Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Lifegain in MTG Arena
Life is always important in Magic games, but it's especially crucial against aggressive decks, like mono-red, where you can usually beat them once they run out of steam, but only if you survive their initial assault. Red's faring well with cards like "Embercleave," "Cavalcade of Calamity," and "Chandra's Spitfire" all legal in standard as of this writing, so it's a common sight.
To counter aggressive themes, you'll want cards that bolster your starting 20 life, helping you last long enough to take control of the match. Lifegain is most common in white and black, but all colors can utilize it with the right cards—which reign supreme? These are the ten best early-to-midgame lifegain tools in Magic: The Gathering Arena!
10. Dovin's Acuity
Blue/white control decks are the classic control theme, and Dovin's Acuity fits well in their ranks. It costs three but gives you a draw and two life when it enters the field. It doesn't actually have a passive field ability, but you can return it to your hand when you cast an instant during your main phase, letting you replay it for even more draws and life.
Cool thing is, you can build entirely around the card, or fit in other themes where you're running spells like "Opt" and "Giant Killer" that you can use to bounce Acuity back to hand. It's not legendary, so you can safely field multiple, and since it's an enchantment, it works well with the numerous supports from the Theros Beyond Death set.
|Color Pairing||Land Name|
9. Lifegain Lands
Every color pairing offers a corresponding land that gives you one life on entry. They enter tapped, so you have to wait on their mana, but they can provide either of two colors, and I can't tell you how many matches I've played where one life made the difference.
The lands are commons, so they won't take up your best wildcards to duplicate, but you won't find them in regular packs in the Arena store. To get them, select them during drafts or obtain them from a sealed event.
8. Hydroid Krasis
This versatile spell gives you a little of everything. You pay two mana, then an X value of your choice; Krasis enters with X +1/+1 counters and gives you half (rounded down) X life and draws. Plus, he gives you these when cast, meaning you still get the life and draws even if he's countered. But assuming he makes it to the field, he also wields flying and trample, so he's no slouch in combat.
As if that weren't enough, Krasis's numerous subtypes give him some interesting synergies, like hydra working with "Gargos, Vicious Watcher" and beast with companion "Kaheera, the Orphanguard."
7. Klothys, God of Destiny
Red/green decks are usually pretty aggressive, but Klothys gives them some rare lifegain, helping them outlast other aggro themes. He's an indestructible 4/5 god, but won't count as a creature until your red/green devotion is at least seven (his own two symbols count towards this).
Either way, at the start of your precombat (first) main phase, Klothy exiles a card from either graveyard; if it was a land, you add either one red or green mana to your pool, and if it was anything else, Klothys hits an opponent for two damage and gives you as much life. This switches between ramp and aggro/lifegain as needed, attacking enemy graveyards along the way. Use fetch lands like "Fabled Passage" to have lands available in your graveyard when you need the ramp over the life.
6. Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
Sorin is admittedly weak outside his vampire tribe, but boy does he excel within it. For only three mana (only one of which needs to be black), he begins with an impressive four loyalty. His first +1 give a creature deathtouch and lifelink for the turn and a +1/+1 counter if it's a vampire, letting you easily recuperate life when you attack.
Or, use his alternate +1 to sacrifice a vampire and deal three damage to any target and gain that much life, a great way to remove opposing threats. Finally, -3 lets you play a vampire from hand without paying its cost, easily fielding your strongest immortals.
5. Oath of Kaya
On entry, Oath of Kaya hits any target for three while gaining you that much life, making it a respectable removal option. From there, whenever one or more creatures attack one of your planeswalkers, Oath hits their controller for two and gives you two life, punishing aggression against your allies.
Oath works well in any deck, but especially ones big on planeswalkers, lifegain support, or the "Doom Foretold" strategy. The only limitation is that it's legendary, so you'll only be able to control one (though you can cast duplicates simply to reuse the entrance trigger).
4. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
CMC: 3 (4 when escaping)
Uro is sacrificed when he enters the field without escaping (where he's cast for four mana from your graveyard by exiling five other cards from it), but escaped or not, he'll utilize a great entrance trigger, letting you draw a card, play a bonus land, and gain three life.
That's a nice array of bonuses that gives Simic themes some rare lifegain, and you also get them when Uro attacks, so the longer he sticks around, the more he'll amass your resources, all on top of fierce 6/6 stats.
3. Cauldron Familiar/Witch's Oven
Decent on their own, these cards become deadly in tangent, and since each only needs one mana, their combo is accessible very early in the game. Familiar hits an opponent for one and gives you one life on entry; Oven taps and sacrifices a creature to create a food token. Food tokens can sacrifice themselves and spend two mana to give you three life, but Familiar can revive himself from your graveyard (at instant speed) by sacrificing a food token.
Once per turn, this means is that you can sac Familiar with Oven to create a food, then sac the food to revive Familiar. Not only does this reactivate his entrance effect, but it also makes him an amazing wall; declare him as a blocker, then kill him with Oven; the opposing creature will remain blocked despite Familiar leaving the field.
And since neither is legendary, you can easily control multiple. Oven's ability to instantly sacrifice your own creatures can also save you against spells like "Mass Manipulation" that would otherwise steal or exile your units.
2. The Birth of Meletis
For just two mana, this saga gradually activates three effects. On entry, it tutors a basic plains land from your deck, ensuring your next land drop. At your following precombat main phase, you create a 0/4 wall token, a useful defender against aggro, and with the final trigger, you simply gain two life.
Since sagas are enchantments, Meletis works especially well in white/green enchantment themes, but it's competitive enough to see play in any deck that uses at least some basic plains. And like Oath of Kaya, it's another must-have in the Doom Foretold strategy.
CMC: 1 (2 to equip)
Colorless Shadowspear can fit in any deck, and it's easy to use, only needing one to cast and two to equip on a creature. The equipped creature gets +1/+1, trample, and lifelink! These abilities simply work well together, buffing your damage, piercing excess amounts through blockers, and returning what's dealt as life.
Plus, equipped or not, Shadowspear lets you spend one mana to remove hexproof and indestructible from all opposing permanents that turn, which can really save you against opposing Theros gods. Useful for any theme, Shadowspear ironically works well in aggro because of red's "Fervent Champion," who reduces equip costs by three (letting you freely equip Shadowspear to him).
Historic Lifegain in Magic
Today's spells are all standard legal as of this writing, but when you're playing historic format, you'll have access to older lifegain tools—but by the same token, out-of-rotation aggro spells are also available, so stay on your toes.
In addition to outlasting aggressive themes, lifegain can trigger other bonuses, like the +1/+1 abilities on "Ajani's Pridemate" and "Heliod, Sun-Crowned" or the draw on "Dawn of Hope," giving crafty players extra incentive to utilize it. But for now, as we await Arena's next batch of life-gaining spells, vote for your favorite, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill