Warhammer 40,000 preconstructed decks have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. We’re going to do a thorough analysis of each deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to create a high-impact list of upgrades for under $30.
Necron Dynasties is a Mono Black Artifacts deck with a strong Graveyard subtheme: the deck wants to fill your graveyard with artifact creatures either through self-mill with cards like Flayed One or sacrificing them with cards like Illuminor Szeras, then bring them back out of the graveyard with cards like Technomancer or unearthing themselves like Lokhust Heavy Destroyer. Using their army of constantly recurring threats, Necron Dynasties aims to grind down the opposition under the weight of an unending robot army.
So if you want a unique Mono Black Artifacts deck that leans heavily on grindy Graveyard strategies, then Necron Dynasties is the deck for you!
The Precon List
Before we talk upgrades, let’s take a look at the stock list to see what we’re working with:
Necron Dynasties tries to merge together two archetypes: Graveyards with Artifacts. Graveyard decks are a staple archetype in Mono Black, but Artifacts are not usually in the color’s wheelhouse, so it’s an interesting challenge to see how the precon can pull it off! Thankfully, Necron Dynasties does an excellent job hitting its goal: I count a whopping 56 cards that benefit the main Artifact theme — 50 artifact permanents and 6 additional nonartifact cards that care about artifacts. I also count at least 33 cards that care about its Graveyard theme, either by self-mill, sacrifice, death triggers, or reanimation.
The end result is an highly focused precon that will provide a consistent gameplay experience. Well done, WOTC!
Choosing Our Commander
There are five potential commanders found in this deck: Szarekh, the Silent King, Illuminor Szeras, Imotekh the Stormlord, Anrakyr the Traveller, and Trazyn the Infinite. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and I think there’s a decent argument for having any of them as your commander:
- Szarekh, the Silent King is the face commander of the precon and gets a bad rep from the community for being “bad” when in reality it’s the best commander for the stock list. Szarekh supports the main themes of the deck by providing both self-mill and card advantage: with 30 potential hits on his attack trigger, you have a 67% chance to “draw” a card each time. Yes, that’s still a low amount, but in practice Szarekh comes out early game and provides a mana-free way to start filling your graveyard and draw some cards while you’re at it. All the other commanders require more building around or a more specific board state to do anything useful, while Szarekh is entirely self-sufficient. The flipside is that Szarekh has a low power ceiling: there’s really not too much you can do to further optimize his abilities, making him a poor choice for an upgraded version of the deck. So of all the commanders, Szarekh is the best leader of the stock precon, but gets worse once you start upgrading the deck.
- Illuminor Szeras is the best option if you want to shift the focus of the precon towards a Sacrifice / Aristocrats angle: he functions as a fantastic sacrifice outlet, generating tons of mana while getting those sweet death triggers and putting bodies in the graveyard. There’s plenty of powerful synergies to play with, such as untapping him for repeat activations with Dross Scorpion or adding even better sac fodder like Cathodion for tons of mana. Illuminor is a great value engine and ramp tool that only needs a handful of card swaps to really pop off.
- Imotekh the Stormlord is the commander you choose for “fair” Graveyard shenanigans. While Imotekh does have some combo potential such as Tortured Existence + Phyrexian Altar for infinite death triggers (add a finisher like Zulaport Cutthroat to win), it can also focus on just pooping out a ton of creature tokens and winning with those instead. If you want to focus on the Go Wide Tokens aspect of the deck, Imotekh is the best option.
- Anrakyr the Traveller is the Timmy of the commanders, attacking and immediately slamming down a huge haymaker down on the table, from Bolas’s Citadel to Blightsteel Colossus. You absolutely want both haste and a way for Anrakyr to attack safely, plus tutors like Demonic Tutor and Entomb to find the best thing to cheat into play. Anrakyr is a powerful combination of mana advantage and (optional) recursion, but needing to attack is the risky part.
- Trazyn the Infinite, like his name suggests, is all about going infinite, and this is the commander you want to focus on Combo. Trazyn is essentially Necrotic Ooze in your command zone, with the further restriction of only using artifact creatures: you can deal infinite damage with Phyrexian Devourer + Triskelion, or Pili-Pala + any artifact that taps for 2 mana for infinite mana. Trazyn might have the highest power ceiling of the bunch when fully built around, however none of these cards are in the stock precon so it doesn’t make
I think the best commander for a $30 upgrade to the deck is Illuminor Szeras: the key cards you need for him to pop off are all relatively cheap and you don’t need to change too much of it for him to become way better than Szarekh. Imotekh, Anrakyr, and Trazyn are all fantastic commanders as well, but require higher budgets to take full advantage of their potentials.
