Force Of Walderman: How to Beat Modern Dredge

Over the past two weeks Dredge has finally started to flex its muscles in the modern Star City circuit. Ross Meriam was able to clinch the Syracuse open with the deck and Tom Ross was able to Top 8 with a similar build this past week at the Player’s Invitational in New Jersey. Before the addition of Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon, Dredge was not considered to be a tiered deck in modern, let alone a tier one deck. The new block in combination with the unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll breathed new life into the archetype and catapulted it into the ranks of other competitive decks in the modern meta-game. Even more interesting than the deck’s rise in power is the change it went through since the original Innistrad block to where the deck exists today.

Before the existence of the Shadows over Innistrad block and before the unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll, Dredge decks were mostly considered “Dredgevine” decks. The name Dredgevine comes from the combination of dredge creatures in the deck plus the creature Vengevine. Dredgevine decks had a core of 4 Gravecrawler, 4 Vengevine and 4 Bloodghast. Creatures like Hedron Crab, Satyr Wayfinder and Dredgers were used to fill the graveyard with the 12 core creatures and the goal of the deck was to cheat Vengevine into play. Vengevine itself is a hasted 4/3 that would put the opponent on a fast clock. Most game plans were linear exercises of finding as many Vengevines as possible and hoping that your opponent could not handle them in time. This style of deck was resistant to removal that destroyed creatures and wrath effects since the creatures could be easily and efficiently reoccurred. Although there are powerful interactions contained within the deck it was clunky and never saw any prolonged competitive play. Among the more valuable lessons learned from this precursor deck was the value / importance of cards such as Squee, Goblin Nabob, Lotleth Troll, Gurmag Angler, Hedron Crab, Zombie Infestation, Vengeful Pharaoh and Magus of the Bazaar. Over the course of the deck’s history all of these cards saw some amount of play and each of the above was found to have flaws for various reasons. The initial builds of dredge were mostly four colour decks as well which made the mana very delicate as well as painful. People began to build subtypes of the Dreadgevine archetype and ultimately the archetype fell into obscurity.

After the unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll occurred many players, pros and brewers alike, became interested in the dredge archetype again. Golgari Grave-Troll is the best dredge card available and allows a player to really maximize the amount of cards they are getting into their graveyard each turn. Although the unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll was necessary to increase the overall power level of dredge, the unbanning alone did not provide enough tools to bring the deck back from the dead. The simple addition of the Golgari Grave-Troll to Dredge lists did not fix any of the deck’s issues and the Dredge archetype was still clunky and underpowered. It was the combination of this unbanning and several cards from the new Innistrad block that worked together to create a more powerful and explosive deck that could compete with other tier one decks.

Out of the new block the important cards that were added to modern dredge were Prized Amalgam, Insolent Neonate, Haunted Dead and Collective Brutality. All four of these cards had an impact on the way the current dredge deck and its variants are constructed. In general, these cards filled in missing pieces in the dredge puzzle. Prized Amalgam is perhaps the most powerful addition to the Dredge arsenal. The Amalgam is a 3/3 body that returns from the graveyard to the battlefield. It is triggered by the Haunted Dead, Narcomoeba and Bloodghast that are all staples in the Dredge deck. When dredged, the Prized Amalgam can quickly increase the clock a player has on their opponent. Like all of the other threats in the Dredge deck, the Amalgam is resistant to traditional removal and can easily return to the battlefield. Insolent Neonate was another interesting addition from the Shadows Over Innistrad set that allows you to discard and dredge as early as turn one. If an opening hand contains an Insolent Neonate and a dredger, you are able to discard the dredger to the Neonate and then dredge that same card because of the way that Insolent Neonate is templated. Being able to dredge this early means that your draws can be more explosive, your damage output is vastly increased and the deck is overall more consistent. The Neonate also helps the deck have more turn 1 plays and the ability to keep more hands without mulling into oblivion. Haunted Dead was another gem given to us in Eldritch Moon that creates a solid board presents out of nowhere. If the Haunted Dead is in the graveyard a player can discard two cards, the dream being Prized Amalgams, then the Haunted Dead will return to the battlefield along with any copies of Prized Amalgams that were present in your graveyard. Haunted Dead is a minor addition to most dredge decks, most decks only containing one copy, but a vital synergy built into the deck to help trigger the Prized Amalgam engine. Lastly, the Shadows Over Innistrad block gave us Collective Brutality. The black Escalate card is a method to discard cards from your hand and a pseudo-Duress effect that can rip backbreaking instants and sorceries from your opponent’s hand before they have the opportunity to cast them. By having all these new tools in their arsenal, Dredge has not only become more consistent but they have been able to cut a lot of the lackluster cards that were still present in the deck.

