Last updated on January 20, 2023
Magnus the Red | Illustration by Wonchun Choi
We get several Commander products released every year at this point. As someone who enjoys the deckbuilding process a lot more than the game itself, I’m always interested in seeing what new commanders might pop up in these releases and what kinds of decks I could see building with them.
The Warhammer 40k Commander decks are the first Universes Beyond product to bring us four whole Commander decks that have almost entirely new cards. This not only means a lot of brand new toys for Commander but also a bunch more commanders to build around.
Today I’ve taken all of the new legendary creatures from this release and ranked them according to the cards I feel will be the sweetest to build a deck around, as well as which I think are the most powerful overall. Ready? Let’s get into it!
Inquisitor Greyfax | Illustration by Lie Setiawan
There are a total of 24 new commanders in the Warhammer 40k Commander decks. Most Commander precon releases only give us two or three new options in each deck, but we’re gifted with six in each deck because these decks have so many new cards.
This is such a treat for Commander players that even I’m excited to brew with some of these. Let’s get right down to our ranking list and see how they all measure up.
The Red Terror looks pretty sweet at first. It’s literally paying you off for doing what red wants you to do. Except for doing that, your reward is… a big vanilla creature?
I’m sorry, no, it should be doing more for me to be interested in it. I can’t even abuse the trigger by casting a Pyroclasm and getting several triggers at once, so I’m really not happy with this.
Imagine if the first ability just said, “Tap: create a 2/2 token with vigilance.” It still wouldn’t be that good. The payoffs would have to be much stronger for me to want to take two diametrically opposed strategies and combine them like this.
I’m not a big fan of the politics side of Commander, so it’s very possible that I have Neyam Shai Murad too low. For my money, this is a nice payoff with some big upside, but having the downsides of needing to connect without any built-in evasion plus relying on your opponent picking a good thing for you to reanimate makes this too difficult to use.
It could be that these are negligible because you can attack someone who’ll happily take the hit if you give them back a good card and they’ll repay you in kind by reanimating your desired target. Even then, this seems a little too fragile to really get going on a 4-mana 3/3, but this card is probably right up your alley if you like your political games of Commander.
Commissar Severina Raine is doing a few nice things that Orzhov () token decks are definitely going to want. My main issue with this card is that the cost of using it feels so high. It’s a 3-mana 2/2 with no evasion or protection, which makes attacking with it a scary prospect. Its sacrifice ability costs two mana, which significantly limits how much you can use it if you also want to cast spells in the same turn.
All that said, Severina definitely isn’t a bad card. I just think these downsides make it much less promising as a commander and a better card to have in your main decks instead.
Big dumb creatures might make cool commanders for some players, but I’d like a bit more oomph from them. The Swarmlord‘s main payoff is that it’s always a bit bigger than the amount of mana you’ve spent on it, which really isn’t that impressive.
The second ability is what you’re really here for, but a Temur () +1/+1 counters deck isn’t going to be able to rely on its own creatures dying. It’s something that happens, but rarely on your terms. It’s some decent protection against board sweepers, so that’s something to be said for it, but I think you can do much better. In fact, I know you can, because the other commander for the Tyranids is already much higher on this list.
The problem with Szarekh, the Silent King is that needing to attack is a really slow trigger condition and one that you can only do once per turn. But even considering that, milling three and maybe getting one of them back depending on your hits is just a really weak payoff.
There are cards in this deck that do this kind of thing a lot better, so I’m baffled as to why the face card is so weak and pathetic by comparison. Sure, it’s not a bad card by any stretch, but it’s embarrassing compared to most of the other commanders in this set.
Life loss matters is a difficult thing to manage. You only have a limited amount of it, unless you also gain it back. Making X 2/2s for X mana is a sweet deal, but paying mana at the end of the turn when you likely need to spend it to enable the life loss needed to trigger this in the first place is pretty miserable.
I really want Mortarion, Daemon Primarch to not cost any mana to be interested in it. We’re going to get to a lifegain commander in a bit that does a similar thing but costs no mana to use and is far stronger for that reason alone.
#17. Illuminor Szeras
It’s possible to make some silly amounts of black mana with Illuminor Szeras, but you only ever get back the same amount of mana you put in unless you make your creatures cost less. So you need to sacrifice something on a turn other than when you originally played it to make use of this, hoping to cast something very large.
