Insider Information – The Extended Dredge Primer

StarCityGames.com Open Series: Indianapolis on March 13-14
Thursday, March 4th – The forums have been crying out for it, and Cedric has delivered! After posting a heartbreaking 9th-place finish at Grand Prix: Oakland, Cedric Phillips presents a comprehensive primer on the Extended Dredge strategy. Card choices, matchups, sideboarding, and play tips… it’s all here!

It’s finally here. The Dredge primer everyone has been waiting for!

Be aware that just because I am giving you guidelines on how to play Dredge doesn’t mean you have automatically become a master of the Dredge mechanic. I put in a rigorous amount of testing with Dredge in order to solidify my 9th place finish at Grand Prix: Oakland. Do not fool yourself into believing that this primer is going to lead to a PTQ victory. You need to put the work in, just like anyone else. The only thing this primer is going to do is give you a giant head start.

With that being said, let’s get down to business. First up is the decklist:

A few things to point out about the decklist:

1) Drowned Rusalka is the best card in this deck by a mile. When I played this deck at Worlds, I was boarding out Drowned Rusalka every match because I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. As such, I went 2-3-1 during the Extended portion, and deservedly so. Siding out Drowned Rusalka in Dredge is like siding out Wild Nacatl in Zoo. It should simply never happen.

With how important Drowned Rusalka is to your game plan, be sure not to overvalue it. You can decide how important it is to what you are trying to accomplish. If you can afford to let it die, then feel free to cast it on turn 1, but if it is integral to winning the game, make sure to at least get some value out of it. Clearly this is a case by case scenario, but overall Drowned Rusalka is the best card in this deck, and I feel that is something that should be (and will be) highlighted.

2) Sphinx of Lost Truths is here simply for combo matchups. Sphinx of Lost Truths allows you to dig deeper and harder than any other card available in the format. In the combo matchups, you have to go off on turn 3, and Sphinx of Lost Truths gives you the ability to do that. You don’t have time to pussyfoot around against Elves, Hive Mind, Living End, or Hypergenesis. You need to find your Iona, Shield of Emeria and get it into play by turn 3.

Some people have asked me why I don’t just play a third Iona, Shield of Emeria, and the reason is simple. Sometimes your draws can be incredibly awkward, and Sphinx of Lost Truths allows you to discard the cards that should not be in your hand. It is also an extra flying blocker against Dark Depths when having varied casting costs (Engineered Explosives) and varied card names (Echoing Truth) is important.

3) Nature’s Claim is nowhere in my decklist. What seems like an auto include simply isn’t. Nature’s Claim is a very good card for a certain metagame, but this isn’t the metagame for it. As you will see when I lay out the sideboarding plans, our sideboard cards are pulling double and triple duty. Yes, Nature’s Claim is an excellent answer to all of the cards that give us trouble, but we aren’t taking draw steps with this deck. We are Dredging. You cannot bank on drawing this card, nor can you even bank on casting it all the time because it costs a Green mana and you do not want to actively search for Green lands in some matchups.

Alright, let’s get to the only thing that matters: Matchups!

Little Zoo/Big Zoo

Big Zoo is a bye, so I am going to highlight Little Zoo here. The same principles and sideboarding guides do apply.

Little Zoo decks are the ones with Tribal Flames, lots of one-drops, and they aren’t interested in going long with things like Bant Charm, Punishing Fire, and Baneslayer Angel. They are in your face at all times, and look to take you from 20 to 0 as fast as possible.

In this matchup, I try not to run Hedron Crab out into play on turn 1, but it can be correct depending on your hand. For example, if you have access to another way to get your Dredge engine online (Glimpse the Unthinkable, another Hedron Crab, Ideas Unbound, and in some cases Drowned Rusalka) then playing a naked Hedron Crab is great because it forces your opponent into a terrible situation:

Your opponent has to waste their turn killing the Hedron Crab.

If a Zoo player is leading with a Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile on your turn 1 Hedron Crab, we are certainly pumping the fist as they are not starting with a creature. Worse yet, that Lightning Bolt isn’t targeting us, which is really where they want to put it after all. If they are removing the Hedron Crab via Path to Exile, we are even happier because our deck is light on lands, and they are “accelerating” us into Stinkweed Imp; a card that is even harder for them to consistently deal with.

Oh, and if they choose to ignore our Hedron Crab? Well, I think you know how well that is going to end up for us (read: very).

