Occasionally in Magic, you hear a rumor about a deck. Whether it be some hot new piece of tech, an old archetype that’s been revived by a diehard fan that’s performing unexpectedly well or feels-bad stories of players losing to something that they had no chance of beating, Magic players are always running around the rumor mill giving out or picking up a scoop. While there are some decks that only exist as a rumor, such as the mythical “undefeated 8-Rack pilot going into the Top 8,” others have lived up to their reputations. These are the decks that kids tell stories about in the school yard, the strategies that are so off-the-wall that they blow the minds of anyone learning about them for the first time. Since its inception, Dredge has been the stuff of legend, and for good reason. Let’s dive into a version that can live up to its legacy while sticking to a tight budget.
Before getting too far, my guidelines for those uninitiated:
- These lists are not intended to take you to the Pro Tour. I am looking to offer jumping off points into the format for those either not already involved or those looking to explore a new archetype without completely breaking the bank. The main goal of these lists is to give you something accessible to use as a learning tool while you dive deeper into the format and pick up the little things that can’t be taught but through experience.
- Each Modern list will average out to around $150 at time of posting.
- I will not be handing you a pile of jank that hasn’t been personally tested. I run every list I offer through at least 5 semi-competitive rounds, similar to the conditions you might expect at your local FNM. Whether you choose to stick with an archetype and build it into its non-budget version or move on to a different offering after discovering that perhaps the deck doesn’t suit your play style, I will do my best to make sure that you are not left hanging with a pile of unplayable chaff. If a deck goes 1-4 or 0-5, I won’t offer it without valid reasoning.
Budget Modern Dredge by Darren Magnotti
Dredge is a classic graveyard-centered archetype that focuses on spamming the board with as much power as possible for as little mana as possible. It achieves this goal by spending the first handful of turns setting up and milling itself to put its tools into the graveyard.
Dredging is the act of replacing a card drawn from the deck with a card from the graveyard for the “cost” of milling X cards, noted on the dredge card. We say “cost” here because this is the abusable aspect that the deck is looking to take advantage of, as a card that would typically not provide very much in terms of card advantage or selection suddenly is capable of ripping through a third of the library.
After setting up some dredges and filling the graveyard, it’s only a matter of time before all of the synergistic triggers and effects in the deck overwhelm the opponent. It also uses its graveyard as a sort of “second hand” with all of the triggers and abilities that can pass through it. Dredge has been described as one of those decks that “doesn’t feel like you’re playing Magic” for this reason, as conventional thinking hardly lines up with the decks plan of action. While it can be a bit of a glass cannon with its plan of action to take down every Game 1, then cross its fingers for Games 2 and 3, the deck provides a fun and different play experience to a normal beatdown strategy.
The core of the deck obviously revolves around the cards featuring the namesake mechanic. In addition to fueling the engine of the deck, they also provide a bit of additional utility even though casting them may seem unintuitive.
Golgari Thug is generally the least impressive of these, sometimes doing more to work against the deck than to help it when cast. Stinkweed Imp, on the other hand, can be quite potent as a flying blocker with deathtouch. The card most regularly cast though is Darkblast, which can be used to clear out blockers, provide some early disruption by removing an Ignoble Hierarch or allowing one of the beaters to trade up with a larger threat. One trick is to cast the blast during the upkeep step, dredge it back to hand, and cast it again on the same target to deal with a creature with two toughness.
Ultimately though, these cards are just the glue that holds the rest of the deck together, and the least notable tools to work with. Knowing what all you have access to however is the basis of deck mastery, and an engine piston can easily become a hammer if you’re creative enough (or desperate enough for a hammer).
Dredge has gone through a multitude of changes in the threat package over the years, currently settling on the likes of Prized Amalgam and Silversmote Ghoul. These two essentially work as zero-mana three-power creatures that cannot be killed through traditional means. Narcomoeba, while largely present to facilitate the Amalgams’ return, is also a capable flying force when left unchecked and in multiples.
The recurring threats make it so that opponents who are looking to trade resources conventionally will be caught completely off guard and need to slog through an unending tide of three-power attacks that also snowball each other as the deck continues to mill itself through the turns. Much like the dredge creatures, while they can be cast, it is much more favorable to allow these creatures to do their thing from the graveyard instead.
