Forces of the Imperium - Precon Primer
(Inquisitor Greyfax | Art by Lie Setiawan)
What’s up, friends! Andy here, coming at you from the Scrap Trawlers channel, where we do EDH on a budget. We’ve taken up the call to be your guide through the ever-growing abundance of commander precons here on EDHREC. What does that mean? So for each Commander preconstructed deck that comes out, we’ll be providing you with a guide to playing the deck right out of the box, telling you how the deck plays, the best cards, and our overall opinion. And then we’ll also give you an upgrade guide shortly after that, which will give you a bunch of cards to swap in that won’t hurt your wallet. We’re kicking off our collaboration with EDHREC with the recently previewed Warhammer 40K decks, and today we’re bringing you our primer for Forces of the Imperium. Let’s dig in.
What’s in the Box?
“...those who profess to be the most holy amongst us must be put to the sternest test."
-Inquisitor Katarina Greyfax
Forces of the Imperium is an Esper (white, blue, and black) deck led by Inquisitor Greyfax, a 3/3 Human Inquisitor with vigilance. She gives your other creatures +1/+0 and vigilance, and also allows you to pay 1 mana to tap an opponent’s creature and Investigate. With the vigilance and the ability to tap creatures, Greyfax feels very much like a control commander. I’d expect the rest of the deck to be filled with low cost spells, instant speed interaction, and some potential Clue or artifact payoffs. So let’s see what we’ve got.
Forces of the Imperium
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Okay, so…not so much of what I expected. That’s okay, because we’ve got a lot of fun stuff here. The deck does come with one other legend that can take charge, and that’s Marneus Calgar. He’s a 3/5 Astartes Warrior with double strike. He also draws you a card whenever you drop one or more tokens, and lets you pay six generic mana to create two 2/2 creature tokens. Calgar definitely evokes more of an aggro/token feel, which seems to be where most of the deck is leaning as well. That activated ability is steep, and I can’t imagine we’ll be able to afford it more than a couple of times in a game. But…it’s there.
The biggest strategies in this deck are tokens and aggro. So let’s take a look at the new cards that play into these themes. We’ll start by checking out the new mechanic in the deck, Squad. This is a play on Multi-kicker (all abilities are Kicker, right?) where you can pay an extra two generic mana as you cast it to get a copy of the creature as it enters. And you can pay this cost any number of times. Some are functional, with Sicarian Infiltrator and Vanguard Suppressor providing card draw, and Space Marine Devastator taking out artifacts and enchantments. Others, like Ultramarines Honour Guard and Zephyrim are there for aggression.
For more tokens, we’ve got Birth of the Imperium, a Saga that drops a 2/2 for each opponent on its first step, then removal and card draw later. Then there’s Defenders of Humanity, an x spell enchantment that gives you x tokens on entry (hello Panharmonicon!) and then has an activated ability that replicates its casting cost. A very strange and new design for an enchantment, and it works really well for an instant speed army in the late game. Inquisitor Eisenhorn can make you a 4/4 flyer, but isn’t likely to do it in this deck with the low instant/sorcery count. He can also make you Clues when he connects with an opponent in combat, but has no evasion to make that happen. And then there’s Inquisitorial Rosette, an Equipment that gives you a permanent 2/2 whenever the equipped creature attacks, with the added bonus of also giving attacking creatures menace for the turn.
Need something to do with those tokens? How about crewing some Vehicles? The deck gives you 3 fancy new cars to go joyriding in. Knight Paladin hurts your opponents when it hits the field, and Reaver Titan hurts them when it attacks (and is also a 10/10, no biggie). Then there’s Thunderhawk Gunship, which gives you two creatures on entry and gives your whole squad flying when it attacks.
The Flesh Is Weak looks like a sweet dis-anthem effect, making most of your opponents’ creatures smaller, or dead; but keep in mind that your creatures that enter without counters after the enchantment drops will also be negatively affected. For the Emperor! gives you a one-time anthem effect to not only punch a few holes in your opponents, but also beef up your own life total. It’s similar to, but less effective than, Bond of Discipline (I'm gonna make you all love Bond of Discipline, even if it kills me).
As with most precons, Forces of the Imperium has a few straggling sub-themes floating about. We’ve got some life gain/drain with Assault Intercessor, some aristocrats with Sanguinary Priest and The Golden Throne, and a bit of artifacts-matter with Belisarius Cawl. Cawl seems really out of place in a deck with only 18 artifact cards, but we have to keep in mind that Greyfax, and others, do make artifact tokens. Cawl, Inquisitor Greyfax, and The Flesh Is Weak all together would be a powerful combo.
How Does it Play?
The deck wants you to be both aggressive and reactive. It wants you to know when to spend all your money (Squad creatures or Defenders of Humanity), and when to save it for a rainy day (Sister of Silence or Deny the Witch). This is a big ask for newer players, and potentially the deck’s second biggest weakness.
