Today I want to talk about Dredge. I’ve seen a lot of primers and other guides on the internet but most of them were before Eldritch Moon and all of them were before Kaladesh. If you’re interested in playing the deck, or want to see the best ways to beat it, read on. Yugioh players, I’m sorry, this is a Magic article.
This is the list I’ve been playing online. Try it. Understand it. The best way to beat a deck is to understand the key interactions and stop those. (Hint: It’s Life from the Loam + Bloodghast/Amalgam or Conflagrate)
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Insolent Neonate
4 Prized Amalgam
1 Haunted Dead
4 Faithless Looting
4 Cathartic Reunion
1 Collective Brutality
3 Life from the Loam
2 Dakmor Salvage
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Stomping Ground
2 Blood Crypt
1 Steam Vents
2 Arid Mesa
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Vengeful Pharaoh
1 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Lightning Axe
1 Abrupt Decay
3 Nature’s Claim
2 Shattering Spree / 2 Thoughtseize
1 Collective Brutality
This is a pretty boring Dredge list with nothing exciting going on, except for all the free creatures and cards.
I’ve seen alternate manabases of the following
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Mana Confluence
2 Dakmor Salvage
They’re about the same but I prefer the fetch and shock manabase so that I can not return Bloodghasts on my turn, but rather their second main after they’ve tapped out of 1RR or during their end step so that I don’t get bopped by Anger of the Gods. I also seem to play against a ton of control decks and Gemstone Mine leaving hurts. Less so against aggro decks and when the deck works properly but my dredges refuse to mill anything but lands, Neonates and Sorceries without Flashback.
My list has 13 cards with dredge. I’ve seen lists with a lot more and some with less. I feel this is about correct and if Grave-Troll got itself banned again, Golgari Thug would take its place. Yes, it’s worse and doesn’t see play now but the deck would still function. There are also other cards with dredge. I don’t think I should be maining Darkblast with lots of control running around. If your local meta has lots of 1 toughness creatures, go ahead and run it in the main. You can also Darkblast something on upkeep, then dredge it and Darkblast the same creature.
As for enablers, there are eight that cost one mana and eight that cost two mana. I’m counting Life from the Loam here because I’ve cast it for either nothing or just a single fetchland on turn two to start dredging on my next turn. The difference between Neonate and Faithless Looting is that Neonate discards first and Looting draws first, meaning Neonate can immediately dredge, Looting can’t. Unless you know Neonate will block some amount of damage later, or attack later, use Neonate first. If you’ve got Simian Spirit Guide and are able to Flashback Faithless Looting on turn two, do that. I don’t like the inconsistency SSG brings. Shriekhorn does mill four before your first draw but I’ve found it to be incredibly underwhelming. Plus, there’s not really space for it anymore.
Cathartic Reunion is the card that swings the game the most either in, or out of your favor. If you’re lucky, this dredges 18 cards on turn two. If you’re not, you’re still trading the two worst cards in your hand for hopefully something. Where it loses games is in the mirror and against blue decks. The mirror is pretty grindy if either both players have nut hands, or both players have mediocre hands. You run out of cards and you can’t even cast Reunion. It also sucks to get countered because that means you aren’t dredging. You did get those dredgers into the grave and took an opponent’s counterspell, but Loam is the only card you actually care about being countered. Collective Brutality is the second most swingy card. Either you resolve all modes and discard two dredgers or you resolve a Brutality that doesn’t really do anything. It’s so powerful when it goes well but that’s not too often. Plus, you need to actually draw the card.
Narcomoeba, Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam are the main payoff cards and the main way you kill your opponents. Moeba is a free roll off the top. Don’t worry if you draw it, just discard it or cast it when you can. It’s super important in some matches if they have low toughness flying creatures. I’ve never been unhappy to chump block with a Moeba, either. Bloodghast comes back every time you play a land, so every turn unless you’ve messed up. Like I said before, if you have fetches, save them until they’re safe, or you need to get them out of the grave. Amalgam is the card that gives dredge any oompf. A 3/3 for 1UB in a mostly red/green deck seems like an awful deal, but you’re rarely paying mana for Amalgam. Just bring back Moeba or Bloodghast and then bring back Amalgams. The way Amalgam is worded, it needs to be in the grave when your other creature comes back from it, then it returns whenever the next end step is. Milling Moeba and Amalgam will trigger Amalgam. Then if you mill more Amalgams, the second will see the first and the second will return during your opponent’s end step. This is why it’s important to dredge with Neonate and fetch for Bloodghast during their second main phase, so you can get Amalgams back.
Haunted Dead is really good against any deck trying to play fair and attack with creatures. It’s also the only untapped blocker the deck can revive. Loam can give you enough cards to bring back Bloodghasts and a Haunted Dead every turn, provided you have cards in your deck. Stitchwing Skaab is also fine. It has three flying power, whereas Haunted Dead only has one. I prefer Haunted Dead because I’m not actively fetching Steam Vents and Rally deals more damage with Haunted Dead. Rainbow lands make Skaab slightly better. Raven’s Crime is something I’d like to briefly mention in that it’s really cool but asks too much black mana and you’re always discarding their worst card. Too slow, would not include.