Games against Little Zoo are simple grinds. We are the favorite in the matchup, but Zoo can beat anything at any time so you have to tread carefully. Game 1, your goal is to Dread Return an Iona, Shield of Emeria into play, naming Red if you are low on life or White if your life total is relatively high. However, there are many avenues you can take to achieve victory. Drowned Rusalka + Bloodghast + Bridge from Below is your friend here, and can often lead to many game wins, as can extremely large Golgari Grave-Trolls.

What you are Dredging depends on the situation in the game. Need a blocker to take care of a problem? Go grab a Stinkweed Imp. Need some lands in order to start hard-casting Golgari Grave-Trolls? Go grab a Life from the Loam. Need a giant idiot to finish the game off? Sounds like it’s Golgari Grave-Troll time to me.

During this whole ordeal of dredging, keep in mind that Narcomoebas will be entering the battlefield. They should not be overvalued. If you feel the pressure is really coming on from your Zoo opponent, block one of his creatures with your free 1/1 flyer so that you can keep dredging to find your answers. It’s all about resource and life total management.

Sideboard games are much the same, except we are off of the Iona, Shield of Emeria plan and are more reliant on the Drowned Rusalka token making plan.

(They have access to Gaddock Teeg, Meddling Mage, Ravenous Trap, Yixlid Jailer, Bojuka Bog)
-1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, -2 Iona, Shield of Emeria, – 2 Dread Return
+3 Echoing Truth, +1 Ancestor’s Chosen, +1 Life from the Loam

Little Zoo has access to the above cards, with the most annoying being Yixlid Jailer. However, Yixlid Jailer is not widely played because a lot of Little Zoo decks don’t utilize their Black mana outside of a free point of damage from Tribal Flames. The other hate cards are only annoying if you don’t know how to play against them.

Let me address Bojuka Bog and Ravenous Trap first. Bojuka Bog is only good if they have an active Knight of the Reliquary, and if they do you can certainly play accordingly and see it coming. Bojuka Bog is actually very bad against us, but it will be played in the sideboard of decks containing Knight of the Reliquary. It just takes a little practice playing around it.

Ravenous Trap is an annoyance, but it is fairly easy to see coming. Your opponent will do things like pay extra attention to what you are dredging so they know when to trigger their trap, or they’ll ask how many of x or y are in your graveyard. That is when you know that the gig is up. The nice thing about Ravenous Trap is that if you can choose not to dredge for a turn and keep going about your business. It is, for the most part, up to you how good Ravenous Trap is against you. There are situations where you have to move all in and hope they don’t have the Ravenous Trap, but those situations are few and far between.

Gaddock Teeg / Meddling Mage are the most widely played hate cards against Dredge, and they are there to combat our Dread Return strategy. But if we don’t have a Dread Return strategy post sideboard, what are those hard-to-cast Grizzly Bears even accomplishing? They can’t attack or block for fear that we could turn our Dread Return engine back on. But the kicker is that the only thing that they are preventing is the one Dread Return we have left in our deck. We have chosen to leave a Dread Return in our deck in the off chance that we draw an Echoing Truth to deal with these hard to cast Grizzly Bears, or in the off chance that they don’t draw one of their cards to stop Dread Return.

Echoing Truth is also brought in simply to quash an early rush. The way that you can lose this matchup is by being beaten down by multiple creatures before you can get set up. A good way to stop a Wild Nacatl rush or a large Tarmogoyf is by bouncing it and forcing your opponent to recast it. It messes with their game plan and doesn’t inhibit yours one bit.

Ancestor’s Chosen is better than Iona, Shield of Emeria as a Dread Return target in this matchup, because gaining life is all you need to do to win the game. Iona, Shield of Emeria locking out their spells is nice and all, but it isn’t going to outright win you the game, where reanimating an Ancestor’s Chosen and gaining 20-30 life will always win you the game.

Finally, the second Life from the Loam is sideboarded in to ensure we will not have a hard time casting Golgari Grave-Trolls, will always have fuel to bring back Bloodghasts, and allows our Drowned Rusalkas plenty of mana to work with.

Overall, this matchup is extremely favorable and the one you want to run into every round, but you have to know what you are trying to accomplish.


Burn is a deck that sees a lot of play online because it is cheap to build, and very little play in real life because it is a very bad deck.

Yes. It is bad. Laughably bad.

