Dredging to a WMCQ Victory!

by Zen Takahashi on 12 July 2016, Tuesday

Zen Takahashi

Dredging to a WMCQ Victory!


Hello everyone!


Over the past weekend, I managed to win the second of our World Magic Cup Qualifiers, joining Jason Chung and Matt Rogers to represent New Zealand at the World Magic Cup in Netherlands at the end of the year.


Historically, I have never really cared much about the World Magic Cup - preferring to put much more emphasis on trying to qualify for the Pro Tour. Though Jason is one of my closest friends, the whole qualifiers system means that I usually expect the team to include some people that I don’t know very well – and because of this, I’ve never had much interest in qualifying.


However once Matt won our first WMCQ, everything changed for me.


Matt is another one of my very closest friends, both in and out of Magic, and the idea of getting to play in a high stakes team event with him and Jason was all I could think about. With the added encouragement from them (as they messaged me every day telling me about how sweet it would be if I qualified), I knew that winning a WMCQ would mean more to me than qualifying for any Pro Tour.


Since I’m currently in my inter-semester break from University, I decided to take advantage of the two weeks I had to fully dedicate myself to preparing for this event. Having not played any Modern since Eldrazi Winter, I had to familiarise myself with the format again. Ever since Splinter Twin was banned in Modern, the decks that exist have largely been the same, but the landscape of the format has completely changed.




You Can’t Play Fair Anymore.


Splinter Twin Force of Will


Splinter Twin was essentially what Force of Will is to legacy; a broad answer that keeps unfair decks in check.


Modern is largely based around a wide range of unfair decks trying to utilise linear strategies, and while the format is full of powerful cards that are able to counter these strategies, they are invariably very narrow. Cards such as Stony Silence and Crumble to Dust are fantastic against one or two strategies, but are limited to only those strategies. The other end of the spectrum is cards such as Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek which do some work, but they’re not nearly powerful enough to contain these unfair decks.


Glistener Elf Ad Nauseam


This is largely because of the very diverse nature of decks in Modern – while Infect and Ad Nauseam are both combo decks, one relies on creatures to win while the other relies solely on spells. Trying to deprive them of a card or two with discard effects isn’t going to cut it, but unfortunately Modern has little outside these cards in terms of broad answers.


Splinter Twin was the exception. While not a sideboard card like Stony Silence, the mere existence of the card (and the combo pieces that went with it) meant that unfair decks could not expect to dominate the format, as the Splinter Twin deck was good against other linear strategies without having to rely on narrow answers. The deck could play broad cards and still be favoured against the majority of the unfair decks in the format because of its mana denial and extremely proactive combo finish. However, since the banning of Splinter Twin, there has been no deck arise that can contain all these unfair decks the way that the Splinter Twin decks did.


Abrupt Decay


Traditionally, rock decks such as Jund and Abzan are designed to disrupt linear strategies. This largely holds true in nearly all formats, Modern included, but the key difference is that Modern midrange decks aren’t able to answer as broadly compared to other formats. These decks have access to the tools to beat any linear strategy (as opposed to a deck such as Ad Nauseam, for example, which is always going to have a tough time against Infect), but does not have the broad answers like midrange decks in other formats do.


Where legacy decks can play Hymn to Tourach and Force of Will to fight the range of unfair decks that exist in that format, Jund in Modern has to choose whether to play Grafdigger's Cage or Crumble to Dust in their sideboard. The fact that these decks must rely on narrow answers due to the scarcity of broader choices means that they can choose to beat any unfair strategies, but cannot beat them all.


This strategy works fine in formats like Standard where there’s only a handful of decks to beat - so you can tune your deck to beat most of them. However in a format as diverse as Modern, this is simply not possible.


Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet


Another point is the unfair strategies in Modern are largely based around abusing fast mana - having to play cards such as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet can often feel downright embarrassing in certain matchups, especially when another deck gets to play with 4 Moxes!


This is one of the most misunderstood points about Modern and what separates it from any other format - Modern is all about fast mana and card advantage means very little except in attrition mirrors. You’re not going to be losing games because they outdrew you, you’re mainly losing from not getting to use your mana as efficiently as they did and hence have multiple cards clogged up in your hand that you weren’t able to deploy fast enough. It doesn’t matter that you drew three cards from Ancestral Visions if you’re not able to deploy those cards fast enough to stop your Affinity opponent who’s operating on a hellbent hand.




Striking Gold


Based on this idea, I decided to try figure out which unfair decks may be well positioned at the moment and then try them out to see which one I was the most comfortable with. I knew that Jund and UWR Nahiri would be the most popular decks here as Kiwis love playing fair decks.