Conflagrate is sometimes played at three because it’s a really good card. You exile it from your Graveyard and discard as many cards as you want to deal that much damage to however many targets you want in any way you want. There are no rules about how many targets and how evenly the damage is divided. I can deal 10 to your Dark Confidant and 0 to you if I want. Cast it for X=0 if it’s in your hand. Unless you have a ton of mana and have actually no other uses, cast it for just R. If your opponent has a Spellskite, make sure to deal at least 1 damage to it, otherwise they’ll redirect the damage to Spellskite and not take four damage for game when you had five cards in hand.
Rally the Peasants is for an unblocked lethal attack, otherwise leave it in the grave. I prefer Rally over Scourge Devil because Rally deals more damage after you have five creatures. At four, both add eight power, and below four creatures, Scourge Devil adds more power. Side it out when your opponent has blockers.
Haunted Dead, Collective Brutality and the third Life from the Loam are the only main deck flex slots. The other cards I’d consider would be a 21st land, third Conflagrate, second Brutality, Darkblast or Vengeful Pharaoh. The deck really wants to open with Neonate/Looting, a dredger and with access to red on turn one and two lands, making the 21st land desirable so that you open with two. Conflagrate wins games but I’ve never needed the third. The second Brutality, Darkblast and Pharaoh don’t do enough in the main deck do warrant spots.
I’m really happy with my main deck. The side deck, less so. Pharaoh comes in against any grindy creature deck and takes care of as many as I can take damage from, which is usually several. Also, infect. Decay and Nature’s Claim hit Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus and all the other small CMC hate cards, which is most of them. Scavenging Ooze dies to Decay and Lightning Axe. Darkblast is obviously for decks with one toughness, while Gnaw is for burn. Shattering Spree is for when I know decks bring in hating artifact cards or Affinity. I think I’d prefer Thoughtseize, or Duress, or Inquisition of Kozilek over the sideboard Brutality because they can all nab Rest in Peace, Cage and Relic. Leyline of the Void only comes in for the mirror match along with three Nature’s Claim for their graveyard hate. I take out Brutality, Rally and Reunion along with a single Loam.
Extra Abrupt Decays and Thoughtseize/one-mana discard spells that hit artifacts and enchantments are the only cards I feel like I’m missing. Dredge is powerful enough to race pretty much anything in the format provided the anti-grave hate can be answered. Nothing feels better than turn one Neonate in the face of Grafdigger’s Cage and destroying it on upkeep, then dredging with Neonate and for your normal draw.
Shattering Spree puts in work against Affinity and I’ve won games that I would have lost if it was any card that didn’t destroy multiple artifacts. Ancient Grudge seems like a perfect fit for the deck but all of the Graveyard hate either exiles everything or doesn’t let you play Ancient Grudge from your grave.
I can see myself cutting Shattering Spree and/or Brutality for Thoughtseize and more Abrupt Decay. I’m going to try a list Thoughtseize over Shattering Spree and feel bad that I can’t fit in at least a second Abrupt Decay.
My opinion on Modern at the moment is that the best decks are, in order:
Affinity // Burn (with Nacatls and Atarka’s Commands)
I’m going to talk about the common hate these decks side, and how to beat them.
They usually bring in Grafdigger’s Cage to avoid hurting Become Immense, and sometimes Wild Defiance. Three Nature’s Claim, Pharaoh, Lightning Axe, Darkblast and discard spells are all good against infect. I take out Haunted Dead, Reunions and a Loam, which makes six cards. Your configuration might be slightly different than mine but you can basically either choose Nature’s Claim and creature kill or discard spells. Or a mix. It’s up to you. Nature’s Claim also hits Inkmoth Nexus.
Some people play Bojuka Bog but you win those matches because you have more Leylines that put them on the hard cast everything, while your plan is dredge the rest of your deck and hard cast what you can. Anything that kills your opponent’s creatures or hand is pretty useless. Rally also sucks because there are usually 10 or so Amalgams/Narcomoebas on both sides of the battlefield.
Bring in all of your artifact hate and save it for the graveyard hate but use it to kill their creatures if you need to. Rally and Haunted Dead are stinkers because of all the creatures and how fast the games are. Darkblast can usually kill whatever has the Cranial Plating on it. Lightning Axe almost always can, unless it’s Etched Champion. Pharaoh comes in to bop their creatures, just be careful not to take too much damage. Gnaw can come in, too, setting them maybe a turn or two behind. One copy of Life from the Loam can come out against any deck where it isn’t extremely vital, meaning the mirror and control/midrange/grindy decks. Three Loam are in the main deck because game one you just want to nut your opponent with Conflag, Loam and Rally.
I only other to side in Lightning Axe, Gnaw and Vengeful Pharaoh. This is the raciest race dredge faces. Burn is usually best off just getting in for as much damage as possible at every step. All of the creatures return and there isn’t a point to trying to kill them, unless they’re lethal. Here and infect are the two matches where Brutality really shines, making me really uneasy on taking them out of my deck. Two mana to kill Goblin Guide/Swiftspear, drain for two and make them discard a spell is pretty good.
