It’s official: Dredge is currently the best deck in Modern.
Creeping Chill put the deck over the top. “What do I cut?” and “Does the three damage actually matter in the grand scheme of things?” were common questions, from myself included. As is turns out, you should cut whatever you need to, and while the three damage matters, the three life gained improves the deck more.
The additional damage does make your mediocre beats more threatening, helps Bloodghast get active, and allows Conflagrate to kill sooner, but that three life is a world of difference. Life from the Loam plus Conflagrate or your recursive threats will eventually beat every deck in the format barring graveyard hate. Having that extra life gain gives you more turns, and those additional turns do wonders for allowing Dredge to capitalize on its inevitability.
Your plan going into #SCGCHAR should be to play a deck that’s incidentally good against Dredge. Ideally you won’t have to jump through hoops by maindecking things like Rest in Peace, but there are options for similar, hateful things. You could choose to play Dredge yourself, but you’re about a week too late. I fully expect both Dredge and graveyard hate to be out in full force.
Big mana or combo decks are great against Dredge, since combo tends to be slightly faster than an average Dredge draw. If you want to ignore what Dredge is doing and go over the top of them, big mana is where you should be. One of the selling points for big mana is their ability to maindeck Relic of Progenitus with ease. The various Tron archetypes, TitanShift, and even Amulet are already solid against Dredge, but maindeck Relic should cement their advantage. Storm and Krark-Clan Ironworks are solid options, but neither of those particularly likes facing graveyard hate either.
Small creature decks that get annihilated by Conflagrate aren’t ideal. If your creatures scale, like Humans and Merfolk, you can normally get out of range. However, trying to win on the ground against a deck that floods the battlefield with Narcomoebas and other assorted blockers while also gaining life with Creeping Chill is difficult. You should absolutely stay away from decks like Death’s Shadow, despite it winning last week’s Dredge-heavy Open. Decks like Counters Company fall under both categories, but the Postmortem Lunge variant has plenty of game. Even when facing a devastating Conflagrate, you can win on the next turn.
Narrowing down that list even further, there are only three decks I would consider for #SCGCHAR.
Of the three decks, this is the one I’m least excited about, but that could be due to personal preference. TitanShift is naturally solid against Dredge and Creeping Chill does little to change that. You goldfish a fairly consistent Turn 4 kill and only fail to kill on Turn 5 in the most unlikely of scenarios. Given that Dredge has next to no relevant disruption and can only hope to race you, any Anger of the Gods or Relic of Progenitus you draw is sure to be a massive setback.
If your deck is fine with maindecking Relic of Progenitus, I would highly recommend doing so. Not only is Dredge likely to tick up in numbers, but there are other decks that utilize cards like Bedlam Reveler, Snapcaster Mage, Traverse the Ulvenwald, or Faithless Looting that hate to see Relic of Progenitus. All told, graveyard-reliant decks are pushing well past the 30% mark in Modern at the moment.
The specifics of this list could change. Wood Elves has been catching on (thanks to Andreas Petersen) as a way to still do your thing while also getting a chump blocker against Tarmogoyf and Humans. My planeswalker package should help against control and midrange, but maybe those aren’t worth being overly prepared for anymore. Jund is picking up, but Azorius and Jeskai Control seem completely absent from the top tables.
I keep looking for spots where TitanShift would be a perfect metagame call, and this is likely one of those times.
Your two options for Vizier of Remedies-related combo decks are to play the combo in a Selesnya deck with a backup plan or lean into the combo. Currently, the latter seems much stronger.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Magus of the Moon
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Vizier of Remedies
- 1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
We’ve seen the Devoted Druid / Vizier of Remedies combo since its inception, but Postmortem Lunge adds an entirely new dimension. Most of the time, these decks couldn’t kill you if they didn’t start their turn with a Devoted Druid on the battlefield. You could safely tap out.
Postmortem Lunge drastically changes the dynamic. You never know when you’re safe, and as a result, you need to play more carefully. Additionally, Postmortem Lunge is effectively more “must kill” cards. Rather than trying to assemble the combo as your leisure, you’re not sacrificing any sort of backup plan in order to have as many combo pieces as possible. Fauna Shaman and Eldritch Evolution replace Collected Company and Knight of the Reliquary for maximum consistency.
