16, Jun, 23

Nostalgic Graveyard Combo Deck Reemerges in Massive Event!

Article at a Glance

Many of the most powerful strategies in Magic interact, in some way, shape, or form, with the graveyard. Whether you’re trying to Reanimate a Griselbrand, cast three spells to get your Arclight Phoenix back, Cascade into a Living End, or crew a Parhelion with your Greasefang, the graveyard offers plenty opportunity to cheat on mana or card advantage, gaining huge advantage.

One of the most infamous graveyard strategies involves Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. This Convoke and Delve creature was so powerful that it created what may be the most unplayable metagame Modern has ever experienced. However, before Hogaak rose its ugly head, there was still one incredibly powerful graveyard deck in Modern, which reappeared in a Modern Challenge over the weekend! What is Modern Dredge?

Dredge May Never Return

Dredge is unarguably one of the most powerful mechanics that Magic has ever seen, but it looks pretty harmless at first glance. Introduced in Ravnica, City of Guilds, Dredge is a replacement effect that allows you to replace a draw by instead returning a Dredge card from your graveyard to your hand. Dredge cards themselves are not inherently powerful, but the additional cost of Dredging a card back from your graveyard can be turned into a massive benefit.

You see, alongside returning a card with Dredge to your hand, you also need to mill some cards. The number of cards you need to mill equals the number beside each instance of Dredge. Stinkweed Imp, pictured above, for example, requires its owner to Dredge 5, meaning you need to replace a draw and mill five cards to return Stinkweed Imp to your hand.

In certain situations, especially Limited, this can be a detriment. You don’t have too many cards in your library, and games tend to take a while to finish. Decking out is a real risk in these formats, and milling five cards in a 40 card deck can get there faster than you could imagine.

If you build your deck around utilizing the graveyard, however, Dredge turns into a superweapon that charges up your graveyard in the blink of an eye. This mechanic is so powerful that it earned itself a ten on the Storm Scale, meaning it’s one of the least likely mechanics to return in all of Magic.

How Modern Dredge Works

Before Modern Horizons cards started taking over the format, Dredge was one of the top-tier decks that players could choose. Nowadays, Dredge is still a wild card that tops Challenges occasionally, just like it did this past weekend in the hands of MTGO user Worrier1000, but the deck is pretty uncommon nowadays.

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The idea is to use Dredge cards like Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Thug to fill the graveyard with cards that want to be there. You can then swarm the battlefield with cards that return from the graveyard. Narcomoeba tends to start the process, returning from your grave to the battlefield if it gets milled. This will trigger all of your Prized Amalgams, which will return at your endstep. These all tend to return more than once, making your board incredibly sticky once Dredge starts rolling.

Alongside cards that care about being milled is Creeping Chill. This card drains your opponent for three life should it get milled over.

Ox of Agonas was an incredible addition to the deck back when it released in Theros Beyond Death. The card’s Escape cost is pretty harsh, but getting eight cards into your graveyard is pretty easy in a Dredge deck. This will also turn on your Dredge cards, allowing you to replace three draw effects. This gets into the other half of the Dredge deck: the enablers.

Fragile Enablers

Besides graveyard hate absolutely ruining your day, another particularly fragile part of the Dredge strategy is your enablers. In order to make this archetype work, you need to run some draw effects that have some pretty awful downside. Cards like Cathartic Reunion allow you to start your plan, discarding Dredge cards in your hand and drawing them to start the train of cards in your grave.

The issue is that these cards can get countered. Discarding cards, for things that require it at a cost, get absolutely blown out by countermagic. Not only do you get denied the card draw to Cathartic Reunion, you still need to discard two cards to cast it, turning it into a three-for-one.

That said, should you need to discard your Dredge enabler, this does guarantee you get your graveyard dump on your upkeep.

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How to Beat Dredge

Should you be unlucky (or lucky) to run into this matchup, you only need one thing to invalidate Dredge decks: graveyard hate. This deck cannot function through a card like Leyline of the Void, and other pieces of graveyard hate like Relic of Progenitus can be rather frustrating.

Honestly, Dredge isn’t even the best graveyard deck that Modern has to offer. Living End offers a similar payoff, but is incredibly consistent. That said, Dredge does play better against countermagic, and doesn’t get hosed by Chalice of the Void. Basically, while Living End is more consistent and can, potentially, play through graveyard hate better, Dredge is harder to hate out with traditional sideboard cards.

Is Dredge Any Good?

Like most Modern decks, Dredge’s potency is largely going to depend on the room you’re playing in. If opposing decks have a ton of graveyard hate, chances are you’re gonna have a bad time. If you find a room that isn’t packing a lot of graveyard hate, Dredge can be incredibly difficult to beat.

This deck is capable of amassing an undying army very quickly and is very difficult to stop without graveyard hate. Even if your enablers get three-for-one’d, you can still Dredge up five cards on your next turn and generate a ton of advantage. Just dodge graveyard hate and cruise to victory!

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