Through the Breach, Master Spotlight: The Dreamer (Summoner style) Pt 1.

Greetings!  I’m here today to talk to everyone about a very serious condition: Summoning Sickness (get it?  It’s a M:tG joke).

Earlier this year, everyone’s favorite child of Malifaux received a Cuddle in the form of changes to his primary totem, the Daydreams.  Specifically, Daydreams no longer add Masks to every summon Dreamer does for a turn, but just the first.   While this may seem a reasonably small change, it does impact how Dreamer (or at least the build most commonly known as Summoning Dreamer) plays.  And this change has led some people to call The Dreamer anything from “harder to play” to “fine if you’re just playing for fun.”  And I’m here to tell you, fellow fanciers of the demonesque faction, this is simply not the case.  This article aims to both explain to experienced players why it’s not that bad and also introduce new Dreamer players to the greatness that is Summoning Dreamer!

Let’s do a quick run-down of The Dreamer (if you already know all about him, feel free to skip down to the meat of the article).  I’m going to leave aside “Chompy Dreamer” (Tantrum, Restless Dreams, use 4 shooting actions to get to Waking +4 and summon Lord Chompy Bits) in this article, because Chompy Dreamer is just what he’s always been.  And we’ll talk about the new hotness, Teen Angst Dreamer, in another article.  It’s Summoning Dreamer who interests me here.  The core of Summoning Dreamer is, obviously, The Dreamer, combined with his Dreams of Pain upgrade.  Dreams of Pain allows Dreamer to summon any Minion or Enforcer (a very rare ability) with the Nightmare keyword, with a TN of 10MM + the soulstone cost of the model being summoned (and Dreams of Pain has a built in Mask).  Currently, that includes the following models: Daydreams (super useful), Alps (good for you for trying!), Insidious Madness (great for schemes!), Stitched Together (great for murder!), Lilitu (great for everything!), Lelu (helps Lilitu!), Bandersnatch (That’s sure a model you can summon!), Coppelius (just hire him) and Teddy (Gimmicky but great).  Models summoned by Dreamer take a lot of negatives – they come in with 1 wound left, and they’re slow.  So from the outside, Dreamer looks like an awful Summoner – he pays 5 stones (5!) for the ability to do it and his summons suffer from both of the common summoning balances – damage and slow.  To many people, his only real saving grace was that Daydreams can let him summon with any card, so he doesn’t have to stone for suits or draw well.  The cuddle to Daydreams impacts that.  But don’t worry!  He’s still great!

The other important mechanic with Dreamer summoning: Every time Dreamer summons a model, he gains Waking +1 – generally playing Summoning Dreamer revolves around managing your Waking and your crew.  Waking has two key things to remember – 1. at Waking +4, Dreamer becomes Lord Chompy Bits (which may or may not be what you want to happen).  2. When a model activates within 6″ of Dreamer, it heals an amount equal to 3-waking.  He has a 0 that reduces Waking by one, but clever users of math will note that summoning 3 models and reducing Waking by 1 is still a net increase of 2 Waking per turn, which will put Dreamer in to LCB by turn 2.  Which is part of why the Cuddle isn’t that big a deal.

As a note, the vast majority of Summoning Dreamer builds will also take Otherworldly, which gives Dreamer Accomplice, so that one of the models you summoned can activate before it gets quickly murdered.  Combined with his ability to heal in an aura, this is the second reason that the Cuddle isn’t so painful, and what makes Summoning Dreamer still super mega cool, even with new hotness Teen Angst running around!  I also typically throw On Wings of Darkness on Dreamer (honestly, it’s hard not to put it on every NB master) to let him do even more card filtering to get those high masks.

The other thing that is on Dreamer’s card (and the thing that many people basically ignored prior to the change) is Empty Night.  It’s a relatively easy action to trigger, and the suit of the flip does various things, ranging from a 6″ push + 1 AP melee action through (repeatably) removing a condition (and yes, slow is a condition), swinging past granting fast, and ending up at heal 2.

