The first big release of Magic the Gathering’s new crossover series, Universes Beyond, sees the joining of two of the biggest properties in tabletop gaming. We now approach a nexus of events which may leave people confused. Longtime Magic the Gathering players may encounter these decks full of murder worshiping legions of warriors and monsters completely befuddled as to where these things come from. On the other hand, a lot of Warhammer fans may be encountering the mechanics and functions and meta of Magic’s decades long history of gameplay, and both equally rich with possibility once you dredge through the muck of learning each.
This article joins The Young Folks’ experts in both arenas to accompany details on each of these newest decks in the Warhammer 40,000 Commander line: Necron Dynasties, The Forces of the Imperium, The Ruinous Powers and the Tyranid Swarm!
Consider this a high level introduction for each, respectively, and if you do pick up these decks like we plan to, try not to hurt your wallet along the way. If you do decide to pick them up, be sure to make your purchase at your local game store and support the small hobby businesses in your area! Find your local store here.
Forces of the Imperium – White, Blue, Black
Travis’ Magic Deck Tech:
In Magic, the color combination of this deck would not be situated in the aggressive place Forces of the Imperium is. That alone makes this deck stand out mechanically from other pre-constructed Magic products and designs. The Forces deck cares about going wide with tokens representing the military force of this particular faction while supporting them with buffs and combat advantages. There’s a big “frontline infantry” vibe to how the deck sends tokens off to battle, but to this build’s credit there’s some new cards that make bouncing back from the inevitability of a board wipe coming from your opponents.
Of particular note is the extremely cool “Defenders of Humanity,” an enchantment that gives you soldiers when it first comes in, but later you can pump your mana into it and sacrifice it to create more soldiers, but only when you control no other creatures. This is a great way to rebuild later in the game and will likely appear in a lot of creature token decks going forward. What will likely be the single coolest new addition to Magic’s vast ability pool sits within this deck as well – Squad.
Squad is wild, as it allows you to pay multiples of mana to copy the creature card with Squad when being cast. Squad creatures also have separate effects that pay off when dealing damage. This ability scales extremely well in a long game of Commander, but honestly being able to drop even just a couple of 3/2 flyers that draw you a card when dealing damage earlier in the game is extremely good. If there is a critique to find with Forces of the Imperium, it’s in the deck’s face card Inquisitor Greyfax. Greyfax is okay, giving a little bit of boost to other creature’s power and allowing them to block even after attacking. However, she doesn’t give any toughness, meaning combat is mostly going to be trading creatures with opponents even with Vigilance on your tokens, and the ability to tap one creature down isn’t going to scale well as the game goes on.
The alternate commander, Marneus Calgar, is much better suited for how the deck seems to play in practice. Even so, Marneus is good but a huge mana sink to fully pay off and compared to the commanders of the other decks still feels like the rate is coming up short. Honestly though, very little of this matters compared to one card in the deck: Vexilus Praetor, a card that gives whoever your commander is “Protection from Everything,” meaning any targeting effect is going to bounce right off. That’s a crazy good effect and is likely to be the card to beat of this whole product line.
Miles’ Warhammer 40K Lore Corner: Imperium
The Imperium of man represents the last bastion of “human normalcy” remaining in the 41st millenium. Earth (referred to as Holy Terra in 40K) has become effectively a planet sized mega church, only inhabited by the most wealthy, the most pious or the inquisition, the not-so-secret police of the Imperium. Earth is also the final resting place of “the emperor of mankind”, the strongest psychic in the known galaxy, and a (theoretical) immortal, who exists in a state of living death, kept alive by sacrificing the life energies of 1000 worshipers daily. He has become Diafied by the Eccleasiarchy, the mega-religion built around the emperor and his deeds, including the complete annihilation of everything strange or different, namely the Xenos, the heretic and the Mutant.
