This week we’re covering the new Universes Beyond Commander release for Magic: the Gathering, which combines two of our favorite games in the best way. Today we’re talking about the new cards in the Tyranids deck.
Tyranid Swarm is a 3-color, red, green, and blue deck, mostly focused on big creatures, but also counters and X-spells. There was some question as to whether WotC would invent new creature types or slot the swarm into Slivers (Slivers are a similar, hive-like organism with varied powers that are essentially a sort of devouring swarm), but instead we get a brand new creature type in Magic – Tyranid. There are also some human Tyranids, representing Genestealer Cults.
New Mechanic: Ravenous
The Tyranids’ keyword mechanic is Ravenous. Creatures with Ravenous have X in their mana costs and enter the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters. If X is five or more, you draw a card when the creature enters the battlefield. Additionally, most Tyranids with Ravenous also have effects that interact with their counters or trigger off a certain number.
TheChirurgeon: Honestly? I was expecting Devour. This is way better, though.
BPhillipYork: I’ll admit I find the Swarmlord a bit disappointing. Sure, he’ll enter play as a 7/7, at a minimum, which is a bit scary. But if the Swarmlord is blown up, you’ll get to draw a single card (assuming it isn’t exiled) which is… not that impressive. The ability to draw a card whenever a creature you control with a counter on it dies is potentially devastating. We’ll have to see what else is in the deck, there’s a lot of potential for an ability like this, and instantly I am thinking of loops with Undying and or Persist, there are a also a lot of cards from Ikoria that give ability counters, and that is apparently a recurring sort of ability (deciduous) and there are ways to leverage something like that.
FromTheShire: I actually really like the Swarmlord, one of the biggest problems creature heavy tribal decks run in to is that they dump their hand on to the board and get scary, a board wipe happens, and now they’re in top deck mode with an empty board. With how many counters this deck is going to sling around, you should be drawing off of virtually every one of your creatures as they die, refilling your hand to continue your relentless assault. Very on brand for Tyranids. Getting bigger and scarier each time it dies is a very solid bonus as well. Yes if it gets hit with a Swords to Plowshares right before the wrath you’ll be sad but that’s just a thing for a ton of commanders.
Beanith: I may be on Team Magus but there are a lot of cards in this deck with counters or ways of spreading counters so FromTheShire is onto something here with this angry lizard leading your deck.
Rocco Gest: This is a pretty cool card for the 99. Not super excited to play it from the command zone with it’s fat CMV, but in the 99 with a cheapo, or partner commanders. Sign me up. The card draw effect is good too.
Magus Lucea Kane
BPhillipYork: This is really a more interesting commander in my opinion. Automatically doubling hydras out of the command zone is fairly hilarious. Automatically doubling X-spells is also fairly scary, you can ramp up some big X-spells fairly quick. Balance wise the Magus has only 1 toughness, so you can’t just start slamming out board clear earthquakes over and over again without blowing up your own commander, though something like this could get pretty brutal with cards like Aegar, the Freezing Flame if you can give your Magus pro red or another way to keep it in play.
FromTheShire: Speaking of slinging counters on to everything, here’s a solid piece for getting that ball rolling. A 4 mana dork that taps for 2 and DOUBLES YOUR X SPELLS is also extremely powerful and fun as hell.
Beanith: This regal looking cueball with the fancy glowing blue eyes will be my go-to Commander when using this Precon deck. I’m certainly looking forward to flooding the board with lands using Sporocyst or accidently killing her with Starstorm
Rocco Gest: This kicks ass. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is one of my favorite creatures that distributes +1/+1 in combat. This effect is that effect without being locked to buffing the weakest guy. The mana dork ability is just gravy. Giving her a Sol Ring effect is great. Not restricting it to certain card types is better. Giving it added utility for X spells is divine.
