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Eldritch Captain of the Deep [Lovecraftian Primer]

Commander / EDH Dark Depths Horror Mill Primer Theme/Gimmick UB (Dimir) Vorthos


“I have looked upon all the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me.” ― H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

This was originally my [Lazav, Eldritch Mastermind], a Lovecraftian take on Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. It was the first commander deck that I build from scratch rather than modifying a precon. I originally had a standard/kitchen table Dimir Mill deck that I played for a while during the Return to Ravnica Block, but once I discovered the EDH format, I quickly switched it over.

However, after years of playing, it never really did what I wanted until Captain N'ghathrod was introduced, and he fits thematically with one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, 'The Shadow over Innsmouth', which was obviously used as inspiration for the Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon sets (which, coincidentally, is what brought me back to MtG for good!). Now I have a definite plan to win besides 'Mill out our opponents and hope they have good stuff in their deck I can copy with Lazav, Dimir Mastermind', where I can unleash my horrors upon my opponents, steal their most precious or powerful creatures and artifacts, and Mill them into Madness!

I've been a huge fan of Lovecraft and his weird fiction, so this deck pays homage to his work, with a heavier emphasis on the works of his Cthulhu Mythos. While this is not meant to be a super competitive deck, it was designed to mill our opponents, steal pieces from their decks, unleash horrors unto the world, summon the Old Ones and other Outer Gods, and cause general madness to everyone in a fun Vorthos/Lore-inspired way.

Our Commander

Captain N'ghathrod - Captain on the deck! He gives all our horrors the ability to mill our opponents for however much damage they are dealt, which is helped by the Menace that he gives to all our horrors, including himself. Then, at the beginning of our end step, he can steal cards out of an opponent's graveyard.

Three important things to note: 1. Captain N'ghathrod can only take Creatures and Artifacts 2. He can only take cards that were put there this turn. 3. He can only take cards that were put in the graveyard from the Library (ie. Milling). Discard effects or cards like Mind Grind or Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker where you look at the cards before discarding them don't count toward his ability.

Milling out our opponents and driving them to madness

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”

  • Consuming Aberration - This monstrous Horror can become massive if left unchecked, and also mills to the next land whenever we cast a spell. And that triggers for each opponent too, so a single spell could increase its power dramatically. And especially potent if Captain N'ghathrod is on the field giving it Menace.

  • Court of Cunning - At its worst, this enchantment mills our opponents for 2 on our upkeep, which is similar to other enchantments like Curse of the Bloody Tome or Memory Erosion, both of which I've had in this deck before. At its best, we are milling at least 30 cards a turn with a four-player group. This gives Captain N'ghathrod plenty of options to steal during our turn. Plus, Monarch is a fun mechanic for a large group.

  • Drown in Dreams - Can both draw us X cards and Mill 2x the X value.

  • Duskmantle Guildmage - This cultist wizard has two activated abilities. The first is the more important one, as we can weaponize the milling process and drain life equal to the number of cards milled, like with Traumatize. The second ability is a little pricey for such a low effect, but if you've got available mana, you can ruin someone's Sylvan Library, Brainstorm, or Vampiric Tutor play.

  • Extract from Darkness - Each opponent Mills 2 cards, then we can take a creature from a graveyard and put it under our control. And it doesn't have to be one that was put there this turn.

  • Fractured Sanity - for , each opponent Mills 14 cards, or we can cycle it and each opponent Mills four cards.

  • Imperious Mindbreaker - This creature Soulbonds to another creature, and gives both itself and that creature a 'mill on attack' trigger equal to its Toughness. If we've got a beefy creature in play like Captain N'ghathrod, Emrakul, the Promised End, or a zombie creation from Stitcher Geralf, we can mill a lot of cards quickly, and that's even before combat damage.

  • Jace, Memory Adept - His +1 Mills 1 card from target player and we draw a card. More importantly, his 0 Mills 10 cards, turning him into a repeatable Glimpse the Unthinkable.

  • Jace, the Perfected Mind - His -2 ability makes target player Mill three cards, then draws us either one card or three cards if a graveyard has more than 20 cards in it. His -X makes target player Mill three times X cards.

  • Jace, Wielder of Mysteries - Slightly cheaper than Jace, Memory Adept and has a slightly more impactful +1 too, Milling two cards rather than one, but since he doesn't have a 0, he can dedicate himself to constantly Milling two and drawing a card. Plus a surprise win-con if your opponents aren't expecting you to suddenly Mill yourself.

  • Maddening Cacophony - Each opponent 8 cards, but with a kicker cost of , each opponent mills half their library.

  • Nemesis of Reason - This nightmarish creature mills 10 cards on the attack trigger, it doesn't have to connect to get the effect. Similar to and can stack with Imperious Mindbreaker for a ton of cards milled.

  • Nephalia Drownyard - A bit expensive, but for 3 mana, we can Mill an opponent 3 cards.

  • Phenax, God of Deception - A more defensive milling creature, all we need to do is wait until just before our turn, then tap all our remaining untapped creatures and mill out a lot of cards, and many of our creatures have a high Toughness. And since it's Indestructible and sometimes not a creature, Phenax, God of Deception can get around a lot of removals.

  • Ruin Crab - A nice drop, good turn one or two play to start getting cards into our opponents' graveyards. Obviously, we want Captain N'ghathrod on the field to be able and take advantage of anything that enters our opponent's graveyards, but it could provide good targets for Animate Dead or Reanimate.

  • Startled Awake   - Target opponent Mills 13, but can come back as a 1/1 Skulk to potentially cast the spell again

  • Stitcher Geralf - A bit mana intensive, but for 3, each player mills 3 cards. Of those cards, we can exile 2 of them and make a beefy zombie token that can pair with Phenax, God of Deception or Imperious Mindbreaker.

  • Traumatize - Target opponent mills half their library.

  • Zellix, Sanity Flayer - For , target player mills three cards. But the really important part is whenever a player mills one or more creatures, we create a 1/1 Horror Token. I wish that it was a Token for each creature milled, but that might be too much. If we pair it with a mill spell that hits everyone, we can make multiple 1/1 Horror Tokens. And it says 'player', so Stitcher Geralf milling one of our own creatures would trigger Zellix, Sanity Flayer too, to maximize the value.

Mill Payoffs and Synergies

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”

  • Animate Dead - Steal a creature from any graveyard.

  • Bruvac the Grandiloquent - The Doubling Season of Milling. Double the number of cards milled. If he is in play, Traumatize will kill a player, and a kicked Maddening Cacophony can win you the game (baring any opponents with Laboratory Maniac or Thassa's Oracle).

  • Consuming Aberration - Can become a massive beater that continues to grow if left unchecked.

  • Drown in the Loch - This flexible counter or kill spell is dependent on the number of cards in the respective graveyard.

  • Fraying Sanity - While this card doesn't mill anyone directly, it does count the number of cards they put in the graveyard, then mills that player accordingly. This works with them cracking Fetchlands, discarding, and milling effects.

  • Grimoire of the Dead - Fairly mana intensive and best used in the late game, but if we've been filling up our opponent's graveyards, we could potentially overwhelm or outvalue the rest of the table.

  • Guiltfeeder - While lots of EDH decks have Black and Artifact creatures, Guiltfeeder can fairly easily slip past our opponent's defenses and drain their life if there are cards in their graveyards.

  • Lazav, Dimir Mastermind - Whenever a creature is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind can become a copy of that creature. He maintains his name and his legendary status, and can repeat this process whenever another creature enters an opponent's graveyard. And he's got built-in Hexproof, which is a nice bit of defense against the various removal effects.

  • Reanimate - Steal a creature from any graveyard.

  • Sepulchral Primordial - This has a high CMC, but can steal multiple creatures from our opponents on ETB. And if it dies or ends up in our graveyard, we can Reanimate/Animate Dead them to bring them back and get more value out of them.

  • The Haunt of Hightower - Another potentially large beater, but this one has both Flying and Lifelink. We might be needing the extra life to stay alive long enough to win the game, and the forced Discard is nice too.

  • Wrexial, the Risen Deep - If an opponent has a Swamp or Island in play or an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is on the table, this Kraken can hit an opponent unblocked and cast an Instant or Sorcery for free from their graveyard.

