Sup Modern masters, I am back with part two of my ultimate Dredge guide! If you missed part one, click here to check it out first so you won’t miss anything. I am not the type of person who starts a TV show on a random season, but if you are, well… this isn’t a TV show. It’s Magic: The Gathering. In the first half, I broke down the Dredge deck. In this half, I am going to dive into playing and sideboarding against the current top decks in Modern (if your favorite deck isn’t on here, I’m sorry, I didn’t choose the metagame). In addition, I will explain how best to beat the graveyard hate that your opponents are going to use to ruin your fun-time with Dredge. Shall we get to it?
Izzet Phoenix (Slightly Favored)
Dredge is favored game 1 since you are usually able to pull off your game plan unimpeded, and Creeping Chill makes it really hard for the Phoenix player to race you. Your most important cards are Creeping Chill and Conflagrate. And the most important from the Phoenix side are Thing in the Ice and Surgical Extraction. The actual Phoenixes are pretty low impact unless they have multiple out on turn 2, since Dredge can put more early power on the table and already has the racing advantage thanks to Chill. Conflagrate is key since it is the only way to kill a turn-2 Thing in the Ice, which is one of the ways a Phoenix player can steal game 1. If you have the opportunity to kill a Thing, then you should do so. Do your best to play around Surgical in this matchup, since that is the Phoenix deck’s best (and really their only significant) piece of interaction in game 1.
Post-board, the matchup can get slightly to a lot harder for Dredge depending on how much sideboard hate the Phoenix player is packing, with the most notable one being Ravenous Trap. Dredge gets access to Lightning Axe, which makes the post-board games a bit slower than pre-board since you have additional ways to kill Thing.
- Standard Phoenix graveyard hate is 2-3 Surgical Extraction pre-board, and 0-2 Ravenous Trap post-board.
Note for the Phoenix player:
Creeping Chill is more often than not the best Surgical target both pre-board and post-board. Try to handle their creatures with some combination of Thing in the Ice and blocking with Arclight Phoenix. If you allow your opponent to “resolve” multiple Creeping Chills, it will become nearly impossible to race them, and you will likely just die over time to some mix of chip damage from creatures and Conflagrate, along with whatever self-pain you have dealt with your fetchlands, shocklands, and Surgical Extraction.
Burn (Heavily Favored)
Game 1 of Dredge vs. Burn is one of the most lopsided matchups in the Modern format. Dredge takes very little damage off of its mana base and can quickly put up a formidable board presence strong enough to race Burn. When you toss Creeping Chill into the mix, it’s laughable. Each Chill completely invalidates one of their burn spells, while bringing the Burn player closer to death. The best way to play this first game from both sides is by purely racing. Realistically, the Burn player just has to hope that you don’t find your Chills.
Post-board, Burn has more of a shot with access to four Rest in Peace. To combat this, board in your four Nature’s Claim. I used to only bring three until I was positive that the Burn player has Rest in Peace, but given that is the main way for Dredge to lose this matchup, it is worth bringing in all four just to hedge your bets.
- Standard Burn graveyard hate is four Rest in Peace post-board.
Note for the Burn player:
GLHF. If you manage to win game 1, consider buying a powerball ticket. Or don’t because you’ve probably used up all your luck for the foreseeable future. After sideboarding, I recommend mulliganing almost every hand that does not contain Rest in Peace. There are some exceptions, but realistically you need to find your Rest in Peace to win.
Tron (Slightly Favored)
Back in the day, Tron made short work of Dredge as the combo of Wurmcoil/Ugin/Relics was often too much. But with the printing of Creeping Chill, the matchup has totally flipped. It doesn’t matter if Tron is able to exile all of the Dredge deck’s creatures since, once you get a bit of chip damage in, Chill and Conflagrate can close the game on their own.
You can play around Ugin by leaving your Bloodghasts and Amalgams in the graveyard where they are safe (not from Relic!). One of the most effective plays against Tron is to leave a few Bloodghasts and Amalgams in the graveyard with a fetchland up. This will make Tron’s Karns and Ugins a lot less effective because they won’t be able to exile any of your creatures. In the Tron player’s second main phase, you can fetch a land out of the deck returning the Bloodghasts and, consequently, the Prized Amalgams at the end of turn. In this way, you can push through extra damage with your creatures, then easily finish off your opponent with Chills and Conflagrate. Keep in mind that Narcomoeba is an optional ability and Prized Amalgam is not. It might feel bad to pass up on a free 1/1 flyer, but if it means not walking all of your Amalgams into an Ugin’s -3, then you sometimes have to make that sacrifice.
