Deep Analysis – Dredge versus Vancouver

Read Richard Feldman every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!Thursday, March 13th – The Extended PTQ season is beginning to wind down… but there are still PTQs to attend, and slots to be won! This coming weekend, Richard Feldman gets to play in his first PTQ of the season. In preparation, today’s Deep Analysis contains detailed play-by-play matches that pitch his chosen deck – Dredge – against the great and good from Grand Prix: Vancouver.

As it looks like I may actually (gasp) make it to a PTQ next weekend (I may cry tears of joy), it’s time to dust off the deck I’ll be bringing. It’s too late in the season for me to choose anything but Dredge, as I have logged a couple hundred playtest games with it and very few with anything else.

As I sat down to playtest this past weekend, it hit me just how long it has been since I did a play-by-play with my PTQ deck of choice. I decided to do a match on each of the three matchups that have cropped up since Zac originally wrote about our Dredge list. For reference, that list:

My build is slightly different: I have the Crippling Fatigue main over the third Dread Return, and an extra Ray of Revelation in the board thanks to the resulting empty slot.

The three major new archetypes that have arisen since Zac wrote that article are TEPS, Death Cloud, and U/G Tron. For Dredge’s purposes, Previous Level Blue is not much different than a Force Spike build of Next Level Blue; you always have to play around both Spike and Snare from them anyway.

As it happened, the three matches I played both featured some uncommon, corner-case draws, on both my part and on the parts of my opponents. Nevertheless, they teach some important lessons about Dredge and about how to play against Dredge.

Shall we?

Match 1: Marc Bonnefoy’s TEPS

I win the die roll.

Opening hand: City of Brass, Cephalid Coliseum, 2 Careful Study, Breakthrough, Golgari Grave-Troll, Narcomoeba. As this hand is incredible, and will win on turn 2 unless I am struck by lightning, I would have to be some kind of lunatic to do anything but keep.

My opponent keeps as well.

My Turn 1: I play Cephalid Coliseum and Careful Study, drawing Careful Study and Tireless Tribe. I discard Golgari Grave-Troll and Narcomoeba and pass.
Opponent’s Turn 1: Sulfur Vent, Suspend Lotus Bloom.
My Turn 2: Dredge Grave-Troll into Stinkweed Imp, City of Brass, Therapy, Gemstone Mine, Narcomoeba (keep it), Tireless Tribe.

Play Careful Study, dredging Stinkweed Imp into Bridge from Below, Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Thug, Cephalid Coliseum, Putrid Imp. For the second card, dredge the other Stinkweed Imp into Stinkweed Imp, Tireless Tribe, Bridge from Below, City of Brass, Grave-Troll. Discard both Grave-Trolls.

Play City of Brass and Breakthrough for zero. Dredge Grave-Troll into Darkblast, Ichorid, Tireless Tribe, Stinkweed Imp, Crippling Fatigue, Bridge from Below. Dredge the other Grave-Troll into Akroma, Putrid Imp, another Putrid Imp, Flame-Kin Zealot, Gemstone Mine, Breakthrough. Dredge Stinkweed Imp into Therapy, Citadel, Citadel, Dread Return, Breakthrough. Finally, dredge another Stinkweed Imp into Grave-Troll, Citadel, Narcomoeba (keep it), Breakthrough, Gemstone Mine. Discard my hand.

Now I have 43 cards in my graveyard and 13 left in library. I have two Narcomoebas in play, which is not enough to flashback Dread Return yet. However, Bridge From Below is good at circumventing this; I can use a flashbacked Cabal Therapy to “split” one of my Narcomoebas, giving me enough creatures to flash Dread Return.

Flashback Cabal Therapy on my opponent, naming Burning Wish. (Instead I see Peer Through Depths, Seething Song, Sulfur Vent, Mind’s Desire, Plunge Into Darkness, Rite of Flame.) As I have three Bridges in my graveyard, my board is now one Narcomoeba plus three Zombie tokens. Use the Narcomoeba and three Zombies to flash Dread Return on Flame-Kin Zealot. Now my board is four 3/3 Zombies and a 3/3 Flame-Kin Zealot; attack for 15.

My opponent has no reasonable outs here, but I’ll flashback my other Therapy on Rite of Flame anyway. Pass the Turn.

Opponent’s Turn 3: Draw a card and concede.

In this game, I basically drew the Super Extra Spicy Nuts, yet I didn’t kill on turn 2. I just said earlier that I’d have to be struck by lightning to not win on turn 2, yet my opponent remained alive when I passed the turn. What happened?

Nothing I didn’t expect. The game was functionally over on turn 2, even though I hadn’t killed him, and it is the misguided fear that this irrelevant distinction is somehow actually relevant that makes people play Cephalid Sage. Look at what my turn 2 board position was. My opponent was at five life, staring down four Zombies and a Zealot, and I was flashing back my second Cabal Therapy of the turn. He wasn’t technically dead, but I’d already won.

TEPS boards out three Peer Through Depths for three Tormod’s Crypts.

As Dredge, I expect TEPS will most likely have Crypt, as that is what the Vancouver lists had. I will bring in Pithing Needle for those, but will not assume Leylines as well – meaning I’ll leave out Chain of Vapor. This means that I will be an underdog in game 2 if their hate turns out to be anything but Crypt, but I will be maximally powered-up in the event that their hate is the expected Crypt.

I take out the Akroma, the Crippling Fatigue, and the Darkblast for three Needles. TEPS removes the three Peer Through Depths for Crypts.

My opponent’s opening hand is exceedingly weak, so he mulligans. His next six are not much better, but contain Tormod’s Crypt, so he keeps rather than going to five.