So let’s look at what Dreamer is doing most of the time:

He typically brings at least one Daydream.  Post-Cuddle, two is probably the right number.  Turn one, a Daydream is going to activate, push a Nightmare with the first AP (Widow Weaver, another Daydream, or Coppelius most likely), and then sacrifice for the second AP.  Once Dreamer goes, he’s likely summoning twice – once with the free mask from the Daydream, and once with either a cheated card or a soulstone’d card.  If you’ve got a two 11+ cards in hand, those are 99% of the time going to be the Twins (Lelu and Lilitu).  If not, Stitched Together or Insidious Madnesses are probably the best option.  That’s +2 Waking.  Reduce it to +1 with his (0) action, and he’s at Waking +1.  With a single AP left, the options are usually to move to a safe location or to use Empty Night on one of the Twins – ideally with a Tome for the first flip, clearing slow off Lilitu.  If she’s likely to get immediately engaged, healing 2 (taking both her and Lelu from 6 damage to 4) is probably ideal.  Otherwise, Fast (which gives her fast, and puts Lelu at 2 AP) is a good plan.

Then Lilitu chain activates.  She first regenerates (taking her and Lelu to either 5 damage or 3), and then she heals from Dreamer’s aura (taking them both to either 3 damage or 1).  She does her thing.  Your opponent does their thing.  Now Lelu activates, regenerating and healing, and both of them are at full health, barring interference.

While it does take all of Dreamer’s AP, you’ve gained 14 (call it 13 if you’re salty about Lelu) SS worth of models for 7 SS cost.  It’s not a bad deal, and now pretty much everything after this is gravy.

Compare this to pre-Cuddle Dreamer: in that bygone world, Dreamer could use all 3 AP for summoning, so he’s got Lilitu, Lelu and most likely a Stitched or Insidious Madness (since they can be summoned on a 9 or 10).  Lilitu/Lelu are at 4 damage each, which will reduce to 2 each after another activation, and you’ve got an extra model (with 2 wounds left), and potentially one more soulstone (depending on your hand).

The differences between those two scenarios are, honestly, not that significant.  While extra activations are good, scenario 1 gives you 2 healthy models, as compared to the 3 damaged models.  Additionally, going in to turn 2, the first scenario still has the option to sac another Daydream and spend a stone/card for 2 models, have another AP, and still heal things in the area (ends at 2 Waking).  The second scenario (at 3 Waking) can summon one more model after using a (0) and sac’ing a Daydream.  Net change: a couple of wounds, and 0-2 Soulstones.  It’s a reduction, but it’s an extremely small one over all, and one that potentially leaves you set up better (as Lilitu and Lelu are farther up the board).

So, with all that out-of-the-way, what’s our favorite child summoner doing with his life?  Generally, he’s a support summoner.  He’s going to be adding 1-2 models a turn (probably mixing in a Daydream every couple turns) and then buffing 1-2 models a turn with fast, or a heal, or a 6″ push and a 1 AP Melee.  Those are all extremely useful actions.  Occasionally, he’s going to Hulk out, turn in to LCB, and chew something up.  That’s life as The Dreamer.

The other thing to consider is who’s coming along with him.  Shockingly, I have some thoughts!  I’ll follow the format of my esteemed professor Alex here:

The Essentials

Daydreams: Dreamer, more than almost anyone, needs his totems.  While he can summon them reasonably easy, it’s typically far more efficient to start with at least one.  I prefer two, so that turns 1 and 2 can be devoted to bringing out the Twins, a Stitched and an Insidious Madness.  Additionally, the fact that a Daydream has a push for Nightmares (and 95% of his crew will be Nightmares) that can be triggered at the top of turn 2, and then popped for a Mask.  At the very least, though, he needs one, to make the first turn smooth.

Coppelius: You can build a Dreamer crew without Coppelius, but I wouldn’t.  For 8ss, you get a model with a strong melee attack, a reasonable defense, a self-heal (after getting eyeballs) that can be pushed by Daydreams.  He makes Horror duels painful, provokes his own, and can, if desired, summon Alps, which also synergizes reasonably well.  And Coppelius makes a fantastic carrier for On Dreaming Wings, which boosts him up to a fantastic walk 8, as well as granting flight to all Nightmares (again, most of the crew) around him.  Coppelius fits very nicely in the role that is coming to be called the Interceptor – a reasonably fast model that can get in the way of other things (very often scheme runners) and either murder little things (often eating their eyeballs!) or making a good speed bump for bigger things.  He requires eyeballs to really get going, but he’s fair on his own, and the ability to give everything around him flight is amazing.  If you don’t like him, though, the Widow Weaver (see below) can sometimes fill this role instead.

Big Models

Summoning Dreamer crews usually need to bring at least one big model along, whether it’s Teddy (who benefits from all the Nightmare abilities) or something like a Mature Nephilim, Nekima, a Rider or the like.  You’re not spending much time in LCB, and, while Stitched are good for burst damage, it’s nice to have something threatening on the board that isn’t going to kill itself.  If you’re planning to summon a Teddy (see Tricks below), you can probably skip any big models.

