Last updated on September 22, 2023
Umbris, Fear Manifest | Illustration by Daarken
Horror creatures are classic enemies of fantasy stories, the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and RPGs. Horror creatures have been getting some love recently, with very powerful horror creatures and legendary horrors being printed. WotC even made the Mind Flayarrs Commander pre-con, which focuses on horror tribal. It’s a fact that EDH players love to build weird tribal decks no one’s focusing on, and horror can actually be a great fit.
Today we’re focusing on the most horrifying commanders you can play to instill fear in your opponents, whether by slowly milling their libraries or by convincing their weak-minded minions to fight by your side. There are 32 horror commanders in MTG across all colors, and I’ll take you through how to best build EDH decks around them. I’ll rank the commanders from worst to best, and I hope that you’ll be inspired to start brewing a new deck with a horror commander right away. With that in mind, let’s dive in.
Morinfen | Illustration by Carl Critchlow
Horror commanders are legendary horror creatures in MTG that can be your commander according to the EDH rules. Horror creatures are usually themed as creatures so unreal, scary, and twisted that they deal mental damage. In MTG this is represented by attacking players’ libraries or hands. So it’s very common to see horror creatures with saboteur abilities (combat damage triggers) that let you mill or exile cards from opponents’ libraries, make them discard, and more. Black is the color with the most horrors, and the theme of the Dimir color combination matches horrors well.
I’m putting Gitrog, Horror of Zhava as an honorable mention because, as a legendary horror that only exists in MTG Arena, it can only be used as a commander in Brawl and Historic Brawl. Gitrog is a nice stax card that makes your opponent sacrifice a non-token creature every turn or deal with a 6/6 menace. Plus, when they do, you’ll get an extra land, and you may sacrifice lands to draw cards when they’re not needed in the late game.
Greel, Mind Raker strikes me as the worst horror commander because its discard ability targets a single player, and that’s ineffective in EDH. I’d reconsider if it was something like “each opponent discards cards.” Plus, it’s bad when your 5-mana commander dies to Lightning Bolt or similar removal.
Gallowbraid is a 5/5 trample creature with downside, which is a bad commander to play in this day and age. Your best bet is to take advantage of the life you’ll lose due to cumulative upkeep, and when you’re almost dead you can switch life totals with other players using cards like Tree of Perdition.
Morinfen is similar to Gallowbraid in that it’s a bad card and you lose life from cumulative upkeep, but it trades the 5/5 trample body for a 5/4 flying body, which is much better. A Voltron build would be more appropriate here, stacking auras and equipment on your commander and beating down. Swapping life totals is also a valid strategy here as well.
Gisela, the Broken Blade is a good, efficient creature with nice stats and abilities, but it isn’t the most interesting creature to build around in EDH. Unfortunately, that’s what I value most in a commander, and Gisela’s fine but unexciting. It can be built as a lifegain commander, a Voltron commander, or even an angel tribal one. I’d rather play Gisela in a Bruna, the Fading Light deck for the obvious synergies involving the meld mechanic.
Zellix, Sanity Flayer rewards you for milling creature cards by producing 1/1 Horror tokens. Zellix can have a background too. A green background gives you better access to ramp, and a black background leans more on the mill and horror aspects. Haunted One is a nice background here since it will give a boost to the Horror tokens produced by Zellix.
Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar is a commander that’s a fit for blink decks. You can attack freely with a weak creature that has a good ETB effect because you’ll either return it to your hand or draw a card. Mono-blue limits what you can do with Grazilaxx, but there’s some fun to be had with ninjas, cards like Faerie Seer, and Archaeomancer/Ghostly Flicker loops.
Abomination of Llanowar can be a large beatstick in an elf tribal deck. Abomination’s P/T cares about the number of elves you have on the battlefield and in the graveyard, so that’s a nice twist on a tribal deck. You don’t care much if an elf gets removed or the board gets swept because it will still count towards your commander’s stats. You can make it grow by self-milling too, which is something decks have the tools for. Once you have a large commander, ensure it has evasion and protection to take your enemies down.