Combos and Wincons

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.”


“In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulu waits dreaming”

Milling our opponents out is one way to kill our opponents. Dragging them into the unknown by our horde of Horrors is another!

  • Aboleth Spawn - This horror copies ETBs, and has Flash, so we can surprise an opponent and enjoy their effects.

  • Consuming Aberration - Grows stronger for each card in our opponent's graveyard.

  • Endless Evil - Enchants a creature we control, and on our Upkeep, we create a 1/1 Token copy of said creature, and if the enchanted creature dies, we can return Endless Evil to our hand. We can create copies of some of our non-Legendary creatures for extra value, like Nemesis of Reason, Sludge Monster, or Guiltfeeder.

  • Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar - Gives us card draw if we connect with an opponent, but we can also bounce the creature back to our hand if it's blocked and might die from the exchange.

  • Grell Philosopher - Can turn all our Horrors into Sol Rings! Pairs well with the 1/1 Horrors from Zellix, Sanity Flayer.

  • Guiltfeeder - Has Fear, and can have Menace from our commander, which makes it easier to attack and not be blocked to drain out our opponents.

  • Hullbreaker Horror - One of our big finishers. Can turn our spells into pseudo-Counter Spells or bounce a creature back to it's owners hand.

  • Hunted Horror - A cheap, yet strong Horror that can come out very early on. Also provides a chance to play politics by giving an opponent some 3/3 Centaurs with Protection from Black.

  • Mind Flayer, the Shadow - Another big finisher. Steals us cards to play at the end of turn, and once we 3 stolen permanents on our field, it turns into a 9/9 beater.

  • Nemesis of Reason - On the attack trigger, the defending opponent Mills 10 cards.

  • Nighthowler - For , we can Bestow this power boost to one of our creatures, and once/if that enchanted creature dies, then this becomes another threat.

  • Psionic Ritual - For , we can Exile an Instant or Sorcery out of any graveyard, copy it, and cast it for free, then Exile Psionic Ritual. However, we can Replicate it by tapping any number of untapped Horrors, and copying Psionic Ritual that many times, choosing new targets each time. Go grab any number of ramp or kill spells in the graveyards.

  • Sludge Monster - On ETB or attack, we can put a slime counter on up to one other creature, and if it's a non-Horror creature, we turn it into a 2/2 with no abilities. A good way to remove a commander or other indestructible threat.

  • Thing in the Ice   - A cheap Defender for a few turns until we've cast four Instant or Sorcery spells, then it transforms, and bounces all non-Horror creatures back to their owner's hands. Cheaper than a Cyclonic Rift.

  • Toxrill, the Corrosive - Our last major finisher, and quite a Toxic one too! Weakens our opponent's boards, creates slugs and can draw cards off those tokens too.

  • Uchuulon - Power and Toughness are equal to the number of Crabs, Oozes, and Horrors we control. And at the beginning of our end step, we can exile a creature from an opponent's graveyard and create a Token copy of it.

  • Zellix, Sanity Flayer - Whenever a player Mills a creature, we create a 1/1 Horror Token.

Lovecraft Stories, Themes, and their Noodlely Counterparts:

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” ― H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

As I said above, this deck pays homage to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. While the most well-known part of his work is the Great Old One Cthulhu from H.P. Lovecraft's short story 'The Call of Cthulhu' (1928), there are many more stories that he wrote that encompass weird fiction or cosmic horror.

Important Lovecraftian characters or tropes

Many Lovecraftian protagonists are seekers of truth, or accidentally stumble upon something they shouldn't have, and often lose their minds. In this deck, I believe that Jace fulfills the role of a Lovecraftian protagonist quite well. He usually begins the stories as Jace, Memory Adept, a young, naive man eager to increase his knowledge of the cosmos.

  • If he survives his adventure and comes out (relatively) unscathed, he becomes Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, one who is able to face the cosmic horrors.

  • However, if he instead succumbs to madness, he is reborn as Jace, the Perfected Mind, a slave to his madness, and the Great Old Ones.