Analyzing the Precon & Identifying Weaknesses
Now that we’ve glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let’s take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.
As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:
- 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
- 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
- 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
- 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
- 2 graveyard recursion
- 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
- 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest
- 1 finisher; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup
That’s always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck’s strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.
Let’s see what the rough ratios are for Necron Dynasties and how it compares. I count:
- 50 mana; 37 lands and Canoptek Wraith, Illuminor Szeras, Sol Ring, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Arcane Signet, Mind Stone, Thought Vessel, Commander’s Sphere, Unstable Obelisk, Hedron Archive, Sceptre of Eternal Glory, Gilded Lotus, Caged Sun
- 7 card draw; Chronomancer, Triarch Praetorian, Endless Atlas, Mask of Memory, Mystic Forge, The War in Heaven, Szarekh, the Silent King (I count this as “draw”)
- 7 targeted removal; Canoptek Tomb Sentinel, Lokhust Heavy Destroyer, Necron Deathmark, Shard of the Void Dragon, Defile, Go for the Throat, Unstable Obelisk
- 3 board wipes; Mutilate, Living Death, Their Name Is Death
- 9 graveyard recursion; Lychguard, Anrakyr the Traveller, Technomancer, Dread Return, Beacon of Unrest, Living Death, Out of the Tombs, The War in Heaven, Tomb Fortress
- 0 flexible tutors;
- 1 graveyard hate; Canoptek Scarab Swarm
- 7 finishers; Tomb Blade, Shard of the Void Dragon, Shard of the Nightbringer, Their Number Is Legion, Necron Monolith
The ratios look excellent at a glance. The precon is weak on card draw but makes up for it with a tremendous amount of graveyard recursion, not even counting the high concentration of unearth cards. The finishers are also a mixed bag, mostly trying to hit your opponents with overcosted beaters, but it gets the job done.
That’s basically the deck in a nutshell: it’s Mono Black Artifacts with a strong Graveyard theme, but the way it wins is hitting people in the face with robots.
I have some specific goals when upgrading Necron Dynasties:
- Upgrade the removal
- Upgrade the finishers
- Cut the lesser ramp options
- Add more Sacrifice synergies
- Add more tap/untap synergies
With Illuminor Szeras in the command zone, we have a reliable sacrifice + ramp engine always accessible to us ready to be cast by turn 3. This immediately benefits us two ways: 1) our overcosted finishers like Shard of the Void Dragon become much better since we can get them on the battlefield reliably fast and 2) our lesser ramp options like Hedron Archive can easily be cut since they’re less needed.
But that’s just the start, of course: with our new commander comes new cards to abuse him: sacrificing high mana value creatures like Metalwork Colossus or Sojourner’s Companion is just delicious value and lets us power out whatever overcosted beater we want to get the job done. We can also lean in on untapping him and other creatures for extra value with cards like Dross Scorpion. Finally, we can expand upon the Sacrifice theme which dovetails so nicely in Mono Black Artifacts, running sac fodder like Myr Retriever.
All these powerful synergy pieces that we’re adding individually to the deck happen to also combo very easily together, taking care of our finishers! Here are some highlights:
Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.
Here’s how I’d swap in $30 worth of upgrades. If you want to upgrade on a smaller budget then just makes less swaps:
And here’s the deck with the upgrades installed:
The deck is now much faster, pressuring the board by ramping out huge haymakers and eventually winning the game with an infinite drain combo.
The highest impact non-budget card you can add is probably Thornbite Staff, being the second-best untapper for Illuminor Szeras after Dross Scorpion. There are plenty of other 1-shot untappers out there as well like Thousand-Year Elixir and Patriar’s Seal but the limitless versions are infinitely better since they double as combo finishers.
Instead of jamming all the untappers possible, I would invest in tutors: Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, Grim Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, etc. These fetch your way better cards but have the added flexibility of getting whatever you need for your current situation, like a board wipe to reset the board, or a Skullclamp if you need some draw.
1 Down, 3 To Go!
We’ll be back with the other three precons soon!