However, you must prepare, even laughably bad decks like Burn, on the off chance that you play against them.

Your game plan here is to resolve a Dread Return on Iona, Shield of Emeria, naming Red. There is nothing else to it. One thing you must do is mulligan accordingly to ensure you are given the chance to accomplish your goal. There really isn’t any screwing around with Bridge from Below or Drowned Rusalka in this matchup. You have one goal and one goal only. If you complete your goal, you win the game. If you don’t, you lose the game. Simple as that.

(They have access to Relic of Progentius, Tormod’s Crypt, Ravenous Trap)
-1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, -2 Bridge from Below, -1 Life from the Loam
+1 Ancestor’s Chosen, +3 Ancient Grudge

Burn decks typically sideboard Tormod’s Crypt or Relic of Progentius because they are able to throw them at you via Shrapnel Blast when they outlive their usefulness. For those annoying artifacts, we sideboard in Ancient Grudge. Ancient Grudge being drawn in our opening hand or dredged into our graveyard are one and the same, and is one reason, among many, that it is better than Nature’s Claim. Your goal in the sideboarded games are the exact same as game 1, except this time reanimating an Ancestor’s Chosen will also get the job done.

Bridge from Below gets sideboarded out because we aren’t trying to grind out opponent out with 2/2 Zombies and it is actually very easy for them remove the troublesome enchantment with Hellspark Elemental, Keldon Marauders, Spark Elemental, and Mogg Fanatic. The only reason I leave two in is on the off chance that you need a little more ammunition for a Drowned Rusalka.


The robots are relatively easy to handle side they do not have access to Fatal Frenzy or Soul’s Fire to mize us out. Affinity lists are very traditional right now, and are not very difficult to handle. Your main goal in this matchup is to just start putting large Golgari Grave-Trolls into play without dying to flying creatures equipped with Cranial Plating. Narcomoeba goes a long way to keeping us alive in this matchup, so be sure to thank him when the match is over.

Iona, Shield of Emeria is a little below average against Affinity, but there are colors to be named. If you feel that you are in danger of losing to Fatal Frenzy or Soul’s Fire, feel free to name Red. I typically name Blue with Iona, Shield of Emeria as it shuts off Thoughtcast and Master of Etherium; two of the best spells Affinity has to offer.

(They have access to Relic of Progentius and Tormod’s Crypt)
-1 Iona, Shield of Emeria, -1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, -1 Bridge from Below, -1 Dread Return
+3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Ancestor’s Chosen

Affinity will be bringing in some very hateful artifacts, but we have the best answer to their whole deck in Ancient Grudge. Ancient Grudge does a lot of work in this matchup, as it answers all of their creatures, their hate cards, and their annoying Cranial Platings. Just because you have an Ancient Grudge in the graveyard to flashback doesn’t mean you should just throw it around like a hot potato. Wait for the best time to wreck your opponent with it, as there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.


Playing against Bant is basically like playing against a bigger Zoo deck, except they have counterspells instead of annoying burn spells. With that in mind, playing out a naked Hedron Crab is fairly safe here, as a Path to Exile on it is a bonus, just like it is in the Little Zoo matchup. The goal of this matchup is to Dread Return an Iona, Shield of Emeria naming White, so that the Bant player cannot cast Bant Charm or Path to Exile. Other routes to victory include the Drowned Rusalka plan or summoning large Golgari Grave-Trolls, but reanimating an Iona, Shield of Emeria is the easiest to accomplish game 1.

(They have access to Gaddock Teeg, Meddling Mage, Tormod’s Crypt, and Relic of Progentius)
-3 Ideas Unbound, -1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, -2 Iona, Shield of Emeria, -3 Dread Return
+3 Darkblast, +3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Life from the Loam, +2 Echoing Truth

I am sideboarding Ancient Grudge in this matchup not only to combat the graveyard hate artifacts, but to keep any Umezawa’s Jittes in check that they may have access to. After sideboard, it is close to impossible to cast or resolve Dread Return, so the whole package leaves in this matchup. Between Meddling Mage, Gaddock Teeg, Mana Leak, and Negate, it is extremely difficult to resolve Dread Return. Instead, we turn our deck into an awkward mid-range deck that can answer anything they are looking to accomplish. Our win condition is Drowned Rusalka in combination with Bridge from Below, or resolving large Golgari Grave-Trolls.

Overall, this matchup is favorable. It is a matchup that is intricate, but once you learn what you need to accomplish, it should become rather easy to win.


