Warped Landscape - Tyranid Swarm
(The Swarmlord | Art by Antonio Jose Manzanedo)
Say Hello to Evolution
Hi there! I'm Josh. I love Grixis, Eldrazi, and casting Jeska's Will. I've played Magic since Dragons of Tarkir in 2015, but I've collected Warhammer since I was a kid, slathering thick gloopy paint over my favorite miniatures and my parents' dining table. When these two loves of mine collided, I couldn't have been happier, and I'm joining EDHREC to write about why you should also love these decks if you're seeing the worlds of Warhammer for the first time. Let's discuss what makes this collaboration so special.
Universes Beyond has been a wonderful opportunity for the folks at Wizards to geek out with Games Workshop. Both are titans of the tabletop industry who've brought us fun, thematic, and powerful Commander decks that celebrate our favorite factions and provide a glimpse into the battle for supremacy in the grim dark future.
I'll be your guide to the Universes Beyond, taking you through each of the four factions and showing you their worlds, and why they defend or destroy them.
But First, a Little About Warhammer 40,000
Warhammer is a hobby where you collect, build, paint, and battle with plastic model kits. These kits bring to the tabletop the mightiest heroes and villains that the galaxy has to offer. No matter where you go in the universes of Warhammer, there's something to capture your imagination.
- The Imperium are cold and domineering; the brightest of humanity waging a cruel war against the darkness
- The vile forces of Chaos are ancient, bitter, and corrupted souls who strike back at the very planets that birthed them.
- The rapacious and ravenous forces of the Tyranids sweep through the galaxy, turning everything into their prey.
- The sinister Necrons slumbered beneath the soil. Now they've arisen as soulless killing machines!
For many of us in the Warhammer hobby, creativity is at the core of the experience. We write army lists to capture the feel and flavor of our favorite factions, or to present a competitive and sportsmanlike challenge to our opponent. We model our miniatures to represent our favorite characters from the lore, or to see ourselves as heroes in the game. We paint to parade our miniatures as accurate copies of the regiments and heraldry of the game's lore. We let our art bleed through into the vastness of the 41st millennium.
This is why we work so well with Magic. In Commander, it's all about customization! From the art on the lands we choose to the decks built around characters and factions, it's all about creativity.
Alright, now let's focus on the translation from miniatures to EDH precon. Our first group to examine are the Tyranids. They are a force from beyond the cosmos, lifeforms who have weaponized the process of evolution. They consume all in their wake and strip the biomass from every living thing they encounter. The Tyranids leave behind worlds that are little more than empty husks, taking the next leap in their evolution to bring all the more to bear against their next adversary.
Tyranids travel through the galaxies in hive fleets. These are all-consuming star-borne swarms like those you'll find in the darkest depths of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, a nameless beast that exists only to feed.
These individual insect-like beasts bear such features as gnashing teeth, razor-sharp chitin, and acidic bio-weapons made of their very flesh, all brought together by a terrifying hive mind. This psychic consciousness unifies each Tyranid into one maddening machine, driving the Tyranid fleet to descend upon planet after planet until all is consumed.
Tyranids find themselves in Temur, with red to represent the raw instinct of the Tyranid and their sole purpose of consumption. Green best embodies the growth of the hive fleet, gaining in mass as it travels through the stars. Blue shows us the cunning and singular thought of the Hive-Mind, a psychic aura that binds all Tyranids, turning them from slathering beasts into conniving killers.
Tyranids, more than any other Warhammer faction, are defined not only by the path they walk, but also by the mess they leave behind. This has been captured in the evocative art on the lands of this deck.
In a Tyranid invasion, massive spined towers called Spore Chimneys alter the world around them. The natural flora and fauna are warped into a hostile alien habitat. The skies darken and the temperatures rise, making the planet a bubbling Breeding Pool for the Tyranid Swarm. The lands of this deck tell that story, from the basics to the stellar Exotic Orchard, showing us the horror that comes with the Tyranid invasion.
In league with the Tyranids, we have the Genestealer cults. These Gigeresque goons see the Tyranids as gods. These cults partake of Tyranid DNA and pass it down through the generations. Shadowy cults turn civilized planets into psychic beacons for the Tyranids to find and deliver them to ascension. During invasion, the Genestealer cults arrive before the main Tyranid Fleet.
It's great to see so many of these smaller creatures in green. These creatures mostly bring mana abilities and early-game ramp to the table to let you power out your larger Tyranid monsters early. Atalan Jackal will scout the terrain and bring a basic land into play tapped on combat damage, whereas the Nexos amazingly gives all basic lands the ability to tap for two colorless mana as long as that mana is spent on costs that contain ‘X'. Since most of the Tyranids feature the Ravenous mechanic, there are plenty of payoffs for these smaller scheming creatures.
Once the Tyranids are out, they find powerful ways to buff a board full of creatures. Stronger in numbers, Tyranids share their newest evolutionary leaps with the rest of the swarm for ease of crushing the enemy. Larger creatures will carry their effects across to other creatures with +1/+1 counters on them. Tyranids are aggressive, so make sure not to overextend into a board wipe, or at least be sure to run the implacable Tyrant Guard to protect the swarm until they can make the killing blow.
So who should lead this deck? True to the feeling of Warhammer, we have plenty of characters to choose from.
The Swarmlord embodies the relentless power of the Tyranid Hive Fleet. At the forefront of the battle, vicious and unkillable, the Swarmlord comes in with two +1/+1 counters on it for each time it's been killed and recast from the Command Zone. It even replaces itself by drawing a card when it or another creature with a +1/+1 counter on it dies. These rules in tandem are phenomenally flavorful, and really lean into the grinding inevitability of the Tyranid invasion. If you kill one, there's probably another one right behind it, and it's probably even bigger.
Magus Lucea Kane represents the best, most charismatic, and most cunning that the Genestealer Cults have to offer. As a Magus, she's a psychic guide leading the rest of the cult to do the bidding of the Genestealer Patriarch, and empowering them as she does so. Her ability to place +1/+1 counters on her followers is an omen of the horrors that are to come when the Tyranids descend. With her mana ability and the ability to copy spells with X in their casting cost, she's going to bring you nothing but value as Tyranids hit the table early and en masse.
Finally, Deathleaper, Terror Weapon might look like a simple brainless aggro creature, but it's actually a wicked psychological hunter. If you encounter this commander in the wild, don't presume you know what it's up to; it has a penchant for leaving armies leaderless.
A Swarm 40,000 Strong!
I hope you've enjoyed part one of this guide to the Universes Beyond! Tune in next time when we continue our guided tour of the galaxy with the forces of the Ruinous Powers, the forces of Chaos.
Are you planning on picking up the Tyranid deck? Let me know on Twitter @PrinceofBielTan. I'd love to know if the Tyranids have captured your imagination! Seeya next time.
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