Magic Memories: Dream Halls


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...


Staff member
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...


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

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...
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.


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.


The Tentacled One
I've been meaning to dig up an old decklist I think I still have from Apprentice. Should do that at some point...

When I first joined the CPA, Dream Halls was restricted in Vintage and was generally set aside as a broken card that wasn't suitable for normal gameplay. It was completely unplayed in Type 1 at the time, but the consensus seemed to be that Dream Halls as a one-off was awkward and couldn't really be exploited, while Dream Halls as a playset could be used in a deck built around the card and would make for broken combos. This wasn't an unreasonable conclusion and it isn't my intention to lambast everyone in the early 00's. In a specific tournament environment, it's the nature of cards that some cards with low utility as a one-off could be exploited if the opportunity to use them reliably as a full playset presented itself. I'd say Channel fits that description these days...

The card is restricted in Vintage, but sees virtually no play. However, if the card were unrestricted, it would see more play because decks could count on seeing it more often and could be tuned based on that. Running multiple copies of big mana spells, even if there are other combos that could use those spells, comes at a considerable cost in deckbuilding and creates an untenable level of risk that the player is stuck with dead cards in hand. Increasing the number of slots for Channel to 4 might be enough to shift this and make big mana combo decks a dominant force in Vintage. I don't want to overcommit on this point, as it's possible that the hypothetical Channel-abusing decks might not actually be bad for the format, but the current consensus seems to be that it's not a good idea and I'm inclined to agree. Well, in the early 00's, this was the general perception of Dream Halls. Regardless of the veracity of those examples or any other examples, in principle it's true that just because a card sees little or no play when restricted does not mean that it is a good/safe unrestriction candidate.

I've said so already, but it's important to keep in mind that there wasn't really a well-established tournament "Dream Halls deck" beyond the old "TurboZvi" concept from deprecated tournament formats. The monobolue combo list with Time Spiral and the Mana Vault + Mind Over Matter + Stroke of Genius engine kill was a flash in the pan with high visibility because of the Magic Invitational and the card was banned in the wake of that. Action against the card in other formats, including Type 1, was part of the DCI furor surrounding Tolarian Academy and "Combo Winter." I've mentioned this before and I'm not trying to beat a dead horse. The restriction may or may not have been the right move at the time and that's not my point. What I want to emphasize here is that the card was somewhat of an unknown in Type 1. There was never a broken/dominant deck that one could point to and say, "This was why it was restricted."And this also meant, even if the card's restriction was 100% necessary at the time, that players generally didn't have much of a starting point for conceptualizing a "Dream Halls deck" suitable for gameplay in Type 1 or Type 1.5. My own casual deck, listed in the post directly above this one, was pretty much just my own version of the Standard deck that became infamous during the Magic Invitational. Up to the point of the card's unrestriction in Vintage and even somewhat afterward, there was no clear consensus on what a Dream Halls deck should look like.

While there are always details I'm not aware of, I've always kept tabs on Dream Halls to the extent that I could. And I attribute the eventual shift in the perception of the card to Stephen Menendian. He's long been one of the most prominent analysts of Vintage/Type 1 tournament play. In 2004, he wrote an article for Star City Games on a house tournament pitting formerly legal decks from different eras against each other in a contest to determine which was the most broken. The result of that testing seems kind of obvious in hindsight, but I remember being a bit surprised at the time. The deck records were essentially in reverse-chronological order. So regardless of what one thought about how broken specific cards were, there was a clear trend toward the most competitive decks being the most recent ones. The archetypes were Storm combo, Gro-A-Tog, blue control, Necro-Donate, Academy combo, and Rack/Balance. No Dream Halls in the meat of that article, but there was a mention toward the end that served as a prelude for what would happen next. When contemplating what decks to try this with in the future, Stephen Menendian noted that he'd found an old Dream Halls list from The Dojo and that he was thinking of including it. Up to that point, most of the sparse commentary on Dream Halls in Type 1 took the form of assuming that, if the card weren't restricted, it would be broken. While I don't believe that he published a detailed analysis of the topic, Stephen Menendian's testing on Dream Halls after this article suggested to him that it wasn't as formidable as he'd once thought. On The Mana Drain, he went from briefly noting that it was a broken card in 2004 to later (either that same year or possibly in 2005, but I forget and probably can't find it) claiming that it was garbage and would not be playable in Vintage even if unrestricted.