This is my favorite matchup in the format. It is extremely interactive and each decision each player makes is magnified due to how unforgiving each deck is. Our goals vary quite a bit from turn to turn, so try to keep up!

Playing a naked Hedron Crab or Drowned Rusalka is 100% correct here, because we don’t want either of those cards to be taken via Thoughtseize. We would like to establish those first and foremost.

The first thing that most Thepths players are looking to accomplish is getting their Dark Depths engine online, so our first goal is to set ourselves up to survive that. Narcomoeba is the best at buying us time against Marit Lage, but Stinkweed Imp helps a ton here too. The goal is to keep varying mana costs to dodge Engineered Explosives while keeping varying card names to dodge Echoing Truth. If you have out a Stinkweed Imp, a few Narcomoebas, and an Iona, Shield of Emeria, you should be safe to chump block the 20/20 token for some time.

Speaking of Iona, Shield of Emeria, you want to name Black against Thepths as it shuts off the majority of their spells. Thepths has a way to deal with resolved Iona in both colors (Echoing Truth/Into the Roil in Blue, Slaughter Pact in Black) but I’d much rather shut off the majority of their spells and force them into wasting a turn tutoring for their bounce spells and then force them to waste another turn casting their bounce spell instead of allowing them to tutor for and cast Slaughter Pact all in one turn. Naming Black also just shuts off the majority of their deck.

Once you have the 20/20 part of their deck handled with numerous chump blockers, you are now looking to generate an army of zombies and Bloodghasts so that we can begin attacking and shorten the game as much as possible so that the Thopter Foundry portion of their deck does not become relevant. Going this route typically involves Drowned Rusalka, and you should not be afraid of using a Dread Return to get the little guy back.

In case your Thepths opponent starts off on the Thopter Foundry plan instead of the Dark Depths plan, your goal is to make zombies as fast as possible, as that is the only way you can race the infinite tokens and infinite life they are going to gain. You can easily outnumber the amount of tokens they can make if you dredge enough Bridge from Belows and Bloodghasts, but you need to be quick about it.

(They have access to Extirpate, Tormod’s Crypt, and Leyline of the Void)
-1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, -3 Dread Return, -2 Iona, Shield of Emeria, – 4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
+3 Echoing Truth, +3 Ancient Grudge, +3 Darkblast, +1 Life from the Loam

The most annoying hate card that Thepths has is Leyline of the Void. If they have one for us on turn zero, we are only drawing to three Echoing Truths. However, if they do not mulligan for a Leyline of the Void, we are allowed to play Magic with them, and that is a very good thing for us and a very bad thing for them.

The Dread Return package comes out in this matchup because it just isn’t necessary anymore, and isn’t that great in the first place. We sideboard into a reactive control deck that has answers for all of their questions. If Thepths is looking to make a 20/20, we still have access to our blocking plan, but we can also Echoing Truth the token. If Thepths is all in on Thopter Foundry, we have access to three Ancient Grudges to draw/dredge into.

The second Life from the Loam comes in to allow us to cast our spells on a regular basis, as the game is going to go very long and we need ways to continue bringing our Bloodghasts back.

Finally, the three Darkblasts are brought in to combat Vampire Hexmage and Dark Confidant. Dark Confidant can get out of hand quickly, and it a huge bonus to have a way to answer and turn on our Dredge engine all in one card. While some may believe that Darkblast is a poor answer to Vampire Hexmage, remember that sometimes your opponent will play a Vampire Hexmage naked on turn 2 with the goal of tutoring up and playing Dark Depths on the following turn. Darkblast allows us to punish them for that. Finally, being able to Darkblast your own creatures to make a lot of zombie tokens in a pinch is a play that happens to me quite often.

Overall, this matchup is extremely close and your wins will come from testing against it a ton. I played against this matchup a lot in my online testing leading up to Grand Prix: Oakland, and a lot of my victories were because I knew what I needed to accomplish and my opponent did not. This is a matchup you need to play. Reading this may help, but you need to sit down and play some games in this matchup. It is extremely intricate.


This matchup is heavily in our favor, but is not one in which we should feel overconfident. Faeries tends to tap out on the first couple turns, whether it be to suspend an Ancestral Visions or to get their Bitterblossom engine online. We can take advantage of Faeries having their shields down momentarily by setting up our own engines. Our dredge engine is much more powerful than their token generating engine, so given the opportunity you are going to want to play out a Hedron Crab or Drowned Rusalka as fast as possible.

