Down And Dirty – Draco Dredged

Read Kyle Sanchez every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, March 6th – In the current Extended metagame, there are a number of powerful strategies available to the discerning spellslinger. Perhaps the most powerful is Dredge, a turn 2 combo deck that has something like an 80% win percentage against the rest of the field… for game 1. Game 2 is trickier, as people bring their hate… but Kyle believes he’s fixed the problem…

Seeing as this article marks my 50th appearance here at StarCityGames.com, I figured I could take the article off, and goof around by posting the stolen sex tape of Billy and I drinking while playing Pack Wars on the steps of the state capital. But alas, Craig said I had to produce something readable for the Premium audience. I have an epic two weeks of Magic coming up, with a PTQ in a few days and a Grand Prix the following weekend, but I haven’t been testing at all.

I haven’t been to a GP since Montreal, so I’m hyped about my Philly adventure. I also plan to carry around a video cam with me to produce my own special visual tournament report which will either be the best or worst of my works, depending mostly on how much effort I choose to put into it.

I was thinking about how to approach this. I’m thinking about making it a two-parter, which is one of the most annoying features about tournament reporters nowadays. They separate it into a million different pieces, so seven weeks later, when you finally conclude your journey, no one gives a crap. My two-parter would be one part tournament results, theory, and all that technical BS that you ding dongs complain about in the forums. The second would be a behind-the-scenes look at what exactly goes down at a GP once the tournament hall is closed for the evening. Team drafts, charades with Cheon, Aten gone wild, and Kenji cuddled up in a corner.

I took it to AIM and browsed for interesting ideas…

After picking Lundquist’s brain for awhile I decided I was set to write a UG Tron article, which will probably be my deck of choice for the PTQ. But those articles always end up the same. People will scroll to the decklist, copy it into Word, then change a bunch of cards before actually playing with the deck. I used to do the same thing when I was an avid PTQ’er, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from my readers. I finally settled on a list after a couple of hours of goldfishing and heated AIM conversations with the Tron Master Supreme, Benjamin Lundquist.

One of the major things you have to remember about editing a deck like this is the universal synergy that a lot of the cards have. For example, one of my first ideas was to shave a Tolaria West off to make room for something I thought was good at the time, but Tolaria West is actually just the nut-high in this deck, and two is the perfect number. The entire deck is that way, an intricate tapestry of streamlined engines. Okay, so it’s not quite as intricate as some of the other designs we’ve seen in the past, like Teachings or Gifts decks.

But the core of the deck is a well-oiled engine.

4 Remand
4 Condescend
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Gifts Ungiven
2 Repeal

All Blue. All extremely powerful instants. And all of them yield some form of deck manipulation and a positive return. Remand and Condescend are the backbone of the group, since together they tend to chain into each other, giving you a steady stream of Blue permission for the rest of the game.

I left almost all of the lands the same, since there isn’t much room to move around due to the strict color requirements from the lack of color produced by the Urza Lands. Ghost Quarter was the once exception, which was naturally included to battle the recent rise in both TEPS and UG Tron. A maindeck copy gives a slight edge, and an extremely useful long game plan to cripple them completely in tune with Life from the Loam.

Platinum Angel sucks. Sure, there are a few situations that when you cast it all you need is one counter to win the game, but those are games you’re gonna win anyway. It just doesn’t do enough to pull its weight. I really wanted a second Triskelion in its stead, but I added a Merchant Scroll package.

For the Spell Burst slot I really wanted a third counter, in case I needed to Gifts in preparation for a counter war. Spell Burst has the best long term value since you can lock an opponent out of the game, which makes it a fine topdeck compared to something like Spell Snare or Negate.

The singleton Merchant Scroll has been an awesome addition so far. It serves as the fifth Gifts Ungiven, second Spell Burst, and third Repeal for the deck. The sideboard is also has some relation to the Scroll, since it also serves as the third copy of Hurkyl’s Recall and fourth copy of Stifle. It also works fantastic as a random throw-in for a Gifts against a weak-minded opponent who fears the tutor spell more than the actual cards I can possibly tutor for. Which brings up a unique perspective I gained on this deck while playing at the shop earlier…

In a deck like this, much more so than others, the chance for bluffing comes up. Whether it be teetering your cards in your hand before you play an Urza land, or the scratch of the noggin’ before deciding that fourth card to put in for a Gifts pile. Subconsciously, your opponent will be gauging everything you do… after all, you’re still a combo deck, and the opponent will naturally try and figure out where he stands in the race. This is the perfect opportunity to read your opponent and send out mixed signals.

For example, I mentioned earlier the weak-minded opponent who fears the tutor over the tutored card. That situation will come up when you’re playing at a PTQ. If you cast Gifts, knowing that you only need a Loam, Tron piece, and Academy Ruins since you already have a Mindslaver in your hand, you can slam down that Merchant Scroll on the table as your first choice for Gifts. Your opponent will probably read it, at which point you can then go in the tank to think about your future options. Posturing is very important here, since it puts a ton of relavence on the Merchant Scroll. Get the Tron piece, Ruins, and Loam all at the same time and throw them on the table. More often than not your opponent will try and restrict you from the Merchant Scroll.

