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What Are the Best Choices for Lifegain Commanders?

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Hello MTG and Commander fans! Wow do I have a fun thing for you today! We are looking at my choices for the best Commander eligible options from the hugely popular life gain archetype. It's so popular that almost all of the Commanders from #15 on have at least 2k decks registered over at EDHREC.com (checked after I make this list, not before).

Ready?

Number Seventeen

Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper

Let's start with a partner that gains you a massive ton of life! This 5-drop Golgari colored 3/7 with menace and partner to combine with your ideal combo will gain you life when a dork you control deals damage to a foe equal to their toughness, minimum one! That's for each dork that pounces, so with her base stats that would be seven life each combat with her, and then menace too to slip past the blocks! Ideally, you'll add in Tymna the Weaver here since you are attacking for life gain, and now cards and something to use that life gain in card draw. Although, white partners add life gain matters stuff like Elenda's Hierophant. Although, that's not as important, but Ikra Shidiqi is in a massive number of partner decklists! Love her partnering loads!

Number Sixteen

Treebeard, Gracious Host

Welcome to our Selesnya colored 4 mana under-curved in size 0/5 trampler with ward 2 to protect a bit. Normally you'd pay two for an 0/5 in size with a keyword or two. This Treefolk big butted dork ETBs and makes you a pair of Foods for sacrificing for life or other stuff! Then when you gain life like Food, or Soul Wardens, you put that many +1/+1 counters on a Treefolk like Treebeard or another Halfling or Treefolk, so you'll always have an option. The kindred nature of this leader makes it more limited, although you can always just toss the +1/+1 counters on him for a quicker Commander Damage kill. Or you can just add him to (or lead) a toughness matters or Treefolk deck.

Number Fifteen

Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant

Next up is this fun 3-drop 2/3 in the three colors that care about it, green, white and black. When you would gain a life? Gain one more! Then you tap him with 5 mana when you have at least 111 life to self-exile back to your Command Zone and drop all dorks from your library to the battlefield, to win fast! This fun thang is so good, and sure, you have to wait until 111 life, but that should often just win you the game, right? Right! He's as cheap as a three color can be, and opens up all of the options in this three color identity. Welcome to the club!

Number Fourteen

Licia, Sanguine Tribune

Hello red fans! This is the only red charting leader on today's list since red is the color that doesn't gain life or trigger that. Licia (I don't know how to pronounce it, so I am pronouncing it like the name is Italian - Luh-CHEE-yuh) is next! This heavily costed 8-drop three color dork is here, with a weak 4/4 body with first strike, lifelink, under the curve normally, but with her built in drop in cost equal to your life gained, she can be as cheap as her 3 manas of color in red and Orzhov. Then once on your turn and once per turn, you can spend five life to grow her in size by three +1/+1 counters. Since you are gaining life to drop her cost, you can spend it here to grow her. Also note lifelink to gain plus perma-boosts and first strike to smash first and make blocking rough. Love her so much!

Number Thirteen

Rodolf Duskbringer

This actually does cost 6 mana, rough, with no built-in reduction cost. Nasty! Then this 4/4 with flying, lifelink to double and gain life is great! It's black, but has an Orzhov color identity with it's ability. It gains indestructible when you gain life! Then in your endstep you can swap 2 mana to recur a dork equal in cost to your life gained that turn! Turning life gain into recursion seems pretty good from where I am sitting, right? It's worth the extra cost!

Number Twelve

Astarion, the Decadent

Another 6-drop Orzhov colored dork is next! He swaps out flying for another EOT trigger, this time with two options. The first is to have your foe's lose life equal to the like they already lost, so he's a win-con. The 2nd is to double the life you gained this turn! Doubling your life gain every since turn if yours is nasty, and if you have enough, you can turn it on your foes to kill them faster! This double trigger option makes me rate him just a bit higher than the previous option.

Number Eleven

Willowdusk, Essence Seer

Our final card before the Top Ten begins is this fun Golgari colored 3-drop on curve 3/3 beater. Then you can tap it at sorcery speed with a mana to give another dork +1/+1 counters equal to your life gained or lost this turn! This fun little lady will make your own beaters, just insert 2-drop Bear you cast the turn before, and attack ad nauseum! This is my first Golgari colored non-partner leader!

Number Ten

Trelasarra, Moon Dancer

Welcome to the Top Ten proper another Selesnya colored leader! This cheapest possible two-color dork (barring hybrid) is next with a suitable 2/2 Bear Body! This fun Elf Cleric uncommon with a simple life gain trigger. You toss a +1/+1 counter here for perma-growth, and then scry. Note just once per life gained, not how much life gained. And this will work every time with no brakes like needing tapping, mana, or once/turn. She's awesome possum!

Number Nine

Karlov of the Ghost Council

This 2-drop Bear is next too! Welcome back to Orzhov, which many consider the best color combo for life gain matters! When you gain that life? Toss two +1/+1 counters here, not one like the above card. That's why it's higher, and it swaps scry for the ability to pull off six to exile an opposing dork for two Orzhov colored mana, recursive removal, and exiling makes that stronger. It's also good in +1/+1 counter brews that load up things.

