Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

Are you a Warhammer player who bought one of the new Universes Beyond Commander decks? Or perhaps you are a Magic player who was pleasantly surprised by how awesome these decks turned out and want to build your own deck around one of the new commanders. Maybe you just enjoy a good brainstorm article for new Commander decks. Regardless, it seems like you’re in the right place, as this Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide is here to help you.

Special Deck, Special Guide

Tyranid Storm is one of the strongest +1/+1 counters decks that Wizards of the Coast has ever released. If I’m being honest, I don’t think it needs any improvements. My opinion is slightly biased, though, since I love the completeness of these decks that have all the same art and a cohesive strategy out of the box.

In spite of how I personally feel about these decks, I recognize that a lot of the new commanders would be interesting to build around. They have new twists on old abilities, as well as the fact that some players might just like Magus Lucea Kane more than The Swarmlord as a character in Warhammer lore.

Since this pre-constructed deck is already pretty solid, I want to structure this article differently than usual. Rather than offering a bunch of recommendations for how to make the deck stronger, I want to talk about how to build around each of the new commanders.

Some of them have pretty straight-forward directions, and others you have to dig a little deeper. Hopefully, this helps you build or improve a deck built around these cards that you love.

If you don’t already have the Tyranid Swarm precon, you can get it on Amazon.

Tyranid Swarm Warhammer 40k Commander Decks Information

Budget Disclaimer

Just like my other upgrade articles, though, I do not intend to consider any kind of budget restrictions in my recommendations. I’ll include cheaper options of expensive cards if they exist. If budget is ever a problem, proxies can be a great way to play with expensive cards. Just be sure your playgroup is okay with it beforehand.

Tyranid Swarm Decklist

Commander (1)
The Swarmlord

New Cards* (41)
Magus Lucea Kane
Genestealer Patriarch
The Red Terror
Bone Sabres
Hierophant Bio-Titan
Hormagaunt Horde
Old One Eye
Termagant Swarm
Tyrant Guard
Atalan Jackal
Deathleaper, Terror Weapon
The First Tyrannic War
Gargoyle Flock
Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph
Shadow in the Warp
Tyranid Harridan
Tyranid Prime
Winged Hive Tyrant
Genestealer Locus
Acolyte Hybrid
Purestrain Genestealer
Tyranid Invasion
Trygon Prime
Goliath Truck
Lands (39)
Cinder Glade
Exotic Orchard
Game Trail
Temple of Abandon
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Mystery
Ash Barrens
Frontier Bivouac
Unclaimed Territory
Cave of Temptation
Command Tower
Evolving Wilds
Opal Palace
Path of Ancestry
Rugged Highlands
Terramorphic Expanse
Thornwood Falls

Sorceries (5)
Hull Breach
Rampant Growth

Instants (4)
Inspiring Call

Artifacts (4)
Icon of Ancestry
Herald’s Horn
Sol Ring
Arcane Signet

Enchantments (6)
Death’s Presence
Hardened Scales
Bred for the Hunt
New Horizons

*Find the new cards from Tyranid Swarm here.

The Swarmlord

The Swarmlord Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

As the face commander for this product, the deck is more focused around The Swarmlord than the other commanders. However, there are a handful of solid +1/+1 counters staples that don’t appear in the precon. These aren’t necessarily all of them, but it’s a good list to get you started:

Other than simply +1/+1 counters, The Swarmlord also cares about when your creatures with counters on them die. You can lean into this by adding a few sacrifice outlets like Greater Good or Evolutionary Leap. You can also include cards that care about counters and dying, such as:

Magus Lucea Kane

Magus Lucea Kane Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

For the most part, all the +1/+1 counters staples from the previous section will work just as well in a Magus Lucea Kane deck. If I could add two more cards to that list that would work better in this deck, they would be Tuskguard Captain and Longshot Squad. Kane can put counters on creatures other than herself, and The Swarmlord cannot.

Other than those cards, the cards that can go in this deck that don’t make as much sense in a Swarmlord deck are cards that care about X-spells. Lately there have been a ton of cards that let you copy or multiply X-values when you cast spells, and this commander seems like a powerful one to take advantages of those effects.

