Do Your Worst - Izzet Lifegain
Lifegain in the Fast Lane
Hello everyone! Welcome to the third installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we will be looking at decks that should not be – or should they?
I was not surprised when I looked at the EDHREC Themes Page and found that lifegain strategies are the second most played archetype, right behind artifacts. Sitting behind a safe and comfortable life total, activating tons of triggers, assembling powerful game-ending combos and, best of all, "using life as a resource" - what's not to love?
If we analyze the archetype further, we see pretty clearly that white and black are almost always involved in this strategy, with green never that far away. When we think of lifegain, we think, , or . In this column, we try to shine the light on the lesser-played colors of a certain style. So, what happens if we try to bring the gaining of life to blue and red? Can we make an Izzet lifegain deck? What would that look like? I'm anxious to find out!
As always, let's begin by trying to find a commander that can put us on the right track. Sadly, only Time for a Scryfall search.contains "life" in its text, and it doesn't really suggest anything having to do with lifegain. Let's set him aside for now. We have to thin hard here - how do we actually gain life in Izzet? How do we use it? Do we have payoffs?
Hm. Based on those results, we see that red is particularly good at preventing other players from gaining life, with cards like, , and . Meanwhile, blue is almost entirely absent from our search. Looks like this archetype is far from supported in these colors. Perfect! This means we're in the right place!
This means we'll rely heavily on colorless cards to gain us life.resonates with Izzet's usual modus operandi, rewarding us for casting lots of spells. can give lifelink to our commander, as do a number of Equipment. Wait, that's it! What if we found a commander that can dish out some damage pretty regularly, and give it lifelink so that we gain absurd amounts of life whenever it hits?
Let's see: the Niv-Mizzets are interesting, although their mana value is quite high. Our commander will be an essential part of our strategy, so we want to cast it early and not get too punished by commander tax if it does get removed. can dish out some hurt, but we would have to lean on the Devotion pretty hard for him to stay a creature; we can't attach Equipment to enchantments!
After much deliberation, I think our best bet is to go with.
This lovely couple lets us control the board with each spell we cast, and gains us life along the way, as long as they're equipped with the right tools. Give them deathtouch and they get really nasty. Of course, we've got a few hoops to jump through, like giving our things flying, but who's afraid of that? We love jumping through hoops! We can useand as permanent flying effects so we don't have to worry about hurting our own stuff. Casting multicolored spells also seems like a good idea, because we can simultaneously trigger both halves of T&L's text.
I think we're on to something! Let's get brewing.
No Pain, No Lifegain
Let's try to capitalize on the damage we can deal with our commander.is very dangerous, as we only need to cast a single red spell to wipe the board. This is tricky, though: our creatures must have flying or you'll wipe them too, so remember to sequence the spells correctly! and also provide lifelink when attached to our commander. We don't have that many creatures to bring back with , but the protection and the lifegain is enough to warrant its inclusion.
I think it's then sensible to sprinkle in some creatures that will benefit from being Equipped with such tools, in case our commander is unavailable (curse you,!). comes to mind, and makes the cut as well. My favorite, though, is . Oh, you read it right. Hidetsugu itself deals the damage, so equip him with and revel in your opponents' despair. Yay!
With the Equipment taken care of, we can explore some, shall I say, more unknown parts of the lifegain engine. We'll be killing a lot of creatures, solooks solid here. It also protects you from that pesky player in your pod. and are not exactly what you'd call efficient, but they do the job and will trigger on opponents' spells too. offers a similar effect, but for our spells only.
Now onto some hidden gems. If green shows up consistently at your table, it might be worth it to play. It's super narrow, I know, but we'll take all the life we can get. is pure jank, even more so because we only have one way of giving it to an opponent: . Still, let's say we have out, and we could play Illusions of Grandeur to gain that little bit of life to Death-Star-beam our last opponent. Corner case, and risky, but what's life without a bit of spice?
What Am I Doing With My Life?
How do we use our precious resource? In white, payoffs likeabound. In black, paying life for a variety of effects can be really strong (looking at you, ). Well, we have no in our colors, but it turns out that red can pay life for a few things. is pretty funny and can lead to legitimately hard decisions for our opponents. is another bidding card, and if they don't want to pay, it's a for five mana. Not too bad! If they really want to hang on to their creature, we can make them pay with their sweet life. Mwahahaha! *Ahem* Moving on.
You know what's powerful? Paying life for mana.lets us do that, and that's broken. It's nice to have a little bit of power amidst our jank sometimes! Playing for 40 life is always fun. Plus, we can give the Minion token lifelink! I swear that this card has never backfired in the entire history of Magic. Yup, promise. Don't let my dreams be memes, people. Next, is a cool card if you can figure out what it does. I'm joking, I totally know what this card does. You pay life and you draw cards, and... stuff. And sometimes not. Whatever. Next section!
The Facts of Lifegain
Like every balanced and sensible deck, which this is not, we should try and include at least a reasonable amount of ramp, card advantage, and interaction.
Ramp and mana.
Card advantage. Our commander is all about casting spells, so we need spells in our hand. Shocking, I know.
Interaction. We're already interacting with the board a lot with
Just a thought on protecting our commander: we want to avoid Shroud as much as possible, because we won't be able to target Tibor and Lumia to give them flying with their ability. For this reason, we should go withand instead of .
Tutors. Look, our strategy is kind of fragile, and it relies on us having at least one way to give lifelink to our commander, so we're runningand to fish for our precious Equipment. We don't really want to tutor for , , or , so we exclude . It's so sad to split these triplets up, but here we are. We put in instead.
Now let's see the deck in its entirety:
🩹 Tibor and Lumia | Izzet Lifegain
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See You in Another Life(gain Deck)!
Wow, this is the first time that I feared we might not actually get there. But we kind of did? How exhilarating! The deck actually gains life and does something with it. I call that a win. Sure, sequencing is tricky, fatal errors with deathtouch will be made, and it's kind of a glass cannon, but the deck does the thing. Nice.
Beauty tips. It's always neat to have some lands that fit the flavor of the deck, Izzet'it? Did you know thatis actually one of the first Izzet legendary creatures? The Izzet League first appeared in Guildpact in 2006, and before that, there were some multicolored blue/red cards, but none of them were legendary. We can celebrate our love of Izzet with these nice Guilds of Ravnica Guild Kits basic lands.
How would you build an Izzet lifegain deck? Is there some obvious card that I missed? Maybe you would have gone with one of the Niv-Mizzets instead of? Let me know in the comments! I’m Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!