Commander Spotlight: Theft of Dreams

Welcome back to week thirty-two of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been a now-predictable 261 days since my last summoning. Predictable in the sense that after the preceding 7+ months, this week was unlikely to bear any new developments on the pandemic fight.

Well, positive developments anyhow. We have, however, gotten really good here at negative developments. Like, on the cusp of belligerently proud of our own arrogance and stupidity level stuff. Which is, as you’d expect, precisely the sort of mindset you want to have in a catastrophic environment where we now have daily case diagnoses over 100,000 in number with no signs of abating in the short term. I wish I had could point to a single reason for this utter debacle, but I’m afraid it’s due to a cocktail of terrible factors, including the near abdication of coordinated federal response in terms of resources, funding, and guidance, the abject politicization of wearing masks and the willingness of many state government leaders to lean into that, rampant misinformation on the internet, and a percentage of the population that cares more about even the slightest tempering of their individual freedoms than their neighbor’s health.

And that was all before us collectively turning what’s probably our second biggest holiday into a likely superspreader event. We shall see on that one.

I wish I could better explain convey to those of you outside the US just how backwards the entire response here has been; I’m not sure we honestly could have botched it more short of trying to deliberately infect one another. If it was mere embarrassment I could live with that; we’ve done some pretty embarrassing things over the centuries. Yet sadly the repercussions of our failures only compound the direness of the situation. It’s become a continual feedback loop of suffering.

So, no, I did not expect to have much luck getting in a game of Commander in last week, and I have little expectation that will happen again before the year is out. My predilection leans towards saying that hope springs eternal, but it also clashes with vestiges of old-school Yankee dourness. Frankly, I think we’ve gotten ourselves into such an administrative and cultural sinkhole that only the vaccine itself will fix it – and even then I have little faith that any lasting lessons will be learned by much of the populace.

From a Magic perspective, the gaming interlude of the last six months has led to me to look back on my time with it rather than to new releases. To games played at various tables long ago. To decks (and friends) who have come and gone from my life. To times when the biggest concerns of the day weren’t whether it was safe to sit around playing games all day with friends but how that time would be spent.

All of that comes into play this week as a particular wistful card came to mind. As this series’ COVID-based focus continues, where rather than dive into something revolving around Magic directly or exploring a specific topic with a Commander card at the center, I carry on by sharing specific Magic cards that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for quite some time but haven’t for one reason or another. And this week’s seems all too fitting.

Today we have: Theft of Dreams

Name: Theft of Dreams

Edition: Exodus / Portal / Portal: Second Age

Rarity: Common

Focus: Card Draw

Highlights: Before EDH as a widely played format existed, most kitchen table Magic was casual, often of the multiplayer variety. Which is basically like EDH but with less structure. Practically any legal cards can be used. Sometimes decks are highly focused around a particular theme, whereas others are simply a smattering of different ideas bound together. And decks are almost never 60 cards. At the apex of my pre-EDH days I had around casual 20 decks. Almost all of them were constructed with a multiplayer focus and pacing in mind, though I did have a handful designed for dueling – though even then my smallest deck was 70.

My largest deck, on the other hand, was a Blue / White behemoth called The Fortress. Not because of its defensive traits or thematic focus (though some of that did exist within), but simply because of its size. Coming in at 133 cards, it was the largest deck among our play group, aside from a couple short-lived attempts at making Battle of Wits work. Large Magic decks would be scoffed at by many competitive players, but in the world of casual, anything went. And so The Fortress carried on.

Unlike some of my other decks, The Fortress wasn’t the most cohesive in purpose. It didn’t possess one primary theme and instead operated on 3-4 subthemes, including unblockable creatures, playing around with card colors, and defensive protections (still U/W after all). But main crux to the deck was lots of card draw. Many creatures let you draw cards when they dealt damage. Enchantments either boosted the number of cards drawn or allowed you to forgo draws for other effects. And quite a few spells either had cantrip effects, let you draw cards directly, or allowed you to pitch cards for added abilities.

For all of the flash that many of the deck’s fancier cards brought with them, two of my favorite draw spells in the deck were actually quite subdued and unassuming, with a tendency to fly under the radar in terms of potency until used. One of those was Theft of Dreams, which was often used to incredible effect.

Theft of Dreams is a simple Sorcery. For three mana, is states that for each tapped creature an opponent controls, you draw a card. While it’s not unrestricted draw in the sense that you have to wait till the right moment to cast it, the cost-to-benefit ratio on this one can be staggering. Usually waiting until after an opponent makes an attack or otherwise taps down their creatures for one reason or another, Theft of Dreams allows you to capitalize on that shields down moment. Even something as modest as, say, 4 tapped creatures, yields a pretty hefty card draw for a negligible mana cost. Should they have had a larger army, (small aggressive creatures or tokens, for instance), that number could easily be much higher. In the right moments it’s not unheard of to get 6 or more off of an opponent’s prior assault. My personal record was 30.

The one major downside to Theft of Dreams isn’t that it’s a Sorcery (most decent card draw spells are). Rather, it’s that in a duel, it’s not all that advantageous, as you essentially only benefit when your opponent hurts you. In a multiplayer environment on the other hand it becomes way more versatile – allowing you to opportunistically capitalize on any combat that occurs regardless of whether you were the target or not. In Commander, this is even more worthwhile since higher life totals than normal multiplayer also invite the possibility of more frequent clashes between more voluminous armies. At least in theory. But for three mana it’s hard to argue its efficacy the vast majority of the time. Plus, as a common, it’s not exactly hard to come by.

Ironically, the makeup of The Fortress made for an appealing if disjointed normal Magic deck but not one that was easy to change into a cohesive Commander deck. And while Theft of Dreams could easily have been moved over into any number of EDH decks I have which contain Blue, it too sadly hasn’t made the leap yet either. It’s certainly come close in almost every deck build where it was viable but lost out each time. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until that is rectified and I can fully utilize Theft of Dreams once again.

At the rate we’re going though, who knows how long that will be…

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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