Dredge at the World Magic Cup

by Zen Takahashi on 05 December 2016, Monday

Zen Takahashi

Dredge at the World Magic Cup

Hello everybody!

A couple of weekends ago, I competed in the World Magic Cup as a member of Team New Zealand. Our preparation was excellent and we felt confident about both formats, especially Unified Modern, which we put a lot of effort into. Unfortunately, an underwhelming sealed pool led us to a poor Team Sealed record, and we were unable to recover in the Modern rounds, finishing in 50th place – just short of the Top 48 cut.

Initially I was planning to write about our Unified Modern preparation, but with Regional PTQ weekends going on, I decided to instead cover the specific deck I played in the event – Dredge.

As many of you know, I qualified for the World Magic Cup through winning the second WMCQ with Dredge. At the time, the deck was still relatively unknown, but was already quite poor at fighting through hate cards. I anticipated that the power level of the deck would lead to more people picking it up, and it would start to lose effectiveness against a corresponding increase in anti-graveyard cards in people's sideboards. This is what we saw prior to the release of Kaladesh.


Cathartic Reunion


However, when Cathartic Reunion was spoiled, Lee Shi Tian and I instantly decided that we would play Dredge at the World Magic Cup. We knew that the printing of the card would catapult the popularity of the deck and therefore the hate for it, but we simply believed that at this point the deck was too good not to play. Not only is Cathartic Reunion a great way to set up plays from the graveyard, it is also effective against hate cards such as Relic of Progenitus, as it can singlehandedly restock the graveyard after your opponent is forced to use them.

Over the coming months, I kept testing the deck online and tried various card choices. Initially, I was finding the massive increase in hate to be overwhelming and started having doubts. However, through practice I learnt to play against them, and by the time of the event I was confident in my ability to play around the common hate cards. Beating the hate wasn't easy, but learning to mitigate the effect of them dramatically increased my win rate, which was just under 75% by the time of the event – higher than when I was preparing for the WMCQ.

This was the list I played at the World Magic Cup:

*Lee and I played slightly different lists as the unified format meant that our teammates' decklists denied us access to certain cards. I was not able to play Collective Brutality or Ravenous Trap, while he was not able to play Gemstone Mine.


Card Choices


20 vs 21 Lands


When I picked up the deck for the first time earlier in the year, one of the first changes I made was to add a 21st land. The current trend seems to be to play 20 lands, but Lee and I still disagree with that decision. This deck needs two lands to operate – one of which usually needs to be a green source.




The only one land hands you can keep are those with Faithless Looting. You're also equipped to make use of excess lands, as playing a land allows you to return Bloodghast, with three lands in play you can flashback Faithless Looting, and depending on the matchup you can even hard cast Golgari Grave-Troll.


This deck mulligans frequently, and having 21 lands improves your chances of having a playable opening hand as all you need to see is a Dredger, a Looting spell, and enough lands to cast it. You don't want to risk not having enough lands in exchange for having more looting spells or dredgers, as the marginal return on having multiples of those drops dramatically after the first copy, whereas having enough lands is crucial for going off. The opportunity cost of having to forego Dredging to attempt to draw a land from the top of your library is very high and the deck can't really afford to be doing so.



Fetchlands vs 'Rainbow' Lands


Mana Confluence Gemstone Mine

The main argument for the fetchland manabase seems to be that it helps to play around Anger of the Gods and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. This is important, especially as Anger of the Gods is becoming increasingly popular. If you hold up a fetchland, you will be able to bring back Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam during your opponent's turn, which basically allows you to dodge mass removal.


Life from the Loam Conflagrate


However, the other key argument that often seems to be ignored is that the fetchland manabase has more green sources, which is important as it helps cast Life from the Loam. Setting up a big Conflagrate with Life from the Loam is often a key way for this deck to close games against matchups that are able to handle creatures at some point in the game, such as Lantern Control which has Ensnaring Bridge.