Affinity and Tron were quickly dismissed as I didn’t like the former’s matchup against either of those decks, and Tron is always a risky proposition as land destruction is overabundant here. Though Scapeshift and Bant Eldrazi seemed good in theory, in practice both decks felt very clunky and I quickly lost interest. I thought about trying Infect, but the people I was talking to started advocating for Suicide Zoo, a deck they believed was just superior to Infect.


Golgari Grave-Troll Stinkweed Imp


Right around this time, Lee Shi Tian also believed he has struck gold and finally managed to build a good version of Dredge. Since I still had a lot of time, I decided I’d try both decks, starting with Dredge as it seemed easier to play and could therefore find out whether it’s good or not more quickly.


As it turns out, the deck was broken.



Over the next couple of days, I was completely hooked as the deck just kept winning. The deck ended up being much harder to play than I thought, but I also felt like the majority of my losses were coming from my own misplays and some much needed deck tuning. Since it turned out I’d be more busy with work than I had anticipated, I decided to lock into Dredge just a couple of days after and spend the next week and a half trying to get as much practice as I could with the free time I had.


Since Lee Shi Tian has already written a pair of great articles on playing this deck, I’ll instead focus on the changes I made to his list and what I ended up playing at the WMCQ. His articles can be found here and here.




Some Small Changes


1) Adding the 4th Copperline Gorge


Copperline Gorge


Straight after picking up this deck, I knew I wanted another Copperline Gorge. Although this deck only needs two lands to operate, they also have to be in your opening hand as ideally you want to start dredging straight away. The only one land hands you can keep are those with Faithless Looting. I didn’t even mind hands with three lands in them as it meant I could flashback Faithless Looting without having to cast a Life from the Loam first. The deck also has Conflagrate to discard away lands if you’re flooded. I actually wanted a 22nd land, but I couldn’t figure out what to cut for it so decided to just stick with 21.



2) Cutting the 4th Life from the Loam


Life from the Loam


Figuring out what to cut for the 4th Copperline Gorge was the hardest thing to solve throughout testing. I tried various configurations from removing Dakmor Salvage to Lightning Axe. However, none of this felt right as it constantly felt like I was coming short. It then occurred to me that Life from the Loam didn’t need to be a four-of. Though the card is one of the backbones of the deck (as it helps set up Conflagrate) you also never need more than one copy - and that copy not until past turn three anyway. I found that whenever I wanted a Life from the Loam, I’d usually had dredged enough to have multiple copies in my graveyard.



3) Replacing Abrupt Decay for Engineered Explosives


Abrupt Decay Engineered Explosives


Early in testing, I was finding Suicide Zoo and Merfolk to be my hardest matchups. This was largely due to my reliance on Conflagrate against creature decks, but both these decks are able to combat it well with Death’s Shadow and Mutagenic Growth by the former, and large lords and Master of Waves by the latter.


This led me to wanting to try Engineered Explosives, especially as most Suicide Zoo lists were relying on Grafdigger's Cage - so Explosives could kill all their creatures and their hate card as well! In practice, I found most of my opponents weren’t aware of it, so would over extend onto the board to try race me and I would completely destroy their board out of nowhere. After including it, I went from being down 0-3 against Suicide Zoo to winning my next three to even it out at 3-3 by the end of the two weeks of testing.



4) Cutting the 4th Thoughtseize




Although Thoughtseize was great and I generally wanted one in my opening hand in every matchup I boarded it in for, I also found that the deck cannot afford to have multiple copies of cards that do not directly contribute to the deck’s game-plan. Furthermore, I felt like I could afford to shave three slots for these types of cards but not four. I decided to cut the 4th for a 3rd copy of Engineered Explosives, which is a card I felt similar about as I wanted to draw exactly a single copy every game.




Tournament Progress


Here’s a run-down of my matches throughout the day:

Round 1 – Naya Company – Win (2-0)

Round 2 – Grixis Delver – Win (2-1)

Round 3 – Jund – Win (2-1)

Round 4 – Grixis Delver – Win (2-0)

Round 5 – Melira Company – Lose (1-2)

Round 6 – Naya Burn – Win (2-0)

Round 7 – ID

Quarter Finals – BW Hatebears – Win (2-0)

Semi Finals – Melira Company – Win (2-1)

Finals – Bring to Light Scapeshift- Win (2-1)


The relatively cyclical nature of the deck meant that most of my games were relatively straight forward – however, there were some interesting situations:


