In Magic: the Gathering, Modern format is like a trailer park built in tornado alley. Sooner or later, something will blast it all to hell, it’s just a matter of when. Nearly every set lately has introduced some broken new deck that dominates the format until a card is banned out of it.
But this time, the foo is on the other shoot: It’s not a new card, but a card which was once banned and has now been unbanned…
Outside of Golgari Grave-Troll, one new card has been an enabler, which is Prized Amalgam. I was looking to get one for my Commander zombie deck (I’ll blog it one day), but noticed the price has spiked from being a dollar rare long about Shadows Over Innistrad to being $4.50 and heading for $5. Insolent Neonate has also been a minor enabler, but without it, the deck would probably be running something like Thought Scour – a card I just told you was overrated.
The rest of the deck is basically the old Vengevine deck (Modern knew it as Dredgevine) with some updated slots. Gravecrawler, Bloodghast, Stinkweed Imp, and Narcomoeba. It’s quite a stunner, because dredge strategies have been both a favorite of casual scrubs and firmly relegated to tier three on their best day. But now top-rank players are taking down PTQs with it. Dredge has become the validated nerd who was bullied in high school but now runs a Fortune 500 company that evicts his former tormentors. What in blazes is going on?
What’s so fun about dredge?
If you’ve never tried dredge, you’re missing out! Dredge decks fly. The graveyard becomes an extension of your hand. Dredge is a self-supporting card advantage strategy; the more you dredge, the more you can dredge. The deck just snowballs every turn. But more remarkably, dredge creatures thumb their nose at most Modern removal. Lightning Bolt doesn’t faze Bloodghast in the slightest, he’ll bounce right back.
A typical Modern Dredge decklist:
16 INSTANTS and SORCERIES
That’s it, it’s very linear. It’s also a little budget friendly for a change – when’s the last time you saw a #1 deck at a PTQ that only cost ~$500? AFTER it got popular? The sideboard is based on stopping decks faster than you – lots of Affinity and Burn hate, but not much else.
There’s room to make it even more budget-friendly if you want to try a starter deck for FNM and then upgrade. For instance:
Life From the Loam: Currently ~$13. Tilling Treefolk gives you a body and two lands back from the graveyard for $0.25 – that’s any two lands, not just basics. For a closer card in purpose, Satyr Wayfinder gets cards into the graveyard and usually nets you land, for the same mana cost and yet also providing boots on the ground.
Golgari Grave-Troll: I said that Captain Pepto Bismol was going to break Modern when it was unbanned, now it’s ~$13. Gurmag Angler is a $0.25 common and a close enough substitute, since we’re shoveling into the yard enough with our other effects.
Bloodghast: It’s always been flipping ridiculous, but now it’s headed for $30. The closest to even rival Bloodghast’s effect is Bloodsoaked Champion, and even that’s a stretch.
All of these, of course, are shabby substitutes for the real deal, so run them if you’re bleeding for them until you can replace them, one slot at a time, with their more expensive cousins. And Modern is also full of many more dredge cards and graveyard reanimator strategies to check out.
By the way, nearly every card in this deck was around a buck only six months ago and most of them have been out for years, so if you’re panicking to buy into dredge now, it’s your own fault for not nurturing your inner scrub and buying into your graveyard shenanigans back when it was all about kitchen table jollies.
If you refuse to join them, how do you beat them?
The answer is the big, obvious one – graveyard hate. Bojuka Bog, Relic of Progenitus, Scrabbling Claws, Rest in Peace, and Scavenging Ooze are all wonderfully effective answers to Dredge. That’s no news to anybody, and yet it’s always baffled me why graveyard hate isn’t more commonly run in Modern. Myself, I’m always careful to include some in the sideboard, and it catches opponents by surprise.
Not only is grave hate good against Dredge, it also stops Living End, dampens Kitchen Finks combos, robs Snapcaster Mage of a spell flashback, and makes Lingering Souls a 3-mana dud. I’ve been swearing by it ever since Treasure Cruise was the scourge of Modern – I would Thoughtseize, see the Treasure Cruises, and then drop Bojuka Bog turn two and leave two Treasure Cruise stranded in my opponent’s hand. I drink thy salty tears like autumn wine.
Speaking of graveyard hate, this is something black does very well – and Dredge is yet another deck I’m itching to try BW Tokens against. Dredge, all shenanigans aside, is an aggro strategy that doesn’t run much defense. Golgari Grave Troll doesn’t have trample, chump blocks answer most creatures in the deck, and Path to Exile prevents those pesky zombies and vampires from making a repeat offense. Might be good, might be a bust, but worth a try.