This week I’m going to talk about Vintage.
I had never played Vintage before last week. In fact, I had barely even seen any Vintage events fire, and I don’t have enough time to be interested in yet another format.
However, there was a whole group of players at the Bazaar that I knew and Joe was kind enough to lend me Dredge. I hadn’t intended to play any Vintage but I thought I would give it a go.
As Vintage decks go, Dredge is often a first introduction for new players simply because of cost. It doesn’t have the Power 9 in it, and while [card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card] isn’t exactly cheap, I could definitely see myself owning a set of those whereas I can’t imagine have a set of power anytime soon.
I had to learn Dredge on the fly, as I’ve never even played it in Legacy to give me a starting point. The deck is fun to play with lots of triggers to keep track of. Game 1 will often go your way, but every deck has about 10 pieces of hate in their sideboard, so working out how to win game 2 or 3 is a really interesting challenge that I enjoyed immensely.
Here is the list I played:[deck]Main Deck
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
2 Golgari Thug
4 Ingot Chewer
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Ancient Grudge
4 Bridge from Below
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Serum Powder
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 City of Brass
4 Petrified Field
4 Undiscovered Paradise
4 Chain of Vapor
4 Nature’s Claim
There are a couple of different versions of Dredge one can choose to play in Vintage. This one is a slower but more resilient version. Others play [card]Dread Return[/card] and intend to end it quickly with a combo kill. This version is more capable of winning through any maindeck and sideboard hate. I generally found I could handle 2-3 pieces of hate before I was truly stuck. More on that later.
Bazaar of Baghdad and Mulliganing[draft]Bazaar of Baghdad[/draft]
This deck is all about [card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card]. You have to have one. If not, you mulligan—it’s that simple. The deck runs [card]Serum Powder[/card] to help with this. You can mostly use a [card]Serum Powder[/card] when you have one, however there are a few hands where you should choose to mulligan rather than use the ability on [card]Serum Powder[/card]. The most notable example is [card]Bridge from Below[/card]. You cannot afford to lose more than one [card]Bridge from Below[/card] from your deck. Even one is kind of risky, but it will normally be fine and is worth it for that extra chance to find a Bazaar. Two is not something you can consider. Remember if you have used a Powder already to check if you have already lost one before using a second Powder with a Bridge in the hand.[draft]Serum Powder[/draft]
Bridge is the obvious “don’t use Powder” example, but I guess if you managed to have a hand with six Dredge creatures in it, then you probably shouldn’t. Equally, too many of your creatures that return themselves from the graveyard would also be bad, but at the end of the day you need a Bazaar and you need at least three Bridges in your deck. Thinning your deck and getting extra mulligans so you can find these is worth it.
Just to reiterate, you do not keep a hand without a Bazaar in it. No, really. At 2? No Bazaar? There is no point in keeping it. Your cards are no use in your hand so put it back and see if you get lucky. You will lose the occasional game to not finding Bazaar. It happens.
Okay, so hooray! You have found a Bazaar. Now what?
Mechanics of the Deck[card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card] allows you to deposit cards into your graveyard. It can also help you dig for particular utility cards and answers as you only lose one net card from your hand a turn (and it doesn’t really count as losing it in this deck). All Bazaar is doing is giving you a quick and easy way of putting key cards into your graveyard, so how does the rest of the deck work?
Your engine is: Dredge lots of cards into your graveyard. Return creatures for free from your graveyard. Sacrifice them for value (or just at end of turn) getting more free creatures from Bridge triggers. Overwhelm your opponent with a hoard of Zombies that they can’t counter.
How do we do this? Let’s meet the other key players in the deck:
The Dredgers[draft]Golgari Grave-Troll
The star of the show here is [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card]. Why? Because he has the biggest number after the word Dredge. Nothing else on the card matters. You are not intending to cast any of these creatures. You just want to use them to fill your graveyard. It’s a bit cruel really, but such is life. That said, when the graveyard hate becomes too much, do not be too proud to hardcast a Thug or an Imp. I did resort to that, but I’ve got to be honest those games didn’t tend to end well. 1/2 fliers for 3 just don’t cut it in Vintage.[card]Darkblast[/card] is the odd one out in this selection. It really belongs in the “answers” category below but sometimes you gotta Dredge what you can and three is certainly better than nothing.
On your first Bazaar activation you are looking to put the biggest Dredger or Dredgers available to you into the graveyard so you can immediately activate Bazaar again in your upkeep. It is better to Bazaar in your upkeep, replacing ideally both draws with Dredge effects (note that if you only have one Dredge card you replace your first draw with that and hopefully you will find another one for the second draw) than to wait until after your draw step. Why does it make a difference? If you put one Dredger in and replace your draw step with that and find no other Dredge cards then when you activate Bazaar you are going to have to take two normal draws rather than doing more Dredging. If however you Bazaar in your upkeep, even if you still miss on a second Dredge effect you can then discard your one Dredger as part of the resolution of [card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card] and then Dredge again in your draw step. In short, you can guarantee getting to Dredge more, and more Dredging equals more winning.
These little guys are the ones that actually get to enter play. [card]Bloodghast[/card] and [card]Narcomoeba[/card] are the easy ones. [card]Bloodghast[/card] comes into play off landfall and [card]Narcomoeba[/card] when it is milled into your graveyard. You have to be correct about when [card]Narcomoeba[/card] gets to go into play. Let’s say you are resolving a Bazaar activation. You replace your first draw with a dredge 6 and hit a [card]Narcomoeba[/card] as the third reveal. Some people will put it immediately into play, but this is incorrect. You put all 6 cards into the graveyard then perform your second draw (which is probably another Dredge) and then you discard three cards. You have now finished resolving [card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card]. At this point the [card]Narcomoeba[/card] triggers can be placed on the stack and resolved. It’s a small point but this is a technically demanding deck and you should strive to get it right.
Ha! I said [card]Narcomoeba[/card] was simple and yet I just wrote a whole paragraph about it.
Anyway, the last set of creatures are really interesting. [card]Ichorid[/card] has a trigger in your upkeep that, when it resolves, allows you to exile a black creature from your graveyard and in exchange returns [card]Ichorid[/card] to the battlefield. [card]Ichorid[/card] is sacrificed at the end of turn.
There are a number of interesting aspects to Ichorid.
1. The exile effect does not target. So, with the trigger on the stack, you can activate Bazaar to put more cards in your graveyard to find better cards to exile. Note that it triggers at the beginning of your upkeep so any new ones you dredge do not trigger that turn.
2. It sacrifices itself end of turn, which triggers your Bridges without the need for additional sacrifice outlets. Therefore if you do have a sacrifice outlet you should generally off a [card]Narcomoeba[/card] or [card]Bloodghast[/card] instead to maximize your Zombie-producing potential.
3. Don’t be afraid to exile an [card]Ichorid[/card] to return an [card]Ichorid[/card]. Sure ,you can’t then return the exiled one next turn, but you only have so many black creatures and if you’re running low or need the [card]Stinkweed Imp[/card] to dredge, then get rid of a duplicate Ichorid, or if you have no lands to play use a Bloodghast. You can makes lots of value in this deck due to Bridges so don’t get too greedy!
The Value[draft]Cabal Therapy
Bridge from Below[/draft]
It’s really important to remember the downside on Bridge. If you have an [card]Ichorid[/card], you may be tempted to attack. However, assess if this is the correct action if they have a blocker. Sure, if you trade the Bridges, [card]Ichorid[/card] will die before they are removed (if you stack the triggers the right way) and you’ll get your Zombies. However, if you need the Bridge to remain, then just wait until end of turn and sacrifice it for the Zombies without doing combat damage. It’s slower but sometimes necessary. I forgot about the downside several times over the tournaments I played in. Sometimes it cost, sometimes it didn’t, depending on my board state and how many Bridges were being lost.
