Lessons Learned from Dredging

I recently spent some quality time playing Dredge in modern, and learned a bit about the deck while doing it!

I played the deck over the course of two events, 4 rounds at Tuesday night Modern last week (well, 3 rounds and then an intentional draw, to then play for fun) and then 5 rounds at the IQ at Black Moon Games last Sunday (conceding to a friend in the final round as my chances of top 8 were dead and I didn’t want to stick around). Here’s a copy of my list, though the mana base isn’t quite as ideal as I would’ve liked it to be….

Creatures (25)
Bloodghast
Golgari Grave-Troll
Haunted Dead
Insolent Neonate
Narcomoeba
Prized Amalgam
Stinkweed Imp

Spells (16)
Conflagrate
Darkblast
Faithless Looting
Life from the Loam
Rally the Peasants
Shriekhorn
Tormenting Voice
Lands (19)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Copperline Gorge
Darkmor Salvage
Forest
Gemstone Mine
Mana Confluence
Mountain
Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Swamp
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Collective Brutality
Darkblast
Engineered Explosives
Gnaw to the Bone
Nature’s Claim
Surgical Extraction

Overall I did pretty well between the two events. On Tuesday I managed to go 3-0 in the beginning to secure an intentional draw, though then lost while playing for fun against Death’s Shadow Zoo. On Sunday I managed a 3-2 record, losing to Infect and Bant Eldrazi. I should’ve done better, but mistakes were made…. Without further ado, here are some lessons I learned while playing that can hopefully help you out if you decide to pick up the deck.

Dredge is Hard

I’ve played around with a lot of decks in modern. I’ve played toolbox decks that use Chord of Calling and Collected Company. I’ve played Glittering Wish with Bring to Light. I’ve even played control decks a number of times. Dredge has more decision points than I think any of those decks, and you have to be able to constantly evaluate what the correct line of play is at every draw step. There is way more decision making to be made than meets the eye, and this is a fact that players should keep in mind when they look to pick the deck up.

The Clock is your Enemy

While the deck can be very explosive and has the potential to win games very quickly, most of the time I found that my matches were going fairly long. With all of the decisions to make and the abundance of options you often have due to the size of your graveyard, you quickly learn that the clock is not your friend. My hope is that this will get better with more practice with the deck, and running into more weird situations.

Mays versus Musts

Narcomoeba and Bloodghast are both “mays” and you are not required to return them to the battlefield. Prized Amalgam must be returned, however. Sometimes you don’t want your creatures to go to the battlefield, for any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s convenient that you can play a land and leave Bloodghast in the graveyard to hopefully recur more Amalgams later on. Sometimes you need to play around Anger of the Gods. Sometimes you just want more creatures in the graveyard to make Grave-Troll bigger.

Fighting Hate

I’m still on the fence with fighting hate. Rest in Peace is just super bad for the deck, as is Leyline of the Void. However, they have to have it or else it doesn’t help. It’s super weird going into matches and trying to determine the correct number of sideboard cards to bring in designed strictly to combat the sideboard cards my opponent is bringing in. I think I’m starting to lean more towards “sure, bring it in, I don’t care”. If they don’t see it, they made their deck worse to get it. A few catchall answers will likely be all that I play going forwards, though I haven’t quite decided what those will be (Maelstrom Pulse maybe).

One word on Grafdigger’s Cage: this card isn’t all that bad unless they can back it up with a fast clock. I actually lost to Bant Eldrazi due to an oversight caused by his Cage, in that I stopped dredging while we were pretty even on board and just drew a bunch of dud cards while he drew gas. The correct thing for me to do was to be dredging either Grave-Trolls or Imps, because at that point I could grind out his Eldrazi and likely would have won. I made the big mistake of forgetting that there is more card text on those cards than just “Dredge X”.

Speed is King

The trick really seems to be “how do I get as many cards into my graveyard as fast as possible”. Due to this, Insolent Neonate is often a better turn 1 play than Faithless Looting, simply because the sooner you start dredging the better. Identifying trap hands is key for this deck, and it’s important to remember that we actually mulligan fairly well. I lost game 3 to Bant Eldrazi because I didn’t start dredging until turn 3. On the play. It was a horrendous decision and a mulligan I should have made instantly upon seeing the hand (yes, there are hands that you want to keep where you Conflagrate turn 2 to dump your hand, mostly against swarm decks though and mostly on the draw). This is a big part of the reason I moved away from the interactive spells in the maindeck, and instead added Tormenting Voice and Shriekhorn (though I am not a huge fan of this card). We want the hands like I had game 1 versus Eldrazi, where I had all 4 Amalgams, Bloodghasts, and Narcomoebas on the battlefield on turn 4. It was amazing.

Final Thoughts

I found that I really enjoyed playing the deck and that it’s certainly one I will continue to play, just not all the time. The other really interesting thing that I love about Dredge is that there is a fair amount of room to play around with flex slots in the list, as well as the sideboard, and that nobody has really found an “ideal” list (compared to many other decks).

Chris Wendelboe

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