  • Bruvac the Grandiloquent - The wise old man or scholar, like Professor Armitage from 'The Dunwich Horror' or Professor Angell from 'The Call of Cthulhu'

  • Grimoire of the Dead - Perhaps even more famous than Cthulhu, this book represents the Necronomicon, a rare book written about the secrets and arcana of the Lovecraftian Mythos Pantheon of Outer, Elder, and Old Gods.

  • Lazav, Dimir Mastermind - My take on Nyarlathotep, God of a Thousand Forms. An Outer God and shapeshifter who prefers to live among mankind, causing madness and chaos wherever he wanders.

Section still in progress. Read at your own risk

“Where does madness leave off and reality begin?” ― H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow over Innsmouth

Our unnamed narrator tells the tale of his side trip to shadow-blighted Innsmouth, and the horrible stories and truths he discovers there.

“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” ― H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

Arguably H.P. Lovecraft's most famous short story. It is split into three separate stories from different time periods, all revolving around a fanatical and dangerous cult worshipping a mysterious entity known as 'Cthulhu'. These three stories had been combined and prefaced by Francis Thurston, our narrator, that they should never be read lest the reader is silenced by the cult.

The Horror in Clay

Francis Thurston's great uncle Professor Angell meets with an artist who has developed strange dreams about a sunken city and a terrifying entity found within. In a fit of madness, the artist creates a Bas-relief sculpture of what he could process and gives it to the Professor.

The Tale of Inspector Legrasse

Professor Angell recalls an account from an Inspector from Louisiana, who had a terrifying encounter with the cultists in the swamps of New Orleans.

The Madness from the Sea

Francis Thurston recovers an account of a Norwegian sailor who, while at sea with his crew, was attacked by another group of cultists, and somehow ended up on a mysterious island city that appeared to have risen from the sea floor, and discover the horrible truth within.

“It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone.” ― H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

William Dyer, a geologist and previous explorer of the Antarctic region (Bruvac the Grandiloquent), tells his tale of horror in the hopes to prevent another expedition from discovering things that they shouldn't. The tale begins at Miskatonic University (Tolaria West), where an expedition to Antarctica has been established to research and take samples from a mountain range that appears to be even larger than the Himalayas. While there, the team of scientists discovers (Rhystic Study) what they believe to be a fossil of a creature or plant that impossibly pre-dates most known forms of life, and give them the name of The Elder Things (Grell Philosopher, Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar).

When one of the teams goes missing, along with the fossil-like thing discovered, our narrator follows after them and discovers the ruins of a massive Cyclopean City Ghost Quarter. While there, he discovers the truth and pre-history of our world, before being attacked by a remaining creation of The Elder Things, a proto-life slime slave called a Shoggoth (Consuming Aberration). He and one other member of his team manage to escape, and while our narrator flies the plane to safety, his colleague looks back and goes mad. He saw the even greater truth, the lurking evil beyond the Mountains of Madness (Nemesis of Reason, Fractured Sanity, Maddening Cacophony), and never recovers.

“Damn it, it wasn’t quite fresh enough!” ― H.P. Lovecraft, Herbert West—Reanimator

The heartwarming story of two misfits who constantly try to bring back corpses with science, a little bit of weird magic, and a lot of graverobbing.

"The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth." ― H.P. Lovecraft, The Dunwich Horror

These are some of the cards I've either had in previous versions of this deck, or are cards that have great Lovecraftian flavor but don't work well with the deck

Previously Used

  • Manic Scribe - Not helpful in this deck because we want to Mill during our turns, not on our opponent's upkeep

  • Mindshrieker - Good early drop, but not impactful enough.

  • Grinning Totem - This acts like a tutor for Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. We can play it, sacrifice it, then search for a card in our opponent's deck. We have until our next upkeep to cast the stolen card, otherwise, it goes into their graveyard. Unfortunately, our new commander only cares about Milled cards, and this doesn't count.

  • Curse of the Bloody Tome - Power Creep is real! This card has been slowly outclassed by other versions (Memory Erosion), although its subtype as a Curse makes it niche in the right decks. Court of Cunning basically does the same thing, hits more players, and has a much higher ceiling.

