One of the most hyped decks recently has been Dream Halls. The Stronghold enchantment has garnered attention after winning a 270-person event in Germany. After being recently unbanned, Dream Halls is being used to power out huge spells, and it doesn’t look like the big tournament win was a fluke. Here’s the list that won:
Here’s how it works:
You get the namesake Enchantment into play, either by paying retail or cheating it in with Show and Tell. You unleash a torrent of showy and expensive spells. Cruel Ultimatum can feed your hand while whittling away at the opponent’s life total. Conflux can nab extra Cruel Ultimatums and a Bogardan Hellkite. With a combination of Cruel Ultimatum and the Hellkite, you can deal twenty damage to the opponent. It also has a powerful side strategy involving using Show and Tell to put Progenitus into play. The giant devouring Hydra is nearly impossible to deal with, especially on the first or second turn.
The crux of the deck is Conflux, the card that enables it to get a host of unfair cards. Progenitus is both a beater and an enabler for Dream Halls to cast spells, shuffling back in when you discard to Dream Halls. The actual method of killing is kind of irrelevant after you’ve cast Conflux — there are a multitude of cards you can fetch out to make a kill. At this point, I think the deck is really underdeveloped in the venue of how it wants to win; Cruel Ultimatum is no guarantee of a win and having to cast a whole bunch of Ultimatums can be challenging. Other kill conditions include:
â€¢ Nucklavee with Cruel Ultimatum and a Blue instant-speed bounce spell. This enables you to get back the Ultimatum and the bounce spell with the Nucklavee, then cast the Ultimatum again and use the bounce spell to replay Nucklavee, starting the cycle all over again (assuming you drew some colored cards in there too). This requires an extra slot for Nucklavee, but it allows you to loop for more than twenty life, increasing the amount of damage you can deal to about 75. You draw three cards from Ultimatum, meaning you’re bounded by deck size of probably 45 cards when you go off, so you’re looking at (decksize/3)*5 as the total damage.
â€¢ Time Stretch with Progenitus means two unblockable attacks and, if you run All Sun’s Dawn, you can recur more Time Stretches. This plan can be run without Cruel Ultimatums, so it saves space.
â€¢ False Cure and Beacon of Immortality can blow out an opponent from any life total and kill them immediately. This also does not require Cruel Ultimatum, but it does require a Conflux or some seriously lucky draws to set up.
I think the False Cure kill is probably the best, since you can dedicate just two slots to it. However, it does need a Conflux, and you can only run four unless you want to run something like Supply/Demand. The Time Stretch option is appealing but it means you have to run some sort of bounce or a card like Vindicate, since you need answers to Moat or Humility or even silly things like Meekstone. But like I said before, the kill is sort of irrelevant if you can consistently put yourself in the position where you can Conflux. Wall of Blood and Fling might even be a fine kill, though certainly silly (silliest being Magister Sphinx and Hidesugu’s Second Rite). You can also use the TurboZvi kill from the Standard Dream Halls deck. If you haven’t experienced it, the deck would use Ancestral Memories and Gaea’s Blessing to constantly shuffle the graveyard back into the library and see enormous numbers of cards. This was all funneled into killing with Lobotomy and Inspiration to deck the opponent. It also took an annoyingly long time to actually pull off. If I were building for a False Cure kill, I would definitely run Ancestral Memories, since it gives you two cards and shows a great selection. It’s also not unreasonable to cast on its lonesome with actual mana.
Though the kill is malleable, the rest of the structure of the deck is mostly established. You’ll be running several cantrips like Brainstorm and Ponder, alongside Force of Will. Dream Halls rewards you for playing mostly monocolor cards, so these small blue spells lend a consistency and can be tossed to cast bigger spells from Dream Halls. There’s some debate over the other elements of the Dream Halls deck, mainly over whether to splash Black or not. Black gives Thoughtseize and similar black disruption, and it also gives Lim-Dul’s Vault. The Vault is like Vampiric Tutor in the deck, setting up several draws in a row. You can loop through your entire deck if you want to set up a specific pile and your deck contains a number of cards that are not a multiple of five (meaning that you would just see the same cards over again in each pile). This was a trick from Flash/Hulk days, and it’s also the slowest ever to actually do. It’s good to practice this trick though, because you can set up piles with a Brainstorm on top, which will let you draw three more cards and make the Vault a lot less slow in in-game resources by putting several combo cards into your hand.
