Dredge (retag and decklists)
Dredge is a mechanic introduced in the original Ravnica block and has been the centerpiece for decks in all formats since its debut. The Modern version of deck uses Dredge to build up its graveyard and to create a board presence of Bloodghasts, Narcomoeba and Prized Amalgams.
Even though Dredge is a complicated deck to play with intricate decisions, it is oft maligned. The deck, even in its least powerful iteration in Modern, boasts one of the best Game 1 win percentages in the format and is the upside to the deck.The deck was even powerful enough to merit a nerf in the banning of Golgari Grave-Troll.
Dredge draws hate, both literal and figurative. Cards like Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void can turn the deck off and is the downfall of the deck, but it is a worthwhile gamble. They have to find hate to have a chance and even if they do find their hate, the Dredge deck can answer it with either a reactive Nature's Claim or a proactive Thoughtseize.
Despite the deck being linear and trying to do the same thing every game, it is a complicated deck but it rewards practice than most other Modern decks.
Dredge by Jack12 (Competitive Modern League 01May2018
3 Insolent Neonate
4 Golgari Thug
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Haunted Dead
4 Faithless looting
4 Cathartic Reunion
3 Life from the loam
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained mire
4 Copperline Gorge
1 Darkmor Salvage
2 Gemstone Mine
2 Stomping Ground
3 Wooded Foothills
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Lightning Axe
4 Nature’s Claim
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Collective Brutality
Every nonland card in Dredge can be broken down into three parts.
3. Payoff for using your graveyard (Conflagrate, Prized Amalgam, Bloodghast)
There are two distinct ways that Dredge wins: Either you establish a slew of recurring creatures and are able to beat them down relentlessly. Or you recur Life from the Loam enough times to discard your entire hand to Conflagrate and kill your opponent or all of their creatures.
Faithless Looting, Cathartic Reunion are the main enablers to get dredgers in the graveyard and to start dredging into more dredgers and payoff cards. Usually a card that discards before it draws is worse than a card that does it in the opposite order but with Dredge we want our dredgers in the graveyard before we start drawing. This paradigm makes Cathartic Reunion your most explosive enabler, often ending up with Dredging up to 15 cards and some undead idiots in play. Faithless Looting is cheaper and does things in the opposite order but it is still great in the deck. Flashbacked Lootings can help the deck continue to quickly mill through the deck and build a bigger board. Shriekhorn has usurped Insolent Neonate in the deck and lets you see more cards to find the first dredger or additional payoffs. Insolent Neonate could find itself back in the deck if the format were to slow down.
The creature suite of Bloodghast, Prized Amalgam and Narcomoeba are our beaters and each add a different component to the deck. Amalgam is our biggest guy and is easy to recur over and over. Narcomoeba cannot be recurred after it dies the first time but it is a necessary enabler to start the Amalgam engine. The flying body is great at blocking and can help swing races. Bloodghast is very resilient and adds to the clock while triggering Amalgam. The haste ability allows Dredge to play around cards like Anger of the Gods or Cryptic Command by keeping extra Bloodghasts in the 'yard and a fetchland in play. If you have a huge board state and are only threatened by sweepers, saving those last few Bloodghasts can be the difference between a game ending blow out and an easy win.
The Dredgers are Stinkweed Imp (Dredge 5), Golgari Thug (Dredge 4), Life from the Loam (Dredge 3), and Dakmor Salvage (Dredge 2). These are the key to any opening hand and what makes the deck go. Life from the Loam is the one you'll cast the most; it puts a dredger (itself) into the 'yard, allows you hit land drops to recur Bloodghasts and to build up a large hand to flashback a huge Conflagrate. Stinkweed Imp is a flying, pseudo Deathtouch creature that is easy to recur over and over. This defensive capability makes it difficult for decks with large solo threats like Death's Shadow and Tarmogoyf to break through which buys Dredge a lot of time. Golgari Thug does a similar thing as Imp but recurs chump blockers easily by using the dies trigger to put a Narcomoeba back on top of the deck to be milled over on the next dredge. Of note, Thug is not a may, so if it is your only creature in your 'yard when it dies, it has to put itself on top of the deck. This can be annoying but if kept in mind, it is not usually a problem. Dakmor Salvage assures we hit land drops without Loams and is a good way to recur Bloodghasts without having to cast Loam on a turn when you want to use your mana on something else.