It seems to me that this deck will probably look fairly similar to a Riku of Two Reflections deck. Riku’s EDHRec page might have some inspiration for how to make this deck better. One pro-tip, though, that I learned once about building a Riku deck is that you should be sure to choose whether you want to build an instant/sorcery-focused deck or a creature-focused one.

Both these commanders can pull you in either direction, but if you don’t choose one, then your deck will feel muddy and weak. Here are a couple (out of hundreds of possibilities) ideas for relevant cards of each of those card types:


Walking Ballista Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide



Whether you choose X-creatures or X-instants/sorceries, most of these cards should help this deck be quite a bit better:

Tribal Hydras

Gargos, Vicious Watcher Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

Last but not least, this commander seems like it wants to lead a Hydras deck. Most Hydras have X in their mana costs, so Magus Lucea Kane will double the number of Hydras you cast. Thematically, it might feel a little weird, but it will certainly be fun and powerful. Here are some notable Hydras you might consider for this deck:

Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph

Ghyrson Startn, Kelemorph Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

There have been a handful of Izzet pinger commanders over the years. Ghyrson Starn has company the likes of:

He brings his own unique take to the archetype, though. The deck probably wants as many cards that deal damage in increments of 1. There are no shortage of such cards, though. Here is a non-exhaustive list of many of the pingers I found for this deck:

You probably don’t even want to run this many of these cards. You need to find a good balance that lets you draw some other utility cards but also gives you enough pingers that your deck functions properly. I don’t know what the exact number should be, but twenty to thirty seems like a reasonable start to me.

In addition to those, you will probably want other cards that let you benefit from pinging. Here are a few that I was able to find as I was researching this strategy:

Basilisk Collar Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

Deathleaper, Terror Weapon

Deathleaper, Terror Weapon Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

Deathleaper is an interesting card, because it grants a combat-based keyword to creatures that have entered the battlefield this turn. Usually creatures have summoning sickness on the turn they enter the battlefield, so obviously this deck will need to contain creatures with Haste, or be able to grant Haste in multiple ways. I’m not going to list all the possible creatures with Haste in the game, but here are a bunch of ways to give creatures haste:

Again, you don’t need all of these cards. A small handful of them will do the trick, especially because multiple haste enablers don’t add anything else to a board state. Plus, with a Haste enabler on the board, Deathleaper makes a lot of big scary creatures even bigger and even scarier. It’s a perfect Timmy commander.

The Red Terror

The Red Terror Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

In my own personal opinion, The Red Terror is one of the hardest cards to build around from this set. Not because it’s that tricky, but rather because it is extremely simple. The lack of text on the card opens it up to a world of possibilities. There are probably tons of ways to build around this commander.

However, I think you could build it in a very similar way to Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph. Find a bunch of ways to deal small amounts of damage over and over again in order to make The Red Terror a formidable threat, then give it evasion to finish out the game.

Check out the Ghyrson section to get an idea of what pingers you want to use. Here are a few evasion enablers for your commander:

Old One Eye

Old One Eye Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

This last commander has very little to do with the +1/+1 counters theme of the deck, but demonstrates a smaller subtheme of it: aristocrats. There are three things that need to be present for an aristocrats deck to work. Those parts are creatures to sacrifice, creatures that sacrifice those creatures, and payoffs that care when you sacrifice them. The Swarmlord gives you an aristocrat card that also works with +1/+1 counters. Old One Eye, on the other hand, is mostly just an aristocrat card.

Based on the categories I outlined in the previous paragraph, One Eye is technically not an aristocrat. However, aristocrats often appreciate recur-able cards to sacrifice again and again. And if you can pair it with cards like Greater Good or Evolutionary Leap, you have the beginnings of a powerful aristocrats’ engine.

The fact that Old One Eye also gives you an additional creature when it enters the battlefield is added value. You can use that creature for further sac fodder, or you can make a large number of them and kill your opponents with them.

Here are some other sac outlets that would pair pretty well with Old One Eye in this engine:

Feed the Pack Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide Tyranid Swarm Upgrade Guide

Only the Insane Have Strength Enough to Prosper

If you do decide to build around one of these commanders, I hope this article is a good jumping-off point for you. If you found some inspiration in any of these suggestions, or if you thought of a powerful synergy that I missed, let me know down in the comments. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.

You can find more information about the Warhammer 40k Commander deck here. Also, check out the upgrade guides for the other decks:

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