My opening hand has no lands. I mulligan into City of Brass, two Cephalid Coliseums, Tireless Tribe, Careful Study, Breakthrough. This hand would be unacceptable for Game 1, but for Game 2, it is not terrible. I can draw six cards with this hand, in search of a dredger and a Pithing Needle if I need it. Even after I do that, I will still have up to two Cephalid Coliseums with which to go nuts dredging. I will keep this rather than going to five.

Opponent’s Turn 1: Tinder Farm, Tormod’s Crypt, go.
My Turn 1: Remember, don’t panic just ‘cause they have a Crypt and you have no answer. Draw Bridge from Below. Play Coliseum and Careful Study. Draw City of Brass and Putrid Imp. Discard Tireless Tribe and City of Brass. Note that I played the Careful Study instead of the Tireless Tribe here. This keeps my options open; I may have wanted to pitch the Tribe (and look – I did!), and even if I didn’t, the extra point of damage from getting him down a turn earlier is not likely to matter. When Studying or Breakthrough-ing into a Crypt, it’s important to pitch as few critical combo pieces as possible, and Tribe is a much better candidate than Bridge or the Coliseums.

Opponent’s Turn 2: Play a second Tinder farm and a Chromatic Sphere, go.
My Turn 2: Draw City of Brass. Play it, and Putrid Imp. Alternately, I could cast Breakthrough for one, but at best, that would yield me a Pithing Needle and then put me into topdeck mode searching for a dredger. Really what I want to do is wait a turn and cast Breakthrough for two, keeping (hopefully) a Needle and a Dredger, but failing that, one of those two and another draw spell.

Opponent’s Turn 3: Crack Chromatic Sphere for Red, find nothing, burn for one.
My Turn 3: Draw Tireless Tribe and play Cephalid Coliseum. Here, I have another choice. I can either Breakthrough right now, keeping two cards, or wait a turn and Breakthrough for three. If I wait a turn, I will be able to hold on to my Bridge, and I will be able to play out Tireless Tribe this turn, which could allow me to Dread Return off a more shallow dredging. I suspect my opponent’s hand is not very strong, as he cycled the Sphere and burned, so I will go with that plan instead. Play Tribe, attack with Imp, and pass.

Opponent’s Turn 4: Draw, go.
My Turn 4: Draw City of Brass. Play it, and Breakthrough for 3. Draw Narcomoeba, Grave-Troll, Careful Study, Cabal Therapy. What do I discard? My options are Narcomoeba, City of Brass, Careful Study, Golgari Grave-Troll, Cabal Therapy, and Bridge from Below. Remember that I can only keep three of these, and that there is a Crypt on the table. My board is a Putrid Imp and a Tireless Tribe, plus two City of Brasses and two Cephalid Coliseums, and I am tapped out.

If I pitch the Grave-Troll and he Crypts it, I am out of Dredgers. That would be stupid; I can get much better use out of the Troll by pitching it on my upkeep when my mana is untapped, then daring him to Crypt. If he does so, I can activate both Coliseums in response and search for a new dredger while I still have threshold. That could potentially get me going on the very same draw step, as long as I made sure to hold onto the new dredger until after his Crypt activation resolved. So I’m definitely holding onto the Grave-Troll.

The next candidate is the Therapy. If I pitch it, I can flash it back before passing priority, and get a shot at my opponent’s hand. On the other hand, if I don’t pitch it, I can hardcast it and flash it back next turn. However, at this point, my opponent is pretty clearly in topdeck mode. He’s got six cards in hand, so he’s pretty clearly looking for something to make the hand explode. He floated a Red and burned when he had two mana open earlier, so he’s not holding Burning Wish unless he just topdecked it and didn’t want to blow a Tinder Farm casting it. However, the fact that he floated Red probably means that he was either looking for Burning Wish or a mana accelerant in Rite of Flame or Seething Song. He’s probably not holding Mind’s Desire, or else he would have likely popped for Blue and tried to cantrip into a second one – or, more likely, he would have just held onto his color fixer in the first place. Given that and the fact that he appeared to be looking for a Burning Wish earlier, I’m going to say he’s looking for a Desire equivalent.

He’s got six cards in hand. I’m at 14 from my lands. If he’s holding a Tendrils and can empty his hand, that means he can kill me if he draws a spell. However, he’s got zero Black sources and needs two. All in all, it seems like either he will topdeck the one card he needs to go off, or I’m safe this turn anyway. I don’t think one Therapy will do the trick here, but two might knock him down enough to buy me some real time. I’ll hold onto the Therapy as well.

That leaves Careful Study and Bridge from Below. This isn’t really close; I’m still digging, so Careful Study is my homeboy. I’ve got plenty of Bridges left in my deck, so I pitch the Bridge, the Narcomoeba, and the City of Brass, and keep the Therapy, the Grave-Troll, and the Careful Study. Hope he doesn’t kill me next turn.

Opponent’s Turn 5: Draw, think a bit… go.
My turn 5: Untap. Remember what I said earlier about Grave-Troll? I have seven cards in my graveyard right now; this is the time to use him. Pitch Grave-Troll to Putrid Imp. Attempt to move to draw step.

Now this is the part where the opponent tries to get a read on me. If I’m not holding another dredger, he usually wants to Crypt me right now and stop the chain from even getting started. In this case, though, even if that Troll is my only dredger, that will let me Coliseum in response and search for more dredgers. Alternately, he can sit on the Crypt and wait for me to try and Dread Return something. He will definitely Crypt me in response if I do that, which will let him hit some Bridges and a Dread Return target, but that will likely leave me with a dredger still in hand with which to try to continue going off later. As the latter option buys him the most time if I have another dredger in hand (or find it with the Coliseums), it is probably correct.

He lets me go to my draw step. I dredge the Troll into Citadel, Stinkweed Imp, Ichorid, Cephalid Coliseum, 2x Putrid Imp. Solid. That Ichorid will let me put some pressure on him if my Therapy can slow him down enough—or at least potentially get him to blow the Crypt to stop the Ich beats.

