ReCasting: Which Commander Decks fit the Characters of Dune (2021)?

Dan GreenNovember 2, 2021
mtg recasting DUNE

Welcome MTG fans to our first installment of ReCasting – where we take characters from our favorite IPs and try to figure out what Commander deck could best represent them on the Magic: the Gathering battlefield!

Not every IP is going to be as lucky as The Walking Dead or Stranger Things, so until these IPs get their own Universes Beyond release, the best we can do is try to thematically match up a Commander and a deck theme…and if you want to go the extra mile and get some custom art done or something, more power to you! Either way, it’s always just a fun diversion for nerds like us to try to blend up our favorite IPs and see what happens.

So let’s kick things off with one of this year’s biggest movies – Dune (2021)! While I’m usually a hardcore Mel, I’ve engaged my inner Vorthos and picked out 6 characters from the main cast that we can ReCast in Commander decks. We’ll dive into why we picked each legendary creature to represent that character, as well as how to maximize the Dune flavor in each deck and what kind of spice – pun intended – we can add to make them stand out from the “usual” decks!

Note: These cards and decks will be based purely on the first film in a series, Dune (2021). While there’s a lot more context available in the novel, it’s already difficult to match such detailed and nuanced characters to just one existing card from just the first film, and it would be next to impossible to do so with the context of the entire story in mind. Please think of these as snapshots of a particular moment or feature of each character from the first film. 

And, of course, let us know what you think of our picks or what you would do differently in the comments below!

Duke Leto Atreides I - Kenrith, the Returned King

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Beginning with the patriarch of the Atreides family, Duke Atreides is portrayed in Dune (2021) as a benevolent, yet ambitious, leader and father. While I really wanted to try to fit General Kudro of Drannith to this character, ultimately Duke Atreides is not about sacrificing his people. His goals are to maintain a stewardship of Arrakis and build a better life both for his own house and the Fremen. Ultimately, Kenrith, the Returned King just feels like it fits the bill the best, as a creature who can provide for the other creatures of your deck, and even rescue your other creatures from peril (with the green or black activated abilities).

In building this deck, to bring out the theme, I’d focus more on white and black cards. Ambition is really one of Duke Atreides’ defining features, so leaning into card draw effects like Ambition’s Cost and Bad Deal seem to fit very flavorfully.

While a five color deck can easily just be built to play the best of the best in all five colors, sticking to these restrictions can make your deck more unique and a lot more fun to play!

I’d say effects to rescue your board are likewise right on target, with Flawless Maneuver and Teferi’s Protection being shoe-ins, but also cards like Faith’s Reward and Brought Back. And to build his powerful “Atreides!” chanting army, this is where we can start to employ lots of Humans like General Kudro of Drannith, Jirina Kudro, and Kyler, Sigardian Emissary.

And if we really want to lean into bringing back creatures that die and Human-tribal, let’s add the secret spice – Humans with nice ETB effects like Kessig Malcontents, Agent of Treachery, and Cloudblazer! Just add your favorite Wrath of God effects to keep blasting the board away while you bring yours back – and gain advantage – with your rescue effects or the Duke’s activated ability! While Kenrith is a popular commander, a deck built around the Duke Atreides theme would certainly stand out from the usual Kenrith decks and still pack a punch with lots of fun options to play with.

Duncan Idaho - Tajic, Legion's Edge

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A fan-favorite character after seeing the movie, Momoa’s Duncan Idaho stole the scenes he was in with his high energy and great action. In Magic, Duncan needs to be powerful in combat, but also capable of protecting his allies. While I was tempted to choose Haktos the Unscarred for his almost unkillable nature, Tajic, Legion’s Edge won out as he leads the charge with Haste, can be difficult to combat with First Strike, and better represents the protective side of Idaho with his damage-prevention effect. To top it off, he even gets in a reference to his mentoring relationship with Paul and the Atreides troops who respect him!

A Duncan Idaho deck is going to be all about attacking, and likely has a voltron-esque equipment or aura subtheme. You want to build an army with creatures for Duncan to mentor – Assemble the Legion and Legion’s Landing // Adanto, the First Fort seem like easy options to start to build an army, and the more Duncan can protect, the more use you’ll get out of his damage-prevention clause. You can even go all-in on “Legion” cards with Legion Loyalist and Prava of the Steel Legion, giving you lots of benefit for building up a bigger army, and max it out with more creatures that produce tokens like the newer Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. Lastly, consider creatures who can really benefit from Idaho’s mentorship – Esper Sentinel fits like a glove, and with a little power-pumping, Lena, Selfless Champion can be another way to keep your whole board safe after building it up. With likely a strong blend of humans and non-humans, you may also consider Winota, Joiner of Forces!

