We interrupt geeking out over all the awesome new Commander cards from Dominaria United to geek out over all the awesome new cards from the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks that were previewed last week. The special Universes Beyond collaboration between Magic and the Warhammer 40,000 game comes in the form of four Commander decks, and each deck contains a whopping 41 brand-new Commander-legal cards, which is quite a bit more than we’ve gotten used to seeing on Commander products of late. The reprints also have brand-new art and flavor text aligned with the Warhammer 40,000 universe, so there’s value there even for people whose Commander collections are quite deep.
I played the original Warhammer game a little bit many years back, and it was a lot of fun. A friend let me borrow one of his armies. I played a few battles over the course of a few weeks. I didn’t buy into it, though, because I was already deeply involved in collecting Magic along with a few other collectible card games and role-playing games and I definitely didn’t need to pick up another expensive hobby, but I did appreciate the appeal.
The original setting was classic fantasy much like Magic generally is, which is much more in my interest wheelhouse than this high-technology, far-future Warhammer 40,000 setting. But when looking at these cards, I can’t help but get excited about them from a Commander fan’s perspective, since they’re all really neat designs that look like they’d play great in a lot of different Commander decks, as well as just obviously well-designed to play right out of the box.
I wanted to go through each of the four decks and highlight the top five cards that I’m most excited about playing with in Commander. They aren’t in any particular order, just the ones that most caught my eye.
Tyranid Swarm Commander Deck
I was pretty excited about the Tyranid Swarm deck because I’m newly in the market for a Temur commander. I have over 70 Commander decks built in paper. Recently I cataloged them by color to make sure I covered all the bases. My only Temur commander was Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm, but after playing it a few times I didn’t really like how powerful it was. Once you cast Miirym, the game quickly pivots to my opponents needing to either kill Miirym or kill me before I untap and start putting nontoken Dragons onto the battlefield. It’s frankly kind of silly that it can even copy legendary Dragons as nonlegendary copies.
I took it apart for parts a couple of weeks back, and when looking for new Temur commanders printed this year, was dismayed to find that Miirym was it—until the Tyranid Swarm is available. I really like Magus Lucea Kane, which reminds me a bit of Zaxara, the Exemplary as a cool “X-spell” tribal commander. Having red in the color identity rather than black gives the deck a different feel from Zaxara. I’m really looking forward to playing cards like Electrodominance, Shivan Devastator, Klauth’s Will, and maybe even Lavalanche!
I love game-impacting creatures that aren’t easy to get rid of permanently, and Old One Eye fits the bill! And boy, does it. That’s a whopping eleven power spread across two bodies, one of which has trample and gives all your other creatures trample. Since it only requires one green mana, it’s going to be an easy splash into all sorts of decks, and its ability works particularly well in a deck that blinks creatures for value. I’ll definitely be slotting this in my Emiel the Blessed deck!
Its Fast Healing ability may seem a little steep, but discarding two cards to bring back Old One Eye is going to be worth it a lot of the time, and that’s not even considering we might want to pitch cards into the graveyard for value—such as reanimation! If I get another copy of this, I’ll likely slot it as one of the big creatures in my Old Stickfingers reanimator deck.
I really like the Genestealer’s Kiss ability being tied to combat, since I’m a big fan of combat-oriented Commander games. If I’ve got red in the deck, I’ll definitely want to pair this up with extra combat steps, but beyond that, you can also use something like Lithoform Engine or Strionic Resonator to copy the trigger. The infection counter pairs up awesomely with instant-speed kill spells, which blue even has access to with Pongify and Rapid Hybridization. If Genestealer Patriarch has attacked enough you could even use The Phasing of Zhalfir to destroy the creatures and end up with copies of the best creatures that used to be on the battlefield. Obviously, if you pair up with black, your instant-speed destroy spells increase dramatically.