The manabase is one of the coolest parts of the deck, since you can build it with just basic lands. There are three accelerators worth talking about, though. Lotus Petal is universally accepted as a great card for this deck and can enable turn-two Show and Tell, and at least three is a good call. I count two Petals as one mana source, because though the temporary mana is nice, it’s foolish to throw together a manabase dependent on them. There’s also Ancient Tomb, which is weak in the long game but has obvious accelerating advantages. Finally, Crystal Vein is worth looking at, since it does the same accelerating trick, comes into play untapped and doesn’t choke you slowly like Ancient Tomb can do. I’m inclined to run a split of Tombs and Veins, but there are only a few spells in the deck that require colorless mana, so I wouldn’t go overboard. If you are toying around with lists and choose a monocolor list, fetchlands are still critical because you will be running Brainstorms and the shuffle is why we play Brainstorm!
Dream Halls has a great element of inevitability against any deck that does not pack counterspells, which is a great reason to run the deck. It can’t fight faster combo easily and it can be soft against decks with permission, but that hasn’t killed a lot of other decks in the format. The key element of the deck’s power is Show and Tell because it can either enable the combo or drop Progenitus. It’s uncomfortable to counter the Show and Tell when Dream Halls might come out two turns later anyway, but the downside of the 10/10 hitting means that you’ve got to stop the sorcery. The deck reminds me of Aluren in the way that it can very consistently win on the third or fourth turn. With the added acceleration here though, I’ve been able to get the Halls to combo out on the first and second turn before. It’s certainly potent just for the speed in that regard.
Let’s shift from looking at how to make Dream Halls work to how to beat the deck. I could be wrong on this, but Dream Halls is a very beatable deck if you simply know what to do and are aware of what you are playing against. The namesake enchantment is weak not only to cards like Krosan Grip and Qasali Pridemage, but also Pyroblast and kin. Stopping the Halls from hitting the table, or immediately blowing it up given the opportunity, means the combo player is stuck with a hand full of expensive spells with no way to utilize them. There is, of course, the possibility that the Dream Halls player will put the Enchantment into play, immediately cast Progenitus and shrug at your Krosan Grip. The x-factor, the “lady or the tiger” element of figuring out whether they’re going for the attacking plan or the combo plan, is the trickiest to solve. It is best fought with counterspells like Pyroblast or Force of Will to stop the Show and Tell or Dream Halls from ever hitting play, which means that a lot of decks simply don’t have effective comprehensive answers.
Further, since the deck has no actual draw spells, it’s very soft to hand disruption. Cards like Duress pack a lot of punch because Dream Halls minus Dream Halls is a do-nothing deck most of the time. Also, as Show and Tell lets you put cards into play, elements like True Believer or Seal of Cleansing can slow the opponent down considerably. For true Show and Tell hilarity, play Aluren in response and win! As the deck is still young, most answers to it are still conventional. I am curious if, in time, we might see a sideboard strategy akin to the Mono Blue versus Tooth and Nail strategy in Champions Standard that involved bringing in Twincast to copy Tooth’s spell, get Uyo, Silent Prophet and Triskelion, clone the Tooth again and get two Mephidross Vampire to kill an opponent. Both Show and Tell and Dream Halls are symmetrical, so there might be something innovative that can take advantage of that.
Acquiring the physical cards is a challenging proposition at this point; Show and Tell has completely disappeared from The Internets in the last few weeks and Dream Halls is really picking up in price. Conflux is still available and I don’t expect it to break out, but Progenitus is already costly to obtain, especially needing four. The scarcity of some of the cards could impact how often you see Dream Halls at actual events.
All in all, the Dream Halls shell is consistent, interesting and capable of being adjusted for many metagame concerns. I don’t see it as overpowered, though the deck, like most combo decks, can stomp Zoo and other lists that don’t interact with the stack very often. If you’d like to get a sense of the evolution of the deck and what different people are doing with it, there’s a great thread on The Source here that explains a bit of the basics and shows some variant kills and such. If you’ve put some work into Dream Halls or have killer ways of beating it, post in the forums or send me an email!
Until next week…
legacysallure at gmail dot com
Bonus Mono Blue Dream Halls list!