Well, I didn't think so! And I set about testing Dream Halls for Vintage. Despite not owning any Power 9 cards, I was extremely interested in the format at the time. I made a few iterations of Dream Halls decks on Apprentice, initially focusing on blue/black but shifting toward monoblue. Most of my Dream Halls decks made heavy use of Mystic Remora, which at the time seemed to be an unknown card in tournament play. Wish I'd kept a meticulous record of this stuff because I strongly believe that I beat the tournament hive mind to the punch on this one thing. Mystic Remora is now a very well-established card in Vintage with its usage, its strengths and weaknesses, being understood by experienced players. I know I started using the card independently in either late 2004 or early 2005 and did not seen it in a single tournament decklist until some years later. It's probable that someone else beat me to the innovation anyway that that I just wasn't aware of it. Anyway...

My testing, first on Apprentice and later with help from Al0ysiusHWWW to coordinate and pilot other decks, seemed to indicate that monoblue Dream Halls was able to compete with the top Vintage decklists from that era. Granted, I was carefully refining my list to beat those top decks and not vice-versa, so such a result doesn't tell the whole story. It's also likely that we were making some play errors and especially sideboarding errors when piloting the tournament-winning decks. They weren't our decks and we weren't necessarily the best at piloting them. I have little stills saved from this, sadly, but it was something of a passion project for me at the time and I'd like to think that I wasn't too far off-base. Regardless of how good a Dream Halls deck could have been in 2005, my devotion to this hypothetical (Dream Halls was still restricted and also I didn't play tournament Magic anyway) waned and by 2007 I was no longer updating my "if Dream Halls gets unrestricted" deck.

I know that I still have some version of my decklist from the Apprentice days of this testing saved on one of my hard drives. I'll try to remember to post that.

In 2008, Dream Halls was finally unrestricted in Vintage. And then Cruel Ultimatum was printed...


The Tentacled One
I mentioned the Mark Rosewater article about design mistakes. Despite his concerns that Dream Halls circumventing mana costs affected design space for very expensive spells, WotC had already gone on to design both very expensive spells...

...and new options to circumvent mana costs...

They'd go on to do more of both. I think it'd be an oversimplification to dismiss Rosewater's concerns about Dream Halls affecting design space as unfounded, but it is the case that the emergence of Dream Halls as a tournament powerhouse and banned card didn't curtail the eventual printing of cards that do what it does and do it better. Pointing out the degeneracy of being able to do away with the mana costs of spells is also an oversimplification. A deck based around Dream Halls comes with severe constraints. In the right environment, the deckbuilding costs associated with Dream Halls are worth it and could even produce a dominant deck. In most environments, a dedicated Dream Halls deck faces limitations that hamper the would-be Dream Halls deckbuilder. Stephen Menendian assessed this properly long before most people grasped it. If I'm being blunt, Dream Halls just isn't very good at what it does. And it bugs me to say that because Dream Halls is one of my favorite cards and I'd like for it to be good. I've played with more Dream Halls deck designs than anyone else I know of. Tried it with Recycle. Tried it in monoblue with Brain Freeze as the kill. Tried it with blue/black and Tendrils of Agony. Tried it with Painter's Servant. Tried it with wishboards. Tried it with creature combos. In an era where the card was almost universally dismissed as banned/restricted and therefore broken, I was building Vintage/Legacy decks intended for top-level tournament competition on the assumption that Dream Halls might be unbanned/unrestricted. I honestly can't remember if it was because I wanted to prove Stephen Menendian wrong when he casually remarked that it was a bad card or if I was seriously hoping that the card would become available and that I could play it in tournaments. Most likely, the earlier testing I was doing in 2006 for Vintage was the former and the Legacy focus I eventually moved on to was the latter. But I'm not sure (all of the old testing notes I found were for Legacy, not Vintage, and the only old Apprentice decklist I found was a blue/black Tendrils build for Vintage, although I distinctly remember that my most seemingly successful list was a monoblue build based around Mystic Remora with Brain Freeze into Ancestral Recall as the primary kill).

