18

You start this game with 3 cards of your choice in hand.
Your opponent starts with 0 cards in their hand.
Both libraries do not contain any other useful cards.

What is the highest life total you can end your turn at?

Assume you start at 20 life points. Beyond that, the rules can follow any of the official two-player formats by Wizard of the Coast.


Extra Challenge: If you want a personal challenge (although this is not what I am looking for in the answers to this question), try to find the 4-card infinite-life combo that made me restrict the puzzle to 3 cards only.

  • 1
    Define "useful cards"... can you use cards in your library in some way as long as you aren't casting them or otherwise caring about what specific cards they are? – GendoIkari Oct 23 at 18:18
  • 2
    @GendoIkari If a specific card is needed for the solution to work, that card is not in either library. If any card would work, that's fine (such as if hand-size or discard is needed) – David Coffron Oct 23 at 18:34
  • 1
    @Gendolkari Probably not. In that case creatures would be useful cards since they are vital to the solution. – David Coffron Oct 23 at 18:40
  • 2
    @DavidCoffron When you say "end your turn", do you mean that the opponent has to be alive after whatever actions I take until the regular end of my turn, or can the combo immediately win the game as well? – Hackworth Oct 23 at 20:16
  • 1
    It seems to me to depend on 2 things. What is the legality rules, and what is your starting life total? A few of my friends made a format where you start at 500+ life, or you could be at 40, or 20! Please specify. – CollinB Oct 24 at 19:16
26

You can be at 105 life. With just 2 cards, you can be at 103 life. You can also be at arbitrarily high life with 2 cards, depending on how you and your opponent play it out.

The 2-card combo is Black Lotus and Game of Chaos.

If you win (+1), lose (-2), lose (-4), win (+8), lose (-16), win (+32), win (+64), assuming you both keep playing exactly until someone gets to zero life or below, you will be at 20, 21, 19, 15, 23, 7, 39, 103 life. Play Radiant Fountain for another 2 life.

Of course, technically you could go to an arbitrary life total as long as you keep winning and choose to continue, because your opponent doesn't lose while the spell is still resolving. But I'm assuming rational play, i.e. the coin flip winner chooses to end the Game of Chaos as soon as the opponent falls below 1 life, so I've imposed this as a boundary condition to make the answer more interesting.

  • 2
    OP asks for the highest life total you can end your turn with, do you end the turn if your opponent loses? – Taemyr Oct 23 at 18:53
  • 3
    Of course. When the game ends, the turn ends also. You are thinking of "finishing" the turn, which is a difference. – Hackworth Oct 23 at 18:54
  • 1
    I think the infinite-life solution is far more interesting - the goal isn't to win, it's to have the highest life total. – Nuclear Wang Oct 23 at 19:37
  • 3
    This question was about the difference between ending and finishing a turn. Spoiler: the official tournament rules use the term "finishing" a turn to mean to take it through all its phases, while "ending" a turn means ending it immediately as per CompRules 716. Also see CR 104, "Ending the game". – Hackworth Oct 23 at 20:08
  • 6
    You should use Providence instead of Radiant Fountain for 4 more – Zags Oct 24 at 22:34
15

Here is my best solution (42 Life Points):

3 Cards:

Turn

  1. Pass until Precombat Main Phase
  2. Play Radiant Fountain [gain 2 life]
  3. Cast Black Lotus
  4. Activate Radiant Fountain
  5. Activate Black Lotus's ability, adding enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here
  6. Cast Illusions of Grandeur [gain 20 life]
  7. Pass until End Phase
  • 2
    I think it is very likely that this is the greatest amount of life you can gain deterministically in a single turn with 3 cards. There aren't any good combos with just 0-cost cards, so you need mana. Illusions of Grandeur is the card that deterministically gains you the most life immediately without any other supporting cards. And Radiant Fountain is the 0-cost card that gains the most life immediately without any other supporting cards. – murgatroid99 Oct 23 at 19:36
  • 1
    The best deterministic solution I can find with only two cards is 35: Nourishing Shoal + Autochthon Wurm. – Peter Taylor Oct 24 at 20:35
14

41 life without using Black Lotus

This is a legacy/modern entry (i.e. doesn't use Black Lotus).