With Waves 4 and 5, there are some additional options available in a package version of a big model – The Tooth +Rougarou is a 15 point combo that has some great luring and murdering skills, or you can do some super weird stuff with Serena Bowman and a Bultengeninaninonun.  But fundamentally, somewhere between 11 and 15 soulstones should probably go to a thing that can make other things dead.  You’re going to be summoning up all your scheme runners in the form of Insidious Madnesses anyway.

Unique Names

Widow Weaver: Widow Weaver has good synergy with Dreamer – she can drop webs to reduce WP, she can trigger Horror duels, she can paralyze and poison a large model, and she can, with Hand Bag, create fodder (Wicked Dolls) or beaters (Teddy) from dead Stitched and their victims, and she’s a Nightmare.  Coppelius gives her flight as needed and also gives her Horror Duels damage (and slow, if he summons an Alp).  Overall, she’s very thematic and also very useful.  She can also fill the “beater” role against a lot of opponents.  Plus, spider lady in a dress.  I mean, if you had to describe the soul of Neverborn, a spider thing that stands upright walking around in a Victorian Dress is a pretty good picture.

Mr. Tannen:  Yes.  Tannen is a gimmick.  He’s schtick.  He’s a thing that can absolutely lose you games as you focus too strongly on getting a free Teddy at the expense of actually playing, like a Growth list.  But he’s 6 soulstones for a frustrating denial package who can, if you draw a Red Joker or a 13 of Masks, make you feel like a champ.  The ideal way to bring Mr. Tannen is to toss him a list where you’re bringing Mr. Graves, or where you need to deny interactions or where you need some survivability by reducing people’s ability to cheat fate around you.  Which brings us too….

Mr. Graves:  Graves is a staple in Neverborn.  He hits with the magical Min 3 damage at range 2.  with a melee 6.  He’s got crit strike on a lucky flip.  He pushes 6″, and tags along to bodyguard.  And he can block charges.  He’s a great centerpiece, and can do great work in general.  In a Dreamer crew, his pushing can be replaced by Daydreams for most of your crew, but he’s still useful for shoving around your opponent’s models.  He’s usually the first thing I end up cutting, but put 1k Faces on him, and he’s a super flexible Enforcer.

Doppleganger: She’s as good in Dreamer as she is anywhere else.  Lilitu’s Lure, Widow Weaver’s attacks, Mr. Graves’ Show Ya The Door, etc.  She’s always a good inclusion, but like all NB lists, you start stacking “Really good 7-8ss models” real quick.

Minions

Most summoning Dreamer crews aren’t going to go heavy on Minions.  Between the 7+ SS you’re spending on upgrades, 8 or so SS on your battle buddy, a couple of Daydreams, and something scary, you’re gonna run pretty low on stones to build your crew.  But that’s okay!  Because you don’t play a Summoner to hire minions – you just pull them out of the aether!  In a lot of Dreamer lists, I’ll simply leave off minions entirely.  There aren’t that many roles that minions fill that you can’t summon into.  That said, there are a few that are worth considering (although they all fall under one banner):

The Autumn Knights: I’ve mentioned it on the podcast – I freakin’ love the Knights.  7ss gets you a Lure, a good attack, the ability to drop scheme markers as an afterthought, armor, hard to wound, a random slow flip – there’s not a lot the Knights don’t do.  The Tooth is my current favorite, because you can pal her up with a pouncer to turn 2 AP in to as many as 7 attacks (Lure, pounce.  Tooth attacks as part of the 0 and pushes, pounce.  Tooth attacks, pushes, pounce.  Tooth attacks, pushes, pounce).  Rougarou makes a great friend, between his 50mm base and his damage spread.  Lilitu does a fine job if Lelu gives her pounce.  If you’re not bringing the Rougarou, you get more choices.  The Thorn has armor-piercing and a huge range, which, combined with Lilitu, can give you the ability to lock down a huge portion of the board.  The Claw has an amusing interaction where the Dreamer can obey him to make a melee attack, which The Claw has with an 8″ range.  But fundamentally, the Knights are good everywhere, and this is no exception!

In part 2, I’ll get in to a few different Dreamer crews.  there’s not a ton of variation, but there’s enough that you can make a few interesting choices, especially given a few things in Wave 5.

Ergonomic Cat

Father of 3, husband of 1, gamer of all stripes (rarely an author), geek, X-Wing (Imperial and Scum), Warmahorders (and Warmahoarder), reluctant Magic Player.

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