The goal, as in most matchups, is to Dread Return an Iona, Shield of Emeria. This time, we will be naming Blue as it stops just about all of their spells except Bitterblossom, Umezawa’s Jitte, and their spot removal spell of choice (either Smother or Doom Blade). If their spot removal spell of choice has become Smother, then things have gotten even easier for us, as their only way to remove Iona, Shield of Emeria is Cryptic Command, a spell Iona will not allow them to cast. If they still have Doom Blades, it isn’t something to concerned with as there are a lot of things that need Doom Blading in this matchup (Hedron Crab; Drowned Rusalka; Iona, Shield of Emeria).

A bevy of zombies will get the job done in this matchup, among other things. This matchup is fairly simple, so don’t over complicate things. A deck with as many counterspells as Faeries is generally going to have trouble with a deck like Dredge.

(They have access to Relic of Progenitus, Tormod’s Crypt, Leyline of the Void and Extirpate)
-1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, -3 Ideas Unbound, -1 Iona, Shield of Emeria, – 2 Dread Return
+3 Darkblast, +3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Life from the Loam

Faeries does not have a ton of hate to bring in against us, but they will try to prevent you from getting an Iona, Shield of Emeria into play, so we one up that strategy by sideboarding pieces of that strategy out and boarding into cards that solve the questions they present.

Darkblast is a great card against Faeries in general, as it will counteract Spellstutter Sprite and Mistbind Clique to an extent, as well as turning on our Dredge engine. Ancient Grudge is here to, once again, deal with graveyard hate artifacts, as well as stray Umezawa’s Jittes. Lastly, Life from the Loam is brought in to keep our Bloodghasts going, as well as giving us a way to cast our bigger spells later in the game.

Overall, Faeries is pretty close to a bye so long as you draw/dredge at least average. A deck heavy in counterspells should not beat Dredge unless the Dredge player is playing sub-optimally.


Take a deep breath, because you just got the bye. If you take a glance at the list that won Grand Prix: Oakland, you will find a decklist without a single hate card. Elves vs. Dredge is just a race to see who wins first. Elves has to kill Dredge on turn 3, and Dredge has to reanimate an Iona, Shield of Emeria naming Green by turn 3. There is nothing more to it, as both decks are simply goldfishing.

(They have access to Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, Primal Command, and Loaming Shaman)
-1 Life from the Loam, -2 Bridge from Below
+3 Darkblast

The matchup is basically the same after sideboard except we have a card in Darkblast that is abnormally good against Elves, while Elves has nothing to sideboard in against us. Darkblast helps to solidify this matchup and makes it so we don’t have to go off on turn 3 anymore, because the Elves player won’t be able to go off as fast as they’d like.

Overall, this matchup is as close to a bye as you can get. The only way you can lose is if you keep poor hands or dredge extremely poorly. Mulligan accordingly and you should have an easy victory.

Hive Mind

This matchup, just like most combo matchups, are a race. Hive Mind is looking to resolve their namesake spell in combination with a pact while we are looking to resolve an Iona, Shield of Emeria naming blue. Naming Blue with Iona, Shield of Emeria isn’t exactly game over because the Hive Mind player can transmute a Tolaria West for a Slaughter Pact, but that takes up at least two turns, and if we have done literally anything else in that time, we should still be winning.

(They have access to Tormod’s Crypt and Ravenous Trap)
-4 Bridge from Below
+4 Thoughtseize

Bridge from Below is fairly mediocre in this matchup, since we aren’t looking to beat anyone down with zombies. What we are looking to do is disrupt Hive Mind from comboing off, and Thoughtseize does a great job at that. Now granted, we aren’t going to get a lot of draw steps to find a Thoughtseize, but if we ever find one, it is always going to be better than a Bridge from Below.

Ravenous Trap is the most common hate card that a Hive Mind deck will have, as they see a lot of cards per game and are able to easily find one via Peer Through Depths. There isn’t much we can do about a Ravenous Trap in this matchup except to Thoughtseize it or hope they don’t have one, so don’t be upset when your graveyard gets removed.