While the Ecleasiarchy preaches the good word of Big E, the military branches are the factions that do the real heavy lifting, and are the main focus of the franchise (because, you know, wargaming). The Terran forces are split into 5 major groups, the Space Marines, the poster boys of the 40K universe who are all genetically enhanced 10 foot tall superhumans, each wearing the armor equivalent of an M1 Abrams, the Imperial guard/imperial navy, a army billions strong made up of just regular, non-enhanced humans with LOTS of tanks, the Sisters of Battle, an order of battle nuns who are so devoted to the Emperor that they get faith based superpowers, my homeboys the Adeptus Mechanicus, who are mars based priests who replace their flesh with machines and basically act as space mechanics, and the Inquisition, a order of boogeyman who go throughout the galaxy making sure all the other branches are doing their job, under penalty of death. The imperium needs to bolster itself with this insane amount of faith and firepower, because they are always in conflict with the other great forces of the galaxy, including…
Necron Dynasties – Black
Travis’ Magic Deck Tech:
As the only single-color deck of the entire line, Necron Dynasties has the biggest hurdle to climb. While staying in one color does safely ensure spells can be cast without getting stranded in your hand, time and again taking the risk of running more than one color pays off in Magic. That isn’t to say this deck is bad by any stretch of the imagination – in fact it may be the most overall pushed in design when it comes to power to compensate for the lack of more color options. Necron Dynasties is a sacrifice deck with an artifact subtheme, meaning it is looking to sacrifice artifacts and then recur them to gain benefits, and this particular deck doesn’t mind sacrificing its opponents resources either. While on paper, giving up your resources for small advantages seems counterintuitive, the more consistent such an engine is, the more likely the player is going to come out ahead, and Dynasties is pretty easy to set up repeatedly and reliably.
Once the engine is up and running, just like the other decks in the Warhammer line, it’s off to combat with some truly nasty tricks such as “Hexmark Destroyer,” which requires at least six blockers to be successfully blocked and has Unearth, meaning if it does go down it can bounce right back. Unearth is this deck’s potent subtheme as well, with a lot of the deck’s biggest threats being able to crawl out of the graveyard at a whim. Unearth can’t be repeated over and over again, but the threats are potent enough where even coming out twice is probably enough to end the game. The biggest haymaker in the deck is easily “Biotransferrance,” which turns all creatures owned by the player into artifacts as well, only upping the synergy of the deck and has a second ability that further pays off in the form of new tokens when casting artifacts. This card is another guaranteed chase card for homebrewed Magic decks. Of all the decks, this may be the overall most consistent assembly, but may also be a bit complicated for new players since it is a bit over reliant on set up and synergy.
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Miles’ Warhammer 40K Lore Corner: Necron
My personal second favorite faction, the Necron are robot terminator space mummies and also the most petty shits in the universe. Hailing from a nightmare world orbiting a faulty star, the Necrontyr were a race of sad, short lived aliens whose bodies were in a constant state of cancerous decay, caused by the insane radiation levels from their star. They left the wasteland of their homeworld to try to find a cure to their pain, and found a spaceborne race of lizards known only as “the old ones”, whose technology was so advanced it appeared to be magic.
The Necrontyr asked the old ones if they would cure them of their cursed genes, and the old ones promptly told them to fuck off. The Necrontyr then went to the enemies of the old ones, a race of star gods known as the C’tan, who promised to cure the Necrontyr of all their bodily problems. They did this by throwing the entire race into a biotransformation furnace, burning them alive and attaching their consciousness to a legion of robot automata, and consuming their bodies life essence in the process. Now dubbed the Necron, the enslaved robots were forced to become the shock troops of the C’tan in their war against the old ones, a conflict known as “the war in heaven”.
Eventually, the leader of the Necron, known as “The silent king” was able to overthrow the shackles of the C’tan, capturing them and dividing their essence into “shards”, that they then used to power their dynasty. They then went into hibernation, eternally sleeping until disturbed by a new threat. Now reawakening in the 41st millennia, they wage war against anything they claim to be intruding on their ancient territory. What really sets the Necron apart is just how unbelievably petty they can be, now immortal and able to hold grudges for literal centuries, they will squabble amongst themselves over status and power, and will wage entire internal civil wars over arguments held millions of years before. The Necron are also a very sharp looking faction, with their gunmetal grey chassis glowing from inside with haunting green energy, their forms come in all shapes and sizes, from standard bipedal ground troops to hovering tank like monstrosities. Also, the deck I am picking up when the commander decks drop on the 7th!
The Ruinous Powers – Blue, Black, Red
Travis’ Magic Deck Tech:
Interestingly, Magic already had a perfect mechanic to match up with the perceived nature of this faction – Cascade. Cascade cards are spells that let their caster pull cards from the top of their deck to find a spell with less mana value than the spell just cast, and then that new spell can be cast for free! Free spells are great even on the worst days and the random nature of pulling from the top of the deck adds extra excitement for the player and dread for their opponents. That said, Cascade is still random, so it’s very possible to completely miss or mess up your own plans, and is most valuable with high mana value spells.
That means that the cards The Ruinous Powers deck has in it are skewing higher on the mana curve. There’s a decent chance a player on this deck won’t be casting as much early on in the game as the others. That pay off does eventually come – and getting two spells per cast is hard to argue with – but it’s something to definitely plan on coming in. These haymaker spells aren’t just haymakers either, many of them play into the deck’s subtheme – Demons matter.
Most of the deck’s creatures are of the Demon type, which plays into the big nasty alternate commander “Be’lakor, the Dark Master,” who draws cards, deals damage when other Demons do damage and flies. While the face commander “Abbadon the Despoiler” is nasty in his own right by giving more Cascade to spells, Be’lakor comes off as the more potent player. This deck also seems to be the one where the most unique experimentation has been done among the various decks in this line. Cards like “Blight Grenade,” “Blood for the Blood God!,” and “Chaos Mutation” are all effective cards that also feel a bit extra in terms of presenting the flavor of this faction in a fun way.
On that same note, special attention should be paid to Khârn the Betrayer, a 5/1 creature that must attack and cannot die, but if he takes damage he must be handed off to an opponent and the previous controller draws two cards. Khârn the Betrayer adds a fun political minigame to the board when he appears by forcing action and allowing players to conspire together at the same time. The political element is difficult to manifest directly in card text, but Khârn is a fantastic example of that. These and other pieces come together to make The Ruinous Powers deck the most out of the box “fun” of this deck collection, especially if you want to make a splash in every game.
Miles’ Warhammer 40K Lore Corner: Chaos Legions
Now we come to everyone’s favorite villain faction, Chaos! The forces of chaos exist in the Warp, basically 40K’s version of hell, where all kinds of daemons exist and the rules of our reality start to fall apart. Inside the realms of Chaos exist the 4 chaos gods, Khorne, the god of war, Nurgle, the god of plague, Slaanesh, the god of excess and Tzeentch, the god of change. Each god bestows its gifts to those who worship it, such as followers of Nurgle losing all feelings of pain, but having your body turned into a walking, festering corpse. The real problems start when the super powered ultra human space marines start falling to chaos, you get the aptly named Chaos Space Marines, who use their new, corrupted forms to wreak havoc across the stars.
