More Lifegain On The Stack, Please
In my last article, I talked about white damage prevention and the benefits of lifegain. I am going to continue briefly on the second topic here today. When I finish with that topic, I am going to discuss creature casting costs and a possible method for readers to judge their efficiency.
Previously, I was commenting on the advantages that lifegain gives a player. I really wish I had used the following argument in that article also:
"Lifegain enables you to eliminate or cripple players at no cost to you." -
Diabolic Cows: The Schematics of Multiplayer and Bovine Influence, The Ferrett, 11/3/00
What our esteemed editor was referring to was that a person with a higher life total than normal can let someone else's damage through free of charge, while you concentrate all of your resources on offense. The higher life total allows you to ignore the usual necessity of withholding potential attackers for fear of damage received if you send everything that you can. You can afford to take some hits without being in actual danger of dying.
I agree wholeheartedly with the esteemed editor's viewpoint here; I can speak from experience that this works and has won games for me in the past. I was able to commit all of my creatures to attacking, and not give a damn whether I left myself completely open or not. Being able to concentrate all of my firepower on one person gets them killed quicker than having to hold back some creatures for defense.
I think that almost covers the topic of lifegain. I would like to make just one final comment, and then change topics. I mentioned in my last article that, like players before me, I had been subjected to the irritation that arises when opponent successfully casts a Congregate. I also have experienced the futility of fighting an opponent who managed to pull off an infinite life combo.
I have also had an infinite combo pulled on me where I had my entire library milled out from under me, so that as soon as my turn came around again, I died due to being unable to draw a card.
I have also had an infinite combo pulled on me where an opponent cast a Fireball that killed everyone else at the table.
I have also had an infinite combo pulled on me where an opponent put out one million Slivers, all of whom had all been hastened.
All of those situations wound up with my life total being utterly irrelevant, regardless of how high I managed to get it... So stop worrying about the lifegain twit sitting quietly in the corner. You should be more concerned with the damage-dealing combo bozo sitting next to you who believes with a devotion bordering on the fanatical that there is no such thing as too much firepower.
That having been said, let's move on to examining creature costs.
What I consider to be of interest in terms of a creature's casting cost could very well be met with disdain by someone else; how people judge whether they like a creature of not could depend on color preference, what creature abilities they are looking for or prefer, or on whether the creature fits into a certain type of deck or not.
I am going to explain the method I use for determining whether a creature's casting cost is worth it or not. I am going to do this so people will know how I have come to classify a creature's worth, and also to possibly help any newcomers to the game get a rough idea of how to do this. Let's start with creatures that have no special abilities.
When I pay one mana, I expect a creature to either have one point of power and toughness each, or two points assigned to either side. For example, for one mana, I want a creature that is a 1/1, an 0/2, or a 2/0... And yes, I know the last one isn't possible. For two mana, I want a 2/2, a 1/3, a 3/1, an 0/4, and so on.
A reader may think, okay, what is my take on a 2/3 for three mana? Not good enough, I reply, based on just that data. Keep in mind that special abilities are not being taken into consideration yet. A player might also think, based on this, that a Savannah Lion, which is a 2/1 for one mana is particularly good. I would agree that it is - although the single odd point on either side is not something I would usually pay attention to. Just greedy, I guess; I want two points for my mana.
Now let's introduce special abilities. A Soul Warden is a 1/1 creature for one white mana. So far, everything is fair and equitable. However, Soul Warden also gains you a point of health for every other creature that comes into play, including your own. For this ability, it could be priced at two mana and still be fair. The situation remains the same with a Mother of Runes, another 1/1 creature for one white mana. The Mother can be tapped to give another creature you control protection from a color of your choice until the end of the turn. This is another creature that would be fairly costed at two mana. That both of these creatures only cost one mana is very economical.
I usually stay with the same cost-per-benefit for abilities, meaning that I expect to pay one mana for one ability. So for a creature that has protection from a single color, I would expect to pay one mana for, and so on down the line, from trampling to haste to first strike. This particularly holds true if I am expected to have to tap the creature in order to gain the ability, as now the creature cannot attack or block. As I mentioned before, I am greedy.
What should be emphasized again is that personal preferences and deck types and formats do play a role in deciding whether a creature is to be used or not. There are some creatures, however, that should be considered good regardless of the circumstances. The White Knight is two white mana for a 2/2 creature that also has first strike and protection from black. A creature like this simply cannot be disregarded without serious contemplation in a deck involving white - and the same goes for a Paladin en-Vec. This holds particularly true in multiplayer games, when the odds of someone not playing black or red gets drastically reduced.
There are two final points that I want to make: The first is that perspectives change over time. I used to think that the card Crash of Rhinos was a lousy card; it costs eight mana to cast, something I used to think was too hard to even contemplate. Now I know better. The way my system works, you end up paying one mana more than what the power, toughness, and trampling ability combined is worth. However, further extensive playing with green decks over the years has led me to realize that a mono-colored green deck has a good rate of speed, when built correctly, for getting the necessary mana to cast these monstrosities. So I do not have the aversion to this card, among others, that I once did.
The second point was something that I thought you might wonder about; would I want a creature ability, regardless of whether I paid one colored mana or one colorless? For example, if a creature has a protection from one color, would I care whether I paid one white mana or one colorless mana for this ability? Does a "colored" mana have more value than a colorless? More buying power, so to speak?
Unfortunately, I am not entirely sure... But I would probably say no. Ironically, I have been going through a phase in my playing lately that has made me extremely aware of the casting cost of spells, as well as the vast expanse of difference that exists between the words "Instant" and "Sorcery."
But that is another topic for another article. In my next article, I will be ranting about Anthony Alongi's views on the color white again, and examining creature abilities. Happy New Year, and be safe.