The Long And Winding Road – Vintage: The Return Of Fatestitcher

Long-time Eternal writer Matt Elias writes an article about Fatestitcher Dredge in Vintage. From Limited to Eternal, that’s quite a leap for the blue Zombie Wizard. Why is Dredge well-positioned in Vintage right now?

Well, hello! Good to see you too!

A friend told me to write an article about balancing a wife, newborn, full-time job, and Magic, and as soon as I figure out how to do that, I promise I’ll write that article.

In the interim, here’s something completely different.

Falling for Fatestitcher

“Fate loves the fearless.”
James Russell Lowell 

Sometimes, I fall in love with a card. One such card: Fatestitcher. Before I wrote for this site, I wrote an article about triple Shards draft, detailing a strategy that involved forcing Glaze Fiend and friends; friends often included junk like: Etherium Sculptor, Etherium Astrolabe, Filigree Sages, and Puppet Conjurer. It just so happens that Fatestitcher was fantastic in this type of deck, as it was great with Puppet Conjurer and Glaze Fiend, and cleared the way for Fiend to connect if an opponent was brazen enough to try and play a flier to block.

Although I rarely have the opportunity to draft these days, I have many fond memories of forcing this strategy and repeatedly stealing wins with it, often against decks that on paper seemed far superior.

When I started playing Vintage, I was drawn to Oath of Druids, but once I discovered Sean Orcutt’s Dredge deck from March 2009, I was hooked on Dredge as well; as it turns out, Bazaar of Baghdad combos even better with Fatestitcher than Puppet Conjurer!

I’m going to give you some Dredge history, beginning with my first exposure to the deck, and this will provide us with a chance to play the always fun “Vintage: Mythbusters!” game.

Myth 1: Dredge doesn’t actually win tournaments.

Myth 2: Dredge doesn’t do well at large tournaments.

Thirty Months of Vintage Dredge

 At the TMD Open 13, which had 113 players, Sean Orcutt split the finals with this deck:

Sean’s list seeks to strike a balance between speed, provided by Fatestitcher, and disruption, provided by Chalice of the Void and Unmask. Fatestitcher Dredge is particularly well-suited to slice through opposing blue decks because that extra speed burst dodges counters and makes the game one matchup absurdly in the Dredge deck’s favor.

Over time, a number of versions of Dredge have had success, including one with Breakthrough popularized by Mark Hornung and Jake Gans (including a win at the 68-player Philly Open IV), and a slower, consistent version of disruptive Dredge played by Sho Santos and Marcos Deligos in Manila in November, 2009; the Turtle Dredge build that nabbed me a top four at the Philly Open in February 2010 (which also saw Jake Gans take second place with Dredge) was based on their list, with the addition of Nature’s Claim.

I haven’t played Dredge in a Vintage tournament since early 2010, but over that time I’ve watched the deck put up strong finishes at Blue Bell and NYSE throughout much of 2010 and then watched Dredge put two players into the Top 8 of the TMD Open 14 in September 2010, with 125 players.

Since that time, however, Dredge has been relatively quiet, especially in the US. Most notably for American Vintage players, Dredge stopped putting up strong finishes at Blue Bell and NYSE. Long-time Dredge advocates and top-tier Dredge players—like Sam Berse, Jake Gans, and Mark Hornung—moved onto other decks, like Workshop Aggro and Minus Six, in the face of prepared opponents and a resurgent Workshop contingent. Innovation in American Dredge design dried up; hate become omnipresent; and Dredge became mostly a niche or budget player in the metagame.

In Europe, however, the return of Gush to the format last fall has allowed Dredge to return with a vengeance. A Gush-heavy metagame quickly introduces an array of anti-blue decks, which are often blue themselves; where you have Gush, you’ll often find things like Painter, Remora, and Landstill, all blue decks that are strong against Gush but weak against Dredge. Thus, this year has had some impressive performances from Dredge in Europe, including two in the Top 8 of the 383(!)-player Bazaar of Moxen, a win in a 53-player tournament in Zurich, another win in a 45-player tournament in Pontedera, and a win in a 58-player tournament in Alcobendas.

While many of these decks were in the same mode as my update of the Manila deck from late 2009 / early 2010, slower versions with plenty of disruption and Petrified Field, another trend was emerging. Quietly, Fatestitcher Dredge was making a comeback, in a hyper-aggressive form that looks something like this:

This deck immediately caught my eye when I started poring over results in Morphling, but before we get to that, back to our Mythbusters game. You’ll recall I noted two common stereotypes, or myths, about Vintage Dredge:

  • Dredge doesn’t actually win tournaments.
  • Dredge doesn’t do well at large tournaments.