The main 4 chaos legions are the World Eaters, worshipers of Khorne who crave bloodshed over all else and collect skulls as trophies, the Death Guard, disciples of Nurgle who spread corruption and disease with their plague weapons, the Emperor’s children, vassals of Slaanesh that employ noise Marines, chaos space marines with rock guitars that play so loud it liquifies the organs of their enemies, and the Thousand Sons, students of Tzeentch who traded their physical bodies to become living armor imbued with insanely powerful psychic powers. The armies of chaos are also the cause of the biggest conflict in the 40K universe, known as the Horus Heresy, where the Emperor’s favorite son betrayed him and struck a mortal blow against Big E that turned him into the living corpse he is today. The forces of chaos would handily be the most dangerous threat to mankind if it wasn’t for…
Tyranid Swarm – Green, Blue, Red
Travis’ Magic Deck Tech:
This deck could have easily been called “Big Nasties” because that’s all that Tyranid Swarm is looking to do. That simplicity isn’t a negative, if anything this deck is the most natively Magic feeling of all four Warhammer decks. While all the decks are trying to drop creatures and smash faces, the Tyranids are doing it the most flashily and aggressively. Leveraging all kinds of combat keywords and +1/+1 counters to get bigger and bigger, the goal is to completely overwhelm the rest of the table with sheer force. This is almost always going to lead to your creatures getting destroyed by removal spells and a united front from opponents but never fear, “The Swarmlord” is here. This deck’s face card, The Swarmlord rewards players with card draw when it or other creatures with counters are killed; and then the lord itself gets bigger depending on how many times it has been cast from the Command Zone. That is powerful for sure and is only going to get bigger and bigger.
However, this also makes this deck less willing to try to avoid removal as one would like, especially with being able to access counterspells in these colors. Overall, this is the hardest boardstate to maintain. The upside is that by being the only deck in green means Tyranid Swarm is going to be ramping mana out faster than the opponents on rate, which should help get in creatures early and smash faces in before everyone catches up. These monsters are also excellent designs, invoking fear and scale through their various buffs and subsequent effects like “The Red Terror” getting bigger as damage as done.
There’s also another creature type matters subtheme with the Tyranids which gives this deck great reprints to support this in “Icon of Ancestry” and “Herald’s Horn”, common type matters cards that we can always use more of in the card pool. Other reprints that would have been nice are nowhere to be seen – no “Branching Evolution” for some reason – but there’s enough here to be considered satisfactory. More curious than even that is the inclusion of one card that doesn’t seem to make much sense in the theme – “Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph.” Ghyrson wants you to be dealing exactly one damage to things, but that just does not jive with a majority of what the rest of the deck is. The card is a Tyranid, so maybe this is just a Warhammer thing that had to be here for the fans, but it doesn’t do anything for me.
In an out of the box game against the other decks, this card is a total whiff. It sounds like this comes off as the worst of the four, but frankly that’s mostly because what it does is so straightforward. Tyranid Swarm doesn’t need any big tricks, it is gonna swing until you don’t have opponents anymore.
Miles’ Warhammer 40K Lore Corner: Tyranids
The Tyranid swarm is the eldritch space horror faction, and the most likely thing to wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy. The Tyranids are an endless horde of space bugs making their way into the galaxy from intergalactic space, Not-so-subtly implying that the milky way Galaxy is completely surrounded on all sides by bugs, closing in on the last pocket of non-bug in the universe. The Tyranid threat is split into two main forms, the Genestealer cults, humans that have been infected with Tyranid DNA and have an overwhelming biological urge to revolt and overthrow planetary governments to make way for the main Tyranid fleet, and the Tyranids bio forms themselves, the final answer to “what would happen if a xenomorph infestation got out of hand?” A roving cloud of space locusts that go from world to world consuming all life, converting it into biomass that then fuel the creation of yet more Tyranids.
The Tyranids most dangerous aspect is their adaptability, able to conform to overcome any challenges a planet may pose mid invasion. The ability to create blades from their own bodies, the ability to sprout wings or fins as required of the terrain, the capacity to burrow underground to penetrate fortified defenses, the Tyranids will throw waves of themselves at a problem until the right configuration of traits wins out, and it spreads throughout the hive.
The reason I believe them to be the herald of the end times for the universe is actually not their plethora of forms or even their weapons, but their simplistic animal nature. While rare, the other races of the 40K universe have been known to call for a temporary truce or ceasefire when met with a larger threat, whereas the Tyranid have no capacity for diplomacy, and will eat everything in their path as they make for the galactic core. The genestealers are potentially even more nefarious, as they can pass as human enough to infiltrate and usurp whole government bodies, even making it so far as spawning a nest on holy terra itself. It has become only a matter of time until everything in the galaxy becomes consumed by the bugs.