Dredge is a powerful archetype and I believe it will continue to impact the modern meta-game. It is a completely different animal from its legacy counterpart and to some extent even harder to play. Much like Affinity, there are sideboard cards that wreak havoc on a dredge deck and it important to understand what tools you have at your disposal to stop or at least hinder Dredge decks. If you are worried about facing dredge in the future, consider some number of the following sideboard cards:

Anger of the Gods / Flaying Tendrils: Wrath effects that exile are extremely potent against Dredge. Anything that stops their creatures from being destroyed and simply going to the graveyard is important against Dredge decks. When Dredge’s creatures are exiled they cannot return from the graveyard and continue to tax your precious removal spells.

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Rest in Peace / Leyline of the Void / Grafdigger’s Cage / Wheel of Sun and Moon: These cards nuke graveyards and make the Dredge game plan incredibly difficult. In order to beat any of these cards dredge needs to board into enchantment/artifact hate and must have it in hand. At the bare minimum these cards give you the time necessary to attack or find other answers present in your deck.

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Relic of Progenitus / Nihil Spellbomb: Relic and Spellbomb are one-time graveyard destruction cards. There is a bit of a subgame involved with playing these cards. You have to decide when and if you want to activate these artifacts and when you want to deploy them from your hand or hold onto them as a vital resource later in the game.

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Hallowed Moonlight: Magic Origins gave us this standard sideboard staple card that was used primarily to help deal with Collected Company decks. But, this card also has applications against Dredge. Moonlight can stop Prized Amalgams and Narcomoeba from returning to the battlefield. Prized Amalgams have mandatory triggers that require them to be returned to the battlefield when they are activated by a Haunted Dead or Bloodghast. Hallowed Moonlight can prevent the Amalgams from returning and exile them at the same time.

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Anafenza, the Foremost / Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet / Scavenging Ooze: These three creatures have a measure of interaction with graveyards that will help you stabilize against Dredge opponents. In all three cases the benefits provided by these creatures are slow but become more potent as the game drags on. By having utility creatures such as Anafenza, Ooze and Kalitas in your deck in combination with other sideboard cards, Dredge is presented with another problem that they must answer.

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Night of Souls’ Betrayal: While this enchantment does not stop every threat seen in a dredge deck it answers Bloodghast, Narcomoeba and the Haunted Dead spirits cleanly. By having this enchantment in play, you are slowing down and minimizing the number of attacking creatures the Dredge deck has available to them. Additionally, this enchantment prohibits the Stinkweed Imp from being a recursive death touch blocker that constantly trades up with your threats.

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Ghostly Prison: Dredge will eventually find a way to go wide with a huge number of creatures. Ghostly Prison will tax the dredge deck to the point where they can only attack with one or two creatures at a time. Normally dredge will only have a few lands in play and taxing their mana is an effective way of preserving your life total in the long term.wee

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That’s is all for now, see you next week with another article.
- Les

Conspiracy: Take The Crown Launch Party! This Saturday August 27, 2016

Take the Crown! The next installment in the Conspiracy saga is upon us. Join us for the release of this exciting set!
Header-TTC-CJoin us on Saturday August 27th as we draft Conspiracy II – Take The Crown, this exciting draft format is upon us. We will be running draft at the following times:

1PM
4PM
7PM

Entry Fee: $15

Format: Conspiracy Draft

Structure: Players will be grouped into draft pods based on total attendance, then grouped into multiplayer games of 3-5 players within those pods. Each player will also receive a crown (while supplies last).

Prizes: To the winner of each game: $4 store credit per player in that game (e.g. $12 for 3 player games)

The Fro Knows: The Brutality of Modern

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With every trip to Innistrad, graveyard strategies get stronger and stronger. When we first visited the plane, Snapcaster Mages were flashing Lightning Bolts left, right, and center, and Liliana of the Veil was just tossing everyone’s cards into the graveyard. It was utter chaos, and it shook up Modern in ways that we’re still feeling the shockwaves to this very day.

Once WotC announced that we would be returning to Innistrad, every graveyard player immediately got a chill down their spine. What insane graveyard cards would we get this time? What could we reanimate? What broken mechanics could we get value from?

Well, once Shadows over Innistrad reared its head, graveyard players met the set with a resounding “Huh, okay”. There were certainly some interesting cards, but few that were obviously broken the way things were in the past. Of all the cards in Shadows, only Prized Amalgam and Insolent Neonate really resonated with graveyard fans, as they enabled Dredge to be a competitive archetype in Modern. And while the deck was certainly strong, it was always missing a certain something to really push it over the edge into the broken territory of its Legacy counterpart.

 

All that changed when Eldritch Moon introduced the Escalate mechanic. This kicker variant allowed players to pay additional costs to get up to two extra modes on their spells. Of all these, one really stood out in my mind as the missing piece of the puzzle. Collective Brutality had the perfect combination of cheap to cast, an abusable kicker cost, and a big enough variety of effects that it immediately caught my attention. This is a card that manages to condense a lot of the slots that would otherwise be dedicated to removal and hand disruption, and couples it with a way to get cards like Bloodghast, Prized Amalgam, and Golgari Grave-Troll into the graveyard.