Before casting Therapy, I want to attack. If he has something juicy to protect – which might let him go off next turn with the right topdeck – he can Crypt me and negate the flashback of my Therapy during my combat step, which I don’t want. I can deny him this opportunity if the flashback comes right after the hardcast, without passing priority, so I knock him to 15 and cast Therapy. What do I name? Well, so far I have reasoned that he is unlikely to be holding Burning Wish or Mind’s Desire, I have suspected that he may be trying to topdeck Rite of Flame or Seething Song, and it’s possible that he’s holding a Tendrils and lacks double-Black to get it. The only other four-ofs in his deck are Cabal Ritual, Lotus Bloom, and Chromatic Star; he would have definitely played the Lotus as soon as he’d drawn it, and there’s a lower chance that he would have held onto a Star than a Cabal Ritual. Odds seem best on Cabal Ritual, so I name that.

His hand is: Seething Song, 2x Rite of Flame, Cabal Ritual (ding!), Tendrils, Chrome Mox, Mind’s Desire. Clearly the Desire was drawn sometime after he popped the Sphere; there’s no way you bust that if all you need is a second Blue to cast the most powerful card in the deck. I flash the Therapy back immediately using Tireless Tribe, nabbing both Rites and netting myself a Zombie. The opponent’s hand is now Mind’s Desire, Tendrils of Agony, Chrome Mox, Seething Song, and his board is two Tinder Farms and a Crypt. Pass.

Opponent’s Turn 6: Draw, play Geothermal Crevice (gee, wonder what he drew), go.
My Turn 6: Upkeep, return Ichorid, removing Putrid Imp. Note that I now have 7 power on the board, and that my opponent is at 15. I will get an extra Zombie when Ichorid dies at the end of this turn, meaning I will be able to attack for lethal next turn. Thus, my opponent will have to Crypt me before I can get my Ichorid back, meaning I should hold onto my Grave-Troll and use it to go off on him next turn. I draw a random card and it is Gemstone Mine. I attack him down to eight and pass. On my end step, Ichorid dies, and in response to the Bridge trigger, he Crypts me as expected. My board is now just Putrid Imp and a Zombie, and he is at 8 life.

Opponent’s Turn 7: Draw, think for awhile, pass.
My Turn 7: Upkeep, pitch Grave-Troll to Putrid Imp. Dredge on draw step, seeing Pithing Needle (heh), Cabal Therapy, Tarnished Citadel, and the remaining three Gemstone Mines. Discard the Troll to the Imp again, cast Careful Study off a City of Brass to dredge the Troll again. Flip Breakthrough, Tireless Tribe, Bridge from Below, Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp, Pithing Needle. Dredge the other Troll into Coliseum, Narcomoeba (keep it), Citadel, Careful Study, Breakthrough, Golgari Thug. Pitch both Trolls.

Now I quite thoroughly have Threshold, along with two Trolls and a Stinkweed Imp as dredgers; at this point, I win easily by playing my Gemstone Mine, activating both Coliseums, nearly decking myself, and flashing Dread Return on Flame-Kin Zealot for the kill.


All in all, that was a very bizarre game 2. My opponent’s color screw was the only thing that left me alive for five turns (at which point I Therapied his hand apart and put myself in the driver’s seat), and I hit my one Ichorid very early.

Proponents of Ichorid-tastic builds of Dredge will be quick to point out that Ichorid led to my victory, which might lead one to believe that I should have more on hand in order to better play around post-board Tormod’s Crypt. If you look closer, though, you see that this game is not actually evidence of that. The Ichorid only accelerated my kill by a turn; on the turn I won the game, the first card I dredged into was Pithing Needle, which I could have otherwise cast and won the next turn. My opponent’s top card was another Burning Wish (to match the one he drew on turn 7), which he still could not use to get the second Blue he needed for Desire. In other words, I would have had him even without it.

Match 2: Jason Fleurant’s Death Cloud

I lose the die roll and my opponent keeps his opening hand without much thought.

My opening hand is Cephalid Coliseum, Careful Study, Breakthrough, two Narcomoebas, Golgari Grave-Troll, and Bridge from Below. This is certainly keepable, but not spectacular. If it did not have two Narcomoebas in it, it would be great, but the fact that I have only two Narcomoebas left in my deck and no Putrid Imp or Tireless Tribe means I need to either dredge into my one Ichorid right away, or else hit a Narcomoeba and two more Bridges, if I am to flashback Dread Return. I will almost certainly have to wait longer than turn 2 for this to happen, and still longer if I don’t hit a second dredger with Careful Study and my draw step, and far longer if Breakthrough dredges six cards and then just draws three more. Still, as I said before, it’s not worth sending back – even if it does have its risks.

Opponent’s Turn 1: Wooded Foothills, pass.
My Turn 1: Draw Stinkweed Imp (nice), play Coliseum and cast Careful Study. Study draws Putrid Imp and Stinkweed Imp. Discard Grave-Troll and Stinkweed Imp, pass. Opponent fetches Overgrown Tomb on end step.

Opponent’s Turn 2: Forest, Sakura-Tribe Elder, pass.
My Turn 2: Dredge Grave-Troll, flipping Coliseum, City of Brass, Crippling Fatigue, Careful Study, Breakthrough. Total dud. Cast Breakthrough, dredging an Imp, seeing Grave-Troll, Breakthrough, two Tireless Tribes, Cephalid Coliseum. Dredge the Troll, seeing Breakthrough, Putrid Imp, two Cities of Brass, another Grave-Troll, and Dread Return. Dredge another Troll, seeing Citadel, Thug, Therapy, Ichorid, Grave-Troll. Dredge the last Grave-Troll, seeing Thug, Citadel, Narcomoeba (keep it), Darkblast, Thug, Flame-Kin Zealot.