Number Eight

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Hitting our halfway spot on today's countdown is this 3-drop Mono-Black dork, our only one! He rocks a smaller 1/3 body. When you gain life? Your foes lose it! That much and each foe! Then you can mana sink 6 mana here (You are in mono-black, so might I suggest Cabal Coffers and Cabal Stronghold and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx here to make it?) and give your entire team lifelink for the turn to get a massive life swing for attacks, blocks, and triggering him and other things. Vito is a nasty win-con synergy machine on a legendary Command Zone eligible cheap body, hence him being here! But just one color reduces his use and triggers, that's why seven hit higher!

Number Seven

Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn

This 4-drop Selesnya 2/2 lifelink is next! Each end step (your foe's as well) has a trigger to toss the number of life you gained in counter form of the +1/+1 variety among any number of dorks you control. Not one, or the Commander, or a creature type, but any number, or just here with the built-in lifelink to get a bigger trigger. See why this charts more than other +1/+1 counter adding cards? I hope so!

Number Six

Will, Scion of Peace

Because blue doesn't gain life or have triggers, it's rare to see it in life-gain decks, and only in multicolored lands our only Azorius colored 3-drop 2/4 with vigilance and a tap ability to use after he swings. You can reduce your casting cost of your Blue/White stuff by X equal to your life gained this turn, at sorcery speed only. This will help with X costs like Martial Coup or Stroke of Genius, fat things like Time Stretch, or dorks like Avacyn, Angel of Hope. He's in the color of lifelinking giving him a minimum two damage life gain when he swings with vigilance. Love him Loads!

Number Five

Amalia Benavides Aguirre

Welcome to the Top 5 overall with another 2-drop 2/2 Bear. This one has ward 3 life, so you aren't slowed down mana wise to target her, just life wise. When you gain life, she gets a free explore. That means you'll draw the top card of your library if a land, and then if not you toss a +1/+1 counter here. If her power is exactly twenty, you'll sweep the board of everything else! Just printed a couple of sets ago, and she already leads 1,863 decks! She's amazing at drawing or growing into a Commander Damage threat, and then destroying all blockers to guarantee that kill. Note there are no once/turn or mana or tapping or other costs. She also loves power pumping or +1/+1 counters from other sources as well. Left are four slots, but five cards, and then every color save red at least twice.

Number Four

Sam, Loyal Attendant
Frodo, Adventurous Hobbit

This partner pair is next! Like Bilbo above, they are in the perfect life gain matters trio of cards in Abzan. The 2-drop Frodo can be dropped turn two, has vigilance and a 1/3 body to swing, and then a life gain trigger when he swings if you gained three life or more to have the Ring tempt you and if that's happened at least twice, you draw a card. Then you can drop Sam the next turn on three with a 2/4 body, also low power and higher toughness. At the beginning of your combat only, you'll make a free Food you can sac for life and triggering Frodo. Then your Food sacs cost one fewer so that's a nice boost too! This is a brilliant tandem of fun lovers! This pair is (sorta) our highest charting Abzan Commander if you count partners.

Number Three

Shanna, Purifying Blade

Our only Bant life gain card and one I know of is this fun thang! Again, blue isn't here, so t's only on color stuff like this, with this 3-drop Standard legal 3/3 with lifelink, on curve. She has an EOT trigger for just your turn. You can spend X mana to draw X cards! But you cannot draw more than your life gained this turn, minimum three with her base power on attacking. Tying in mass card draw really breaks her open, and then she's in blue to protect her and your life gain stuff with counters like Counterspell or Negate and if you tap out to draw, Force of Will and Fierce Guardianship might want to say a word or two for those who think you are open. See how powerful she is? She's worth the spot!

Number Two

Dina, Soul Steeper

Our highest scoring green, uncommon, and 2-drop is this 1/3 sized Golgari lady. When you gain life, your foes lose it, so that's a win con in the Command Zone! Then we have her sacrifice for a mana ,no tapping, of another dork to gain power equal to its. Dina is so good at doing all of the winning things! Love her loads!

Number One

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

Debuted as the Commander of the first Lifegain Commander pre-con deck as the #1 option, and even today when some are closing or passing him, I still love-hate Oloro! This is the only charting Esper Commander that I know of either. Say goodbye blue! In your upkeep you gain 2 life on the battlefield or in your Command Zone, so you never need to cast him! Or if killed, you can still net his effect! When you gain life you can swap a mana for a card. Just like Shanna above, but more reliable. Each foe will also lose a life like Dina so he combines both in one sexy package. This Giant Soldier is a bit pricey at six for a 4/5, but he is totally worth it, and, again, you are in the color of counters to ensure that resolution and keep on the board!

There we go! I hope that you enjoyed my final look at this fun archetype. It's so good! Who's your favorite?


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