Breaking Through – Three Ways to Dig a Grave

So, Journey into Nyx, huh? Outside of everyone and their brother playing white cards, the prerelease was quite fun! This set does some really neat things in Limited like actually allowing for the green/black synergy to form consistent decks. More importantly, if you are a Dredge player, the set does even better things for Constructed! Today, I wanted to go over some of the new directions that BG Dredge can go in Standard.

As a quick aside: I feel that while the promo rare at prereleases is a fun idea, it has become tainted over time. Every single set, I have dozens of people ask me which color they should choose at their prerelease and when they ask this, they generally only mean, “Which promo is the best?” I would say over half of the room played with white at my prerelease and it made the experience less fun. I got to see less unique cards throughout the day and every damn round I was facing down a 2/4 lifelink on turn four it seemed.

I would like it if the promotional rares came from a pool of cards rather than a set one. Like you open your pack and get one of X foil rares within that color or something. I feel that there is too much pressure put on players, especially ones that don’t generally attend tournaments, to figure out which promo rare is the best before the prerelease and then to hang their hopes on that color. If they don’t, all of their friends tell them that they picked the wrong color to play and that person has to come up with some noncompetitive rationale to explain why he made the choice he did.

Prereleases should be about the fun of the game and the fun of exploration in a bold new world. Guaranteed rares limit both of those things in my opinion, even if they mean well. I would really like to see WotC revisit the way prerelease rares are distributed, but that is all I will say about that.

Original, or Extra Crispy?

When I began looking at how to build a new Dredge deck, I was a little overcome. There are so many new tools for the archetype that there are many new variations on how to build it. I wanted to see some of the new cards in action within the context of a shell I already knew, so I began my quest with this fairly basic list:

This is a pretty standard version of the deck, updated only slightly to fit some of the new tools from Journey into Nyx. Nyx Weaver is a card I am very excited about as it answers some of our maindeck issues with Mono-Blue Devotion while also being a sick enabler that adds mid- to late game consistency without being awkward on the curve. In fact, the number of things we could Elvish Mystic into on turn 2 were slim pickin’s before, but with Nyx Weaver and Pharika both added to the mix, we get to plug that hole.

I need to play more to nail down the correct number of Mana Confluence. On the one hand, we absolutely need the fixing and are proactive enough that we are not just shooting ourselves in the foot. On the other hand, taking unnecessary damage is dumb and we just picked up another dual land, so my evaluation of just how bad our mana is might be off. Deathrite Shaman taking a little bit of a back seat here hurts our life gain recovery as well, so keep that in mind.

I am hoping that with cards like Nyx Weaver in the deck, the overall consistency of the mid- to late game increases, allowing us to shave some of the cards that we don’t want in multiples, like Herald of Torment. Most games, we would want to draw exactly one copy of the card to win with. With Nyx Weaver, we sort of have five copies of the card while only actually playing two. This makes it that much more likely that we get a Herald of Torment into our hand exactly when we want it while avoiding getting Herald flooded as well.

Nyx Weaver also allowed me to just run one copy of Pharika, which felt like a good starting point. Because Pharika has its biggest impact in the late game, where eating a few guys out of your yard is not a big deal, you don’t really need to draw it early. If you played Pharika on turn three, it would be in an effort to turn it into a creature. You cannot afford to start adding mana to your Nemesis of Mortals or shrinking Nighthowler that early in the game. Not only are you slowing your graveyard progress, but you are also spending a lot of mana when it is not useful. If you just draw Pharika late, it can come out of nowhere and be an excellent threat when coupled with Nighthowler or other shenanigans.

Newer is Better

I wanted to explore more radical changes to the current core list though, as the new set brings too many cards to try in the deck. By trying some of the new cards in higher density, I could find new synergies. Kruphix’s Insight is a card I at least want to test, but doing so in the shell above is almost doomed to fail. The deck is not catered enough toward an enchantment-heavy build. By incorporating more copies of Pharika and going even deeper with Brain Maggot, a card like Kruphix’s Insight has the chance to shine:

Again, the mana could be well off, as I just used the mana from the initial list to base the others off of. It really all comes down to that Mana Confluence number and everything else will sort itself out.