Boros decks can easily get out-advantaged, so we want to really capitalize on Idaho’s protective nature. By playing damage-dealing spells like Blasphemous Act and Chain Reaction, we can nuke the board and only lose our commander. Better yet, though, if we build out an equipment package that includes some protective pieces like Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Sinew and Steel, and Hammer of Nazahn, we can keep Duncan alive through those effects, as well as pumping up his power to ensure he can properly mentor a creature turn after turn. Make sure to put in some nice ways to find those equipment like Stoneforge Mystic and Open the Armory!

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen - Lord of Tresserhorn

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Sometimes it’s fun to be bad! For our key villain, let’s look at manipulation, because that’s what I feel from Vladimir Harkonnen – pulling the strings, wielding the power, and keeping himself alive (and well fed). While he’s not the most popular commander, I could think of no better match for the Harkonnen Baron than Lord of Tresserhorn, a massive 10-power Zombie from Alliances with a built in, cheap regenerate clause who asks you to jump through some hoops in order to wield his power. Ultimately, that’s my favorite part of this – a Vladimir Harkonnen deck has to play a little politically, manipulating the opponents to get what is best for the Harkonnen, and Lord of Tresserhorn lets you do exactly that.

First, let’s note that you do not need creatures in play in order to play Lord of Tresshorn. Of course, you can always play creatures that give you a benefit when they die such as Abyssal Gatekeeper, Keiga, the Tide Star, and if you dare play this type of card with your group, Bearer of the Heavens (note that our Baron Harkonnen can Regenerate through this effect…!). And let’s not forget cards like Black Market and The Meathook Massacre to let you gain further advantage from your own creatures dying. However, often you may just want to cast the Baron to an empty board, set up a deal to allow a particular opponent to draw 2 cards, and lose the 2 life. Then, start finding opportunities to beat your opponents down with your 10 power bruiser – or you can bring up his Commander Damage threshold to just two swings with a card like Opal Palace.

Of course, if you want to immediately turn their card draw to your advantage, start punishing them for it with cards like Nekusar, the Mindrazer and Underworld Dreams, or take more advantage yourself with Consecrated Sphinx or Mind’s Eye. Or, just steal the draws yourself with good old Notion Thief! Curses also provide some interesting interplay – in particular, Curse of Fool’s Wisdom provides even more targeted drain (helping offset your life loss as well) and Curse of Obsession can keep an opponent from holding those extra cards for too long. With all these cards and some proper counterspells and board control, you’ll be manipulating the board and smashing with Harkonnen might in no time!

Lady Jessica Atreides - Merieke Ri Berit

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How many people guessed this one as soon as you saw the article? I dug through everything but I didn’t feel like any card fit better for the Bene Gesserit Atreides Matriarch. Merieke Ri Berit brings many elements I like to the table here – her colors signify control, order, and ambition. Her effect is all about mind controlling creatures. And, she can “order them to die” when she leaves play or becomes untapped. The only part I wasn’t completely happy with Lady Jessica is actually fairly handy in a fight herself, and Merieke is a 1/1 with no other abilities. But sometimes we have to make those concessions when we are recasting!

Unlike our pick for Baron Harkonnen, Merieke decks are quite well explored, and she’s really not looking to do much else but mind control here. You’ll pack lots of the usual suspects – untap abilities like Freed from the Real, Unbender Tine, and Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset, and “keep control” blinks like Ghostly Flicker and Conjurer’s Closet (for those unfamiliar, these “blink” effects bring the creature back under your control, meaning you now permanently control it, regardless of Merieke’s status). You may also run some sacrifice effects to power with your opponent’s creatures like Attrition or Phyrexian Tower.

I’d say you can really dive into the theme by adding cards like Sen Triplets, Mindslaver, Xanathar, Guild Kingpin, and Emrakul, the Promised End. Show your opponents the true power and control of the Bene Gesserit by not just taking control of their creatures, but your opponents themselves! These high cost cards may be tough to cast, but if you focus on lots of mana rocks like Arcane Signet and Gilded Lotus, you can use your untapping effects to build up a lot of mana quickly to cast them right on time. For a little extra mind-manipulation, try spells like Wrong Turn and Order of Succession to pass around control of creatures, knowing that you can ultimately decide what you want to own in the end!