Creeping Chill, while not a creature that attacks, is an essential force in the Dredge deck, effectively making an opponent’s life total start around eight or 11 instead of 20. Hitting these as the deck dredges provides an excellent source of recovery from early aggression as well as a means to cut a needed clock in half. Ox of Agonas rounds out the threat package, entering from the graveyard for a relatively cheap cost and providing a comparatively tremendous body as a top-end threat. On top of its beefy stats, it also provides up to three free additional dredges. One common occurrence with this deck is that the dredge creatures will get caught up in hand without a means of discarding them, and waste away without providing any utility. The Ox helps alleviate that by allowing a full hand discard, which can then be used to dig for the final Creeping Chill needed to close out a game.
Dredging and getting all of this value for free sounds all well and good, but how can one expect to succeed when they’re only dredging one card per draw step? That’s where the facilitators come in.
Cathartic Reunion and relative newcomer Thrilling Discovery both act very similarly, allowing for the discarding of cards in hand for three draws in return. Under normal circumstances, this effect is a form of card filtering offered to red to help sift through the deck. Here though, it becomes a tremendously powerful source of card advantage, effectively reading as a two-mana “draw up to 15” by managing to find three copies of Stinkweed Imp. Though the cards read similarly, Cathartic Reunion is miles better than any card looking to replace it, as the discard clause is detached from the rest of the ability as a cost. This means that the spell doesn’t even need to resolve in order to provide benefit to future turns, as having dredgers in the graveyard is having cards where you want them.
In addition to these two is another newcomer, Otherworldly Gaze. Between its utility to dig for a dredger on the first turn and that it can use up extra mana in the later game, Gaze has become the one-mana spell of choice for dredge decks over something like Shriekhorn or Burning Inquiry for its dependability and capacity to dig deeper in the turns that matter.
At present, Dredge sits in a weird spot in the Modern metagame. On the one hand, the deck absolutely eats aggressive decks alive with its access to Creeping Chill weighting the scales and its swift clock that is difficult to overtake. Midrange decks as well can struggle against the strategy as they attempt to trade their resources for things gotten without paying a cost and which also return to play the following turn.
The deck typically comes out of the gates hard and fast to secure a Game 1 against any underprepared opponent, and will attempt to make due with whatever an opponent brings to the table for the rest of the match. Learning to combat the various types of hate in the format is an important step to piloting the dredge deck successfully, which means knowing what flavors of graveyard hate every deck in the format typically plays will give a big leg up on competition.
The archetype has received a pretty significant blow as well, with the addition of Endurance to every green deck in the format. Decks are much more likely to have incidental graveyard hate than they were in seasons past, which can provide a real uphill struggle for the dredge player. This has really morphed the deck from a format dominating all-star to a pointed meta call to take advantage of people who’ve chosen to sleep on the amount of graveyard hate they may need. That isn’t to say that the deck isn’t worth playing however, or at least having access to in a repertoire, as it is still fully capable of taking down any number of events.
As far as actual game play is concerned, the deck in its current iteration is much more simple and streamlined than it used to be when there were only four Cathartic Reunions and the deck played Life from the Loam. As long as a pilot can recognize the correct hands to keep and triggers to announce, gameplay is fairly straightforward now, which is arguably a huge boon to the deck’s success.
Modern Dredge by wefald
There are several different paths to take a Dredge deck out of the budget realm. The first obvious choice as with most budget lists is to improve the mana base with some combination of fetchlands and rainbow lands such as City of Brass and Mana Confluence. While fetches aren’t nearly as important as they used to be, perfect and reliable mana is a necessity in this archetype with how few spells are cast and how timely their additions to the stack are. Outside of the mana, common upgrades are to the sideboard by way of disruptive cards like Thoughtseize, Leyline of Sanctity, Assassin’s Trophy and Gemstone Caverns, which can be used to “steal” the play from an opponent and get those facilitator cards down immediately.
Dredge can be a very fun list and teach some valuable lessons about keeping track of triggers and battlefield management. It has a rogue-like element to it because few players are expecting it, though most have been scarred enough over the years to be packing some form of hate for it. While I can’t say that it’s the perfect choice for a main deck, it can be absolutely brutal to pull out at random intervals at a local FNM to catch the scene off guard and keep them on their toes. It also improves your chances in the following week, as people will see the Dredge deck, fear it, and come completely over prepared for it next time only to find out that you’re no longer playing a graveyard centric deck. The deck is a great choice for those that want to try Magic on more of the wild side for sure.
That’s all there is for this one. As always, I hope you’re enjoying the content, make sure to check back regularly to see what else is in the pipeline. Until next time, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading!