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 Imperial deck.
Forces of the Imperium is an Esper white, blue, and black deck, focusing on going wide with tokens. Flood the board with armies of implacable, vigilant Marines and a cast of the finest the Imperium of Man has to offer to support his chosen warriors and turn them into even more deadly killing machines.
New Mechanic: Squad
Our second deck with a new mechanic, Squad allows you to pay an additional 2 when you cast the spell as many times as you like, copying the creature an additional time each time you do so. This not only lets you get multiple copies of desirable effects, it also gives you a bunch more tokens for the cards in your deck which care about you making them or want to amplify them.
BPhillipYork: This guy is borderline broken, there are an absolute ton of ways to get tokens all the time now, and he’s going to trigger all the damn time. Smothering Tithe giving you a treasure and a card draw is gross. Absolutely gross. On his own, with a Training Grounds in play and an altar, Calgar will let you draw out your whole deck, and also generate about 100 enters play and death triggers along the way (as well as sacrifice triggers). Also, his ability is instant speed. It’s a lot. I know Space Marines are supposed to be just, really good, but it feels like they are trying to recreate 40k balance issues in Magic.
FromTheShire: By the Emperor, this is nuts. Between creature tokens, Treasure tokens, and Clue tokens there is an absolutely massive pool of ways to trigger this multiple times per turn and absolutely bury people in card advantage, and all of these will be things you’re happy to do even without the draw tacked on.
Rocco Gest: Marneus Calgar can eat my shorts.
BPhillipYork: The putative commander, who we’ve already moved to number 2, Greyfax is okay, vigilance and +1/0 are decent, tapping down creatures can be useful, and creating a clue token is useful. Her ability will also trigger Calgar which is kind of hilarious to me.
FromTheShire: Not bad at all, I often talk about how underrated vigilance is in Commander – with three opponents possibly attacking you, holding up blockers is very valuable. In addition she gives you a buff, and for just one mana can tap down the biggest threat to you while also making a Clue for value.
BPhillipYork: So 4 for a 3/2, with flying, that has built-in Curiosity, and you can pay 2 for more copies (which will trigger Calgar). That’s a lot if you have a lot of mana.
FromTheShire: Not a bad rate for a flyer who draws when it connects, and then you can kick it to not only get extra copies but also trigger all the things that care about tokens which is great.
Rocco Gest: Honestly this is the card that got me excited for the 40k decks. I love the Squad mechanic from a flavor perspective. Squads are such an integral part of the Space Marine identity and I’m glad WotC was able to implement it in what I think is a pretty satisfying way. It also helps that Suppressors are one of my favorite Space Marine models that I don’t bring to the tabletop.
And They Shall Know No Fear
BPhillipYork: Indestructible is always nice, this card could see play outside of just the deck, would be a useful set piece for Najeela, giving her indestructible is sometimes necessary to end the game. As protection vs destroy board wipes this is a useful card for any go-wide, particularly token decks.
FromTheShire: Absolutely incredible piece for tribal decks. As I’ve said, one of the biggest problems the decks have is running their entire hand out and getting wrathed so this is an effect that you really, really want to have, and usually you’re paying 3 for it.
Rocco Gest: Cast Boldwyr Intimidator. Make enough red mana to make all of your creatures Cowards. Got to combat and swing. Cast this in response. What happens?
BPhillipYork: Replicating 3/1s that can’t block is okay, but for 3 mana I really just want more. The ability to make them indestructible for 3 is nice in that you’re often going to be able to connect without being blocked due to it, and you’ll rarely need to actually pay the 3, but even so if you really want to deal 3 damage via combat there’s a lot of better ways, for 3 mana.
FromTheShire: Great flavor and a solid, aggressive piece to get in with, especially once you get the whole Squad together. Swing with a whole bunch of buffed up dudes, make the ones who got blocked indestructible, profit.
Rocco Gest: This is a great body to just swing in with. If you’re playing black you may have decent ways to regain that life or even just have a pay off for paying the life in the first place. Also you can just win with Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond.
