The Great Warhammer 40,000 Commander Deck Update

Sheldon Menery updates his suite of Commander decks with goodies from the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks. Which cards made the cut, and why?

Blood for the Blood God
Blood for the Blood God! illustrated by Artur Nakhodkin

I’ll confess that I can’t get enough of the Warhammer 40,000 cards.  We on the Commander Rules Committee (RC) got to see them twice during development and the excitement started back then.  The finished product pushed things into the stratosphere.  After building last time with The Swarmlord, I’m here to tell you which other commanders I’m likely to build with and where I’ll be putting the remainder of the new cards from the set.  Not just content to look forward to that, after picking up all four decks courtesy of my friendly LGS, Johnny B’s Cards and Comics, I also have to figure out the upgrade paths for them.  They’re so solid out of the box that I want to keep them mostly together, doing maybe a ten-card upgrade for each—which, given our space constraints, might turn into an additional article.

There are nearly as many new cards in Warhammer 40,000 as in a normal expansion set.  That means there will be plenty of cards left by the wayside, as room in my existing deck suite (68 and counting) gets precious.  Since I didn’t use many of the new cards in the build of The Swarmlord, I’ll consider those cards fair game and not a violation of my rule to put only one copy of a new card into the deck suite.  Decision-making also won’t be impacted by the creatures that might lead those preconstructed decks.

Here’s the breakdown by color, which includes multicolored and colorless. 


Celestine, the Living Saint

Into: Halloween with Karador

I happened to have an opening in this deck, as I grabbed out the Harvester of Souls to put into the aforementioned The Swarmlord deck.  Celestine slots right in, as there’s some nice lifegain with Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim; Kokusho, the Evening Star; Blood Artist; Suture Priest; Verdant Sun’s Avatar; and sometimes Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose—plus, of course, Celestine herself. 

Triumph of Saint Katherine

Into: Queen Marchesa, Long May She Reign

As tempted as I am to also put Saint Katherine into that Karador deck, there are 67 others that deserve consideration.  The good news is that I also snagged a card from Queen Marchesa for The Swarmlord, namely Sheoldred, Whispering One.  I initially slept a bit on Triumph of Saint Katherine, but the caul has been lifted from my eyes.


Genestealer Patriarch

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

A high-profile card that’ll go into a high-profile deck. I love the play possibilities that Genestealer Patriarch creates.  What’s best to me about it is that if we have a number of creatures with infection counters on them when a battlefield sweeper happens, our recovery is quite swift.  This card is complete sauce.

Lord of Change

Into: Animar’s Swarm

The splashability of Lord of Change means that I’ll be casting it for far less than seven mana most of the time.  I’ll also be bouncing it back to my hand with Equilibrium, Cloudstone Curio, and Crystal Shard, among other cards in the deck to cast it on the cheap again and draw more cards.  There was an argument to put it into Lavinia Blinks, but I like the less expensive casting option. 

Sister of Silence

Into:  Ikra and Sakashima

I recently swapped out Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix as one of the partners in this deck because I like more what Sakashima of a Thousand Faces does.  Kydele was there to support putting blue into the deck and her green was redundant.  This deck is full of tomfoolery and I expected that Sakashima would do more of that than Kydele.  Sister of Silence is a little protection against other players attempting to stop the shenanigans.  I don’t really care that can’t counter a creature, since they’re less dangerous to my plans. 


Great Unclean One

Into:  Aminatou’s Demons

“Demon tribal makes more Demons” is hardly a headline.  What this card does is make me think about trying to squeeze Sphinx of the Second Sun into this deck since Liliana’s Contract is a win condition.  I might not always be able to have four Demons during my regular upkeep, but second upkeep?  No problems!

Illuminor Szeras

Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

Hard to argue with a sacrifice outlet that produces mana.  I went with Kresh because it occasionally stumbles on mana, as opposed to Karador, which would certainly benefit from it as well.  Additionally, Kresh has haste-enablers, meaning I’d be able to use Illuminor Szeras right away. 