I wouldn’t play this 75, since this specific list could be improved significantly. Is Fauna Shaman actually good? Is Fauna Shaman better than Militia Bugler? Do we need things like Magus of the Moon, Spellskite, or Commune with the Gods? If anything, a black splash seems more helpful.
Assassin’s Trophy is the go-to answer for many combo decks. In this case, you get to remove any problematic permanent, including the creatures you’d normally be using Path to Exile against. Maybe it’s too clunky against Humans, Spirits, or Infect to warrant four copies of Assassin’s Trophy and zero Path to Exile, but we’ll find out.
Sin Collector is a way to fight opposing combo decks or control decks, but it’s significantly worse without Collected Company. I think I’d rather include Shapers’ Sanctuary or a pile of Tireless Trackers to fight control and hope I can race combo decks.
I spent a few hours going down the rabbit hole, trying to perfectly metagame this deck, but the options are close to endless. A maindeck Scavenging Ooze is necessary at this point, but maybe even Remorseful Cleric deserves a spot. Knight of the Reliquary would give you a reasonable backup plan, but is that even necessary when this version is so focused on assembling the combo? Having an additional way to fetch graveyard hate in Bojuka Bog likely doesn’t matter, since your best plan is to assemble the combo as soon as possible.
To the surprise of no one, if the choice is between playing combo or playing fair, I’m probably going to choose fair.
Humans wasn’t anywhere near the top of my list for a while, but it looks good right now. Maybe it’s not the most inspired choice, but many of the terrible matchups seem to have disappeared overnight.
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 2 Anafenza, the Foremost
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Kitesail Freebooter
Modern is not a Militia Bugler format at the moment. Once you determine that, the maindeck basically falls into place. Anafenza, the Foremost is my three-drop of choice over Cedric’s Thalia, Heretic Cathars.
I don’t anticipate much creature combat outside of the random mirror or Tarmogoyf appearance, so their creatures entering the battlefield tapped is largely irrelevant. Additionally, the decks are fast and not likely to be hindered by her other disruptive ability. Anafenza, on the other hand, is large.
The sideboard is where it gets interesting. First of all, we have Grafdigger’s Cage and Ravenous Trap to fight Dredge. Even though there are concerns with your own Thalias, Ravenous Trap is one of the most potent hate cards you could have for Dredge, especially out of a deck that’s trying to race them. Since Dredge will likely sideboard in Assassin’s Trophy and the like, Grafdigger’s Cage might not be the best choice. Maybe there should only be Ravenous Traps in the sideboard, but that seems narrow considering how many graveyard decks actually exist.
If Ravenous Trap is too narrow for you, you can be thankful Knight of Autumn exists. It’s a minor upgrade to Reclamation Sage, but one that allows you to save sideboard slots fighting decks like Burn. Cards like Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter are poor in mirrors, so now you at least have something minor to bring in.
Plaguecrafter is also a nice pickup. It’s one of the few cards in the history of Magic that can kill either Tarmogoyf or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and it also happens to be a Human. Between Plaguecrafter and Reflector Mage, I could see cutting Dismember altogether.
Humans is at the top of my list. Not only does it have a good chance against Dredge, but it has game against the decks that would try to target Dredge as well. You could say the same for Vizier of Remedies combo or TitanShift, but overall, Humans has less of a polarizing matchup spread and is a better deck in general. That much should be apparent by how much time Humans spent at the top of the food chain, whereas the other two decks have mostly been considered fringe archetypes.
I wouldn’t consider graveyard decks to be a viable option this week. You could take a more burn-centric approach to the various Arclight Phoenix decks that have been growing in popularity, but not only is Dredge itself a difficult matchup, any deck with Bedlam Reveler isn’t going to appreciate fighting against massive graveyard hate every round. Adding more Lava Spikes and Monastery Swiftspears might make you less susceptible to graveyard hate, but you become a weaker deck in general.
Overall, this weekend should be interesting, especially since this tournament will set the stage for Grand Prix Atlanta the week after. Will Dredge dominate again, even in the face of certain hate, or will Modern completely shift yet again?