Last weekend I attended GP Ghent, where the format was Team Non-Unified Modern. Typically I love to practice for any event regardless of the format, but I wasn’t able to prepare as much as I wanted to for Ghent because in the days before the tournament I had some very important Standard matches in the Magic Pro League. On top of that, my morning streams tend to be on Arena, which reduced my Modern practice to just some friendly games after dinner with some friends.
My teammates were two very good Italian players: 2019 MOCS winner Mattia Oneto and 2014 WMC competitor Samuele Gallinari. They were both very high on Burn, though I am not a fan of the archetype and I knew I wouldn’t play the deck myself. I practiced with a few Urza, Mardu Shadow and Jund Shadow lists, and those decks felt great other than being weak to Tron and Burn.
It was Thursday night around midnight, after my defeat against Ben Stark and Reid Duke, just a few hours away from my flight to Brussels, and I was still very far away from choosing a deck. Luckily I am always surrounded by good friends and great Magic players–I was staying with Zen Takahashi, who basically only plays Dredge in Modern, and both him and Lee Shi Tian were saying how the best moment to play Dredge is just after a card in the deck gets banned, bringing up the Golgari Grave-Troll ban some years ago and how the deck thrived anyway.
That’s why I decided to trust Zen, his 75 and his sideboard advice and played the following list at GP Ghent.
Andrea Mengucci, 49th GP Ghent 08/15/2019
2 Arid Mesa 2 Blood Crypt 2 Bloodstained Mire 1 City of Brass 3 Copperline Gorge 3 Forgotten Cave 1 Gemstone Mine 1 Mountain (343) 2 Stomping Ground 3 Wooded Foothills 4 Bloodghast 3 Golgari Thug 3 Insolent Neonate 4 Narcomoeba 4 Prized Amalgam 4 Stinkweed Imp 4 Cathartic Reunion 2 Conflagrate 4 Creeping Chill 4 Life from the Loam 4 Shriekhorn Sideboard 2 Abrupt Decay 3 Ancient Grudge 1 Blast Zone 1 Darkblast 3 Lightning Axe 3 Nature's Claim 2 Thoughtseize
My other two teammates played Burn and we were ready to incinerate our opponents with our 12 Lightning Helix (although mine were coming in the form of Creeping Chill). We managed to advance to Day 2 with a record of 6-1-1, which was mainly thanks to a great record from my two teammates. They only lost to U/W decks, either Control or Stoneforge, which seem incredibly well-equipped to beat the Burn decks. Day 2 was a disaster–we couldn’t win a single round. Luck definitely wasn’t with us, but I’m sure my play and my mulligan decisions weren’t very on point either.
The lack of Faithless Looting means that you can’t keep one-landers anymore, and that you don’t have something to flashback later in the game. But Forgotten Cave is a great new toy for Dredge, making Life from the Loam + Forgotten Cave into the main engine to never run out of gas and dredge as deep as possible.
It’s very important to know which hands to keep. Two lands are the key, but other than that you need to have a plan to start the engine. A single Insolent Neonate or Shriekhorn isn’t enough, although Life from the Loam + Forgotten Cave can now be considered an enabler.
The deck is sometimes slow, and you must rely a lot on finding more dredgers with your first enablers–the deck has a fail rate, so you must embrace the possibility of bricking with your early dredging.
Dredge is good if the metagame slows down with more Jund, U/W decks and other midrange decks, or if slower combo decks become a thing like Titanshift. At the GP, I got paired against Twiddle Storm and Cheerios, and those are nightmare matchups. Whirza is a close matchup–it depends on the level of respect they are going to pay you. A single Nihil Spellbomb might not be enough, especially if they tutor it with Goblin Engineer and you kill the Goblin.
I saw some Dredge lists with Tome Scour right after the Looting ban, but those lists had a very awkward manabase, and while Insolent Neonate is a worse card in the vacuum I think it’s worth it to not splash a fourth color.
Sideboarding with Dredge
Sideboarding with Dredge is very complicated, because you can’t hurt your deck’s core too much. You can do some small surgery on Bloodghast, Golgari Thug, Insolent Neonate, Narcomoeba and Creeping Chill, but it will be hard to cut anything else.
This is a great matchup! It was never too bad, but since Creeping Chill was printed it became close to unlosable if you keep a hand that can function. All you need is to do is block their early creatures and dredge enough to find your Creeping Chills.
Another very good matchup. Their only danger comes from Scavenging Ooze, and that’s why we’re equipped with 5 removal spells post-sideboard. In this matchup (and against other discard decks) you don’t have to necessarily mulligan hands looking for enablers, because they will probably discard yours. Keeping Forgotten Cave + Life from the Loam is more than reasonable.
Blast Zone is your answer to Grafdigger’s Cage, as you can still dredge and get back lands from your graveyard. Like against Jund, you don’t want to race with Creeping Chill against Whirza–you want to reanimate a bunch of creatures, kill their key artifacts and beat them down.
This matchup is very challenging. Usually a Wurmcoil Engine is enough to stop your own team, but remember that it’s hard for them to sweep you with Oblivion Stone since you can just keep a fetchland up in your opponent’s second main phase to reanimate the whole team. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, on the other hand, is basically unbeatable.
This matchup is 95-5 in game 1, but you can easily lose after sideboard to heavy graveyard hate like Rest in Peace. Thoughtseize come in to discard Rest in Peace or Batterskull (against Stoneblade, board in a couple of Ancient Grudge as well). Remember that blue decks have access to Force of Negation now, so don’t be too quick to cast your first Life from the Loam or Cathartic Reunion.
Right now, Dredge is still under the radar so you might not face much graveyard hate, and that’s where Dredge thrives. Remember that your deck mulligans very well (that’s where I struggled the most), and don’t be afraid of going down if you are looking for 2 lands and some enablers.