Other People’s Decks: Gavin Duggan’s Mayael The Anima

In this edition of Other People’s Decks, Sheldon puts the spotlight on fellow RC member Gavin Duggan’s Mayael the Anima Commander deck.

You may be wondering why you’re seeing me on Friday instead of Wednesday this week (thanks for missing me!). The answer to that question will be revealed in short order.

It’s not enough to say that Gavin Duggan is a member of the Commander Rules Committee. The idea of the RC came from his fertile mind. He simply pinged me one day, sometime after the format had really taken hold in the judge community, and suggested we formalize. It was a pretty solid idea then and remains one now. He’s to this day one of the format’s great ambassadors, as well as one of the important people of Magic whose name you might not have heard (not to mention simply a fine human being). This will for some crazy reason be the first of his decks featured on these pages.

There are multiple reasons to feature this deck, not the least of which is the spirit in which it was built, which is perfectly in line with the spirit of the format. I’ll let Gavin explain in his own words:

I built this deck a few years ago and have built it three more times since. That’s because its raison d’etre is being given away. I usually bring it to Commander games where I expect there to be some casual observers or potential new players. I wanted a deck that I could give to an interested bystander, allowing them to join us on short notice . . . and if they had a good time to let them keep without hesitating.

To that end, the deck had a few simple goals. It had to be:

* Fun. Duh.

* Cheap. I gave myself a budget of about $20, and it ended up coming in a little over that. By no means a trivial sum, but small enough that I feel great giving it away and encouraging a new player to join the format.

* Easy to play. Without sacrificing too much power, I wanted a deck that provides a relatively straightforward play experience. Something where play choices can be restricted to a few options with immediate applications.

* Easy to expand. Customizing a Commander deck is a major part of the format’s appeal, so I wanted something where the new owner could quickly, easily, correctly, and cheaply add their own cards from the dollar bin.

* Easy to recreate. If I was going to be giving it away, I wanted a deck with some flexibility . . .  plug-and-play if you will. That way I didn’t need exactly the same 99 cards every time.

* Relatively competitive. The deck doesn’t need to be able to win every game it plays in . . . just be involved in most phases of the game.

Given those constraints, I went with Mayael the Anima as the commander, who conveniently has holiday colors to boot! Mayael was recently reissued as a secondary commander in the Commander 2013 decks, making it even easier to access.

I’m pretty sure that Gavin met his goals. I didn’t price it out, but it looks like a large amount of bang for a very small amount of buck. Let’s go over the individual cards.


Ancient Hellkite: Makes me wonder why I’m not playing it in my own Dragon deck. Especially in a deck where you might not be spending mana to get your fatties into play, you’ll have extra mana to burn stuff during your attack step.

Ancient Silverback: The regeneration theme is strong in the deck. I like it because there are some popular sweepers, such as Austere Command, Akroma’s Vengeance, Day of Judgment, Planar Cleansing, and all the damage dealers (like Blasphemous Act and Chain Reaction) which will allow you the opportunity to regenerate. This is a clever use of Gavin’s knowledge of the format.

Archetype of Endurance: I know you’re wondering why there’s no link. That’s because Archetype of Endurance is a preview card over on the official forums! Head over to MTG Commander for all the juicy details.

Archweaver: Trample Spiders sounds like a band from London’s West End circa 1968.

Ashen Firebeast: See Ancient Hellkite.

Beacon Behemoth: Adding to the "five power" subtheme, Beacon Behemoth lets you keep back creatures (which you can regenerate) for defense.

Boldwyr Intimidator: Cowards simply cannot block Warriors. It is known.

Brontotherium: Provoke was a thing way back when, and we haven’t explored it in a while. There are enough great small utility creatures around that need to go, and Brontotherium can make that happen.

Capricious Efreet: Again, taking nice advantage of the regeneration theme, you simply put a shield on the thing of your own that you’ve chosen.

Changeling Berserker: I’m a fan of the champion mechanic, especially in a creature-heavy deck since it gives you back at least one creature when someone wipes the board.

Drumhunter: A card that I hope sees more play now that it’s been released in Commander 2013, it gives the right flexibility to the deck—a working man’s Solemn Simulacrum.

Fertilid: One of the best ramp creatures out there, it makes me want to point out that Burnished Hart can also be had for a quarter.

Garruk’s Packleader: The creature that keeps on giving, I think I bought out all the foil Packleaders at one point to stuff them into all my green decks.

