Why Play Mayael?

Mayael the Anima is a great commander for the Naya player who wants to pilot a deck with a little more elegance than what our colors usually offer. Yes, our game plan still boils down to "turn dudes sideways", but the machinery behind that plan offers us a greater degree of strategy and resilience than your typical fatty-slamming slugfest.

It really all comes down to Mayael's unique ability. First, being able to activate it at instant speed offers us options somewhat evocative of a blue deck. We can be reactive, waiting until the last possible moment to choose whether to activate Mayael, drop some removal, or activate an ability. As you'll see, this build leans heavily into that line of play. Secondly, her ability ensures that we will have an impactful play to make every turn. Even if our hand if full of dead cards, Mayael is likely to find us some gas. As a welcome side effect, we can also dial down the amount of card draw we need to run - opening up valuable deck slots for other utility.

Let's take a look under the hood.

Ramp Package

There's no way around it: sometimes, you will end up with expensive creatures in your hand. And that's not necessarily a bad thing! If Mayael gets locked down it's nice to have a back-up plan. But Mayael pushes us to run a greater-than-normal number of expensive cards, and there is a real risk of them getting stuck in your hand. To address this eventuality, we need to run a top-notch ramp package.

The most important thing to note is that we run the full suite of 9 fetch lands. It's not strictly necessary to run all 9, but this build is tuned to make the most of them with cards like Lotus Cobra, Crucible of Worlds, Rings of Brighthearth, and Sun Titan. They also interact nicely with Mayael in two ways. Chiefly, they provide shuffle effects for when we suspect she doesn't have a target. Secondly, they slightly improve the odds of her ability finding a target by removing non-target cards from the deck. Each fetch you crack increases that probability by ~0.4%, which can add up significantly over the course of a game.

We run a few cards that let us tutor for specific lands, such as Expedition Map and Sylvan Scrying. In the early game the preferred targets are lands that can produce multiple mana, a la Ancient Tomb, Temple of the False God, and Krosan Verge. Once we have enough mana to get Mayael online they become useful for searching up ways to protect our board with the likes of Yavimaya Hollow or Homeward Path.

Lastly, it's useful to include a few mana rocks. Being that we're in green, there are very few that are straight up faster than cards like Skyshroud Claim, but plenty of rocks provide benefits beyond ramping. They can be very effective at patching holes in your game plan, or opening up deck slots by stapling two desired effects onto one card. I've opted to use rocks that double as card draw, extending their utility later into the game. There are a few to choose from, but Mind Stone and Commander's Sphere are the prime selections.

Playing the Odds

Nothing feels worse than pumping 6 mana into Mayael's ability and coming up with nothing to show for it. There is certainly a balance to strike with how many targets you run; too few and you'll be whiffing a lot, too many and you'll wind up with a lot of dead cards in hand. I find that somewhere between 24 and 27 is the sweet spot, but your mileage may vary. This chart should help you determine what's right for your deck:

Probability of Mayael Finding a Target


Those numbers look pretty good as is, but there's room for improvement. Luckily we have access to some of the game's best topdeck filters to further skew things in our favor. Sylvan Library, Mirri's Guile, Sensei's Divining Top, and Scroll Rack all make the cut. These are effective cards to run in most decks, but they really have the opportunity to shine here. I like to run Enlightened Tutor too, which can grab any of them plus a variety of other utility.

We can also multiply the effect of Mayael's ability by activating it multiple times. Seedborn Muse allows us to get an activation on each of our opponents' turns. Rings of Brighthearth gives us a double activation, pushing the odds of finding a target close to 100%.

Also of note are cards that let us rip non-targets off the top of our library. Courser of Kruphix and Oracle of Mul Daya are the best in this regard, as lands are the most common type of non-target we'll see. They provide a subtle source of card advantage too, allowing us to preserve cards in our hand.

Prime Cuts of Beef

It's time to talk about the whole reason Mayael is exciting to play in the first place - the fatties! This deck runs a veritable who's who of the biggest, baddest creatures in the game: Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth to name a few. But there are some important strategical considerations to make when choosing our power 5 creatures.

