In Minecraft’s Nether, there is an impenetrable ceiling of bedrock above the player that they cannot, under any circumstances, get on top of. No one seems to have told the speedrunner known as Dream that. He’s glitched his way on top of this ceiling, and is building a Nether portal on top of the bedrock plane. He jumps through this new portal back into the overworld, and in a questionable move alerts the four hunters dedicated to killing him of his new location.
When he sees the hunters come within eyeshot, he hops back into the Nether portal and waits patiently for his pursuers to do the same. The four hunters warp into the Nether, putting aside their confusion as to how Dream built a portal on the Nether’s ceiling to chase him down. Dream gives them a long chase before turning around, throwing an ender pearl behind the pursuing pack, and warping back towards the portal. A few more ender pearls later, Dream is back at the portal. With no ender pearls of their own, the hunters are forced to run the distance back to Dream.
With his headstart, Dream places a block of TNT down next to the portal, lighting it just as he steps through. Dream re-enters the Minecraft overworld as the hunters all scream variations of “WHAT,” “HOW,” and “WHAT” as their newfound predicament sets in. They are not only trapped in the Nether, they’re trapped on the roof of the Nether. With no flint and steel between them the hunters remain stuck in the Nether, and Dream earns himself a solid chunk of time to beat the game without being hunted down.
Spectacular feats like these are more than common in Dream’s Minecraft manhunt series. The videos center on the speedrunner, Dream, trying to beat the game while being chased by a number of hunters. His latest video, which pits Dream against four hunters, has pulled in 11 million views in just three days, and earlier installments of the series have netted over 30 million views. The rules of engagement are relatively simple, if Dream dies, the hunters win. On the flipside, the hunters are allowed to die repeatedly. A few custom plugins allow the hunters to track Dream via a compass in the overworld, but other than that the game remains largely unaltered. On its surface, this format seems to guarantee the hunters come out on top. But more often than not, Dream pulls just enough aces out of his sleeve to narrowly beat the hunters, and eventually the game.
It’s these ace-plays that make watching Dream take on the hunters so alluring. With Minecraft, players are given a world as big as their hard drive, and an infinite number of ways to play. It’s easy for choice paralysis to set in and guide players into set routines. Sure, spawning into a new world allows the player to do virtually anything they set their mind to. But more likely than not, the first thing any player will do is chop down a tree and start looking at building or mining out their first shelter. One would think that with the constraints of the manhunter series, this rut would be dug even deeper. In reality, every video Dream puts out manages to be different despite the premise being nearly identical.
Being a speedrunner, Dream has amassed a knowledge of Minecraft that stands far above that of all the hunters combined. More importantly, he knows how to actually use this knowledge to his advantage. In his latest run, he placed a TNT minecart on top of a tree. He then lured the hunters to chase him under the tree, quickly looking up and breaking the leaf block holding the minecart while passing it. The minecart fell, and promptly exploded onto the hunters, killing two of them and severely injuring the other two. Screams from the hunters afterwards suggested they had no idea what had occurred, and the two survivors in their confusion became easy pickings for Dream.
But everytime Dream pulls off one of these tricks, it’s the last time it will work. Worse, his assailants gain the knowledge of how these tricks work and can potentially flip them around on Dream. It’s a constant arms race that takes place over the course of multiple videos, and Dream is constantly on the losing side. However, just because the hunters learn how Dream’s tricks work doesn’t mean that they’ve learned why Dream uses them.
At one point in the latest run, Dream is hiding from the hunters in the walls of the Nether. In order to flush Dream out, the hunters take to using one of his own tricks: exploding beds. In the Nether, attempting to sleep in a bed causes an explosion similar to that of TNT. The hunters began frantically placing and exploding beds, but without the precision and timing Dream himself would use. Their flawed approach ends up killing one of the hunters, and leaves the rest weak enough for Dream to pick off.
It’s not just that Dream knows that beds explode in the Nether, it’s that he knows when to make beds explode in the Nether. Dream possesses this gamesense across the entirety of the game, and it’s this same gamesense that makes the videos so enticing. Typically when you watch a speedrunner take on a game, it’s a given that they are going to both beat the game and take the path of least resistance. With the manhunter series, neither of these are guaranteed. Every strategy Dream uses loses its edge immediately after he deploys it, but he still manages to come up with new ones.
Watching Dream beat Minecraft manages to be an experience that leaves me slack-jawed every time. He doesn’t just win, he wins while the odds grow increasingly stacked against him. But Dream’s real innovation is his ability to innovate, taking the same game and finding new ways to exploit it every time he plays. His antics show that there really is an infinite amount of ways to play Minecraft—you just have to find them.
Nicolas Perez is an editorial intern at Paste and opinion co-editor for New University. He’s rambling on Twitter @Nic_Perez__.