In a lot of fair matchups, such as Jund, your post sideboard game plan is based around hard casting Golgari Grave-Troll and Life from the Loam helps ensure you make your land drops to be able to do that. Since this deck usually doesn't plan on drawing lands throughout the game, it's crucial that you have a green source in your opening hand and I simply don't believe that the 12 green sources the 'rainbow' mana base has is enough.

The rainbow mana base does have some upside, which is that it takes less damage overall and you can reliably hard cast Narcomoebas and Prized Amalgams. As Dredge is already one of the more explosive decks in the format, and with Burn already being a favorable matchup, I don't believe the additional damage is too costly. I also don't believe that you're ever really winning a game where you're hard casting those blue creatures, but if you're adamant about doing so, you can play a Steam Vents over a Mountain in the fetchland mana base.



Simian Spirit Guide and/or Scourge Devil?


Both of these cards push the explosiveness of the deck. Simian Spirit Guide makes your opening draws much more powerful, often powerful enough that you can even go under hate cards such as Rest in Peace. However, Simian Spirit Guide also makes the deck more inconsistent, as you run fewer copies of Life from the Loam and Conflagrate and can also end up with awkward opening hands that have multiple copies of Simian Spirit Guide.


Personally, I believe that Dredge is already explosive enough that most decks can't compete against its good draws, so I would rather try to make it as consistent as possible. However, if the metagame shifts to becoming faster, I can see Simian Spirit Guide being a good choice.


Rally the Peasants

Scourge Devil on the other hand helps the deck once it's already 'gone off', and helps deal a lot of damage. I think the card is fine, and I favor it over Rally the Peasants as it brings back Prized Amalgams. The main reason I chose not to play it was I just couldn't find space for it. When I tested the 20 land version, I had it over the 21st land but decided I would rather have 21 lands. After that, I tried it over a 3rd Conflagrate but found myself preferring the burn spell, especially as I knew Infect would be popular at the World Magic Cup while UR Kiln Fiend was increasingly becoming popular. Once I decided on both those choices, I couldn't really find space for it. Maybe it can be played over the Shriekhorn, but I don't think the deck really needs another pay-off card.




Shriekhorn over Lightning Axe


Shriekhorn Lightning Axe


Initially I expected the maindeck Lightning Axe would improve, as there would be more Infect in Unified and UR Kiln Fiend was also gaining popularity online – a deck I suspected would be played as it didn't share cards with Bant Eldrazi. This ended up holding true, but the reason for the switch was that I was impressed by how good Shriekhorn was at fighting hate cards such as Nihil Spellbomb and Relic of Progenitus.


The key to beating these effects is to stock a graveyard that has enough action in it that it forces them to use their hate card to stop you from going off. Shriekhorn will often mill a Golgari Grave-Troll or a Stinkweed Imp, forcing them to use it, while I still have more looting spells in hand and sometimes even a Shriekhorn activation or two left!



Gemstone Mine over two Fetchlands


As you bring in black cards in the post sideboard games, you often need both black and green mana in the first two turns. This can make your manabase very painful, as you have to take six damage to find a Blood Crypt and a Stomping Ground.


Gemstone Mine helps ease that pain while still maintaining the same number of green and black sources. Not having to use fetchlands so aggressively also increases the chance of having searchable targets for later on in the game when you need to play around Anger of the Gods or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. This comes up more often than you think, as with only 7 targets, you sometimes run out of them via milling them and/or having to search up multiples. Gemstone Mine isn't great for the one land-Faithless Looting hands, but it's the perfect land for Turn 2. I tried running three copies, but I disliked drawing multiple, and have been happy with two.



Nature's Claim over Engineered Explosives


Nature's Claim Engineered Explosives

At the time of the WMCQ, Leyline of the Void was almost nonexistent while Suicide Zoo was popular. Now that Leyline is everywhere, we need an answer for it and Engineered Explosives had to make the cut as we can't afford to give up so many slots in the sideboard just for answers to hate cards.


