I've been a little spoiled this spoiler season. First, we started out seeing an amazing build-around card in Bolas's Citadel, some great answers for control in Teferi, Time Raveler and Dovin's Veto, and, finally, some synergy for one of my all-time favorite strategies: lifegain.
Now, on its own, lifegain is one of the worst "victory conditions" out there. I put it in quotes because gaining life is practically never going to win you the game. What does win, however, is turning that lifegain into triggers and using your bloated life total to your advantage. With that in mind, I created the beast known as Orzhov Stayin' Alifegain.
To keep this deck cohesive, I had to make sure >90% of my cards either said "gain (some amount of) life" or "whenever you gain life". This deck wouldn't be nearly as feasible without the inclusion of Gideon Blackblade and Sorn, Vengeful Bloodlord. The problem these kinds of decks tend to face is that they're forced to play cards that, alone, aren't very good in order to reap the benefits of synergies that make them playable. Ajani's Pridemate on a clogged up board with no cards in hand is awful. In this deck, however, he's an all-star almost all the time. Contrast that, however, with Gideon Blackblade. You can play him turn 3 or turn 10, on an empty board or a clogged one vs control or vs aggro, it doesn't matter, he's still going to help you in some capacity. And synergy decks like this that can play all-around good cards as a part of their strategy can be incredibly powerful.
The other consideration for a synergy deck is not just the power level of the payoffs, but the consistency with which you can get one out. Ajani's Pridemate is a fine payoff for the 2-mana investment, but I can only have 4 in my deck. And what about late game? Pridemate is only really useful when played early and left on the battlefield through numerous lifegain triggers. I need something to play on turn 4, 5, 6 and later and be happy with it. That's another place where War of the Spark comes in. Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord can singlehandedly return our payoffs to the battlefield and turn on their synergies by passively giving them lifelink. If we're not returning something from the graveyard, then we can ping and trigger with his plus. Gideon's Company gives us another playset of a payoff alongside the Pridemate and Resplendent Angel.
Tweaking the List
It's important to note two things about this list: one, there were still a few spoilers unknown to me when I put it together, and two, I know nothing of what the meta will look like in the coming weeks.
There are two cards for serious consideration in this deck that were spoiled after I came up with the list: Oath of Kaya and Command the Dreadhorde.
Oath of Kaya has some clear synergies with our deck and at 3 mana is at on-par value. The fact that it can be a source of repeated lifegain is very valuable, as this deck is always looking for that, but there are some real downsides. One, it's sitting at the 3 mana slot, competing with Gideon Blackblade, Mortify, and Resplendent Angel, all dynamite cards in our deck. We don't really want to lose the unconditional removal of Mortify, but taking out a Moment of Craving for this further strains our already-high curve. I think this card deserves a slot, but only in the sideboard, as it only truly becomes valuable enough once we know we can make use of the second line of text.
Command the Dreadhorde is a dirty, filthy card. 6 mana for any number of planeswalkers and creatures is just stupid value. And, given the only other cost here is life, a deck that loves to bloat its life total is just loving a card like this. The only problem is: what do we take out? Like I mentioned with Oath of Kaya, we're already strained on our curve. This deck is not going to be getting out anything more than 4 lands consistently, either. Do we remove the Lyra Dawnbringers for it? Is it better than the synergies she offers? Maybe we bring in only one? I definitely want this card, I just don't know how to fit it in. The only way to figure that out is playing the deck, which unfortunately I can't do yet.
I'm definitely excited for this deck and I'm looking at getting these cards as soon as possible so I can jam it at FNM and Arena.
Until next time, this is Matt, and I'm Stayin' Alive... gain.