There’s an abundance of ways for you to untap Szeras and sacrifice a few creatures in the same turn to generate a ton of mana since it’s an artifact, but those creatures need to have cost a lot in the first place. The fact that this does nothing when sacrificing tokens is the biggest drawback for me. While it’s a cool idea and has some potential, I think it plays out a lot worse than it looks.
Making a 4/4 legendary demon every turn is pretty cool. It’s a pretty sweet thing if you can set that up and enable it. Something like Sensei’s Divining Top can make sure you draw instants and sorceries for your turn plus some kind of sacrifice outlet to use the demon each turn, and make room for a new one would go a long way too.
I like what Inquisitor Eisenhorn is doing, even if it’s a little hard to set up. I don’t like the second ability because a 2/3 with no evasion is far from guaranteed to connect. Eisenhorn doesn’t look bad to me overall, just a bit clunky. The payoff does seem to be there though.
The payoff is that your creatures all get double strike, which is a really huge swingy bonus to give. There are plenty of cards like Rhythm of the Wild and Fires of Yavimaya that can give haste to all of your creatures if you go down that route, so all you need is some sweet creatures to combo with it and I’m sure that you can find some.
Token generators would go really well with it (hello Firecat Blitz). All you need is to find a bunch of them and Deathleaper starts going really nuts.
Being an Intangible Virtue-style lord is a really powerful effect. Even though I’m not sure being a tapper is all that relevant in a game of Commander, you do get a Clue token when you do it, so it’s always going to be useful. It’s not quite as strong as the backup commander for the Imperium deck, but that’s not to say it isn’t a good card in its own right.
There may be some better commanders in my opinion, but Greyfax is only a little bit behind them and that makes it a great choice to run in the main decks.
#13. Celestine, the Living Saint
Enter Celestine, the Living Saint, which provides you with a really big payoff for gaining a huge amount of life. Having lifelink is huge to start, so it actually has a built-in way to gain life. And it won’t be that hard to find ways to gain large amounts of life and get to reanimate very powerful threats fairly early.
Let’s say you got an attack off with Celestine and you cast a Chaplain’s Blessing (not something I’d ever recommend doing, but just for the sake of this example). Well, then you can reanimate Avacyn, Angel of Hope on your end step.
The key part about Celestine is that this ability doesn’t cost you any mana to use unlike its life loss counterpart a few ranks back, leaving you free to spend all your mana on other things during your turn. This does still require a lot of setups, which is why it doesn’t rank higher than this, but I can see a lot of decks wanting this card and also finding it very rewarding to build around it as the commander.
Something something big dumb creatures… oh wait, Old One Eye is a big dumb creature and creates another big dumb creature when it enters, can buy itself back later in the game, and gives all of your creatures trample? Yeah, that’ll do.
When this is mono-green, how is it that this is so much more ridiculous than The Swarmlord? Just, yes, get in my deck now.
If you sacrifice Lucius as the cost for Bone Splinters, its trigger happens while your spell is on the stack. You can then target the same creature targeted by your spell, and Lucius immediately comes back when you resolve the spell and kills the creature.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to enable this over and over again in a dedicated sacrifice deck, so all you need is a Warstorm Surge or Pandemonium and you’re off the races. I once ran a Norin the Wary deck that focused on these kinds of effects, and this looks very similar to me in the way you can make use of it.
Like I said earlier, needing to attack to trigger is really not what you want to be doing. You really need the payoff for doing so to be big enough that you want to do it. Casting a spell for zero mana? Yeah, that certainly qualifies.
There are all sorts of huge artifacts you can cast for free with Anrakyr the Traveller’s trigger, so just bring plenty of life and you can cast just about anything you like and all you have to do is attack once.
The first trigger on Imotekh the Stormlord is absolutely insane. It’s kinda hard to trigger, but creating a pair of 2/2s is exactly the kind of payoff I like to see if the trigger condition is fairly hard to satisfy. You have loads of ways to trigger this in the Necrons deck itself, particularly all of the cards that have unearth, but you’ll find even more ways to do this in a dedicated deck.
Raise Dead effects are absolutely key, especially if they can be used over and over again. Not only does this look like the best commander for the Necrons deck itself, it seems really sweet to build your own deck around and really focus on trying to trigger the first ability as often as possible.
One of the chaos deck’s themes is demon tribal, so naturally, we have the game’s first demon tribal lord in the Grixis () colors with Be’lakor, the Dark Master. That’s something to pay attention to for sure. Although blue doesn’t have very many demons, there is a small handful of them.