Deathleaper, Terror Weapon
BPhillipYork: This is a pretty interesting flash haste, Gruul has a lot of ways to give haste, Temur even more, and slamming out creatures with double strike is fairly scary. This combines really well with the Blitz ability out of New Capenna. As a commander I’m not blown away, and you would really probably mostly want the surprise factor. Having a commander that benefits from hasted creatures attacking is a bit of a telegraphed scary thing.
FromTheShire: The ability is very good, though I was expecting either more hasty creatures of ways of giving haste when this was first revealed. Once you start tweaking the deck there are a ton of ways to give mass haste so it’s not a major concern. I wish it gave it for longer but thematically it makes sense.
Beanith: Is it just me or is this crab wearing a pointy hat? Also props to the little guy hiding behind that rock. I can only see good things in his future.
Rocco Gest: Love a combat trick in the command zone. To really make good use of this you have to have built your board in that same turn, but bringing this out early and building your board around it is still really nice. Double strike is just really good. To make really good use of this guy you need Fervor-type effects or the double strike goes to waste. This would be pretty good in a Maelstrom Wanderer deck, especially if you can get it off of one of the cascade triggers.
BPhillipYork: Real solid, but you really want to pay 9 mana to really get the gusto here, which, admittedly with Magus Lucea Kane out is only 7, and would net you a solid 10 +1/+1 counters, and a draw 2, and 2 8/8s. That’s a lot of power and toughness for 9 mana.
FromTheShire: Very much liking the Ravenous mechanic, as the game goes longer and you get out more mana doublers and ramp being able to turn your monsters into giant monsters is both very nice and very flavorful, and the fact it lets you use that biomass to fuel you with card draw is excellent. Being able to toss a bunch of counters around when it enters is great as well, even before you factor in all the ways to effectively multiply those counters.
Beanith: I’m getting real powerful “You get a +1/+1 counter, you get a +1/+1 counter” but instead of tokens, the Broodlord is handing bits of Guardsmen.
Old One Eye
BPhillipYork: This is expensive but pretty solid. This Tyranid deck is looking extremely beefy. A 5/5 and a 6/6 that gives all your creatures trample for 6 is expensive but it also lets you grab it back out of your grave mid-late if you have cards you don’t need, which is a nice recursion option for a grindfest.
FromTheShire: Absolutely love Old One Eye. As someone with a Tyranid army I was including it in lists well before the army got good here in 9th because it’s rad as hell, and here in Universes Beyond that has not changed. 6 mana for 11 power that also grants trample to your whole army of gigantic beatsticks is awesome, and the ability to recur it again and again is a nightmare for any deck that either can’t exile it due to color restrictions, or that simply hasn’t drawn it.
Beanith: I’m a big fan of smooshy face by just flinging creatures at people and hoping that works. So having Trample on everything is very much my Jam.
The First Tyrannic War
BPhillipYork: This is a quintessential battlecruiser card. If you have a bunch of big creatures with counters and stuff this saga is going to make them absolutely enormous. This whole set is reeking to me “Sage of Hours” and stuffing him full of counters and taking infinite turns. Which doesn’t seem very “Tyranidy” but oh well.
FromTheShire: Love it. Cheat out a big creature with at least 5 counters on it most likely, then make one of your monsters grow. Suck it, Ultramarines.
Beanith: I’m already envisaging playing this late game with Broodlord. I can also see the inevitable boardwipe to break my heart.
BPhillipYork: This is potentially cool, fairly powerful, since you can grab useful commanders with triggers and such like, but it’s fairly expensive at 5 mana for a 4/4, with no haste that has to attack to trigger it’s ability, and has no evasion.
FromTheShire: These kind of attack triggers are always a little tricky, especially in this case since you have to put the counter on a creature the defending player controls. Still, if they have something big and threatening enough to want to put a counter on it, they’re likely to be attacking with it so it won’t be blocking, and 4/4 is bigger than we see a lot of the time. Very thematic, and with some evasion or careful attacks this can get you some great value.
Beanith: Expect to be immediately dogpiled as soon as you say infection counters. I still flinch whenever I hear the word Mutate.
BPhillipYork: This is really cool, there’s a number of ways to give creatures additional +1/+1 counters as they come into play. Mana fixing a 3-color deck will be somewhat difficult; also many times counter adding abilities have a hard time getting started with a single counter, so this really covers that. Outside of just this deck I foresee this card showing up in proliferate decks, it’s great for Atraxa, to get the ball rolling with +1/+1s so she can proliferate.
FromTheShire: 2 mana dorks are pretty common so I’m not worried that this isn’t a 1 drop. In tribe dorks are always great to have in a tribal deck, it gives you mana of any color which is great, and it’s not locked to creature spells like a Somberwald Sage. Instead, you get an excellent bonus for creatures, especially in a deck that has ways to benefit from the counters more than just the buff itself.
BPhillipYork: For 6 mana you get a card draw, and you can get them back when you play a land, but only if you pay 2G, which is, a lot of mana. They’re fun but this deck is really mana intensive.
FromTheShire: Excellent flavor, just wave after wave of gaunts slowly grinding you down under bodies and card advantage. 3 isn’t cheap, but there will be plenty of times where you’re sitting empty handed or have a few extra mana and will be happy to put this back in to your hand to recast the next turn.
TheChirurgeon: This is great but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t say I expected the Nids deck to be more of a go-wide/tokens strategy that would have stuff like Termagants and Hormagaunts as tokens or gribbly 1/1s. This is a cool alternative, though.
BPhillipYork: This is fun. Not like good, really but really fun. For casting huge spells turning everything into double-tapping lands is hilarious. 2 mana is pretty reasonable for this ability, though it gives you a lot of reason to lean into basic lands.
FromTheShire: Strong disagree on this not being good, this is excellent. The deck is mana hungry and doubling your basics is exactly the kind of thing I’d be trying to do with things like Mana Reflection, and this does it for only 2 mana. Obviously being a creature is a definite drawback but it’s cheap to reflect that, and while what you can use it for is limited, it’s limited to exactly what you want it for anyway. If you drop this on turn 2 or 3, on 4 you’re already triggering Ravenous which is very powerful.
BPhillipYork: Interesting ability, though I’m not sure you really want to mana fix for your opponents. Generally, I’d say this is a pass for me. Though to be fair that thing is ripping a tank apart.
FromTheShire: The art, the flavor….man this set is good. Yes you fix for your opponent but generally they’re going to have that covered anyway, and more importantly you both fix for yourself and also cut off big mana sources for them like Cabal Coffers and all kinds of utility abilities like Maze of Ith, Kessig Wolf Run, Reliquary Tower, Strip Mine, fetches…. which against some decks is massive.
Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph
BPhillipYork: A lot of hype here, red has a lot of good ways to deal 1 damage, this guy feels really out of place in this Tyranid deck, but in decks like Tim tribal, and Nekusar, the Mind Razer and decks wanting to benefit off Cavalcade of Calamity, and lots of good 1/1s that want to attack, or just Grapeshot. Give him Curiosity, or infect, and go to town.
FromTheShire: Feels more like a piece to build around than an integral part of the base deck, but again the flavor of everyone’s favorite gunslinging model is excellent. Turning a bunch of 1 damage sources into Lightning Bolts doesn’t seem like a lot at first but it adds up quick. There’s a ton of ways to benefit off of the damage as well.
Rocco Gest: This is legitimately the only card in the deck I care about. I’m a huge Izzet mark and getting wins through burn effects has been something I’ve chased in commander for a while. Playing around him as a storm deck and storming off with a Grapeshot just sounds like an amazing and fun time. Make sure you combo him with Pyrohemia. I promise it’ll work out. I promise.
BPhillipYork: This can definitely get completely out of control, but it’s a 6 cost 4/4 flyer with ward 4. So it’s not it’s coming out early. But if it’s starts getting through you’re going to get more and more gargoyles every turn.
FromTheShire: The snowball effect is real here since this triggers for each creature that deals damage rather than the ‘Whenever one or more’ wording that they use to power these effects down. Worst case it will be able to connect itself to get the ball rolling, but more frequently you will play this and then attack with your board at whoever is open and get a bunch of triggers. In Commander ward is sometimes kind of eh because everyone is ramping and will likely have mana to spare if they need to, but once you start getting up to 4 and higher, it actually starts really tipping the math on spot removal. Is someone going to spend 5 mana to Swords this? They’re going to have to think long and hard about it, and it could meaningfully eat into their turn.
Winged Hive Tyrant
BPhillipYork: This fits the theme of the deck really well, buffing out your creatures for a kill, kind of a mini Craterhoof Behemoth, has some interesting interactions with some of the other counter givers in the deck.
FromTheShire: Absolutely huge enabler in the deck, as is appropriate for one of the most used models in the army for years and years. Flying and haste is an excellent set of buffs which in turn ramps up the abilities on cards like Deathleaper, Terror Weapon and Tyranid Harridan. This is one you want to find ASAP and protect as best you can.
BPhillipYork: A good source of the counters you need for the deck, feels kind of out of place, I’m sure it’s for the cultists.
FromTheShire: Great counter enabler and I love the reinforcements jumping out of their transport to help as represented by the counters.
BPhillipYork: This is a nice mid-range card, letting you blow something up and draw cards and keep a flyer with ward 2, if you can afford it.
FromTheShire: Have I talked about how good the art is in this set? Cause it’s really damn good. Just a giant Zoanthrope smiting a bunch of Necrons. Only getting this once is a little bit of a bummer but it’s still very useful, and then you have a beefy flier left over. I only wish there was more room for text on the card so this could have some echo of an invulnerable save.
TheChirurgeon: I really like the concept of tacking an X damage spell onto a creature to make it more palatable in the format. It makes the whole thing more versatile.
BPhillipYork: A lot of keywords on a 2/2, and certainly it’s a sort of defensive threat, in some ways a quite nice one since it’s hexproof, but there are comparable creatures with flash and cheaper and draw a card so comparing this to Ice-Fang Coatl it comes up pretty short.
FromTheShire: A decent piece to threaten to trade up into something much more expensive with the deathtouch, but this should have granted hexproof to other creatures, that’s basically their whole purpose. Even if it was just in a limited way like a Soulbond or ‘Commander creatures you control’ to represent that it has a small aura on the tabletop, the fact it doesn’t is a rare miss for me.
BPhillipYork: This new thing with “give another creature evasion” is kind of nifty and I suppose you could start pairing them for fun effects. A lot of this deck triggers off having counters so this is a way to get counters onto your creatures that need them.
FromTheShire: Great way to throw counters around, get through to trigger things like Tyranid Harridan, take advantage of Deathleaper’s ability to finish people off… a nice piece to have.
Shadow in the Warp
BPhillipYork: This is a bonkers card to me. These kind of triggered damage effects really add up, and I see this as being a “real card” that sees plenty of play in just any old deck. It might seem like it’ll only trigger once per turn, but anytime someone casts a counterspell, or any interaction, you’ll quickly be spreading damage around the table. Pairs really well with Cindervines.
FromTheShire: As the proud owner of and entire deck built around these kind of punisher triggers, love it. The cost reduction is very nice as well, and the flavor is great.
BPhillipYork: This is really kind of an interesting card, mostly because it has “target creature attacks target opponent this turn if able” which is a fairly new concept, normally goad lets the person make choices, this is much more directed. Strange to see such a political card make it’s debut in a ‘Nid deck but here we are.
FromTheShire: Nice political piece and surprise blocker. Extremely clutch when you need to point that Blightsteel Colossus somewhere else for one more turn.
BPhillipYork: Fighting is fun. Just awesome fun. A high mana pay off and the ability to pick off a troublesome commander or utility creature, especially like a stax piece or something like that, is really great.