This brings me to [card]Cabal Therapy[/card]. I wasn’t really sure where to put [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] because it both provides value and answers. It is one of your ways to avoid maindeck hate or stop your opponents from winning. However, it has an upside. You mostly cast it by flashing it back after dredging it rather than casting it from hand, which means more Zombies. If you have several Bridges, it is often correct to use your summoning-sick [card]Narcomoeba[/card], as trading one 1/1 flier for two 2/2 Zombies and taking a look at your opponent’s hand (and sometimes getting to take good stuff from it) is good value. With several Therapies you can use the first to look (and take a guess) and subsequent ones to pick apart the hand.
I didn’t really know what to name as for my blind guesses. I didn’t know any decks, so the one time I hit blind was a cause for celebration. Oh, before I forget, [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] has important orderings with respect to Bridge triggers otherwise you will miss Zombies! When you flashback [card]Cabal Therapy[/card], you target your opponent and sacrifice a creature. Do not name a card or ask if it resolves! At this point you should announce you have Bridge triggers and resolve these. Only after this should you ask if the card is resolving and then name a card. By asking if it resolves you have passed priority and therefore missed any Bridge triggers not yet resolved.
Going back to my previous point about attacking when a creature under your opponents’ control will die exiling Bridges you may still want to do this but if you have some Therapies available you might want to flash these back before attacking just to get that bit more value.
One thing I did learn over the weekend was what to name with the blind guess. If you have several Therapies, your opponent will expect you to guess wrong for the first one. As such, it is a good idea to name an instant-speed card, as they will cast that in response to the second one when you “know” their hand. A particularly good example is [card]Brainstorm[/card], as this is particularly good at ensuring you also can’t get anything with subsequent Therapies as they can hide useful things you know about. I tended to see [card]Mystical Tutor[/card] a lot, and of course couldn’t take it the next time around.
One last thing about Bridges. The trigger to get Zombies has an intervening “if” clause. This means that if you have triggers but your opponent can cause one of their creatures to go to the graveyard in response, the Bridges will be exiled and no Zombies will occur.
Leyline of the Void[/draft] [card]Darkblast[/card] I have already talked about in the Dredge section. As for what it answers, it has useful utility against creatures like [card]Dark Confident[/card] or even [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] with some effort. After boarding, it is one of your few outs to [card]Yixlid Jailer[/card]. [card]Ingot Chewer[/card] is a really fun card as you can evoke it to destroy annoying cards like [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] or just for value on Moxes. There are two ETB triggers when you evoke a Chewer. One to destroy an artifact and one to sacrifice the Chewer. If you are evoking it to destroy a [card]Pithing Needle[/card] that is stopping you from using Bazaar, you can stack the triggers so you destroy the Needle then sacrifice the Chewer. After resolving the destroy trigger you can use Bazaar before sacrificing the Chewer allowing you to either dredge some Bridges into your graveyard or dump the ones you had in hand. Then when the sacrifice trigger resolves you get Bridge triggers and Zombies! I love this play, it is really cute. [card]Ancient Grudge[c/ard] provides a piece of artifact hate which can be cast from the graveyard, enough said. [card]Leyline of the Void[/card] is kind of cool. Even if it provides no real utility against the opposing deck game one, it prevents your Bridges from being exiled as their creatures can’t go to the graveyard. This means you can attack without fear. It also wrecks the mirror.
The Lands[draft]Petrified Field
City of Brass[/draft] [card]City of Brass[/card] and [card]Undiscovered Paradise[/card] are simply there to provide the color of mana you require, as you are secretly a five-color deck. [card]Undiscovered Paradise[/card] has this nice upside of allowing you to hit landfall every turn for your [card]Bloodghast[/card]s. [card]Petrified Field[/card] allows you to reclaim Bazaar after it has been destroyed (people do tend to like doing that). I also found that if you have to go off without using Bazaar (see the bit about [card]Pithing Needle[/card] below) you can play [card]Petrified Field[/card], return [card]Bloodghast[/card], sacrifice [card]Petrified Field[/card] to return another Field from your graveyard to hand. Then it’s the end of your turn and you have 8 cards in hand, and so have to discard [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card] again, how terrible.
