Too-Specific Top 10 - Life Debt
Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know thatis the only card with an activated ability that allows you to pay life to have your opponents lose life?)
If you're afan, do I have news for you! Now you can play it in the command zone!
All right, so no one is going to be playingfor his keywords, but that "lifelink" one especially is going to be relevant, because what people are going to be playing him to do is pay a ton of life. Speaking of which....
Top 10 Orzhov Activated Abilities You Pay Life For
There's no shortage of cards in the history of Magic with abilities you pay life to activate. Even among the most basic building blocks of the game, paying life has become a ho-hum endeavor that we barely pay attention to.
Top 10 Orzhov Lands You Pay Life To Use
So wouldn't it be great if the most commonplace life loss could now ramp you? While many people are undoubtedly excited about copying's coin flip ability with to make sure that they stay ahead on life, what pretty much anyone who looks into this legendary Vampire will find out in short order is that he can be by far the best Orzhov ramp card that's ever been printed. Sure, he doesn't allow you to copy mana abilities of things like or , but he does let you copy something else: .
The only problem? Not everyone likes fetches. Don't get me wrong: off-color fetch lands are legal to play and operate correctly within the color identity ruleset, keeping in mind that only seven of the ten fetches will have a a sentiment the Rules Committee agrees with, by the way), not to mention them being $40 apiece.or to grab. However, a ton of players are uncomfortable with playing off-color fetches, feeling that they don't fit the spirit of the color identity rules (
For those players that feel that way, they're going to be at a huge disadvantage when it comes to, as they're going to be restricted to two lands that ramp with their commander, as opposed to eight.
What does that mean from a list standpoint? That between fetch lands more or less automatically being the top ten slots and the controversy, we're just going to once again sidestep the entire lands issue in our criteria:
Criteria: Nonland cards within the Orzhov color identity that have a non-mana activated ability that either requires or allows you to pay life as part of the activation of that ability, but in which that is not the only requirement. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
Some of you might be wondering about that "only requirement" requirement, and let me tell you: its reason is a sneaky one that might surprise a lot of you. You see, there is a trap in's design that not everyone will see when they first start dumping every card that has "pay X life" on it into a deckbuilder: if the paying of the life is the only activation cost, then Verrak doesn't do anything.
To explain, let's take a look at, imagining that we had 101 life. That means that we could easily pay 50 life to nuke someone off the table, and then excitedly pay 50 life again to copy the ability with ! Thing is, we could already do that. Heck, in response to our first activation of , we can stack twenty more instances of it on top before we ever take a look at the first card, all without . The same is true for , , , and every other card that has paying life as its only requirement. In other words, don't play any of these cards unless you'd already be playing them without Verrak, and we won't be including them in our list.
(11,492 Inclusions, 1% of 837,470 Decks)
If you're brewing a more aggro build of, then is a pretty natural inclusion. While this fellow Vampire is a bit pricey up front, it's fairly easy to plop it down and then spend a turn doing nothing but stacking counters on it to have it pay off as either a finisher or a card draw engine. I don't think that will be the popular build of , but it will be a build that's out there. If you do decide to play with life totals or gaining life a bit more than combat, however, I'm not sure that I love as an option there.
(16,307 Inclusions, 2% of 837,470 Decks)
No matter your build of, you're always going to be happy to see . While normally it's considered to be a bit inferior to , given that you need to "spend" a mana to use it, it's not an open-and-shut case because you do get to draw a card immediately if you have an extra untapped land sitting around. Combine that with it suddenly becoming two cards with , and now you're (re)opening the conversation about whether or not this might be better than !
(Helms 492 Decks, Rank #689; 21,415 Inclusions, 3% of 837,470 Decks)
The general consensus onis that it's bad , but those that have reached that consensus have never had this randomly cast against their lifegain deck. Being an indestructible not-always-creature enchantment, Erebos is very difficult to remove, and he can incidentally shut entire decks down. All of which might be worth paying the extra mana, especially since decks probably play both anyhow!
