The Long & Winding Road – Night of the Living Dead: The Ultimate Dredge Primer (Part 2)

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Monday, April 5th – Last week, I reviewed the cards that make up Vintage Dredge and some of the ways in which the deck functions. Today, we’ll move on to looking at specific decks, sideboarding, and how to design a Dredge deck that’s right for your metagame.

Last week, I reviewed the cards that make up Vintage Dredge and some of the ways in which the deck functions. Today, we’ll move on to looking at specific decks, sideboarding, and how to design a Dredge deck that’s right for your metagame.

Example Decks

Now that we’re familiar with the cards that form the strategy (see here if you missed Part 1), let’s examine some actual deck lists. I’ve pulled examples from tournaments in 2010 to try to keep them all current.

Mike played an updated version of classic Manaless Dredge at the NYSE V tournament in January, updating it to include a few new cards such as Sphinx of Lost Truths. With the printing of Nature’s Claim, I would assume the deck would be further modified to include those in the sideboard. Mike’s list is most vulnerable to Yixlid Jailer.

Mark won the Philly Open IV with this deck last fall, and it includes most of the elements that have led him to multiple top 8s over the past six months: Bloodghast and Ichorid together along with Breakthrough to power out explosive finishes. This version is typical of modern mana versions of Dredge, and includes Breakthrough, Careful Study, and Cephalid Coliseum, and does not use Serum Powder. This deck is designed to use Bazaar without relying on it entirely.

This deck won the NYSE V in January, and a slightly modified version (with Leyline of the Void in the main in place of Chalice of the Void) got Jake to the finals of the Philly Open V. Jake has had success without Serum Powder; this deck is hugely explosive by way of combining Fatestitcher and Breakthrough together in the main.

Sam placed second at the first Blue Bell tournament on 2010, after making the top 8 of the Philly Open IV with a similar build. This is a classic example of the Sharuum version of Fatestitcher Dredge.

Sideboarding with Vintage Dredge

A detailed analysis of Dredge sideboarding is an article (or articles) unto itself. My intent here is review the commonly used sideboard cards as well as providing general guidelines for how various builds make room for anti-hate cards in sideboard games. Additionally, the list of cards that follows is not meant to be completely comprehensive, but rather is meant to cover the widely played options.


Chain of Vapor: Most Vintage Dredge sideboards start with 4 Chain of Vapor, the exception being Black/Green Manaless versions. Chain of Vapor can handle nearly everything that can get thrown at a Dredge player, with the exception of Ravenous Trap. Artifact hate like Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus can be “bounced” out of play, forcing your opponent to use them or lose them, and buying a window where you can attempt to dredge into a win. Static effects like Yixlid Jailer, Ensnaring Bridge, Pithing Needle, and Platinum Angel can be removed from play temporarily for the purposes of winning the game. Hate cards like Wheel of Sun and Moon and Planar Void can be bounced from play, and this is usually especially effective against Leyline of the Void as many decks are unable to re-play it quickly enough.

Force of Will: While Force of Will doesn’t protect you against a turn-zero Leyline of the Void or lands like Wasteland or Strip Mine, it can handle any other hate card thrown your way. Most importantly, it counters Ravenous Trap. Force can also be used to make sure one of your other spells, like Nature’s Claim on Leyline of the Void, resolve successfully.

Unmask: Unmask falls into a similar category as Force of Will, although it is not as good at combating Ravenous Trap. It is, however, much easier to play, as Dredge decks have a much higher count of black cards as compared to blue cards.

Pithing Needle: Pithing Needle offers preemptive protection against some hate cards or countermeasures, notably Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus, but also cards like Wasteland and Strip Mine that might attempt to keep you from winning with Bazaar. It can also handle random problem cards like Mogg Fanatic, Triskelion, or Umezawa’s Jitte.

Echoing Truth: Echoing Truth sees less play than other options because it costs two mana (expensive, by Dredge standards), but it is another flexible option that can handle multiple copies of the same card (such as two Leyline of the Void, or two Pithing Needle).

Nix: Nix generally has two specific targets: Ravenous Trap and Tormod’s Crypt. However, it can also be used to help a spell resolve through an alternate cost Force of Will.

