Mind Flayer, The Shadow: First Look

Wizards of the Coast has done it again. Whether you agree with mechanically unique exclusive cards legal in commander or not, they are here to stay. The good news is that Wizards will introduce these cards into the mainstream within the next year with versions that are flavorful to Magic the Gathering. This time they are making an obscene profit from the Netflix hit Stranger Things. 

The cards aren’t overly busted and the limited partner mechanics will make playing these cards enjoyable for many. A five color achievement unlocked deck that assembles all of the kids from the show is possible. However, being a sucker for “Random” in my commander decks, Mind Flayer, The Shadow is what grabbed my attention. It’s for good reason too. 

About Mindflayer

Mind Flayer was designed well. It exhibits a flavorful mechanic for The Upside Down the targets EACH opponent. Seeing Mind Flayer in the command zone opposite you provides some apprehension in your opponents. It also isn’t an excessively powerful card.  A seven mana 9/9 sometimes creature will not end the game fast. Commander decks can be built around this card. 

Mindflayer, being in mono black, limits the card pool to help keep the deck in check. In fact cases can be made that recently released Gisa, Glorious Resurrector and Tergrid, God of Fright provide stronger mono black options. They are cheaper to cast. They also have mechanics that are easily built around to accomplish what the deck wants to do. Luckily Mindlayer, The Shadow is not in Dimir colors otherwise it would give Xanathar, Guild Kingpin a run for his money. Oh wait, it does…

Dimir Deck 

Actually, I think there is a build for Mind Flayer in Dimir colors as a hidden commander. Blue would be an excellent addition to the things that Mind Flayer wants to do. There still is a ramp weakness from the Dimir color pair. However, that is less of an issue when you are controlling the battlefield. Most likely a ramp package similar to Xanathar would be quite effective for the deck. So what would the Dimir deck look like?

There are enough and the best tutors to acquire and play Mindflayer in black. You can play cards from the bottom of the deck after he is out, but more importantly you can use a reanimator theme to reanimate your opponents permanents or MInd Flayer as necessary. Phenax, God of Deception as your commander can mill your opponents to make sure there are creatures you want to reanimate. Consuming Aberration and Traumatize both are great mill cards to add to such a deck. Xanathar belongs in the deck along with the Tergrid and Gisa for additional deck pressure. Additional upkeep cards are possible too so that you can exile more cards. Finally a suite of counterspells will protect you from your opponents when they try to remove Mind Flayer or any other goodies you have on the battlefield. 

The Mono Black Deck

That is an alternate build. Many players will not want to play hidden commander. For those who  do not wish to build a deck that way, look to build a mono black deck that does similar things. Reanimation will get the number of permanents of your opponents on the battlefield faster. Steal their cards with Tergrid, Gisa and the reanimation package. From this you can build a strong board state. If you can attack, then great. If not then hold the battlefield at bay through removal until you can draw into a win condition and win the game. 

Packages 

Commander Clinic teaches that every deck has packages. For those unfamiliar with the concept you can read about it in “Your Deck has Packages” and “Your Deck Has Packages Part 2 (Examples).” By knowing where you want to go, you will find it easier to select cards and cut down to 100 when you brew. With the mono black standard Mind Flayer deck you may find an initial starting point to brew packages something as follows.

  • 10 Card Draw or Quality 
  • 10 Mana Ramp 
  • 15 Removal (Both Mass and Targeted) 
  • 8 Reanimator (preferably targets opponents stuff) 
  • 3 Steal Stuff Cards (This is the Mind Flayer, Tergrid, Gisa trifecta)  
  • 10 Other Creatures
  • 5 Misc
  • 3 Wincon
  • 36 Land

100 Total Cards 

Way Too Early Mind Flayer Deck List. 

Mind Flayer has just been out for days. The cards won’t officially release until January. Your playgroup may let you proxy the card. Either way a Mind Flayer deck list may not be too far off. Without any playtesting and looking at the mana curve to tweak the deck to make it more efficient, we can begin to build a rough Mind Flayer deck and see how it runs. This should be in no way the final deck list for the deck. It is a good starting point. Look to tweak this list and the packages to what fits you, the cards you own, and the cards you enjoy playing. The assumption is if you are buying the Stranger Things Bundle then you have some expendable cash. Card costs were not considered when building this list.   You can visually see the deck on Archidekt

Card Draw or Quality

  • Blood Pact
  • Deadly Dispute
  • Demonic Tutor
  • Final Parting
  • Liliana, Dreadhorde General
  • Nights Whisper
  • Phyrexian Arena
  • Read the Bones
  • Sign in Blood
  • Well of Knowledge

Mana Ramp

  • Arcane Signet
  • Black Market
  • Bontu’s Monument
  • Charcoal Diamond
  • Felwar Stone
  • Jet Medallion
  • Liliana (I just want to ramp) of the Dark Realms
  • Nirkana Revenant
  • Sol Ring
  • Vessel of Endless Rest

Removal

  • Deadly Rollick
  • Dictate of Erebos
  • Fleshbag Marauder
  • Force of Despair
  • Grave Pact
  • Go For the Throat
  • Hero’s Downfall
  • Infernal Grasp
  • Massacre Wurm
  • Mutilate
  • Plaguecrafter
  • Snuff Out
  • Soul Shatter
  • The Meathook Massacre
  • Toxic Deluge

Reanimator

  • Animate Dead
  • Beacon of Unrest
  • Exhume
  • Geth Lord of the Vault
  • Ghouls Night Out
  • Reanimate
  • Rise From the Grave
  • The Eldest Reborn

Steal Stuff Cards

  • Gisa, Glorious Resurrector
  • Mind Flayer, The Shadow
  • Tergrid, God of Fright

Other Creatures

  • Crypt Ghast
  • Disciple of Bolas
  • Doomed Necromancer
  • Gonti, Lord of Luxury
  • K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth
  • Phyrexian Obliterator
  • Rankle, Master of Pranks
  • Sheoldred, Whispering One
  • Sidisi, Undead Vizier
  • Syr, Konrad, The Grim

Misc

  • Junktroller
  • Mindcrank
  • Mimic Vat
  • Rieto Lantern
  • Sudden Spoiling

Wincon

  • Gray Merchant of Asphodel
  • Revel in Riches
  • Torment of Hailfire

Land

  • 28 Swamp 
  • Cabal Coffers
  • Cabal Stronghold
  • Crypt of Agadeem
  • High Market
  • Phyrexian Tower
  • Vesuva
  • Volrath’s Stronghold
  • War Room

Conclusion

This is just a first look at how to build a Mind Flayer deck. The good news is with a commander like Mind Flayer, there is plenty of room to brew different ideas to make the deck uniquely yours. For example, Bloodchief Ascension for a Mindcrank combo is very tempting in this build. This deck list looks to turn Mind Flayer into a creature as quickly as possible. Other decks may look to keep him an enchantment so he is less vulnerable and play out only the biggest threats that get exiled. The key to focus on is that there are few cards that are absolutely necessary in the deck to make Mind Flayer work. Go ahead and use this preliminary list as a starting point to flex your brewing muscles. Make a deck to blow your opponents out of the water. Mind Flayer will help terrorize your table.

What cards would you substitute Commander Clinic wants to know. Leave a comment below. If you have any questions feel free to email us at commanderclinicmtg@gmail.com  

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