What’s the biggest weakness? Mana. Plain and simple, the deck doesn’t have enough mana to do what it’s asking you to do. With 37 lands and 11 ramp pieces, you’d think it wouldn’t be much of a problem. But then you have to consider the average mana value of the deck is 3.81, which is relatively high. In playtesting, I frequently found myself stalling out on mana around turn 5. If the mana curve were lower, it might still function. But with the two modes of the deck (aggro/reactive) wanting to work in tandem, you almost need to be prepared to do both on each round of turns. So you should be able to advance your board state on your turn, and still have enough mana left to do reactive things on opponents’ turns. The mana base here doesn’t make that possible. So for opening hands, don’t skimp on the mana. Two lands and a Sol Ring might be exceptional in a lower curve deck, but here, especially since we’re in 3 colors, it might not cut it. 3 lands and a ramp spell is the minimum of where I’d start.
We took these 4 decks to battle against each other in a couple of games, and here’s how it went. In game 1 the deck had a respectable start, with a decently sized army by turn six thanks to the Squad creatures Sicarian Infiltrator and Space Marine Devastator. The Devastator, in particular, was great for taking out several pesky items, like Hardened Scales and Sceptre of Eternal Glory. And after a massive swing with my dudes all buffed by For the Emperor!, I was feeling pretty well positioned at 81 life. Sadly, it didn't last. The deck ran out of gas, and failed to deal with the massive Necron army.
Game 2 took 15 turns to complete, which, in my experience, is not uncommon for precon games. I had a rough start, including taking 9 tries to get a decent starting hand. I felt behind the entire game, as the Tyranid deck and Necron deck both amassed terrifying hordes of creatures. I had Marneus Calgar on the field for most of the game, and his card draw effect was hugely beneficial. The activated ability happened a few times, but only because I held up all of my mana for three turns in a row, due to the fact that I had nothing good to play. I had a Cybernetica Datasmith in my hand for several turns, not wanting to waste the time and resources on a 0/1. I honestly despise the card in this deck, but I played it anyway, to say that at least I tried. It wasn't much better than I expected, sadly. The fact that the Datasmith has protection, rather than you, is a fatal flaw. Also, the tokens not being able to block was a real hindrance as well. I'm sure there's some group hug deck out there that wants it, but this is not that deck. After some huge swings, including the Tyranid deck having a disgustingly huge commander that got stifled by a well-timed Darkness from the Necron deck, I somehow managed to sit quietly while the big guns went after each other, and ended up being the last man standing.
As with any Commander precon, seasoned Commander players usually look at the deck more for its parts. The fun new toys tend to be the biggest selling points for precons, and, in some cases, maybe even a couple of high value reprints as well. So how does Forces of the Imperium stack up? While I don’t think this deck is as hyped as the other 3, there are certainly a few standouts. The biggest attention-grabber is definitely Vexilus Praetor. Turning any commander into a pseudo-Progenitus has some huge value in a lot of decks. I can’t imagine Inquisitor Greyfax will get a lot of heat, but some more powerful commanders out there need as much protection as they can get.
The current leader for highest pre-sale price for the deck goes to The Golden Throne. It’s like if Angel's Grace and Infernal Plunge had an artifact baby. Might be a good way to save yourself from an Ad Nauseam death? Or any death, I suppose.
Celestine, the Living Saint is going to be really powerful in life gain decks. I know I’ll for sure be dropping it into my budget Heliod, Sun-Crowned deck.
That’s it for new cards, sadly. So let’s take a look at the deck’s high-value reprints. First up is a mana rock from Mirrodin that used to sell for over $12: Talisman of Progress. I must say, I’m very happy to see all the talismans getting reprints in these decks. They should’ve never gotten so expensive. Next is an Equipment that just doesn’t seem to go down in price despite many reprints: it’s Skullclamp, with some sick new art. And last there’s Bastion Protector, which was selling for up to $30 just last year.
Alright, so what are we thinking overall about Forces of the Imperium? The deck really suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, fighting between aggro and control. I think it functions best when it’s trying to go wide and attack, and because of this it might be better to put Marneus Calgar in the lead, rather than Inquisitor Greyfax.
The deck also suffers from a high average mana value. Whether you’re going aggro or control, you want a low curve so you can keep popping out spells to either stay ahead of your opponents or to have enough mana to both build a board and still be able to react.
There’s only a few awesome new cards, and even fewer valuable reprints. And the land package, one of the cheapest I’ve seen in a precon, is hardly worth mentioning.
Verdict: Buy the singles.
Alright friends, there’s our Scrap Trawlers Precon Primer for Forces of the Imperium. What’d you think? Do you like the deck? Do you like the way we presented the article? Tell us in the comments!
Don’t forget to check out our videos over on YouTube, and catch us streaming on Twitch. We’ll be doing primers for the other 3 Warhammer 40K decks as well, so keep your eye out for those, as well as our upgrade guides coming very soon. Based on how I’m feeling about this deck, I’m gonna have a lot of swaps to make! Until next time, take care. And remember to budget…before you buy it.