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Upgrading the Mind Flayarrrs Commander Deck


The larger focus on Commander products has really brought a lot of older and often underappreciated aspects of Magic straight to the forefront. Over the last few years, we've seen long forgotten characters make their grand return, old mechanics make surprising returns, and even old tribes finally get their time in the sun. It's been a real treat for players everywhere to gain access to a whole new host of ways to approach various ways of playing this great game.

I'm right there in that camp myself. Over the last couple years, I've gotten to write about Rebecc and Glacien, Jeska and Kamahl, Garth One-Eye, and more with glee. There've been tons of sweet new strategies over the last few years like Arcades, the Strategist enabling walls in a new light or Kotori, Pilot Prodigy allowing for a dedicated vehicles strategy. Jumpstart in particular felt like an incredible breath of fresh air by allowing for dedicated strategies like mill, unicorns, discard, and minotaurs.

With the release of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate we get to see yet another of these underutilized strategies shine. That is, of course, horror tribal. I've been playing Magic for 23 years now and there's been no shortage of cool horrors in the game. Many of these initially would show up pre-creature type update very infrequently but were always memorable. I fondly remember the first time I'd see cards like Hidden Horror, Delraich, Devouring Strossus, and Faceless Butcher. Cards that have this fiercely iconic look about them that's impossible to miss.

Surprisingly, in the game's nearly 30 years now we've never really had much support for horror tribal. In fact, the only other real card I can think of that fits this mold is Umbris, Fear Manifest which dropped just last year. It wasn't in its own commander deck, though, and was instead relegated to being openable in Innistrad: Crimson Vow set boosters. With the Mind Flayarrrs precon, we finally get some genuine support for this largely unsupported tribe. Let's check out the base precon!

Mind Flayarrrs Precon | Commander | Wizards of the Coast

By and large, this list is fantastic. There's a ton of outstanding choices for the horror tribe as well as a lot of great new additions to the tribe with this deck. On the new side, Aboleth Spawn, Grell Philosopher, and Zellix, Sanity Flayer all do really cool things and work very well in tandem with the deck's commander. On the reprint side, there were some truly surprising inclusions such as Dauthi Horror, Nihilith, and even the Standard powerhouse of Hullbreaker Horror. There were a lot of gems in this list. I especially liked Haunted One for its tribal synergies, especially compared to Folk Hero in the Party Time deck as I covered last week.

Aboleth Spawn
Hullbreaker Horror
Haunted One

In all truth, this deck falls squarely in line with many of the decks released over the last year or so where the decks are incredibly well made and are superb right out of the box. You could just update the mana base a little with lands in your collection and it would be excellent as is. Being totally honest, this has been the case so much over the last couple releases it's even made me reconsider doing upgrade lists for every deck. At some point many of the decks have such consistent core aspects that there isn't much left to upgrade and making cuts ends up feeling like pulling teeth.

For all the good in this list, however, there were a handful of things that irked me. I'll dive into them momentarily, but first, let's check out an updated list.

Mind Flayarrrs Revamped | Commander | Paige Smith

As I mentioned above, I love the overwhelming majority of choices Wizards went with when it came to picking what horrors to use in this precon list. It actually made it hard to find ones to slip in largely because I didn't want to cut the ones already in the deck. This left a lot of great options on the cutting room floor, but if you needed some solid options I'd happily recommend the likes of Dread Slaver, Dinrova Horror, Doom Weaver, Possessed Aven, and Runo Stromkirk // Krothuss, Lord of the Deep to name a few. There are a surprisingly great number of options, especially considering how much I remember many horrors over the years being bad I thought I'd have a harder time pulling cards. In reality, there's actually a lot of excellent budget options that can be utilized if you want some cheap and easy upgrades.

Dread Slaver
Dross Harvester
Grell Philosopher

While the list was largely consistent in its quality, there were still definitely some cards that quickly stood out to me as being not all that great. Dross Harvester was never really a good card, and this deck not exactly being one that picks off creatures en masse often doesn't help either. Similarly, Dark Hatchling has been a terribly boring option that's overcost and extremely mediocre even for Commander. It was that way in Commander 2011 and remains true over a decade later. Spellskite also feels mediocre in a deck like this and Plague Spitter feels like it's just going to cause untold misery if you end up against a weenies deck. Similarly, Woe Strider is great in 60-card Constructed, but feels like a bit of a head scratcher here - almost like it was included due to recent familiarity more than anything.

Surprisingly, I only ended up cutting one new card, and that was Grell Philosopher. In truth, I almost kept it in and it ended up being one of the very last cuts as I struggled to find stuff to drop from my final list. It has some synergies with mana rocks - which I honestly felt there were almost too many of in the deck and subsequently cut down a little - but barely anything else in the list. You can play off of opponents' artifacts as well, but it feels like there's simply better options that you could utilize instead.

When it came to looking for actual upgrades, there were actually some pretty surprising positives to add. Some like Toxrill, the Corrosive and the aforementioned Umbris seemed like really easy fits. I was incredibly surprised at a few options going through the list such as K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth and Hell's Caretaker both being horrors, which fit excellently in a deck like this. Phyrexian Obliterator is often seen as just an unblockable 5/5 most of the time, but now that it also mills your opponents it makes them think twice before letting that damage through. Mindslicer is also a great way to rip through hands and fill graveyards, making it an all-star in a deck such as this.

K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth
Toxic Deluge
Relic of Progenitus

Most of the spell side was largely just upgrades. Drown in Dreams feels like a better option than Pull from Tomorrow, Beacon of Unrest a little better than Extract from Darkness due to repeatability, Toxic Deluge being better than In Garruk's Wake, and so on. This is largely just cutting some of the more chaff-like options for some much better enhancements. Since this is such a mill-heavy strategy, I also included Relic of Progenitus in the list in case an opponent is playing an Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or Kozilek, Butcher of Truth somewhere in their 99. You may want to consider additional options like Tormod's Crypt or Soul-Guide Lantern if they show up in your local meta a lot.

In truth, though, many of these upgrades are pretty minor. I'd still recommend dropping a couple cards like Dross Harvester and Hex, but by and large this is a truly excellent deck. It's a great way to pick up and play Magic and Commander and Captain N'ghathrod presents a wonderful new way to play with one of the game's oldest and coolest creature types. Whether you play with these horrific monstrosities right out of the box or with an upgraded build, it's no doubt going to make for a grisly good time at your next Commander night. Just make sure to watch that those dastardly mind flayers don't try to steal away your thoughts and take over your mind while you play.

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

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