Dream Halls was unrestricted in Vintage in 2008 and unbanned in Legacy in 2009. By then, I'd come to suspect that the card was perfectly safe, but that there might be enough synergies for players to cobble together some sort of competitive deck in Legacy, if not in Vintage. Most early attempts were heavily multicolored, in contrast to my own experimentation that had found blue-heavy lists to be more reliable. Of course, Alara Block changed everything. Cards like Cruel Ultimatum, Conflux, and Progenitus made my old "Sliver Queen can cast anything and anything can cast Sliver Queen" concept something with more competitive viability...

Under Dream Halls, pitching any colored spell to Conflux could let one tutor for enough spells to set up a lethal combo on the spot.


The Tentacled One
There's certainly more to talk about, but I should note an amusing Dream Halls + Conflux kill pile I saw. Some chaff card would be pitched to cast Conflux, which would tutor up Beacon of Immortality, a counterspell, False Cure, and two five-color cards. The extra five-color cards would be pitched to cast False Cure, then Beacon of Immortality pointed at the opponent...


The Tentacled One
Alara Block was probably the biggest-ever boon to the heavily multicolored approach to Dream Halls. The core for a five-color version of a Dream Halls deck, in any format, got far more to work with and certainly seemed to surpass the power available to older monoblue and blue/black concepts. In both Vintage and Legacy, the newly available Dream Halls deck failed to make much of an impact. It saw modest success, but ultimately fell by the wayside as other combo decks proved more reliable. In Legacy, there'd later be a minor kind of resurgence for the card, and we'll come to that. But mostly, Dream Halls could no longer hold its own anymore. And so now's probably the time to talk about the considerable weaknesses the card presents...

I don't think Dream Halls is a bad card! I hope that's clear. It's a powerful enchantment with a lot of sentimental value for me. I like it. Always will. Dream Halls is cool. Dream Halls does fun stuff. But it takes a lot more than "fun" to create sustained competitive viability in tournament play...
  • Dream Halls provides a powerful, symmetrical alternative cost to spells. But you're the one who pays to get the process started. That is, you're paying mana to give both yourself and your opponent the ability to pitch cards to play other same-color cards. In order for Dream Halls to make any sense as a card one plays, it's necessary to break that symmetry. This can be done, but it imposes deckbuilding constraints.
  • In order to ensure that symmetry is broken in your favor, you're stuck playing a combo deck. Ideally, you win on the same turn that you resolve Dream Halls and your deck is built to do this. That way you afford your opponent as little opportunity as possible to close the gap in symmetry by exploiting Dream Halls to do something. In other words, if I cast Dream Halls and then proceed not to win the game (by either killing my opponent or locking my opponent out until I do win), my opponent will probably proceed to use Dream Halls to kill me. So I'm not playing aggro or control. I'm playing a combo deck.
  • The cards that are good under Dream Halls are not usually the same ones that are good without a Dream Halls on the battlefield. Case in point: Opportunity.

