Hypothetically Modern: Scourge of Nel Toth

Modern dredge is not a big thing due to lacking some tools. Is Scourge of Nel Toth the hero that dredge needs to become a viable deck?

Hypothetically Modern History
The Premise

Hypothetically Modern returns to take a look at another card and what would happen if it were added to the modern format, despite currently not being legal.

Why dredge?

Dredge is a deck that is known to many Magic players from way back in the day (either legacy or extended). Modern has never really had the tools to support a true dredge deck, even though many have tried (decks built around Life from the Loam do not count, though Dredgevine likely does). Plus there are similarities between a deck featuring Scourge and a deck that takes it a step farther and plays Dread Return, if it were to ever be removed from the banned list.

Testing Process

The first and most important thing as far as testing this deck was seeing how quickly it could goldfish a kill against somebody who does nothing. If the deck was super fast and consistent we may have a problem, and then we run it against a gauntlet of powerful modern decks. If it doesn’t seem overly fast in the goldfish test then we can skip testing it against any real decks and go with Scourge not being the hero that modern dredge needs to be viable.

Here’s the list I ran my tests with.

Creatures (23)
Drowned Rusalka
Golgari Grave-Troll
Scourge of Nel Toth
Stinkweed Imp

Spells (16)
Bridge from Below
Faithless Looting
Thought Scour
Tormenting Voice
Lands (21)
Blood Crypt
City of Brass
Gemstone Mine
Mana Confluence
Overgrown Tomb
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Watery Grave


After goldfishing 20 games I had the following results:

  • Of the 10 games on the play I had wins on turn 4 (3), 5 (1), 6 (5), and 7 (1).
  • The 10 games on the draw had wins on turn 4 (4), 5 (2), and 6 (4).

These results did not lead me to believe it was worthwhile testing against any of the gauntlet decks. It did, however, lead me to think more about the issues still facing dredge and just how powerful Dread Return could be if it were unbanned (as it would be a very similar deck). Here’s a list of the issues that I found.

  1. The mana base is horrendous. The need for blue (Drowned Rusalka) and red (Faithless Looting) is just too great early, with the addition of needing double black for Scourge of Nel Toth. Dread Return actually may have it easier, as it can skip the black mana entirely.
  2. The deck needs to dredge incredibly quickly in order to be effective. I think the removal of Golgari Thug from the original list I was testing may have been a mistake, though I’m not sold on what to cut. The deck is very strong when it gets multiple copies of Bridge from Below in the graveyard and can then get back a Scourge (also netting a bunch of zombies) and the dredge is what sets that up.
  3. Free creatures are what really powers down the deck compared to what you can do in legacy. Without access to Ichorid or Nether Shadow you just have a very hard time getting bodies into play to abuse with Scourge’s ability to come back from the graveyard or Drowned Rusalka. Nether Traitor may be helpful here, but it’s another question of what to cut.

Even if all of these things were able to be solved we would still have a deck that would have major issues beating any form of graveyard hate AND that most decks can fight by just killing their own weakest creature (to get rid of Bridge from Below). I think this is a case where multiple new cards would need to come together to make the deck super viable (or maybe just Entomb in addition to Scourge).

Chris Wendelboe

Chris is a level 2 judge from Ashland, New Hampshire. He enjoys Scapeshift, modern, and putting on the best events possible.