+1/+1 counter-themed decks got a terrifying new toy with Hierophant Bio-Titan, a 12/12 creature with trample, reach and ward 2 that can’t be blocked by creatures with power two or less and will absolutely dominate a battlefield until it’s answered. What’s nuts is that this card can very easily just cost two green mana to cast, since you can remove +1/+1 counters to shave off two of the ten generic mana in its mana value for each one you remove. The new named mechanic ravenous lets you draw a card when the X in the cast spell is five or greater, which just happens to be the ideal number of counters to cast Hierophant Bio-Titan at its cheapest.
I don’t currently have a +1/+1 counter-themed deck that this would nicely fit into. On the other hand, this card could push me there!
I love enchantments like this with nifty abilities. Further, I like that it encourages you to play creatures with flash to get more out of its first ability, and I love that it punishes players who play too much on other people’s turns. I have a ton of decks with red and green in them, and so the challenge is going to figure out which ones aren’t going to get one of the few copies of these I might be able to pick up.
As I mentioned, I don’t really have a +1/+1 counter themed deck. The Swarmlord is definitely a shiny new toy for that style of deck. And I’m really excited about The Red Terror in mono-red decks, in particular my Valduk, Keeper of Flame build.
The Ruinous Powers Commander Deck
I’ve seen people put token creating instant and sorcery spells in spellslinger decks, but I like how Magnus the Red specifically ties those two themes together quite strongly. Plus, the body it’s attached to is no slouch either – a 4/5 with flying is quite good for five mana.
If I get tired of one of my four Izzet decks, I’ll very likely pull together Magnus the Red alongside Talrand, Sky Summoner; Young Pyromancer; Docent of Perfection; and some big impact spells like Dig Through Time, Brass’s Bounty, and Sublime Epiphany!
What a wild and chaotic commander, which seems perfectly designed for a faction that worships Chaos! Ideally you’d like to pass this between yourself and another player, but I could see games where your opponents just play keep away with your commander for much of the game while drawing a bunch of extra cards, which seems like a pretty big downside that you could mitigate to some degree with cards like Homeward Path and Sword of Hearth and Home. To fully leverage the card likely requires some degree of political skill. If that’s your cup of tea, I can’t wait to see it in action! I’m super intrigued at what happens when you pair this with Pyrohemia!
The fact that you have to wait until your upkeep to get the effect is pretty tough given designs these days, but if you can keep it on the battlefield a few turns, it could yield some dividends. Since you’re casting the spell from exile, it seems perfectly suited for decks like Prosper, Tome-Bound alongside cards like Wild-Magic Sorcerer and Passionate Archaeologist.
As if it wasn’t fun enough to play a card called Pink Horror that synergizes nicely in your Izzet spellslinger deck, when it dies, you create two miniature versions of it called Blue Horrors. Just giggle and smile and put it in your spellslinger decks!
Demon tribal lovers rejoice: you’ve got a really cool linchpin card that helps bridge between the early game and your more expensive Demon bombs! The mana discount is sizeable, and the haste will often be incredible, especially in conjunction with attack triggers such as Raksasha Debaser, Balor, and Lord Xander, the Collector.
If Zombie tribal is more your thing, this deck has you covered too with Poxwalkers, which will naturally pop out of the graveyard quite often in typical Zombie decks. Hexmark Destroyer is a cool design; it doesn’t technically say it can’t be blocked, but the blocking condition is quite steep, and it hits really hard if your opponent doesn’t block it. Chaos Mutation is a little pricey, but it’s the kind of card that will often lead to awesome stories, and being an instant really kicks it up a notch.
Necron Dynasties Commander Deck
“Grind your opponents into dust! Build your army of mindless androids alongside commanders Szarekh, the Silent King and Imotekh, the Stormlord.”
The Necron Dynasties deck brings a ton of goodies for black deck fans, and for me personally Trazyn the Infinite is at the top of my list. This gives me Necrotic Ooze vibes, a card that I’ve loved and played in multiple formats since it was printed way back in Scars of Mirrodin. I’m not entirely sure what sort of mono-black artifact deck I’m going to build around Trazyn, but I’m probably starting with Commander’s Sphere, Gilded Lotus, Mirage Mirror, and Lithoform Engine.