- Standard graveyard hate for Tron is three Relic of Progenitus pre-board, and sometimes a copy or two of Grafdigger’s Cage or Surgical Extraction post-board.
The Mirror (Even)
May your dredges be ever in your favor. It is worth noting that sometimes in the post-board games you and your opponent will each have a Leyline out that neither of you can kill, or your opponent will keep a bad hand with a Leyline or two, relying on that Leyline to win. These are the games in which the Steam Vents will shine, allowing you to hard-cast Prized Amalgam.
Game 1 against Scales is almost completely a race. But Dredge is unfavored due to how good cards like Arcbound Ravager and Hangarback Walker are at making combat a nightmare. Post-board you get to transform into the masterpiece dubbed “control dredge.” This involves removing all of your Chills and Shriekhorns, replacing them with a total of 10 efficient removal spells, three of which have flashback. Doing so allows you to much more effectively combat your opponent’s creatures and get damage through with your admittedly much-less-powerful army of jank. It doesn’t matter if your opponent’s creatures are better than yours if they are all dead.
- Standard graveyard hate for Scales is 2-3 Grafdigger’s Cage post-board.
Humans (Solidly Favored)
Dredge is a big favorite in the first game. If you have a relatively fast start, Humans will have a very difficult time keeping up, and Creeping Chill makes it a big challenge for them to race you. Conflagrate is your best card. If you ever get to take out a couple of creatures with one, Humans does not stand a chance. In the post-board games, Humans will add Auriok Champions and typically a minimal amount of graveyard hate. Auriok is a bit annoying, but it does not stop what your deck is doing, so do the same as you would in game 1 for the most part. If you see a Grafdigger’s Cage in game 2, I would board in a copy of Ancient Grudge. It gives you a second answer to the must-kill Cage, and you can still kill an Aether Vial if you mill the Grudge.
- Standard graveyard hate for Humans is 0-2 of either Grafdigger’s Cage or Surgical Extraction post-board (sometimes they also have a copy of Anafenza, the Foremost in their 75).
Grixis Death’s Shadow (Solidly Favored)
As it is against all fair decks, Dredge is favored in game 1. GDS doesn’t interact with the graveyard at all, so their ways to win are to either discard your only enabler or to kill you fast with a large Death’s Shadow plus Temur Battle Rage. Fortunately, to set this up, Shadow needs to inflict a lot of damage to themselves, so your Creeping Chills and Bloodghasts will kill them very fast. Make sure to keep Stubborn Denial in mind when crafting a game plan since countering a Looting or Conflagrate can be backbreaking. In this matchup, the deathtouch-esque ability on Stinkweed Imp is potent against the large creatures, so don’t be afraid to cast them, especially as a way to play around Denial.
Post-board, if your opponent has Surgicals and Spellbombs, you can usually win one of the games pretty easily as Dredge is more than capable of beating a couple of the “soft” graveyard hate cards. If they are playing a list with four Leyline, similar to what Sam Pardee got 2nd with at GP Calgary, it will be much tougher. I don’t like boarding in the Nature’s Claims until I know for sure that my opponent has Leyline, so if they start the second game with a Leyline in play, the game nearly ends on the spot. The third game is more competitive after you add the Claims, but it is a toss-up.
- Standard graveyard hate for GDS is 3-4 copies of a mix Surgical Extraction or Nihil Spellbomb, or four Leyline of the Void post-board.
In (if you see Leyline of the Void)
Out (if you see Leyline of the Void)
In (if you don’t see Leyline of the Void)
Out (if you don’t see Leyline of the Void)
U/W Control (Heavily Favored)
This matchup is more favored than the Burn matchup. Game 1 is almost impossible for the U/W Control deck to win. They can’t kill you before you get to dredge over your whole deck, so they have to be able to beat four Chills, two Conflagrates, and all of the creatures. Additionally, Terminus, which is often quite good at dealing with creatures that want to be in the graveyard, sucks against Dredge. After a Terminus, all you need to do is crack a fetchland and you will be able to mill those creatures all over again. Post-board U/W gets a couple of Rest in Peace and the duo of Baneslayer and Lyra. If you can deal with these, they have nothing left to stop you.