Reveal Providence to go to 26 life. Then exile Autochthon Wurm to cast Nourishing Shoal to gain 15 life.

Multiplayer: 20 + 9 * number of opponents

The question clarifies that there are two players. If we relax that restriction, we can do better in cases where there are 4 or more players. Have 3 Chancellor of the Dross in your opening hand and reveal all three to steal 9 life per opponent.

4 Cards: Arbitrarily high life

The question specifies three cards for a reason. Allowing one more card lets you go infinite. The 4 cards are Black Lotus, Daru Spiritualist, Shuko, and Diamond Valley.

Use Black Lotus to Cast Daru Spiritualist and Shuko. Repeatedly equip Shuko to Daru Spiritualist, giving Daru Spiritualist +2 toughness each time, until has [arbitrarity high odd number] toughness. Play Diamond Valley and use it to sacrifice Daru Spiritualist to gain [arbitrarity high odd number] life.

  • you typed mgt instead of mtg in your shuko link, fixed it for you :) – DenisS Oct 26 at 17:58
7

I'm going to cheat a bit... because you didn't specifically state that this was a 2-player game only (though you did use the word "both"...)

Hand:

This gives you an unbounded 3n life, where n is the number of opponents you have in the game.

With only 2 cards, you can get 2n life using Syphon Soul instead.

  • 6
    They say "both libraries", and they also say "opponent" singular. I think this is a stretch. – murgatroid99 Oct 23 at 18:23
  • 1
    I agree it's a stretch. I did mention the use of the word "both" in my answer. – GendoIkari Oct 23 at 18:23
  • 2
    4n: Exsanguinate – Peter Taylor Oct 24 at 19:02
  • 2
    3x Chancellor of the Dross for 9n – Zags Oct 24 at 22:35
  • 1
    Why not just dark ritual from the lotus and not have this 2 lotus nonsense. Or I guess a swamp – Andrey Oct 25 at 13:59
6

Black Lotus x 2, Auriok Salvagers, Stream of Life

Play the lotuses and crack them for white. Cast Salvagers, use the 2 leftover to return lotus.

Cast lotus, crack for white, return lotus -> repeat as much as you want to gain a white mana each loop.

Return lotus, crack for green mana, cast stream of life for x + arbitrarily large number .

  • 3
    I count 4 cards in your solution – murgatroid99 Oct 23 at 19:22
  • 7
    @murgatroid99 He may have been solving for my 4-card infinite (although my solution was different)... Perhaps I should have been clear that that isn't what I wanted in answers. – David Coffron Oct 23 at 19:27
5

The best I can manage is 32 life:

A second solution for 32 life:

  • Black Lotus
  • Ritual of Restoration
  • Weather the Storm

    1. Cast Black Lotus and sacrifice for 3 white mana.
    2. Cast Ritual of Restoration, returning Black Lotus to hand.
    3. Cast Black Lotus and sacrifice for 3 green mana.
    4. Cast Weather the Storm, creating 3 copies with storm. [gain 3 life * 4]
  • 2
    All the other answers are accounting the initial 20 life, I suggest you do the same to provide a comparable result. – Bernat Oct 24 at 13:19
  • Yeah, my first assumption was that this was a joke answer and you were intentionally damaging yourself rather than gaining life. – aslum Oct 24 at 13:59
  • 1
    I love that even with this combo, it's just barely above lotus+chaplain's blessing+chaplain's blessing – CollinB Oct 24 at 19:22
4

Black Lotus x2
Beacon of immortality

Depends on the format how much life you gain. 20 on a default game for example or 40 in Commander for example

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