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Lifegain isn't the most exciting strategy in Commander, but what if I told you that there are some very spicy pay-offs to having lots of life?

This deck is quintessential Orzhov; accumulating mass wealth in the form of life, then spending it to order hits on people you don't like, buying into and solidifying positions of power, and just overall being a dick.

  • Karlov of the Ghost Council seems weak on the surface but with the sheer amount of Lifegain sources in this deck, he can easily reach 8/8 status in just a few spell casts. And let's not forget that his removal ability is Instant speed, so we can always just hold him at a high power and threaten the cast while we wait for something worth exiling.

If there's no threat, Karlov simply gets bigger and bigger. On top of all that, he only costs 2 mana, meaning he can come down on turn 2 and start growing. Turn 1 Soul's Attendant or Soul Warden into turn 2 Karlov is the ideal start, because he'll be a 4/4 as soon as he comes into play.

The nice thing is, however, that this deck can function just fine without him. It's a grindy deck that systematically drains opponents with stax and lifegain until it is so far ahead that they simply cannot out-grind it. Karlov provides a bit of protection in the form of removal but he isn't strictly NEEDED to win.

  • Giver of Runes can tap itself to provide protection to one of our other creatures.

  • Mother of Runes is very similar except it can protect itself but doesn't help against colorless sources.

  • Serra Ascendant is an incredibly powerful card in Commander because we automatically start with 40 life so if we have this in our opening hand we get to start the game with a 6/6 Flying Lifelinker. It's also not a bad late game draw either, especially in this deck that focuses on keeping a high life total.

  • Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant are the same card for all intents and purposes. They each gain us 1 life whenever another creature enters the battlefield, ours or our opponents' and tokens included.

  • Auriok Champion also gains us 1 life whenever another creature enters the battlefield but it also has protection from Red and Black so it dodges a lot of common removal in EDH.

  • Daxos, Blessed by the Sun gains us 1 life whenever we play a creature and whenever one of our creatures dies.

  • Suture Priest gains us 1 life whenever we play a creature and pings our opponents for 1 whenever they play a creature.

  • Nyx-Fleece Ram is a tough 0/5 body that can block a lot of early creatures and it reliably gains us 1 life during each of our upkeeps.

  • Grand Abolisher prevents our opponents from pulling any shenanigans during our turn.

  • Angel of Vitality increases the effectiveness of all of our life gain effects and rewards us for having a high life total.

  • Mentor of the Meek allows us to pay 1 to draw a card whenever we play a creature with 2 or less power, of which we have several in this deck. This guy is a very reliable source of card draw.

  • Recruiter of the Guard can tutor for any creature with 2 or less toughness. There are a lot of options to choose from.

  • Ranger-Captain of Eos can tutor for any creature with converted mana cost 1 or less. We can also sacrifice it to stop opponents from casting non-creature spells for that turn, useful for when we want to combo off or prevent opponents from combo'ing off.

  • Heliod, Sun-Crowned rewards us for gaining life by buffing our creatures. It can also give another creature lifelink, useful for when we have an open attack on an opponent and have some extra mana to spend.

  • Drana's Emissary drains our opponents for 1 life on each of our upkeeps. If this is allowed to stick around for a prolonged amount of time, the damage will start to rack up and it will demand an answer.

  • Indulging Patrician has Flying and Lifelink which makes it a good source of evasive lifegain. If we happen to gain 3 or more life in a turn, each of opponents lose 3 life at the end of it.

  • Kambal, Consul of Allocation punishes opponents for playing non-creature spells by draining them for 2 life each time they do so.

  • Lurrus of the Dream-Den allows us to cast a permanent spell with CMC2 or less from our graveyard each turn, of which we have plenty. A lot of our small creatures are valuable and we have plenty of annoying Enchantments and Artifacts that opponents will be trying to constantly get rid of.

