Back during the Mirage Block Constructed qualifiers, I was noodling around with one of the top decks at the time (and for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was now). It had beaten all my pet creations and it’s dominance had pretty much convinced me to take it the qualifier coming up in a few days. Then I walked into the game shop and bragged to the owner that I had a sweet deck to take with me. He told me he was considering going to the qualifier, too, and that he’d built an awesome deck he’d like to try out. Trash talking ensued, as I was armed with a superior netdeck, and we shuffled up and played a few games.
He positively crushed me.
I was so amazed at his deck that I ended up going to his house after they closed and we played some more. The deck was ruthless and punishing. I went ahead and built it and we both played it at the qualifier, doing fairly well – but eventually, I got eliminated from the running due to some play mistakes and some unlucky breaks.
The deck was a base black deck that used cards like Necratog, Barrow Ghoul, Circling Vultures, and Hidden Horror to deliver fast big beats. Dark Rituals powered them out early. Buried Alive primed the graveyard in my buddy’s version, but I ended up splashing red for Incinerates and a little-used card at the time, Firestorm. This was before Randy Buehler and Erik Lauer showed Firestorm to the world, paired with that little broken enchantment, Necropotence.
My buddy used Buried Alive to transfer resources from his library to his graveyard, to fuel large Necratogs or to feed hungry Ghouls and Vultures. What intrigued me about using Firestorm instead was that it transferred resources from your hand to your graveyard. We ran the legends Gallowbraid and Morinfen in numbers so that we could be assured of drawing them often enough, but multiple copies drawn were always a pain. Hidden Horror helped – but Firestorm was better since not only could it prime your graveyard with goodies for your ghoulies, but it removed blockers and potentially dealt damage to your opponent too. Great synergy with your temporary beaters. Firestorm really hit home to me how useful cards where that could transfer resources from one zone to another.
Fast-forward four or five years, and here we are with the Odyssey block. Suddenly, the graveyard zone is important again. Spells and abilities that transfer cards from your hand or library to the graveyard start to become important considerations. Buried Alive is back! Entomb is good! Whether you’re trying to obtain threshold, trying to animate a fattie or Reya, or trying to feed Necratog’s nephew the Psychatog, getting cards in the graveyard is important. What a perfect time for Firestorm to be reprinted, eh?
By and large, they’re a little slower than Firestorm; they cost more mana, and most of them are sorceries. But on the plus side, they perform a wide variety of functions and seriously enable all the colors with handy resource transfer tools. If your graveyard is something you’re concerned with for whatever reason, one of these cards could fit in your deck. Let’s give them a closer look, shall we?
Firestorm’s main use came from it’s powerful effect of dealing mass damage for only a single mana, clearing the way for my temporary heavy hitters to get their damage in, and its closest relatives can be found in red (surprise!) and black.
As an additional cost to play Devastating Dreams, discard X cards at random from your hand. Each player sacrifices X lands. Devastating Dreams deals X damage to each creature.
Devastating Dreams is the offspring of Daddy Firestorm and Mama Wildfire. Nuking creatures and lands, this card has the potential of generating serious card advantage and board control. The main limitation of this card is the fact that the card discard effect is random, which could make it quite difficult to follow up the devastation with the card you want to play (like maybe dropping a creature or another land). So though your opponent’s lands and creature’s are nuked, he still has his hand to play with while your hand has likely been wrecked. Another limitation is that fact that Devastating Dreams only deals damage to creatures, so against creatureless or creature-light decks it’s going to be much less effective. Thirdly, the double red mana cost makes it tough to play in anything but a dedicated red deck. I actually think the worthier Firestorm heir is found in black.
Sickening Dreams is the offspring of Daddy Firestorm and Mama Pestilence – and while it can’t disrupt your opponent’s lands like the red Dream, it can damage your opponent. What’s nice about both Sickening and Devastating Dreams is that the damage dealt is non-targeted. However, one concern I had about playing the damage-dealing Dreams was, what would happen if I played madness creatures as part of the discard cost? For instance, I pitch two Basking Rootwallas, an Arrogant Wurm and another useless card to have Sickening Dreams deal four damage; do my poor critters come into play, only to immediately die? Luckily, some rules gurus explained it to me that, no, the madness cards do not begin to resolve until the Dreams resolves… Which makes the damaging Dreams even better!
(ADDITION:”Madness is one of the most complex abilities that the Magic R&D team has ever designed.”– Paul Barclay
Boy, is it ever! Madness’ complicated timing issues tripped me up; I seem to have made an error here regarding Torment’s Dreams (The Firestorm Principle), and since Madness is complex enough for all of us without me feeding you wrong information, please note that the above paragraph is incorrect:
Truth is, the madness creatures would come into play before the damage resolves, making pitching them to a huge Devestating or Sickening Dreams officially not a combo! Sorry for any confusion I may have caused, and special thanks to Jeff Wiles, Chris Green, and Jerrod Bright for quickly catching the mistake.)