Gatecreeper Vine: Wood Elves, also a quarter.

Hammerfist Giant: I’d like Hammerfist Giant more if its toughness were five, but that seems greedy. Maybe if I could regenerate it . . .

Hateflayer: Hateflayer gets into the red zone and then still has value, whether that’s killing off smaller creatures or (via wither) helping get rid of something indestructible. I’d like to see the folks in R&D explore the untap theme a little more.

Hunted Troll: A political card and a huge beater in one package.

Jungle Weaver: When I saw this on the list, I thought that it was from Invasion block and it regenerated a red or green creature. Turns out that there’s no such card.

Krosan Groundshaker: There are enough Beasts in the deck to make Groundshaker well worthwhile, especially when they’re blocked by puny creatures.

Krosan Tusker: Okay, maybe this is the working man’s Solemn Simulacrum.

Magma Giant: Comes down and clears the way before all those Plant tokens start getting out of hand.

Magus Of The Arena: This card is in my Ruric Thar and His Beastly Werewolf Fight Club deck, and it’s paid dividends every time I’ve cast it. Note that just like the land Arena it taps the creature so there’s additional and potentially life-saving utility. You can also use an already tapped creature of your own. The only downside is that it’s a creature of the opponent’s choice, so be careful if their creatures are better than yours.

Mosstodon: Trample wins games, sometimes out of nowhere. Never underestimate it.

Nacatl Hunt-Pride: A pair of useful abilities that can be valuable in many situations.

Paleoloth: Nearly as good in this deck as Packleader since nearly everything has a power of five or more.

Pathbreaker Wurm: Six mana 6/4s sure have come a long way since Ice Age.

Rakeclaw Gargantuan: This is an on-board trick that I think will occasionally catch someone sleeping.

Rapacious One: Gavin’s inclusion here of Rapacious One makes me want to try to work it back into my Thraximundar deck again.

Rockcaster Platoon: I splurge with Silklash Spider instead.

Rustmouth Ogre: Especially good with some of the trample trickery in the deck, I love the imagery of the card.

Savage Thallid: At first glance I don’t see any other Fungi, but Savage Thallid being able to keep itself alive could be worth it. This would be a slot I’d reserve for an upgrade.

Shivan Dragon: The original flying fatty, it’s both reasonable in the deck and a nice nod to the past.

Spellbreaker Behemoth: Its abilities are good, but I don’t think you can underestimate the value of a 5/5 for four mana.

Spitebellows: One of the few creatures you might not want to regenerate.

Stoneshock Giant: Just when your opponents thought that they were safe because they kept back a few chump blockers, along comes Stoneshock Giant.

Trolls of Tel-Jilad: I’d like it better if it were called Tel-Jilad Weaver.

Vagrant Plowbeasts: A card you might initially overlook, I think it will end up as an MVP in play.

Valley Rannet: Land cycling when you need it, a fatty when you don’t.

Venomspout Brackus: The morph cost is generously priced for the value of keeping the skies clear.

Viridian Emissary: A bargain Sakura-Tribe Elder. I might think along the lines of Seedguide Ash as a 25-cent upgrade.

Wild Celebrants: Artifact destruction on a five-power body.

Wirewood Guardian: Land cycling will get you there.


Broken Fall: When you play against this card, you realize how annoyingly good it can be.

Dawn’s Reflection: A little mana acceleration won’t hurt the deck, and no one will target this for destruction before a zillion other things.

Fertile Ground: Ditto.

Khalni Heart Expedition: You’re playing lands anyway. Might as well let it lead to more lands.

Overgrowth: See Dawn’s Reflection.

Pyrohemia: Red Pestilence will keep all those annoying little creatures off your back, while your large regenerating creatures will keep Pyrohemia around.

Snake Umbra: In the world where board sweepers happen, totem armor is a good mechanic. I’m surprised it doesn’t get played more.

Where Ancients Tread: Another card you might gloss over initially, it will do some heavy lifting.


Evolution Charm: Charms give players the kind of flexibility they need to react to evolving board states. Early game it gets a land into your hand. Late it gets back something valuable from the graveyard. Occasionally it jumps a creature to victory.

Grab the Reins: Probably in my Top 10 favorite cards ever.

Naya Charm: I like it when cards that saw some Standard play get used in Commander. The third mode, tapping out someone’s creatures, makes it a killing card.

Rith’s Charm: I don’t imagine the second mode getting played much in the format, but the other two are game changers.

