Bring Out Your Dredge!

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average for more Modern discussion. I hope you all are doing well, and enjoyed the coverage of Magic all over Twitch this weekend. This article was written before the conclusion of Star City Games’ event in Charlotte this weekend, but I’m sure based on the few weeks we have had with Modern in this post Guilds of Ravnica metagame there is on deck on everyone’s mind.

Azorius Control…

No wait that’s not it! It’s of course Dredge.

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Dredge is an archetype based on a mechanic derived from a card, all with the same name. Other cards that eventually became mechanics include Flash, and Unearth. Presented for it’s first time in Ravnica: City of Guilds the Dredge mechanic was the primary feature of The Golgari Swarm.

Dredge is a replacement effect that allows you to take that card from your graveyard, and place it in your hand during the draw step (or any other time you draw) as long as your place a number of your cards from your library into your graveyard equal to the number for the mechanic. For instance if you wanted to have Life From The Loam back in your hand you would place the top three cards from your library into your graveyard, and put Loam into your hand. Then you would proceed to your first main phase (assuming you are doing all of this during your draw phase). While we only had Dredge in one of the three Ravnica sets during the Ravnica: City of Guilds block it left a foundation for us to build upon with future sets.

Dredge in Standard

In a previous article I mentioned my first time playing this archetype.

Creatures
Golgari Grave-Troll
Stinkweed Imp
Drowned Rusalka
Magus of the Bazaar
Merfolk Looter
Narcomoeba
Llanowar Mentor
Flame-Kin Zealot
Bonded Fetch

Spells
Bridge from Below
Dread Return
Life from the Loam

Lands
Breeding Pool
Watery Grave
Gemstone Caverns
Gemstone Mine
Yavimaya Coast
Horizon Canopy
Svogthos, the Restless Tomb

Sideboard
Wall of Roots
Krosan Grip
Pithing Needle
Golgari Brownscale
Darkblast
Blazing Archon  

This is where the archetype began to shine. A creature combo deck that would provide a “go wide” strategy by placing a large quantity of creatures on the board at one time allowed you to swarm your opponent. If they did not have a Wrath of God type of card the game was going to be very difficult for them (unless they didn’t care because they were playing something like Dragonstorm).

Of course this isn’t the only place where Dredge appeared during its time in Standard. Cards like Grave-Shell Scarab, Nightmare Void, and Golgari Brownscale (which sees play in Pauper btw) all were a part of Golgari style mid-range decks that had recursive threats that had to be consistently answered.

It was a great time to not only be playing Magic, but for me taking my first steps into Friday Night Magic. Back then creature token cards were not in booster packs. That did not start until 10th (Xth) edition. So I had to improvise by using Dungeons & Dragons zombie miniatures. Sometimes my battlefield was more of a mess than my graveyard, and that was especially true when using Llanowar Mentor along with Elf miniatures from Dungeons and Dragons.

Dredge in Legacy

When Lorwyn was released I had nowhere to play Dredge, so I held on to the key cards in it for a few years. While I was always interested in playing more Magic it wasn’t until 2012 that I decided to dip my toes into Legacy with both Burn, and Dredge due to this one card being printed.

Faithless Looting literally changed everything. A Careful Study that can be cast twice (thank you Lion’s Eye Diamond) was something the deck needed to go even faster deploying it’s primary strategy: Swarming you with ZOMBIES!!!

Creatures
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Street Wraith
4 Golgari Thug
4 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
2 Putrid Imp

Artifacts
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond

Enchantments
4 Bridge from Below

Spells
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Faithless Looting
3 Breakthrough
2 Careful Study

Lands
4 Cephalid Coliseum
4 Mana Confluence
2 City of Brass
3 Gemstone Mine

Sideboard
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Nature’s Claim
2 Dread Return
2 Serenity
2 Silent Gravestone
1 Ashen Rider
1 Blazing Archon

This is where my deck is currently in Legacy. The power level of this deck might feel like a glass cannon; however, with proper efficient play you can do some pretty broken things. A 3/1 haste creature for free every turn that leaves Zombies in its wake is pretty awesome on its own, and with the technology of Street Wraith in the deck it keeps the Ichorids flowing.

While Burn (or Red Deck Wins) was my first Legacy deck, Dredge was the first one where I felt like I was doing things on a similar power level as other decks. Remember, back in 2012 we didn’t have Eidolon of the Great Revel, nor Monastery Swiftspear.