Paul Atreides - Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths

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Of all the characters today, Paul gave me by far the hardest time. There’s a lot going on with his character, so ultimately I really had to narrow down and pick out what I felt was most important about him – and, at least in Dune (2021), from the very start of the film to the very end, it’s all about his Future Sight – and whether or not those portents come to pass. To represent that, I felt that Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths fit the bill closest, while also being handy enough in combat to need two blockers. I would say I’m least happy with the color options here – but much like his father, I feel like Paul could easily fit in all five colors, so until they give us a five color creature that’s good in combat and scrys all the time – I feel like Atris may be as close as I can get. But I’m most interested to hear which creature you would pick for Paul in our comments!

In building out Paul’s deck, I think we want to focus less on pure control and more on really utilizing those prophetic dreams to see what’s yet to pass. I would easily build out with more cards “foresight” cards like Fact or Fiction and Thassa, God of the Sea, as well as Thassa, Deep-Dwelling to be able to get Paul to see the future over and over. Other “enters the battlefield” creatures can fill out our roster well like Mulldrifter, Gyruda, Doom of Depths, and Torrential Gearhulk.

As Paul’s portents will always cause us to put cards in our graveyard, forcing the opponent to have bad choices is ideal – cards with flashback like Memory Deluge and Dread Return can give the opponent really bad choices, as can cards with Encore like Rakshasa Debaser and Phyrexian Triniform. And if we are building out with healthy helpings of removal and draw spells, this becomes a great deck to play Lier, Disciple of the Drowned to further gain value off of our filling discard pile. Let’s cap it off with some mind control spells – we have to get “the voice” into this somewhere, and it would be ideal if we could play them from the graveyard with our other effects, so look at Dominate and Spinal Embrace for more synergistic options.

Shai-Hulud (The Sandworm) - Grothama, All-Devouring

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And if you are just looking to eat things and use true Desert Power, we have but one big, hungry, legendary Wurm in Magic – Grothama, All-Devouring. The goal with our Shai-Hulud deck should be to ensure people respect the wurm – they can fight it, they can draw cards, but in the end, it should be Shai-Hulud who is alive, and the opponents’ creatures who are dead.

To achieve that, we want to really lean into power and protection. You can not only keep your worm alive with Hammer of Nazahn, Darksteel Plate, and Heroic Intervention, but you can use them with your other creatures to keep them alive when they fight Grothama to draw more cards for your cause, as if they were riding along and sharing her power. And for your opponent’s creatures, a solid Colossification will make it a lot harder to pile up enough damage to actually kill your worm – as well as being just absolutely on point for flavor. On top of that, auras like Bear Umbra and Boar Umbra can provide further protection from combat and removal spells. Finally, Sword of Fire and Ice both provides protections and can be used to ping Shai-Hulud for even more card draw – even when she attacks with it herself – and you can get 4-color protection from the potent Commander’s Plate which should make it very difficult for opponents to gain any advantage when you don’t want them to.

While trading your own creatures for cards will be a solid option a lot of the time, Toski, Bearer of Secrets is another nice option to get your own card draw both off of his effect and by fighting the worm when he attacks. On a similar note, this is a great deck for Anara, Wolvid Familiar who ensures your creatures can always safely utilize the worm’s power.

Of course, to truly dive into the theme, we want to ensure we at least packed in Desert power by running every desert that makes sense. The bog-standard Desert allows you to ping your own sandworm for cards, so that’s easy. Scavenger Grounds is always useful to counter graveyard strategies, Hashep Oasis is in our colors and can buff our worm, and Endless Sands can be used in a pinch to save our Shai-Hulud and stop opponents from drawing cards. You can certainly run more deserts if you’d like, but those seem like the most potent to me! Top it off with a little Ramunap Excavator and Crucible of Worlds to reuse the sacrificing lands, then max out the lands-in-yard subtheme with Crop Rotation, Reliquary Tower (as we will be drawing lots of cards!), and Harrow-style effects and we’ll have mean, world-devouring machine!

Writing articles like this always gets me excited to build a new Commander deck. There are so many interesting ways you can build a deck when you impose restrictions or try to fit very particular flavor! If you have any other great ideas for these Dune characters, want to let us know where we were right or wrong, or want to recommend an IP for our next ReCasting article, leave us a comment down below!

Until next time!

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