Last week, on the eve of preview season for Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) decided to give us teasers on upcoming products coming later in the year. For Commander fans like me, of particular interest were details on Magic: The Gathering’s Universes Beyond Warhammer 40,000 collaboration.
Now, I’ve never played Warhammer 40,000 and don’t really know anything about it. I played the original Warhammer game many years ago, thanks to a friend spotting me an army that I could play with over the course of a couple of weeks to get an idea of the game. It was a lot of fun, but as a young father who was already pressed for time and disposable income for Magic and D&D, I decided to focus on the hobbies I already had invested a lot into.
Flash-forward twenty years and now we have a crossover product designed to evoke the Warhammer style and substance onto Magic cards in the form of Commander decks. As a Commander fan, I’m definitely interested in seeing what new game pieces we’ll have available. There are going to be four decks available to us, and each of the decks will also have a “Collector’s Edition,” with the cards in a unique “Universes Beyond” frame and fully foiled out with a special “surge foil.”
Warhammer 40,000 Decks, Drops, and Previews
The decks are called:
- Tyranid Swarm (green-blue-red, or Temur)
- Forces of the Imperium (white-blue-black, or Esper)
- Necron Dynasties (mono-black)
- The Ruinous Powers (blue-black-red, or Grixis)
I find it interesting that the color balance is, well, unbalanced: green is in one deck, white is in one deck, blue and black are in three decks, and red shows up in two decks. There will also be three Secret Lair drops released too, which could help balance out the color scheme, though Warhammer might be a setting that just leans heavier on the Grixis side of the color pie. We don’t have any information on these yet, except the names:
- Secret Lair x Warhammer 40,000: Orks
- Secret Lair x Warhammer Age of Sigmar
- Secret Lair x Blood Bowl
Here are the cards that were teased last week:
Abaddon the Despoiler is the face card for The Ruinous Powers deck, and based on the color identity of Blood for the Blood God! it must be found in that deck as well. Blue card Vanguard Suppressor could potentially be found in three different decks, but the description in the article WotC put out on the preview describes them as “Ultramarines… defenders of Humanity and among the greatest of the Emperor’s warriors.” To me, that suggests Forces of the Imperium, but any Warhammer 40,000 fans out there can set me straight if I’m wrong.
Let’s dig in to the Commander implications of these three cards, starting with the blood-thirstiest of Rakdos sorceries.
Blood for the Blood God!
Eleven mana is a lot, but the spell has a built-in cost reduction that’s relatively easy to obtain in certain decks. The effect is pretty potent, discarding your hand to draw a whopping eight cards and dealing eight damage to each opponent! I recently played my Piru, the Volatile deck and creatures did a lot of dying, so I think I’d like to find room for this card for it. It’s probably a good thing that the card exiles itself, because playing it multiple times in a game would be absurd.
Let’s dig into the implications for the Blood for the Blood God!
Creatures That Sacrifice/Die
I also thought about the Eldrazi Spawn and Scion tokens, which can sacrifice to discount the spell by one, and provide colorless mana at the same time. Four of those tokens cover all the generic mana requirements to cast Blood for the Blood God! Another angle is to have ways to sacrifice your own creatures for profit, with Ashnod’s Altar being a prime example, since each creature sacrificed can provide for three mana to cast it. Prossh can sacrifice his six Kobold tokens to shave six mana off Blood’s mana cost.
In most cases, you’re going to cast Blood for the Blood God! by playing out your hand so that what you discard won’t really matter much, but sometimes you’ll want to discard for profit. Bone Miser and Surly Badgersaur can trade any cards you discard for more resources, while Glint-Horn Buccaneer can just add to the pain for your opponents.
Next up is Vanguard Suppressor, which is the latest in a long line of Ophidian descendants, trading combat damage to opponents for card drawing. Vanguard Suppressor is quite an improvement, taking on a nice bit of evasion with flying, but even cooler is the ability to copy itself for each two mana you put into its squad ability. The scales up quite nicely, giving your three power of evasive creature for four, six power for six, and nine power for eight. I’m pretty sure this card is going to be quite popular for any blue Commander deck that wants to play creatures, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on a few copies.