Nurgle's Conscription

Into: Adun’s Toolbox

A card that I might want to violate my own rules on and put into multiple decks. Adun’s Toolbox gets the nod because of the card’s toolboxy nature.  It probably replaces Unlicensed Hearse, not because I don’t love the card (I do!), but because the deck is otherwise absent artifact effects and has Molder Slug and Collector Ouphe to keep other artifacts in check.  I should also find an Eternal Witness variant to be able to get it back.

Out of the Tombs

Into: Zombies of Tresserhorn

I keep thinking of ways that the second ability comes back to bite me, and all of them are likely loss scenarios anyway.  Milling stuff is what this deck wants to do, and those eon counters will pile up swiftly. 

Plague Drone

Into: Adun’s Toolbox

It’s more of a crane than a toolbox card, because Plague Drone does some heavy lifting.  It’s an on-battlefield trick that prevents other players from getting out of hand, which I find reasonable protection in a Commander game.  I’ll be honest; the first things I looked for were decks in the suite that were Orzhov/x that also had either Beacon of Immortality or Arbiter of Knollridge.  I didn’t have any, but that’s not a reason to prevent playing a saucy card.

Shard of the Void Dragon

Into:  Glissa, Glissa

Shard of the Void Dragon isn’t really anti-artifact tech; it just gets benefits from artifacts leaving the battlefield.  Glissa enjoys looping artifacts in and out of the graveyard, but sometimes gets a little grindy. This way, there’s a big smack in the face coming for someone.  No grind involved. 

Sloppity Bilepiper

Into:  Yidris Rotisserie Draft

Worst card name ever translates into good card.  I’m certainly looking forward to double-cascading in this deck.  If I take Mind’s Dilation out of the deck, I think all my friends will find it a reasonable trade since most of my games are still over webcam instead of in person.  But Mind’s Dilation is a seven-mana spell and the cascades would be so sweet.  Dilemmas.

Tallyman of Nurgle

Into: The Altar of Thraximundar

There are so many good black cards in this set, I’m at my wits’ end fitting them all in.  Maybe the answer is to just play nothing but the precons for a few months.  Tallyman of Nurgle goes into Thraximundar because its trigger will happen more often than in other decks due to the commander’s ability (and Sneak Attack stuff). Additionally, it’s tighter on mana cost and the curve of the deck really needs to come down some. 

Triarch Stalker

Into: Karazikar Goad is GOAT

There are times in this deck when just tapping down a creature with Karazikar’s ability isn’t enough and combats are unfavorable.  The answer comes in Triarch Stalker, making blocks even more difficult.  The goad machine marches on.


Aspiring Champion

Into:  Kaalia’s Demons

In the obvious-is-obvious category, Aspiring Champion goes into a Demon deck.  I don’t play the Kaalia deck as much as I like because people sometimes get itchy seeing it, but since it’s pretty tame, I should really bring it out more often.  Aspiring Champion does some of my favorite things in Magic: sacrifice creatures and deal damage.  It’s no mean thing to live a simple life.


Into:  Kaalia’s Demons

I smell a significant reshaping of this deck on the wind.  I’ll note that Bloodthirster only untaps itself, but six damage is six damage.  It makes me wonder if we should be giving our creatures vigilance in order to get really wild, but there aren’t any Demons who do it in Kaalia’s colors.  Jetmir, Nexus of Revels, however, is a Cat Demon that gives our team vigilance as long as we control three or more creatures—so maybe there’s the start of a build.

Kharn the Betrayer

Into: Haktos with Gavin Verhey

It certainly could go sideways on us, but that’s part of the fun.  The initial problem is that it’s always likely to have to block before it ever attacks, since it doesn’t have haste.  Maybe we just count it as a four-mana/draw-two spell that can ship some damage around the table every now and then. I’ll give it a run in the Haktos deck and see what’s what.