Now it’s time to think. I have 37 cards in my graveyard, only one of which is a Bridge. I have found the one Ichorid, so I can crank out Zombies over the next couple turns. I also have a Therapy to work with, and a Narcomoeba with which to flash it back. What cards do I care about that my opponent might have here? Honestly, it’s pretty much just Ravenous Baloth. I can crank out Zombies from here to eternity until he pops that Elder (at which point I can start dredging into more), so I can handle a Deed or Tarmogoyf by itself. Death Cloud won’t do anything about my Ichorid, nor will Damnation, so Baloth is really what I fear most.

Flashback Therapy; in response, the opponent sacrifices Elder for a Forest, to stop my Bridge from giving me a token. I name Baloth and hit, seeing Golgari Rot Farm, Forest, another Elder (lame), and Garruk.

Opponent’s Turn 3: Forest, Garruk, untap two lands, Elder, pass.
My turn 3: Return Ichorid, removing Putrid Imp. Dredge Grave-Troll, seeing Bridge, Tireless Tribe, Cabal Therapy, Gemstone Mine, and two Stinkweed Imps. Therapy doesn’t do me much good here, since the only card I know about in my opponent’s hand is Golgari Rot Farm, and the other could be anything.

That said, the Ichorid Zombie Factory is ready to rock. Swing with my 3/1. Opponent blocks and sacrifices the Elder to fetch out a Forest, taking out the second of my Bridges. That’s still okay by me. Pass.

Opponent’s Turn 4: Draw and play Tarmogoyf and Golgari Rot Farm, make a 3/3 Beast token, pass.
My Turn 4: Return Ichorid off another Putrid Imp, Dredge Grave-Troll. The troll flips Putrid Imp, Citadel, Narcomoeba (keep it), Careful Study, Akroma, and my third Bridge. With Narcomoeba’s trigger on the stack, my opponent Smothers my Zombie token, keeping me from the third creature I need to flashback Dread Return this turn. Do I attack with Ichorid here? No. If I do that, he will trade his Beast token for my Ichorid, killing my Bridge and leaving me relatively screwed if he topdecks Deed, Damnation or another Smother. If I just sit back and let the Ichorid die, I will have a Zombie, a Narcomoeba, and an Ichorid on the way, and a Bridge for my opponent to contend with. I pass the turn and do just that.

Opponent’s Turn 5: Draw, attack with 5/6 Goyf and 3/3 Beast; no blocks. Play Pernicious Deed and pop it for zero, clearing away the Zombie, the Beast, and the Bridge (because the Beast token died). Make another Beast with Garruk.
My Turn 5: This is trouble. I have only nine cards left in my deck, and only one of them is the last Bridge. I really need to hit that Bridge, but I still need to have enough time left to kill my opponent. If I swing at him with Narcomoeba this turn, he’ll drop to 18, which is three Akroma swings away from death. That means if I dredge my third Grave-Troll here and only have three cards left in my library – maximizing my chances of hitting the Bridge – I can still flash it back next turn and kill him in three swings before my library runs out, with a bonus turn as a margin of error. Sounds fine.

I return Ichorid off a third Putrid Imp and dredge the Troll, flipping Careful Study, two Gemstone Mines, Coliseum, Bridge, and Tireless Tribe. Now do I attack with the Ichorid? If he trades with his token, I still get one last hurrah out of my Bridge before it dies, which will give me the Zombie I need to flash Dread Return next turn. I can take the beats from his (4/6 because Bridge, the only enchantment, will be gone) Goyf next turn, meaning I’ll still be at 8 life, racing his 4/5 Tarmogoyf with my 6/6 Vigilance Akroma. If he doesn’t block, I knock him down to 16 and put him in easy Akroma range. However, this all leaves out one critical factor: what if he topdecks Damnation or Death Cloud? Then it’s very important that I still have my Bridges so that I net a comeback Zombie from the death of my troops. On the other hand, if I don’t chump with Narcomoeba next turn after doing that, so much as a topdecked Sakura-Tribe Elder or Death Cloud ends me because I won’t have enough blockers. No thanks. I’ll attack with the Ichorid after all. He takes it.

Opponent’s Turn 6: Draw, attack with 5/6 Goyf and 3/3 Beast; Goyf is chumped by Narcomoeba. Play topdecked Goyf and make a second Beast.
My Turn 6: Return Ichorid off Stinkweed Imp, draw the final Putrid Imp. Flash Dread Return on Akroma, netting a Zombie. Bash opponent to 10. Pass.

Opponent’s Turn 7: Topdeck and cast Smother on the Zombie token, attack with the team for the win.

If you were following closely, you might have noticed that I was dead to rights even if he didn’t rip the Smother; it was the second Goyf that did me in. After that, I couldn’t mathematically race the team of Goyfs and Beasts with just Akroma and Ichorid.

This was an extremely tight game, and illustrates a point I often yell at people about: any opening hand with two Narcomoebas in it is bad news, and needs a lot to redeem itself. My opponent needed an incredible string of runners to beat me, and he hit them all, but that wouldn’t have mattered if I’d just had one more creature (via an opening-hand Tribe or Imp, or another flipped Narcomoeba) on turn 4, when the topdecked Smother killed my Zombie and stopped Dread Return that turn.

Death Cloud boards out Liliana and a Death Cloud for the Duresses and the Damnation.

As Dredge, I expect Leyline, Extirpate, or Offalsnout from Death Cloud. I certainly do not expect nothing, even though the Vancouver list had none. That said, for game 2, since they could have such a variety of cards, I will bring in only Chain of Vapor. (If I see only Extirpate, I may board in Chalices for game 3.)