(25,804 Inclusions, 2% of 1,625,489 Decks)
, on the other hand, I'm not so sold on. Even outside of decks, I've been seeing less and less of this card, really only seeing it these days in slower artifact builds, so unless you're building as an artifact commander, you're probably better off leaving this five-mana Goat-maker in the Maybeboard.
(Helms 128 Decks, Rank #1,211; 27,396 Inclusions, 3% of 837,470 Decks)
At first, I thought that I'd also dismissout of hand. At eight mana, Razaketh is usually reserved for builds. As we already covered, though, is actually one of the easier Orzhov decks to get to eight mana with, and if you can get to eight, is a house of a repeatable that should absolutely win you any game it remains in, even before you end up copying the ability.
(28,761 Inclusions, 3% of 837,470 Decks)
might be better at sticking around and incidentally hosing random decks, but if anything, many players take that as more of a reason to play . Letting a deck do its thing is much more likely to get you smiles at a table, but is also less likely to have people removing your draw outlet in the first place. Combine that with the activations being cheaper, and it's definitely a question of whether you play all three of Erebos, , and , rather than whether you play .
(30,990 Inclusions, 2% of 1,625,489 Decks)
Man, this Top Ten really wants us to play aartifact deck, doesn't it? Let's take a look at the feasibility:
Top Artifact or Cares-About-Artifacts Cards With Activated Abilities That Have You Pay Life
The end of that list starts getting pretty thin, pretty quick. While I'm all for a brewing challenge, I'm not sure that even if you wanted to build aartifact deck that you'd want in it. The whole idea of the exile ability is just get the top card off of the library so you can look at the next card. Exiling an extra card doesn't really do anything for you, and you'd struggle to get enough other relevant artifacts that didn't work with , which makes this pretty much a non-starter.
(Helms 3,369 Decks, Rank #118; 33,471 Inclusions, 4% of 837,470 Decks)
Aristocrats strategy. There's no doubt that Yawgmoth is extremely powerful, but if you don't have synergies with counters, and you don't have a ton of creatures to sacrifice, then he's a clunky fit even if you're throwing out twice the -1/-1 counters and drawing twice the cards.works a bit better than in the average build of , but I'd be hesitant if you weren't in a dedicated
In other words, if yourdeck has a bunch of tokens or small creatures, then this is a slam dunk. Otherwise, it's very possible you'll spend four mana on Yawgmoth to look around the board state and wonder if his best sacrifice at the moment might be himself.
(Helms 743 Decks, Rank #545; 38,128 Inclusions, 5% of 837,470 Decks)
more than passes the "eight-mana cards should more or less win you the game" test, and at least in a deck, might be even better. At the very least, it will have fewer people checking their phones as you thumb through your deck, as you can just draw the whole thing instead!
(43,232 Inclusions, 5% of 837,470 Decks)
Not all your creatures will cost eight mana, though, and thus you're likely to love doubling up on. While not every deck is going to be routinely filling the graveyard, there will be enough incidental deaths through combat and board wipes that there's no way you won't be able to use this to repeatedly loop through some utility creatures, which is the kind of slow build that can get you through the long game.
There are some favorites of mine that I would love to shout out, but it turns out there's enough of them that I should probably just do the whole list instead:
The Rest of the Top 25
All of which more or less culminates in a decklist I put together to abuse all of this life loss!
Vampyr Life Debt
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Nuts and Bolts
There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.
What Do You Think?
I tried to keep all of the various possible builds ofin mind throughout today, but as you'll note I eventually ended up building a build. That's a strategy that has more or less been entirely restricted to before now, which got me wondering...
As much as I love the life swap strategy, however, I must also at least glance at the can of worms I opened with the first quarter of the article:
Finally, what is your favorite card that can have its ability copied with? What's your more in-depth opinion on off-color fetches?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table with all of the haphazard screws all throughout. Whatever it takes to get a game of Commander in, right?