BPhillipYork: This dude has really neat, obviously complementary abilities. Rummaging through your deck to grab artifacts if you need them is good, using artifacts to make creatures can also be good. Can probably turn this guy into a decent commander, blue has plenty of artifact cost reduction to grab something really big fast.
FromTheShire: Great pair of abilities, and being able to do them at instant speed is what you’re looking for. There’s a bunch of ways this synergizes with the rest of the deck and it’s good on its own in a vacuum to boot.
Birth of the Imperium
BPhillipYork: I like this saga, seems fun, a lot of mana, but generally going to have a lot of impact, though drawing 6 cards is enough to really set your opponents off, particularly given you could Flicker of Fate or other certain flicker effects the card with the trigger on the stack.
FromTheShire: This is actually one of the more solid sagas I think, all 3 modes are genuinely useful. In addition, it’s a really good encapsulation of the formation of the legions, unifying the planet, and raising up the pursuit of knowledge.
BPhillipYork: 6 mana but such a cool ability, letting you steal an important creature or commander. But also 6 mana. But kill and copy something good. I dunno.
FromTheShire: More expensive than your typical Clone, but you’re getting your money worth with both flash and a kill spell attached, love it. Also that art, god damn.
Rocco Gest: This card is great. Copying your opponent’s cool and strong creature and then killing it is great. This card is Evil Twin, but has flash and the sum total of Evil Twin is rolled into the casting cost.
Celestine, the Living Saint
BPhillipYork: Okay now I want a Sisters deck also, so I’m kind of frustrated. I really like these triggers based on gaining life, since it’s often quite easy to gain life, but the payoff is generally kind of minimal.
FromTheShire: Basically a flying Sun Titan, which is wildly popular because it’s good as hell, though Celestine can’t get your fetch lands back. Even better, it scales up if you have more ways to gain life to where you’re getting some serious value.
Commissar Severina Raine
BPhillipYork: This is a very very solid, all around good legendary card. This makes for a viable Orzhov commander in and of itself, and is also a way to make a good wide strategy actually pay off. The built-in sacrifice ability really lets you have some pay off for making tons of tokens and will even eat your blocked tokens for value. Really solid.
FromTheShire: Outstanding piece for a go wide tokens build like this. You don’t even have to attack the player you really want to kill, you can swing her at someone who is tapped out or otherwise has no blockers and still hit the whole table. You should also have tons of sac fodder for the second ability as well to keep your hand full and get some nice incidental life gain.
BPhillipYork: Creating 3 Soldiers for 4 is decent, especially if you have ways to recur this to get lots of triggers, giving deathtouch is interesting, there’s cards like Hooded Blightfang and Fynn the Fangbearer, but they generally care about the creatures attacking – Blightfang does, Fynn doesn’t. Too bad Fynn is out of the color identity and Blightfang is in it – though Abzan is maybe the way you’d get mass deathtouch going.
FromTheShire: Deathtouch is a super nice ability to give to your tokens since nobody is going to like having to use real cards to block your crappy tokens, which means more of them will survive to be more dangerous later on. Toss in a little first strike and you’re really cooking with promethium.
BPhillipYork: So we’ve seen this whole “create a token, this creature has protection from that creature type” thing with Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist. 4/4s are pretty respectable. There might be ways to punish your opponents for having creatures, but a 4/4 is a little too beefy for me to be handing out.
FromTheShire: Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely GOING to draw cards off of this, but I’m not going to be happy about giving other people tokens, even if I can block one of them per opponent. The upside of being able to give out a card to a potential ally when needed is nice as well.
Defenders of Humanity
BPhillipYork: This is interesting… create a bunch of 2/2s, then auto-recover from a board wipe. It’s kind of interesting, but generally better to just protect your tokens rather than recover.
FromTheShire: Solid burst of tokens, and then it sticks around to do it again after a wrath which is really nice since frequently this would be something you have to flash back at a higher cost.
