Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Preventing Losses in Magic
Players can lose Magic duels in a variety of ways. Most commonly, they run out of life, but they're also beaten if their deck runs out when they must draw, they gain ten poison counters, or an insta-kill effect forces their defeat.
Fortunately, a rare set of spells can prevent your loss, keeping you in the battle to hopefully mount a comeback. Of course, it's not that easy, as many of these spells require large amounts of mana, only function temporarily, or impose severe penalties. Few exist as of this writing; which reign supreme? These are the ten best effects that stop you from losing Magic: The Gathering
10. Lich's Mirror
This artifact needs a hefty fee but accepts any mana types. If you would lose the game, Mirror instead shuffles your hand, graveyard, and permanents into your library, then draws you seven cards and sets your life to 20.
Overall, it's a mixed bag. Thwarting a loss while gaining life and draws is nice, but losing all permanents (including lands) usually means you're easy pickings, as you'll have to build up your field all over again.
Like many of today's cards, this white enchantment prevents you from losing even if you have 0 or less life. It also gains you two life for each life you lose. However, it needs a sizable chunk of mana and forces a loss when you have 20 or more health, so that lifegain quickly proves a disadvantage.
Still, this can buy time, especially when combined with lifegain-preventing spells like "Everlasting Torment."
8. Phyrexian Unlife
Unlife offers a much-cheaper Transcendence, now only needing three mana. You'll yet again become invulnerable even if your life dips below one, but while you have zero or less, you suffer damage as though it had infect. This means you obtain it as poison counters, losing when you collect ten.
Essentially, you're gaining ten extra hit points, hopefully buying enough time for a comeback. Remember, since opposing creatures don't actually gain infect, you can still block them without your troops suffering ongoing -1/-1 counters—the infect only applies on direct damage.
7. Stunning Reversal
Unlike many of today's permanent spells, Reversal usually catches foes by surprise since you cast it at instant speed. Once triggered, the next time you would lose during the turn, you instead draw seven cards, exile Reversal, and set your life to one.
Sure, you're hanging on by the skin of your teeth, but you've simultaneously bought time and replenished your hand. Reversal can literally be a life-saver and is one of few available to the black faction, making it a frequent member of my own commander decks. It's also much cheaper than our upcoming spells, costing less than two dollars!
6. Gideon of the Trials
Gideon is one of the cheapest planeswalkers available, needing just three mana and entering with as much loyalty. Unlike most planeswalkers, he doesn't have any effects that subtract loyalty, letting you repeatedly trigger his abilities without weakening him. +1 simply dulls a threat, preventing any damage a permanent would deal until your next turn.
Gideon's first +0 turns him into an indestructible 4/4 creature/planeswalker blend for the turn, offering a nice beatstick. But his next ability is most notable, granting an emblem that prevents you from losing as long as you control any Gideon planeswalker. Even if Gideon falls in his Trials form, any of his variants will reactivate the ability, indefinitely stalling foes as long as they endure. The emblem also prevents opponents from winning, a handy check against insta-win abilities.
5. Exquisite Archangel
With this expensive angel, not only do you get a flying 5/5 beatstick, you also acquire a sturdy defense: if you would lose, you instead reset your life and draw seven cards.
You also have to exile Archangel, but note you're not suffering Mirror's drawback of shuffling your other permanents into your deck, so you get to retain your other cards, giving you a fighting chance at victory. And since your life total becomes your starting total (not just 20), it can skyrocket back up to 40 in commander format.
4. Lich's Mastery
Mastery demands six mana, and three must specifically be black, but it prevents you from losing the game in any fashion. It also carries hexproof, making it hard to remove, and if you would gain life, you draw that many cards instead. However, for each life you lose, you must also exile a permanent you control or a card from your hand or graveyard.
Thankfully, black contains many self-milling spells to stock your graveyard, and anything that produces tokens gives even more fodder to sacrifice. Just note you immediately lose when Mastery leaves the field; it's generally well-protected thanks to hexproof, but non-targeting removals like "Cyclonic Rift" can bypass the defense.
Lich's unwieldy in multi-color decks since it solely accepts black mana. Additionally, when it enters the field, you lose life equal to your life total, but you won't lose the game for having 0 or less life. Then, if you would gain life, you draw that many cards instead, and if you're dealt damage, you instead sacrifice that many non-token permanents (and you lose if you can't). You also lose if Lich enters the graveyard from the field, so guard it at all costs.
Unfortunately, you can no longer sacrifice tokens to meet Lich's demand, but it's still a powerful defense and hand replenisher to fuel you in the late game. While all the extra draws are nice, be careful against milling yourself out, as Lich only shields against lifeloss defeats.
2. Angel's Grace
With just one mana, Grace packs a hefty punch. For a single turn, this instant prevents you from losing, and your opponents from winning, and any damage suffered can't take you below one life. Plus, Grace harbors the rare split second trait, meaning opponents can't cast spells or activate non-mana abilities while it's on the stack, so they shouldn't be able to counter or Chain onto Grace.
1. Platinum Angel
For the same mana cost as Exquisite Archangel, Platinum Angel is slightly weaker at just 4/4. However, she maintains flying, fits in any deck, and prevents you from losing as long as you control her.
This can save you over multiple turns, as your opponents must eliminate Angel before they can finish you. The effect also prevents you from losing in unorthodox ways, skillfully defending against deck-out and infect strategies as well as lifeloss.
More Loss-Preventing Cards in Magic
In addition to today's spells, "Lich's Tomb" and "Soul Echo" can prevent your defeat, though they bear considerable drawbacks. Also consider cards like "Immortal Coil," which doesn't technically prevent a loss, but stops you from taking damage, generally achieving the same effect.
These traits speak for themselves, offering the ultimate shield that can very possibly save your game, so never drop your guard against white and black structures. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of loss-preventing spells, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill