The Best Commanders For A Horror Deck In MTG

Highlights

  • Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus is a powerful Horror commander that excels at proliferate strategies and offers flexibility and protection at a low cost.
  • Captain N’Ghathrod grants menace to Horrors, mills cards, and allows players to dredge up previously cast cards, providing an interesting twist to a Horror deck.
  • Umbris, Fear Manifest is a fearsome Horror commander that excels at milling opponents’ decks and can deal a knockout blow with commander damage or mill victory.

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Magic: The Gathering has never shied away from the dark side of fantasy. As early as Alpha, it featured cards that peered into the abyss, showing us the kinds of monsters we vaguely recognised from our nightmares. Despite all this horror, the creature-type Horror actually wasn’t introduced until Legends, being retroactively applied to older creatures later on.

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Horrors, much like the real-world fears they represent, are a varied sort, combining card theft, discard effects, and evasion, among other abilities. Building a dedicated Horror deck for Commander is no easy task, since nightmares don’t naturally play well together, but if it’s something you want to do then these ten eldritch allies are the perfect monsters for the job.

Updated September 21, 2023 by Nathan Ball: This past year has been both great and terrible for Magic, with many new Horrors slinking their way out of the woodwork to infest our collective decks and binders. We’ve updated our list to include the very best of these legendary Horrors, all of which make excellent commanders for a dedicated Typal deck.

14 Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus

Image of the Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Martin de Diego Sádaba

Being a standout Horror on the Plane of New Phyrexia, perhaps the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in the Multiverse, is no easy task. Tekuthal should get some credit for doing just that, establishing himself as one of the most powerful members of Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s Dominus cycle.

Doubling up on proliferate triggers can let counter-based strategies spiral out of control fast, buffing your creatures and planeswalkers while dishing out more poison counters to your opponents, if you go that route. The beauty of the card is in its flexibility, however, and the low cost required to protect Tekuthal from the majority of removal.

13 Captain N’Ghathrod

MTG: Captain N'ghathrod card

While appearing at first glance to be a bargain-bin Davy Jones, this terror of the high seas actually more than lives up to the inspiration he wears on his ruffled sleeve. Granting all of your Horrors, himself included, menace helps your motley crew get through for combat damage, which is then converted into cards milled by his second ability.

At the end of the turn, when the raid is over, you can then dredge up one of the cards you cast into the depths, to use for your own twisted ends. It’s a suitably macabre take on a Pirate captain, and one that can take your Horror deck in an interesting new direction.

12 Umbris, Fear Manifest

MTG: Umbris, Fear Manifest card

Truly the Horror’s Horror, Umbris can chew through libraries with frightening efficiency, provided you have other unspeakable evils to back him up. Whenever Umbris, or another Nightmare or Horror, comes into play under your control, you can take a chunk out of an opponent’s deck, with every card exiled feeding back into Umbris’ stats.

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Since Umbris will likely retain these stats even after being removed, due to the difficulty of interacting with cards in exile, decks with him at the helm have the option of trying to mill their opponents out of the game. You can also just land a huge knockout blow with Umbris himself to deal enough commander damage for a win. If you’re looking to Manifest victory, this is the Horror to call.

11 Nihiloor

MTG: Nihiloor card

A master of mental manipulation, Nihiloor can seize control of up to one creature per opponent when it comes into play, provided you have creatures of equivalent power to tap. This allows for all manner of shenanigans, from stealing huge threats, to snatching crucial utility creatures that your opponents need to keep their decks running.

These creatures are yours for as long as Nihiloor is in play, which gives you plenty of time to sacrifice them to prevent your opponents from regaining control. Combine this with the white in Nihiloor’s colour identity, allowing easy access to blink effects that can steal even more creatures, and you have a disruptive threat that will annoy your opponents to no end.

10 Toxrill, The Corrosive

Image of the Toxrill, the Corrosive card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Simon Dominic

A staple commander that scales well with a large playgroup, Toxrill slowly wears down every opposing creature over time, creating Slug tokens whenever one succumbs to his sinister slime. That alone is horrific enough for Toxrill to earn his creature type, but the fact that he can consume the slugs he births in exchange for cards takes things to another level of disgusting.

Toxrill is, simply, a great self-contained commander. His abilities are incredibly powerful, with the ‘each end step’ clause doing a lot of heavy lifting, and he’s unstoppable against Aggro decks in the format. As Horrors go, Toxrill is one of the very best.

9 Arvinox, The Mind Flail

MTG: Arvinox, the Mind Flail card

Like a macabre twist on the Gods of Theros, Arvinox only takes physical form as a creature once a specific condition is met. The condition in this case is controlling three permanents you don’t own, which can be accomplished through traditional Control Magic-style effects, or through Arvinox’s own ability, which lets you exile and play cards from the bottom of opposing libraries.

This essentially ‘draws’ you three extra cards a turn in a standard pod, giving you plenty of opportunities to use your opponents’ favourite cards against them. The fact that Arvinox isn’t a creature all of the time can also be an advantage, as it lets it dodge most removal in the format and carry on with its card-stealing ways.

8 Yarok, The Desecrated

Image of the Yarok the Desocrated card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Daarken

Enters-the-battlefield triggers are the deep wells within which much of the power in modern Magic cards can be found, which is why Yarok, who lets you double down on said effects, is such a powerful Horror in Commander.