Deny the Witch
BPhillipYork: Kind of an interesting counterspell, but for a multiplayer format it’s just too expensive, even for the lose life equal to your creatures kicker.
FromTheShire: Extremely nice modality, and then you get to drain them on top of it. Outstanding, the only real downside is it’s limited in the number of decks it can go into because of the Esper casting cost.
Rocco Gest: This is my new favorite counterspell. I regret that it is Esper instead of Jeskai, so I can’t slot it into my Narset, Enlightened Master.
BPhillipYork: So this is potentially really dangerous. It’s out-of-color identity, but free casting spells to me instantly reeks of extra combats. In theory, you could use this with like a Doomsday pile to keep casting Nexus of Fate. In general it’s just going to be used to cast a buff spell on your creatures, which is fine.
FromTheShire: Even in 40k, it’s great to be a wizard. The power is limited only by your imagination and how wide you can go, which in this deck is pretty wide pretty quick. Never going to stop harping on how powerful free spells are.
Rocco Gest: I love casting spells for free from my hand! I love attacking wide with a bunch of Space Marines! I love playing Azorius except it’s also Boros!
BPhillipYork: I like this, even if it’s ridiculously costly. You really want to be giving your stuff indestructible and then just blowing everything up, which is funny to me.
FromTheShire: Amazing, simply amazing. Indestructibility is THE premier way for your opponents to protect their team when you really need them to die, and this cuts through it like a death laser through a planet full of civilians. Merciless Eviction is played a bunch because the effect is unique and powerful, and this immediately joins that club.
Rocco Gest: HELL YEAH BIG LASER!
For the Emperor!
BPhillipYork: Potentially usable with extra combats to win the game, also nice for letting you keep blockers, though this deck already has a lot of vigilant creatures and vigilant creature tokens being created.
FromTheShire: Yeah the vigilance seems a little redundant in this deck, but I’m not sad to have it, and the +2/+2 and lifelink is massively helpful with all your Marines.
Grey Knight Paragon
BPhillipYork: Flash destroy a creature is interesting, and Knight is a useful subtype, at 5 mana though this is fairly rough to be holding up to cast with no other useful abilities.
FromTheShire: Extremely thematic if a bit narrow. Better when you’re sitting down in a pod with one of each of these decks.
Rocco Gest: Not a bad effect on a creature with flash. Letting it exile Demons is just good flavor. Can’t hate on this. Unless you’re a Demon. Then you can a little bit.
BPhillipYork: Investigate X is pretty funny to me. Making a Demon over and over is neato (if you keep sacrificing it somehow with the trigger on the stack, there you go) and black loves to have fodder to eat.
FromTheShire: Man, Eisenhorn is one of the best characters in the setting, and this is some fantastic art and a good capture of the man himself. Creating a bunch of Clue tokens is great, and Cherubael coming back over and over is even better.
BPhillipYork: Well, this will be giving you creatures and letting you through over and over. Big winner of a card like this is cards like Reconnaissance Mission that need you to get through. This will let you keep netting card draw and beating people down.
FromTheShire: Getting menace on all of your relatively fragile tokens is a huge upgrade in survivability and in the damage you get through, and having it on a piece of Equipment that sticks around through wraths is great as well.
Rocco Gest: A total of 5 mana to get some Hero of Bladehold effects is cool. Wrapping menace in there is cool too. I have an Iroas, God of Victory deck that might actually enjoy this as a way to keep more creatures on the board.
BPhillipYork: This card is funny to me. I think there are easy ways to keep it coming back into play over and over, artifacts have tons of cost reductions and ways to get them back.
FromTheShire: Hilarious way to throw damage around, especially if you have ways to recur it or flicker it once it’s a creature. Then you and your chosen pilot get to stomp all over people. Excellent.
Rocco Gest: This is a good fun card to just ping the room. Crew 1 is really fun from a fluff perspective if not also really cheap for a 6/6 with trample. Could be cool in a Greasefang, Okiba Boss deck.
