New players of Magic: The Gathering often find themselves drawn to life-gain strategies. In a race to deal damage as swiftly as possible, having an advantage in life points can give you the upper hand. However, not all life-gain spells are created equal. Spells that merely gain life, without any other impact on the board, will only momentarily delay the inevitable.
Luckily, there are numerous passive ways to gain life in Magic. One such valuable keyword ability is lifelink. Let’s delve into what lifelink does and why it holds significance.
What is Lifelink?
If a creature possesses lifelink, any damage it deals allows its controller to gain an equivalent amount of life. This includes both combat and non-combat damage. Therefore, if your creature with lifelink engages in a fight with another creature outside of combat or inflicts damage through an activated ability, you will still gain life!
Although lifelink may not confer an advantage in combat, it does enhance the value of creatures. Whenever a creature with lifelink deals damage to a player, the gap between the life totals of both players widens. Additionally, these creatures are prime targets for enchantments, equipment, and instants that enhance their abilities. If you find yourself facing such a creature, prioritize removing it from the board.
In case you are unable to prevent a creature with lifelink from attacking or blocking, the best course of action is to prevent it from dealing combat damage. If a creature with lifelink cannot deal damage, its controller will not gain any life. Below are a few techniques you can employ to prevent damage when your opponent attacks you with a creature possessing lifelink:
- Block with a creature with first strike or double strike. These creatures deal damage before the regular combat damage step.
- Block with a creature that has protection from the creature with lifelink.
- Block with a creature and sacrifice it before the combat damage step. Note: If the attacking creature has both lifelink and trample, you will still take the damage, and your opponent will still gain the life.
- Reduce the attacking creature’s power to 0.
- Cast a spell that prevents combat damage.
Examples of Lifelink
Lifelink is a prevalent ability found on creatures across various Magic sets. It is commonly associated with white or black creatures. Let’s explore a few examples:
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice
Let’s start with one of the most sought-after cards in Double Masters. Lifelink may not be the primary reason to include Atraxa, but it is one of many abilities that make her the most popular commander in the game.
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
While Vito himself does not possess lifelink, he is one of the best payoff cards for life-gain strategies in Standard and Brawl.
You may have encountered Heliod, who grants lifelink to creatures in Standard, Historic, or Pioneer formats. Heliod’s ability to bestow +1/+1 counters on creatures whenever you gain life creates an infinite combo with Walking Ballista.
Soulfire Grand Master
Soulfire Grand Master not only possesses lifelink itself but also imparts lifelink to your instants and sorceries! This applies only to spells that deal damage but can be extremely gratifying, transforming a Lightning Bolt into a one-mana Lightning Helix.
Expand your knowledge of keyword abilities by exploring our other primers:
- First Strike & Double Strike
- Flying & Reach
With a solid understanding of lifelink, you can wield this powerful keyword ability to gain an edge in your Magic: The Gathering battles.