Under Dream Halls it's basically better than Ancestral Recall. That's why it was in most of my Dream Halls decks. But until Dream Halls has resolved, it's, um, not very good. I tried to mitigate this by including as many cards as possible that can potentially be used in both situations, but that gets tricky.
  • Because a Dream Halls combo deck is built to exploit the establishment of a powerful cost-replacement ability, it cannot effectively function without the card itself. If an opponent stops Dream Halls (countering it, causing it to be discarded, hitting it with Krosan Grip, etc.) then the deck cannot operate. So we're left with a fragile combo deck.
  • In order to get going, Dream Halls must first resolve. But the card costs 3UU. By definition, this is a combo deck that is reliant on a five-mana enchantment. That's a point of weakness, although not an insurmountable one. In fact, many combo decks are built around the premise that they'll be accelerating into a large quantity of mana. But combo decks built around mana ramp and combo decks built around Dream Halls tend not to look the same! There can be some overlap and one could plan on pitching superfluous mana-producing cards to cast big spells once Dream Halls has resolved. But at some point, that's adding an extra step to comboing off. Why not just ramp into your big spells and cast them with mana, rather than ramping into Dream Halls and then using it to make mana costs obsolete?
  • Some of the best cards in other combo decks, the ones that make combo decks competitive in their respective formats, are artifacts. Under Dream Halls, colorless artifacts are dead slots. They can't be pitched to cast anything and nothing can be pitched to cast them.
  • Much like artifacts, lands are also dead slots under Dream Halls. While lands become extra baggage to most combo decks at some point, the problem is worse for Dream Halls than for most of the similar combo cards. Early Dream Halls decks used Mana Severance to circumvent this weakness. Again, this adds an extra step to comboing off. A combo deck that doesn't need to jump through so many hoops would be a stronger competitor.
  • The set of cards that are good under Dream Halls, help get Dream Halls out faster, and help a Dream Halls deck survive long enough to resolve Dream Halls is short and should be familiar to experienced players. Ready? It's these cards: Time Walk, Ancestral Recall. And that's about it. Nothing else in Magic really fits in all three spots and very few cards can reasonably be said to fill two of those roles.
The volatile situationality of the card is just too much. A lesson that combo deckbuilders would learn repeatedly when trying to break into tournament formats is that if you're already accepting all-in deckbuilding constraints to make a card work, it had better do the job. Dream Halls just has too many points of weakness. The 3UU price tag, the need for same-colored spells to pitch and get your combo going, the clumsiness of the deck before Dream Halls has resolved, the incompatibility with some of the most useful cards for combo decks. In hindsight, even after getting so many potent tools in Alara Block, it's not surprising that Dream Halls became obsolete.


The Tentacled One
I've asserted that with the new tools in Alara Block approximately coinciding with the card's availability in Eternal formats, Dream Halls became more empowered than it had ever been. And, demonstrably, its performance wasn't really that impressive. In contrast, the card was the centerpiece behind a famous tournament deck (TurboZvi) in 1998 and was banned after some brief success in 1999. I've never really been a Type 2 player. I won't claim any kind of expertise to say whether Dream Halls should have been banned or not. But it's probably obvious that Legacy was/is a more powerful format than Type 2 circa 1998. For that matter, the Standard environment today has a lot that the format lacked back then. I'm not saying that Dream Halls could never succeed in later Type 2 environments, had it been printed later. No, this goes beyond that. Beyond Dream Halls as a card, really. When I look at a lot of older combo decks, including TurboZvi but also stuff like the original ProsBloom, I'm struck by how little pressure aggro decks were producing back then. Don't take power creep for granted. I think there's a kind of mystique surrounding the combo decks of old and most players, even highly experienced tournament grinders, relegate that stuff to "old and broken" while not batting an eye at more contemporary stuff like Yet-Another-Black/Green-Midrange-Deck or the 9-billionth iteration of "Red Deck Wins." The fancy engine of a ProsBloom or TurboZvi deck might have a wacky "He's drawing his whole deck" character to it, but it'd simply be outclassed by decks from more recent eras. ProsBloom was so clunky that it might get outraced by a ham sandwich, and TurboZvi would be so fragile by today's standards that it would not be deemed a serious competitive deck. Even the monoblue Dream Halls showing in the Magic Invitational, while it demonstrated impressive speed, had the deck get beaten by artifact-based stompy deck. So I'd say that regardless of what should have happened in Standard, Eternal formats were a different story. The problem, rather interestingly, seems to be just how much overlap there was between the outright broken Academy deck and the short-lived 1999 monoblue Dream Halls deck. Both decks chained Time Spiral to refill their own hands multiple times in one turn. Both decks used Mind Over Matter to untap a mana-producing permament repeatedly in order to cast Stroke of Genius with successively bigger values of X within the same turn. Both decks used Intuition for consistency. Both decks were accelerated by Mana Vault. I can imagine that, from the perspective of someone making tournament-impacting decisions in 1999, seeing Tolarian Academy banned/restricted only for an extremely similar deck to replace it must have been intimidating.