If your blue deck likes to ramp and ramp hard, Vanguard Suppressor can certainly take advantage of it. In particular, Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power are nice enablers that give you more mana and also give a size boost to your Suppressors. I have the beginnings of a Myojin of Cryptic Dreams Commander deck on my desk that I’m far from completing, but Vanguard Suppressor might just be the kick in the pants I need for it.
If you can reliably cast Vanguard Suppressor with its squad ability in your token deck, it can certainly find a good home there. Curiosity Crafter will let the copy draw two cards each time, which is pretty sweet! Of course, green offers a ton of great things for token decks and easy mana ramp to help pay the squad, but I could see going Esper to utilize cards like Teysa Karlov.
One thing that’s missing from a squad of Vanguard Suppressors is haste so that you can take advantage of the evasive attacks and card draw right away, so Crashing Drawbridge is going to be in the deck for sure. Dipping into other colors, red offers all sorts of ways to bring the hasty heat with cards like Anger, Fires of Yavimaya, or Temur Ascendancy.
Abaddon the Despoiler
Lastly, let’s dig into the card we can actually build a Commander around, Abaddon the Despoiler! This is a 5/5 for five mana that has trample and, if you jump through some hoops, gives your spells cascade. Which looks a lot like another legendary creature: Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder!
Yidris is a 5/4 for four mana that has trample and, if you jump through the hoop of dealing combat damage to a player, your spells gain cascade. So wait a minute—isn’t Abaddon the Despoiler strictly worse than Abaddon?
On the surface, I’d say the answer is—kind of. There are some differences worth noting.
Yidris VS Abaddon
Yidris has four colors in its color identity while Abaddon only has three, and which is better can vary depending on your deckbuilding needs. The land requirements to pull together a solid four-color deck are a pretty big step up from three colors, and your colored spells can be easier to cast on time for a three-color deck. On the other side of the coin, losing access to green cuts off a lot of great cards in commander, including many that play specifically well in cascade decks:
One big advantage Abaddon the Despoiler has over Yidris is that the cascade ability can trigger without needing Abaddon to attack and deal combat damage. In fact, you don’t even need to deal combat damage at all if you have some other ways of damaging your opponent, which plays well alongside quite a few cards in Rakdos that profit from dealing damage directly to your opponents:
I think this makes Abaddon different enough to warrant being considered more than a worse version of Yidris, and I think an Abaddon deck is going to look much different. I do think The Ruinous Powers will have more cool cards that play well with Abaddon, but since we don’t have access to that information yet, let’s dig into some other cards we might want in our deck.
Plug “damage to each opponent” into your favorite card database, and you come up with all sorts of cool cards that you might consider for the deck. I particularly like Thermo-Alchemist since it doesn’t require any mana to activate and has an untap trigger that can quickly push you to give up to six mana spells cascade. If you’re willing to take some pain yourself (and what good Grixis deck isn’t?), Price of Progress should turn on cascade for all of your spells.
Losing green didn’t shut off all the cascade goodies available in Grixis, and I particularly like Volcanic Torrent since it can do a lot of work dealing with your opponents creatures while you’ve been dealing damage directly to your opponents.
Synergizes with Trample
Someone called Abaddon the Despoiler is probably going to want to wade into combat, and trample gives is a nice way of pushing damage through blockers. Ways to boost its power will be nice with cards like Blackblade Reforged and Cranial Plating, but you can also combine Abaddon with deathtouch with something like Basilisk Collar and Vorpal Sword. Wand of Orcus might be a card to consider, potentially generating several 2/2 Zombie tokens to hold down the fort while your commander remains tapped from attacking.
While we don’t yet know of any tribal synergies for the Astartes creature type, there are certainly a fair amount of cards that care about Warriors that we could consider a Grixis Warrior tribal deck. There are 475 Warriors available in Grixis, including several that we’ve already talked about above. How’s this for a nasty gang of Warriors?
So what do you think of the upcoming Warhammer 40,000 Magic cards? Are you a Warhammer fan? If not, are you still excited as a Commander fan to play with the new cards?
Talk to Me
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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy.
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