Last updated on October 31, 2022
Captain N'ghathrod | Illustration by Andrey Kuzinskiy
Preconstructed Commander decks can be hit or miss. Sometimes all they give you is an interesting new legendary creature, and other times it’s a valuable new card in the 99 like Dockside Extortionist. But some precons are already a great start toward a full deck, like the Mind Flayarrrs deck from Battle for Baldur’s Gate.
I thought it would be silly to start my Captain N'ghathrod Commander deck from scratch with such a strong foundation already in place. My decklist is more of an upgrade for the existing Mind Flayarrrs build, but it’s helpful if you want to build the deck yourself. Just grab the precon and add some cards.
Let’s look at how Dungeons & Dragons’ version of Davy Jones does as a Magic commander!
Creeping Inn | Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren
Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears
Jace, Memory Adept
Arvinox, the Mind Flail
Xanathar, Guild Kingpin
K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth
Toxrill, the Corrosive
Zellix, Sanity Flayer
Nemesis of Reason
Syr Konrad, the Grim
Lazav, Dimir Mastermind
Wrexial, the Risen Deep
Drown in the Loch
Feed the Swarm
From the Catacombs
In Garruk's Wake
Reflections of Littjara
Court of Cunning
Talisman of Dominance
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Shizo, Death's Storehouse
Port of Karfell
I hope you don’t scare easily, because this deck is all about horrors. You want to get the most out of Captain N'ghathrod’s abilities, and the best way is to crew your deck with the Captain’s horrific brethren.
Some cards mill your opponents, and some give you other ways to steal their creatures. Like any good pirate you want to steal as much from your opponents as you can. Most players don’t expect to have to play against their own deck, after all.
Captain N'ghathrod is a great tribal commander since it benefits from and gives benefits to its fellow horror creatures. One of the perks it gives is menace, so your creatures are a lot harder to block if you build a deck with only horrors.
Making your creatures harder to block also helps with the Captain’s subsequent abilities. Every time you mill your opponent you’re also giving yourself more to choose from during your end step.
While Captain N'ghathrod is probably seen as a big threat, it also has some built-in protection. Players don’t like getting smacked with their own creatures or being deprived of important parts of their deck, so they might choose to destroy the big threatening creatures you’ve stolen from them before they go after your commander.
Oh, the Horrors!
Like any good tribal deck, you’re going to want to fill yours with the best of what the tribe has to offer. Phyrexian Obliterator is already a great card, and it works even better in a deck where you want to discourage your opponents from blocking.
Toxrill, the Corrosive helps to weaken your opponents’ creatures each turn and generate some tokens. Zellix, Sanity Flayer can also make you some tokens and help to mill your opponents to fuel Captain N'ghathrod’s ability.
Some of your horrors are going to be expensive, like Arvinox, the Mind Flail. Not only will you have another horror with K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, you also get an alternate way to pay some of these high costs.
Cards that directly mill your opponents give you more options to plunder on your end step. Mill cards like Fractured Sanity and Maddening Cacophony are versatile options because they allow you to use them early for a little bit of mill, or later for a lot.
Creatures like Nemesis of Reason mill on their attack trigger and if they do damage thanks to Captain N'ghathrod.
Fleet Swallower is the real star here because it allows you to mill massive amounts of cards from any opponent.
Jace, Memory Adept can do a lot of work since it can mill a lot of cards for no cost each turn. Being able to choose who you’re milling rather than relying on combat damage allows you to choose the target you think is most likely to have some good creatures or artifacts to steal.
Mindcrank has a very similar effect to Captain N'ghathrod. Your opponents mill double the amount of damage taken when they’re both on the field, which gives you even more access to goodies from their graveyards.
Syr Konrad, the Grim has an activated milling ability but is also a big benefit because it deals more damage the more you mill your opponents.
There’s a good chance some of your creatures aren’t going to make it out alive since you have to attack often to try and mill your opponents. You can give them a second chance to do some damage by bringing them back with cards like Hell's Caretaker.
Spells like Reanimate and From the Catacombs are extra powerful because they can take creatures from any graveyard. There’s a good chance there’s something powerful in there since you’re constantly milling your opponents.
Ashiok, Sculptor of Fears allows you to mill your opponents and then take something out of any graveyard on its second turn out. It’ll probably be a big target on the board, so make sure you’re ready to protect it if you want that second ability.
While not truly a way to reanimate creatures, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind gives you the option to copy any creature that’s put into an opponent’s graveyard. Lazav will have a lot to choose from since you’re milling your opponents a lot, and adding hexproof means Lazav hangs around longer than other creatures.
Your opponents are going to gun for your commander once they get a taste of what your deck can do. Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots make it harder for them to take it out.
Apart from being a horror creature, Spellskite helps protect some of your better creatures or planeswalkers. It essentially acts as a 1-mana (or 2-life) counterspell.
Fierce Guardianship is a great no-cost way to keep your permanents safe, provided you have Captain N'ghathrod on the board.
Menace can help get your creatures through blockers, but you can always enchant them with Aether Tunnel to guarantee you’re milling out some of your opponents.
Winged Boots can also be helpful and makes it harder for your opponents to remove your creature.
Creatures with evasive abilities also come in handy. Faceless Devourer is difficult to block since there aren’t a lot of creatures with shadow, Guiltfeeder is difficult to block for players without access to black mana or artifact creatures, and Brainstealer Dragon has both flying and menace if your commander is out, making it nearly unblockable.
I’ll Take That
Captain N'ghathrod isn’t the only creature here that steals your opponents’ cards. Xanathar, Guild Kingpin allows you to cast one or more of an opponent’s cards each turn and gives you the benefit of stopping a control player from countering your spells.
Mindleech Mass can help you steal a card from an opponent’s hand for free while Mind Flayer can take a creature on the board. Nobody’s cards are safe from you, no matter what zone of play they’re in.
Mass Manipulation can really swing the game in your favor by allowing you to grab multiple creatures or planeswalkers from across the board once you’ve built up a good mana base. You can also take just one earlier in the game if you want to steal something powerful or get rid of an early threat.
Permanents aren’t the only thing you’ll be stealing. Wrexial, the Risen Deep allows you to cast instant and sorcery cards from your opponents’ graveyard, Covetous Urge lets you grab anything but a land from their hand, and Psionic Ritual can make a big splash by letting you cast multiple spells from any graveyard.
Feed the Swarm or Ravenous Chupacabra help you to destroy threats you can’t take care of by theft alone.
You’ll want board wipes that are going to leave your creatures intact since you probably want to keep them around. In Garruk's Wake and Cyclonic Rift clear your opponents’ boards without touching the horror army you’ve built up. Crippling Fear only takes out weaker creatures but can be a good way to take some out without hitting your own. It can also work well against large amounts of weak tokens.
There are a lot of great cards that let you benefit from running mostly one creature type. Kindred Discovery draws you a card whenever one of your horrors enters the battlefield, and Reflections of Littjara lets you copy them.
While Endless Evil can work for any deck, a horror tribal deck makes the best use of it since you’re able to keep returning it to your hand to use again.
Maskwood Nexus lets you turn the non-horror creatures you steal from your opponents into horrors. It can also create some new horrors in the form of 2/2 Shapeshifter tokens.
The Mana Base
With limited access to ramp spells, you can keep up with your opponents by using mana rock artifacts like Talisman of Dominance and Arcane Signet. Dimir Keyrune has the added benefit of becoming an unblockable horror, letting you use it as a mana rock or mill-engine.
Some of your creatures and spells in this deck are expensive. Sol Ring is another good way to help you stay ahead of the mana curve, and Everflowing Chalice is a nice module mana rock that can potentially tap for a lot if you’re able to invest a good amount in it.
A lot of great utility lands fit this deck’s strategy. Rogue's Passage and Shizo, Death's Storehouse can help you get around blockers. Port of Karfell can help you reanimate one of your better creatures, and Nephalia Drownyard can mill your opponents.
Hostile Hostel has a few uses in this deck. It allows you to sacrifice a creature you have gained temporary control over (say, with Mind Flayer) before it returns to its owner’s control. And you have a tough horror creature that can also help take life from your opponents once it transforms to Creeping Inn.
Lands like Polluted Delta and Myriad Landscape can help with mana fixing by fetching you the lands you need. Sunken Ruins can also make sure you have access to the right types of mana and allow you to mix and match how you use it and other lands.
Dual lands like Watery Grave, Underground Sea, and Underground River are important to access the color mana you need.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a great way to get more out of each land you control. It allows utility lands to tap for black mana and turns any land that taps for blue into a dual land.
Command Tower goes in most multicolor Commander decks, and there’s no reason not to include it here.
To maximize success you’re going to want to get Captain N'ghathrod on the board and mill your opponents as much as you can. Your main source of milling is attacking with your many horror creatures.
You’re hoping to take some of your opponents’ best creatures and artifacts for yourself through milling and force your opponents to play against their own best cards. You can help thumb the scales a little bit by also directly stealing their biggest threats with cards like From the Catacombs and Covetous Urge.
You’re looking to win by dealing damage with your horrors and stolen creatures. Cards like Creeping Inn and Syr Konrad, the Grim can also chip away at your opponent’s life totals. There’s always the chance that you might just mill out one or two of your opponents between Fleet Swallower, Jace, Memory Adept, and Mindcrank.
Combos and Interactions
You can get a little extra value out of your tribal support cards like Reflections of Littjara and Kindred Discovery if you have Maskwood Nexus on the field. It makes any creature you control a horror, and can also create some more. Each changeling you make activates Kindred Discovery.
You can deal a good amount of damage and mill a lot of cards if you have Syr Konrad, the Grim and Mindcrank on the field. Your opponents mill an extra card each time a creature is milled since Syr Konrad deals damage each time that happens. This can do a lot of damage and mill a lot of cards from creature-heavy decks.
A combo that isn’t in this deck (but easily could be) uses Mindcrank and Bloodchief Ascension. Once Ascension has enough counters on it, it creates an infinite loop of milling cards and dealing damage.
One budget option I strongly recommend is the Mind Flayarrrs precon itself. That allows you to get a feel for how you like Captain N'ghathrod and its play style. It also gives you a full deck while you build into a more powerful version, whether it’s this one or your own.
If you want to use this specific deck while saving money, the best thing to do would be to create a slower mana base. Original dual lands like Underground Sea are expensive and can be easily replaced by slow lands, or even tapped dual lands at a fraction of the price.
Another route you could take this deck is by leaning harder into the mill aspect of it, like with the Bloodchief Ascension and Mindcrank combo. You could also include mill cards like Teferi's Tutelage and Bruvac the Grandiloquent.
Another potential combo to build around uses Painter's Servant and Grindstone. You’ll be more focused on grabbing big threats or winning through milling if you’re milling a lot of cards from your opponents.
Zellix, Sanity Flayer | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak
If you’re looking to grab any of the newer precon decks I’d strongly recommend Captain N'ghathrod. I’ve been having a lot of fun with this build and I know there are more ways to take it. This is the deck for you if you like stealing permanents, milling cards, or just like squid-faced pirates.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this deck. What cards would you include? Do you think Captain N'ghathrod fits its D&D flavor? What other D&D villains would you like to see get a card? Let me know in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
I hope Captain N'ghathrod has captured your interest, and I look forward to seeing you in the next deck!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: