Recurring Nightmares – Waking Life

When I was in seventh grade, I was forced to take a foreign language course in school. I grew up in a small town, and our options were limited—I was given a choice between French and Spanish. I chose French, largely due to being 13 years old and the teacher being an attractive 20-something woman. There were a lot of boys in our French class. I think we all had the same idea.

I took French for five years, and today I speak barely a word of the language, mostly due to disuse, but one thing our teacher told us has always stuck with me. She said, “One of the surest signs that you’re fluent in a language—or close to it—is that you start to dream in that language.”

Dreams are powerful. They have a very real impact on us, and though I don’t personally ascribe much to the idea that there are hidden meanings behind dreams, I know that the emotions experienced during them tend to impact the mental state during the following day. Unfortunately I have plenty of first-hand experience with this, as I am prone to vivid, horrifying nightmares. In fact, the earliest memory I can recall from my life is one of a nightmare, and the reaction I had the next morning.

I may not be fluent in French, but I am fluent in Magic: the Gathering, and I’ve had countless dreams revolving around the game. While some of my friends may have had one or two Magic-influenced dreams, their experiences are far less frequent than mine. Given my track record with dreaming, this makes a lot of sense to me. Often my dreams exist as a way of de-compartmentalizing the events of the day, a jumbled mess of all the worries and fears and thoughts I have while awake. Since I think about Magic a lot, it stands to reason I would dream about it often, as well.

The other night, I had a doozy.

The dream began in my LGS, Cloud City Comics and Toys in Syracuse, NY; where I was playing in a typically-sized FNM, though I knew it to be a much more important event. Cloud City hasn’t made the jump to hosting PTQs yet, but the event in this dream was their first. It was being judged by friend and teammate Jason.

I was playing Br Devotion, a deck that hit the scene in the hands of Eric Froehlich during GP Cincinnati. I’m fairly high on this deck right now, and the night before the dream I had been practicing with the deck. It’s a great adaptation of the Mono-Black Devotion list, which shores up some issues the mono-colored version has across the field. The addition of Rakdos’s Return is a brutal hit to the Jund and RG Monsters decks that could be tight matchups with the Mono-Black version, as well as Esper Control. The removal of Pack Rat and Nightveil Specter made me hesitate at first, but the more I play the deck, the more satisfied I am with that change.

In the dream, I fly through the first three rounds undefeated, dispatching opponent after opponent with ease. My teammate Bret is also in the X-0 bracket, and each round we would go to the pairings sheet together to see if we were paired. Our fingers were crossed that our paths would remain uncrossed until we would be capable of drawing into the Top 8. Bret has a number of PTQ Top 8’s in a variety of formats, but he’s still on the hunt for his first win. He’s one of the few in the event that I see as an obstacle on my road to victory.

Round four begins. I sit at my assigned table, and pull out my deck. My sideboard is not in my deckbox. My opponent unobservantly shuffles his deck across from me, as I begin to frantically search my area for my sideboard. During his shuffling, he flashes me black cards, and I know I’m facing a mirror. I get up from the table and head to the counter, in the quiet hope to find three Pharika’s Cures to add to my sideboard—I’m certain that though I seem to have found the rest of my sideboard, it doesn’t contain the Cures that I registered. I know I have three Dark Betrayals with me, but that isn’t what’s written on my deck list, and if I use them I’m asking for trouble regardless of how good they’d be for me in this match. Even in the dream state I know better than to cheat.

I find a Pharika’s Cure, and somehow it manages to replicate itself. I head back to the table, as I had been looking for Cures for well over ten minutes, and get myself ready for the match. I apologize to my opponent profusely for the delay, and he’s incredibly good-natured about the whole thing. He’s been watching his girlfriend play at the table next to us, so he doesn’t mind. I look around the table, as now my main deck has gone missing.

Instantly filled with panic, I begin thrashing about searching high and low for my deck. I have a Mono-Blue Devotion deck that was my backup plan for the day, but the black deck is nowhere to be found. Between searching for the sideboard cards and now searching for my deck, I’ve eaten up a large chunk of the clock, and I’m given a warning for stalling or something. I dump my backpack on the table and open up the box containing my Cube. I find my deck buried in the Cube, having been shuffled into it at some point between the beginning of the round and now.

As I begin to pull the cards out of the Cube—which is conveniently made simple by the fact that they’re in Pink Dragonshields, which I haven’t used in years—my opponent turns to his girlfriend and asks, “Dots on the left or on the right?” She patiently replies “Right,” and I notice his sleeves for the first time. They are orange Ultra-Pro sleeves, with an enormous black dot in Sharpie marker on the left-center of the back of each sleeve. He chuckles and turns the deck around so the dot is on his right.

I say, “Dude! You can’t have marks on your sleeves like that!” to which he replies, “Why not? They’re all in the same place.” I yell for a judge, who happens to be seated in the chair next to me. Jason chastises me for yelling in his ear. Before I can find out the result of that judge call, the scene shifts to the next round.

