Everyone loves to get the high score, and life gain decks let you do exactly that – if things are going well, you should have the highest life total at the table! Of course, even if you go infinite and name some absurd mathematical expression as your new life total, you still have to watch out for poison, mill, alternate wins and of course, commander damage. If you’re willing to live with those risks, these are the life gain commanders you’ll want headlining your list!
5. Dina, Soul Steeper
Dina is a new entrant for life gain commanders, and without white in her color identity, she might seem like an unusual choice. Having a Marauding Blight-Priest in your command zone that doubles as a sac outlet is a pretty good reason to play her though, and with cards like Essence Warden and Deathgreeter to generate lots of small life gain triggers throughout the game, Dina will drain the table faster than you expect. Beledros Witherbloom and other reliable generators of Pests or other tokens will help you get those triggers going – throw in Viscera Seer, Blood Artist and friends and you’ve got life gain and sacrifice covered. Two themes in one!
4. Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Much like Dina, Heliod cares not about how much life you gain, but rather, how often you gain it. That allows you to get into a classic Soul Sisters setup with cards like Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant. You can also find other ways to get lots of small life gain triggers, like Linden, the Steadfast Queen, Sunscorch Regent and Staff of the Sun Magus. Then, once you’re moving fast and dropping counters on creatures, cards like Animation Module and Crested Sunmare can grow your board. If your group doesn’t mind combo, Walking Ballista is an option, of course.
3. Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn
Lathiel focuses more on the amount of life you gained, though since it triggers at the beginning of each end step, there’s an incentive to mix in those smaller triggers as well. Spike Feeder is a fantastic choice for a deck like this, as you can grow it larger and larger on each player’s turn as long as you’re able to activate it. Cards that care about the amount of life you gained each turn, like Resplendent Angel and Valkyrie Harbinger, are effective here as they play with that same incentive. There’s also a +1/+1 counter focus here, allowing recent printings like Herd Baloth to shine.
2. Karlov of the Ghost Council
We already had mono-white, Golgari and Selesnya, so it’s logical for an Orzhov commander to make an appearance. We’re back to the Soul Sisters-style incentive for life gain, but instead of a +1/+1 counter or life drain engine card as a headliner, we’ve got a removal engine. That also means that our commander is a viable win condition via combat damage, so even though Karlov doesn’t spread counters around, proliferating may be more relevant. It’s also possible to run Karlov with Lurrus of the Dream-Den as your companion, which, while not necessarily as powerful, could be fun.
1. Oloro, Ageless Ascetic
Oloro has been lounging on his throne since we first saw him in Commander 2013, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s still the top of the heap for life gain. The fact that you get that life gain trigger even when he’s in the command zone is incredibly powerful, and if he’s on the battlefield, he provides his own life gain synergy. Access to blue gives you cards like Drogskol Reaver, Dream Trawler and a whole suite of draw and countermagic options. You’ll need to make sure you have mana to make use of Oloro’s trigger and the cards you’ll draw from it, so don’t skimp on lands.