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