The best lifegain commanders in MTG won’t just keep you alive for a long time, but also make sure you can use your massive life total to your advantage. People look down on lifegain as though it’s not a valid strategy, but if you’re the one left standing at the end of the game, who cares?
The key thing is that you’re not just gaining life, but turning that into some kind of advantage. This strategy is a huge amount of fun in Commander, but some of the commanders out there are much better than others.
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The best Lifegain commanders in mtgLicia, Sanguine Tribune takes pride of place as our honorable mention for the day. Licia costs eight mana and is a Red, White, and Black 4/4 with first strike and lifelink. They also cost one less to cast for each one life you’ve gained this turn, which usually means they only cost three mana. You can also pay five life to put three +1/+1 counters on them, but you can only do this in your turn, and only once each turn.
While we like a lot of what Licia does, it’s hard to commit to them purely because of the limitations of their ability. They definitely give access to a lot of fun cards and strategies, and being a Vampire doesn’t hurt; they’re just not as good as best Lifegain commanders in MTG.
10 – Firesong and SunspeakerFiresong and Sunspeaker is a six mana Red and White 4/6 that gives all of your Red Instant and Sorcery spells lifelink, and makes it so you can deal three damage to a Creature or Player when you gain life off of a White Instant or Sorcery.
These both sound great in theory, but in practice, you have to do quite a lot of work to get the full benefit from both of these effects, so it can be somewhat frustrating to use them. That said, some people just love a challenge, so, well, here you go.
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9 – Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn
If you want to have Creatures as large as your life total, then you should be playing Latheil, the Bounteous Dawn. For four mana, you get a Green and White 2/2 with lifelink.
Then at the beginning of each end step, you get to put +1/+1 counters on your Creatures equal to the life you gained that turn. Two things are worth noting here; this occurs in each end step, so life gained in other turns is still valuable, and you can distribute these counters however you want. That means you can make your army of 1/1s a little bigger, or go all-in on your big Creature with trample.
8 – Oloro, Ageless AsceticOloro, Ageless Ascetic is a six mana White, Blue, and Black 4/5 with a lot of very relevant abilities when it comes to gaining and benefitting from extra life. For starters, whether they’re in play or in the command zone, you’ll gain two life in your upkeep.
You can also pay one mana whenever you gain life to draw a card and force each opponent to lose one life. Esper colors also happen to have a lot of fun toys when it comes to basically any strategy, and the Blue really helps you protect whatever absurd combos you’re trying to put together.
7 – Regna, the Redeemer // Krav, the Unredeemed
We can all agree there should be a Romeo and Juliet joke here, so just imagine it was a really good one, and we can all get on with our day. Regna, the Redeemer is a six mana White 4/4 Angel with flying. They also create two 1/1 tokens in each end step if your team gained life that turn.Krav, the Unredeemed, on the other hand, is a five mana Black 3/3 who is a Demon who can’t fly. The two partner together to form one commander, and Krav allows you to pay one Black mana and sacrifice X Creatures. You then draw that many cards, gain that much life, and put that many +1/+1 counters on Krav. They’re both great when they’re together, but can be frustrating to protect because they keep engaging in ye olde melodrama.
6 – Willowdusk, Essence SeerWillowdusk, Essence Seer is a three mana Black and Green 3/3. Their ability costs one mana, and you need to tap them to “Choose another target creature. Put a number of +1/+1 counters on it equal to the amount of life you gained this turn or the amount of life you lost this turn, whichever is greater. Activate only as a sorcery.”
Being unable to do that at instant speed is a bit rough, but the fact that it can be life lost or life gained gives them a lot of flexibility, and the color combination has a lot of new toys for both eventualities thanks to Strixhaven and the Commander decks that came with it.
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5 – Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
For one White and one Black mana, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is a 2/3 with deathtouch. They have two abilities that make them powerful. The first costs one mana and requires you to sacrifice a Creature, and you can then gain life equal to that Creature’s toughness.
The second ability costs three mana and requires another sacrifice, but this one allows you to exile a nonland permanent as long as you have at least ten life more than your starting total. The removal is great, and as long as you build your deck around Creatures that like being sacrificed, you’re going to have a great time with Ayli.
4 – Heliod, Sun-Crowned
It says a lot about how powerful cards in Magic are when a God only ends up halfway up a list. Heliod, Sun-Crowned is a three mana indestructible White 5/5 that doesn’t become a Creature unless your devotion to White is five or more.
Whenever you gain life, you get to put a +1/+1 counter on a Creature or Enchantment you control, and you can pay two mana to give another Creature lifelink. Literally all you have to do is do this with Walking Ballista or Triskellion, and you’ve won the game.
3 – Trostani, Selesnya’s VoiceTrostani, Selesnya’s Voice is a great commander for token decks, but she’s also great at lifegain too. If you decide you want to do both, you should probably have them leading the charge. For two Green and two White mana, you get a 2/5.
Then, whenever another Creature enters the battlefield under your control, you gain life equal to their toughness, and you can pay three mana and tap them to populate. This gives you a lot of different options when playing Trostani, and while we prefer her as a pure token commander, you’re going to be gaining a lot of life, so it’s not a bad idea to do both.
2 – Vito, Thorn of the Dusk RoseVito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose is a three mana Black 1/3 that forms half of a classic combo. You see, whenever you gain life, an opponent loses that much life. That means they can basically be a second copy of Sanguine Bond if you need them to. That means you only need to cast Exquisite Blood to more or less win the game on the spot.
They also happen to have an ability that costs five mana and then gives all of your Creatures lifelink until end of turn, which means you’ve always got a lot of potential life just sitting around waiting. They’re incredibly powerful.
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1 – Karlov of the Ghost Council
Our final pick happens to be a very good aggro commander too, and it’s Karlov of the Ghost Council. Karlov costs one White and one Black and is a 2/2. However, whenever you gain life, they get two +1/+1 counters on them, and you can pay two mana and remove six of those to exile a Creature.
It’s just so easy to gain a lot of little bits of life and then either swing in with Karlov or use them to get rid of anything standing in your way. It only gets easier as more and more cards come out too, and they’re a huge threat, even if they can’t gain you life on their own.
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