I've touched on the whole "shoot first, ask questions later" attitude that pervaded the DCI decisions back then, associated with Combo Winter. I won't rehash that all here. But in hindsight, while Dream Halls may or may not have been a correct target for Type 2 gameplay and perhaps for the Extended format, it was almost certainly overreach to act on the card in Type 1 (and later in Vintage and Legacy). To further muddy the waters, Mind's Desire, another combotastic card that let players ignore mana costs on spells, established a formidable presence in Vintage and was even preemptively restricted. I think Dream Halls probably shared some of the "broken" mystique from that card, even though the two function very differently from each other. Maybe it didn't matter. And in the long run, Dream Halls was unbanned/unrestricted anyway. So I'm sure I'm overanalyzing this...


The Tentacled One
I was, like many people, wrong about Dream Halls being too overpowered for Vintage and Legacy. But the more general point about the usage of the card, well, I had that right. Dream Halls as a playset affords one the opportunity to try to build a dedicated combo deck based around and reliant upon the card. Restricting it takes that away and puts Dream Halls in an awkward spot. Unrestricting Dream Halls in Vintage took it from zero usage to marginal usage, although most of that may have been experimentation. The initial Dream Halls decks that emerged in Eternal formats faded away. The card sees occasional use in EDH decks, but I suspect it's usually the wrong choice. That may be presumptuous of me.

But Dream Halls did get a resurgence in Legacy and sees a niche application in the format, one that sort of defies the conventional wisdom about the card. In Legacy, there's a blue combo deck called OmniTell...

The idea is to cast Show and Tell and use it to put Omniscience onto the battlefield, then cast other spells and try to find Enter the Infinite, which can then be followed with any win condition (typically something compact and flexible). While Omniscience is superficially similar to Dream Halls, the total elimination of the card-pitching requirement and the removal of any color issues is a huge change. Making the card cost twice as much is quite the tradeoff, but decks based around Omniscience are cheating it out anyway, so it might as well cost a million mana.

The height of performance for OmniTell was when Dig Through Time was legal in Legacy. OmniTell during the Dig era virtually dominated the format, and it didn't need Dream Halls. While most OmniTell lists since then don't use Dream Halls, some do, and the card does offer substantial benefits. Dream Halls is useful to OmniTell decks because it has the following lines...
  1. Reach five mana, use Dream Halls to cast Omniscience. It's like an expensive Show and Tell, but you can only run 4 copies of Show and Tell in your deck anyway, and maybe you just never found one or the one you tried to cast got countered.
  2. Reach five mana, use Dream Halls to cast cantrips and find Omniscience or Enter the Infinite even though neither was in your hand initially.
  3. Reach three mana, cast Show and Tell to put Dream Halls onto the battlefield, use Dream Halls to cast Enter the Infinite, then proceed to win after using Dream Halls to cast Omniscience.
  4. Reach three mana, cast Show and Tell to put Dream Halls onto the battlefield, use Dream Halls to cast cantrips and find Enter the Infinite even though it wasn't in your hand initially (risky play, but it could be correct sometimes).
  5. Reach four mana, cast Show and Tell to put Griselbrand onto the battlefield, use Griselbrand to draw a bunch of cards. Play Ancient Tomb and cast a second Show and Tell to put Dream Halls onto the battlefield. Use Dream Halls to cast Enter the Infinite and then win (an unlikely line, but not impossible).
Most deckbuilders with Show and Tell + Omniscience prefer to run a Sneak Attack package, but the monoblue version with Dream Halls has, at times, been the better choice.


The Tentacled One
While I can't know exactly what the future holds, I think it's mostly the end of the line for Dream Halls. Not that the card is so permanently doomed as, say, Power Surge...

But it's old, rare, and generally relegated. Dream Halls no longer makes the cut in Vintage and I suspect that its role in Legacy will ultimately dwindle. Despite what I said about the usefulness of the card in monoblue OmniTell decks, it's only been a minority of those decks to run any copies of Dream Halls. The Dream Halls lines are not preferred lines. Historically, there's been some fluctuation in Legacy between monoblue Show and Tell decks vs. ones that also use Sneak Attack. Dream Halls is only suitable for the former and most deckbuilders try to cut it if they can. But that does currently seem to be the best role for the card to play.

