The Warhammer 40k Commander decks are here, and there’s something in them for everyone. Whether you’re a fan of Games Workshop’s flagship game or not, there’s plenty of powerful and exciting card designs that might just make it into your Commander deck. Today I’m going to evaluate the precon and offer some tips for upgrading it.
FORCES OF THE IMPERIUM: NEW CARDS
There are a bunch of new cards in this precon — too many to cover independently, here. Instead, let’s focus on the highlights of what Forces of Imperium has to offer. First up, the face Commander, Inquisitor Greyfax. She gives your board vigilance and a small buff. The ability to tap in the command zone is nice, but overall this is a pretty average commander.
The alternative Commander, Marneus Calgar, is where it’s at. Marneus will trigger when one or more tokens enters the battlefield. While this won’t trigger for every token created by an effect like Secure the Wastes, it will trigger for every time Smothering Tithe goes off, every time you make a token from Oketra’s Monument and every Lifegain trigger that will make a token.
That results in some serious card draw, especially as it can trigger multiple times a turn and even on an opponent’s turn. All of that ignores the fact that he also has Double Strike, one of the best abilities to have in a game of commander. Saddling up Marneus with some equipment seems like a fun way to enjoy this Esper Commander.
Gaining enough life to bring back huge beaters every time with this ability does not seem difficult; you can potentially gain three life every turn just off of your commander attacking, and your deck is likely to be filled with ways to passively gain life. In combination with classic cards like Sun Titan, Emeria Shepherd, and Karmic Guide, it will be hard to lose your entire board if you can keep Celestine in play.
Commissar Severina Raine is a solid inclusion in aristocrat decks. Tying card draw and Lifegain to a sacrifice outlet is pretty good. And when you have enough creatures to go wide, you can be sure you’ll kill your opponents pretty quickly.
Squad is the new mechanic unique to this deck. Essentially, it works like multi-kicker. Every time you activate the ability, you’ll make an additional token copy of the card when it enters the battlefield.
Space Marine Devastator brings the heat here, offering a Reclamation Sage for four that can become multiple creatures with ease. Sicarian Infiltrator is a fantastic surprise blocker that can refill the hand, and Vanguard Suppressor seeks to keep the cards coming.
Speaking of board wipes, Exterminatus isn’t asymmetrical (which wraths usually are at seven mana), but it is equipped to deal with the ol’ Boros Charm or Heroic Intervention in response to the wipe. If you absolutely need everything gone, it’s a great option.
Callidus Assassin is Evil Twin but fast. For two more mana, you essentially get an Evil Twin with haste. I’m surprised we haven’t seen this card before now, but it’s definitely a welcome addition to many decks, from clones to assassins.
FORCES OF THE IMPERIUM: DECK REVIEW
The Forces of the Imperium deck is ostensibly a tokens deck. Many cards have the Squad ability, and the deck is designed around going wide. Inquisitor Greyfax incentivizes you to attack often, with impunity, and Marneus Calgar rewards you for making tokens by refilling your hand.
Where there’s tokens, there’s also aristocrats — throwing pawns under the bus in order to gain card advantage while slowly draining the life of your opponents in one-thousand-cuts style gameplay. This deck leans into this strategy, offering ways to sacrifice creatures to draw cards, card advantage and life drain for going wide, and X-spells that generate plenty of token creatures.
It’s also a bit of a control deck. When your board is made up of tokens, you’re less likely to care about losing them. You do have ways to protect them, such as And They Shall Know No Fear, but resetting the board matters very little as you’ll fill it again in no time.
The choice becomes clearer when looking at upgrading the deck, though: Marneus wins for me, hands down. Let’s build a token deck that draws ALL the cards.
UPGRADING FORCES OF THE IMPERIUM
While Esper might not be the first thing you think of when you think tokens, it’s not like it can’t do them. Alela, for example, is a tokens deck — it just gets there through running a suite of control and staxy enchantments, or through playing as an artifact deck. We can look at adjacent tokens decks for inspiration too; think Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun or Thalisse, Reverent Medium.
There are cards that immediately come to mind when upgrading a Marneus Calgar deck, and I’m going to assume that if you’re wanting to upgrade the Forces of the Imperium deck that it’s going to be to take full advantage of these cards.
Smothering Tithe is top of the list, of course, as drawing cards when opponents give you treasure because they drew cards is absurd as it sounds. Anointed Procession is, again, obvious, but Black Market Connections is what excites me here. We can just choose one or two modes and get the card draw without paying the 2 life. Lovely!
Not all the cards you’ll want to include in a Marneus deck will break the bank. Dark Ritual can help power out Marneus and works just as well as a Jeweled Lotus. Campfire is a way to cheat Commander Tax that also crucially stops us decking ourselves if we are drawing too many cards. Inspiring Leader helps our tokens hit that much harder.
Making tokens is also hugely important for the deck. Oketra’s Monument and Oketra both trigger on cast as separate triggers, granting multiple instances of card draw when we cast our creatures. Pitiless Plunderer, meanwhile, acts similarly to Smothering Tithe, letting us double dip and get card draw and treasure when our creatures kick the bucket.
There’s one key thing that shouldn’t be overlooked with a Double Strike Commander, and that’s equipment. Getting twice the triggers on combat damage is always a rush, and it helps bring us closer to 21 Commander Damage, too.
Wand of Orcus does a lot of work in the build, making tokens so we can draw cards. Horn of Valhalla, likewise, can help us draw a card while also being a way to make one huge Commander. Or a huge God-Eternal Oketra — we’re not really fussed.
MARNEUS CALGAR $100 UPGRADES
Given budgets aren’t limitless, I capped out the budget at $100 for this upgrade guide. While it would be nice to have Smothering Tithe, it can be an expensive pickup that would eat a lot of budget alone.
Obviously, you can take this deck a lot further with cards like Ashnod’s Altar, Phyrexian Altar, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Teferi’s Protection, but chances are if you own all of those cards, you’ll have a good idea what you’d like to do with the deck.
These upgrades provide more tokens, more mana, more value, and more consistency. Also, I’ve removed the following cards that don’t serve us well:
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.