SCG Daily – Pimp My Dredge

Bennie Smith, a pioneer of Dredge decks, needs your help. In the past, he’s had a modicum of success with the Dredge strategy in Standard… but today, it seems the tools are missing for the deck to truly shine. In the last of his entertaining daily articles, he send out a simple plea: pimp his Dredge deck.

I surprised many people – including myself – when I did well with a dedicated Dredge deck at States last year (see Judging Dredge). Since I was the only player who did well with Dredge at the time—and did a big write-up on it for StarCityGames – I became identified by many people as “the Dredge guy.” Which is fine, since I really enjoyed the deck and the mechanic.

However, whenever I go to a Constructed Magic event since then, I inevitably get asked whether I’m playing a Dredge deck… and I have to sadly hang my head and say no. Not because I don’t want to play Dredge… but because I haven’t since been able to really get it to perform well enough to shine in one of my all-too-rare tournament appearances.

And I’ve tried. Oh, have I tried! Each time a new Magic set was released, one of the first things I’d do is scour the spoiler for cards that could juice up a dedicated Dredge strategy. There have been some interesting nuggets that have cropped up, but by and large they haven’t measured up to the more powerful cards that migrated into other archetypes. So I thought I’d dedicated my last Daily slot this week seeing if we could collectively do something to take this cool yet underperforming deck archetype and raise it up to a competitive deck.

That’s right: let’s Pimp My Deck.

First, a quick rundown of the major weaknesses that I see in a dedicated Dredge strategy.

  • A dedicated Dredge deck typically wants to get to the point where you stop drawing off the top of your deck and simply keep getting stuff back that’s in your graveyard. This means that you want to limit having cards in your deck that aren’t easily accessible from the graveyard. Life from the Loam is a critical piece of the dedicated Dredge plan, so any lands are easily fair game. Golgari Thug means that any creature can be retrieved, and boy do we wish Eternal Witness was around! Other types cards are more difficult to justify. I did a lot of testing with Toshiro Umezawa in order to cast instants that were in my graveyard (such as Putrefy or Sickening Shoal), but having to rely on having my opponent’s creatures dying at the right time was cumbersome.
  • Nearly all of my early game is completely wrecked by Umezawa’s Jitte, especially if it’s wielded by Paladin en-Vec.
  • Condemn has made the inevitability of a Svogthos, the Restless Tomb end-game less… inevitable.
  • The deck has little early defense against a fast beatdown strategy, especially against creatures like Isamaru and Kird Ape, and this leaves us vulnerable to being finished off by burn once we stabilize.

Below are some promising directions that I’ve noodled around with or have caught my attention recently. I’d certainly like to hear your thoughts in the forums, especially if you’ve done any work with Dredge decks.

Golgari Thug/Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
One of the decks I tested for Regionals stumbled across the nice synergy between Golgari Thug and Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, which allows you to sacrifice the Thug to practically “draw” whatever creature you want from your graveyard. Real card drawing (as opposed to the non-draw card-drawing of Dark Confidant) at instant speed is quite helpful in a Dredge deck, which is one of the reasons Sensei’s Divining Top was so good in my original build.

Ravnica block Limited players didn’t take long to realize that the Eidolons were much better than they initially looked, so long as you had a reasonable quantity of multi-colored spells to cast. Shambling Shell struck me as the perfect complement to Eidolons, and even if the Eidolons are sub-par individually, being able to continuously get them back – and with Dredge getting more and more of them “free” – struck me as potentially abusable. It certainly helps that the green and black Eidolons are the better ones.

Loaming Shaman
Okay, so it’s no Eternal Witness, but running a Shaman or two certainly makes it easy to shuffle back in cards that you can’t access from the graveyard. It strikes me that going this route would require also playing Sensei’s Diving Top, which would benefit from the shuffling and also let you know whether one of the cards you were looking for was on top of your library or whether you should Dredge something back.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge/Stromgald Crusader
Ah, Coldsnap gives us some real meat to work with! Haakon is an incredibly powerful card, and with a Dredge strategy it should be easy enough to flip a copy into the graveyard when you Dredge enough. The Stromgald Crusaders are solid little beaters and as Knights they also work well with Haakon.

Ohran Viper
As I mentioned above with Lyzolda, having card-drawing in your Dredge deck can be a huge help, and the Viper can deliver. I think the Viper pairs up fantastic with Darkblast, letting you shoot a chump blocker out of the way, swing in, draw a card and replace the draw by Dredging back the Blast. The Viper also doesn’t mind slipping on the Dredge-tastic Moldervine Cloak.

Garza’s Assassin
This guy is a little scary but undeniably strong against some decks, and if you Dredge him out you can take the life hit to bring him back in some circumstances. He strikes me as being more of a sideboard card if you’re opponent isn’t packing Chars and Flames of the Blood Hand.

I’ll wrap this up with a sample new Dredge decklist that I’ve been working on getting the cards for. Does it have the kung fu to battle in today’s metagame? What can be done to beef it up? Let’s get those forums hopping!