FromTheShire: Outstanding. Tunnels up from below and swallows something whole, never to be seen again – being able to exile a creature in Gruul is unique and very valuable.
BPhillipYork: A strange creature, I think this ought to have had flash instead of flying maybe, then it could be held up to disrupt a mill combo or something like that. Even so, stripping out a graveyard is potentially pretty useful. It’s early on curve though, and you’ll be tempted to just drop it early, especially as the deck is so high CMV.
FromTheShire: Another thing that is really really nice to have on a tribal body. Commander players tend to use their graveyard as a second hand, so pretty much a guarantee there is someone you’re going to want to hit with this and stop the nasty thing they’re doing. Bonus points for turning into a big flying beater for doing it.
BPhillipYork: So a smaller version of the Harridan, this is much more reliable, to drop it early and start generating some little creatures. Useful if you need to connect for curiosity type triggers or something like that.
FromTheShire: Note that this doesn’t say nontoken creature, so combined with the Harridan, you can be consistently tacking on more flyers. Only being your own turn is a tiny bit of a downside but this is still solid value.
BPhillipYork: This is a great card. Grabbing a land, trample and haste, totally playable, totally useful in Gruul colors and will see plenty of play.
FromTheShire: Outstanding, especially in a mana hungry deck like this. The trample really helps you as the game progresses, allowing you to still get through and trigger this as you keep piling +1/+1 counters on it.
BPhillipYork: This is an interesting card, but hexproof and indestructible in combination are really strong. There are some exile all effects but board wipes tend to just be destroy all, so this is really strong.
FromTheShire: Absolutely incredible and a must have for the deck. As I harp on all the time, the single biggest thing that hoses most tribal decks is a board wipe or two as you finish dumping your hand onto the table, and this is an on board way to protect yourself from the crucial first one. Even better, the fact that everyone can see this sitting out there means it will frequently buy you extra turns as the table waits for a second player to draw either a wipe or spot removal to deal with this first. Or you can blow up the board yourself, save all of your creatures, and swing in for the win with your big ravenous monsters.
BPhillipYork: So generally you’re getting 3, 3/3 tramplers for 4 mana. That’s pretty decent, though this deck cares a lot about creatures with counters on them.
FromTheShire: Not bad, usually 3 trampling bodies for one card.
BPhillipYork: Solid, generating tons more termagants off a trampler that also can replace itself is really solid.
FromTheShire: Really great piece for turning your go tall into go wide, which can be a real problem for a lot of decks to deal with.
BPhillipYork: This is also decent for creating a ton of creatures, but only if you really need that for something.
FromTheShire: Another piece of board wipe protection, though a lesser one. Still, as the game goes long, your opponents has to choose between getting beaten down by this thing as you keep pumping counters into it, or wiping the board and having to deal with a second swarm.
BPhillipYork: So hitting ravenous on this baby is gonna cost you 11 mana, which is, a lot. If you do you’ll ramp enormously and cantrip out a 5/5, which is not terrible. But just grabbing 1 land isn’t bad at all, and will ramp you a little, so this is an all-around decent card but goes fairly nuts with Kane as commander.
FromTheShire: Really nice scaling ramp piece.
BPhillipYork: Really solid card, letting you ramp off attacking, which is what this deck really needs. Plenty of ways in the deck to recover counters too, so this should give you a solid ramp to get into midgame if you draw it early, but even late it will fuel your big haymakers and let you thin your deck.
FromTheShire: Another nice ramp piece that pays you off for tossing counters on it, both for survivability and triggering the ability repeatedly.
BPhillipYork: It’s neat and all, but how does getting another 3/3 trampler really benefit the deck, I’m not sure.
FromTheShire: Another card that brings an extra trampling body with it, not bad. It’s not the most powerful but it fits with what a lictor does.