Hopefully it’s clear that over the last thirty months, both of these statements are blatantly false. This isn’t my opinion, but rather, it is a fact, born out repeatedly in documented tournament history.

In the first half of 2011, Dredge decks won five tournaments, with four more finals appearances on top of the wins. Although I haven’t run the data points, I suspect that this rate of finals appearances leaves Dredge overrepresented compared to its metagame percentage overall, which tends to be rather small. And, among the events I mentioned, Dredge was in the top four or better at TMD 13 (113 players), TMD 14 (125 players), 2011 Bazaar of Moxen (383 players), the Philly Open IV (68 players), and the Philly Open V (82 players).

I think it is also worth noting that over this time period, the people who have done well with Dredge have treated it as a legitimate deck and have understood that like any other deck, it must be constantly updated to stay appropriate for the metagame, inclusive of whatever hate options are most popular in the field at large.

That said, over this same time period, Dredge has not been a particularly strong performer at Vintage Champs. There are a variety of reasons for this, but I think few actually have to do with Dredge itself being a weak deck, or a poor choice for Champs. In fact, I think Luca Brugnone’s deck is a fantastic choice for just about any Vintage tournament you might have the chance to complete in this summer, including Champs.

Let’s take a look at what’s going on with this version of Dredge, and what makes it different than others you may have seen before:


1 Black Lotus
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mox Sapphire
4 Fatestitcher

The dream hand for Dredge decks like Turtle Dredge involve Bazaar of Baghdad, Leyline of the Void, Chalice of the Void, and a dredger; the concept is that there is no deck that can race the combination of Leyline and Chalice of the Void, as together they completely shut off opposing fast mana and Yawgmoth’s Will.

This deck approaches things differently, and the nut high hand for this deck involves Bazaar of Baghdad, Fatestitcher, a dredger, and fast mana. For example, let’s say that your opening hand includes Bazaar of Baghdad, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Fatestitcher, and Golgari Grave-Troll. You could very easily take over the game on the first turn.

Opening by playing Bazaar of Baghdad and Lion’s Eye Diamond, you would then break the LED to add UUU to your mana pool, discarding the rest of your hand. Then, you would use Bazaar of Baghdad and Golgari Grave-Troll to dredge; the blue mana you have floating would let you unearth Fatestitcher to untap the Bazaar and continue to dredge, powering through your deck on the first turn.

In a metagame low on Wastelands and high on blue decks meant to interact with each other, this type of deck has an incredible advantage in game one scenarios, even compared to other Dredge decks.

A few things to keep in mind with Fatestitcher, all of which have come up for me in tournament play (either with or against the deck):

Dread Return Package

3 Sun Titan
4 Dread Return

At first, three Sun Titans might seem like overkill, but when you play with this deck, you’ll realize that there’s some mad scientist / evil genius stuff happening here. On the face of things, Sun Titan isn’t that exciting, but the amount of synergy with the rest of the deck is absurd.

Each Sun Titan that comes into play typically does one of two things. If you’ve already hit a Fatestitcher, then you’ll return Undiscovered Paradise to play, triggering landfall on any Bloodghasts in your graveyard. You then untap your Bazaar and continue to dredge; this will often net you another Dread Return, which allows you continue this chain going repeatedly until you’ve dredged out the majority of your deck. In the event that you have not yet found a Fatestitcher, you can just return a Bazaar of Baghdad to play, which gives you a rather similar result.

During my admittedly limited time playing this deck, I observed that I never lost when I was able to resolve Dread Return on a Sun Titan. The shenanigans that ensue every time are best referred to as absurd. Note that if you are playing three Sun Titans, you’re committing to passing the turn even if you “go off,” so you still need to make good use of your Cabal Therapies and should remember that Sun Titan is a decent-sized beater and also one with vigilance.

Anti-Yixlid Jailer Package

4 Chain of Vapor
3 Darkblast
2 Firestorm

Yixlid Jailer and Leyline of the Void have become the two sideboard weapons of choice for most blue decks (although the most recent Blue Bell displayed a surprising quantity of Ravenous Traps in the top 8); to that end, this deck really focuses on beating those cards. Where many players have skimped on ways to beat Yixlid Jailer, this build makes Jailer a liability, with a whopping nine outs; the combination of three Darkblast and two Firestorm is particularly great, as Firestorm is versatile and can take out multiple Jailers or Jailer and Bob, and Darkblast is excellent as a recursive weapon against those same cards.

I have found that when you play against a deck with many Jailers, such as Paul Mastriano Suicide Jace Vault deck, it is wise to dredge back a Darkblast to hedge against additional Yixlid Jailers.