I board in three Chains and the extra Akroma for Flame-Kin Zealot, the Darkblast, the Crippling Fatigue, and a Careful Study.

My opening hand is Tarnished Citadel, two City of Brass, Putrid Imp, Therapy, Breakthrough, Dread Return. This hand has no dredgers, which sucks, and no answer to Leyline, which also sucks. Ship it back for Tarnished Citadel, two City of Brass, Stinkweed Imp, Grave-Troll, and Bridge from Below. Same problem, but with no discard outlets (or Chains). Ship it back for Coliseum, Gemstone Mine, Putrid Imp, and two Narcomoebas. Ship that back for City of Brass, Careful Study, Narcomoeba, Dread Return. This is not a great hand, but it is one of the better ones so far, even at four cards. Keep.

My opponent mulligans (heh… how bad is a hand that gets shipped after the opponent mulls to four?) and keeps at six.

My Turn 1: City of Brass, Careful Study, drawing Cephalid Coliseum and Chain of Vapor. Pitch Dread Return and Narcomoeba. The Chain will be more helpful if he has Tormod’s Crypt, and can slow him down better, besides. Pass.
Opponent’s Turn 1: Overgrown Tomb, pass.

My Turn 2: Draw Gemstone Mine. Play Cephalid Coliseum, pass.
Opponent’s Turn 2: Play Golgari Rot Farm, pass.

My Turn 3: Draw Golgari Grave-Troll. I now look silly for having burned my Careful Study already, but given that I can expect 7-8 Duresses and Thoughtseizes in game 2, I don’t think holding onto it is wise when I could instead dig for dredgers immediately. Still, now I am stuck holding the Grave-Troll. Play Gemstone Mine and pass.
Opponent’s Turn 3: Play Sakura-Tribe Elder and Overgrown Tomb tapped, pass.

My Turn 4: Draw Cabal Therapy. Ding! Therapy myself for Grave-Troll (using City of Brass, not Gemstone Mine) and pass.
Opponent’s Turn 4: Play Mutavault and Baloth, attack with Elder. From a mana perspective, this is the perfect opportunity to Chain that Baloth, so I do – again using the City.

My Turn 5: Dredge the Troll into Stinkweed Imp, Breakthrough, Careful Study, two Golgari Thugs, and Tarnished Citadel. Sweet mother, that’s a lot of dredgers! Time to keep going. Activate Coliseum – again with City – and dredge the Stinkweed Imp. I flip Chain of Vapor, Narcomoeba (keep it), Gemstone Mine, Tarnished Citadel, and Golgari Grave-Troll. Keep going with the Troll, seeing the final Chain, two more Citadels, Tireless Tribe, and Careful Study. Finish off with a Thug, seeing Tireless Tribe, Stinkweed Imp, Putrid Imp, and Narcomoeba. Discard both Trolls and the Stinkweed, keeping Golgari Thug in hand.

Time for a reality check. I’ve got half my library left, but I haven’t hit any Bridges yet, nor my Ichorid. However, I have hit a Dread Return – but neither of my Akromas. I have two Narcomoebas in play, and one more in my library of 30 cards, but I can use Thug to help power Dread Return. I’ll be dredging six cards per turn, maximum, for the next few turns. Unfortunately, if my opponent is holding Offalsnout or Extirpate, I can’t profitably Therapy it right now. Even if I did have a Bridge so that I wouldn’t net a loss on creatures, my opponent has the Elder to stop it… so I really can’t Therapy yet. I need to just pass the turn with my Narcomoebas.

Opponent’s Turn 5: Play Baloth and Bloodstained Mire, beat with Elder (no blocks).

My Turn 6: Dredge Grave-Troll into Grave-Troll, Putrid Imp, Careful Study, Coliseum, City of Brass, Stinkweed Imp. Worthless. Cast Golgari Thug (down to two Gemstone Mine counters). I can flash Dread Return here, but I lose to Extirpate, Offalsnout, Damnation, or Death Cloud if I do – plus it would be a reanimated Grave-Troll, not even Akroma, so racing would be near impossible here. Beat with Narcomoebas, pass. Opponent fetches out Overgrown Tomb on my end step.
Opponent’s Turn 6: Beat with Baloth and Elder. Baloth is chumped by Thug, which puts a Narcomoeba back on top. Play a second Baloth and pass.

My Turn 7: Dredge Grave-Troll, flipping Narcomoeba (keep it, naturally), City of Brass, Putrid Imp, Grave-Troll, Coliseum, Stinkweed Imp. At this point I have gone through over 2/3 of my library without seeing a Bridge, my opponent has four ways to remove Bridges, and I have also not seen the Akroma which would let me race. Next turn the opponent Deeds away my Narcomoebas and ends the game.


Careful Study, Breakthrough, Golgari Grave-Troll, and Bridge from Below seemed like enough to get the job done in game 1, and they were damn good – but my opponent had the goods to remove three of my Bridges, one at a time (despite having a Baloth Therapied, and with a resolved Garruk tossed into the mix). That, combined with two Tarmogoyfs and a Smother to stop turn 4 Akroma, was enough for him to race the turn 6 Akroma I got instead.

Granted, had I played a second Ichorid and not had it stuck in the bottom ten cards in my library, it would have bailed me out… but this one extraordinary circumstance, where any one of a laundry list of minor differences in circumstance (including a City of Brass, Tarnished Citadel, or Gemstone Mine in my opening hand or draw step, with which I could have cast Golgari Thug, one more topdecked land by my opponent at any point before turn 7, winning the die roll, etc.) would have bailed me out as well. Again, this is hardly an argument for adding an Ichorid.

Game 2 was, sadly, unremarkable. I mulled to four and was never really in the game. Naturally, this can happen to even the most mulligan-resistant builds of Dredge, or any other deck.