I've seen some lists playing Destructive Revelry, but costing two mana is a significant drawback. If you have a Nature's Claim in your opening hand, you can destroy their Leyline on your first turn so you can start going off on your second turn. Having to Delay that until Turn 3 is basically Time Walking yourself, as you can't do anything until you are able to get that Leyline off the battlefield.



Playset of Leyline of the Void


When I picked up the deck initially, the mirror was nonexistent so there was no need for graveyard hate. Now that the deck is popular, you need to have hate or else you will lose in the post sideboard games as 4 Leyline of the Void now seems to be the norm.


Leyline of the Void


Funnily enough, as everyone brings in 4 Leylines and 4 Nature's Claim post sideboard, the game often turns into a sub-game where people are racing to find a Nature's Claim for their opponent's Leyline of the Void. Often, both players have a Leyline in play and the game turns into fair magic as both players are having to use their looting spells to find a Nature's Claim but also needs to cast creatures so they don't fall behind on board in case they're not able to find one. In these games, I've found that Insolent Neonate is a crucial attacker as your opponent is often unable to stop it due to its Menace ability. Neonate only digs one card deeper anyway, so often it's correct to just keep attacking with it and not sacrifice it away.


Ravenous Trap

Personally, I believe that a split with Ravenous Trap is better. This was an idea that my teammate Calum Gittins brought up in testing, which I instantly thought was fantastic, and Lee came onboard soon after. However due to Jason Chung's Blue Moon deck needing Ravenous Trap, I was unable to run the split at the World Magic Cup.


The reason for the split is that, as explained above, a lot of the post sideboard games become based around having to natural draw instead of dredge, as they have a Leyline of the Void on the battlefield and you need to find a Nature's Claim.


Ravenous Trap is a card that you can draw into and have it be effective at any point in the game. Although you can harcast Leyline of the Void, even in these fair games you want to stop making land drops after your third one, as Golgari Grave-Troll does nothing and you want to hold as many lands as you can to discard them to your looting spells. Often if you have a Leyline of the Void and they finally find an answer for it, the Ravenous Trap will then get them as they try to go off. Running a split also decreases the effectiveness of Nature's Claim, as they would have more answers than we do Leylines.


They can choose to shave on Nature's Claims, but if we do open with a Leyline, not having access to Claim will usually be game over so people have to respect it and keep the full playset in. Since this deck has so much moving parts, being able to turn off any number of their cards in the mirror is a big deal, especially as post-sideboard the dredge deck is operating with the bare minimum of 'dredge' cards, as it is forced to bring in eight cards that don't support the rest of the deck.



Less Ancient Grudge


Ancient Grudge


You can only play so many flashback spells as they're largely a pay-off for going off as opposed to being a role player in helping doing so. While I do believe that Ancient Grudge is better than Conflagrate against Affinity, it's only a marginal upgrade, and Affinity has become less popular over the past couple of months and I think it's a good matchup for Dredge anyway.


I like having one copy as we see so much of our graveyard when we go off that the marginal return on the first copy is still very high. This is also why I like having one Gnaw to the Bone in the sideboard. However, if Lantern continues to become more popular, you may want multiple copies in the sideboard again.

Overall, I was very happy with the list I played and I would run back the same 75 if I could in the same circumstances. I plan to play the deck for the upcoming Regional PTQ as well, assuming there's no large shift in the metagame. As explained earlier, some of the card choices were due to the rules surrounding Unified constructed, so my updated list for a normal event would be the following:

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this article as I covered my thoughts on card choices for the deck as well as the changes I've made to it. I have finished University for the year, so I plan to write more articles over the coming months while I'm on break! Currently, I am planning to write an overview on our Unified Modern preparation, an updated sideboarding guide for Dredge, and a primer on the Black-Red Reanimator deck I played at Grand Prix Chiba. If there are any specific topics you'd like me to cover, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter

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