  • Against Grixis Delver/Jund, I generally go all-in Game 1 as they have no mass sweeper or graveyard hate. However, post board they often have Anger of the Gods. The key to playing around it is to not recur your Narcomoeba (it’s a "you may" trigger) and set up a fetchland+Bloodghast for the end of their second main phase to then return your Prized Amalgams during their end step. This is also how you can play around Ugin, the Spirit Dragon against Tron.
  • In Game 3 against my Jund opponent, I was able to beat double Surgical Extraction and Night of Soul’s Betrayal by dredging back a big Golgari Grave-Troll followed by a Stinkweed Imp to give it protection from Liliana of the Veil.
  • All throughout testing on Magic Online, I never once played against Melira Company. This is because the deck is unable to go "infinite" online, and hence nobody plays it. I found the matchup to be tough as their creatures are able to block well on the ground (Wall of Roots, Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks), which gives them enough time to set up the combo which we have few ways to interact with. I lost to it convincingly in the Swiss, even though my opponent made a few mistakes due to not understanding my deck properly, and got very lucky to beat it in the Semi Finals where in Game 3 I drew probably the best opening I’d ever drawn with this deck.
  • I was in 8th seed going into Top 8. Usually in Modern, being on the draw is a massive disadvantage due to the mana leverage that exists in the format. However, Dredge is also the perfect Game 1 deck and I was able to win every Game 1 in Top 8, and only lost one throughout the event.
  • My Quarter Final opponent thought I only had 1 Mountain in my deck so chose to Ghost Quarter my land on turn 2. I then immediately fetched another one and returned a Bloodghast into play. This largely sums up my experience throughout the event, as people were very unaware of how my deck operated.




General Sideboarding Tips


After playing about 30 matches with the deck and discussing with Lee, I made a set of "sideboard guidelines" that I roughly followed throughout the rest of testing and the WMCQ. Although I don’t recommend you to follow this exactly, I do believe it’s a good place to start.


Board In:

Thoughtseize Rest in Peace

Ancient Grudge Mox Opal

Engineered Explosives Grafdigger's Cage



Board Out:


  • 1 Insolent Neonate and 1 Tormenting Voice when you board in Lightning Axe. However, against attrition creature decks such as Jund, keep in a Tormenting Voice and board another card out instead.

  • 1 Lightning Axe against decks with no creatures.

  • 1 Dakmor Salvage becayse it is the worst Dredge card. However never board out more than one, as the deck needs a minimum of 20 lands to operate.

  • 1 Bloodghast against other aggressive creature decks such as Affinity, Zoo and Infect. Generally, you don’t need four copies against matchups without much removal unless we’re trying to race them such as other combo decks.

  • 1-2 Conflagrate. Although Conflagrate is great, it’s also a payoff card. We have to shave some numbers to accommodate for the cards we’re bringing in. Generally you board out multiple copies against decks with big creatures or Remands. You also straight swap them for Gnaw to the Bone against Zoo and Burn.

  • 1 Golgari Grave-Troll or 1 Stinkweed Imp if you still need space for cards to bring in. Be careful though as at this point, you may be close to over-sideboarding. Cut Stinkweed Imp unless it’s against matchups where you’ll often be casting it to use as an efficient blocker such as against Infect, Affinity or Suicide Zoo.

  • 1 Life from the Loam is a straight swap for Darkblast or can be cut over Golgari Grave-Troll orStinkweed Imp in matchups where you’re looking to board out multiple Conflagrate.


Sideboarding Guide



Arcbound Ravager Mox Opal

Against Affinity


In: +3 Ancient Grudge, +2 Darkblast, +2 Lightning Axe


Out: -1 Tormenting Voice, -1 Insolent Neonate, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Bloodghast, -1 Golgari Grave-Troll, -1 Life from the Loam, -1 Conflagrate


Cards to be aware of post-board:



Death's Shadow Thought-Knot Seer Lord of Atlantis

Against Suicide Zoo / Eldrazi / Merfolk


In: +3 Engineered Explosives, +2 Lightning Axe


Out: -1 Tormenting Voice, -1 Insolent Neonate, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Bloodghast, -1 Conflagrate


Against Suicide Zoo, casting Conflagrate on their creatures can be awkward due to Mutagenic Growth. The key is to target their face and hope to race them. Once I discovered this, I found my record in this matchup to improve dramatically.


Cards to be aware of post-board:


If your Merfolk opponent has multiple Grafdigger's Cage and Chalice of the Void, consider bringing in Ancient Grudge as it also hits Aether Vial.



