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Happy Holidays: A Look at MTG's Most Festive Promo Cards

A happy holiday and season of cheer to all wizard-kind!

MTG Decorated Knight Holiday Promo Card
Card: Decorated Knight | Art: Zoltan Boros

Even Magic: the Gathering cannot escape the holiday cheer. Between more sets than ever before and a slew of Secret Lairs, every day can be magical Christmas land!


However, today I would like to discuss something special, a set of festive cards produced by Wizards of the Coast. These cards are produced for members of WOTC staff around December as a thank you for their work throughout the year.



Those of you who read our article covering 'Heroes of the Realm' will be very familiar with this idea. However, while Heroes of the Realm are given to specific teams at WOTC, with each card bearing the name of the team member, the Happy Holidays Promos seem to be much more widespread.


You can buy some of them online anywhere from $25 to $250 depending on which one you are looking for. These seem to be more available en mass. If you see one you like, consider picking one up for your cube.


These cards are a lot of fun. Some of them are silly, many are jokes, and a small handful of them resemble real playable Magic cards. Let's take a look at the Happy Holidays promo cards.


What do they do, and what sort of play do they enable? Are they simply a joke for WOTC staff, or could some of them be potential future designs?


If you would like to follow along, you can view this set by typing set='hho' in the Scryfall search bar (or just click this link).


Broadly speaking, the cards of this set fit into a couple of categories, 'food matters,' 'gifts,' and 'Holiday Spirit.' There is then also a handful of cards that are interesting, powerful, or have the makings of a black border card somewhere in there.



Food Tribal

Food tribal begins with the first-ever Happy Holidays card, 2006's Fruitcake Elemental. For three mana you get a 7/7 with indestructible but on your end step, it deals seven damage to you. On its own, I like it, however, you can also pay three mana to donate the Fruitcake Elemental to another player.


Perhaps in a deck with Ghostly Prison effects, this would make an awesome little threat. Alternatively, you could just play it as a big beater and go in on your opponent every turn. Lastly, this would be awesome in a deck that plays other Donate effects. Give your opponent a whole slew of bad creatures and force them to deal with the consequences.


Jumping ahead to 2011, we have the first card that cares about eating! For four mana, Yule Ooze is a 1/1 with, at the beginning of your upkeep destroy another non-land permanent at random, and then the Ooze gets a number of counters equal to that card's mana value. Very flavorful for an ooze to eat things and get bigger.


Additionally, you can become an ooze as for two mana and 'eat some food' you can regenerate Yule Ooze. I love this card from top to bottom. It is a great design with a bit of charm thrown in under that regenerate ability. I could see this in a Commander deck that cares about counters, and keeping the board clean. It reminds me a lot of the devour mechanic or cards like Death's Presence



The last food matters card I'd like to discuss is 2016's Thopter Pie Network. This four-mana enchantment creates a 1/1 Thopter every turn and insists that you "use food to represent the token." It also says "whenever a creature token you control dies, if its represented by food, eat it." What a mouthful!


This card is a callback to Thopter Spy Network from Magic Origins. The effect is similar, a Thopter every turn. While Spy Network wins out for also drawing a card every turn, it can't compete with Pie Network's flavor.

Giving Gifts


Our next slew of cards focuses on my favorite bit about the holidays; the gifts. Whether it's giving or receiving, there's something magical about a present! First up we have Gifts Given.


The art and name are a call back to the classic Gifts Ungiven. This time, the card is played in a very give-and-take way. It plays like a mix between Gifts Ungiven and Bribery. For four mana you get to search your opponent's deck for four cards and put them in two piles, an opponent chooses one pile to go into their grave, and the other pile goes into your hand. This one is a lot of fun as you can use it to disrupt your opponent's combo and make it your own. On a simpler but just as effective note, this could also be used to strip your opponent of their removal and use it for your own. Everything about this is a cute and great use of flavor and function.



The winner for the biggest rules nightmare might go toward Evil Presents. For four mana you get to put a creature from your hand into play under your opponent's control. That creature then attacks each turn if able, but always attacks its controller. This card is just weird. In theory, this could work in black border albeit with some re-phrasing required.



Perhaps something like "That creature gains at the beginning of combat tap this creature, it deals damage equal to its power to its control," or it fights any number of target creatures you control. Very weird effect but I like what they are going for. Very silver border, but also a lot of fun in a good honest game of Magic.



