Warhammer 40k deck reviews continue with Forces of the Imperium, a go-wide tokens deck dedicated to the human space marines of the 40k universe. It’s in black-white-blue, which is a little bit of an awkward color combination. It doesn’t have the strength or focus of a one or even two-color deck, but also doesn’t have the bountiful mana ramp and fixing of green.
The deck addresses this by adding an immense amount of value. Tokens are a well-explored archetype in Commander, and the gameplan is simple. Make a ton of tokens, and then add in ways to utilize them to knock out your opponents. As such, the deck isn’t too different in practice from Necron Dynasties, simply adding in white’s abundant focus on small creatures. Blue doesn’t contribute too much here, though it’s possible the deck’s high card draw comes from the addition of blue to its color identity.
It’s becoming a pattern that the Warhammer precons’ secondary commanders are a better fit than their face card, and Forces of the Imperium is no exception. They’re led by Inquisitor Greyfax, a four mana 2/3 that provides a moderate aura buff for other creatures alongside a tapdown ability. All of this combines for an underwhelming commander, especially when compared to Marneus Calgar.
Calgar draws a card any time his controller makes a token. The deck is built around tokens so there’s plenty of included synergies, but there’s also the plentiful tokenmaking found in the Commander format itself. Any source of treasure now draws a card, including Smothering Tithe, Monologue Tax, Deadly Dispute and Monologue Tax.
The deck also has the most total commanders out of any of the precons, with seven instead of the usual six. Inquisitor Eisenhorn, Neyam Shai Murad and Belisarius Cawl are all two-color commanders from within the Esper triad, but none really stand out as specifically powerful. Eisenhorn’s token-making is plentiful, but he starts off without any source of evasion. Belisarius has two tap abilities, but can only use one of them each turn as a result. Neyam Shai Murad returns permanents from the graveyard to the battlefield, but also rewards opponents when doing so.
The two-color commander included in the deck that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Severina Raine. She’s only three mana, and while her activated ability is a bit pricey at two mana and two life to draw a single card, it’s her attack trigger that puts her in the spotlight. All players have to do is build up a massive horde of tokens and then swing out. It gets even better when you add in doublers like Strionic Resonator, Lithoform Engine or Wound Reflection.
There’s also the deck’s only monocolor commander, Celestine. Combining lifegain and reanimation into a single theme is fun, but like most monocolor commander she’s held back by a lack of options in her colors. White isn’t one of the colors that’s good at milling itself, so it’s tough for a deck helmed by her to put enough targets into its own graveyard. As a silver lining, she’ll be more than welcome in the 99 of any lifegain deck.
Tokens, Tokens, Tokens
When you have a ton of mana, you want Defenders of Humanity. Then, when your opponent board clears you, pump all that mana into Defenders of Humanity again. One of the keys to any go-wide deck is resilience, something this card provides in spades. It’s not the most efficient token creator, but its reusability is greatly appreciated.
Birth of the Imperium, on the other hand, is all about efficiency. It makes three tokens right away, and then if it’s not removed it provides an edict. And if you’ve been filling up the board with even more creatures during those two turns, the third clause will draw plenty of cards. It’s worth noting that the card needs to trigger on at least two players to be worthwhile, since only two cards on a delayed trigger for five mana isn’t a great deal.
One of the issues with lots of small tokens is that bigger decks can end up absorbing them without breaking a sweat. The solution in this case is Company Commander, who not only makes three tokens when it enters, but provides deathtouch to them when it swings out. That includes itself, so while opponents might block the Company Commander to prevent the effect from being reused, they’ll lose at least one creature off the bargain.
There’s also Cybernetica Datasmith, who boasts the virtue of flexibility. It can either draw you a card and provide an opponent with a 4/4 (which the Datasmith blocks handily due to protection), or it can draw an opponent a card and make you a 4/4. This effect might not be as good in two-player formats, but in Commander the power of politics makes this an extremely useful tool – provided you know when to use it.
While Forces of the Imperium is likely to defeat its opponents through overwhelming use of tokens, there’s some board states that are tougher to assail with lots of small creatures. Some opponents might have effects like Propaganda or Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, which scale up with the number of creatures attacking. That’s where vehicles come in.
Vehicles work well with lots of tokens, since they let players convert the raw power represented by their small creatures into much larger, much more powerful threats. One such vehicle is Reaver Titan, a 10/10 without traditional evasion in the form of flying or trample, but with protection from smaller creatures that might otherwise chump-block it.
There’s also the Knight Paladin, which does have trample. And finally, the Thunderhawk Gunship, which comes with flying and tokens to crew itself. If that wasn’t enough, it also gives the rest of a player’s creatures flying whenever it swings out. Tokens might be small, but vehicles represent a force multiplier that most certainly isn’t.
Squad Is Sadly So-So
Squad is the signature mechanic for the Forces of the Imperium. Unfortunately, it’s not very good. While paying 2 mana for a token copy of a cast spell is a pretty good rate, it doesn’t matter if the creature it’s on isn’t efficiently costed itself. Take, for example, the Space Marine Devastator.
At four mana, it destroys one artifact or enchantment. That’s just worse than Reclamation Sage, which only sees play in specific decks already. At six mana, it destroys two. That’s worse than Return to Dust, which only costs four mana. At eight mana, it destroys three, but eight mana is a massive amount to spend on any one spell.
That same pattern applies to almost every other card with Squad. They’re terribly-costed if only cast once, and by the time the Squad payments become inefficient it’s almost certainly too much mana to be paying up front. The exception is Zephyrim, and even then only because of its miracle cost. When cast as such, it lets players create as many 3/3 angels as they’d like, at two mana each.
To fix this, we can add the card Anointed Procession to our deck. This is a massive improvement, since it doubles the tokens created by Squad, along with most of the deck. There’s also Panharmonicon, which can double some of those cards’ enter-the-battlefield effects, and Enlightened Tutor, which can grab both of them. The beauty of Commander precons is that they’re only a starting point – it’s up to players to truly make them shine.
Alex Sowa is a journalist, poet and writer. She also plays an unhealthy amount of Commander, with a dip into Pioneer from time-to-time. She’ll play any deck with either massive creatures or five-color shenanigans, but both is even better. You can find her on Twitter at @lx_sowa