By going into a heavier enchantment subtheme, the deck picks up a new end-game card in Strength from the Fallen. Strength is a stand-in for Nighthowler as it is less consistent early, but more explosive late. If you can cast two copies of the card in a single turn, it is like bestowing three copies of Nighthowler for the price of one! Even though there is also a nice synergy with Jarad here, I thought the extra power boost could justify going down to just one copy of the legend.

Nyx Weaver does extra work in this list as he helps provide us with access to our 1-ofs. Also, to fit all of the things that we wanted to, Satyr Wayfinder dropped down to a 2-of (probably incorrectly), making the enabling aspect of Nyx Weaver that much more important. It is probably the case that Wayfinder should remain a 4-of, but it is one of the less essential elements to the deck once we begin adding secondary synergies.

One really nice thing that you get with the enchantment version of the deck is a solid game plan when things are not going in the ‘yard. Pharika is a potent threat as a 5/5 creature and any creature that hits the ‘yard is food to be turned into a 1/1. You do not need to have a graveyard full of creatures for it to actually be good.

This build is more of a Dredge deck with some backdoor synergy to it, but we could embrace the overlap of these two themes even further.


Pharika obviously has some strong graveyard interactions going on and we have tried to take advantage in our Dredge deck. That is not all Pharika is good at, however. Because Pharika creates enchantment creatures, the card lends itself perfectly to the constellation mechanic. A quick search of constellation cards shows a heavy bias toward black and green, so what would happen if we fully embraced that?

This list takes the enchantment theme to an extreme, but it is a new potential direction to take the deck. We actually have an enchantment count of 24, which seems like enough to justify heavier use of Kruphix’s Insight. Remember that you can take up to three enchantments from a pile, so if you hit some creature you would rather see in the ‘yard, you are not obligated to keep it.

With both a constellation theme and a graveyard theme, fighting against either front is not nearly as effective. If they have Rest In Peace, as an extreme example, you can simply cast an Eidolon of Blossoms and draw enough cards until your 5/5s can take over or a Doomwake Giant has swept your opponent’s side of the board.

Rest in Peace is the worst of the worst though. Let us say instead, that an opponent brings in 2 copies of Agent of Erebos, which feels like it could be a real possibility in the near future. They exile your graveyard, but then one Nyx Weaver trigger later and you get to activate your Pharika for a token, drawing you another card, and building a threatening board state. You don’t need the heavy graveyard for this deck to function, even if it does function optimally in those conditions.

On the other hand, without our enchantment synergies going, we are still a legitimate Dredge deck for the most part. Instead of relying on Nemesis of Mortals to do a lot of our heavy lifting, we have Strength from the Fallen to help us close out games and turn our small dorks in very big dorks. Brain Maggot is a big pick-up for this deck as it does literally everything we need it to do.

We may have a few too many copies of cards like Eidolon of Blossoms currently in the list, as I really want to see how strong they can be and therefore want to draw them often. It might be correct to run some number of Coursers of Kruphix or something along those lines instead of all the Eidolons, but for the time being, I have been fine with four. Because they almost form their own engine, they are usually dealt with right away, or they snowball and win you the game, neither of which is a call to cut down their numbers.

Wrap Up

There are other directions to take graveyard strategies now as well. Reanimator might just make the most sense as you get to use your Pharika on anything that is not the marquee fatty and you aren’t hurting anything. Another option could be to move to a full enchantment build. I could probably get to about 30 total enchantments if I tried really hard, which would make cards like Strength from the Fallen and Kruphix’s Insight into powerhouses. I am not sure that would be worth the loss of consistency elsewhere, but it is an option.

I also would like to revisit my Phenax version of the deck as cards like Odunos River Trawler just got a significant upgrade in the deck by being able to return not only Brain Maggot, but an engine card in Nyx Weaver. That is quite a different deck though, or it is possible to just make this list into a Junk list with additional copies of Mana Confluence.

Everything is wide open right now, so get out there and Dredge it all up. Thanks for reading!

Conley Woods

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