Tsabo Tavoc has very relevant abilities for Commander. It’s a 7/5 with protection from legends, which means that you can block any commander or legendary creature out there. Then, if you pay and tap it, you can destroy almost any commander. That said, it’s also expensive at seven mana, and people will often snipe it to protect their own commanders.
Bruna, the Fading Light has a 5/7 flying and vigilance body, which is interesting for a commander, and you get an immediate benefit after casting it. You can certainly go the reanimator route, although it’s hard to fill a graveyard in mono-white, so Bruna is more of a value commander. Chaining Bruna into Sun Titan into a value creature like Spirited Companion is already a strong idea, and you can also meld it with Gisela, the Broken Blade to produce a game-winning threat.
Nihiloor is an Esper commander that incentivizes you to steal creatures from your opponents and make them taste their own poison. You’ll want to have a flicker engine to maximize Nihiloor’s ETB trigger because each time you blink your commander, you can steal creatures from your opponents. My problem with this commander is that the upside is low, as draining an opponent for two or stealing creatures with restrictions is not that awesome. I would probably prefer playing it in an Esper blink deck to benefit from the ETB instead.
Zopandrel, Hunger Dominus makes for a nice ramp target since you’ll want it on the battlefield as quickly as possible. Its ability immediately doubles your creatures’ power and toughness during combat, so you can get a massive attack the turn Zopandrel hits the battlefield. Your commander is effectively an 8/12 creature with reach in combat, so it’s far from useless and defends you well against incoming fliers. What’s more, it can become indestructible by sacrificing two creatures, reducing the odds that your commander will be destroyed during a critical combat step.
Old Stickfingers is a fine reanimator commander since each time you cast it, you’ll get to put X creatures in your graveyard for sure. Coupled with a few self-mill and reanimate effects, you’ll get a fairly large commander and plenty of juicy targets for an Animate Dead or Necromancy. As an added benefit, each time you cast your commander again, you’ll grow your graveyard even further and get an even bigger threat.
Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager is a commander that cares about +1/+1 counters and tokens, so you’ll want to include many +1/+1 counter creatures, proliferate effects, and cards like Ozolith, the Shattered Spire. Grakmaw also gives you some removal insurance by leaving behind a big token when it dies. Keep in mind that Doubling Season is the card that synergizes the most with counters and tokens.
Fancy a deck filled with impactful cards like Scourge of Fleets and Deep-Sea Kraken? Runo Stromkirk is your guy. You want creatures with mana value six or greater, preferably sea monsters, to turn Runo into Krothuss, Lord of the Deep and start creating copies of those monsters. Once the kraken ship gets going, it’s hard to stop.
Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus is a proliferate commander that can gain indestructible, which is essential if you want it to stick around. Proliferating twice is very flexible, so you can go with blue creatures with +1/+1 counters, planeswalkers, or artifacts with charge counters. Unlike Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, you’re restricted to blue or colorless cards only, so there’s a limit on what kind of cards you’ll actually be able to proliferate.
Arvinox, the Mind Flail is the MTG version of Mind Flayer, the Shadow from Secret Lair: Stranger Things, which makes for a scary horror commander. You’ll need to control three permanents from other players to unlock Arvinox as a creature, which you can do by reanimating creatures from their graveyards, using the ability of cards like Gonti, Lord of Luxury, or with Arvinox’s own ability. You’ll combine a powerful 9/9 body with the ability to play cards from your opponents’ libraries, and your board will get stronger and stronger.
Gollum, Patient Plotter has good things going for it as a commander. First, it’s a cheap commander at two mana, and you can get around commander tax by sacrificing a creature and returning it to your hand. Second, Gollum has an innate sacrifice ability, which makes it a good sacrifice outlet. That can be combined with sacrifice fodder, tokens, Blood Artist-type cards, you name it. Finally, “the ring tempts you” as you loop Gollum, so you can make one of your legendary creatures a strong ring-bearer to beat your opponents.
