The brand-new Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks brought 168 new cards to the Commander format, and with that many new additions, some of them are bound to have a strong impact. Already, people are beginning to weigh up which cards will be major players in Commander moving forward, and so I’ve assembled my list of the top picks from these new decks.
Note: I’m not including commanders in this article, as I’ve already covered the top ten best new commanders from 40k – this list is just cards you might want in your 99. And yes, I know Celestine could be a commander, but wouldn’t you just rather stick with Liesa or Oloro or Heliod?
Black got a lot of excellent new cards in these decks, which is unsurprising given there’s not just a Grixis and an Esper deck, but also a mono-black deck as well. Poxwalkers is the first black card I want to talk about, given how much power is on offer whenever you have a creature that returns itself to the battlefield for free. Even the humble Silversmote Ghoul regularly turns up in formats like Modern and Vintage! This card returns (tapped, admittedly) whenever you flash something back, cast something off red’s “impulse draw,” cascade into something… the list goes on. Plus, as a 3/1 deathtoucher, it trades against anything and hits reasonably hard – if you’ve got ways to regularly bring it back, Poxwalkers is excellent.
Utility lands are rampant in Commander, and Toxicrene is going to become a familiar face as a result (I say “face” because… well, there isn’t a word for the tentacle-laden, Lovecraftian monstrosity that this thing has). From Reliquary Tower to Rogue’s Passage, from Cabal Coffers to Kessig Wolf Run, Toxicrene is coming for your lands! The fixing ability is, in my view, essentially irrelevant, given that most four and five-color decks usually have excellent mana as it is. This card’s biggest weakness is that it is a creature rather than, say, an enchantment or artifact, as it dies to removal and sweepers. Still, expect to see a lot of Toxicrene, purely because of how good utility lands are in Commander.
8. Blood for the Blood God!
When looking at cards like this, the temptation is to evaluate its best-case scenario, and start getting excited about a three-mana draw-eight that domes the table for 24 total damage. The thing is – I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Especially given it’s an instant – an instant, what were they thinking – you can just hold this up, wait for your opponent’s sweeper, and cash in mightily as the board is cleared. Drawing eight cards more than makes up for discarding your hand (and I suspect this will see plenty of play in decks that actively want to discard cards), so I don’t have any doubt that black-red decks will want this card.
7. Vexilus Praetor
Turning your commander into a mini-Progenitus is pretty bonkers. The fact that you can do it at instant-speed to blank a removal spell is pretty ridiculous, and while the Praetor’s 3/4 body isn’t all that durable, it will still play an annoying, Mother of Runes-esque role in keeping your commander alive through multiple kill spells. For anyone who likes playing Voltron-style commanders such as Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice or Uril, the Miststalker, Vexilus Praetor will be a great inclusion, especially as you can force damage through any number of blockers thanks to protection.
Biotransference seems absurd. As far as I understand it, it means that not only any artifact spells you cast but also creature spells you cast will come with a free 2/2, at the cost of a paltry one life. On top of that, cards that care about artifact numbers like Cranial Plating or Karnstructs will be greatly empowered by this enchantment, due to the sheer number of artifacts it will churn out. Black-based artifact decks aren’t the most common thing in the world, but we might see an influx of Esper and Grixis artifact-based strategies, thanks to Biotransference and some of the other new artifact support cards in black.
Technomancer has some very specific hoops for you to jump through, but assuming you can, the payoff is absolutely absurd. Again, black isn’t a color you’d readily associate with artifact decks, but with cards like Biotransference and Technomancer, that might be about to change. Technomancer is absolutely ridiculous, when put to full use – it provides 13 mana’s worth of creatures, and then can be blinked with any number of Conjurer’s Closet-type cards to give you even more value. In any deck filled with artifact creatures that runs (or potentially could run) black, Technomancer is a must-include.
4. Tomb Fortress
Perhaps Tomb Fortress doesn’t look like much when you first read it – after all, it’s just a sorcery-speed, six-mana reanimation spell, and you can’t even recur the land once you activate it as it exiles itself. Don’t underestimate this card, however, because utility lands like this are deceptively powerful. Think of it this way: Tomb Fortress doesn’t rot away in your hand if you have an empty graveyard, it lets you maintain a higher land count while still having plenty of business and its effect is uncounterable, so you can sneak past those blue mages always holding up mana. Tomb Fortress will be a workhorse card for black-heavy decks.
3. Celestine, the Living Saint
Life gain is one of Commander’s most popular archetypes, and Celestine is a slam-dunk in more or less every single life gain deck anyone has ever built. Life gain decks invariably include a ton of small creatures, from Soul Warden to Voice of the Blessed to Righteous Valkyrie, and so Celestine will have plenty of targets to bring back each turn. And that’s the floor – when your life gain engines are ticking along, you can start bringing back Valkyrie Harbinger and Felidar Sovereign and Nykthos Paragon! If you play a life gain deck, get this card and put it straight in – you won’t regret it.
2. The Golden Throne
Oh boy. Gilded Lotus is already a Commander favorite, and this is a Gilded Lotus with so much icing it almost outweighs the cake. First of all, costing an effective one mana assuming you have a creature to sacrifice is ridiculous, and the “cost” you pay to activate its ability is not, in the decks that want it, a cost at all. Sacrifice decks will benefit so much from this card, as another way to turn creatures into mana – and that’s just half the card! The other half, protecting you from losing once, is all upside, and when games go right down to the line I’m sure it’ll often end up being the difference between victory and defeat.
1. Sceptre of Eternal Glory
I’m really glad to see this card, just as I was when I first saw War Room – this is well-designed and well-executed support for monocolored decks. In Commander, you so often feel compelled to play as many colors as you can get away with, and it’s nice to see a reason not to, such as Sceptre of Eternal Glory. A four-mana Gilded Lotus is absolutely nuts, and its three-lands clause is trivial for any monocolored deck with lots of basics. I expect this card to be an auto-include in more or less every monocolored deck, so I recommend you get your copy nice and quickly.