The first Commander release for 2020 is now out and we've been already enjoying the new commanders for about a week. Poroscope has covered all the other decks except Symbiotic Swarm which we will look into today.
Symbiotic Swarm is Abzan-colored or white-black-green. Pretty normal for Abzan decks is that they focus on creatures, reanimation, and interacting with the grave also in some other ways. Abzan packs also a huge variety of removal spells because of its colors. In addition to these, Abzan is usually focused on counters as well and here we find also the theme of the Symbiotic Swarm deck: counters.
The default commander for the deck is Kathril, Aspect Warper whose etb-ability lets the player put counters on any creature they control depending on which kind of creatures the player has in their graveyard. In addition to this, Kathril gets a +1/+1 counter for each counter placed on a creature this way. As you could imagine from the commander, the 34 other creatures in the deck pack a huge variety of different keyword-abilities.
The other possible commanders for this deck are Tayam, Luminous Enigma, or the partners Nikara, Lair Scavenger, and Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel. In my opinion, the best commander for this deck is - once again - the default commander. The partner commanders from this deck could work in a nice way if the deck would be built around +1/+1 counters instead.
With the default commander, the game plan is pretty straight forward: the goal is to get creatures to your graveyard and to the battlefield and gain a ton of keyword abilities to your swarm of creatures with Kathril. Luckily the product includes the counter tokens for all the keywords in the deck so that the player can really keep track of which creature has which ability. And if you happen to lose these, using pieces of paper and a pen can do the trick as well!
At first glance the deck looks at least pretty interesting! The same kind of idea and mechanic has been used in the modern format in a deck called "Soulflayer Surprise", which aims to delve creatures with multiple keywords to the soulflayer thus making it very powerful. The namesake creature can be found also in this deck and maybe the whole deck has gotten its idea from this creature or deck!
In addition to the commander, the deck includes 34 creatures, some removal spells, mana producing artifacts, and of course lands. In artifacts, you can find a new card called Netherborn Altar, which lets the player return their commander to their hand from their command zone. I think this might see a ton of play in the commander tables! The Player will lose some life by using this but if the player has any access to gaining life, this card is a powerhouse! From the cycle of free-to-cast cards, if the player controls a commander, this deck includes the green one called Obscuring Haze, which prevents all combat damage from your opponent's creatures. The card is pretty useful, but in my opinion the weakest from this cycle - of course depending on the tables you play!
How to upgrade the deck?
The first things that come in mind are Legendary Creatures Anafenza, the Foremost and Karador, Ghost Chieftain. Both could work in the deck pretty well and especially Karador could easily cast creatures from your graveyard since you try to get them there anyway. Anafenza would provide some synergy with +1/+1 counters and also slow down your opponents if they play something related to the graveyard. The deck includes 38 lands which is pretty much and you could drop maybe two of them to put in some cards that have more impact on the game. From Ikoria, the new artifact Ozolith would be a great include as well as the Abzan colored ultimatum Eerie Ultimatum.
In the end, the deck's game plan seems fun and at least different compared to some other commander decks before it. It is hard to say though will it's power level be enough to compete with the other precon decks but at least it can pack a punch with some really powerful creatures! The deck might be a bit commander centric which can be a problem sometimes. The counters theme is anyways fun and Abzan has a tendency to play pretty well in games that take a while longer to end. So if you are up for a counters grind, this might be the right deck for you!
Pekka "Löhis" Löhönen