Conflagrate is one of the biggest payoffs for Dredge. Conflagrate does it all in our deck, it dumps excess recursive guys stuck in our hand while clearing the opponents board or hitting their face for a lot of damage. In conjunction with Life from the Loam, Conflagrate can hit for more than 10 damage very easily. It is one of the ways the deck can finish games in a race or be the sole source of damage when locked out by an Ensnaring Bridge.
The deck usually plays one or two finishers it can flashback from the graveyard. The typical options are Driven // Despair, Rally the Peasants or Scourge Devil. Rally the Ancestors and Scourge Devil are very similar in that they help a smalll board of beaters finish the game a turn ahead of schedule. Scourge Devil has upside in that it triggers Amalgams in the 'yard but Rally the Peasants adds additional power. This split usually comes down to personal preference. Driven // Despair doesn't help our beaters finish the game, but it helps obliterate their hand and makes winning trivial afterward.
Haunted Dead acts as another recursive threat and is great at blocking in the air and ground while triggering Amalgam. It also helps dump Amalgams or Bloodghasts stuck in your hand.
Cards like Haunted Dead, Rally the Peasants and Scourge Devil are always a 1 of's in the deck because you generally will find it during the course of putting your whole deck in the graveyard and it adds another dimension to the deck with just the one slot.
Dredge has a stable 3 color mana base with lots of fetchlands and shocklands. The fetchlands are important alongside Life from the Loam to ensure you have targets and at triggering Bloodghasts repeatedly. Older versions used a mana base with City of Brass, Gemstone Mine and Mana Confluence but Dredge lists have gone away from it and the fetchland mana base is considered better.
Dredge has an incredible game one win percentage because most decks cannot stop the recursive threats or cannot withstand a large Conflagrate on their board. Without actual graveyard hate, it is hard to contain the Dredge menace. Forcing the opponent to have the hate or lose is usually a beneficial proposition in Modern and Dredge does that the most.
Dredge can play a long game easily, generating tons of value turn after turn but can also provide a fast enough clock to race combo decks and aggro decks with the help of Conflagrate.
Dredge is largely unaffected by mulligans, due to a lot of the Dredge cards basically reading Draw 5 instead of Dredge 5. Dredge easily wins off of mulligans to 4 and winning off of 3 cards isn't unheard of.
Dredge's weaknesses are less archetype specific and more card specific. Rest in Peace, Grafdiger's Cage and Leyline of the Void completely turn off the deck and must be answered before you can play the game. The deck has answers to them but finding the answer can be difficult.
Cards like Relic of Progenitus, Tormod's Crypt and Nihil Spellbomb can also be dangerous for Dredge but they are much easier to beat. As the Dredge player, you can force them to use their artifact hate piece to stop a recursive threat from coming into play and then use another draw spell to dump a new Dredger into the graveyard to start anew.
One of the few archetypes Dredge can struggle against is Big Mana. Decks like Scapeshift and Tron go over the top of Dredge and the interaction of Conflagrate isn't enough generally. As if the matchup wasn't hard enough, these decks often sport maindeck Relic of Progenitus.
Dredge, like a lot of Modern decks, cannot play a regular game of Magic. The deck mulligans a lot, which thankfully it is really good at winning after several mulligans. When the deck faces hate after sideboarding, finding a hand with an draw spell, a Dredger and an answer to their hate becomes difficult.
