'Tis the season everybody! There are many iconic elements of Christmas that we're familiar with from the trees, the decorations, the presents, the music, and many more.
We're not going to talk about either of those things though. Instead we're talking about Christmas cards. When I say that, I'm not talking about the type of Christmas cards you buy at the store for extended family member who lives out of state and you barely know that well, or the type where you and your family all pose in ugly Christmas sweaters and send them to families that you're friends with.
This is Out of Cards after all, a site where all the cards are about magic, monsters, and laying waste to your opponent! But in the spirit of Christmas, doing so in the friendliest way possible. Every year since 2006, Wizards of the Coast have printed promotional Christmas-themed Magic cards, which are given out at the company's holiday parties to members of the team as well as their business associates. All of these cards are silver-border, which means that they're prohibited from tournament play. Some of these cards also do pretty weird things that you normally wouldn't find on a black-border card, and I can't guarantee you that all of them will actually help you win. But on the Christmas season, it's fun to just spend time with your friends who also play the game and goof around.
So let's talk about some MTG Christmas cards!
2006 - Fruitcake Elemental
Fruitcake on Christmas has a reputation similar to candy corn on Halloween. While they both have their defenders, both foods are widely known because a lot of people don't like them despite the fact that some of those people will buy them anyway because it's part of the holiday tradition.
If you, the reader, are on the list of people who love and defend fruitcake, then unfortunately for you, this card plays into the notion of how fruitcake is widely disliked.
Fruitcake Elemental is indestructible, which appears to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to how fruitcake tends to dry up and become hard, and the card's flavor text appears to confirm that the cake is indeed dry. The fact that it deals 7 damage to you at the start of your turn is possibly also a reference to a fruitcake being dry and hard to bite into, or it could be an exaggerated way of communicating that it simply doesn't taste very good.
For 3 mana, you can give control of the creature to your opponent. Obviously, this fits into the giving aspect of the holiday, but it's also a way that you can try to use the 7 damage effect to your advantage.
2007 - Gifts Given
Gifts Given may appear to just be a simple reference to the gift giving part of Christmas, but the card as a whole is also a reference to the card Gifts Ungiven. Both cards have the same mana cost, and both cards involve searching a player's library for cards to put into your hand. In the case of Gifts Given, it uses cards from your opponent's library, whereas Gifts Ungiven uses cards from your own.
2008 - Evil Presents
Evil Presents does not appear to reference any particular part of the holiday and appears to represent a more villainous take on the gift giving. Perhaps some on Wizards of the Coast had a grunge against a fellow employee for getting them a bad present and wanted to give them this card to spite them?
In a way that's very much like the story of the Trojan Horse, the gift you give your opponent appears to have one of your creatures inside of it and it attacks the enemy because it still works for you. Since you're already playing silver-border cards anyway, you might as well also use Infinity Elemental and try to make your opponent kill themselves with it.
2009 - Season's Beatings
Season's Beatings is a reference to the term "season's greetings", which is a term commonly spoken or written during the holiday season. The celebration of being with your family however appears to be much more violent than what is typical as everyone has gathered together to beat the crap out of each other.
2010 - Snow Mercy
The name, Snow Mercy, is a pun of the term "no mercy".
The card depicts a bunch of creatures inside a snow globe, and whenever one deals damage to you, it gains a globe counter to represent the fact that it's inside the snow globe. It can tap all creatures with globe counters on them by repeatedly tapping and untapping it, mirroring how snow globes are supposed to be shaken to cause the snow to appear to fall. Understandably, anything inside the snow globe when that happens would be quite dizzy and probably hurt.
The card's flavor text also makes a self-reference to Magic's game world by noting "planar invasion" as a possible danger of the snow globe.
2011 - Yule Ooze
In name and context, Yule Ooze is a reference to a Yule log, which is a type of desert associated with Christmas.
The card in general is presented during the context of a Christmas feast. The ooze itself in the artwork appears to be eating a pig, and the effect of destroying a permanent and gaining stats equal to the total CMC of the permanent it "eats".
You can regenerate the Ooze by paying RG and eating some food. Incidentally, Food was actually added to the game as a card type in 2019 with the Throne of Eldraine set. The card doesn't specify how much food you need to eat either, so if you really don't want to indulge in something bigger, you can eat a single M&M and call it a day (bonus points if that one M&M is either red or green).
2012 - Naughty/Nice
Naughty and Nice is an obvious reference to Santa Claus's list of children who are either "naughty" or "nice", which is emphasized in the traditional Christmas song, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".
The card is not visually Christmas-themed, but the effects of the two sides is representative of the fact that it's "naughty" to keep your gifts to yourself and "nice" to give them to someone else.
2013 - Stocking Tiger
Stocking Tiger is a reference to Christmas stockings, which are sock-shaped bags that normally hang on the fireplace mantle for Santa to put presents in.
The motivation to specifically make it a tiger is not particularly obvious, but stockings are typically filled with small presents (which give them the nickname "stocking stuffers"), which the effect of entering with a booster pack appears to represent this.
The flavor text alludes to the idea that popular ideology that coal is placed into the stockings of bad children instead of presents.
2014 - Mishra's Toy Workshop
Mishra's Toy Workshop is an allusion to Santa's workshop where the elves make the toys for Santa, as well as the entire card being a reference to Mishra's Workshop. Both cards have effects that give the player 3 mana to use only for cards with certain parameters.
The part of the flavor text where Mishra continues to "bear a grudge" is a pun of the fact that the factory depicted in the artwork is making teddy bears and the term "to bear" which means to hold onto something. In this case, "bearing a grudge" refers to continuing to keep a grudge against someone else.
2015 - Goblin Sleigh Ride
Goblin Sleigh Ride is an obvious reference to sleighs, which is frequently referenced in many Christmas media. This is most prominently represented by Santa's sleigh pulled by the reindeer, but also traditional sleigh rides that normal people can use too.
The card's effect is very unorthodox and any parameters appear to be intentionally ambiguous. The card is played by having a creature you control climb onto the card (which is probably supposed to mean that you place the creature on top of the card itself), and then "slide them on their merry way". At the end, if the creature stayed on the card, it deals damage equal to its toughness to any creatures it touched during the slide.
What is defined as sliding "on their merry way" is not clearly defined nor what counts as the creature staying on the card. If one single millimeter of the creature is still touching the card, does that count as it "staying on"? This seems to be up to the player of the card to decide and argue against.
The flavor text also contains some wordplay. In addition to being a slight rewriting of the classic Jingle Bells line, the part that says "sing a slaying song tonight" is modeled on the fact that "sleigh" and "slay" sound phonetically identical to each other, and the effect involves you 'slaying' some creatures (or at least attempting to).
2016 - Thopter Pie Network
Thopter Pie Network is a reference to Thopter Spy Network, which as you can probably guess, shares many similarities with this card, down to its mana cost and many elements of its effect. Both cards create 1/1 Thopter tokens with Flying at the beginning of your upkeep.
In the case of Thopter Pie Network, you use food to represent the token, which is significant for the next effect as any tokens represented by food are eaten when they die. It doesn't matter if you're using an entire turkey to represent the token or if it fell on the floor and it's been there for an hour. You gotta eat it.
The flavor text also contains a pun. The phrase "pie in the sky" refers to the idea of a positive idea or outcome, but is unlikely to ever happen. In its entirety, it appears to mention an unnamed female character of whom people believed an unspecified idea of hers fit this description, as well as alluding to the fact that the card depicts giant pies that are literally in the sky.
2017 - Some Disassembly Required
Some Disassembly Required is a play on "some assembly required", which is an indicator that the item(s) on the box is not necessarily what you get when you open it. Instead you're given the pieces and you have to put them together to get the item(s). Some Disassembly Required is a reverse of that, in which the item appears to already be complete and you're encouraged to take it apart.
In context of the card, it appears to represent "disassembling" a creature and giving its "pieces" to other creatures on the board until the end of the turn. Additionally, the card also has a bonus effect in which you gain 1 life for each keyword "disassembled" if you're playing it in the month of December.
The flavor text is a reference to Frosty the Snowman, which describes that it needs a "jolly, happy soul" just like how Frosty himself is described in the song. This is further reinforced by the fact that the card appears to depict a contraption resembling a snowman.
2018 - Bog Humbugs
The connection that Bog Humbugs has to Christmas is a bit less obvious than most of the other cards on the list, but nonetheless still embodies the holiday just as much. The term "humbug" is used to refer to something or someone that is dishonest or fake, and is commonly associated with Ebenezer Scrooge, a character from A Christmas Carol, a book published in 1843 by Charles Dickens. He is notable for the line "Bah, Humbug" which is used to describe Christmas as a fake holiday and to denounce many of the traditions associated with it. The card's name is a reference to that particular phrase.
The card however appears to depict a literal bug (presumably called a "humbug" in universe) living in a bog. The card plays into the tradition of Christmas music and caroling, as whenever you deal damage with it, you hum notes from a "festive tune" equal to the amount of damage you deal and then it gains a +1/+1 counter if you can do it successfully. Fitting with the theme of music, the notation found at the bottom of the card text is "jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way".
The card's colorful nature featuring an array of other differently-colored bugs is probably an allusion to holiday lighting in general.
2019 - Decorated Knight
Decorated KnightBADCARDNAME is an obvious reference to decorations and gift giving. Both effects work with each other, and in fact, you will most likely need to play Present Arms first before the creature's baseline effect can do anything. Present Arms swaps your library with another deck you own from outside the game and use that one instead ("library" and "deck" both refer to the same thing, but the former is used to refer to it in-game, whereas the latter is used to refer to it outside of the game). Whenever it attacks, you draw a card from your original deck only if it's outside of the game. You're not giving another player a deck, but instead you're giving yourself a new deck and that's not what the holiday is about!
The name of the spell effect, "Present Arms" is a military drill command to hold your rifle vertically in front of you. In the context of the card, it appears to be wordplay on the fact that the word "present" can refer to a gift you give to someone (in which case, it's pronounced like "pleasant") or the act of showing something off (in which case, it's pronounced like "prevent"), and the effect appears to be using both meanings at the same time.
2020 - Topdeck the Halls
Topdeck the Halls is another card that references Christmas decorations. While you control it, cards that are "decorated" (which the card uses to refer to cards with "premium" foil, alternate art or frames, and promo cards) have a miracle cost of one snow mana (which means that you can play the card for one snow mana if it's the first card you drew that turn). If you control 12 or more "decorated" cards at the start of your upkeep, you automatically win the game.
The name of the card is an allusion to the traditional Christmas carol called "Deck the Halls", as well as a meta-reference to "topdecking" which refers to playing a card on the same turn you draw it, often in a way to swing the game in your favor (which also provides its connection to the miracle keyword). The card's artwork is also a reimagining of the artwork of Dream Halls.
2021 - Last-Minute Chopping
Last-Minute Chopping as a whole alludes to the shopping aspect of the holiday as well as "last minute shopping" which refers to shopping for Christmas gifts very late into the season when it's close to Christmas because you haven't bought all the gifts yet. The card's flavor text appears to represent that the woman in the artwork hadn't found her brother a gift yet and quickly chopped someone's arm off to use as her present and trying to cover up the fact that it was done very late.
The card puts your opponent in a place where they have to give you either a card they own from outside the game or a permanent they currently control. Fitting with the general flavor of the card though, your opponent has the option to live if that choice is better for them.
2022 - Chaos Wrap
Chaos Wrap is a reference to Chaos Warp and to gift wrapping. Both cards have the same cost as well as the same basis for the effect. Chaos Wrap however gives the option for the owner of the permanent to "wrap" the card by putting in many sleeves (it doesn't specify an exact amount, so as long as you can keep fitting the sleeved card into more sleeves, you're presumably allowed to do this indefinitely) which prevents the card from taking damage or being destroyed by removing one sleeve from the card each time it would be.
Additionally, while Chaos Warp would simply not take any additional action if the card isn't a permanent, Chaos Wrap gives the player an option to play it face-down as a 4/4 red creature with the Present type. The card lacks a physical silver border, but otherwise, it's legality functions the same as any silver-border card.