It’s Almost 900! (A Tale of Epic Life-Gain)

It all started with me, my boyfriend, and two Magic decks we had never played against each other–his Zombie Clerics (known as “Priests of Pain and Drain”) against my Sanguine Bond & Boon Reflection (affectionately nicknamed “Sanguine Boon”) deck.


Priests of Pain and Drain decklist @ EssentialMagic.com

Sanguine Boon decklist @ EssentialMagic.com

The Opposing Strategies

My boyfriend’s Zombie Cleric deck’s strategy is actually pretty simple, revolving around a four-card combo: Cabal Archon, Rotlung Reanimator, Conspiracy, and any random Cleric to begin the fun. Use Cabal Archon to sacrifice Clerics to gain 2 life and make the opponent lose 2 life (this is called a “life swap”). Now, thanks to the Reanimator, the Clerics you sack through the Archon give you Zombie tokens, which then become Clerics themselves with the use of Conspiracy set to Clerics. Repeat cycle as long as you have mana to do it.

My Sanguine Boon deck is also pretty simple: gain enough life to be able to stall till I get Sanguine Bond (and, if I’m lucky, Boon Reflection). Then, play more super-cheap life-gain spells/abilities, causing major life loss through Sanguine Bond and the ability to draw more life-gain spells using Well of Lost Dreams. (I’ve spoken about this strategy before, but not in this larger context.)

How These Strategies Faced Off

My boyfriend’s strategy would have probably succeeded against mine in the early stages of the game, if I had not played an Isochron Scepter with Rest for the Weary imprinted on it. Ever after, every time I played a land, I would be gaining 8 life instead of just 4, and I could gain at least 4 life every turn. But, because I don’t play much offense in my deck, he was able to amass his combo fairly soon after I had played the Scepter-Rest combo, and so he was able to start draining me of my newly-gained life points.

Stalling Like Mad vs. Life Drain Like Mad

Fast-forward to about turn 25 or 30, and both of our decks were running at near-top capacity. I now had two Boon Reflections out, gaining 16 a turn off Rest for the Weary if I hadn’t played a land and 32 a turn if I had played a land. But my boyfriend was able to drain at least 16-20 life off me per turn with the Cabal Archon “sack-a-Cleric” combo. With all the early-game life gain I had done, he was not able to defeat me entirely, but was able to make my life total yo-yo all over the place. We were both fighting for purchase; he was trying to keep my life total under control, and I was trying to survive until I could get that darned Sanguine Bond, which still hadn’t shown up yet.

Game-Changer: Well of Lost Dreams for 7 Cards

The almost literal stalemate continued for the next few turns. At last, I pulled Well of Lost Dreams; I played it, used Ghost-Lit Redeemer’s ability to gain 8 life, and paid 7 mana to draw 7 cards, since I had been top-decking for most of the game. The long-awaited Sanguine Bond was the first card I drew, and Demonic Tutor was the last, promising a second Sanguine Bond in hand if I could last that long. My life total was now up around 400-500, with my boyfriend’s life total just a little higher. I thought I could make it. 😉

Sanguine Bond (x2) for the Win!

Once the first Sanguine Bond was played, I sacked the two Sunspring Expeditions I’d had ready and waiting on the table for most of the game, which created a 32-point life-swap thanks to the double Boon Reflections. That, plus my usual Scepter-Rest combo and a Ghost-Light Redeemer or two gaining me more life, drained him of over 150 life in one turn. Then…well, I managed to retrieve the other Sanguine Bond; though I wasn’t able to play it that turn, I knew next turn would become even stronger, as I gained quadruple life and made him lose quadruple life, twice.

A couple of turns after I played the second Sanguine Bond, it was over, 2 hours after we had started. My ending life total was 894–and that was with my boyfriend draining off 32 every turn for close to 20 turns. :O How high would it have gone if he hadn’t been keeping it down somewhat? The world may never know.

So, using my Sanguine Boon deck, I finally beat my boyfriend’s Zombie Cleric deck…and it only took 2 hours of free time. Ahh, extreme-long-game Magic at its best. 😀

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