  • Mind Grind - With the way Mill has been turned into an Evergreen word, this ability doesn't actually mill. Milling is putting cards straight from the library to the graveyard, not revealing face up until X condition. On theme, but not as useful in this deck iteration.

Tasty Flavor

There are a lot of great Sea Monster cards in MtG that would fit with his works (The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Call of Cthulhu), such as Runo Stromkirk  , which is a great reference to Cthulhu, but they just don't fit mechanically in this deck. I am working on a Blue/Black Runo Stromkirk EDH deck to focus more on that archetype at some point in the future.

  • Krothuss, Lord of the Deep - So cool! And so sad that I can't use it effectively in this kind of deck! Not the first time I've felt like 100 cards is too few lol.

  • Gyruda, Doom of Depths - A huge flavor win, but ultimately not effective in this deck archetype.

  • Sygg, River Cutthroat - A great interpretation of a Deep One from Shadow over Innsmouth, but not as impactful with the methodology of the deck.

Some of Lovecraft's stories, like Herbert West-Reanimator would be better represented with a more Zombie/Reanimator style EDH deck, but that theme can be focused on in much more detail than in this deck, which is why there are only a few references in this particular one. I'm also working on a Blue/Black Wilhelt the Rotcleaver deck to more heavily focus on this theme.

  • Gisa and Geralf - Or any combination of these two siblings. All great Zombie/Reanimation style commanders.

Other Story/Card similarities

  • Glimpse the Unthinkable - Thematically on point, but only hits one opponent. More cards now can hit multiple opponents, which increases the odds of us stealing something with a bigger impact.

  • Any of the Eldrazi Titans. Emrakul, the Promised End is included because of its story/lore wins, but I could only really afford to put one of these titans in the deck without it getting too skewed. Plus, Dimir colors aren't the best for ramping.

  • The Mimeoplasm - A great Oozing monstrosity similar to something from The Dunwich Horror that would be really fun to build around, but adding a third color would dilute the cards I've currently got.

  • Jace, Unraveler of Secrets - Thematically great, as many of our Lovecraftian Protagonists are searching or studying secret lore and arcana. Unfortunately, there are too many other Jace Planeswalker cards that also aid in the Milling strategy, so he's unfortunately out.

  • Brine Shaman - "The shamans of Marit Lage do her bidding in secret, but they do it gladly." A perfectly thematic cult member! It's unfortunate that it doesn't contribute to the plan of the deck at all, but it's cool that it exists!

This is by no means a complete account of Lovecraftian relationships between the deck and his Cthulhu Mythos, but it should give the viewer a better understanding of why some cards were selected. There are many more cards in Magic the Gathering that would represent elements of H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos, but not all of them can fit into a single EDH Deck or cover the different mechanics within the game.

If you are a fellow Lovecraftian enthusiast and/or have any suggestions on cards that fit within a story or general Lovecraftian theme, I'd love to hear them. Blue/Black seems like the best color combination for Lovecraft's works, but if you have other ideas I'd love to hear them. And if you'd like to learn more about the life and works of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as other Wierd or Gothic Fiction and Horror Stories, I'd highly recommend 'The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (hppodcraft)'. Great stuff, super informative. Now rebranded as 'Strange Studies of Strange Stories'

Obligatory note: While the works of H.P. Lovecraft are an important addition to the genre of horror and weird fiction, the man himself was not the best. A notorious racist and bigot, many of his works have negative portrayals of non-Anglo-Saxton races (The infamous name of the narrator's cat in 'Rats in the Walls' should tell you enough). Should that prove to be a deal-breaker in an attempt to learn more about H.P. Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos, or other Weird Fiction from the early 1900's, that is entirely your prerogative and right should you choose not to learn more.


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Top Ranked
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Date added 2 weeks
Last updated 5 days

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

20 - 0 Mythic Rares

47 - 0 Rares

19 - 0 Uncommons

6 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 3.42
Tokens Centaur 3/3 G w/ Pro Black, Copy Clone, Frog Lizard 3/3 G, Horror, Manifest 2/2 C, Marit Lage, Slug 1-1 B, Monarch Emblem, Zombie */* U
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