- Standard graveyard hate for U/W Control is 2-3 Rest in Peace post-board.
Whir Prison (Heavily Unfavored)
I don’t even want to talk about this matchup because it is so miserable to play. Game 1 you need to hope you have an extremely fast start and Prison has to have a slower hand so that you can get in multiple hits with your creatures before an Ensnaring Bridge comes down. If that happens, however, finishing them off with Chill and Conflagrate is doable. Post-board the matchup gets a lot better since you add eight pieces of artifact destruction, giving you outs to Cage and Bridge, which does make the games a lot more winnable, but you are still not a favorite. With both the pre- and the post-board games in Whir Prison’s favor, start praying to the MTG luck gods if you are paired against it.
- Tormod’s Crypt, Grafdigger’s Cage, and Nihil Spellbomb, all tutorable with four Whir of Invention pre-board (good luck).
Amulet Titan (Heavily Unfavored)
If your opponent starts off the game with a turn-1 Sakura-Tribe Scout, you’re in for a rough time. The combo of Bojuka Bog and the Karoo lands is way too much for Dredge to handle. Once a Primeval Titan comes down, your graveyard is going to be wiped every turn for the rest of the game. Fortunately, that won’t be very long since the Titan will kill you fast. Neither player boards many cards, so the pre- and post-board games are basically the same. There are two ways for Dredge to win: either you have an insane opening that creates a massive board presence before they are able to resolve the first Titan, or the Amulet player mulligans into oblivion.
- Standard graveyard hate for Amulet Titan is Bojuka Bog pre-board.
B/G Midrange (Slightly Favored)
In game 1, all of their graveyard hate is clunky creatures, so you generally have free rein to pop off. One way to lose is to be on the draw and get your enabler taken with a Thoughtseize. But once you get a dredger into the graveyard, you are usually good to go. The B/G deck contains about 12 targeted removal spells/Liliana of the Veil, all of which are effectively blanks against Dredge. Because Scavenging Ooze is one of their best cards against you, this is a matchup where you want to hold you Conflagrate until you need to cast it so that your opponent can’t exile it with Ooze’s ability. Post-board they replace some of those dead removal spells with graveyard hate, which probably pushes the advantage slightly in G/B’s favor, but you only need to take one of these games to win, assuming you won game 1.
- Standard graveyard hate for B/G Midrange is three Scavenging Ooze and two Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet pre-board, and 4-5 copies of a mix of Surgical Extraction, Nihil Spellbomb, and Grafdigger’s Cage post-board.
For the full (printable) sideboard guide:
Sideboard Guide for Dredge: pic.twitter.com/lI7T7QXfGj
— Oliver Tomajko (@OliverTomajko) March 28, 2019
Tricks and Tips
On the first turn, the best time to use Shriekhorn is at the end of your opponent’s second main phase (really any time before their end step) so that if you hit Narcomoeba + Amalgam, you get both back. On your upkeep, if you do not have an Imp in the graveyard, you should Shriekhorn to dig for the Imp to get the most mills. Past the first turn, it can also be useful to use the Shriekhorn in response to Narcomoeba to try to hit Amalgam and, in general, before you play your land for turn in case you mill over a Bloodghast.
Shriekhorn is also effective against cards like Relic and Ravenous Trap as it allows you to rebuild more effectively after having your graveyard wiped. Keeping that in mind, I try to leave my Shriekhorn with a counter or two on it if possible in post-board games where I suspect my opponent might have one of these cards.
In games where your opponent has graveyard hate, it is often best to hold any Conflagrate that you’ve drawn until the turn you plan on flashing it back. You can cast Conflagrate for 0, then flash it back right away before your opponent has priority to respond. It might cost an extra mana, but this can be the difference between getting your Conflagrate off or not.
A Thing in the Ice flipping is one of the main ways for Izzet Phoenix to steal game 1 from Dredge, and the only real way to remove the Thing before it flips is with a Conflagrate. You should prioritize getting the Conflagrate into your graveyard against Phoenix so that you can deal with the frozen Horror right away. This sometimes means spending your turn 1 casting a Conflagrate for zero against any opening that indicates Phoenix rather than playing Shriekhorn since having access to that potential turn-2 removal spell could be the difference between life and death. This idea also applies for other matchups where your opponent has access to a key 2-drop creature (Infect, Storm).