Targeted Removal — Creatures

Key Target — Yixlid Jailer

Darkblast: Darkblast, as mentioned above, is a common choice because it handles most of the necessary creatures (Goblin Welder, Yixlid Jailer) and can substitute in for another Dredger like Golgari Thug with minimal loss of effectiveness.

Contagion: Contagion is a powerful effect because it is free, and is capable of killing multiple targets (such as a Yixlid Jailer and a Dark Confidant at the same time). If you have two targets, it also can’t be hit by Misdirection.

Firestorm: Firestorm, while not a Dredger, is a powerful choice because again it can hit multiple targets, and it also allows you to discard dredgers to your Graveyard.

Targeted — Enchantments

Key Targets: Leyline of the Void, Planar Void, Wheel of Sun and Moon

Reverent Silence: Useful only in decks that include Forest in some capacity, Reverant Silence can be played for an alternate cost and destroys all troublesome Enchantments in play.

Wispmare: Wispmare is an appealing choice for targeted Enchantment removal, as it dodges Thorn of Amethyst, triggers Bridge from Below when it goes to your Graveyard from the Evoke cost, and in unusual situations can be a target for Dread Return if necessary. The main drawback is that it only hits Enchantments and must be played at Sorcery speed.

Nature’s Claim: Nature’s Claim has become the most popular option for removing Enchantments because it meets the mana requirements (costs one), is an Instant, and also can hit Artifacts.

Serenity: Similarly to Echoing Truth, Serenity is useful because it can sweep multiple pieces of hate off the board. Serenity shines against Workshop decks if you have the ability to resolve it, and it can also hit multiple types of hate simultaneously.

Emerald Charm: Emerald Charm has mostly been supplanted by Nature’s Claim, but all three modes of this Charm are useful to varying degrees. Emerald Charm was rarely a dead card because it could be used to Untap a Bazaar of Baghdad, and therefore used to be an easy sideboard swap with Fatestitcher as the effects are similar (although Charm is obviously the worse accelerant as it can be countered and doesn’t leave behind a body to fuel Flashback costs). Charm could also remove flying from Platinum Angel, stealing victory from the jaws of defeat, or at least, urban legend is that this has happened.

Targeted Removal — Artifacts

Key Targets: Pithing Needle, Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus

Ingot Chewer: Similar to Wispmare, above, but it hits Artifacts and also has a better body for attacking if you use it as a Dread Return target. Remember that in a pinch, you may be forced to Dread Return Ingot Chewer into play, and that when its Evoke cost is used, you can generate Bridge tokens. You also don’t need a target to play the Evoke cost if you want to just Evoke the Chewer or Wispmare to generate tokens.

Oxidize: Replaced in relevance by Nature’s Claim. Chewer is generally better for decks that have access to red.

Ancient Grudge: More popular in Legacy, Ancient Grudge is a solid choice if you want to focus on destroying Artifacts and against Workshop decks.

Nature’s Claim: See Enchantments, above.

Serenity: See Enchantments, above.

Stifle: Stifle isn’t really used yet, but it could become valuable as it counters the effect of Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus, and happens to also stop Bojuka Bog.

Ancient Grudge: Ancient Grudge is useful in that you can play it out of the Graveyard for only one mana, as well as using it early to destroy hate cards and then have it available to flashback for something like Key / Vault.

Sideboard Strategy

Generally accepted sideboard strategies with Dredge vary based on the specific build. The key to a well-designed Dredge deck is this: you need to have an incredibly favorable game-one match-up against your expected field, and then keep your post-sideboard win percentage above 50%, so that on average you are winning game one and one of two games post-sideboard. After you win game one, game two on the draw is the most difficult game; you don’t know exactly how to sideboard, and you have no way of interacting with your opponent until you get a turn. However, your game three win percentage should go up dramatically after you get an idea as to what hate you’re facing; if you use cards like Chalice of the Void and Unmask, you can interact with your opponent immediately, locking out fast mana and Tormod’s Crypt with Chalice, or using Unmask to get rid of Yixlid Jailer and Ravenous Trap.

