Life gain is an interesting strategy in Modern. Gaining an infinite amount of life doesn’t even win the game against every deck in the format, while gaining a bunch can put you in a strong position against others. Soul Sisters has seen some fringe success, and Martyr Proc can gain obscene amounts of life without the same vulnerability to cheap removal on a Soul Warden.
Martyr of Sands looks like it does very little. A 1-mana 1/1 is nothing to write home about, and there are going to be hands where the ability isn’t super relevant. Gaining even 12-15 life in a single shot isn’t always worth a card, so what makes this thing work?
The main combo with Martyr of Sands is Proclamation of Rebirth. Proclamation can bring back a 1-mana creature from your graveyard to play, but with the forecast ability you can spend 6 mana in your upkeep and just reveal the Proclamation to return the creature. This leaves Proclamation in your hand to repeat the process the next turn, and it also means that you have that extra white card in hand to reveal to Martyr. Once you get 7 mana onto the battlefield, you can start gaining 15+ life every single turn. Good luck against that, aggro decks!
The biggest payoff to gaining a bunch of life is in Serra Ascendant. Another 1-mana creature, the Ascendant is just a 1/1 lifelink until your life total gets to 30. Once you’re there, the Ascendant becomes a 6/6 flying lifelink creature. This closes the opponent out in a hurry and also leaves you gaining an extra 6 life each turn to stay above 30!
Ranger of Eos combines both Martyr and Ascendant in a nice little package. Ranger of Eos gets to go search up a pair of 1-mana creatures and it’s a 3/2 body itself for just 4 mana. This provides three threats and means that you have more white cards in your hand for Martyr. Whether you’re fetching up a Martyr and an Ascendant to start going off or just a pair of Ascendants once your life total is already high, Ranger makes sure that you have plenty of fuel in your mono-white deck.
Speaking of mono-white card advantage, Squadron Hawk provides you a ton of it. Not only can a Hawk go search up three more Hawks to make sure that you have plenty of white cards to reveal to Martyr, but it gives you an aerial assault to finish off the opponent or to protect you from tokens going wide, Affinity going fast, and Inkmoth Nexus ignoring your high life totals.
Your Gideon package provides insurance against various combo decks, and provides impressive abilities. Gideon of the Trials can shut down an opposing threat, go on the offensive for 4 points per turn, and help make sure that you can’t die. Gideon Jura is a bit more expensive, but protects you from getting swarmed in a single swing while helping to control the board.
Both Gideons do a nice job of sticking around when you play one of your many sweepers. With 3 copies of Wrath of God to go with a Day of Judgment, you have plenty of ways to keep your opponents from going wide against you.
Your spot removal also happens to be excellent as white has plenty of options. Be it the playset of Path to Exiles to stop an infecting Nexus and large threats or your Banishing Lights and Oblivion Ring, you can stop some of the most annoying permanents.
Martyr Proc isn’t a perfect deck, as decks like Tron, Ad Nauseam, and Counters Company can effectively completely ignore your ability to gain life (in which case you’re all in on Serra Ascendant winning the game quickly). That said, there are metagames that this deck can feast upon, and if that’s the case where you live, this could be the deck for you!