Drivnod, Carnage Dominus doubles all your death triggers. For example, your Blood Artist will drain an opponent for two each time a creature dies. Drivnod is already a solid foundation for an aristocrats-themed deck, but the best part is that you can make it indestructible by exiling three creature cards from your graveyard. And having an indestructible 8/3 is truly a horror for your opponents.
#14. Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus
Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus is a solid commander by itself, providing card draw each time an opponent casts two or more spells. The best trait of this commander is the partner mechanic, which adds the possibility to play cards to already strong commanders like Tymna the Weaver. Tymna + Kraum is a strong and staple cEDH pair. Being able to play red cards like Glint-Horn Buccaneer and Dockside Extortionist with Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator is very powerful as well.
Solphim, Mayhem Dominus doubles non-combat damage dealt to opponents and permanents they control, and that’s what we should focus on when building this commander. Cards like Guttersnipe or Sulfuric Vortex that deal repeated damage to each opponent are key, since our commander will amplify the damage dealt. You can strengthen Solphim by adding cards like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell to raise the damage dealt by red sources even further. Look for combos like activating Heartless Hidetsugu to kill an opponent, or casting Blasphemous Act while having Stuffy Doll and an indestructible Solphim in play to deal 26 damage to someone.
Sauron, the Necromancer is a powerful commander that benefits from staying on offense. You’ll want self-mill effects to get creatures into your graveyard, then attack with Sauron and get 3/3 wraiths each turn. The wraiths are exiled copies of creatures in your graveyard, and that’s already good enough with good ETB creatures. Sauron is a very powerful ringbearer, so you should fit some ‘’tempted by the ring’’ cards in your deck’s 99.
Obosh, the Preypiercer can be your companion, but here I’ll analyze Obosh coming from the command zone only. Remember that you can play even mana-valued cards if Obosh is your commander, it’s just that you’ll want the majority of your creatures and cards that deal damage to be odd mana-valued. With Obosh in play, Sulfuric Vortex is suddenly dealing four damage to each player, while cards like Underworld Dreams and Syr Konrad, the Grim are dealing two damage with each trigger. Obosh also enables some easy lethal attacks with odd-costed creatures.
Toxrill, the Corrosive spreads sludge counters around your opponents’ creatures and gives them -1/-1 for each sludge counter they have. If Toxrill lives, you’ll give at least -4/-4 to all creatures in one turn cycle, so very few opposing creatures will survive. What’s more, you’ll get tokens when creatures with slug counters die. Toxrill does it all: it gives you card advantage and mass removal, all while being a 7/7 creature. Proliferating sludge counters turns Toxrill into a machine gun. Token EDH players that rely on their 1/1s will hate you with a passion because this commander invalidates their game plan.
Sauron, the Lidless Eye is an aggressive commander focused on going wide. You’ll steal the best creature around on ETB, and coupled with sacrifice effects you have a nice steal and sac engine. If you’re already going the sacrifice route, you should have sacrifice fodder and tokens laying around, and your commander can just give them +2/+0 on attacks. It’s quite in character for Sauron to dispose of their minions, sending them to attack and deal the most damage possible while sacrificing those that would already die anyway.
Commander token players often want just one thing: to be able to double the tokens produced. The famous effect present on enchantments like Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession is also present in Mondrak, Glory Dominus. When Mondrak is in play, suddenly each Raise the Alarm is producing four tokens, while Triplicate Spirits will make six fliers. Mondrak is reasonably costed, it’s very effective to build around, and having this doubling effect available in the command zone brings great consistency to a token strategy.
Captain N'ghathrod cares about horrors and horror tribal, and it wants you to actively attack with horror creatures. You’ll want to mill opponents and beat them down with horrors in order to maximize the free reanimate effect your commander grants. Arcane Adaptation bolsters the horror tribal aspect of the deck by turning all creatures into horrors, even the ones you’ve obtained from other players.
