Vorthos Vortex: Christmas With Mayael

Justin Fanzo • December 11, 2022

Mayael the Anima by Jason Chan

Happy holidays, Commander players! Even though the weather may be frightful, it's a delightful time to be playing Commander. In this week's edition of Vorthos Vortex, we'll be designing a Christmas-themed Commander deck, and the commander for this deck is Mayael the Anima.

Given that she looks like one of Santa Claus' elves, Mayael the Anima is the quintessential Christmas commander. Mayael is a Naya commander that cares about big creatures, specifically creatures with power 5 or greater. It's worth noting that, when building a Vorthos version of Mayael, one could choose to ignore Mayael's ability and choose her as a flavor win for the top of the deck. My iteration of the deck will lean into her ability, though it certainly doesn't rely on it.

Mayael's ability allows players to look at the top 5 cards of their library and choose a creature with power 5 or greater and put it onto the battlefield. It's an effect that can be quite powerful, though you have to be careful to avoid oversaturating your deck with expensive creatures (and most high-powered creatures have high mana costs). Designing this deck is ultimately a balancing act between keeping a reasonable mana curve and maintaining a critical mass of heavy hitters so that Mayael's ability successfully finds relevant creatures upon most activations. Given that Vorthos Vortex decks are designed for more modest power levels--we aim to create decks at about the same power level as pre-constructed decks--we have more wiggle room when it comes to consistency.


The bulk of this deck will be creatures, as we not only want a critical mass of high-powered creatures, but we have a number of cards in the deck that reward us for playing those creatures. Let's begin with creature payoffs. Soul of the Harvest rewards us for playing creatures with card draw. Likewise, Fey Steed allows us to draw cards when our creatures are targeted by our opponents' spells. This Steed looks like one of the reindeer who pulls Santa's sleigh! Feldon of the Third Path allows us to copy creature cards in our graveyard, so we can bring effects back to the board even after our creatures have died. Feldon looks like a slightly younger Santa Claus examining parts of dolls that he'll deliver to children on Christmas Eve. Boreal Outrider, who appears to be riding another of Santa's reindeer, gives our creatures +1/+1 counters when we pay with snow mana (which we will be).

Next, let's talk about mana dorks. Since we want to maintain our creature synergies and consistent creature drops each turn, we'll want to include a lot of ramp through creatures so that we don't have to fill up as many ramp spaces with instants and sorceries. Boreal Druid is a flavor win--it's a snow Elf!--that taps for one colorless mana. We also have Dawntreader Elk, another of Santa's reindeer that we sacrifice to fetch a land. Drumhunter not only taps for mana, but also rewards us for having heavy hitters on the field at the end of our turn. Burnished Hart makes an appearance in this deck, and while the card is a common inclusion for Commander decks, I recommend including the version with Jakub Kasper's art for Vorthos purposes.

The key to our deck is the heavy hitters. Not only are they the target of our commander's ability, but they're also the win condition for our deck. As you can probably guess, this is a deck that wants to attack as often as possible, as dealing attack damage to our opponents is our path to victory. A quick note on Mayael's ability: there are 21 creatures with power 5 or greater in my build for this deck, meaning that Mayael's ability is statistically likely to find a valid target with her ability. In short, relevant high-powered creatures constitute roughly 1/5 of the cards in our deck, and Mayael looks at 5 cards with her ability. This means that you're statistically likely to find at least one card on each activation. Keep in mind that statistically likely doesn't mean guaranteed, so there will be some activations that you whiff on. That's something that you have to be okay with when building Mayael, or alternatively, you could simply avoid the issue by ignoring her ability entirely and simply use her as a purely Vorthos commander.

On that note, let's look at some of our heavy hitters. One of the symbols often associated with Christmas is angels. Not only do they have religious significance, but they are also one of the most common ornaments on Christmas trees, with many tree toppers taking the form of angels. Lucky for us, there are a plethora of powerful Angels that we can include in our Vorthos Christmas deck.

Admonition Angel is quite the package, as not only is it a powerful flyer, but it also operates as removal. When lands enter the battlefield under our control, Admonition Angel removes a creature from the game until it leaves the battlefield (this card will have a target on its back).

Akroma, Angel of Fury is another great inclusion, as she not only offers evasion and protection from white and blue, but she also has the ability to be pumped for one red mana, making her a great win condition for the deck.

Angelic Arbiter may be a contentious choice, as it has a slight stax feel to it, though I've found that it's not as salt-inducing as other stax cards because it doesn't stop your opponent from playing the game, it just slows them down and makes them make tough choices about what to do on each of their turns, which is a lot more interesting than being forced to sit out a turn.

I would also recommend including Serra's Emissary, as it offers valuable protection for all of your powerful creatures that will inevitably have targets on their backs. Serra gives your creatures protection from the card type of your choice, which is great, as it allows you to choose based on individual games and metas.

We also have several other powerhouse creatures that synergize incredibly well with the Vorthos of this deck, including Santa's reindeer in the form of Dawnglade Regent, Gang of Elk, and Stampeding Elk Herd. Kodama of the East Tree and Nyxbloom Ancient are our beautiful Christmas trees that enable us to play more of our spells and keep the gears of our deck moving. Phyrexian Snowcrusher is the snowmobile that I wish I had to help get through brutal midwest winters. Similar to Akroma, Angel of Fury, Phyrexian Snowcrusher can be pumped up to deliver a fatal blow to our opponents, making it another great win condition for the deck.

