“Going ‘Yard” in Modern

With all the buzz surrounding Eldritch Moon and new Standard it’s easy to forget about Modern. Luckily, Modern slips back on like a comfortable pair of sneakers when you’re ready to return to it.

In case you’ve been completely enamored with brewing new decks and haven’t been following along with the Modern metagame the past few weeks, let me catch you up:

1. Various aggressive Zoo decks shape the metagame.

2. Jund decks that prey on Zoo are great.

3. Graveyard decks have been on a steady ascent.

Today, I’m going to take a closer look at what I consider the two spiciest graveyard decks in Modern: Dredge and Living End.

Livin’ on the Dredge

Dredge is the new hotness in Modern. The Zombies have been steadily staggering their way toward being a serious contender in Modern.

I featured the deck a few months back during Eldrazi-mageddon and a lot has changed since then. Eye went “bye-bye” and Dredge got a new toy:

The deck now has 12 great creatures that can enter the battlefield for free from the graveyard, a number that really pushes the deck into the realm of having a consistent critical mass.

Dredge

Brian DeMars

The new version of Dredge has really improved since the last time that I investigated the archetype. In particular, Innistrad Claus was kind to Modern Dredgers.

Insolent Neonate gives the deck another dredge/discard outlet that can block and soak up damage in the early game. With all the Zoo out there right now, being able to get a free block while also enabling the graveyard can be the difference between life and death!

Prized Amalgam is even more important to the deck. Before Shadows over Innistrad, the archetype lacked consistency. With 12 creatures that can enter the battlefield directly from the ‘yard, the deck will statistically always hit those free creatures.

It is also significant that Amalgam can trade with Wild Nacatl and can quickly overpower Zoo’s smaller creatures. The expendable and recursive nature of dredge threats also make the deck formidable against controlling Jund decks. Spending removal spells on creatures that continue to come back from the dead, for free, forever, is not a winning proposition!

The last piece of the puzzle that has been brought into play is the inclusion of the full 4 copies of Burning Inquiry. I had completely forgotten Inquiry was even a card but somebody found a real gem when they put the card into the archetype.

With so many “free from the bin” creatures and cards with Dredge in the deck, casting Burning Inquiry puts approximately one third of your deck into the graveyard and returns several creatures directly to the battlefield. Not bad for 1 mana!

I also love the elegance of the deck.

20 land. 12 free creatures. 14 dredgers. 12 draw/discard outlets.

There is A LOT of synergy and consistency at work here.

The deck feels a lot like Affinity where it has favorable game 1s and then needs to focus on beating sideboard hate cards later on. The good news is that the nature of Modern doesn’t allow other decks to straight up overload on narrow hate cards for everybody. As a result, you probably only need to focus on beating between 2-4 dedicated graveyard hate cards from most sideboards.

It’s the Living End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

Of all the decks in Modern, the one that I always wish that I had played in an event is Living End. I can think of at least 3 Grand Prix where after the tournament was over, I can remember frustratingly telling somebody: “I really should have just played Living End this weekend.”

Living End

Brian DeMars

The deck is linear in the sense that it has a combo-esque way of ending the game by cascading into the flagship card, Living End, and returning a massive army of creatures to play. Linear is good because it puts pressure on the opponent to interact on your terms.

But it isn’t the cascade combo that impresses me most. I’m drawn to the deck because of the built-in land destruction element.

I love the fact that Living End can put pressure on an opponent’s resources by constraining their mana in order to force through a protected Living End. I love the way the deck can blow up a few lands against Counterspell decks and then go for a Living End on the opponent’s end step, followed by a Ricochet-Trap-protected Living End main phase!

For a deck that feels like a one-trick pony Living End has more fight and grind in it that feels reasonable fair. Not to mention, if the combo fails and if the land destruction fails, the deck can still continue to cast 5-drop creatures and beat down.

Since the Eldrazi banning, both Zoo and Jund have become the format defining archetypes of Modern. In that time “the other Jund decks,” a.k.a. graveyard decks like Dredge and Living End have also grown in effectiveness and popularity earning larger metagame shares and solid MTGO presence.

Both decks, Dredge and End, are good choices in Modern. I also like the fact that both decks match up well against Jund, which seems to be popular and picking up converts daily. Personally, I feel confident saying that Dredge feels like the “more powerful” of the two graveyard decks, but I would probably be more likely to play Living End in a 15-round tournament because it feels more flexible and can attack from more angles.

I can’t necessarily blame you if you don’t want to jump on the graveyard bandwagon (Dredge decks have a different, un-Magical feel to them that isn’t for everyone). Still, if you are not going to go ‘yard in Modern, you should still seriously consider making more room for Dredge hate.

Zombieland is full of helpful advice, but none so poignant as: “In those moments where you’re not quite sure if the undead are really dead, dead, don’t get all stingy with your bullets.”

Graveyard hate cards are really good bullets to have loaded in the sideboard these days.

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