Glistener Elf Blighted Agent

Against UG Infect


In: +2 Ancient Grudge, +2 Darkblast, +2 Lightning Axe


Out: -1 Tormenting Voice, -1 Insolent Neonate, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Bloodghast, -1 Golgari Grave-Troll, -1 Life from the Loam


Be aware of Mutagenic Growth when casting Conflagrate targeting their creatures.


Cards to be aware of post-board:


Don’t bring in Ancient Grudge if they don’t have any Grafdigger's Cage



Abrupt Decay Snapcaster Mage

Against Abzan / Jund / Jeskai / Esper / Blue Moon


In: +2 Lightning Axe if they have Scavenging Ooze and/or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet (mainly Jund), +3 Thoughtseize if they have Rest in Peace (mainly UWR and Esper)


Out: -1 Insolent Neonate and 1 Dakmor Salvage when bringing in Lightning Axe, -1 Lightning Axe-If they have no creatures like certain builds of UWR or Blue Moon, -X Conflagrate and possibly 1 Stinkweed Imp. Largely depends on the specifics of their deck.


Cards to be aware of pre-board:


Cards to be aware of post-board:


Consider boarding in Engineered Explosives against Jund if they have multiple Grafdigger's Cage



Slippery Bogle Gladecover Scout

Against Bogles


In: +3 Engineered Explosives, +2 Gnaw to the Bone


Out: -1 Lightning Axe, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -3 Conflagrate


Cards to be aware of post-board:



Scapeshift Pyromancer Ascension Living End

Against: Scapeshift / Griselshoal / Storm / Ad Nauseum / Living End


In: +3 Thoughtseize


Out: -1 Lightning Axe, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Conflagrate


Cards to be aware of pre-board:


Cards to be aware of post-board:


Consider bringing in Engineered Explosives if your Storm opponent sideboards into Empty the Warrens.



Goblin Guide Boros Charm

Against Burn


In: +2 Lightning Axe, +2 Gnaw to the Bone


Out: -1 Tormenting Voice, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -2 Conflagrate


Cards to be aware of post-board:



Urza's Mine Urza's Tower Urza's Power Plant

Against GR Tron


In: +3 Thoughtseize, +2 Ancient Grudge


Out: -1 Lightning Axe, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Conflagrate, -1 Narcomoeba, -1 Life from the Loam


Cards to be aware of pre-board:


Cards to be aware of post-board:


Currently Grafdigger's Cage is more popular than Relic of Progenitus in Tron. However if they’re playing Relics, do not bring in Ancient Grudge.



Spellstutter Sprite Bitterblossom

Against Faeries


In: +2 Darkblast


Out: -1 Lightning Axe, -1 Dakmor Salvage


Cards to be aware of post-board:



Nettle Sentinel Collected Company

Against Elves / Kiki Chord / Melira Company / Hatebears


In: +2 Darkblast, +2 Lightning Axe


Out: -1 Insolent Neonate, -1 Tormenting Voice, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Bloodghast,


Also +3 Thoughtseize against Hatebears, -1 Golgari Grave-Troll, -1 Life from the Loam, -1 Conflagrate, as well as +2 Engineered Explosives, -1 Golgari Grave-Troll and -1 Life from the Loam


Cards to be aware of pre-board:


Cards to be aware of post-board:



Wild Nacatl

Against Zoo


In: +3 Engineered Explosives, +2 Lightning Axe, +2 Gnaw to the Bone


Out: -1 Insolent Neonate, -1 Tormenting Voice, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Bloodghast, -1 Life from the Loam, -2 Conflagrate


Cards to be aware of pre-board:


Cards to be aware of post-board:



Lantern of Insight Ensnaring Bridge

Against Lantern Control


In: +3 Engineered Explosives, +3 Ancient Grudge


Out: -3 Conflagrate, -1 Lightning Axe, -1 Dakmor Salvage, -1 Life from the Loam


Cards to be aware of pre-board:


Cards to be aware of post-board:



I hope you enjoyed this article and learnt more about this Dredge deck. I truly think that this deck is broken and while it does fold to hate quite easily, it will be a great choice until the rest of the world catches on.


It’s truly hard to express just how much this win means to me. While it’s still far away, my mind is already racing and pages in my notebook have been scribbled in with Unified Modern deck ideas. We may not be the one of the favourites to win, but I know we’re going to try our hardest.


None of us want anything more than to become World Champions together.




Special thanks to Lee Shi Tian for the great deck, you’re truly a Modern master. And thanks to Elle, for being the greatest partner and always being super supportive of my endeavours! Magic is a game full of ups and downs, but your endless encouragements have always made me get up and want to try harder for the next tournament.


Until next time!


Zen Takahashi

@mtgzen on Twitter

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