Manaless and Fatestitcher builds tend to play a disruption set that involves some combination of Leyline of the Void, Unmask, Chalice of the Void, and so on. Because opponents typically have to field a less effective deck in post-sideboard games to compete against Dredge, many Dredge players will in turn sideboard out their disruption for anti-hate measures in post-sideboard games. The other option many players use is to remove the Dread Return package, including the Dread Return targets; some players choose to leave in a Dread Return as the Golgari Grave-Trolls are always a viable target.

Fatestitcher decks will often remove the Fatestitchers as post-board games are less of a race; Fatestitcher is also poor against decks with Wasteland. Sharuum builds tend to sideboard out the entire Sharuum package: all the Sharuums, some or all Dread Returns, as well as the Sharuum targets including Altar of Dementia and Possessed Portal. Many also run alternate Dread Return targets for specific match-ups (such as Sam’s use of Iona in the sideboard, which is a key card for Dredge against TPS and ANT).

Game two situations are typically the hardest to play for Dredge players, because you won’t know what hate cards to expect. Some opponents still bet that they won’t face Dredge and purposefully run short on hate cards for Dredge, or skip them entirely to improve their match-ups elsewhere. When playing Dredge, pay close attention to your opponent and try to determine how many cards they’re actually bringing in. The strongest cards in game two situations are ones from the “catch-all” category. You also want to pay attention to top 8 results from your area to see which sideboard cards have been popular, and which decks are playing which sideboard cards against Dredge.

One important thing to realize when you play post-sideboard games is that you really only have to be concerned with cards that permanently prevent you from winning. Chief among these are Leyline of the Void, Planar Void, and Wheel of Sun and Moon. In some situations, some less popular cards like Moat, Ensnaring Bridge, and Platinum Angel can also be a problem. Because Nature’s Claim can permanently handle all of these cards, and Chain of Vapor can handle them temporarily, they are among the most powerful cards in your sideboard arsenal.

The one exception is Yixlid Jailer, which can’t be handled by Nature’s Claim, and unfortunately does require some type of creature removal. Thankfully, because Jailer costs two mana and Dark Ritual decks are not popular at the moment, it is unusual to run into an opponent with more than one or two Jailers in their deck. Jailer is also vulnerable to both Unmask and Force of Will. Similarly, Pithing Needle can permanently prevent you from using Bazaar of Baghdad. However, it isn’t the most popular option

One-shot hate cards such as Ravenous Trap, Tormod’s Crypt, and Relic of Progenitus are much easier to beat with Vintage Dredge, especially Dredge decks that have access to both Ichorid and Bloodghast in post-board games. The key to beating these cards is to limit your exposure and force your opponent to use them. Many players become gun-shy about committing to actually using cards like Tormod’s Crypt, waiting for you to over-commit. If you Dredge slowly, just enough to fuel one Ichorid or Bloodghast and with one Bridge from Below, you can often build enough board presence that you can win anyway. In these types of games, cards like Nature’s Claim can be used to keep your opponent off of Time Vault / Voltaic Key. The use of Bazaar is a critical part of this strategy — it is much harder for Dredge decks to operate this way in Legacy, for example, because most of their draw spells and effects are one and done.

A player with Ravenous Trap will often exhibit tell-tale signs, such as holding you with triggers on the stack and asking to see your Graveyard. Pay attention to these signals. You can also attempt to bait people into using Ravenous Trap too early by being very explicit with your triggers. Try and announce Narcomoeba, Ichorid, and Bridge triggers that aren’t particularly consequential to see if you can bait out the Ravenous Trap. Remember also that you can control your opponent’s access to the alternate cost of Ravenous Trap; if you have the ability to establish Ichorid and a Bridge from Below, use that to get out a few zombie tokens; you can also trigger the Landfall ability of Bloodghast with Bridge in your Graveyard, and then kill it with Darkblast to create Bridge tokens and only put two cards into your Graveyard.