So that was the easy bit, now how to win games 2 and 3:
Winning after Sideboarding
Except when playing against combo, Dredge is expected to win game 1. Combo decks outrace you and you have little disruption, but everything else needs to sideboard in their hate. Unfortunately, there is rather a lot of hate post-board. You generally see 10-11 cards coming in. Fortunately, this version of Dredge seems to be able to win through 2 or 3 pieces, so it depends what they have and how much of it.
I found games 2 and 3 to be the really interesting ones. Can you beat the hate? I am going to summarize the most common pieces you might see, how bad they are for you, and how you counter them.[card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] [draft]Grafdigger’s Cage[/draft]
You will see this card a lot as it has utility for many matchups and is castable in any deck. This is one of the most annoying pieces as it shuts off most of your engine, although Bridge can still trigger if you can get creatures into play. Your main outs are [card]Ingot Chewer[/card] and [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]. [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] comes in frequently as it provides an out to most cards.[card]Surgical Extraction[/card] [draft]Surgical Extraction[/draft]
This card is irritating because you have no real answers to it. One is generally okay, but if they have two then they can shred your engine by taking away your [card]Ichorid[/card]s and your [card]Bloodghast[/card]s. You really need the creatures that enter for free in order for the deck to work. Having played the deck, I would be tempted to board [card]Mental Misstep[/card] as it deals with this and the Cage.[card]Yixlid Jailer[/card] [draft]Yixlid Jailer[/draft]
This cards comes up less often, what with having a colored mana requirement. In terms of hate, this card is probably the best but least frequently played. One game I boarded out [card]Darkblast[/card], and when a Jailer resolved I pretty much had to scoop, as unlike Cage it even shuts down Bridges. Against black decks it is worth leaving in at least one copy of [card]Darkblast[/card] as Jailer doesn’t shut down Bazaar, allowing you to really dig for the [card]Darkblast[/card].[card]Pithing Needle[/card] [draft]Pithing Needle[/draft]
This card is interesting to play against, as it totally shuts down that Bazaar you carefully mulliganed to. However, I won one game on the draw when my opponent cast this turn one by simply drawing and discarding my dredger. If you had to mulligan and have no artifact hate in hand then this card is very strong, but you can win without Bazaar if you think carefully and they have no or limited other hate.[card]Leyline of the Void[/card] [draft]Leyline of the Void[/draft]
Like Cage, anyone can play this card, but it is awkward since they have to mulligan to it. This is one of the reasons I like to bring in [card]Nature’s Claim[/card] all the time as it answers both this and Cage.[card]Relic of Progenitus[/card], [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card], etc. [draft]relic of progenitus
These one-shot effects on graveyard removal are really fun to play against. You have to bait your opponent into popping it while still having enough cards to restart with. Each opponent is different. Some will go after one Bridge, or with an [card]Ichorid[/card] trigger on the stack, or after you dredge 12 cards. You just have to test each person. You can generally beat these cards unless you get really unlucky and mill three Bridges at the same time. You can of course force them to pop it with a piece of artifact destruction if you feel the need.
I’m sure there are other pieces of hate you might come across, but that’s a good sample. Remember, post-board, you can use your Bazaar to filter through your deck to find answers. Yes, you lose a card from it each time, but you get to see a lot of cards. You don’t always have to dredge and sometimes can’t. Regardless, always consider if you need to draw instead of dredging in order to have some answers ready. I found that post-board games can go quite long so you don’t need to rush to fill you graveyard.
I found this deck really fun to play and Vintage was a fascinating format. I won some games with hordes of Zombies and in others I could only watch as my opponent hard cast a [card]Griselbrand[/card] on turn 1.
If you have the opportunity to, I would recommend giving Vintage ago. Dredge is a nice deck to do this with as you don’t have to worry about what your opponent is trying to do too much except how to counter their hate pieces. Vintage is really a different game of Magic. I always thought it was full of really broken fast decks. It is full of broken decks, but because they are all broken the interactions between them are fun and very different and it’s not all turn one combo kills. I doubted Vintage as a format before I went to the Bazaar. Now I might see if I can’t pick me up a set of Bazaar for a Vintage tournament sometime soon.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my first trip into Vintage. Feel free to say hi on twitter @onionpixie and I’ll see you next week.