Naughty // Nice was 2012's promo. This card is cute in its design but that is unfortunately where it ends. The play on Naughty or Nice is a lot of fun. However, the Spike in me is wondering in what universe I even cast the Nice half of this spell. On the other hand, Naughty is very reminiscent of Gifts Given as you simply steal a card from your opponent's deck and add it to your own.


In the modern day, this card has seen a functional reprint thanks to Pratetor's Grasp from New Phyrexia. CEDH players are likely familiar with this one as a way of eliminating and stealing your opponent's win condition. Another similar effect here is Opposition Agent, albeit a bit more time sensitive.



Last in the category of gift giving is Last-Minute Chopping, a play on the phrase 'last-minute shopping,' which features some of my favorite art in the set. Beloved Gisa and Geralf. How could the brother and sister duo forget each other?


Functionally this card asks your opponent to choose one of the following; put a card you own from outside the game into your hand, or let you gain control of the target permanently they control.


I love this design. My mind immediately jumps to Cube and Limited environments. This is a wonderful pseudo-tutor if you want to keep a big threat in your sideboard. Alternatively, it is a piece of removal.


If you show your opponent a very versatile, well-rounded, and powerful sideboard, you could force them into letting you steal their creature. If you are interested, this is one of the more affordable Happy Holidays cards at around $45 to $75. Granted, that is still a lot for what is strictly for casual play only, but hey it's a nice piece of bling for Cube or theft-style Commander decks!



Holiday Spirit


This next category is probably the broadest. These are all cards that get me in the holiday spirit. Jumping right into it, Goblin Sleigh Ride from 2015 takes me back to the snowy Christmas days as a kid!


For two mana you get a pretty unique and potentially potent effect. "Target creature you control climbs onto Goblin Sleigh Ride," is a fantastic piece of card text! You slide the creature and the sleigh along the table, if the creature "stays on the sleigh," it deals damage equal to its toughness to each creature it touched during the slide.



So in short, the Goblin crashes its sleigh into some unexpecting bystanders and deals damage. I love the utility here. It could be a board wipe or some single target removal, and it even gets past hexproof. However, most importantly it is some good old-fashioned festive mischief! If you love these kinds of effects you should consider the recent Devil K. Nevil from Unfinity or Slaying Mantis from Unstable! If you love slinging your cardboard across the room to great effect these are the cards to keep an eye out for!



Another festive inclusion is Bog Humbugs! A two-mana 1/1 with flying is a nice start, it also has "Whenever Bog Humbugs deals combat damage, hum that many notes of a festive song. If you can, put a +1/+1 counter on Bog Humbugs." This is a great effect, especially when you consider you have a cheat sheet.


The flavor text of this card is the notes of Jingle Bells! This is a two-mana 1/1 that grows every turn. Awesome little card. It's not an exciting effect, but a two-mana 1/1 that grows every turn would do well in a limited environment, especially in a black aggro deck.



Decorated Knight is next on the list. This might be one of my favorite designs. The art is fantastic! A nice mix of fantasy and festive. This one comes in two parts as it has the adventure Present Arms. For three mana you can exchange your library with another deck you own from outside the game. Then Decorated Knight itself lets you draw a card from your original deck whenever it attacks. This effect is sweet. Letting you draw from two decks at once is wild, and game-bending. In all likelihood, unless the decks are the same color you might find yourself in trouble, however conceptually I love it. Unique, and a lot of fun.



Finally, our last festive spirit card is Topdeck the Halls, I have mixed opinions on this one. For five mana it reads, "Decorated cards in the hand have miracle {s}." This upsets me a little.


Miracle is only relevant to cards on the top of your deck, so giving these cards in your hand miracle does nothing. I wish it was worded so the card on the top of your deck had miracle. I am not sure what they were going for here.


However, the card has one more effect, "At the beginning of your upkeep if you control twelve or more decorated permanents you win the game." Now this is an effect. This hearkens back to the 12 Days of Christmas.


Assuming you're playing a blinged-out deck, you can cast twelve cheap permanents and win the game! I am a sucker for alternate win conditions. This would pair very well with Keeper of the Secret Lair from Heroes of the Realm. With so many promos, alternate arts, and special printings out there it is easier than ever to have a highly decorated deck. The last note for this card name and the art is a call back to Dream Halls.



Treasures From Across the World


Before we get into my top picks among the Happy Holidays cards, there is one card in this whole set that doesn't quite fit in with the rest. It's a treasure token. As part of a Holiday promo in the APAC region, a limited edition gold-plated treasure token was produced.


