Editor’s note: Dana’s dad Adam helped her with the writing of this article).
I decided to write this article (and thanks to my dad for helping me with it) about why I played a Modern deck other than Elves at MagicFest Dallas because many people said it was such a surprise that I played something that wasn’t Elves! Some of the reasons were interesting and may help other players, so I hope you enjoy this article!
Why I Decided to Play a Different Deck
Elves has always been my favorite deck, and it had been the only deck I had played in Modern. It was also the first deck I played in Standard, the only deck I’ve played in Legacy, and my first non-preconstructed Commander deck. In addition, I love cosplaying as Nissa, (the “Queen of the Elves”), green is my favorite color in and out of Magic, I like the style of how Elves play because they have lots of synergy and help each other out, and Elves are tiny like me. Because of how much I’ve played Elves in Modern, I feel like I’ve improved a lot in how well I play them (even making Day 2 at GP LA in March) and I’ve gotten very comfortable with the deck.
Though I probably will always love Elves and plan to play them at future events, I wanted to try something different for MagicFest Dallas. The first reason is I wanted to challenge myself in trying something new that wasn’t as comfortable. I like learning things in Magic, at school, and otherwise, and playing something new was a good opportunity to educate myself further. I felt this new experience would allow me to grow as a Magic player and improve my Magic skills even more.
Another reason I wanted to play a different deck is that Elves was doing so poorly in the meta at the time, especially due to how popular Izzet Phoenix was. Izzet Phoenix was around 20% of the meta and Elves only had about a 15% win rate against it (my dad helped me with some of the numbers, which he said Tobi Henke’s data really helped with, combined with info from the Modern Elves Facebook group). In fact, Tobi even mentioned how I might do better if Elves were in a stronger position in the meta in an article he wrote about GP Calgary.
I also had been seeing more and more that almost all my opponents at Modern events knew I was playing Elves before Game 1 even started, because of my history playing the deck and related coverage. This caused me to be at a bit of a disadvantage because my opponents could make mulligan and first-turn play decisions based on this knowledge. I wanted to do something that would keep my opponents in the future guessing as to what I might be playing and get rid of this disadvantage.
Why I Chose to Play Dredge
4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Copperline Gorge 2 Stomping Ground 1 Gemstone Mine 2 Blood Crypt 3 Wooded Foothills 2 Mountain (343) 1 Steam Vents 2 Golgari Thug 4 Bloodghast 4 Prized Amalgam 4 Narcomoeba 4 Stinkweed Imp 1 Darkblast 4 Cathartic Reunion 4 Creeping Chill 4 Faithless Looting 4 Shriekhorn 4 Life from the Loam 2 Conflagrate Sideboard 1 Ancient Grudge 1 Assassin's Trophy 1 Darkblast 4 Leyline of the Void 3 Lightning Axe 4 Nature's Claim 1 Shenanigans
I chose to play Dredge because while practicing playing in different matchups against Elves, I really enjoyed playing with Dredge. A friend of mine, Matt, noticed me playing Dredge and he said it looked like I had the hang of it and said I might want to consider playing as Dredge in a future event. I had already been thinking about trying a different deck for the reasons I mentioned above, so this seemed like a good fit.
I liked playing Dredge because it’s so different in that its “hand” is sort of its graveyard. In addition, it had been doing really well in events. I was a bit surprised, but I had a lot of fun playing Dredge. At first, my dad and I were a bit worried about being able to manage my graveyard and remember triggers, but I was up for the challenge.
How I Practiced
I started practicing Dredge right after MagicFest Calgary, in early April. It was a good time to get a lot of practice in, because I had over two months from then until my next Modern event in Dallas in June.
The first thing I had to figure out to get the hang of playing Dredge was how to physically manage my graveyard. Several friends and my dad gave me tips, plus I watched videos, and eventually I worked out a system to put the relevant cards in one part of my graveyard and the other cards in a different part. My dad was worried about me being able to dredge cards with one hand while holding the cards I had drawn with my other hand, but I was able to do it on my own, even though it sometimes meant I would put the cards I had drawn down on the table. It also helped that my hands had grown bigger!
I started off practicing by playing with Dredge and against Dredge with proxy decks we had at home, just like I had done with Elves. My dad and I practiced almost 20 different matchups this way, both before and after sideboarding. I did find I liked the Game 1s a lot better as Dredge, though. I also had a sideboard plan, sideboarding tip sheet, and play tips, just like I had used for Elves.
Once I had practiced a bit at home, I tried playing Dredge in smaller events locally. First, before I was totally sure I would be playing Dredge, my friend Thomas let me borrow his Dredge deck to try out. I remember the first time I took Dredge to FNM and my opponent as well as others around me were very surprised to see me playing something other than Elves. I enjoyed that part a lot.
The Rise of Hogaak and Why I Stuck with Dredge Anyway
As MagicFest Dallas got closer and Modern Horizons came out, I saw there was a new deck using Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and other cards printed in Modern Horizons: Bridgevine. It was doing really well, and this was a concern for me for Dallas, because people were playing a lot of graveyard hate against the Hogaak deck, and this hate also was bad for Dredge. However, I still wanted to play Dredge since when I have more practice with a deck I do better. Plus there was still a lot of Izzet Phoenix, so Elves didn’t look like a better option. Most importantly though, I wanted to play Dredge as opposed to Elves for Dallas so that I could gain some good experience for my long-term growth as a player.
One change I made based on the meta change going into Dallas was to change my sideboard to play four Leyline of the Void for the Hogaak matchup. I ended up playing a match against Hogaak where we both started with a Leyline–but unfortunately my opponent started with two Leylines and he was able to get rid of mine and he won.
I actually came to MagicFest Dallas straight from MagicFest Seattle, as since it was summer I was given the choice between going to sleep-away camp for two weeks and going to two weeks of MagicFests. I liked sleep-away camp but I wanted to play Magic even more, so I chose Magic!
The first day of MagicFest Dallas, I played in the MCQ. In one of the rounds, my opponent told me after our match that he kept a hand only because he assumed I was playing Elves, and he wouldn’t have kept it otherwise. I was so excited about this as it showed that part of my plan had worked! If people didn’t know what I was playing, then I wouldn’t be at a disadvantage any more.
For the main event at MagicFest Dallas, I was told I might get a feature match, and if so Marshall and Huey would be commentating. I wanted to keep the fact that I wasn’t playing Elves a secret from them, so I didn’t tell them. You can watch the feature match here, and you can even watch the deck tech I did on Dredge right after that.
The GP itself didn’t go all that well, as I ended up at 3-4-1, and a big problem was all the graveyard hate people brought for Hogaak. For example, in Round 8 my opponent had four Rest in Peace main deck! But that is OK and I’m glad I played Dredge as I learned a lot, had fun, and liked playing Dredge.
After MagicFest Dallas, I was hoping for something in the Hogaak deck to be banned, so that Hogaak would go down in popularity, graveyard hate would decrease, and maybe I could play Dredge again in the future with better chances. I thought if anything was going to get banned from Hogaak it would be Bridge from Below, and that is what happened.
In the future, I’d like to play my favorite deck Elves if the meta isn’t so unfavorable for it, but also I’d like to play Dredge again, or maybe I’ll even try something else new one day!
– Dana Fischer