Neyam Shai Murad
BPhillipYork: This is a really neat, politically motivated card that you can really abuse if you can control what is in your graveyard and get exactly what you want in there. Potentially something to build around in a mill/reanimate theme with some big creatures you are going to tutor to grave to recover.
FromTheShire: I don’t dislike it, the political aspect is solid while also letting you break the symmetry by returning your directly to the battlefield.
BPhillipYork: Cool art but kind of a meh card. Indestructible is pretty nice on a pseudo-anthem card to buff up your tokens and protect the anthem creature.
FromTheShire: Nice that he makes himself indestructible since you have to attack to trigger battle cry, which is frequently a thing you do once and get yourself killed.
Rocco Gest: Giving him indestructible on the swing is a great way to incentivize actually triggering the Battle Cry ability. Decently designed and feels fluffy as the chaplain spurs on his fellow attackers.
BPhillipYork: This is a really solid target clear or creature destruction. The fact you can keep hitting this via recurring is really useful – a lot of decks can’t deal with -2 toughness, especially more than once. The ability to just kill something big is nice too. On the other hand, at 5 mana you better not be hard casting this. Mill it and reanimate it.
FromTheShire: Your deck always needs targeted removal, and getting it attached to a tribal body is nice. Occasionally you will get to blow out a token player with it as well, so, bonus.
Rocco Gest: This is a bit expensive for my tastes, but the ability to cast a single creature to clear a token board is pretty nice.
BPhillipYork: Yeah, this is a boss vehicle. I want to make a big-ass vehicle deck now. And I will. A 10/10 that deals 5 to each opponent and has pro mana value 3 or less is awesome. It’s only crew 4. Get some, this is a perfect battlecruiser card. Okay except for the one letter in this set, a literal battlecruiser. We’ll get there.
FromTheShire: This might be my favorite card in the set, which is saying something. What a good, big, dumb, stompy lad. Has appropriate protection for a Titan, blasts everyone when it attacks, is giant. Absolutely excellent.
Rocco Gest: I had zero desire to create a vehicle deck, but between all of the artifact reanimation in the Necron deck and the existence of Greasefang, Okiba Boss I have some dumb garbage ready to brew or Orzhov. Add in Knight Paladin from earlier and I think we can just Play Titanicus in Magic: The Gathering.
BPhillipYork: TBH this is pretty funny to me. Exile like a 10/10 and you have a big ass swinging 14/14 trampled… that’s fairly hefty. It’s really, really too bad it’s a cast trigger and not an ETB trigger, it removes a lot of the flexibility. But even so, totally fun design.
FromTheShire: Outstanding flavor here with letting you inter a Marine into a Dreadnought, and has built in trample to really make the buff count.
Rocco Gest: A fun way to throw your space marines in the sarcophagus. Pretty decent pump effect to go with it.
BPhillipYork: Weird trigger because it deals damage to targets, which is way, way more control-oriented than the usual triggers. Also, a Cleric tends to be a group of creatures that are good at dying, sacrificing others, and coming back from the dead. Slots well into Orah, Skyclave Hierophant decks.
FromTheShire: Very, very nice piece to have for controlling utility creatures and the like, while gaining you life at the same time.
Rocco Gest: Ah yes, Buff Artist.
BPhillipYork: So, pay 3, draw 1, for every additional 2 you pay you get another 1/2, 5 for 2 is not really playable but it’s fine enough for a precon.
FromTheShire: It’s not the most efficient card draw but it’s fine, and it leaves behind a bunch of bodies which is great.
BPhillipYork: Returning a creature of any CMV and getting rewarded if it’s bigger is interesting. Sadly this is so expensive, I could see it again as Orah fodder as she’s a Cleric, but 6 mana for a creature recursion with no other really linked abilities doesn’t do to much for me.
FromTheShire: This effect is always powerful, especially once you start being able to recur or flicker it, and adding incidental life gain on top is a nice bonus.