Most importantly, giving your demon deck that would otherwise just be heavy on black access to blue is bound to be useful, giving it access to stronger draw spells and counterspells. The payoff you get just from this card alone is enough to make me think that you’d strongly consider expanding into Grixis colors if you already have a demon tribal deck.
Kharn the Betrayer is high on this list, not because I think it makes for a good commander, but because it’s an exceptional addition to other Commander decks that I like. One of the first decks I ever built was Zedruu the Greathearted thanks to the very first wave of Commander decks from all the way back in 2011. The theme was so unique that it really resonated with me and I’ve loved it ever since.
We now also have Blim, Comedic Genius which does a very similar thing. Kharn fits right into both of these commanders. It also probably makes for a great addition to a lot of different red decks since having it passed around the table with everyone drawing cards off it seems like a really fun card to have in play.
The effect is just enough that I’m really interested. Tripling the damage output of “pingers” and a whole host of spells is just wild. This even works with divided damage spells like Arc Lightning. If you split the damage as one to each of three targets, those targets all get Lightning Bolted instead.
I love what this can do. It really makes me want to build a deck around it to see what kinds of crazy interactions I can get to work.
Marneus Calgar is exactly the sort of card I want to headline a tokens deck if I’m building one. Not only is a 3/5 with double strike really beefy to start out with, but it pays you off by drawing you cards just for making tokens and even has a built-in ability to make tokens by itself.
Not to mention that this artwork is amazing. Whenever you say “Warhammer” to me the first image that comes into my mind is this big oversized blue armor that I’m sure resonates with fans of this game all over the world.
Marneus seems to be doing the right combination of things to be a great tokens commander for you to build around, and the perfect card to headline the Imperium deck.
#4. Magus Lucea Kane
As a lifelong ramp player, Magus Lucea Kane is my favorite commander in the set. I just love how big of a payoff you get. I’m already interested in a 4-drop mana dork that gives me two mana, so being able to copy an X spell each turn is well above what I’d expect to get out of it.
Magus is in the perfect colors to not only get access to the Tyranids in its own deck but also to hydras and cards like Banefire and Mind Spring. Can you imagine the carnage if you use it to cast something like Crackle with Power or Genesis Wave?
If I were to build a deck out of any of the cards in the set this would be it, no questions asked.
It needs a little bit of setup to make work, but you can probably manage it with some spells if you don’t have the right kind of army to be attacking with. Even something as simple as Syphon Soul would let a 6-mana spell cascade in a 4-player game. The simple ability to cast a bunch of free spells is something that’s worth building around, and it’s worth putting Abaddon into other decks too.
This really is just an absurdly powerful payoff and the best face card out of all of the four decks.
Although Magnus the Red has flying making the last ability relatively easy to enable, that isn’t thinking big enough for me. It doesn’t refer to only the tokens it makes, it refers to any and all creature tokens you control, making it very easy to abuse with literally any token generators you can find.
Imagine a big Empty the Warrens making your spells cost a ridiculous amount less. While most spells aren’t going to need to cost 10 less you could always use this with X spells, much like you can with Magus Lucea Kane. I can easily foresee a scenario where you have about 20 tokens in play and you can cast Banefire for just one mana to nug an opponent for twenty damage if you build to deck right. And that’s me thinking really small with it too.
I don’t like Trazyn the Infinite. I’m just putting it out there. It’s easily #1, but only because it’s so broken and easy to turn into a one-card infinite combo that starts the game in your command zone.
Use the first few turns to set up by making sure there’s a Staff of Domination in your graveyard alongside a Gilded Lotus or Sceptre of Eternal Glory. Then try to get out Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, or whatever else can give Trazyn haste. All of that isn’t that hard to do, especially when black has access to a ton of draw power and all of the best tutor effects.
Now all you need to do is cast Trazyn and give it haste, then it can immediately make infinite black mana. Use the Lotus to tap for triple black, then untap it for one mana with the Staff’s first ability, draw your entire deck (thanks to Staff of Domination), cast an infinitely large Exsanguinate or Torment of Hailfire and you’re done.
I don’t like when cards are this easy to turn into infinite combos, and I really don’t like infinite combos to begin with. You can even use the new card Biotransference and get the activated abilities of all the creatures in your graveyard too.
Needless to say, this looks to be the most powerful commander in the set. It’s not even remotely close.
Magus Lucea Kane | Illustration by Bartek Fedyczak
That’s all there is to say on the commanders in Warhammer 40k. Do you agree with my rankings? Which new commander are you going to build? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.
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