If you’re playing against an opponent that overloads on one-shot hate cards like Tormod’s Crypt and Relic, you can combat this by using Pithing Needle in your sideboard. Again, it is important to pay attention to your particular metagame. Learn which decks are doing well in your area, and figure out what hate cards they’re running — this information is critical to establishing what your sideboard needs, and will also give you a rough guide as far as sideboarding in the dark in game two situations. For example, it is rare for Workshop players to use Ravenous Trap, because they might be unable to play it when they need to due to their use of Sphere of Resistance, Lodestone Golem, and Thorn of Amethyst.

Playing post-sideboard Dredge mirrors is one of the most difficult challenges for any Dredge player, and requires practice. Most Dredge players only have Leyline of the Void to win the mirror, if in fact they have anything at all. If one player has access to Leyline and the other does not, the player with Leyline has the clear advantage; that player will not need to sideboard at all, while the other player has to bring in anti-Leyline sideboard cards. The problem, of course, is that it is rare for you to know whether or not your opponent has Leyline in their sideboard, especially early in a tournament. If both players have access to Leyline, things become interesting. Some players will choose to mulligan straight to Leyline. Others will attempt to find a hand with both Bazaar of Baghdad AND Leyline. Some might choose to keep a hand with Bazaar, a rainbow land, and a way of destroying Leyline of the Void. Like most mirror matches, these are strange games that reward the player with the most experience, but luck is also a big part of Dredge mirrors.

For information on specific cards used against Dredge, see here.

Note that this article went up just before Ravenous Trap was spoiled, but outside of that omission it covers the majority of key sideboard cards you have to practice against.

Customizing Dredge for a Metagame

Like any other deck, the Dredge deck you choose, as well as your sideboard, should be tailored to combat the metagame you expect to face. The different versions of Dredge excel in different match-ups, and small decisions such as how much disruption to play main, and which sideboard cards to include, can have dramatic effects on your match-ups. I recently rebuilt my Dredge deck from the ground up for the Philly Open V, and am going to use that example for this exercise.

My expected metagame was 25% Tezzeret, 15% Workshops, 10% Oath, 10% Dredge, 8% Fish, 8% Combo, and the rest miscellaneous. I based this by looking at the previous few Philly Open, Blue Bell, and NYSE tournaments and trying to apply the trends that I saw as well as reviewing recent printings and top 8s.

With my expected field identified, I started with the core of the deck:


4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Golgari Thug
1 Darkblast
1 Dakmor Salvage

I always include either 11 or 12 Dredgers. I knew I wanted to include both Bloodghast and Ichorid in this build, thus the one Salvage. I also have tended to cheat a sideboard card into my maindeck by playing one Darkblast in place of the third Golgari Thug.


4 Bridge from Below
4 Serum Powder
4 Bazaar of Baghdad

4 Bloodghast
4 Narcomoeba
2 Ichorid

I’ve never been comfortable playing Dredge without Serum Powder; this specific list was going to be close to the old Manaless versions, so Serum Powder is a must-have. Playing four Bazaar and Bridge are automatic.

My original sketch for this deck included 3 Ichorid, but I ran out of room in the end; I tested moving the Ichorid to the sideboard, and this proved to be a solid plan. In game one situations where you can operate unopposed, you only need to trigger a few “free” creatures to get your engine to fire. In sideboard games, playing seven attacking creatures (between Bloodghast and Ichorid) gives you the resilience you need to win through hate, especially one-shot hate cards such as Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus.


4 Chalice of the Void
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Cabal Therapy

In recent months, I’ve found a new appreciation for Chalice of the Void. Related to Dredge, one of the strongest opening hands in Vintage is a Chalice set on zero and a Bazaar of Baghdad. I wanted Leyline of the Void in the main to give me an edge over other Dredge players; Leyline is also moderately disruptive to many of the decks in the format, including Shops, TPS, combo Oath, and even Tezzeret (where many of your game one losses are due to an early, powerful Yawgmoth’s Will). Four Cabal Therapy is an auto-include.