Rocco Gest: Oh hey cool. Infinite life, scry your whole deck, and mill your whole deck with this Viscera Seer and Technomancer from yesterday! I mentioned Karmic Guide yesterday, but this is way better!
BPhillipYork: Miracle was a balanced mechanic, glad to see it return. But a death trigger of draw 2 is pretty decent, okay if you are planning to recur her in various ways or just put her back on top to cheat her out cheap.
FromTheShire: The ability is nice and when you miracle it you’re going to be real stoked about the value.
Rocco Gest: Miracle is an awesome mechanic. I love seeing it on Sisters of Battle cards. Seeing it on creatures is crazy to me, and I love exploring this design space for the mechanic.
Sister of Silence
BPhillipYork: Intense looking, and WotC seems to really be in love with this trigger of creature that counter things when they enter, we’re seeing it with more and more frequency. 5 mana for a 3/3 that does this is totally playable in a 2-player match. In 4, it is not.
FromTheShire: I’m always a fan of stifles, even better when it can also be a counter, and on a Sister of Silence it’s just perfect.
Rocco Gest: YES! MORE STIFLE EFFECTS! LET’S GO!
Space Marine Devastator
BPhillipYork: I like this, sort of needs flash but destroying multiple artifacts or enchantments is potentially useful enough for a deck that is ready to generate insane amounts of mana or else is geared up to repeatedly flicker.
FromTheShire: Another effect you need on a tribal body, and later in the game where there are more things that need to be terminated with extreme prejudice, you’ll have the extra mana to bring a whole squad in.
Rocco Gest: I’m already on record as loving the squad mechanic. I also adore Devastator Marines. I love grav-cannons even more. So this is everything I could want in a Warhammer 40k Magic card. HOW DID THEY KNOW I WANTED GRAV-CANNONS?!
Space Marine Scout
BPhillipYork: I like this “balance land” mechanic. White does it well, and there are ways to make it so that you have fewer lands than other people but still keep up. In those scenarios, this is a really useful piece. Also, just in general, this will let you try to catch up or keep up with the player in the lead for lands, which is going to be you 75% of the time, assuming equal amounts of lands in decks. You can deliberately usually play to get this trigger off, and a 2/1 with first strike and vigilance and a land fetch (not necessarily a basic) is good enough.
FromTheShire: You’re in Esper, you need all the help you can get to ramp, and this is a solid piece.
Rocco Gest: Oh hey! White ramp! Knight of the White Orchid sends its regards.
The Flesh is Weak
BPhillipYork: Another way to turn everything you control into an artifact, with some interesting implications. For fast tables this is probably too expensive, but for other tables, the combination of turning your stuff into artifacts for reasons is good, and giving +1/+1s is good, and lowering your opponent’s creatures toughness is pretty good. There’s 4 non-artifact creature board clears, which might be functionally enough to build some kind of weird Esper deck around. Funny to see allied Imperium and Necrons for a deck (with a Demon in it) but there we go.
FromTheShire: Great buff that doesn’t go away for your mass of tokens, plus it shrinks most of your opponents creatures as well, and even can wipe out other token decks if they don’t have a Lord effect out.
Rocco Gest: Ok so I guess we wanna put Biotrasnference into our Imperium deck…
The Golden Throne
BPhillipYork: This is, iconic art even to non-40k players. I’m not quite sure the flavor makes sense (shouldn’t you be forced to sacrifice a creature every turn or lose the game?). I do like the trigger, you could do some funny things with it (I kind of love the idea of just balls out reanimating Phage, the Untouchable)
FromTheShire: Great mana rock in this token heavy deck, with the added bonus of making you harder to kill.
Rocco Gest: Doesn’t look very golden to me.
BPhillipYork: This is like a literal battlecruiser right? Grabbing 2 tokens for casting it is decent, and then they can easily crew it, and your creatures all get flying, which is pretty solid. 6 for a 6/6 that does this is okay, especially for vehicle-centric decks that need pilots.