I’ve never had a problem with Eldrazi. The deck isn’t fast enough. I’m only ever afraid of Reality Smasher. Even then, I can throw two Amalgams at it. Vengeful Pharaoh, Darkblast and Nature’s Claim are the best cards for this match. Most versions play Rest in Peace over artifacts, giving Thoughtseize more stock, even on the draw. You don’t have to remember your opponent’s triggers, so when they cast Rest in Peace, they have to declare the trigger or acknowledge it in some way. Don’t be a dick about it, but if they forgot to make sure you exile your graveyard, that’s their fault. Just don’t move your graveyard to exile then put it back, that causes controversy. You can’t continue to put cards in your graveyard, that’s straight up cheating because RIP changes the rules of the game.
Abzan and Jund are mostly the same beast
You can expect Scavenging Ooze, Grafdigger’s Cage, Damnation and Kalitas from both. Anger of the Gods sometimes comes in from Jund, where Anafenza and Rest in Peace may or may not come in from Abzan. Pharaoh is its best against these decks. Decay and Lightning Axe both kill ScOoze but that’s it unless you catch it with an early Brutality, which is why I feel like more Decay is necessary, even up to three copies but you only have 15 slots and the match feels very favored game one and about even game two, maybe 45/55 depending on play/draw and their sideboard. Nature’s Claim is good as always. I read somewhere not to side in Nature’s Claim unless you know you have things to destroy. I think always side it in but only mulligan to 4-5 looking for Claim if you know they’ve got hate.
Kalitas is very difficult to deal with if you can’t kill it with Conflag or Lightning Axe. If you’re playing Kalitas, eat a zombie as soon as you can afford to do so to get out of Lightning Axe range. Kalitas makes all of our recurring attackers not recur anymore, which sucks. It also blocks Amalgam, doesn’t die and gains life. Tarmogoyf is a pain because it blocks everything so well, but it never exiles our stuff on its own. The best way to beat Kalitas without removal is just turn all your creatures sideways.
Anafenza, the Foremost is really only seeing play in the Grim Flayer + Hierarch builds but still poses a threat. She exiles not only our creatures when they die, like Kalitas, but also our Grave-Trolls and Stinkweed Imps if we discard or dredge them. Anafenza is a must kill where Kalitas can be worked around. If you’re playing Abzan and want game against Dredge, Anafenza is your girl. She’s not the Khan of the Abzan for nothing. Maybe I’ll write something about Abzan soon. Leave a comment if you want to see that.
Damnation, and other sweepers that don’t exile, are laughable. Everytime someone playing a Jeskai or Esper control deck casts Supreme Verdict, I have to read the card again to make sure it doesn’t say exile anywhere on it. It never does. Damnation is much the same. It buys them a turn, but that is why I like the fetchland manabase. Just fetch after Damnation resolves, bring back Bloodghasts and Amalgams on end step. After game two against Jund, unless you know they have no Anger of the Gods, never bring back your Bloodghasts until their second main with fetches unless you’re attacking, or can’t wait.
Those are the most common hate cards that I see. Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void hurt the most. Grafdigger’s Cage still lets us dredge and hard cast our Amalgams and Bloodghasts. Not to mention that hard casting Stinkweed Imp and 8/8 Grave-Trolls is a real thing you can do. Grave-Troll also regenerates itself, something many people seem to forget because it rarely comes up.
Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb and Tormod’s Crypt are for decks that can’t play RIP, Leyline of the Void or Grafdigger’s Cage. There is merit to Relic over Cage because it exiles the grave once it’s full. Spellbomb is worse than Relic unless you both need your graveyard and are black (Abzan.)
Surgical Extraction is not something I see in many lists but is quite good, especially if you actually have access to black mana or Snapcaster Mage. Or both. You want to hit Bloodghast first because it’s the easiest to recur and that mostly stops Amalgam unless something like Skaab/Haunted Dead/Narcomoeba happens. After you exile all of the Bloodghasts and you can cast Extraction again, hit whatever your opponent is doing that’s the most troublesome at the moment. Declaration in Stone is similar to Extraction in that it exiles multiple creatures. Hitting two or three amalgams is better than waiting to get multiple Bloodghasts. Dredge does not have the time to crack clues and keep going.
Merfolk is a surprisingly hard matchup. Spreading Seas takes you off of green mana to cast Loam and get more lands, as well as discard lots of cards for Conflagrate. You don’t have much removal, and Spreading Seas game two backed up by Relic, Cage or something else is pretty painful.
Game one, keep a hand with a one mana discard spell, two lands, one of which is green, and a dredger. One landers on the draw, with our without your mulligan’s scry are more keepable than the play, especially with Faithless Looting. Game two, good hands consist of creatures and mana to cast them. Or hate removal spells plus a way to start dredging. In the mirror, mulligan until you have Leyline of the Void or you can fight through an opposing Leyline.
Dredge has chosen you. Why aren’t you playing dredge? I gave you a deck list and a decent primer. Actually, don’t play dredge. I want people to stop running graveyard hate so that I can continue to play dredge.
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