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Enter Dream’s Realm With This The Sandman MTG Commander Deck

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman Header

“People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.” – Neil Gaiman

Commander decks, much like dreams, are a substance of one’s imagination before they are anything else. Some of my absolute favorite commander brews are made up of such wild imaginings.  They often take inspiration from beautiful and strange things, such as today’s deck pulled from the worlds of The Sandman comic books dreamt up by author Neil Gaiman. With the upcoming release of the Netflix series set to bring fresh eyes on the property, I wanted to share my The Sandman theme deck with the community.

The Commander of the deck is built of pure visuals. While there are several creatures in Magic’s history that can do a passable impression of Dream, the titular Sandman, Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths has the robes, the peculiar helm, and the general air of mystery that drives the aesthetic appeal seen throughout the comic book series. Mechanically, Atris also does a great job of replicating the often cryptic nature of Dream– do you know the right answer to the questions he poses, or are you just picking blindly from a choice of damnations?

Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths (Extended Art)

Right behind Dream I wanted to make sure that the rest of The Endless, the godlike incarnations of many of the core parts of the human condition, were represented in the deck. Either visually or mechanically (or both!), each of The Endless is represented below. Lazav is perfect visually for Destiny, Egon and Death are obvious one for ones, Syr Konrad shows the wistfully grim nature of Destruction, Gonti luxuriates in Desire, Archfiend is a clean cut for Despair, and Chainer’s nightmarish dementia does wonders to represent Delirium.

Lazav, the MultifariousEgon, God of Death // Throne of DeathSyr Konrad, the GrimGonti, Lord of LuxuryArchfiend of DespairChainer, Dementia Master

My favorite planeswalker aesthetically is, without question, Ashiok. Ashiok shares some stark visual similarities with Dream, easily standing in for the many forms that he can take to dreamers. I’ll take any excuse to run a little Ashiok tribal package, so they make an appearance to rend dreams and bring nightmares that match The Sandman’s aesthetic. 

Ashiok, Dream RenderAshiok, Nightmare WeaverAshiok, Nightmare Muse

The worlds of The Sandman are full of curiosities. Many strange beings live in the realms of dreams and nightmares, while others exist to explore those realms. In addition to dreams, The Sandman spends no small amount of time traipsing through hellish landscapes, sanity draining worlds, and quite literal hell, giving the deck some space to include assorted oddities and demons. Of these, Cauldron Familiar jumps out as representing the cats from my favorite issue, A Dream of a Thousand Cats, with the full cat-oven combo included as a shout out to the (often unsavory) themes of food and consumption in the comic. I also had to include one of the best birds in Magic to represent Matthew, Dream’s familiar, with Baleful Strix.

Cauldron FamiliarBaleful StrixDream StalkerDreamscape ArtistDream DevourerGlasspool Mimic // Glasspool ShoreThief of SanityDreamstealerArchaeomancerNightmare ShepherdMulldrifterGray Merchant of AsphodelMnemonic WallDream EaterSoramaro, First to DreamMyojin of Cryptic Dreams

Dream’s power suite is all about warping reality within the realms of dreams and beyond, so it was surprisingly easy to dredge up instants that often beautifully replicate this. Bending the fabric of reality, replacing one dream with another, and inviting the viewer into the surreal are all cleanly shown with many cards in Magic’s history. A few of my favorite’s are included here.

Swan SongReality ShiftPeel from RealityDream FractureGhostly FlickerDisplaceCryptic CommandInsidious DreamsDrown in DreamsSublime Epiphany

The power of sleep and the maddening nightmares that may follow are the biggest pieces found in the set of sorceries wielded by Dream. We can find still more reality warping effects, but often with the grim “lesson” that Dream tends to teach those under his influence. Make an Example rings of several of the horrors that we see in the comics (and presumptively can… “look forward to” in the show), and the X spells give us flavorful ways to close out a game that’s gone on tortuously long.

Restless DreamsInvoke DespairWhispering MadnessSleepStartled Awake // Persistent NightmareDamnationMake an ExampleDeny RealityNightmare UnmakingReality StrobeProfane CommandTorment of Hailfire

We continue to see the mind bending and sundy dream-related powers that Dream may wield, the majority of which are likely self explanatory. Basically all of them have art to match the aesthetic we’re going for, with again one key story piece jumping out at the bottom of the list: The Meathook Massacre. One of the most upsetting stories in The Sandman, 24 Hours, is a grim and bloody sequence that The Meathook Massacre captures the feeling of- just swap the medieval butchery for a Diner and you’ve got all the makings of a horrific flashback sequence waiting in the cards.

Sigil of SleepUnderworld DreamsCharmed SleepPropagandaDream LeashThe Meathook Massacre

Many mystical artifacts and tools are given time to shine in The Sandman, giving us plenty of options for mana rocks, weapons, and more. Of these, the most notable have to be Conjurer’s Closet, showing the often mysterious means of travel that Dream employs, and Champion’s Helm as a clear representation of the alien helm that Dream traditionally wears into battle. 

Witch's OvenSol RingTalisman of DominanceArcane SignetMind StoneChampion's HelmCommander's SpherePanharmoniconConjurer's ClosetDreamstone Hedron

Finally, we have assorted cards that show off the many dreaming realms, with the majority of the landbase working solidly to represent some of the landscapes that we see throughout the comics. From grand cityscapes and medieval castles to beautiful fields, we can see a glimpse of Neil Gaiman’s vision in the lands spread throughout the deck.

Command TowerSunken HollowWatery GraveDrowned CatacombDimir AqueductClearwater Pathway // Murkwater PathwayMorphic PoolChoked EstuaryCreeping Tar PitFetid PoolsPolluted DeltaBojuka BogMystic SanctuaryCastle LocthwainCastle VantressGeier Reach SanitariumSwamp (267)Island (265)

All of the beautiful flavor of the deck aside, let’s talk about how it plays. The early game starts with you playing out mana rocks and some early value. You then start sculpting your hand with your Commander combined with several other forms of card advantage, all while offering a handful of answers to problems that your opponents might present. In an ideal world, you’re also infinitely blocking with the cat-oven combo.

Cauldron FamiliarWitch's Oven

Your late game has plenty of threats, but is capped off with some expensive haymakers and a combo finisher. Torment of Hailfire is a very common way to end the game, and if it doesn’t end the game an expensive Torment can devastate the opponent. Myojin of Cryptic Dreams copying Gray Merchant or Dream Eater can be beautifully back-breaking. Finally, Archaeomancer or Mnemonic Wall combined with Ghostly Flicker or Displace lets you flicker another creature for every three mana you have. Replaying “Dream” over and over again is great, but you can easily close out a game with Gray Merchant. You can even find all the pieces with the thoroughly underrated tutor, Insidious Dreams!

Torment of HailfireMyojin of Cryptic DreamsGray Merchant of AsphodelDream EaterArchaeomancerGhostly FlickerInsidious Dreams

With a game plan in mind, you’re more than ready to shuffle up this dream filled deck and give your opponent’s nightmares. Reach out to me in the comments with any flavorful Sandman cards I’m missing and tell me @FenrirRex on twitter what theme deck you’d like to see next. Until next time, dream of your next big win.

The Sandman Theme Deck by Drew Knapp

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