And other than its niche role in Legacy, Dream Halls doesn't really seem suitable for the formats where it would be legal. Somewhere, somehow, I'll be using Dream Halls myself. I like the card too much not to. And I probably won't be the only one. It won't completely disappear. But the glory days? Those are gone. And over the course of the 21+ years since it first showed up, Dream Halls has had a pretty good run. But if I'm being frank about all this, I've got a twinge of bitter regret over the position of the card in the early and mid 00's. It was banned and restricted in all formats and treated as a broken, untouchable card. Probably that degenerate allure is a big part of what drew me to the card in the first place, but setting the paradox aside for a moment, it seems a bit cruel to Dream Halls that it was practically excised from the game and that this mistake took so long to correct. As cards that circumvent mana costs go, Dream Halls seems fairly tame by today's standards. Awkward, but just good enough to have some real potential. But power creep, the inexorable march of new printings, was bound to erode the card's special luster. Age and obscurity are poised to finish it off. And so it seems, in hindsight, like Dream Halls should have been given more of a chance to shine back when it hadn't become so outclassed.

Now, I'm fully aware the Dream Halls is an inanimate object. The card isn't a victim of injustice in a real sense. But I do think it's too bad. And I do, with a combination of amusement and curiosity, ponder what might have been. It's probably connected to the reason that I advocate, with some enthusiasm, for the unbanning/unrestriction of cards that seem to probably be safe in Legacy/Vintage. Like Dream Halls, it might be too late for some of them to really matter as much as they could have, but maybe they could have some niche for a time.


The Tentacled One
The Goblin King thread had me looking at some old stuff, so here's a little thread necromancy...

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.
In 2018, I figured that I'd probably never find Selden and Bingen's old Invitational decklist. I was convinced that I'd seen it, but I couldn't find it using any of my usual sources. Well, I found it on an old Angelfire webpage that pasted it from The Dojo back in 1999. Now that I think about it, The Dojo is probably also where I originally saw the deck.

4 Counterspell
3 Turnabout
4 Meditate
1 Attunement
4 Brainstorm
4 Intuition
4 Time Spiral
4 Stroke of Genius
3 Mind Over Matter
4 Dream Halls
4 Mana Vault
18 Island
3 Ancient Tomb

4 Hydroblast
4 Chill
1 Turnabout
3 Powersink
3 Capsize


The Tentacled One
Before I get back to the Goblin King thread, I want to note an interesting new usage for Dream Halls that has arisen in EDH. I haven't built this deck myself, but I'm tempted to, because it's a pretty cool combo. Here's the commander...

Of course, 2WUBRG is a steep cost, but we don't intend to actually pay it. Instead, we get Dream Halls and simply discard any colored card from our hand to cast Tiamat. This fetches five dragons. Two of the dragons we'll fetch are flex slots to protect our combo directly or pitch to Dream Halls for other spells to protect our combo. The other three are these...

From there we pitch Scourge of Valkas to Dream Halls, casting Bladewing the Risen. Bladewing's triggered ability brings Scourge of Valkas back. Then we pitch any green or blue card (if we didn't have one before, we would have gotten one from Tiamat anyway) to cast Moritte of the Frost. Have Moritte enter as a copy of Bladewing, letting it die to the legend rule. Use the Bladewing EtB trigger to bring back Moritte, copying Bladewing again. Rinse, repeat, with Scourge of Valkas dealing damage to any target in each iteration. Keep looping until all opponents are dead.

This combo can be executed with only Dream Halls on the battlefield and any colored spell in your hand, with the potential to be harder to disrupt if you have other cards available to work with on the battlefield or in your hand. Dragonlord Dromoka can lock opponents out of using spells to stop you (and can't be countered). Masked Vandal can clear the way if an opponent has a disruptive artifact or enchantment ready to stop the combo. Nameless Inversion can pick off a small creature. All of these can be fetched by Tiamat. If Dream Halls is countered or otherwise unavailable, the deck can attempt to assemble the same combo with Dragonstom. And if you have enough mana, you can use Tiamat with Sneak Attack to set the combo up. So yeah. Not bad.
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When I started getting into competitive Magic, circa 2003, Dream Halls was pretty bad. I liked the card in a conceptual sense but it was just so expensive when I could just Wish for Yawg's Win and, well, you know. That line didn't last too long but neither did Halls and I never got the option to play with it in Constructed. It is a really sweet card though.