Into: Animar’s Swarm

Once again, the fact that there’s only a single pip on the card plays a role in putting it into the Animar deck.  While it seems like we’d want to put it into a deck that has a commander with a mana value of five or greater, the Swarm has nineteen different creatures that will trigger the condition.  That’s plenty and can operate independently of the commander, which is a good secondary plan in any deck. 



Into:  Zegana and a Dice Bag

I went back and forth on whether to put Biophagus into a +1/+1 counters matter deck or not.  In the end, going to the extreme seemed like a better idea than trying to get cute in some other fashion, like using with creatures that enter the battlefield with -1/-1 counters on them. 


Into: Animar’s Swarm

I’m a broken record on the single pip topic at this point.  Putting all of the counters on Animar, which will have already deeply discounted casting Broodlord, is just one of the silliest things in Magic, so it must be done. 


Into:  Zegana and a Dice Bag

Okay, I feel like I’m not even really working for it at this point.  I’m at the crossroads of actually not putting cards into some decks because it’s too obvious.  Okay, maybe driving up to the crossroads.  After a stop at the Five Guys, because I haven’t had that in a while. 

Hierophant Bio-Titan

Into:  Zegana and a Dice Bag

At this juncture, like with Zombies, there might be enough unique +1/+1 counters matter cards to easily fill two Prime Speaker Zegana decks.  Two-mana 12/12s are no joke, even if they don’t have evasion, especially 12/12s that can’t be chump blocked. 

Termagant Swarm

Into: Animar’s Swarm

Occasionally, Animar decks must be watered with the blood of cards that didn’t come out in Warhammer 40,000.  I suppose the deck was maybe getting a little stale anyway, so it’s not the worst thing that could happen. 


Into: Animar’s Swarm

Or maybe I just really lean into it and, like my obsession with Karador, lean into Animar, and build a third deck with it.  I suppose I could also save myself a great deal of work and just let Animar-as-commander be one of my upgrades to the Tyranid Swarm deck. 


Into:  Dreaming of Intet

Fellow RC member Scott Larabee has a well-documented love of Maze of Ith and its variants, which hides the fact that he also plays Phyrexian Tower nearly as much.  The question was which deck I’d most often face him with, so as to get extra mileage out of Toxicrene.  The answer became Intet because, despite the fact that there’s a land or two of our own it would turn off, the deck has a number of Clones in it.  This means we’ll be more likely to need Toxicrene’s ability to help produce mana that’s not in our color identity. 

Tyrant Guard

Into:  Zegana and a Dice Bag

I actually had to puzzle out whether Tyrant Guard would go into Prime Speaker Zegana or Animar because of its added protection of the latter, which is orders of magnitude more important to its deck than the former.  In the end, I chose the one that made more flavor sense.


Abaddon the Despoiler

Into: The Altar of Thraximundar

I don’t mind a bunch of cards from older decks getting turned over (and Thraximundar is one of my oldest, in the first five I built, if I recall correctly) because I can take out stuff that’s become a little overplayed over the years.  Thraximundar likes battling, so most turns we’ll be getting some very sweet cascades. 

Assault Intercessor

Into: Queen Marchesa, Long May She Reign

It was either here or in Breena Will Do It to You for Assault Intercessor.  Breena is strong enough at the moment; I thought that Queen Marchesa could use a little additional bump in dealing noncombat damage. 

Callidus Assassin

Into: Lazav and Clones

The deck that has Evil Twin in it already gets Callidus Assassin, too.  Pretty straightforward stuff.

Chaos Defiler

Into: Adun’s Toolbox

Even though I earlier mentioned having an anti-artifact bent, the Adun toolbox deck is a fine home for Chaos Defiler because it does lots of work coming in and going out.  With Adun we can Regrow it and cast it again.  Blowing up two things from opponents for five mana (I suppose eight if you count the three for Adun’s ability) each cycle seems like a nice rate.  If it happens to stay around for battle, even better.

Chaos Mutation

Into:  The Threat of Yasova

The big brain idea here is to steal a creature with Yasova or one of the deck’s many other methods, then exile it with Chaos Mutation, getting the double duty of ridding ourselves of some huge threat and getting something cool of our own. 