Match 3: Ben Lundquist U/G Tron

I win the die roll.

Opening hand: two City of Brass, two Golgari Grave-Troll, Breakthrough, Golgari Thug, Flame-Kin Zealot. This hand insists that it is keepable, but it is lying to me. My best play is turn 1 Breakthrough for zero, which draws four random cards and then puts me in a position of dredging once per turn for the rest of the game. That is very weak for a Game 1 hand; this deck can do much better. Mulligan. Six cards: City of Brass, Gemstone Mine, Dread Return, two Stinkweed Imp, Narcomoeba. Auto-mull; no outlets. Five cards: Tarnished Citadel, Tireless Tribe, Careful Study, two Golgari Grave-Troll. Very nice! keep.

My opponent mulligans once, then keeps at six.

My Turn 1: Tarnished Citadel, Tireless Tribe.
Opponent’s Turn 1: Flooded Strand, go.

My Turn 2: Upkeep, pitch a Grave-Troll and dredge it on draw step. Hit Cephalid Coliseum, two Putrid Imp, Akroma, Tarnished Citadel, Narcomoeba (keep it).

Discard Grave-Troll to Tireless Tribe, cast Careful Study. The first Troll flips Tireless Tribe, Grave-Troll, Careful Study, Putrid Imp, Cephalid Coliseum, Stinkweed Imp. The second reveals two Careful Study, two Stinkweed Imp, City of Brass, Dread Return.

I still need a third creature before I can Dread Return, and would like at least one Bridge. Attack with Tribe; opponent fetches Breeding Pool on my end step.

Opponent’s Turn 2: Play Snow-Covered Island and pass.

My Turn 3: Dredge the third Troll on upkeep, flipping Breakthrough, Gemstone Mine, Tireless Tribe, Cabal Therapy, two Bridge from Below. Now I can get a third creature using the Bridges; flashback Cabal Therapy, sacrificing Narcomoeba. It is Remanded, so I don’t get to see his hand. (if the opponent lets it resolve in this situation, always name Remand. I can pay for Condescend, but Remand on Dread Return leaves me with a couple of dumpy Zombies and nothing else.) Discard two Grave-Trolls to Tribe before sacrificing it (but not the third; if I get Crypted, I want to be able to topdeck a discard outlet and still have a dredger with which to stay in the game), then sacrifice the resulting pair of Zombie tokens and Tireless Tribe to flash Dread Return on Akroma, netting a pair of Zombies. Attack for 6, taking him to 12.
Opponent’s Turn 3: Urza’s Tower, Transmute Tolaria West for Urza’s Mine.

My Turn 4: Dredge Grave-Troll, flipping Golgari Thug, two Cephalid Coliseum, Narcomoeba (keep it), Gemstone Mine, Flame-Kin Zealot. Note that if I had a second Dread Return, I could win on the spot here by sacrificing my Zombies and the fresh Narcomoeba to reanimate Flame-Kin Zealot (along with two Zombies from the sacrificed Narcomoeba), attacking for six with Akroma and nine with the three hasty 3/3s. However, I do not have a second Dread Return – nor a Cabal Therapy – so I must instead attack him to 2, pass, and hope he doesn’t drop Urza’s Power Plant followed by Platinum Angel.

Opponent’s Turn 5: Draw, don’t find any outs, concede.

Tron boards out Triskelion, Sundering Titan, and both Mindslavers for three Tormod’s Crypt and Venser.

Dredge boards out Darkblast, Golgari Thug, Crippling Fatigue, Flame-Kin Zealot, and two Careful Study for 3 Pithing Needle and 3 Chalice of the Void. Against a vanilla Crypt deck, I will not bother bringing in Chalice when I’m on the draw, but Tron has tutors with which to fetch it. Since they will commonly keep hands that let them buy a turn or two with Moment’s Peace and then tutor up a Crypt, I want to make sure I can maximize my chances to screw them when they keep those hands.

Tron mulls two one-landers and keeps at five.

My opening hand: Citadel, Coliseum, Gemstone Mine, Narcomoeba, Chalice of the Void, Bridge from Below, Breakthrough. This hand just stone cold sucks. Ship it back for Tarnished Citadel, Chalice of the Void, Putrid Imp, Golgari Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp, Bridge from Below. This hand is slow because it lacks draw spells, but is a reasonable hand to keep on six, in game 2. The Chalice will stop all but turn 1 Crypt (unless he has a Repeal or Explosives to go with it), I have multiple Dredgers in case he Crypts one of them, I already have a Bridge, and I have a Putrid Imp that can go Jackal Pup and keep the pressure on while I dredge once per turn. He’s on five, so this should work. Keep.

Opponent’s Turn 1: Polluted Delta, go.
My Turn 1: Draw Ichorid, play Citadel, Chalice for zero, and Putrid Imp. Opponent fetches Breeding Pool on end step.

Opponent’s Turn 2: Urza’s Tower, go. As Dredge, I have an interesting choice here. Do I pitch the Stinkweed Imp and Ichorid, and attack next turn? Given that there is no Crypt on the table, the short answer is hell yes. Not only will I get to beat for three if I do this, I will also be able to net a Zombie because I have a Bridge. If I need a second dredger, there is always the Grave-Troll dredge I am guaranteed to help me out with that. Pitch Ichorid and Stinkweed Imp on end step.
My Turn 2: Upkeep, return Ichorid, pitch Grave-Troll, and dredge the troll on draw step, seeing Golgari Thug, two Putrid Imp, Careful Study, Citadel, Breakthrough. No Bridges or Narcomoebas, but now I have a back-up dredger and some more Ichorid food. Discard Bridge from Below to attain threshold, then beat for five with Imp and Ichorid. Pass the turn and collect a Zombie when Ichorid dies.