The biggest factor constraining our choice is mana cost. No amount of ramp can allow us to safely run more than a few creatures with a CMC greater than 6 or 7. And even then, a common problem Mayael decks run into is that they have little to do until they can generate 5 or 6 mana. The way to mitigate this is to be sure that we run some inexpensive targets. The Theros gods are an obvious choice, but be aware that their devotion requirements can be challenging to meet. Nylea, God of the Hunt and Xenagos, God of Revels are both the easiest to turn on and the most useful. Similarly, Rhonas the Indomitable has a negligible drawback and complements our later game creatures well. Options like these allow us to build a mana curve rather than a mana "wall".

Next we need to consider that in order to run a critical mass of large creatures, we are putting a rather unforgiving cap on how many deck slots are available for utility cards and removal. Consequently, we need to preferentially select creatures that can fill these roles. Inferno Titan, Dragonlord Atarka, Terastodon, and Woodfall Primus pull double duty as spot removal. Steel Hellkite and Balefire Dragon substitute for wraths. Greenwarden of Murasa and Sun Titan provide recursion. There's a lot of possible customization here, so it's relatively simple to tinker things for your respective meta.

Lastly, we need to take into account the pattern of play this deck wants to pursue. Ideally, we'll be keeping our mana open and waiting to react to our opponents. The correct play will often be to activate Mayael, but having other options gives us leverage and flexibility. Creatures with activated abilities work well in this regard - especially if they threaten to impede our opponents on multiple axes. Scourge of Kher Ridges and Zacama, Primal Calamity are both excellent choices.

Removal Package

Removal in this deck is pretty straight forward. We want to be making most of our plays on the opponent's turn, which requires us to do most of our destruction at instant speed. Classics like Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Beast Within, and Chaos Warp are auto-includes. We don't have a great need for wrath effects because our creatures will win most brawls, but it's important to run a couple as safety valves. Rout neatly sidesteps its timing restriction, and Oblivion Stone deals with most of the permanents that can cause us real headaches. Though we have largely eschewed sorcery-speed removal, Austere Command makes the cut for its flexibility.

Playing Orthogonally

One final note to consider is how to play this deck when things don't go as planned. Our main strategy is pretty transparent, and it can be hard to protect our board when our opponents can anticipate what's coming. To that end, I've included a few Plan B's that can steer our game plan in a different direction and keep us in the game even when things turn south.

Among the easiest to pull off is a strategy that takes advantage of out fetch-heavy mana base. Titania, Protector of Argoth is a powerful Mayael target in her own right, but can reliably keep putting bodies on the table without her. Notably, this strategy is enhanced by the other cornerstones of our ramp package such as Knight of the Reliquary and Crucible of Worlds.

If we can't flood the table with fatties, Rhonas the Indomitable, Nylea, God of the Hunt, and Steel Hellkite allow us to put all of our resources into a single evasive body. Heliod, God of the Sun can help us go wide.

And lastly, Etali, Primal Storm lets us tap into strategies our opponents likely haven't prepared for: their own!

The important things to note with all of these cards is that they can still contribute to our Plan A in some way. They give us opportunities to run perpendicular to our core strategy, not counter to it.

Additional Resources

Here is a calculator you can use to determine probabilities beyond what I have listed. Useful for any commander that deals with the top X cards of your library.

You can find some beginner's guides to the deck over at Quiet Speculation and Star City Games. These are ideal for anyone just getting started.

For those who want to dig even deeper, enjoy this extensive guide over at EDHREC. Part 1 talks game plan and troubleshooting, and Part 2 gives a nice deck tech breakdown.

Lastly, here's an enlightening article on strategizing orthogonally.

Let me know what you think! Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

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This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 4.24
Tokens 2/1 Cleric, 3/3 Elephant, 3/3 Beast, 1/1 Elemental
Folders EDH, Alternatve Versions, Mayael, Naya, Possibilities , Cool stuffs, EDH Decks, EDH Options, Deck Feed, EDH Ideas, See all 184
Top rank #23 on 2015-04-25
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Revision 98 See all

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+1 Oblivion Stone main
-1 Wayward Swordtooth main
+1 Eladamri's Call main
-1 Fracturing Gust main