Dread Return Package:

2 Dread Return
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
1 Woodfall Primus

I wanted to include a Dread Return package, but also wanted it to play a minor role in the deck, as my plan was to sideboard out at least the Primus, Zealot, and one Dread Return in almost every match-up. To that end, I played one Flame-Kin for situations where I needed to race, along with a Woodfall Primus for additional disruption. I actually think the difference between Terastodon and Woodfall Primus is closer than many people realize. Generally you will only have one or two lands to “feed” to your own Terastodon if your goal is to build your own army; destroying three permanents on the opponent’s side will result in them having chump blockers. Woodfall Primus also has great synergy with Cabal Therapy.

As an example: If I use Terastodon to destroy one of my lands along with two of my opponent’s lands, and I have two Bridge from Belows and sacrifice two non-token creatures to play Dread Return, I will get a 9/9, a 3/3 elephant token, and four 2/2 zombie tokens; my opponent will get two 3/3 elephant tokens. I might then sacrifice a zombie token to play a Cabal Therapy. My total take would be 18/18 worth of creatures (20/20 minus the 2/2 token I used to play Cabal Therapy) and the loss of one land, while my opponent loses two non-creature permanents and one card, and gains 6/6 worth of creatures (including two 3/3 chump blockers for my non-evasion 9/9).

If I Dread Return a Woodfall Primus in the same situation, I can destroy the same two non-creature permanents, while adding a 5/5 with Trample (originally a 6/6, which I would then use to play Cabal Therapy, and it would Persist back as a 5/5) and six 2/2 zombie tokens. My total take here would be 17/17 worth of creatures, while my opponent loses one card and two permanents, and gains nothing.


2 Nature’s Claim
2 Petrified Field

My goal in building this deck was to give it resistance to shifts in the metagame, such as a higher number of Wastelands in the field, maindeck Leyline of the Void, and the strong presence of Key/Vault and Oath of Druids. I wanted to include a full set of Nature’s Claim in the main, but testing showed that it wasn’t really necessary in most game one situations. I still included two so as to have some chance of winning game ones where my opponent opened on Leyline. Petrified Field was very strong in testing. It helps defeat decks with Wasteland, and gives you two Landfall triggers for Bloodghast. It also can serve as an accelerant by recurring a Bazaar of Baghdad on turn two (typically at the end of your opponent’s turn, you’ll sacrifice it to bring back the Bazaar and then play it on turn three). This will usually lock up a win on turn three.


4 Undiscovered Paradise
2 City of Brass

This build has little use for mana in the main deck, outside of playing Nature’s Claim. The lands are really there to trigger Bloodghast and allow you to play Cabal Therapy and Dread Return through Sphere and Thorn.


2 City of Brass

Additional mana required to actually play my sideboard cards; I’ve found City of Brass to be the best among the available options, especially when Workshops are popular.

4 Chain of Vapor

As I noted above, Chain of Vapor is the lynchpin of any Dredge sideboard that can cast it.

2 Nature’s Claim

This completes the set, and provides me with 8 outs to Leyline of the Void.

1 Darkblast

Combined with the Darkblast in the main and Chain of Vapors, this gives me 6 outs to Yixlid Jailer.

2 Pithing Needle

A catch-all in case I ran into a player overloading on Relics and Crypts, Pithing Needle is strong against Workshop decks in particular as they are loaded with targets.

1 Ichorid

The third Ichorid I wanted maindeck is instead in the board, and comes in for nearly every match-up. A steady stream of attacking creatures supported by Cabal Therapy and Bridge from Below has been enough to win many sideboard games, even through two or three hate cards.

3 Unmask

Unmask is another catch-all card. I wasn’t playing a high enough blue count to support Force of Will, so Unmask becomes the best option for defeating Ravenous Trap and other hate cards. It also helps combat combo decks.

The final deck looked like this:

The process of building this deck was similar to the five-step method outlined by Stephen Menendian in recent articles, but I used shortcuts to bypass the step of actually building out full decks designed to beat specific match-ups. My goal was to make sure these pieces all interacted together, organically, to give me the results I wanted against the metagame I expected.

Using a similar process, you can build a Dredge deck to attack a specific metagame. A version that uses Fatestitcher and Breakthrough combined with Force of Will and Chalice of the Void will be stronger against combo; the speed and consistency of the Fatestitcher Sharuum builds are very strong against Tezzeret, especially in fields light on Leyline of the Void; Petrified Field can give your deck resistance to Workshop decks; and so on. Because Dredge decks can utilize a rainbow mana base, there are significant customization options available to today’s Dredge player.

Match-up Analysis

Match-up analysis for Dredge is an interesting exercise, as any deck can have a favorable post-board match-up against Dredge given enough sideboard cards. Still, we live in a real world where most tournament players have constraints on the amount of hate they’re willing to include against Dredge, especially as the Vintage meta has diversified of late.

For the analysis below, I’m assuming an average amount of sideboard hate against Dredge is coming into play. Generally speaking, you can expect your Tezzeret, Oath, Fish, and Workshop opponents to have between five and seven dedicated hate cards, often supplemented by a few incidental hate cards; Workshop players tend to skew high on Dredge hate as they have a generally low win percentage game one, while combo players tend to have less hate as they’re more able to beat Dredge in a straight-up race.

An example of an average amount of hate would be a Tezzeret player whose sideboard included:

4 Leyline of the Void
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Yixlid Jailer
1 Pyroclasm
1 Engineered Explosives

When I review numbers of sideboard cards against Dredge, below, I’m talking specifically about dedicated hate cards such as Tormod’s Crypt, Leyline of the Void, Relic of Progenitus, and so on.


One of the main reasons to play Dredge over the past twelve months was its positive match-up against Tezzeret. Dredge will win almost every game one against Tezzeret that it does not mulligan into oblivion; the main way it can lose is to a broken Time Vault / Voltaic Key draw, or a first or second-turn Tezzeret when on the play. A Dredge player with Chalice of the Void and Leyline of the Void in the main can increase the percentage even further in game one situations. Tezzeret typically has no removal for Bazaar of Baghdad, and only rarely can break Bridge from Below.

Sideboard games against Tezzeret come down to what hate they choose to use and how much of it they draw. Some Tezzeret players will mulligan aggressively to find a hate card, particularly Leyline of the Void, while others may keep hands that are objectively powerful that don’t contain hate cards and attempt to race. The most powerful effects for Tezzeret are Leyline of the Void and Yixlid Jailer, as they are permanent effects that can be protected with counter-magic; your match-up will be much better if your Tezzeret opponent is banking on one-shot effects like Tormod’s Crypt and Ravenous Trap, as you can often race through two or even three one-shot hate cards.

Overall, I consider this match-up to be highly favorable for Dredge given an average amount of dedicated sideboard hate. When Tezzeret players face a diverse metagame, they will often skimp on their Dredge hate.


I’ll use this header to be inclusive of Stax, MUD, and Workshop Aggro. Of those, Stax has the worst Dredge match-up and Workshop Aggro has the best. Stax decks tend to be more controlling, but a lot of what they do is irrelevant to Dredge’s game plan, and Dredge will almost always win game one against Stax. MUD decks, especially those with Metalworker and Triskelion, have a better chance game one as they can deploy threats quickly and are able to break Bridge from Below. Workshop Aggro decks tend to have the fastest clock among Workshop decks, and a fast Magus of the Moon gives them a powerful way of winning the game.

Workshop decks tend to run heavy on Dredge hate, as they have a very difficult time winning game one. In the past, they typically ran Leyline of the Void supported by some Artifact hate; for game two in particular, a turn-zero Leyline followed up by a Thorn of Amethyst or Sphere of Resistance and then a Wasteland or Red Elemental Blast was enough to protect the Leyline. Leyline has become less popular as Dredge decks tend to include more mana now (due to Bloodghast) and have a REB-proof Leyline-killer in Nature’s Claim.

Given the amount of hate that Workshop players need to win post-sideboard games, I consider most Workshop decks to be favorable match-ups, although a prepared MUD or Workshop Aggro deck is closer to even than favorable.

Oath of Druids

Most modern Dredge decks have much in common with Tezzeret, but replace the Tezzeret draw engine with a different mana base and an Oath of Druids package. This often gives them a faster clock than Tezzeret, but they are still ill-equipped to race Dredge in game one. Many decks include only one Strip Mine, if any, and they usually cannot break Bridges.

I’ve also found that many Oath players “cheat” on Dredge hate, especially lately, as Oath has itself been the target of “hate” cards like Greater Gargadon as well as metagame shifts. Now that Dredge players tend to have a full set of Nature’s Claim, they have built-in resistance to Oath’s win conditions. Oath players also tend to run less protection for their hate cards as compared to Tezzeret.

Overall, this is a favorable match-up for Dredge given an average amount of dedicated sideboard hate.

Noble Fish

Noble Fish is also capable of defeating Dredge game one, but it is very difficult and usually involves Stifling a Bazaar activation and following it up with a Wasteland, and then racing with an aggressive hand.

Post-sideboard games against Noble Fish are often more difficult than those against Tezzeret or Oath. Noble Fish will consistently establish a clock (unlike Oath and Tezzeret, which have inconsistent goldfish kills), and the deck plays Wasteland and Strip Mine. It can sometimes break Bridge from Below with Qasali Pridemage, which Tezzeret and Oath cannot do. A Noble Fish player that draws two pieces of hate, a counterspell, a Wasteland, and a Tarmogoyf is very difficult to beat.

Overall, if the Noble Fish player has six or seven dedicated hate cards for Dredge, this is an even match-up, but it can quickly skew unfavorable if those cards are supported by incidental hate.

For example, consider a Noble Fish deck with 4 Wasteland and Strip Mine in the main, along with a Mystical Tutor, and the following sideboard:

3 Ravenous Trap
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Pithing Needle
2 Jotun Grunt
2 Umezawa’s Jitte

The seven dedicated hate cards combined with the four incidental hate cards would make this an unfavorable match-up.


TPS and ANT are not favorable match-ups for Dredge, generally speaking. ANT is particularly problematic, as without disruption it is capable of “going off” on turn one or two with regularity. TPS is a slightly better match-up as it is a slower deck and tends to be designed for resilience more than speed. These match-ups depend greatly on the die roll and whether or not the Dredge player has cards like Chalice of the Void, Leyline of the Void, Unmask, and Force of Will.

Sideboard games against these decks really depend on how much hate comes into play. For example, Jesse Martin’s TPS deck from the Philly Open V had 4 Leyline of the Void, 1 Yixlid Jailer, 1 Pithing Needle, and 1 Tormod’s Crypt; the use of Jailer and Leyline in a deck with Dark Rituals is potent and gives the edge to TPS.

Given an average amount of sideboard hate, TPS is unfavorable. An ANT player that includes sideboard hate for Dredge is highly unfavorable.

Influencing Match-up Percentages

The different Dredge builds have varying match-ups, sometimes dramatically so.

For example, a Dredge deck that uses draw spells like Breakthrough and Careful Study will be weaker against Workshop decks, as it is more heavily impacted by Spheres and Thorns; however, they may be better prepared for combo match-ups as they are more explosive and more capable of supporting Force of Will.

The use of Ichorid and Bloodghast will improve the match-up against Workshop decks by decreasing the deck’s reliance on spells. Petrified Field solidifies the Workshop match-up as well by giving resistance to Wasteland. However, Fatestitcher tends to be weak against opponents that have Wasteland as it is likely your initial Bazaar will be destroyed.

Different disruption cards will also alter match-ups significantly. Chalice of the Void is very good against Tezzeret and TPS / ANT, but poor against Noble Fish and Workshops, for example.

When building my Dredge deck for the Philly Open V, I knew I wanted some resistance to Workshops (thus Ichorid, Bloodghast, and Petrified Field, and no mana draw spells), Tezzeret (Chalice of the Void), and other Dredge decks (Leyline of the Void).

End — Part 2

Despite being part of the Vintage landscape for three years, Dredge is still highly misunderstood. All Dredge decks are not equal, and as with any other Magic deck, minor changes to the maindeck or sideboard yield varying results in different match-ups. And, as with any other deck, you can customize your Dredge design to attack a specific metagame.

I hope that you found this information illuminating, and that it will assist you both in your endeavors to win with Dredge, and when trying to defeat it.

Matt Elias
[email protected]
Voltron00x on SCG, TMD, and The Source