And, of course, this deck packs plenty of outs for Leyline of the Void, with a relatively standard package of four Chain of Vapor, four Nature’s Claim.

Anti-Time Vault Package

2 Ancient Grudge

Is there anything Ancient Grudge can’t do? When Tezzeret was king of the hill, I packed Ancient Grudge into my Oath decks to gain an edge; today, nearly every deck that can play this card is using it in some capacity, both to keep Mishra’s Workshop decks in check and to do double-duty against Time Vault.

In this deck, access to Ancient Grudge is critical because you always have to pass the turn; thus, there is always a chance that your opponent is going to play Time Vault or Voltaic Key, and then a top-deck tutor to set up the other piece where you can’t interact with it via Cabal Therapy. Similarly, the Turbo Tezz decks may race a Tezzeret into play, and if you can’t kill the Tezzeret, they’ll complete the Key/Vault combo with on-board permanents that you can’t disrupt. Grudge helps prevent this.

Updating the Deck

For Blue Bell Gameday 17, I knew I wanted to play Dredge, and I very quickly knew that I wanted to play this version, even without testing it. I did make a few changes, however.

First, I cut one Dread Return and replaced it with the fourth Cabal Therapy. While I understand the reason for four Dread Returns, I cannot fathom playing fewer than four Cabal Therapy in Vintage, especially when you know your deck has to pass the turn, and you may Serum Powder some of your Therapies away before the game begins.

Then, I changed the fourth Fatestitcher into an Ancestral Recall. I think that Recall is a bit more versatile, although obviously it is a do-nothing if not in your opening hand. Playing Recall with three Fatestitchers also helps prevent you from pulling hands with a glut of Fatestitchers and no action.

And… that’s literally all I did.

Let me give you a tip that I learned some time ago: there are a lot of part-time Magic players out there, even at the tournament level (and certainly at the Vintage tournament level). A very common mistake people make is thinking that they can build or tweak decks at the same level of competency that they did when they were living and breathing the game. For the majority of people, this simply isn’t true; when you’ve spent time away from the game, you need to strongly consider staying closer to the framework of successful decks.

To that end, I resisted my urge to replace the fast mana package with Chalice of the Void. I also stopped myself from a few other tweaks, such as swapping an Ichorid into the sideboard for one Ancient Grudge, or changing the Dread Return package to two Sun Titans and one Flame-Kin Zealot, or moving Ichorids to the sideboard entirely. I think all of these are reasonable ideas, and ideas worth testing, but I’ll leave that up to you.

As far as the tournament itself, the deck performed admirably, even if the pilot was rather rusty. I punted away my first round against Fish, before tightening up my play and running off four consecutive wins to secure a Top 8 spot. Among the unlucky victims: Mark Hornung playing a Stoneforge Mystic deck, Tom Dixon playing The Deck, and Paul Mastriano playing Suicide Jace Vault. Unfortunately, I ended up having to leave as the Top 8 was starting, as the combination of ornery dogs and a cranky newborn required my presence at home.

First tip for juggling Magic and family: secure a babysitter / assistant to make sure you don’t have to abandon a great shot at a Beta Mox.

Regardless, I had a great time playing Vintage again and am pretty confident that this deck is sitting in a sweet spot in this metagame. Had I been able to stay, my path to the finals would’ve involved three straight blue decks, exactly what I like to see when playing this strategy, and Josh Potucek’s winning Landstill deck features exactly zero hate cards for Dredge.

Bonus Decklist: RSD Oath

This is an untested Oath of Druids deck, one that utilizes Rune-Scarred Demon. The basic idea is that with two Demonic Tutors triggering from Oath of Druids, you can assemble Key/Vault pretty easily. Should you flip something you need into your graveyard, you have a recursion package with Regrowth, Yawgmoth’s Will, and Noxious Revival, with Gaea’s Blessing to prevent decking or shuffle pieces back into your deck. Note that it may conceivably be better to play a second Gaea’s Blessing; I’m not sure at this point.

If your opponent has taken any damage, you can simply use Rune-Scarred Demon to find Time Walk or a way to bring it back from your graveyard, play it, and then repeat on the second Demon to attack in for 18. And, with the ability to find a counter each turn after Oath resolves, you can often just ride the Demons to the win that way.

I’ve really liked Mental Misstep so far in Vintage but could see Spell Pierce or Mana Drain being better in some metagames.

If you’re so inclined, give this a spin and tell me if it’s any good!

That’s it for now—best of luck to everyone battling at Vintage Champs, and for those of you who play Legacy, I hope to have something big for you in the near future…

Matt Elias
[email protected]
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