Battle Royale Round 12 – The Cards Say… A Broken Heart

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Poor Bennie. Not only did I make him wait and wait for his turn on Battle Royale; not only did he turn up with his pet strategy to find himself facing the Anti-Bennie Deck; not only did he lose rather quickly, going down in three games straight… but I’m also making him write all about it! Sorry Bennie! Better luck next time.

Man… did anybody get the license tag of that truck that ran me over?

White in color, compact, fast… ELI-666, the truck from hell!

Eli was very polite and almost apologetic as he annihilated me in three games straight. I think I damaged him in one of those games. Man, from my side it was really disappointing, and I feel really bad about my performance. You see, I kinda bugged our esteemed editor about getting in on the Battle Royale series since it first kicked off months ago, and he finally gives me a chance and it’s a rout. I was given the responsibility to try and at least make the three out of five games interesting enough to generate content enough for two recap columns and so… I can only hope that Craig gives me another shot someday. I swear it will not be another dredge deck! [Heh, don’t be soft Bennie… of course you can play again! — Craig.]

When I got to see the deck that Eli had cooked up, my heart sank. It looked like it could very well be my worst nightmare, but I tried my best to not despair. I could get lucky – I could win the die roll and go first in game 1, catch a few lucky breaks, and then hope that I could squeak 2 more wins out of sideboard games with Necroplasm and Shambling Shells to hopefully put a dent in his large contingent of two-drops. For reference, here’s the deck I cooked up:

I wrote about my choices last week, but basically it boiled down to this:

  • Dredge is my pet deck, its key cards are very cheap, and people would be disappointed if I didn’t play some sort of dredge deck.
  • I wanted to give Mindless Automaton and Entropic Eidolon synergy a whirl in the deck
  • I also wanted to give Vhati Il-Dal a try alongside Darkblast.
  • I didn’t have the opportunity to playtest a variety of budget dredge builds before my column deadline, so I just went with what seemed cool and fun.

I had no idea what Eli would be bringing to the fight, but his deck ended up being pretty well about the worst it could be without him knowing specifically what deck he’d be facing. Here’s his decklist for reference:

How much of beating is this deck against my dredge build? Let me count the ways:

  • Evasion, evasion, evasion! Much of dredge’s strength is the ability to exhaust your opponent of creatures, while yours keep coming back and getting stronger. Slower, bigger creatures are good opponents for me; fast weenie beatdown not so much. Unfortunately, much of his deck was set up to run right past my troops, either through flying (Leonin Skyhunter, Serra Avenger, Griffin Guide), protection (White Shield Crusader, Bathe in Light), or tapping down blockers with Azorius Guildmage. The constant stream of damage made living long enough for my deck to stabilize the board highly improbable.
  • Temporal Isolation was incredibly effective against dredge – Stinkweed Imp is a lynchpin card in my deck and is pretty much my only hope against his flying army, but when he’s shunted off to Shadowland and can no longer deal damage – and worse yet, block and die to dredge back again and again – my deck’s chances plummet even further.
  • Darkblast? What Darkblast? In fully-leaded White Weenie, Darkblasts are nice weapons against Savannah Lions, but Eli’s budget build has relatively few one-toughness creatures, and after board he had even less (and possibly had none if he boarded them all out). Add to that Glorious Anthem and my only direct removal spell was pretty well worthless, especially since I never actually got into creature combat with his men where shrinking them may have killed them.
  • Necroplasm is rather easy to play around, even more so if Shambling Shell doesn’t show up at the same time. In the two sideboard games I played, Necroplasm wasn’t much of a factor; in one game it didn’t show up until far too late (and perhaps I should have more aggressively mulligan to find one), and in another it showed up with no Shell backup and only killed off a couple two-drops once before Eli killed me.
  • Knight of the Holy Nimbus’s flanking ability trumped both Stinkweed Imp (dealing no damage) and Stromgald Crusader’s protection from Black ability (block, die).

Yeah, it was pretty bad, folks. I wanted to extend my thanks for everyone who sent me kind words and were pulling for me, and apologies to those who came out in the hopes of watching an interesting match. Thankfully, Eli has experience doing feature match coverage for Wizards, and occasionally on the Pro Tour matchups can be as much of a route as this one. Reporters are experienced in “punching up” even the worst blow-outs to seem more interesting than they actually were, so I have hopes his recap will prove to be an interesting read. It’s more fun to read about winning than losing, so I won’t subject you to my match report, which would lead off with “after winning the dice roll I had to double mulligan, and on turn 2 he dropped a White Shield Crusader. Things went downhill from there.”

So what would I do differently in hindsight? First, I think I definitely say that budget dredge is probably not a good idea if you’re expecting a lot of budget White Weenie opponents. You can try to fix the matchup (perhaps Trophy Hunter might help?) but it’s going to be tough no matter what you do, unless you change the deck away from being a dedicated dredge deck. But I think it’s probably just fine against slower decks with a few changes. Here’s what I probably should have run with:

So, here’s my rationale for the changes:

  • Life from the Loam is just fine as fuel for Mindless Automaton; you don’t need the Eidolons, even though that seems kinda cool.
  • There’s a reason Moldervine Cloak is the one dredge spell that is consistently played in Standard tournaments – it’s damn good, especially in a deck where your men are often too small. With the dredge engine you really only need two to make sure you get it when you need it to Go Large.
  • Greater Mossdog is fair size and non-Black, and can help hold the ground against creatures with protection from Black. They’re common so they’re dirt-cheap.
  • Speaking of fair size and non-Black, I went ahead with four Silklash Spiders. Flying creatures are a huge problem for this deck, and the Spiders can even tackle Akroma or Simic Sky Swallower. The seven toughness lets it hold the ground just fine against ground-pounders too. While your lower cost creatures are in the deck to die and dredge back, you want your higher-cost critters to stick. Spiders are rare but typically go for less than a ticket, or even two-for-one.
  • Arena is a nice supplemental and reusable “removal” spell that can be snagged from the graveyard with Life from the Loam, and for one ticket or less it’s very much a budget card.


Okay, so what if I’d somehow gotten lucky and won this round? Last week I hinted that I may have been interested in trying out a dredge deck built around Living End. The idea came from the fact that, in a dedicated dredge deck, cards that can’t be accessed from the graveyard aren’t very good unless you draw them early on (since later in the game you stop drawing from the top of your deck and replace the draw with dredge cards). Living End fits the bill, and the dredge focus should be able to break the symmetry of the spell. Living End is running at less than one ticket, so it could definitely fit in a budget build. Keep in mind that budget-style Living End isn’t going to be bringing back a ton of huge creatures, Reanimator style – it’s more interested in “trading up” to a (hopefully) superior board presence. I’m thinking something like this:

Golgari Grave-Troll gets a bigger presence here as a super-dredger to go along with Stinkweed Imp, though obviously you’re not necessarily going to want one in your graveyard when Living End resolves – you’re going to want to dredge copies back to your hand and hold them as a follow-up in case your opponent casts a Wrath or mass removal against your Living End-summoned army. I really like Mindless here even more, since he can pitch extra creatures to the graveyard for the Living End, and will typically be able to self-sacrifice to draw cards/dredge before being brought back.

Anyway, that wraps up my pitiful showing in StarCityGames.com Battle Royale. I’m sure next round will be much more interesting, and I have hopes to put up a better showing when or if I get another shot at this! Let me also take this chance to wish everyone who celebrate the United States’ Thanksgiving a happy holiday, and hope you enjoy good food and a good football game on the tube.

Until next time,