A nice thing to keep in mind in this matchup is that if the game goes long for some reason, you can fetch out your Steam Vents and Life from the Loam back the appropriate lands to be able to pay for the pacts that they may be targeting you with. Also, if you have a Hedron Crab in play and your opponent manipulates their library via Ponder or Telling Time to keep an important card on top of their library, feel free to have a Hedron Crab activation target them to try to screw with their game plan.

Overall, this matchup is a lot closer than I would like, but it is a very underplayed deck. It is not a matchup you should expect to play against in a PTQ in the near future, but in the off chance that you do, you are now prepared.

Living End

Travis Woo baby is another case of combo vs. combo. It’s all one giant race! Their goal is to resolve a large Living End and to mess with our mana via Fulminator Mage. Our goal is to resolve an Iona, Shield of Emeria naming black as fast as possible. Just like other combo matchups, we need to do this quickly, but so do they. There isn’t much else to it.

(They have access to Faerie Macabre, Hammerheim Deadeye, and Yixlid Jailer)
-4 Bridge from Below
+4 Thoughtseize

Game 1 is heavily in our favor because the Living End player really cannot interact with us, and it takes him more than three turns to build up a sizeable graveyard. However, post board they are able to interact with us in a few different ways. Faerie Macabre is actually quite good against us because our only goal is to Dread Return an Iona, Shield of Emeria. Faerie Macabre stops that plan right in its tracks.

Yixlid Jailer was tech Travis had at the GP that no one saw coming, but now that the cat is out of the bag, I think it is much worse. If you are worried about Yixlid Jailer, you can board a few Darkblasts, but I don’t think that will be very common anymore. I feel as though that plan was only great for one tournament.

Hammerheim Deadeye is a card you won’t see very often, but I have seen it enough times to mention it. It is only there as an answer to a resolved Iona, Shield of Emeria, but it does a very nice job at handling that problem. However, this isn’t commonplace so I wouldn’t expect this very often either.

We board out Bridge from Below because it is impossible for it to be relevant. Between Shriekmaw, Ingot Chewer, and Fulminator Mage, Bridge from Below is never going to get the value that we want it to. However, Thoughtseize will disrupt our Living End opponent long enough for us to get our Iona, Shield of Emeria into play.

Overall, this matchup is pretty close. Living End attacks from a different angle than most decks in the format. Game 1 is pretty close to a bye, but the sideboarded games can be difficult if your opponent has access to a few Faerie Macabres.


I am only going over this matchup because some people swear that this is a relevant deck though it has never been good, and never will be good. It is much like the Burn deck in that it is laughably bad, but some people just swear by it every Extended season due to its good Zoo matchup.

Game 1, your goal is to reanimate Iona, Shield of Emeria naming White. That is it!

(They have access to Extirpate, Leyline of the Void, Relic of Progenitus, and Tormod’s Crypt)
-1 Life from the Loam, -3 Bridge from Below
+4 Thoughtseize

The sideboarded games are much the same. Iona, Shield of Emeria naming White will win you the game right away, but now they are able to put up a little more resistance. You can take an alternate route to victory with large Golgari Grave-Trolls, but that is a little more difficult.

Overall, this matchup is favorable, but I think people know how bad this deck is by now. I don’t foresee you having to play against this deck in a PTQ.

UG Scapeshift

This is one of the stranger matchups you will play against. I say that because resolving an Iona, Shield of Emeria is nowhere close to game over. In the early game, you want to name Blue with Iona, Shield of Emeria to prevent your opponent from bouncing it via Cryptic Command, and to slow them down from finding a Scapeshift via Ponder/Peer Through Depths. In the later portion of the game, your Iona, Shield of Emeria should name Green so they do not kill you with their namesake spell. However, naming Green gives them the chance to bounce your Iona, Shield of Emeria with Cryptic Command and then kill you with Scapeshift. See the problem?

The way I usual win this matchup is by making a lot of zombies as early as possible. Because Scapeshift decks don’t maindeck Firespout anymore, six zombies by turn 3 should be able to end the game before they are able to kill you with Scapeshift.

(They have access to Ravenous Trap and Primal Command)
-1 Iona, Shield of Emeria, -4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
+4 Thoughtseize, +1 Ancestor’s Chosen

Sideboarded games are much the same, but now you are more hellbent on finding an Ancestor’s Chosen instead of an Iona, Shield of Emeria. The reason you want to find an Ancestor’s Chosen is because you can put yourself to a high enough life total that a resolved Scapeshift will not kill you. I still leave an Iona, Shield of Emeria in for this matchup because you do have the opportunity to steal a game with it, but reanimating an Ancestor’s Chosen is our main goal.