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Not only does it double the effects of the cards themselves, but also the effects of cards in play that activate in response, which can easily lead to explosive chain reactions. It’s a versatile commander, doubly so thanks to its three-colour identity, which lets you get creative when putting together your deck and bring in Horrors from all manner of backgrounds.

7 Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar

MTG: Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar card

One of Magic’s myriad interpretations of the Mindflayer, an iconic Dungeons & Dragons monster, Grazilaxx combines drawing with discretion in a package that can easily drain your opponents’ minds dry. The ability to bounce any of your blocked creatures back to your hand has several uses, letting you protect your Horrors and re-use their enters-the-battlefield effects.

His other effect, which draws you a card whenever one of your creatures gets through for damage, plays perfectly with the evasion that often features on Horrors, providing you with a steady stream of new Nightmares to haunt your opponents with.

6 K’rrik, Son Of Yawgmoth

Image of the K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth card in Magic: The Gathering, with art by Chase Stone

While not quite as powerful as his illustrious father, the apple didn’t fall far from the fleshy, mechanical tree when it came to K’rrik. Embodying the black ideal of ‘power at any cost’ better than almost any other card, K’rrik offers the potential for huge mana discounts, if you’re willing to risk it all and take huge chunks out of your life total.

The natural application for this is in a high-speed combo deck, but you can use it in a straightforward Horror-filled value deck as well, to cheat out your bomb creatures early and take over the game. Yawgmoth’s diabolical legacy is, unfortunately, in safe hands.

5 Zellix, Sanity Flayer

MTG: Zellix, Sanity Flayer card

Milling out your opponents’ libraries, as an analogue for devouring their minds, is a common thread among Horrors in Magic, and Zellix does it better than most. Not only can he mill your opponents himself for a low cost, but he can also generate Horror tokens each time a creature is milled.

This is a nice bit of internal synergy that plays well with a deck full of Horrors, and that’s before you get to Zellix’s other ability, which lets you choose a background as well. This opens up many options in terms of colour identity for your deck. Build your deck right, and it won’t be long before Zellix has Flayed your opponents’ decks clean of cards.

4 Gollum, Obsessed Stalker

MTG: Gollum, Obsessed Stalker card

Of all the Gollum variants we received in Tales of Middle-earth, Obsessed Stalker is by far the most powerful in Commander. Unique among Horrors, his ability rewards you for gaining life: something typically only seen in white, perhaps intended to reflect the moral complexity of the character himself.

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After dealing damage to an opponent once, easy to do thanks to his low cost and skulk ability, Gollum will then convert your lifegain for the turn into life loss for that opponent, and continue to do so for as long as he remains in play. All life drain effects, such as extort, become doubly deadly with this horrific Halfling in play, giving you a clear avenue to victory that can be built around in a wide range of ways.

3 Sauron, The Dark Lord

MTG: Sauron, the Dark Lord card

The Lord of the Rings himself was undoubtedly one of the trickiest characters from the series to translate into a humble Magic card, but his Dark Lord variant doesn’t disappoint. He’s hard to kill, builds up endless Orc Armies over time, and can even generate card advantage to boot. His abilities are extremely flavourful and resonant, but this card’s true strength actually lies in its mechanical flexibility.

His abilities nudge you gently towards an amass Orcs theme, or a ‘The Ring tempts you’ build, but they’re also so self-sufficient that you can construct your deck any way you want and Sauron will still serve it well. If you’re looking to play a range of Horrors with a powerful on-type commander, you won’t do much better than Morgoth’s main man.

2 Thalia And The Gitrog Monster

MTG: Thalia and The Gitrog Monster card

Few would have predicted that Innistrad’s most righteous protector and its most ferocious Frog would be banding together any time soon, but the Phyrexian invasion made for strange bedfellows indeed. The resulting combination is also one of the best, most flexible choices for a Horror commander we’ve seen yet.

At a baseline, a 4/4 for four with first strike and deathtouch is excellent, unbeatable in combat outside of other creatures with strike abilities, and the duo’s text just gets more absurd from there. You get to slow down your opponents’ creatures and lands, play extra lands yourself, then trade in those lands for additional cards when the pair attacks. Naturally, this lets you lean hard into a lands-matter theme, but these abilities are also generically useful enough to support any deckbuilding avenue you desire.

1 Drivnod, Carnage Dominus

MTG: Drivnod, Carnage Dominus card

Drivnod’s artwork evokes the spookiest entries in FromSoftware’s extensive boss lineup, and the abilities that go along with it are, somehow, even more terrifying. For just five mana, he serves as a Panharmonicon for death triggers, an ability that’s worked out pretty well for Commander staple Teysa Karlov over the years.

Unlike Teysa, Drivnod also comes with some built-in protection, in the form of an indestructible counter-granting activated ability. This can be activated for free provided you have four life to pay and three creatures in your graveyard, extremely likely in Commander, and it ensures that his unimpressive three toughness isn’t an issue the majority of the time. Once Drivnod is out and established, he has so many incidental synergies that you’ll likely stumble into a win in the course of a few turns.

NEXT: Magic: The Gathering – The Best Commanders From Phyrexia: All Will Be One

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