K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth is a very strong mono-black commander, and you can build it as a very strong and fast combo deck, or as a more fair deck. Although your commander is a 7-drop, you can cast it very fast with mana rocks, as early as turn two or three. Once you have it in play, you can pay life to cast black spells while growing a lifelink threat that attacks to get that life back. Sanguine Bond only makes things worse for your opponents. A key card for this commander is Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which can be cast for three mana and four life thanks to K’rrik, but it will return you at least 15 life.
With Umbris, Fear Manifest you’ll get to exile a lot of cards from your opponents’ libraries and have a giant commander. What’s more, if you keep playing nightmares and horrors, you’ll get to exile even more stuff. Umbris cares about your opponents’ cards in exile, so you don’t have to worry about graveyard hate. In fact, that helps you a bunch, so you should play cards like Leyline of the Void and Tormod's Crypt. Umbris will be bigger each time you cast it, and you easily win via commander damage by making it unblockable, or by using infinite ETB engines to mill opponents out.
The Gitrog Monster is a powerful midrange recursive commander. It is a massive 6/6 deathtouch that demands you sacrifice a land each turn, but draws you a card if you do. It allows you to play extra lands too, which is always nice in green EDH decks. In this deck, you want a lot of land cards to go to your graveyard, so look out for self-mill effects. Playing ramp cards like Harrow or Crop Rotation instead of Cultivate also helps put lands in your graveyard. Ramunap Excavator and Crucible of Worlds are essential in this type of deck.
Combining two powerful commanders in one package must be good, right? Thalia and The Gitrog Monster is basically The Gitrog Monster EDH decks playing white with an extra ability from Thalia, Heretic Cathar tacked on. The result is an awesome Abzan commander that gives you so much card advantage, especially when combined with land recursion packages. Oh, and a 4/4 first strike + deathtouch handles combat really well on its own.
Yarok, the Desecrated is a fun commander to build if you like ETB effects. Your deck will be very permanent-centric because you’ll want to get the most out of the Panharmonicon effect coming out of the command zone. Any permanent that has a good ETB effect is fair game. Yarok is also an elemental, and you can combine aspects of elemental matters and good elemental creatures with ETB effects in the same deck. Examples include Risen Reef, Mulldrifter, and Grief.
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice is one of the most popular commanders ever judging by the lists published online. The free proliferate effect you get from Atraxa fits a superfriends deck very well, and you can also play creatures with +1/+1 counters, artifacts with charge counters, and much more. Plus, Atraxa is a 4-color commander, which means you’ll have very little color restriction on what you can actually play in EDH.
Although it’s not a common tribe like elves or humans, there are some characteristics that many horror commanders share and that you can explore to make the best use of them.
Many horrors exile cards from your opponents’ libraries. To benefit from this, you can use cards like the Eldrazi processors from Battle for Zendikar. Ulamog's Nullifier and Mind Raker are much stronger cards when you can use their abilities. Ashiok, Nightmare Muse can further contribute to this theme by exiling cards and playing them from exile.
Mill is a common theme among horror creatures. Commanders like Zellix, Sanity Flayer and Umbris, Fear Manifest can command effective mill decks. Consuming Aberration is a horror, an enabler, and a payoff for this strategy all in one.
Thing in the Ice transforms into Awoken Horror, which is a Cyclonic Rift for non-horror creatures. If you already have a board filled with horror creatures, this is a very strong play. Combine this with cards that care about dealing combat damage and you have a good engine going.
Sauron, the Necromancer | Illustration by Yongjae Choi
You can certainly have fun while commanding horror creatures, whether you’re milling cards from players, exiling them, or gaining control over them. Horror creatures push into the weirdest aspects of MTG, so one thing’s for sure: you’re not playing a straightforward strategy with horrors. That’s one of the best aspects of the game for me. There’s an abundance of diverse horror commanders and some horror tribal interaction cards that you can employ.
What are your favorite horror commanders? Do you or your group play one of these regularly? Let me know in the comments section below or in our Draftsim Discord. Thanks for reading, and in the meantime, keep getting into your opponents’ minds and libraries with horrors.Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: