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Tribal Horrors with Captain N'Ghathrod


I've had a fun trip with Tribal decks these last few weeks. It's been neat to take a look at some Tribes you don't often see, and it's been enlightening to build with a specific, limited card-type in mind. I had a few thoughts for what to do for the last one, when the full spoiler dropped with the perfect commander.

Captain N'ghathrod

I've seen a lot of Horrors in my days as a Magic player. Ravenous Chupacabra shows up in a ton of decks, and I've definitely been known to lean on Thrummingbird from time to time. But we've never seen a Horror lord before, and I have to say, I am here for it.

The good (bad?) Captain directs us a fair amount in terms of what we want to do. We could just lean into all our Horrors having Menace, run a bunch of non-specific Lords like Adaptive Automaton, and see if we can get there in the red zone, but N'ghathrod says "nope". N'ghathrod wants your stuff, and he wants it pretty much right now. He's going to use all the various Horrors under his command to try to take your stuff - well, okay, not your stuff, but rather your opponents' stuff. This sounds like fun.

One thing we can't plan for is what other people will have in their decks. We might get lucky and hit a Mindslaver or a Sun Titan. We might wind up with an Elvish Visionary or a Mind Stone. We could whiff, depending on how many cards we can get people to turn over in a turn. So, it's hard to know exactly how the deck will play out! We might go all-in on a milling plan, which we can build for in the deck. We also may wind up with a couple of nasty Creatures from other people and win with damage, or we might even assemble some bizarre combo from things we manage to steal (imagine if we stole a Mindslaver, a Scarecrone, and a Seedborne Muse! Every turn we could activate the Scarecrone to return the Mindslaver, then steal a turn. That'd be awesome).

What we can plan for is what we're going to do, and that's going to be play a lot of Horrors, hopefully attack for a fair amount every turn and get our opponents to turn over a bunch of cards, then get their stuff. And that, as usual, starts with the mana.

Our 40 lands pretty reliably fix our mana; we have some serious mana commitments in the deck, but nothing a few duals can't handle. I'd call this deck mid-range in terms of speed; we don't have to launch out of the gate, so it's okay to have a few tapped lands. If we can play our Commander on turn four, we're in pretty good shape. A couple of specific notes, though; Rogue's Passage is pretty much a definite for any Creature-based deck, and it's no joke here. Nephalia's Drownyard and its little sibling Duskmantle, House of Shadow both let us dump a few more cards, which can both add to the total number of cards turned over in a turn or just push us closer to a mill win. Finally, Hostile Hostel // Creeping Inn turns into a Horror, so it seemed worth it. We won't mind sacrificing things, especially when they belong to someone else, to the point we're also running High Market as a backup sac outlet. I'm glad the Market isn't hostile, though. One is enough.

In addition to the lands, we have seven mana rocks, all designed to come out early to maximize options. I'm not normally a fan of the Talismans, because I think the life loss is often not worth it in the face of more expensive options which don't ping your life total, but in this case I think it's worth it to keep all our rocks at two-mana Value or below. We have a few other things to do at that cost, but mostly we're aiming for four-, five-, and six-mana spells, so ramping early and getting it out of the way is worth it, even if we're not going for warp speed.

One nice thing about stealing other peoples' stuff is we can worry a bit less about drawing cards, because we'll be getting advantage from other people's libraries. However, we still want to make sure we have more Horrors to play when we need them, and lots of the stuff in our deck will help us achieve our goals, so having at least a few ways is worth it. Bident of Thassa and Reconnaissance Mission both work great here, since our guys will be getting in quite a bit. Kindred Discovery, too, is wonderful; we have 41 (!) Horrors, so that should keep the cards flowing. A few of our Horrors draw cards when they enter. Our two Planeswalkers, Jace, Memory Adept and Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears, both draw us cards when they tick up, too. (Jace's +0 also mills someone for 10, which should give us a nice pile to choose from.)

Our real vector of attack lies in those 41 Creatures. We land our Commander and stick a couple of Horrors to the 'field, attacking all the way. As we do, we add our opponents' Creatures and Artifacts to our 'field, which gives us more options. Does someone block the Forgotten Creation with both their Creatures and prevent the three cards they'll mill, or do they block their own Molten Primordial you stole last turn? We should be able to set up some fun interactions. Also, keep in mind these Horrors can be really complicated. Just look at the text block on Consuming Aberration! My advice? Don't play out Horrors just because you draw them. Keep your board simplified so your interactions don't get too out of hand. That also serves as Wrath protection, and a specific answer on a card can always be used if necessary.

Speaking of which, our answers are almost all in Horror form. Ravenous Chupacabra, baby! Overcharged Amalgam can counter a spell or ability for us. If Phyrexian Obliterator manages to get a hit, it often solves a bunch of problems all at once. I like Illithid Harvester here; the sorcery can be a really big tap-down to allow for an alpha strike and the creature is a wonderful rattlesnake preventing commanders and large creatures from tapping to attack. Our one instant is Drown in the Loch, which gives us options based on need. It's the only card of its type in the deck, but playing it one time will convince everyone you are always sitting on the answer. Lean into it. Your most common phrase should be, "I'll allow it."

Mostly, though, we want to apply pressure. We've got big Creatures with relevant (and sometimes scary!) abilities who are hard to block. Lean into it and make people respond. One of the scariest things we can do is stick a Nighthowler on, say, Nihilith. Now it has Fear and Menace and its power and toughness are equal to four plus all the Creatures in graveyards. That could be a 50/50, depending on how much milling we've done. And we do have a few straight-up mill spells. Cut Your Losses lets us use a smaller Horror to double up. Fractured Sanity puts 42 cards in the 'yard in a 4-person game. And Maddening Cacophony is probably best kicked; 24 isn't bad, but something like 100 cards should give us plenty of stuff to choose from.

Horror Tribal | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

We have as many Horrors in the deck as Lands; this is good, because we want to draw a lot of them. We'll lose them sometimes - a number of the things that our deck does require us to sacrifice Creatures, Exile them, stuff like that. Don't be afraid. If you can mill six or eight cards a turn, you'll hit relevant targets, and use your big spells when you draw them to give yourself a big boost on the mill train and see a lot of options.

Given how important our Commander is to our strategy, it might be worth finding a place for some protection for him. You could go to the Swiftfoot Boots/Lightning Greaves route, but there's a good chance you'll be able to steal one of those. If I were going to do that, I'd probably add a couple of cards like Feign Death. Force them to use the removal, or the Wrath, and get the Commander back at a severely reduced price. Like with Drown in the Loch, once you do it, everyone will assume you always can.

One of the most fun things about a deck like this one is it will never play the same way twice. Because so much relies on the decks you're playing against, one game you'll be playing with a board full of huge Green Creatures, the next you'll have a bunch of Angels, and the next you'll have a ton of Vampires or something. It'll be a fun challenge to figure out whether to lean into stealing, or mill, or just winning with our own Horrors. And be careful when you knock people out of the game, because remember you'll lose everything you've stolen from them the very second they're dead. So, if one particular player has provided you with a bunch of power (or some key mana rocks or other Artifacts), maybe give them a break so you can keep their stuff!

How do you feel about stealing in EDH? What about mill? Let us know in the comments, along with any other thoughts about our new Horror lord!

Author's Note: When I look at spoilers, I tend to limit myself just to official spoilers, and I only look at the card lists. I don't play precons, so I don't look at them at all, and rarely have any idea what the precons are from a set until someone plays one against me. After I'd finished this deck, my editor pointed out there was a precon from Baldur's Gate called Mind Flayarrs which is Horror Tribal with Captain N'ghathrod at the helm. Given both decks use the same Commander and the same Tribe, there is certainly some crossover, but it was not intentional. I don't see my article as an upgrade piece, though if you want to build this deck, buying the precon will get you a long way toward it. I built this deck from the ground up, and I'd rather play this one than the precon - though I'd consider keeping that Hullbreaker Horror!

Thanks for reading.

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