Mind Flayarrrs - Upgrade Guide
(Captain N'ghathrod Art by Andrey Kuzinskiy)
Avast ye! And welcome back to EDHREC for another Scrap Trawlers precon upgrade guide. I’m Andy, and today we’re looking at the Mind Flayarrrs deck from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate. If you read my primer for the deck, you know that I had a few complaints. So we’re seeing if we can rectify those problems and turn this into a better deck with just a few upgrades that won’t hurt your wallet. All aboard!
Woe (Strider) is Me
This deck is led by Captain N’ghathrod, a blue and black Horror Pirate who gives all your Horrors menace, mills opponents when your Horrors deal combat damage to them, and gets you a free artifact or creature each turn from the stuff you mill. Which is to say, it has a lot of text, but you gotta work for it.
Here’s the original decklist:
Mind Flayarrrs precon
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Right up front I’m gonna tell you, this was a difficult deck to upgrade. I wanted to add more card draw, cheaper removal, and, if possible, better Horrors. And I did some of these things, but not as much as I wanted. That’s because I found that for every card I wanted to add, I had to take out a Horror. Granted, many of the Horrors in the deck didn’t serve a purpose beyond their creature type, but they still needed to be there for Captain N’ghathrod to be effective. And some of the really good Horrors that I wanted to add were too high in mana value and would’ve wrecked the mana curve (e.g. Arvinox, the Mind Flail and Screaming Swarm). In the end, to get more of what I wanted in the deck, I had to cut 7 Horrors from the list, while only adding one back, which brought the Horror count to 26. Still a respectable number, but not as good as what it was.
I Was Born on a Pirate Ship
Okay, so what did I add? I gave the list 10 new cards to play with. To improve the card draw suite I threw in Commander’s Insight and Reconnaissance Mission. Insight is just a great late-game refill spell, and I’ve found it to be better than Blue Sun’s Zenith in almost every case. Also, it targets players, so it’s possible to knock someone out of the game with it if you’ve milled them down enough. Mission seems like a no-brainer in this deck, since our goal is to smack opponents with Horrors in combat. Although you can certainly switch to Coastal Piracy if you’d like to stay on theme.
I mentioned in my primer that the deck was lacking in cheap removal, so I’m giving it more options for quick threat response, with Power Word Kill and Go for the Throat. And for a more wide-ranging removal spell, and the only Horror I added, we’ve got Illithid Harvester. This card is so fun, and can deal with so many threats at once.
The deck also needed more ways to get our dead creatures back, so in goes Patriarch’s Bidding. Granted, this is a risky move if anyone else at the table is playing a creature type-themed deck as well, but may be crucial if we need to rebuild after a board wipe.
Last, I upped the mill game. Court of Cunning just makes a ton of sense here because not only does it just give us some free mill each upkeep (so we’ll get something from Captain’s end step trigger without even going to combat), it also gives us the monarchy for extra card draw. And since we’re already smacking faces with Horrors, and stealing creatures out of graves, it’s likely we’ll frequently be wearing the crown. There’s also Cut Your Losses, which has the potential to mill like 80 cards at one go if you use its Casualty ability and mill two players. And of course, we can’t call this a mill deck without the mill daddy himself, Syr Konrad, the Grim. Dude wins games, and deserves to stand among all the Horrors. And you know who else wins games? Duskmantle Guildmage. Combine its first activated ability with a massive mill spell like Cut Your Losses, and you’re knocking people out of the game with ease.
Walk the Plank
You know the drill. A Commander deck has to be 100 cards, so if cards go in, cards have to come out. I mentioned that I cut 7 Horrors out of the deck, so we’ll start there, beginning with my all-time favorite Magic: the Gathering card, Psychosis Crawler. Yes, I love this card more than any other card printed. So why am I cutting it? Well, despite being a Horror, and being a generally good card, it’s not terribly impactful in this deck. We’re not drawing a ridiculous amount of cards here, so not only is the Crawler likely to be small, it’s not going to do a whole lot of damage. While it does pair nicely with Mindcrank, it’s just not worth a spot here, especially since it’ll only draw heat from opponents who have been hurt by it in the past. Chasm Skulker is going for the same reason. Good card, but we’re not drawing enough cards for it to be worth it.
Is a 4/4 with Fear impactful enough in this deck on its own? Maybe. Nihilith is likely to not be blocked, and 4 cards are a decent amount to mill. But I can’t help but feel like we’re overpaying for it, even with the Suspend ability. Same with Dusk Mangler, decent enough card, but not for 7 mana. Sewer Nemesis has the potential to be big, but its mill effect is so lousy. Especially because we want opponents to mill on our turn so we get the stuff from their yards with Captain, but players cast most of their spells on their own turn. So it doesn’t really make sense.
Phyrexian Revoker is decent for two mana to shut down a powerful card, but dies too easily. Nighthowler was the toughest of the creature cuts. In fact, I could definitely see the argument for keeping it in, since it opens up the possibility of a commander damage win if you put it on Captain…I may be rethinking this one.
Then for noncreature spells, I took out Hex, which got replaced with Illithid Harvester. While Hex just kills the creatures, Harvester is more on theme and can deal with pesky indestructible creatures. Black Market has always been underwhelming to me. As far as ramp spells, it just costs too much. It's 5 mana for a do-nothing enchantment in a deck where we’re not killing or sacrificing a ton of creatures to really get enough mana out of it to make it worth it.
And my last cut is Leyline of Anticipation. Look, this is a good card, and can definitely be put to good use in the right deck. But this deck isn’t reacting to a ton of stuff at instant speed, so I see no reason to use up a slot for it.
X Marks the Spot
Got some dubloons burning a hole in your pantaloons and wanna spend it on upgrading this precon? I’ve got you covered, matey.
For some more expensive mill cards, consider Maddening Cacophony, Altar of the Brood, Psychic Corrosion, Memory Erosion (a much better version of Sewer Nemesis), and the amazing Bruvac the Grandiloquent.
I’ve got ramp for you, with Urza’s Incubator to cheapen those Horrors, and K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. Lots of card draw, with Kindred Discovery, Agent of Treachery, Rhystic Study, Vanquisher’s Banner, and Toxrill, the Corrosive.
I’ve also got some fun removal spells, with Thing in the Ice and Kindred Dominance. And last is graveyard recursion, with Hell’s Caretaker, Haunting Voyage, and Rise of the Dark Realms. Rise is particularly tasty in mill decks.
Here’s the upgraded decklist:
Mind Flayarrrs Upgrades
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
All in all, I’m just not excited about this commander. His abilities cause the deck to pull itself in too many directions, and the Horror creature type just isn’t developed enough for Commander.
I changed out 10 cards for around $8, but I’m not sure it was enough to really make this deck solid. I upped the card draw and removal and gave the deck a more powerful mill capability, all at the expense of a few Horrors. Was it worth it? Try it out and let me know in the comments!
Keep your eyes peeled here for more precon guides from your budget buddies at Scrap Trawlers, and check out our other content on YouTube and Twitch. And remember to budget…before you buy it.