One of the hardest parts about Dredge is how to sideboard, what is able to be taken out and how to play around their sideboard hate. Sideboarding with this deck is extremely fluid depending on what hate cards they bring in against you. Boarding in two Nature’s Claim in any match up where they can have Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void is generally okay and gives you 2 games to have a good Dredge hand plus an answer to their hate. If they bring in the soft hate like Relic or Nihil Spellbomb, Nature's Claim can force them to use it before it really hoses the Dredge deck. Hate like Surgical Extraction is generally okay against Dredge because it hampers how wide your board can get but if you keep it in mind in sideboarding it is generally beatable. The opponent has a lot of options to target but they will generally attack your Amalgams or Bloodghasts. If you think they have Extraction, be sure to leave yourself open to winning with a large Conflagrate and leave in Haunted Dead to keep the recursive body.
Cards like Lightning Axe and Darkblast help against the aggressive decks in the format and can remove annoying creatures like Scavenging Ooze, Anafenza, the Foremost and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Darkblast is especially great against decks with lots of 1 toughness creatures and it can take down one of their guys turn after turn. Darkblast can also kill 2 toughness creatures by being cast in the upkeep and then dredging it in your draw step.
Ancient Grudge and Thoughtseize serve as additional answers to hate, some before it hits play and some after. Ancient Grudge is good against Relic as well because once it is in the graveyard, you can force them to use Relic on your terms. Thoughtseize can also double as help against fast combo decks like Storm.
Collective Brutality adds additional disruption that is very synergistic with the rest of the deck. It really helps against Burn, Control and Collected Company decks.
Failure // Comply is a piece of technology that pops up sometimes in Dredge sideboards, usually alongside 1 Hallowed Fountain. It helps against the big mana decks like Scapeshift and can help attack Cryptic Command tapdowns out of Jeskai.
Mulligan aggressively! If your 7 card hand doesn't have a Dredger, a way to get it in the graveyard and 2 lands, 1 of which makes Green, mulligan! Jim Davis went deep on the mulligan decisions of Dredge in an article and it does a great job illustrating what are keeps and mulligans. Correctly mulliganing with the deck is the biggest possible boon to your win percentage.
The Prized Amalgam triggers are not a may so you always have to bring them back when triggered. Also of note, Amalgam comes back on the next end step after a creature comes back from the graveyard. This means that if you want an Amalgam on your turn, you want to fetch a land to bring back Bloodghast during their second main phase.
There are lots of timing tricks to get familiar with while playing the deck, so stay on your toes and look for opportunities to play around sweepers. For example, Bloodghast is a may; so to play around Anger of the Gods you can crack a fetch in your end step to bring back your Bloodghasts and get the Amalgams back on their end step. You can alternatively do it in their end step if you are going to get a huge Dredge on the following turn and want to get more Amalgams into play by having the first Amalgam you already had to come in to play on your end step and trigger any new Amalgams. This comes up against Surgical Extraction a lot if they take out your Narcomoebas and you do not have a lot of things to initially trigger Amalgam.
When you are really far ahead, be careful! It is really easy to get overzealous and dump excess idiots into play just to get crushed by an Anger of the Gods. Be aware of how you can lose and be conservative to avoid a loss in a game that should have been an easy win. It only takes once to learn this lesson, and it does not feel good to have Angry Gods raining down on you and our undead friends.
When playing against Surgical Extraction, you can fizzle the spell by removing its target from the graveyard. If they are trying to go after a Dredger while you have Insolent Neonate in play, you can sacrifice it in response and Dredge their target back to your hand. Fetchlands and Bloodghast play a similar dance. If Surgical Extraction gets popular, it is possible a Memory's Journey in the sideboard is worthwhile to have an easy way to counter it once you mill it over.
The Future of Dredge
Dredge usually does not get new prints but Prized Amalgam, Insolent Neonate and Cathartic Reunion have energized the deck and pushed it into the Modern spotlight. Draw spells like Cathartic Reunion don't happen every set but they are not unheard of; this leaves the door open for new cards to have a big impact on the deck.
Dredge has been around since the original Ravnica set and it will be around forever. The dead can never die; that doesn't mean the deck is always a great choice though. It can line up poorly against the field and get hated out. Dredge like Affinity is a deck that doesn't pray on a given metagame but rather timing of a metagame. If you see an event where the numbers of Relics or Rest in Peace's are in a decline, then it is time to dust off the old Dredge deck.
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