Magic Memories: Dream Halls

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Dec 11, 2018.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I love Dream Halls. I don't know where to start. Well, there's a kind of story...

    Infamously, back when Stronghold came out, InQuest magazine dismissed Dream Halls as the worst card in the set. They reasoned that it was a liability. You pitch your Llanowar Elves to cast your Verdant Force, then your opponent does the same, except you are the one who paid for the enchantment, so you're behind. Of course, players mostly eschewed such usage of Dream Halls, opting instead to build around the card and chain spells together for combo decks.

    In tournament play, this led to TurboZvi.

    9 Island
    4 Crystal Vein
    4 Svyelunite Temple
    4 Ancient Tomb
    4 Lotus Petal
    4 Dream Halls
    4 Intuition
    4 Meditate
    4 Sift
    4 Ancestral Memories
    4 Mana Severance
    4 Memory Lapse
    1 Counterspell
    1 Impulse
    1 Lobotomy
    1 Inspiration
    3 Gaea's Blessing

    4 Adakar Wastes
    4 Abeyance
    4 Hydroblast
    1 Dismiss
    1 Inspiration
    1 Lobotomy

    The concept of quickly resolving a Dream Halls, then pitching blue cards from your hand to cast card-drawing spells, drawing through most/all of your deck and assembling a kill was potent, and would appear again in later Dream Halls combo decks. In the 1998 Type 2 environment, the kill mechanism was clunky, but effective. Once Dream Halls was resolved, the idea was to pitch blue cards to cast card-drawing spells, find Mana Severance, get those pesky lands all out of the deck (don't need 'em anymore), and then set up a loop with Gaea's Blessing. Once one built up a big enough hand, it became trivial to keep the loop going and to have access to countermagic backup and to Lobotomy. You'd then loop through and Lobotomy away your opponent's entire hand (except basic lands), and next you'd tediously feed your opponent two cards at a time with Inspiration and Lobotomy those away. If the opponent managed to cast a spell by pitching one of the Inspiration draws to cast the other, you'd counter it and Blessing-draw Loop your countermagic back into your hand for next time. Your opponent would be locked down for the turn, drawing two cards at a time, having both removed with Lobotomy unless they were basic lands, and having any instants cast countered by either Counterspell or Memory Lapse. Eventually, you'd kill your opponent by decking with Inspiration.

    The success of TurboZvi embarrassed the not-so-prescient folks at InQuest and drew attention to the potential for other Dream Halls combo decks. But as I noted in the Tolarian Academy thread, previous combo decks were eclipsed by the lightning-fast Academy. In Type 2, Academy was quickly banned. Dream Halls decks were built with many of the same components. At the Magic Invitational, a few players used a Dream Halls deck with Meditate, Intuition, Time Spiral, Mind Over Matter, Stroke of Genius, and Mana Vault. The idea was to rush out Dream Halls, pitch blue cards to cast card-drawing spells (especially Time Spiral), and then get both Mana Vault (hardcast) and Mind Over Matter (cast with Dream Halls) on the board. Discarding cards to untap Mana Vault would produce 3 for each card discarded, and with leftover blue mana from Time Spiral, this could cast a big Stroke of Genius, which would provide enough cards for a bigger Stroke of Genius, which would provide enough cards to cast a game-winning Stroke of Genius aimed at the opponent.

    In 1999, in the wake of the Dream Halls into Mind Over Matter combo deck displayed at the Magic Invitational, Dream Hall was banned in Type 2, banned in Extended, and restricted in Type 1. But the story of the card doesn't end there...
  2. Ferret CPA Founder, Slacker

    Nice bits of trivia there. I can't wait to see what else you have to say about this amazing card...

    As for InQuest, that was around the time that they were writing less and less about Magic and started focusing on Pokemon...dark days, indeed...
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Thanks! If you like this one, be sure to check out the other "Magic Memories" threads littering the first few pages of Single Card Discussion. Most of the content is just my own ramblings, but we did get some interesting discussions too.

    I forgot about that aspect! I do still have one old Scrye magazine from around then, but not InQuest, which I didn't get to read as much until a couple of years later.

    Initially, my own Dream Halls decks were pretty bad. I don't remember a whole lot about them, but several of my decks back then were hodgepodges of combo stuff. At the time, Sliver Queen was the only five-color card in existence, and I'd always have one "SQ" deck that used slivers and explosive combos. I was enamored with the interaction between Sliver Queen and Dream Halls. Under Dream Halls, Sliver Queen could be used to cast anything and anything could be used to cast Sliver Queen. This meant that even with the legend rule, I could get some usage out of my extra copies of Sliver Queen. This was really practical and I would guess that I didn't put Dream Halls to very good use, although my recollection is a bit hazy. In the late 90's, at least, I got a lot more mileage out of Intruder Alarm, a card I've not talked about before in these Magic Memories threads. It's been ages since I had an Intruder Alarm deck (could easily work it into an EDH deck, though), but there was a sizeable chunk of 1999 when it was the card that was winning me most of my games.
    While cards like Intruder Alarm or Enduring Renewal were the stars of the show in those clumsy decks, Dream Halls was a potent accelerant. Most of my opponents didn't play much countermagic, so I could pitch cards from my hand to play all of my combo pieces out on the same turn and try to win the game. As I type this, it even sounds kind of plausible, but I'm confident that it was actually very sloppy and that I was a silly scrub of a player at the time. I built overly elaborate or engines and had decks with atrocious, unreliable manabases. I was more interested in "Look how many cards I can get out" or "Look how big this creature is" than in actually doing something practical. But it kind of worked because most of my opponents were also inexperienced.