Finally, let's talk about some of our "for-fun" Vorthos inclusions. These are cards that best epitomize Christmas, and while some of them aren't very powerful, they will still give us our all-important creature ETB triggers and can also be pumped by cards such as Earthshaker Giant for our game-winning swing. Gingerbrute brings a sweet flavor to this deck, as perhaps no food is more greatly associated with Christmas than gingerbread. Goblin Snowman is a good-faith effort by the goblins, who appear to be in the middle of a particularly violent snowball fight in the card art, to celebrate the holiday season (it also makes a very effective blocker!). Finally, we have Wall of Pine Needles, which epitomizes the fear we all have of putting up and taking down the Christmas tree, as rarely do even the most talented of tree decorators manage to avoid at least a few pine needle ouchies each year.

Artifacts and Enchantments

We only have two noncreature artifacts in this build of the deck, and they are both ramp and Vorthos inclusions. The first is Coldsteel Heart, and I recommend the Jumpstart 2022 version with I☆LA's art (you can find them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ayladesu). The second one is Replicating Ring, because not only is it a snow artifact, but it hearkens to the "five golden rings!" from "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

For enchantments, we have an assortment of fun Vorthos cards that also provide tremendous value. Glittering Frost is a snow enchantment that lets us add an extra mana of any color, which is very valuable for a three-color commander such as ours. I've also included Trace of Abundance, which provides the same functionality as Glittering Frost, though it doesn't synergize with the Vorthos quite as well. On Thin Ice and Kenrith's Transformation are both important pieces of removal, especially because we aren't running as many instants and sorceries as most EDH decks do. They both offer great Vorthos synergy, as the former hearkens to the North Pole while the latter appears to be one of Santa's reindeer.

I've also included a relatively obscure enchantment called Snowblind, which effectively neuters a creature when it attacks you (it will also neuter all creatures in snow decks). While this was obviously a Vorthos inclusions, I've found that it also makes for fun gameplay scenarios where it functions similarly to a goad effect, as it won't neuter the creature if the other defending players don't control snow lands. This card can be deceptively powerful in certain gameplay scenarios and metas, so don't sleep on it.

Instants and Sorceries

Our instants and sorceries provide a balance of removal, ramp, card draw, and Vorthos goodness. For removal, we have the staple Swords to Plowshares, though I recommend Jesper Ejsing's version of the card for Vorthos purposes. We also have Skred, which deals damage to a creature equal to the number of snow permanents that you control. In the true spirit of Christmas, I've also included Generous Gift. Blizzard Brawl will allow us to have our heavy hitters fight one of our opponent's creatures, effectively acting as a form of removal, and given that we're playing a large number of snow permanents in this deck, our creature will also likely gain indestructible until end of turn.

For card draw, we have several spells that will likely draw us an absurd number of cards. Blessing of Frost lets us distribute a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the number of snow lands that we control and then draw cards equal to the number of creatures with power 4 or greater. Given that we have a high density of creatures with power 5 or greater, we'll likely have a high number of creatures on the board that meet this criteria, and the card's own ability helps us to get other creatures over that threshold as well.

Rishkar's Expertise and Soul's Majesty both have a similar ability: they let us draw cards equal to the greatest power of a creature we control (Soul's Majesty lets us choose, but we will almost always choose the creature with the highest power).

Finally, we have several important Vorthos inclusions, such as Into the North, which looks as though Mrs. Claus or one of the elves is heading to the North Pole to either bring or pick up gifts. Festival and Holy Day are flavorful spells that, in the true spirit of Christmas as a time of peace and camaraderie, prevent combat damage (Festival prevents combat from taking place entirely).


For lands, the most important thing to remember is that we want as many snow lands as possible, as snow mana and snow permanents play a central role in our deck. I've included snow versions of all basics, as well as some of the snow dual lands as well. I've also included Gingerbread Cabin for Vorthos reasons.

Win Conditions and Final Thoughts

As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the way that this deck wins is through combat damage. You want to play as many of your heavy hitters as you can and then swing with them to drain your opponents' health as quickly as you can. We have some creatures that can pump themselves, such as Akroma, Angel of Fury, that we can feed mana into late into the game and swing with them for a one-shot kill. We also have effects, such as that of Earthshaker Giant, that will pump our entire field when we are ready to swing out for the win. We can also play the long game and wear our opponents down over the course of the game.

However you choose to play the deck, I hope that you find it fun and exciting. It's definitely a deck that will appeal to the Timmy players out there, though its variable nature leads to interesting and unexpected outcomes that players of all kinds will likely enjoy.

This wraps up another edition of Vorthos Vortex. I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season! Hopefully, it will be one spent with family and friends and one that is rejuvenating, uplifting, and happy. I'll be back with one more article near the end of the year to present my New Year's commander. Until then, happy holidays Commander players, and thank you for reading Vorthos Vortex!

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I'm an avid gamer with a passion for game design and both critical and creative writing. I've been playing Magic: the Gathering for over 15 years, and I've been playing the Commander format since its official adoption by Wizards of the Coast in 2011. My articles focus on vorthos deck building, designing decks for overlooked commanders, and designing commander cubes.