Another use for Firestorm was moving cards from your hand to your graveyard, which let me feed my Barrow Ghouls and Circling Vultures, or to prime a large Necratog. More modern applications could include enabling threshold heavy hitters like Werebear and Mystic Enforcer. Torment’s Dreams accomplish this as well, but there are two cards that actually exchange cards in hand for cards in the graveyard, making them much more like Recall than Firestorm. Green gets one and – surprise! So does black.
As an additional cost to play Nostalgic Dreams, discard X cards from your hand. Return X target cards from your graveyard to your hand. Remove Nostalgic Dreams from the game.
Mike Flores on Sideboard goes into great detail about the power of Nostalgic Dreams and its comparison to Recall, so there’s little else valuable I can add. I will point out the sick synergy of this card with Fact or Fiction – as if we needed to make Fact or Fiction even more powerful.
While your first instinct is to compare this to a super-charged Raise Dead, it’s actually very much like Recall, with the restriction of only being able to retrieve creatures from the graveyard. In a modern black/green creature-heavy deck, you can exchange madness creatures and flashback creature spells in hand for problematic creatures that might be in the graveyard like Spellbane Centaur or Spiritmonger, dramatically increasing the density of threats you can present to your opponent. An obvious powerhouse in Limited, I expect that this might see some use in beatdown decks that can generate the black mana.
Firestorm helped you gain control of the board at the expense of cards in hand. Torment has two other Dreams that, like Devastating and Sickening Dreams, can handle permanents on the board. However, these two Dreams can’t win you the game themselves and instead serve very narrow board control functions.
Two conflicting characteristics of blue hold the key to this card’s success hanging in between them. First off, no other color can generate the sheer volume of cards in hand that could conceivably be discarded for a huge bounce effect. But on the other hand, blue tends to not want to play spells that are inherently card disadvantaged. The key is utility and tempo. Turbulent Dreams temporarily handles any nonland permanent for very little mana, which makes it extremely flexible utility. It leaves you mana to counter whatever might try and be replayed next turn. Combine with 187 effects of your own that you don’t mind back in your hand, like Mystic Snake, and you start to turn this into card advantage. One thing this card definitely does is gain massive tempo advantage by potentially canceling out a large amount of mana investment by your opponent (casting creatures and other permanents) over the course of several turns with a small mana investment of your own for the price of cards in hand. Could be a perfect complement to an Opposition/Static Orb strategy.
The problem with modern White Weenie strategies is that there are just bigger and better creatures out there. Vengeful Dreams plugs that hole by giving you a nice defense against large and/or numerous attackers. It also gives white a nice threshold enabler that can energize some of Odyssey’s threshold weenies and Divine Sacrament. While this may not give White Weenie the boost it needs to claw back up to Tier 1, the next expansion Judgement is expected to help white out quite a bit – and Vengeful Dreams may find a role in this summer’s new crop of white decks.
Super Vampiric Tutor… Sorta
Lastly, we have the Tutor dream; something for the combo players, who’ve had a very lean diet of late.
As an additional cost to play Insidious Dreams, discard X cards from your hand. Search your library for X cards. Then shuffle your library and put those cards on top of it in any order.
In terms of sheer card advantage, this card is the worst of the bunch. Effectively losing a card right off the bat by casting it, for each additional card you lose you get to stack your deck with one card from your library. Insidious Dreams does nothing to affect the board at all, instead manipulating your hand, library, and graveyard. Madness cards and card drawing power like Fact or Fiction can offset the card advantage lost for the privilege of stacking your deck. So why would you want to stack your deck? Maybe you have an intricate combo that will win you the game if you can just get the cards together. Obsessive Search works perfectly with Insidious Dreams if you’ve got the extra mana to pay the madness cost, letting you effectively swap each Search in hand with any card in your graveyard. Couple with cheap card drawing like Words of Wisdom, you can quickly draw up the combo pieces you set up to achieve your nefarious plans. If there’s a powerful combo deck on our horizon, Insidious Dreams may very well play a part in helping it execute.
(FURTHER ADDITION – D’oh! – Actually, you’d draw the cards from the Searches you pitched, then stack
your deck with the Dreams. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused, and special thanks to Jeff Wiles,
Chris Green, and Jerrod Bright for quickly catching the mistake.)
So how would I rank these in terms of pure power? In my own opinion, here’s how they fall:
#7 Vengeful Dreams – Narrow, situational, and white weenie isn’t very good right now
#6 Turbulent Dreams – Sorcery speed hurts, temporary in nature
#5 Insidious Dreams – You have to work really hard to make this good, but it can be done
#4 Restless Dreams – A solid card in the right deck
#3 Devastating Dreams – Random discard keeps this from the #1 slot
#2 Sickening Dreams – The true heir to the Firestorm mantle
#1 Nostalgic Dreams – A new and powerful Recall!