Wrap in Vigor: I honestly didn’t know this card existed. I do now, and it will get put to use.


Chain Reaction: Cheap enough mana-wise to cast for great effect and still have mana to regenerate your creatures. Savvy inclusion.

Disaster Radius: Especially with all the beef in this deck, kind of like a cheaper red Plague Wind.

Earthquake: With the damage this deck can deal out, it might be safe to cast this as a kill card.

Frenzied Tilling: I like this to help turn the tables on the ramp player; I see it as a good card that could get abused to make life miserable for someone when ramped out on turn 3.

Overrun: Simple and effective. Deal with it. Titantic Ultimatium can be had for 49 cents. Worth the extra cost?

Planar Cleansing: It’s nice to see a little board control that doesn’t break the budget. I worry a little about the triple-white component, but there should be enough fetching going on to make sure you can cast this when you need it.

Rampant Growth: You know you’ve arrived as a card when a playstyle is named for you.

Reforge the Soul: Regular readers will know that I’m not a fan of filling other players’ hands. This might be the one card in the deck that I’d think hardest about turning into something else.

I like the deck in that it casts creatures but isn’t just creatures turning sideways. In deft hands, there’s a fair amount of mileage to get out of. Here’s Gavin’s assessment of how well he met his build goals:

* Fun: Woo, monsters!

* Cheap: There’s lots of five-power utility beaters to be had for a quarter.

* Simple: Hulk smash?

* Expandable: If you’re willing to drop few bucks, there are many great hired goons to be had.

* Flexible:  Some goons are better than others, but the last half-dozen five-power monsters are entirely optional.

* Competitive:  Ironically, having a couple of big beaters on the field isn’t actually that scary in Commander, so Mayael can usually churn out a stream of one or two monsters, beat down, and not draw too much hate.

In terms of what to include in the deck, I learned long ago from fellow RC member Alex Kenny that creatures should always do more than just attack, so I erred toward creatures that at a minimum could protect themselves and ideally do something else for the team. Theros linebacker Wild Celebrants is an odd banner carrier for this deck archetype—it costs a quarter, does a little extra for the team, and shows up when Mayael calls for a beater.

I needed to have enough creatures to make sure Mayael hits (with, say, 95% confidence) and hopefully give the player the choice of two or three hits most of the time. Beyond that the deck is primarily acceleration (so the owner can play Mayael plenty of times and start casting fat from their hand as soon as possible), protection for creatures on the field, and general solutions to problem situations (for example, I’m a big believer in land destruction as an important part of Commander).

I went with primarily land-fetching accelerants, as green has plenty and they’re more resilient to the many board wipers in many Commander games. For lands themselves, good utility lands tend to be fairly pricy, but Vitu-ghazi, Skarrg, and Sunhome are all great and available for two bits. The battery lands from Time Spiral are good in this deck too.

As I said, the core beaters are just that and don’t need to be anything specific. I shelled out for a few copies of key players like Hateflayer and Paleoloth. For this most recent version, I cut some of the cheaper five-power cyclers from the original Naya, but they’re great filler. Other great options if you have them kicking around in your Draft bulk boxes are:

Aegis Angel, Titanic Bulvox, Ulamog’s Crusher, Arctic Nishoba, Arbor Colossus, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Dragons

If you or the new owner wants to pony up a bit to upgrade, here are some inexpensive ways to do it:

Loxodon Hierarch, Asceticism, Spearbreaker Behemoth, Furnace Dragon, Boros Charm, Wheel of Fate, Soul’s Majesty, Terastodon, Woodfall Primus

Any number of dollar rare five-power creatures

All-star free agents such as Greater Good, Garruk (any of them, but especially Primal Hunter) Momentous Fall

More important than the card list is the concept. With some effort you can build a fun-to-play and reasonably competitive deck for a very low budget. It doesn’t have to be great, just good enough to be involved . . . The designing and building is great fun for you, and it feels amazing when you give it away, make someone’s day, and help grow your favorite format.

This deck is a good insight into the minds of the RC and the direction that we’d like to continue to guide the format. It delivers some beatings but never runs the risk of making the game a dreary experience for any of the other people at the table. That Gavin has taken the time (our most precious of resources) to build it and give it away on multiple occasions speaks volumes about the quality of his character.

If you haven’t done so already, head over to the forums to that great preview card Archetype of Endurance. I’ll see you back at our normally scheduled time next Wednesday.

Embracing the Chaos,


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Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 01-17-2014