It was distributed as part of a giveaway for the Magic APAC Facebook group. It appears to be limited to only 150 copies, so expect these to be rare. I have not seen any up for auction. I am excited to see what one of these sells for when the day comes.


The art is cute and fun featuring Rachta Lin, who has previously made art for the APAC-exclusive Streets of New Capenna tokens. I love the art style and would like to see more from her in the future.



Top Picks


Alright, now we get to my personal favorites among the Happy Holidays cards. These in particular are cards that I think serve as real examples of exceptionally flavorful, powerful, or with the potential to see play in Cube or black border Magic.


Season's Beatings is an effect I would love to see replicated in a black border. For four mana, you get a chaotic one-sided board wipe. We have seen imitations of this effect thanks to Solar Blaze and Wave of Reckoning. However, those two lack the chaos of Season's Beatings. I enjoy the imagery in this card of a family feud breaking out. True Christmas chaos!



Next up is a great marriage of flavor and function. Snow Mercy calls back to No Mercy with its iconography and flavor text. Seeing the Phyrexians in the snow globe makes the invasion seem so small and innocent. Then getting into the text box we see a similar design space to No Mercy. Whenever a creature deals damage to you put a 'globe' counter on it. Then by tapping and untapping Snow Mercy several times you tap all creatures with globe counters. I adore this design, it is incredibly playful while also being very functional. Silly tap-untap shenanigans aside, this is a slick design that could see a home in pillow fort strategies. A similar effect can be seen in Onslaught's Aurification. The notion of trapping creatures inside something beautiful seems to be something white mages enjoy.



As a player that loves Cube and Limited play in general, Stocking Tiger from 2013 is my absolute favorite of the bunch. This five-mana 3/3 enters with a booster pack underneath it. When Stocking Tiger deals combat damage, you add the contents of that booster to your hand. This effect is sweet.



Firstly, Stocking Tiger being colorless means it's at the very least up for consideration in any draft deck. Additionally, conjuring 15 cards when this hits gives some real potential for flashy plays. Adding boosters to a game is a favorite of many Cube designers. Stocking Tiger is a slam dunk for any cubes running Booster Tutor or Summon the Pack as part of a chaotic Cube where the packs keep coming even after the draft.



Mishra's Toy Workshop is a play on Mishra's Workshop. In this case a powerful, but more manageable version. The original Workshop tapped for three mana to let you cast artifacts, while the Toy variant lets you use that three mana on token-based effects. I love this effect. If you want to try to push a token-based deck to the next level, consider Mishra's Toy Workshop.


He might be a war criminal, but at least he's able to spread some joy. I think the hyper-specific nature of this card is incredibly beneficial in a cube where cards like Ancient Tomb are simply picked up by the best deck in the format. A card like Toy Workshop can be slotted in for a high power boost to decks that need it.



Some Disassembly Required was the first Happy Holidays card I ever saw. Since the printing of Ikoria, this card has seen some steps made into becoming a 'real' card thanks to the development of keyword counters. This bears some resemblance to The Ozolith but, with an aristocratic flair.


This one mana enchantment lets you pay one to sacrifice a creature. That alone might be enough to be playable in some circles. Besides the one mana sacrifice, this card also lets you distribute the sacrificed creatures' keywords among other creatures. I love the combat trickery possible here. For example, sacrificing your blocked double strike creature, and giving those keywords to an unblocked one. I adore this design and look forward to seeing sacrifice outlets on enchantments in the future.



Finally, Chaos Wrap, the promo for 2022, is an awesome take on Chaos Warp. The effect is very familiar for the first few lines. Three mana, a permanent is shuffled into its owner's deck, then they reveal the top card. If the card is a permanent they may put it into play, otherwise, they may put it into play as a 4/4 present. To do this you "put it inside lots of sleeves." At this point, the sleeves act as shield counters. Each time the permanent would be dealt damage or destroyed a sleeve is removed. I love this card from top to bottom. The artwork invokes the original to a tee. Above all else, I appreciate that Chas Wrap is impersonating a well-known card but with a newfound Holiday flavor.


Conclusion


That just about wraps up (no pun intended) the Happy Holidays cards as far as 2022! These cards have some off-the-wall, and exciting designs. If you can get your hands on them, give them a try in your Cubes and Commander decks.


Have you played with these cards? We would love to hear from you and your experience. If you haven't played with them, which of these cards to think has the best chance of seeing a true black border print?


With that said I wish you a Happy Holidays full of Magic!


 

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