There are a lot of such situations that occur with this deck. Posturing during your main phase is another tricky matter, since you clearly have very few optimal main phase choices before you actually kill them beyond mana advancement, so try not to think during your main phase. Stop your opponent during his upkeep, and think then instead. There is nothing more annoying than being held back from drawing an anticipated card, so build up the tension. Most Magic players are so conformed to thinking during their main phase after they draw that they waste so many opportunities for small advantages through thinking outside the box. And this is a deck that can truly capitalize on it.

The sideboard is broken up into two parts. One side is the creature board focused around Tarmogoyf and Triskelion, the other are narrow cards to help out in the matches I need them the most. Affinity has been a thorn in my side for the past couple of months, and I refuse to play a deck that doesn’t have some good anti-artifact options. Hurkyl’s Recall is just what the doctor ordered since I have three virtual copies with the Merchant Scroll maindeck. Stifle is for the rising TEPS decks that burst onto the scene in ‘Couver, and also compliments Merchant Scroll. And Tormod’s Crypt is clearly for that stupid kid playing Dredge.

The Goyf sideboard plan should come in against every deck except Enduring Ideal… at least that’s what Lundquist told me. Triskelion is the perfect answer to Gaddock Teeg, while also giving you Goyf advantage. The Simic Growth Chamber may seem a bit strange, but I always like to board out Chrome Mox against Red decks, and I needed a land to keep the deck right on mana. Having it in the mirror is also pretty cool.

But this deck isn’t anything new. It will probably be the 75 that I sleeve up this weekend… but for the GP? I’ve got this little number lined up….

(Let’s keep this one quiet…)

It’s commonly known that Dredge will beat just about anything in game 1. People have gone on record saying it has an 80% overall win percentage against the perceived metagame in game 1. Game 2 is where the deck suffers, as every opponent is likely to come packing with things that mess up your dredging plans.

The advantage of having the Draco sideboard is pretty obvious, but basically the goal is to make all of their counter-dredge measures irrelevant by sideboarding into a different combo deck that still operates against a post-board deck prepared for Dredge. Example: everyone boards out cards like Duress and Thoughtseize against Dredge, which makes the Draco plan extremely viable.

It’s actually pretty humorous. You’re a turn 2 kill combo deck that sideboards into a slower, turn 4-5 combo kill.

I know I’ve pitched the Draco Explosion sideboard a few too many times this season, but I think I finally found its best fit. The maindeck is far from an ordinary dredge maindeck, and has lost a little of speed by cutting Tireless Tribe. Still, Zombie Infestation is a much welcomed addition, since it can function post-board as an excellent way to get in that four damage.

Most dredge decks only have two Cabal Therapy maindeck, but one of the overlapping anti-dredge cards that doubles against the Insidious Dreams package is Extirpate. They can use it to shuffle your deck before Erratic Explosion, so we need four Cabal Therapy to counteract their hate measures. Tormod’s Crypt and Leyline are completely useless, as is Yixlid Jailer and Morningtide, but Extirpate is the one card that can screw you up. So you should be prepared to play around it, since it’s one of the few cards that you can expect to inhibit your post-board gameplan.

Other than Extirpate, the post-board deck is surprisingly resilient, usually looking something like this:

4 Putrid Imp
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Golgari Thug
4 Narcomoeba
4 Careful Study
2 Draco
3 Chrome Mox
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Bridge from Below
3 Zombie Infestation
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Erratic Explosion
4 Insidious Dreams

4 Cephalid Coliseum
4 Polluted Delta
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Steam Vents
1 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown Tomb
3 Watery Grave
1 Swamp

4 Breakthrough
4 Golgari-Grave Troll
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Flame-kin Zealot
2 Bridge From Below
3 Dread Return

Now, it’s nothing pretty, but you have to keep in mind how ugly your opponents’ decks are going to look when they have useless Tormod’s Crypts and Leylines of the Void. The Imps and Narcomoebas aren’t to be underestimated. While Stinks is holding the fort you can get a surprising amount of damage through with the other one-power fliers. You just have to be very careful when deciding whether or not to Dredge Stinks, since there is a chance that you can lose your combo by doing so. I really liked the idea of having one Reclaim in the sideboard to stop that play, but there just simply isn’t enough room.

Sensei’s Divining Top is one of the keys to being able to find the Insidious Dreams, and with Careful Study and the new Fetchland-based manabase it shouldn’t be that hard to have a filthy Dream before turn 5 or so. But you really don’t even need it that fast. With Therapy you can force the Dreams through most permission decks, and all of the midrange decks clogged up their decks substantially, making their damage clock much slower than usual.

I don’t really have too much more to say on the deck. I’ve only played twenty or so matches with it, and still don’t have everything figured out, but the idea is pretty hot so I thought I’d drop it here to see if anyone can come up with some innovations.

That’s why he got high enough to touch the heavens above him…


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