  • Tymna the Weaver is a reliable card draw engine while also having Lifelink to synergize with the rest of our deck. We also have a lot of small, go-wide creatures in a deck packed with a lot of removal options so it's not unlikely that we'll be consistently drawing 3 cards off of her in a typical game of EDH.

  • Murderous Rider gives us the option of Instant speed removal while also being able to return as a 2/3 body with Lifelink. What's not to like?

  • Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose is a Sanguine Bond on a stick that can also give our whole team lifelink in order to benefit from it.

  • Ranger of Eos tutors for any 2 creatures with CMC 1 or less, of which we have several options. Mother of Runes if we want to protect something, Soul Warden if we have a Bitterblossom and want to benefit from it, or Serra Ascendant if we want to be hated.

  • Rhox Faithmender doubles the effectiveness of all of our life gain sources. It also has a tough 1/5 body that's hard to get rid of and has Lifelink itself so it will gain us at least 2 life each time it connects.

  • Wall of Reverence has a tough 1/6 body with Flying which makes it an excellent blocker but more importantly, it gains us life at the end of our turn equal to the power of any creature we control. So at a minimum, that's +1 life (assuming all we have is the Wall) but it's usually much better because we'll have other creatures to take advantage of.

  • Mangara, the Diplomat deters opponents from attacking us and if they do, we get to draw a card if they swing with 2 or more creatures. More importantly however, it draws us a card whenever an opponent casts their second spell per turn. In Commander, that's huge value because mid to late game, most players will have the mana and will want to cast multiple spells in a turn. Keep in mind, it says "an opponent" and "each turn", so if an opponent casts (for example) 2 instant spells during another player's turn, Mangara draws us a card. It doesn't have to be the caster's turn, it can be anyone's turn as long as any opponent casts their second spell.

  • Archangel of Thune is insane value in this deck because each time we gain life, it buffs our whole team by a permanent +1/+1. These counters also count toward Karlov of the Ghost Council's effect. The more we stack, the more things we can exile.

  • Divinity of Pride in EDH is basically an 8/8 with Flying and Lifelink. On the off chance that we are below 25 life, it's still a 4/4 with Flying and Lifelink so it can put us back in the game and buff itself when the life threshold is met.

  • Witch of the Moors helps us keep the board under control by forcing opponents to sacrifice a creature at the end of each of our turns in which we gained life. She then allows us to bring a creature from our graveyard back into our hand for extra value.

  • Land Tax can essentially "draw" us 3 cards every turn as long as an opponent has more lands than we do. This also helps make sure that we don't miss our land drops and thins our deck so we have a better chance of drawing some action instead of more lands.

  • Authority of the Consuls forces our opponents' creatures to enter the battlefield tapped and gains us a life whenever one does.

  • Blind Obedience forces enemy creatures AND artifacts to enter tapped. This slows down mana rocks such as Mana Crypt and Mana Vault because our opponents can't play and tap them immediately. If we have spare mana whenever our opponents play a creature, we can pay the Extort cost and drain the table; which in most cases is -1 for each opponent and +3 for us (assuming it's a 4 player table).

  • Ajani's Mantra is just a plain and simple lifegain effect on each of our upkeeps.

  • Dawn of Hope give us the option to draw cards by paying mana whenever we gain life. It can also generate 1/1 Tokens with Lifelink. A good mana sink if we have no other plays so it's never really a dead card.

  • Bitterblossom helps us keep up our board presence and the life loss is offset by all the sources of life gain we have. If we have just a single Soul Warden, we're basically getting a free 1/1 Faerie token every turn with no downside.

  • Phyrexian Arena lets us draw an extra card each turn at the exchange of 1 life, which really isn't much of a downside considering how much lifegain we have in the rest of the deck.

  • Sanguine Bond drains our opponents whenever we gain life.

  • Exquisite Blood gains us life whenever our opponents lose any of it, even if we weren't the cause of the life loss. This means that whenever they duke it out, we sit back, relax and gain all the life that they've lost. This card also combos infinitely with Sanguine Bond or Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

  • Fountain of Renewal is basically just an Ajani's Mantra that costs 1 less and gives us the option to sac it for an extra card in a pinch.