Beating Graveyard Hate
Disclaimer: You are not going to be able to beat the graveyard hate 100% of the time. When deciding to play around hate, you must first make sure that the line you are taking is good enough to beat your opponent’s natural game plan. If not, then you are going to have to accept that you can’t play around a certain card. Generally, Dredge is a strong enough deck that you can play around the first piece or two of graveyard interaction, but sometimes you won’t be able to, and sometimes your opponent will have too much of it. This is the nature of playing a deck like Dredge, and it is up to you to make the judgment call of when and when not to play around the hate.
Surgical is one of the easier graveyard hate cards to play around because it is the least punishing. The main thing to think about when playing around Surgical is what will happen if your opponent has it in that turn cycle—your current turn and your opponent’s next turn. This might mean discarding a Loam and an Imp to a Cathartic Reunion rather than two Imps. It would normally be best to discard the cards that dredge the most, but if your opponent Surgical’d the Imp in response, you would get no dredges. The reason why it is important to think only in the immediate term when considering Surgical is because once you have a developed graveyard, the damage Surgical can do is minimal. Each payoff creature you’ve put into play, each Creeping Chill you’ve exiled, and each dredge card with a different name you’ve milled makes your opponent’s Surgicals less impactful. For this reason, the way to beat Surgical is often to go full speed ahead. Get as many different payoffs and dredgers in your graveyard as possible, and you will leave your opponent’s Surgicals too choked to have any meaningful effect. In the same vein, once an opportune moment for your opponent to use a Surgical has come and gone without them using one, it is pretty safe to make the assumption that your opponent does not have a Surgical. From there, you can just continue to enact your normal game plan of establishing a board presence, and any future Surgicals your opponent draws will likely not have a large impact on the game.
Some other noteworthy ways to play around Surgical are to leave Conflagrate in your hand until the turn you want to flash it back so that your opponent never has an opportunity to target it with Surgical, and to make sure you have a fetchland in play at all times to prevent your opponent from being able to Surgical any Bloodghasts you dredge over since you can trigger the landfall at instant speed.
Relic of Progenitus/Tormod’s Crypt/Nihil Spellbomb
The one-shot graveyard wipes are horses of a different color. With Surgical, filling your graveyard is the best response, which is pretty clearly not going to work against these cards. To beat them, you are going to have to repeatedly “tempt” your opponent. Fortunately for us, the Dredge payoff cards, barring Conflagrate, do not stay in the graveyard for long—Chill and Narcomoeba immediately trigger upon being milled, and Bloodghast and Amalgam have easily-met requirements to return to play. Leaving the graveyard wipe in play is not a realistic strategy for your opponent; if they do, they will of course get to exile more total cards, but that won’t matter if they are being beaten down by your creatures. Because of this, your opponent is going to want to pop their artifact as soon as they feel like they are getting enough value. The amount of value is dependent on a lot of other factors, but usually one or two payoffs plus a dredge card is enough. Once your opponent uses their artifact, you should try to rebuild as quickly as possible so that you can build a board presence before they find a second grave wipe. You can do this by holding an excess copy of Looting or Reunion, or by keeping a counter or two on your Shriekhorn.
Playing around Trap is very similar to playing around the one-shot graveyard wipe artifacts. The main difference is that since you don’t know if your opponent has the Trap, you should really only play around it out of luxury, not necessity. Don’t make any sacrifices that cost you any amount of meaningful percentage points. You should play around Trap only if you are in such a good position or have such a good hand that overextending into a Ravenous Trap is one of the only ways that you can lose. Because of this, it is important to keep in mind which decks generally sideboard Trap. In theory, any deck could sideboard it—only a couple of decks in the metagame (commonly) do.
Leyline of the Void/Rest in Peace/Grafdigger’s Cage
Draw Nature’s Claim. (Also don’t fill your graveyard up too much against decks with Rest in Peace and try to save an enabler for after you kill the Rest… I like the cheeky one-sentence answer though.)
Alrighty! With that, my two-part ultimate Dredge guide comes to a close! I know it was a bit lengthy, but thank you for reading, and I wish you luck in your Dredging endeavors! Oliver out.