Gift-giving as a holiday tradition predates the celebration of Christmas. As Christianity began to spread through Europe, however, local traditions became incorporated into Christian festivals. The stories of Magi, who brought gifts to the infant Christ; Saint Nicholas, who brought gold to a poor widower’s daughters; and later Good King Wenceslaus, who was also known for his alms to the poor became popular justifications of the continuation of this ritual. As far as the American iteration of the holiday is concerned, gift giving is the thing that distinguishes Christmas as the largest commercial holiday of the year in the United States.

In Magic: the Gathering, there are lots of ways to build a “gift” oriented Jumpstart pack: Zedruu the Greathearted, Bazaar Trader, and Harmless Offering all offer ways to give an opponent control of something that might hinder their progress or help us avoid the downsides of cards like Nine Lives, Illusions of Grandeur, and so on. Any combination of those would be excellent; but for this day’s selection, I’ve gone a different route, basing my picks on that time-honored tradition of the office holiday party’s white elephant gift exchange (ugly Christmas sweaters not included).

Advent 7: Gift Exchange

Creatures (7)
Daring Thief
Faerie Guidemother
Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer
Kwain, Itinerant Meddler
Lore Broker
Noble Benefactor

Artifacts (1)
Mana Geode

Spells (4)
Generous Gift
Gifts Ungiven
Reins of Power
Lands (8)
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Plains
Thriving Heath
Thriving Isle

The strategy here is to use exchange and group hug effects to maximize value and disrupt our opponent’s game plan. Sending Daring Thief to our opponent in exchange for their best creature, then sending them Spawnbroker in exchange for Daring Thief, using Daring Thief to steal their next best creature is probably enough to seal the game; but being able to lock down threats with Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer is a reasonable defense strategy. Other cards, like Noble Benefactor and Gifts Ungiven, can help us tutor for whatever other bombs we might have paired with this pack. Alongside packs like “Feast of Saint Nicholas,” we won’t even mind sending cards into the graveyard temporarily.

Jacob Torbeck is a researcher and instructor of theology and ethics. He hails from Chicago, IL, and loves playing Commander and pre-modern cubes.

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