Epistolary Librarian

Into:  Sefris Dungeons Upgraded Precon

In what might be the first scheduled set update to a preconstructed deck, I like Epistolary Librarian here because the deck does a decent job of keeping cards in hand, has a tight mana curve, and likes to attack with multiple creatures.  I don’t expect any bombs to happen, just nice value.  One of the other upgrades will have to come out to make room.


Into:  Muldrotha, Gravely Speaking

I wanted to make sure I didn’t just default into a counters deck.  Malanthrope going into Muldrotha makes great sense because it either gets cast once and terrorizes the battlefield or gets cast multiple times for excellent graveyard control. 

Neyam Shai Murad

Into: Halloween with Karador

Here’s the potential downside of Neyam Shai Murad:  the opponent we can hit might actually not have a permanent card in their graveyard.  Since the triggered ability has only one target—their card—we can’t put it on the stack without a valid target.  It might limit the utility of Neyam, but I’m willing to find out.

Shadow in the Warp

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

I’d call Shadow in the Warp one of the generically good cards in the set.  The two damage isn’t all that much in Commander, but it’ll pile up over the course of the game.  The real value is the mana discount—even better if you’re playing it in a deck in which you have creatures with flash (or are playing Vedalken Orrery or the like).  I went with Intet because it can give flash and has Seedborn Muse

Sister Hospitaller

Into: Halloween with Karador

I find that in quite a few sets, upgrades get focused on a limited number of decks instead of getting spread around as much as one might think.  It stands to reason because sets and especially the decks that go with them have themes, like certain of my decks do.  Sister Hospitaller can set up a really nice chain reaction of life and death.  It only costs one more than Karmic Guide (although the difference between five and six does seem quite large, doesn’t it?) and will gain life.  Karmic Guide has the nice echo ability that means we don’t have to come up with a way to get it into the graveyard, but then again, the deck has plenty of ways to do that on its own. 


Canoptek Scarab Swarm

Into:  Glissa, Glissa

Another card I won’t mind looping through a few times via Glissa’s triggered ability.  What’s super-nice about the creature tokens that Canoptek Scarab Swarm creates being artifacts is that they can get sacrificed to Arcbound Ravager

Canoptek Spyder

Into: Glissa Vehicles

Talk about your tailor-made pieces! Some cards will definitely be drawn off Canoptek Spyder. 


Into:  Glissa, Glissa

It’s way cheaper than Guardian Beast, right (and yes, I know they’re not the same)?

Reaver Titan

Into: Animar’s Swarm

Although Animar itself isn’t one of them, there are a number of utility creatures in the deck that don’t like getting into combat.  A nice use for them will be to crew the Reaver Titan, which hopefully cost next to nothing to cast.  Then, like a scene I’m sure we’ll see from the eventual Warhammer 40,000 action film, it’ll just start blasting.

Sceptre of Eternal Glory

Into: Gisa and Geralf Together Forever

Since I don’t have too many monocolored decks that I play that often, Sceptre of Eternal Glory goes into a two color deck that I do (and has plenty of basic lands). 

The Golden Throne

Into: Gisa and Geralf Together Forever

It wasn’t an accident that the last two cards ended up in the same deck.  When I was looking for where to put Sceptre of Eternal Glory, I realized that Gisa and Geralf like to cast an extra spell from the graveyard.  The mana requirements for the deck have been a little heavier than normal, so getting the boost from both cards is warranted. 

45 Down

That’s a hefty 45 cards from the set into the suite, which is going to create quite a bit of pressure when it comes to taking stuff out.  There are just too many cards that scream, “Play me!” If I were to have a criticism, it’s that in a number of cases, it felt like I didn’t have to think too hard about where to put the cards.  There was just an obviousness to many of the choices that left me with a little less joy than when normally doing the update work.  The good news is that I’ll get that joy back because lots of these cards are going to be insanely fun to play. 

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