In the beginning, there was Jesus. Adrian De Jesus. Adrian is a friend of mine, who I first met towards the end of my freshman year of university. He’s been a pretty influential figure in my Magic life, having been the one who first introduced me to the Commander format.
When we first met, I was just a budding FNM grinder, battling my heart out each Friday with whatever pile of garbage I was playing at the time (Likely this pile). He showed me a brand-new casual format that he and his roommate were playing: EDH. I didn’t actually have any Legendary Creatures at the time, so being the generous guy he is, he traded me the one that truly spoke to my inner Timmy: Mayael the Anima.
From that point on, I was hooked. I built as many as I could afford, and then more. I went from just one Mayael deck, to a Riku of Two Reflections deck, a Volrath the Fallen deck, a “Bant-chantments” deck with Treva, the Renewer at the helm, a pile of forests led by Azusa, Lost but Seeking and an almost-completed Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord dredge strategy.
But then Modern happened.
But enough of that nonsense. Let’s talk Mayael.
Mayael is a cross between a mana cheat deck and a good-stuff deck. It boasts a pile of ways to generate extra value and “draw cards”. The goal of the deck is to simply try and hit every land drop every turn and eventually grind its way into a winning position with its bevy of extremely powerful creatures.
Bryan’s Mayael the Anima
Mayael is a commander that places a fairly strict restriction on deckbuilding. She absolutely requires a pile of five power or greater creatures in order to take advantage of her powerful ability. My version runs 27 creatures that fit the bill, giving me approximately an 80% chance to hit on average (Aside: Hypergeometric calculators are super useful in Magic. In my case, you’d want to input a population of 99 cards, 27 successes, a sample size of 5, and a number of successes in sample of 1. This should result in a probability of about .8044).
Beyond that, I’ve decided to include a bit of “top control” to the deck, allowing me to keep the top card of the deck what I want it to be. This is done most often with Cream of the Crop and Worldly Tutor, but beyond that, Sensei’s Divining Top combined with the large amount of shuffle effects in the deck can create a similar effect.
Getting to the end game
With nine ways to generate extra mana, Mayael has no trouble getting up to the six-plus range she needs to start really moving the game plan forward. Beyond that, with the five board sweepers, she has little trouble slowing down opponents who get too far ahead. A few cards allow Mayael to take huge leaps forward in cards and mana, notably Birthing Pod and the two planeswalkers, Domri Rade and Garruk, Caller of Beasts. These cards are highly effective at bridging the gap from early to late game.
How to end a game of Commander
By smashing in faces with an army of dragons, beasts, elementals and spaghetti monsters! Mayael has all the tools needed to turn the corner from just playing some random dork every turn into a huge advantage that can dominate a game. The best way she has to do this is the combination of two durdly six-mana enchantments that are very close to my heart: Lurking Predators and Warstorm Surge. Lurking Predators allows Mayael to churn out threat after threat, and the Surge makes sure that even if there is something preventing combat, the creatures will still get to do something.
This is easily the worst matchup for Mayael. Notably, the card Grave Pact and its kin can easily hose Mayael due to her reliance on creature combat to end games. Beyond that, their ability to repeatedly wipe the board via cards like Living Death and Living End combined with Eternal Witness or Skullwinder can be devastating to this strategy.
This matchup, admittedly, doesn’t come up too much around my own group, but at the events I’ve brought Mayael to, I’ve played against this strategy a few times. It’s a fair, but not great matchup. The board sweepers do a good job of helping shore up the matchup, and the deck presents enough threats that the Voltron player can have a hard time breaking through.
Big Mana decks
This is a matchup I would call positive. Wraths and answers are everywhere in this list, and the threats do a good job pressuring the big mana decks to be reactive instead of developing their own position, which is not what the strategy is designed to do. It is possible for Mayael to flounder in the early game, and this style of deck is the archetype that is most punishing of missteps.
Mana Cheat decks
In the mirror match, the sheer card advantage built into the deck can usually be used to leverage a win. Most mana cheat decks tend to be a “one-and-done” kind of strategy: playing out their first 10 to 15 cards and then scrambling to regain the lost card advantage they spewed putting their threats down early. Mayael may cheat on mana slightly, but the steady stream of value from cards like Domri Rade, Elemental Bond, and Sun Titan can help overwhelm them going long.
Good Stuff decks
Mayael can sometimes struggle with having enough answers for all of their threats, but overall, the matchup feels good, as we’re making so much extra mana and card advantage compared to them on average. Still, enough Sphinx’s Revelations can undo any strategy, so there’s always a chance for them to out-card us.
This deck can go in many directions given the multitudes of giant creatures available in Naya colors. Some ideas include going a bit bigger and more aggressive with cards like Craterhoof Behemoth, Avatar of Slaughter, or Kozilek, the Great Distortion. Alternatively, the deck can play a bit more defensive with choices like Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, and Blazing Archon. There are tons of options available and if anyone has any they’re particularly fond of, I highly encourage them to post it in a comment below.
And there it is. My first Commander deck. A never-ending work of love. The deck has undergone as many changes are there are changes to make, and then some. In my eyes, a Commander deck is never truly done. Each list I post is simply a snapshot in time. A look into what decisions and ideas went into the deck at that time, ready to change as soon as a new spoiler or a sick reprint is announced (Are you hyped for Eternal Masters? Because I’m hyped for Eternal Masters.) I truly hope each and every reader gets a small something out of each one of these articles, whether it be a new card for their favorite deck, or inspiration for their latest and greatest project.
All the best,
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