Some may think Legacy is an expensive format. But coming in around $1,300.00, this deck is one of the cheapest in the format. That’s about as much as Bant Spirits in Modern, and less than other decks like Humans, Jund, and Jeskai. Dredge in Legacy also has one card on the Reserved LIst in Lion’s Eye Diamond so in that regard it is worth the investment.

With all of that said something happened around the same time Faithless Looting was given to us. That was the birth of Modern.

Dredge in Modern

Shortly before we received a tool for Legacy Dredge we were given a new format: Modern. From its inception cards such as Dread Return, and Golgari Grave-Troll have been banned. Kaladesh caused the deck to become overwhelmingly powerful due to the creation of these cards:

Prized Amalgam is not only pushed, but works great with cards like Bloodghast , and Narcomoeba, allowing it to join the fight whenever another creature comes into play. Remember how awesome it was to put a three power creature into play for free in Legacy with Ichorid? Amalgam is more or less the Modern version. You rarely, if ever, need to pay the mana cost for this card which is what makes it great.

Cathartic Reunion on the other hand is, for the same converted mana cost, a reverse Magus of the Bazaar. You discard cards first (hoping that one of them has Dredge), and then draw. This card alone causes a lot of acceleration for the deck, and when we had a card that allowed us to Dredge 6 in Golgari Grave-Troll things got out of hand (and into the graveyard, albeit temporarily) rather quickly. Even without the Troll the deck was still quite powerful, but Guilds of Ravnica brought a card that may bust the deck wide open. That card is Assassin’s Trophy.

No it’s not. It’s Creeping Chill.

Prior to the release of Guilds of Ravnica the conclusion was that Vengevine-style decks (known as Dredgevine) were the way to go. That day is long past, and now that Dredge in Modern has its own Lightning Helix, it has that little bit of reach it needs to finish off the opponent while keeping you alive.

I can hear Randy Buehler now asking: “What’s going to the graveyard??? OHHHH IT’S CREEPING CHILL!!! OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!!

Last week at Star City Game Dallas Dredge came back to life in Modern, and there currently is a discussion on how to proceed with a build. Here’s where I am right now.

Creatures
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Bloodghast
4 Narcomoeba
2 Golgari Thug

Artifacts
4 Shriekhorn

Spells
4 Creeping Chill
4 Cathartic Reunion
4 Life from the Loam
4 Faithless Looting
3 Conflagrate

Lands
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Mana Confluence
2 Blood Crypt
2 Mountain
2 Stomping Ground
1 Blackcleave Cliffs

Sideboard
4 Nature’s Claim
3 Ancient Grudge
3 Thoughtseize
3 Lightning Axe
2 Darkblast

It took me awhile, and some (ok a lot of) convincing from fellow Strictly Average author Joseph Dyer II to buy in to Shriekhorn being in the deck. Having this fuel your graveyard when you don’t have another turn 1 play is crucial for the deck’s speed. Imagine the opponent taking 6 on their first turn from flipping two Creeping Chills into your graveyard. Gross. The card is very much needed in the deck, and can help you bin an early Life From the Loam, Conflagrate, or a Bloodghast to get back when you play your second land.

The deck’s explosiveness comes from being aggressive with your Dredging, and trying to remember all of your triggers as there’s quite a few. Also unlike Legacy Dredge you do not have to worry about your opponent’s creatures blocking and dying, as you do not run Bridge From Below. You are the beat down, and you need to be the one keeping the pressure up.

Mana Confluence in the mana base is something I’m going to test. With so many decks in the meta game running burn spells, you will want to mitigate your life loss. Instead of playing a fetchland into a shockland (losing three life along the way) tapping a Mana Confluence to lose one life can be a lot more profitable. Yes losing the fetchlands may make your Bloodghasts worse, but this also makes the deck a lot more affordable than it already was.

In Conclusion

Dredge in its many forms has been described as “not playing Magic.” However there is nothing more magical than raising the dead. In all of fantasy-based fiction this is the most iconic form of magic, and this game best illustrates that through this archetype. One thing to keep in mind is that while there will be graveyard hate you will face you also have the tools to defeat such hate. Do not let the fact that there are cards to oppose your strategy keep you from playing this deck. With as many decks that are in both Legacy and Modern that are frustrating to do well with, or play against, this deck optimizes a cohesive strategy with a lot of fun.

Do you have Dredge built? What have you experienced with the deck? Please comment below, and follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.

Next week I’m going to something a little different, and dip into a casual format I have enjoyed playing the few times I have been able to. I’ll talk about Breya in EDH.

Until next time…

TAP MORE MANA!!!

Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.

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