Welcome back to Decks of Many Things, the article series where I build Dungeons and Dragons themed MTG decks, largely so I have something for the Dungeon Master to play against the cube I created in the first season of my other article series, Cube of Force! Today, we are taking a look at Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.
If you’re unfamiliar with the lore behind this character, Grazilaxx is a mind flayer featured in the module Out of the Abyss. As their names imply, mind flayers assault and feed on the minds of their victims to sustain themselves. This is represented wonderfully on the Grazilaxx card, which draws cards whenever creatures you control deal damage to opponents. This enables a somewhat unique strategy for monoblue: evasive agro.
The first step in building around a commander like Grazilaxx is to find redundancies or improvements for their effect. And since, as worded, Grazilaxx only grants one card drawn per player damaged, there is definitely room to improve on their benefit. Fortunately, we can capitalize on cards like Deepfathom Skulker, Military Intelligence, Curse of Verbosity, Coastal Piracy, Bident of Thassa, and Reconnaissance Mission to also draw when our creatures attack, so we don’t NEED to have our commander in play to advance our game plan.
For the most part, building around our commander’s effect means we will want to play low-cost creatures with evasive abilities like flying or being outright unblockable. With fourteen evasive one mana value creatures and eight evasive two mana value creatures, the chances we will have 1-2 early attackers the turn we play Grazilaxx so we can draw at least two cards is very high. You’ll also want to consider holding back a few of these smaller creatures in your hand so you can quickly rebuild if an opponent answers your board. Since most of our creatures cost so little, it is conceivable we can play out three creatures and our commander in the turn following a board wipe, allowing us to resume our gameplan uninterrupted.
Of course, an army of small creatures will have a hard time closing out the game. Fortunately, we can look to card draw payoffs that get bigger and scarier the more we draw like Chasm Skulker, Nadir Kraken and Oneirophage to give us that last major damage push if we want to get it on the ground. A solid non-combat route to get those last chunks out of everyone’s life totals is Psychosis Crawler, which will drain your opponents for each card you draw.
The wonderful thing about playing a low cost agro strategy in monoblue is you will basically always have a full grip of cards and have the option to leave mana up for an array of answers. This is by no means a “permission” style monoblue deck, but the last thing you want is to have an opponent combo out of nowhere and invalidate the work you’ve put into the ground strategy. With a total of 12 counterspells in the deck, you can rest assured you will usually have an answer in hand if you need one, but you’ll need to exercise discretion in what you choose not to let resolve.
The one problem with this strategy is that you may often find you have more cards in hand than you can reasonably keep. Wizard Class and Thought Vessel help by removing your maximum hand size, while Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir will let you hold up all the mana you need for answers and flash in creatures before your turn starts if you didn’t need to actually play those answers. What should result is a commanding board presence where you are able to answer problems without giving up your need to actually advance your board in the process.
This deck’s biggest weakness is vulnerability to crackback from opponents. We are fighting for victory by a thousand cuts, and there is a chance opponents will field bigger, scarier creatures than ours as we progress to the middle and late game. Fortunately, we had plenty of room in the deck for sweeper cards that will set our opponents back if we find too much pressure on ourselves with Scourge of Fleets, Spectral Deluge, and Engulf the Shore resetting opponent boards without a serious impact on our own. Especially when you find yourself playing as the Archenemy, the need to tactically reset the board and quickly rebuild will be key.
With all that behind us, open your mind to Grazilaxx and the power of the mind flayer. Keep putting pressure on your opponents, keep a hand full of answers, and be ready to deal with the crackback from your enemies. If you can master these things, you too can be as feared at the table as a mind flayer!
Paul, The Rocking BardSponsor this Article!