    I'd maintain a five-color "SQ" deck for several more years, but Dream Halls wasn't a major part of the deck and didn't stick around. Instead, I built a blue/black deck that got big creatures out partly by using Dream Halls and partly by using reanimation spells. That actually sounds like a decent casual deck when I type it out like this, but again, I'm left suspecting that my hazy recollection doesn't include how bad my deck probably was. It's important to keep in mind that this was the early 00's, probably around 2001. There was no Griselbrand, no Iona, no Jin-Gitaxis, no Elesh Norn, no Ashen Rider, none of that. Big creatures tended to come with hefty drawbacks, and I played with them anyway. I was using cards like Lord of the Pit and Polar Kraken. Yikes.
    I shudder to think at how bad that deck must have been, although at least it had some nice Mark Tedin art. Anyway, I was trying at least. I was young and stupid. Shame I didn't find the CPA earlier. I probably wouldn't have actually heeded words of wisdom anyway, but maybe some messages would have sunk in sooner.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    In 2002, Mark Rosewater published his famous article, "Mistakes? I've Made a Few." I forget how I found it exactly, but it must have been one of the first times I read one of his articles. I was impressed and I still consider it to be one of the most important articles ever written on Magic. While players talked about cards as being mistakes before, this was the first time a designer openly published detailed analyses of why certain decisions were mistakes, what the effects were, and what he learned from those mistakes. Even today it's a pretty good read. And there's a lot more I could say about it, as actually, I strongly disagree with some of his specific conclusions (while appreciating the overall picture). My analysis of this article could be its own article, really. But that's a subject for another thread, anyway.

    To describe the power of Dream Halls, Mark Rosewater linked to "Brian Selden's Standard deck performance at the Magic Invitational." Now found here:

    The link actually showcases two different matches with two different players piloting similar Dream Halls combo decks. Brian Selden beat Randy Buehler in one match. In another match, Sturla Bingen piloted the Dream Halls deck and lost against artifact-heavy beatdown. Although there was no decklist posted for what Selden/Bingen piloted, a lot of card names came up and reading this report was my inspiration for building my own monoblue Dream Halls deck. It operated on the same principles as their decks. Find and resolve Dream Halls, pitch blue cards to cast card-drawing spells, hopefully hitting Time Spiral to refill your hand, then use Mind Over Matter to untap Mana Vault multiple times, and use the mana with Stroke of Genius. I went over this to some extent in the Tolarian Academy thread. This Standard Dream Halls deck came about after Academy was banned and functioned in much the same way. WotC killed the deck by banning Dream Halls after that Invitational, but I built my own anyway because I didn't care too much about tournaments or tournament ban lists. I'd already built an Academy deck and Dream Halls used many of the same cards anyway. For a while, I swapped out certain key rares (Mind Over Matter, Time Spiral, Stroke of Genius, Intuition, Mana Vault) between two decks, maintaining both an Academy deck and a Dream Halls deck. I also did that with a High Tide deck, although probably not concurrently with both of the other two. So I played a lot of blue combo decks. I was somewhat notorious for it.

    At some point, I got the notion that Academy should be my combo deck for casual duels and that Dream Halls (or High Tide) should be a multiplayer-focused deck. My tool for making the explosive combo go infinite was Paradigm Shift.

    I really enjoyed this deck, even though it might seem obnoxiously broken. I'd already been playing a more broken deck (Academy) before, and so most of my opponents were used to such shenanigans anyway. In fact, they took it as a challenge and built decks to try and beat mine. Well, I probably did keep it around longer than I should have, but it was a special deck to me and Dream Halls was a personal favorite of mine, even though no one else seemed to be playing it anymore. It was still one of my decks when I was able to join the CPA and I was even motivated to start a thread on it in Casual Decks, just to see what people said. Feedback was generally along the lines of "those cards are banned." Well, that was true. They were banned. Anyway, because I made that thread way back in 2004, I can now post an example of my Dream Hall decklist. My exact list wasn't constant and the deck was taken apart and rebuilt once or twice, but this was a version of it...

    4x Dream Halls
    3x Intuition
    3x Mind Over Matter
    4x Mana Vault
    3x Time Spiral
    2x Paradigm Shift
    4x Opportunity
    4x Frantic Search
    4x Stroke of Genius
    4x Counterspell
    4x Force of Will
    4x Arcane Denial
    17x Island

    To my limitless amusement, that thread shifted into a discussion on using combos to make copies of Ring of Ma'rûf, which led to the development of the greatest casual deck ever: Relentless Pony.

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