Opponent’s Turn 3: Draw, play Lonely Sandbar, pass.
My Turn 3: Return Ichorid, removing Putrid Imp, and discard Grave-Troll again. Dredge it on draw step, seeing Tireless Tribe, Gemstone Mine, Citadel, Coliseum, Breakthrough, Putrid Imp. Another near-dud, but I’m doing fine with just the Ichorid and the Bridge. Beat for seven; the damage is stopped by Moment’s Peace. Collect another Zombie when Ichorid dies.

Opponent’s Turn 4: Play Breeding Pool untapped, pass.
My Turn 4: Return Ichorid using another Putrid Imp, pitch Grave-Troll again and dredge it on draw step. Hit Chalice, Stinkweed Imp, Narcomoeba (keep it), Bridge, Breakthrough, City of Brass. Swing for nine, taking the opponent to 3.

Question: if you have Cabal Therapy here (I don’t), do you flash it back? If so, with what sacrifice, and what do you name?

Answer: Sacrifice Ichorid. Although sacrificing Narcomoeba would turn a 1/1 flying into two extra 2/2 Zombies (you’ll get the Ichorid zombies anyway on end step), the opponent is at 3 life, facing down 6 Zombies next turn no matter what. He must at least pop Engineered Explosives to survive another attack step, to say nothing of dealing with the Ichorid. If you keep Narcomoeba around, he must not only deal with the Ichorid, but also with the Imp and the Narcomoeba, right away, as together they represent lethal damage. Finally, you name Gifts Ungiven with the Therapy (if he doesn’t Gifts in response). He played a Breeding Pool untapped last turn to get to four mana, when he could have played it tapped and flashed Moment’s Peace instead; clearly he plans to cast Gifts this turn.

Anyway, I don’t have the Therapy, so I just pass and collect my two Zombies. As expected, the opponent casts Gifts on end step. He presents me with Moment’s Peace, Urza’s Power Plant, Urza’s Mine, and Life from the Loam. I give him Loam and Mine.

Opponent’s Turn 5: Draw, Loam back Polluted Delta and Power Plant, play Power plant, pass.
My Turn 5: Pitch Troll again, dredge into Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Thug, Chalice, two Cephalid Coliseum, Gemstone Mine. At this point I’m just looking for a Therapy; I don’t really care about anything else. I could bring back Ichorid and get two more Zombies, but as I mentioned before, I have way more Zombies than I need, and he’s going to Moment’s Peace this attack anyway. Might as well save the Ichorid food. I attack, he flashes Moment’s Peace (he has one left in the graveyard), and I pass.

Opponent’s Turn 6: Play Urza’s Mine, completing the Tron, and pass.
My Turn 6: Again pitch Grave-Troll and dredge him. Hit two more Grave-Trolls, Narcomoeba (keep it), Bridge, City, and Citadel. Attack, get fogged, pass.

On my end step, the opponent casts a second Gifts, fetching Platinum Angel, Academy Ruins, Repeal, Chrome Mox. Big frowns.

I give him Mox and Repeal.

Opponent’s Turn 7: Dredge Life from the Loam, flipping Mox, Tolaria West, Condescend. Cast Loam off Mine and Breeding Pool, floating one. Get back Tolaria West and Academy Ruins. Play Academy Ruins and activate it on Platinum Angel using the floating mana and Lonely Sandbar. Play Mox, imprinting Remand, pass.

That’s game. He has enough mana left to use his last fog next turn and will draw and cast Platinum Angel the turn after that, so he’s locked me out at 3 life.

On to game 3. Neither of us changes our board plans.

My opening hand is City of Brass, Gemstone Mine, Chalice, Pithing Needle, Careful Study, Dread Return, Bridge. Without a dredger, this hand is un-keepable. Ship it back for Pithing Needle, Putrid Imp, Stinkweed Imp, Careful Study, Breakthrough, City of Brass. This hand rocks. Keep.

The opponent mulls once, and then keeps.

My Turn 1: What do I play first, Needle or Imp? Against Tron, the worst that can happen if I play Needle first is that he opens with Mox and land, then Condescends my Imp. However, even if that happens, I still have two more discard outlets in Careful Study and Breakthrough, so it’s not the end of the world. If I play Imp and he has turn 1 Crypt, it doesn’t matter that I played the Imp, as he will Crypt my first-turn’s Dredgings away in response to the Needle. However, not playing turn 1 Needle opens the door for him to counter the Needle on turn 2, meaning if he opens with Crypt and is holding Condescend, I could get seriously screwed. In other words, play City of Brass and Pithing Needle on Tormod’s Crypt, then pass.

Opponent’s Turn 1: Draw, play Breeding Pool tapped, pass.

My Turn 2: Draw City of Brass (!!!), play Putrid Imp, discard Stinkweed Imp, play City and Careful Study. Dredge into Pithing Needle, Citadel, Thug, City of Brass, Narcomoeba (keep it). Dredge the Thug into Coliseum, Citadel, Needle, Chalice.

Why do I not play the Breakthrough here, by the way? Two reasons. One, if I don’t have another dredger in my top 5 cards (turns out I did), I will get to dredge the Stinkweed and then I will just draw three random cards. Two, I lose out on the Careful Study. If I play this way, I can cast Breakthrough next turn with a mana open to pay for Condescend (or re-cast it if he Remands it), and dredge a whole lot more than if I had just gone for Breakthrough immediately. Anyway, pass the turn.

Opponent’s Turn 2: Urza’s Power Plant, pass.

My Turn 3: Pitch Stinkweed Imp on upkeep, dredge it into Grave-Troll, Bridge from Below, Chalice, and two Coliseums. Pitch the Stinkweed Imp and the Thug, cast Breakthrough for zero (remember, not for one – if I tap out it can be profitably Condescended or Remanded). It resolves.