I’m still at X-0, which means I must have won round 4 against the Dot Guy, but this round, I’m playing against an opponent playing cheese. Like, actual cheese slices, like you’d put on crackers with pepperoni at your Italian Grandmother’s house on your Aunt’s birthday. He has a whole plate of cheese where his deck should be. I’m absolutely blown away that this is happening, but my opponent is unfazed by his apparent sick new technology. Somehow, despite the fact that he is holding a hand full of sharp cheddar, he seems to be able to recognize the difference between one slice and another. I say, “Hey, you’re aware that you’re holding a bunch of cheese and we’re playing Magic, right?” He dismisses me with a shrug.

In a futile attempt to prove to this guy how ridiculous this is, I grab a pile of cheese and start shuffling it up. The opponent definitively leads with cheese-Island, then taps his cheese to cast a cheese Teardrop Kami.

“Sure!” I laugh, munching on one of the cards in my hand. Ignoring the fact that his card isn’t even Standard legal (because let’s be honest, this is cheese), I play a cheese-Swamp and lead with Thoughtcheese. He reveals his hand—as though somehow I’m going to be able to choose between a Gouda and a Munster, and make the best pick—and I become furious. “It’s all just F***ING CHEESE!!!!” I yell, and he flinches back from my anger. In a fit of rage, I grab his Teardrop Kami and bite it in half, and throw the rest of my hand on the table in frustration. I think to myself “How the hell is the Cheese guy sitting at 4-0 in a PTQ?” as the scene fades.

A few things make this dream eerie to me.

First, the Pharika’s Cures. I know why I couldn’t find them in the dream, and why the panic set in, as I spent a bunch of time the night prior trying to find Cures in my collection and failing. They’re in a deck box in my house somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I can find them now. I’m sure you can all relate to knowing you have cards and not finding them anywhere when you need them. As soon as I move on to another deck, they’ll show up. The odd thing about this is that the situation literally happened a few nights later at FNM, when I spent a bunch of time before round one looking at the counter for Pharika’s Cures, found one, and then immediately was handed two more by a friend who had found them in the store’s commons boxes. I didn’t think of it at the time, but that situation bordered on premonition. If only I had the power to see the future on important things, like next week’s lotto numbers or what Travis Woo is playing tomorrow that will spike a garbage rare’s value (aka, the lotto).

The second strange thing has to do with all the cheating/judge calls during the dream. I don’t know if I’m particularly concerned about opponents trying to run the cheats on me, but I did have an experience with that recently and it may have been a latent concern. A few weeks ago I had a player piloting RG Monsters lead with an Elvish Mystic, and passed. He played a second Mystic on turn 2, a second Forest, and attacked for 1. On my end step, he attempted to play a Boon Satyr. Now, I’ve known this player for a while, he’s not new to Magic or to competitive events. He knows better. I stopped him and said, “you just played that Elf.” He looked at me puzzled and said, “you can’t tap an Elf the turn it comes into play?” I got quite upset and yelled at him a little, because he knows that, he knows-I know-he knows that, and he was trying to pull a fast one on me. I publicly embarrassed him in front of the store full of regular local players, which I felt was a more effective punishment than calling a judge at a small local event and more likely to forestall any further attempts at shadiness, and we moved on with our game. I wasn’t fully satisfied with the whole ordeal, and it probably had something to do with the way this dream took shape. Both the Dot Guy and the Cheese Guy had pieces of that opponent in their makeup. On the flip side of that coin, there’s the issue with the Cures vs. Dark Betrayals, and my own urge to cheat. It’s easy to think (especially in low-level events like FNM) that making a change like this won’t hurt anything, and no one will find out—but that’s a steep and very frictionless decline that you don’t want to step foot on. Perhaps no one will catch you—but you’ll know.

And if you can live with that, and you can accept that you’re willing to “cheat small,” it isn’t difficult to start blurring the line between small and big. I admit that I still have those knee-jerk thoughts about cheats—like “should I tell him his creature doesn’t die to this combat, even though he’s putting it in the ‘yard?” or “There’s way more red than black here. I wish I had boarded differently. There’s no deck registration, should I just switch?” It’s the same feeling I get when I see a snot-nosed pre-teen on a skateboard in front of a store and get the urge to kick the skateboard out from under him. Sure, I could do it, and I’d probably be able to live with it. But is that really the persona I want for myself? The mistake isn’t in the thought—you can’t always control where your mind travels—the mistake is in taking action. That’s a choice.

That’s a lot of heavy analysis coming from a dream about cheese.

As much as I don’t believe there’s a secret truth being revealed by the subconscious mind in a dream state, you can always think about the things that caused you to create the specific pattern in your mind that led to a specific dream.

What about all of you? Have you dreamt about Magic lately?



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