer Angel


That is a lot of abilities for not very much mana, with the most important being flying and of course lifelink. As a matter of fact, I'll boldly proclaim that lifelink is the most important of all the keywords because the life swing was the sole reason that players wanted to play Baneslayer Angels in their decks!


A single engagement with Baneslayer Angel will cushion your life total so much that aggro decks will have a hard time coming back.




7th: Courser of Kruphix


Courser of Kruphix


Not too long ago, Courser of Kruphix was a source of card advantage and steady life gain that annoyed aggro, midrange and control decks to no end.


It was mostly played to ensure a steady stream of land drops and some card selection, but the life gain it provided simply transformed it into a superstar. Not to mention that fetchlands were in the format while it was legal in Standard and negating the life payment is yet another perk!




6th: Wurmcoil Engine


Wurmcoil Engine


What do you most fear if you're playing a damage-based strategy? Probably a creature with lifelink. Or worse, a creature with lifelink that has two lives!


Indeed, this is exactly why Wurmcoil Engine is such a great card. Barring Path to Exile, there is no real elegant way to kill it and the 6/6 body which splits into two 3/3s upon death is just annoying and frankly very different to recover from. It lends strength to Urzatron decks which traditionally have the ability to summon it as early as turn three!




5th: Deathrite Shaman


Deathrite Shaman


To be fair, Deathrite Shaman would still be a pretty good card even if you removed either the life gain or life loss ability. However, the fact that it had both in combination with mana acceleration and graveyard control was just nuts.


Pretty much a default addition to any Black-Green deck, it was banned in Modern for the sake of diversity. In Legacy, it's often used offensively when ahead and the life gain is helpful when one's behind.




4th: Zuran Orb


Zuran Orb


Nowadays, we don't even get Stone Rain in Standard but a long, long time ago, during an era when Armageddon was once legal! Before pulling the trigger players sacrificed all their lands to Zuran Orb before wiping out their opponent's side as well. The amount of life gain was so great that it will often shut down an aggro deck's chances of securing the win.




3rd: Thragtusk



Thragtusk was any aggro player's biggest headache because the five life attached with a big body usually swung games around just like that. To make matters worse, you can't even attempt to race the 5/3 because of how hard it hits, and if you try to kill it your opponent receives a replacement 3/3 body that you'll find difficulty attacking past.


Because of these reasons, Thragtusk is considered to be one of the most oppressive cards during its time, forcing aggro strategies to adapt or get crushed by it.




2nd: Kitchen Finks


Kitchen Finks

Kitchen Finks is a 3/2 and a 2/1 for 3 mana but it probably wouldn't see as much play if it didn't come with 4 life attached. To this day, it is a Modern staple and sideboarded against Zoo and Burn decks, while being a great attrition tool against Jund, Abzan and Jeskai.


Definitely one of the best life gain cards to have ever saw print and it will likely remain a force in Modern Constructed for as long as it exists.




1st: Umezawa's Jitte


Umezawa's Jitte


Umezawa's Jitte is not exactly prized for its life gain capabilities but rather its overall flexibility. It is banned in Modern for good reason, because it will simply be too unfriendly for any aggro player to face.


Simply by sticking Umezawa's Jitte on a creature and attacking once with you, you'll have so much control with the two charge counters you get. If you're ahead, convert them into +2/+2 boosts and of course when you're behind, you'll really appreciate the 4 extra life!




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