Flip two Bridges, another Thug, Tireless Tribe, Putrid Imp, Gemstone Mine. Next dredge the Stinkweed Imp into Putrid Imp, Grave-Troll, Citadel, Bridge from Below, and a Breakthrough. Dredge the other Troll into Dread Return, Tireless Tribe, Gemstone Mine, Ichorid, Akroma, and Putrid Imp. Finally, dredge Golgari Thug into Cephalid Coliseum, Breakthrough, Stinkweed Imp, and Therapy.

Attack for three with Putrid Imp and Narcomoeba. Here, I can flash Therapy and get three Zombies if I like. Do I?

Well, next turn I definitely want to Dread Return Akroma, and since I can pay for Condescend even if my opponent makes his next land drop, my number one priority is to clear any Remands out of his hand. If I Therapy him this turn, I give him a one-turn window in which to topdeck Remand. On the other hand, Therapying this turn means I get more damage in next turn because of Zombies…or do I?

My opponent kept at six cards with no Tormod’s Crypt, so chances are he’s holding Moment’s Peace. He will certainly Peace an attack from Akroma and two Zombies (unless I flip another Narcomoeba, I’ll sacrifice Putrid Imp and two Zombies to fuel Dread Return), but will he still Peace an attack from just Akroma while the new Zombies are summoning-sick? If you think about it, it won’t matter. When Ichorid dies next turn, I’ll get three new Zombies, meaning I’ll have Akroma, three Zombies from Ichorid, two Zombies left over from casting Dread Return, another three Zombies from sacrificing Putrid Imp to Dread Return, and a hasty Ichorid to go with them. In other words, starting after next turn, I will be coming at him with eight Zombies, Akroma, and Ichorid, for a combined power of 25. That’s very, very lethal even if I don’t go for the bonus Zombies this turn, so it makes the most sense for me to ensure that Dread Return doesn’t get Remanded next turn, no matter what he topdecks. I’ll save the Therapy for next turn, then; pass.

Opponent’s Turn 3: Draw, play another Power Plant, and Simic Signet.

My Turn 4: Upkeep, remove Putrid Imp to bring back Ichorid. Dredge Grave-Troll again, flipping the other Therapy, two Tireless Tribe, Careful Study, Stinkweed Imp, and Dread Return. Note that I have another Therapy now; this means the first one will name Moment’s Peace (in case he’s holding it and left mana open for Remand), since I can definitely cast a second one to protect myself against Remand. Sacrifice Narcomoeba to flash Cabal Therapy. The opponent casts Moment’s Peace in response.

Now that he’s gone and cast my original target, what do I name? He’s tapped out and cannot Remand. Do I care if he Remands anything else this game? Really, I do not. There is no next turn, at this point. All I care about is that he might do something proactive to get out of this situation he’s about to be stuck in, and the most likely card to do that is Gifts. I could try to be cute and name Moment’s Peace (he cast it because he’s holding another!) but really, with only three in his whole deck, that’s unlikely to work out for me. Name Gifts Ungiven.

He doesn’t have it. Instead, he has Remand, Breeding Pool, and Thirst for Knowledge. Since he’s already Peaced for this turn (plus, y’know, I did the math on how much I’m going to have on-table after this turn), I know I can afford to flash the other Therapy using Ichorid here to take out his Thirst (again, I don’t care about his countermagic anymore).

Now that I know he’s not packing anything I care about, and that I don’t care about Haste damage this turn, I can minimize his outs. I’m going to reanimate some Grave-Trolls instead of Akroma, since they will be much bigger. First, pitch the one I’m holding to maximize my creature count. Next, flash Dread Return (using two Zombies plus the Imp now rather than later, again for the creature count) on one of them. Count up the creatures in my graveyard; looks like a healthy 15/15. Now sacrifice three more Zombies to reanimate the other, at 14/14. Now I have a very diverse board: a 15/15, a 14/14, and four 2/2 Zombies.

My opponent now has a Moment’s Peace in the graveyard, one Tron piece out, is not close at all to being able to deal with either of my 14-power and 15-power Trolls, let alone the Zombies, and has two counters and a Breeding Pool in hand.

Not bad for a post-board turn 3! Pass.

Opponent’s Turn 4: Draw, play Breeding Pool tapped, pass.

My Turn 5: Dredge Stinkweed Imp, finding Narcomoeba (keep it), Gemstone Mine, City of Brass, Chalice, Golgari Grave-Troll. Notice that I do not dredge and cast Golgari Thug here; that will only enable my opponent’s Condescend, which will help him dig for answers. Attack, get fogged, pass.

Opponent’s Turn 5: Draw, concede.


These games were more normal. If you’re playing Dredge, pay close attention to game 2; notice how very close Tron was to death, but managed to pull out a Platinum Angel-fueled victory from three life after a mull to five. You must remember those Moment’s Peaces, and respect those Gifts Ungivens.

By the way, please notice that I just wrote seventeen pages about seven games of Magic, each of which was over in two to seven turns. That’s a lot of text, but it is not a lot of turns; make no mistake, Dredge is not a simple deck to pilot.

If I choose to update this deck before the PTQ this weekend, changes will most likely have to do with the Chalice-Proof Offalsnout. They may result in some number of Chalices becoming extra Therapies, as those (similarly to Chalice) stop Crypts when you are on the play, and obviously work better against Offalsnouts.

For those of you playing Dredge, I hope this provided some insight – especially as it pertains to playing around Tormod’s Crypt. For those of you playing against Dredge, I hope this helps give you an idea what kinds of hands you should be shooting for with your mulliganing decisions, in order to defeat a tuned Dredge list with an experienced pilot.

See you next week!

Richard Feldman
Team :S
[email protected]