  • Wayfarer's Bauble is the closest thing we'll have to a Rampant Growth in mono white.

  • Shadowspear is a very versatile card. One of the problems this deck faces is when an opponent has ways of repeatedly putting chump blockers in front of Karlov of the Ghost Council or any one of our other big creatures so giving it Trample is a great way to push damage through. Additionally, the ability to strip away Hexproof and Indestructible from enemy permanents opens them up to being taken out by things like Generous Gift or Karlov's own effect.

  • Sol Ring, Orzhov Signet and Arcane Signet are just reliable mana rocks.

  • Smuggler's Copter allows our weaker creatures to make themselves useful by Crewing the coptor and letting us swing in the air. The looting effect is also a great way to dig through our deck and find combo pieces or answers to the current board state.

  • Pristine Talisman isn't the most efficient mana rock but it does provide 1 life whenever it's tapped so it's a reliable way to trigger Karlov of the Ghost Council.

  • Aetherflux Reservoir rewards us for having so many small, cheap spells because it gains us massive amounts of life in a single turn. It also helps police the board because if we have more than 50 life, we can just instant-speed nuke whichever player is starting to become a problem.

  • Whip of Erebos is really only in here to give our whole team Lifelink. Occasionally we can use it to reanimate a dead creature to benefit from some of our ETB effects.

  • Demonic Tutor can search for any card we need and put it into our hand.

  • Diabolic Intent does the same thing except it requires us to sacrifice a creature. We have plenty of cheap creatures that this shouldn't be an issue. Besides, a lot of these creatures can be brought back thanks to Lurrus of the Dream-Den or we can simply use a throwaway creatures such as a Bitterblossom or Dawn of Hope token.

  • Wrath of God is just a board wipe in case we need to reset the battlefield.

  • Kaya's Wrath is another board wipe except it also gains us life if it destroys any of our creatures.


  • This deck lives and dies on its triggers. You have to make sure you're keeping track of what you have on the board and how you and your opponents' plays are impacting the game.

  • Things like Soul Warden may be easy to remember whenever YOU play a creature but remember that enemy creatures entering the battlefield trigger the life gain as well.

  • Passive triggers like Fountain of Renewal and Drana's Emissary. There may be a lot of things going on in later stages of the game but each of these triggers is worth 2 +1/+1 counters on Karlov of the Ghost Council. That's a lot of power. Just one missed trigger can mean the difference between being able to Exile something with Karlov or just losing the game to a creature that got out of control. Your opponents do not have a responsibility to remind you of these triggers, you have to remember them!

  • Remember to draw a card if someone else plays 2 spells in a turn while you have Mangara, the Diplomat on the board.


  • It's your job to remind opponents what they can and can't do. Don't get salty when you realize somebody's explosive turn shouldn't have happened because you forgot to remind them their Mana Crypt enters tapped due to Blind Obedience.

  • Remind players with non-basic lands that they enter tapped if Thalia, Heretic Cathar is on the board.

  • Remind them to sac a creature if you gained life while Witch of the Moors is on the board.

  • Remember to drain them if they play a non-creature spell with Kambal, Consul of Allocation on the board.


Updates Add


Date added 2 months
Last updated 2 days

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

7 - 0 Mythic Rares

45 - 0 Rares

13 - 0 Uncommons

10 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.62
Tokens 3/3 Elephant, 1/1 Faerie Rogue, 1/1 Soldier, Companion
Folders Uncategorized
Ignored suggestions
Shared with

Revision 5 See all

2 days ago)

+1 Brightclimb Pathway  Flip main
+1 Dire Tactics maybe
+1 Disenchant main
-1 Enlightened Tutor main
+1 Lightning Greaves maybe
+1 Marauding Blight-Priest maybe
-1 Prismatic Vista main