Hate from Scapeshift typically comes in the form of Primal Command or Ravenous Trap, but Thoughtseize is brought in to try and one up those cards. I am sideboarding Glimpse the Unthinkable out in this matchup because it is our weakest card post board, and Ideas Unbound can be used to draw us into a Thoughtseize.

Overall, this matchup is dangerously close, and is one I would rather not play against. Luckily, Thepths is keeping UG Scapeshift off the map for the foreseeable future.

RG Scapeshift

Strap on your racing shoes, folks! All you are looking to do in this matchup is to Dread Return an Iona, Shield of Emeria naming Green. This shuts off over 50% of their deck and they have no way of removing outside of numerous Lightning Bolts in combination with a Punishing Fire.

(They have access to Blood Moon, Cranial Extraction, Thought Hemorrhage, and Extirpate)
– nothing
+ nothing

I have tried sideboarding cards in this matchup, but because they have so many different sideboard cards, it was actually useless. I have found that the best way to beat RG Scapeshift post sideboard is to simply try to race past their hate. Thoughtseize isn’t going to get anything done if they draw two of their hate cards, so just try to find and reanimate an Iona, Shield of Emeria on Green as fast as you can and hope for the best. The sideboarded games are very close because we are consistent in what we do (reanimating Iona, Shield of Emeria by turn 3) but they have to draw their hate cards and cast them before we end the game by turn 3. If they can beat us to the punch, good for them. Chances are they won’t be able to do it game 3 when we are on the play though (you should always win game 1.)

Overall, this is a very favorable matchup. You are going to win game 1 every single time, and game 3 you will be on the play and given the chance to race right by them. RG Scapeshift is a deck that has declined in popularity, so you shouldn’t expect to face it very often.


Game 1 is a race to Iona, Shield of Emeria, naming Red if your life total is low and White if your life total is high. Playing against Boros is a lot like playing against Little Zoo except Boros is a lot more explosive. Narcomoeba and zombies from Bridge from Below are your friends in this matchup.

(They have access to Jotun Grunt and Volcanic Fallout)
-1 Sphinx of Lost Truths, -3 Ideas Unbound
+3 Darkblast, +1 Ancestor’s Chosen

Jotun Grunt can be an annoyance, but if you dredge well enough, you can actually dredge right past its effect and ignore it. Volcanic Fallout is brought in to clear the zombies and Narcomoebas that you will attempt to put in the way. What you will notice is that Boros doesn’t actually have any dedicated hate.

Darkblast is brought in to handle Zektar Shrine Expedition, Plated Geopede, and Steppe Lynx and handle those it does! Darkblast is a dream in this matchup, and hopefully you can draw it every time. Ancestor’s Chosen is brought in as another great Dread Return target.

Overall, this matchup seems favorable, but I lost to it playing for top 8 in Oakland because I wasn’t well prepared. I didn’t board in Darkblast game 2 and realized how good it would be too late into the match. That is the edge you can gain from playing a deck people haven’t played against before. In my numerous weeks of testing online, I never played against a deck like Boros, and I paid for it.


What was a once a highly favorable matchup has gotten extremely difficult due to Saito’s great update of the deck. I actually consider this matchup a poor one now, due to how much hate that is present for Iona, Shield of Emeria. Less than a month ago, naming Green with Iona, Shield of Emeria was the end of the game, but with Oblivion Ring, Shriekmaw, and Leyline of the Void present, our matchup against Hypergenesis has gone from a virtual bye to extremely poor.

(They have access to Ravenous Trap, Leyline of the Void, Oblivion Ring, and Shriekmaw)
-1 Life from the Loam, -3 Bridge from Below
+4 Thoughtseize

Thoughtseize gives us a fighting chance in this matchup, but with Hypergenesis having so many answers to a resolved Iona, Shield of Emeria now, the chances of us winning are fairly grim. I think the best we can hope for is to get a little fortunate here.

Overall, this matchup is poor. To say I was happy to dodge Saito during Grand Prix: Oakland is an understatement!

That should do it! If I missed anything, please post it in the forums, and I will address it. Hopefully I covered all inquiries, but I probably missed something here and there so feel free to ask away.

I hope everyone enjoyed this, and happy dredging if you choose to play a tournament with this deck.

See ya next week!

Cedric Phillips

[email protected]