BPhillipYork: This is fun, and big, and kind of hilarious, a way to turn a bunch of +1/+1s on creatures where you don’t really need it into a huge fatty. Kind of funny to have a 12/12 without trample, I guess if you get a +1/+1 on this you can give it flying and haste in this deck, which is also pretty funny.
FromTheShire: Pretty solid for the signature superheavy, aptly stepping over all those little 2 power Space Marines. The vigilance and reach is nice on something this huge so you can be beating down while also deterring attacks and swatting pesky fliers out of the air.
BPhillipYork: This is pretty boss, especially since it’s not limited to your creatures. A way to create tons of mana for your deck for your big fatties to come out.
FromTheShire: See you in hell, aristocrats deck. Especially since you’re making a bunch of 1/1’s you can definitely get a bunch of counters on this if you want to and ramp out something heinous.
BPhillipYork: Potentially really dangerous, if you happen to have a bunch of random creatures with some counters this can turn a dangerous set of creatures into one that will easily take out an opponent. 5 mana for this effect is quite a bit, and it’s liable to get removed, but even so it’s a big threat.
FromTheShire: This isn’t something you cast on curve and have sit out on the board scaring people, this is something you drop late in the game as a surprise and kill people out of nowhere. With as many counters as you’ll have, this turns things lethal quickly.
BPhillipYork: This is a lot of +1/+1 counters. In my head this immediately goes onto Sage of Hours and you take infinite turns, but you can just use it to make a creature huge, or keep removing counters from things you need to fuel your deck with counter removal too.
FromTheShire: Hell yeah, repeatedly equippable build-a-monster is my jam. So, so useful in the deck, even if it’s just making a big beater to close out the game. More often than not though this is going to be fueling something monstrous though.
BPhillipYork: Really solid, especially given it’s got trample and it’s enchantment or artifact. For games that are in a slog that will help break that impasse.
FromTheShire: Trygon Predator is a card I still play a bunch, and here we substitute beef and trample for flying, which is perfect for the deck. Another example of the kind of effect you need to have in any deck stapled on to a relevant body, which I always love.
BPhillipYork: This will definitely help letting you blow up defenders or utility creatures or most commanders as you cast creatures. 5 mana is a lot for it, but it’s also a solid 5/5 body with trample for that 5.
FromTheShire: Good value body with trample that flings damage around to any target, very nice. Fits the flavor well too.
The Red Terror
BPhillipYork: This is a cool effect, though not as solid in this particularly deck as there are not so many red permanents in the deck, though the aforementioned Cindervines and Shadow in the Warp will net you a lot of counters. But then it’s a massive creature with no protection and no evasion, which is a bit lackluster.
FromTheShire: A little bit underwhelming which is a shame. Yes it gets large but that’s it, and especially on a legendary I’m looking for more.
BPhillipYork: This is a really solid card, but for a deck like this I’m not sure it really works in your favor. Potentially you can set X smaller than your creatures, but this deck offers quite a few smaller and utility creatures, which potentially you’d be blowing up. Still, the ability to board clear is really useful, on a body that will come into play and hopefully clear the board then stick around to finish the job.
FromTheShire: Nice versatility, this can either be clearing out a bunch of small blocking and utility creatures, or it can be a board wipe if you’re behind.
BPhillipYork: To me, this real play here is to destroy your own treasures or clues or food for card draw. But the ability to blow up useful artifacts is really nice, especially as you don’t need to connect to get it.
FromTheShire: Another on tribe piece of artifact destruction is nice to have, though giving out card draw is something I strongly try to avoid.
BPhillipYork: There’s the defensive aspect of this, but hardly seems worth it, this is a card I would probably cut.
FromTheShire: Not a bad piece to help encourage attacks against not you, but yeah, this probably doesn’t do enough.
Next Time: The Ruinous Powers
That wraps up our look at the first of the crossover Warhammer 40k decks. Join us next time as we review the Chaos themed deck, picking out our favorites, and talking about the future build-arounds. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.