FromTheShire: Know what’s better than menace for all of your tokens? Flying, or even flying and menace. Really really useful and conveniently able to be crewed by a single Marine.
Rocco Gest: Yes! More cool vehicles for my Greasefang deck! Suddenly Reaver Titan has fly and your opponents just have to deal with that on an emotional level.
BPhillipYork: I mean, I dunno, I guess, okay. Funny to get lots of +1/+1s out there but if you have enough creatures to make this meaningful, then you are probably about to end the game or just really really threatening.
FromTheShire: It doesn’t fly like Drana, Liberator of Malakir, but with the ways you have to give evasion it’s still extremely good. Drana is an auto-include in basically every Vampire deck for the same reason, the first strike means you get to put the counters on all of your tokens before they in turn do their combat damage.
Rocco Gest: I wanna make an “ew, stinky Space Wolves” joke, but this card is kinda rad when you consider The Flesh is Weak.
Triumph of Saint Katherine
BPhillipYork: This is awesome to me. Miracle out a 5/5 over and over is just really cool. I mean it’s a 5/5 with lifelink so.. whatever there, but the death trigger and miracle on it are awesome.
FromTheShire: Extremely difficult to remove, nicely sized lifelinking body, almost always going to be cast for 2 unless it’s in your opening hand…. it’s great.
Rocco Gest: Why are we doing this effect? More creatures with miracle is cool, but the only really cool thing I can see doing with this is trying to get to your Approach of the Second Sun for the second time a bit faster.
Ultramarines Honour guard
BPhillipYork: Okay so all these squad creatures. Here’s the one thing about them. Mana Echoes and Cloudstone Curio. I mean it’s a totally dumb big mana combo but so hilarious. Letting you generate infinite mana and get tons of creatures and their ETB effects. So go forth. For the Glory of the Emperor. Anyway squadding out multiple creatures that give every creature your control +1/+1 is potentially big. You are needing big mana to make it pay off, but in decks that can generate a lot of mana, like Azorius around rocks and maybe Brago, King Eternal or Yorion, Sky Nomad could do some fun things. Not quite on theme but maybe there’s a way to make those 40k cards.
FromTheShire: Really good, anthems are one of the go-to ways to make your tokens able to rumble with the real creatures, and this scales up the longer the game goes to make them deadly quickly.
Rocco Gest: This kicks ass. Squad up for like 5 anthems. Beat up your opponents in the face. This earns an easy slot in my Iroas deck.
BPhillipYork: Um this is like a thing. Protecting commanders from everything is fairly big, especially on a creature with flash. For partner decks, or decks whose commander is enormously important, or is even the source of damage which would normally even kill itself… There’s a lot to do with this guy and I think it’ll see a lot of play outside 40k.
FromTheShire: Protection from everything is what makes Progenitus the threat it is, and giving it to whatever deadly or fragile commander you choose is excellent. Do note that if you’re using this to go Voltron, you need to be a counters or anthem build, since the protection will make Auras and Equipment fall off. Everything means EVERYTHING.
Rocco Gest: This is a good card for my Iroas deck. Have I mentioned my Iroas deck? This would be great in it.
BPhillipYork: This is an angel. Do not lie to me. Look at it. Anyway, Miracle and squad is funny, getting a bunch of 3/3 flyers with vigilance is solid.
FromTheShire: An army in a box, of vigilant flyers no less. It’s been many a year since its heyday but if you flood the board with Serra Angels it’s still a real serious problem for your opponents, especially once you start layering on anthems and next thing you know there’s like 5 5/5’s kicking down doors and taking names.
Rocco Gest: One more awesome creature with miracle and it has Squad too! I love these squad cards so much. I know squad is effectively a multikicker, but damn does it feel good to have it on cards like this.
That wraps up our look at the fourth and final of the crossover Warhammer 40k decks. Join us next time as we begin breaking the decks down and rebuilding them with some brand new bionic enhancements. 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.