We all know paying life to cheat mana is busted in Magic: The Gathering, so you can bet Anrakyr the Traveller is going to lead to all sorts of crazy plays. I am glad that the Lord of the Pyrrhian Legions ability is tied to attacking, which helps keep it a little bit in check. I’m looking forward to cheating in Caged Sun, Meteor Golem, Noxious Gearhulk, and Akroma’s Memorial with this!
Resurrection Orb is an incredible Equipment card that will easily slot into any Equipment-heavy deck. The only thing that limits it from being the second coming of Skullclamp is a pretty heft equip cost of four, but if you’re playing an Equipment deck, there are a ton of ways to work around it: Astor, Bearer of Blades; Puresteel Paladin; Bruenor Battlehammer; Sigarda’s Aid; Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist… you know the drill.
This enchantment is so weird and I love it. I presume it makes creature cards in your deck into artifact creatures so that you can potentially search them out with something like Kuldotha Forgemaster or Magda, Brazen Outlaw. I can’t wait to see what people cook up with this card!
I really like this design since it’s an effect that lasts throughout each player’s turn, and you get to change your target from turn to turn if you need to. Also, it works with any of your creatures, so it can be played outside artifact shells with any creatures that want to attack. I love that it allows playing a little politics, too. Really nice choices when making this card.
All three of these are fun designs that are going to do cool things in a variety of decks, and I could easily write three more paragraphs here, but for the sake of brevity and my editor’s sanity, I won’t.
Forces of the Imperium
For a typical Magic design, I would have expected Celestine, the Living Saint to be yet another powerful legendary Angel, so I appreciate having it as a Human Warrior instead. I think it’s got a lot of potential in the 99 of various lifegain decks (both Trelasarra, Moon Dancer and Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim spring to mind), but I could also see this as the commander of a creature-centric mono-white lifegain deck too.
Callidus Assassin is expensive and exactly the sort of card I’m going to love to see craft some epic swings in the state of the battlefield at instant speed. Flash-heavy decks (see Nymris, Oona’s Trickster for one example) are going to love this, but I’m definitely going to just slot this in the top of the curve for most decks that can support the colors. I’ve been kicking around building a Sultai Gate deck with Archelos, Lagoon Mystic as the commander, and if I have an extra copy of this available, it’s going in.
Flash. Vigilance. Commanders you control have protection from everything. What more do you need in a text box? White commander decks everywhere are going to want Vexilus Praetor.
One thing I really hate facing down in Commander is a combination of cards that makes an opponent’s battlefield unassailable, usually involving cards like Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Exterminatus is pricey, but totally worth the cost for breaking up those sorts of setups where literally nothing else works. I’ll snag a couple of copies if I can to slot into several decks, including Doran, the Siege Tower.
If you’ve been reading me a while you might recall my column No Guts, No Glory—Epic Storytelling in Commander, where I talk about playing “you lose the game” cards like Chance for Glory and Glorious End. I’ve got a couple of those cards in my Valduk, Keeper of the Flame Commander deck, and The Golden Throne will work perfectly in that deck, and not only as a buffer against losing the game. In the meantime, I’ll be able to sacrifice an extra Elemental token I’d have to exile at the end step for three mana.
One thing I did want to say here is I really like the idea of building an investigate deck with Inquisitor Greyfax to tie together all of the cool investigate cards in the Esper color combination.
Wrapping up, I’d like to say I really appreciate the reprints in these decks, many of them much-needed like Darkness and Skullclamp. And how about the Talismans? Such good mana ramp and color fixing for non-green decks to go alongside the Signets. Trying to get some of the ones originally printed in Mirrodin would set you back four or five dollars, so bravo on another printing here.
So, tell me, what new cards from these Commander decks are you most excited to play? Which decks are you going to slot them in, and which legends are inspiring you to build new decks?
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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