 

One of the biggest problems that Dredge has faced over the years is that it needs to do certain things to win, but only has a set amount of slots it can spare since so much of the deck is dedicated to cards with Dredge and draw spells. Collective Brutality allows the Dredge player to take slots that would normally be filled by Thoughtseize, Darkblast, and Abrupt Decay, and free them up for other spells that can help fight some of the cards that the deck is weak to. For example, in my sideboard I’ve managed to cut all of the hand disruption most stock lists play, simply because I already have it main-deck.

 

As the format moves toward smaller creature decks, Collective Brutality’s second mode becomes more and more relevant. With the introduction of Thalia, Heretic Cathar, the Hate Bears deck received a massive power boost, and one that can shut down Dredge’s end game plan of attacking with hasty Bloodghasts, as well as disrupt our mana by forcing our nonbasics to enter tapped. This means that it would take a full two turns to use the mana from a fetchland, which puts a serious damper on the way that our manabase is set up.

 

Collective Brutality’s ability to pick off any X/2 creature gives us an out to Thalia, Leonin Arbiter, and even aggressive threats like Goblin Guide and Blighted Agent. As well, since these decks primarily win by just beating down with small creatures, using the third mode to drain two life can often make or break most racing situations. Being able to kill a Goblin Guide while simultaneously negating the damage from its last attack can be a huge tempo swing against Burn, and in the later game when bombarding the opponent with Bloodghasts is the name of the game, that two life lost can often be enough to bring them low enough to grant our Vampires haste.

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“But Tyler,” you must be thinking, “why not run the Greater Gargadon/Bridge from Below package like the SCG players? Is Collective Brutality good enough to not run it?” While good when it’s a surprise, now that the SCG tech has become the norm, the combo of using Greater Gargadon as a sacrifice outlet for Bridge from Below has become too…cute. One of the fundamental flaws of Dredge is that you have little control over what cards you mill. Milling the cards you want to cast or drawing the cards you want to mill can often screw you over enough that you’re pretty much forced to run 4-of copies of castable spells. This is where Greater Gargadon is at its weakest, since it does absolutely nothing in the graveyard. You have to suspend it or it does absolutely nothing. Sure, with Bridge from Below in the graveyard, you can sacrifice your creatures to get zombie tokens, but that’s under the assumption that you’ll be able to get them in the graveyard.

 

The current SCG stock list has very few ways of getting a drawn Bridge in the graveyard, and unlike in Legacy where there are Lion’s Eye Diamond and Putrid Imp, if you draw that Bridge it’s going to be stuck in your hand for quite some time. Between running Bridge form Below and Narcomoeba, there are far too many ways for them to get stuck in your opening hand, turning normally keepable starts into effective mulligans.

 

As well, these lists have started to run up to four copies to maximize the odds of having Gargadon in the opener and milling the Bridges. That’s a whopping eight slots dedicated to a combo that may not even work. Given how popular Lightning Bolt, Arcbound Ravager, and Abrupt Decay are right now, there are far too many ways to prevent Bridge from Below’s token ability from resolving at instant speed. Because Bridge checks when the creature dies as well as when the ability resolves the opponent has an opportunity to kill one of their own creatures in response, thus exiling all copies of Bridge from Below and denying you from getting any tokens. It’s far too volatile a combo to survive in Modern. Modern as it is right now rewards being streamlined, and I feel that requiring almost a sixth of the deck just for the potential to get tokens is far too fragile.

 

Since Collective Brutality fills a lot of the roles of many of the current sideboard cards, I’ve been able to fill those slots with cards dedicated to ways of fighting the more prevalent anti-Dredge cards in Modern. For example, one of the ways to break the mirror is Leyline of the Void, since it exiles all of the opponent’s cards for as long as it’s in play. My biggest problem with this card is that, unlike other graveyard-hate cards, if you don’t have it in your opening hand it does absolutely nothing. This is why Surgical Extraction is far more potent, as it can keep an opponent off of specific threats like Prized Amalgam, especially at instant-speed and for no mana invested.

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For times when the opponent does get the Leyline in play, Golgari Charm is your best friend. Golgari Charm has the advantage of destroying enchantments that Abrupt Decay and Natural State can’t touch, while also having the flexibility to sweep the X/1 creatures in Affinity or Infect or regenerating your team against Anger of the Gods, which is easily the best sweeper against recursive creatures. As well, I’ve included a pair of Pithing Needles, which is another card that is criminally underplayed in Modern Dredge right now since it can shut off Relic of Progenitus, Scavenging Ooze, and even opposing manlands which can pressure our life total as we dig for answers.

 

Suffice to say, the sheer power of Collective Brutality in Dredge is something that I’ve explored to great success in the past month, having cashed several GPTs and Modern weekly events on the back of using all three modes with backbreaking efficiency. Being able to swing a game by taking away their removal, one of their creatures, and draining their life all for 1B is something that can’t be ignored. While other toil away trying to make cute combos work, I believe that streamlining the deck to do as much as possible in as few cards is the true path to success. So if you’re interested in diving into Dredge, it’s time to embrace Collective Brutality.

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