If you’re more of a deck guide person, skip the first 2 parts of this article. I promise there’s quite a bit of useful information in Part III and IV of this article.
Part I: Introduction
Guess who’s baaaaaaaack?
It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve last written an article. Well… a Magic-related article, that is. I’m pretty sure none of you are interested in my “Ultrasonic Tomography for Concrete Pavement” articles. My last article, you ask? It was about making the Top 8 at the World Magic Cup in Amsterdam (for those interested, you can check out the articles here, here, and here).
Ever since, I’ve been in love with the WMC. Being able to defend your country’s honor against people from all over the world is great. The atmosphere around the tournament is just so different from what you usually see at Grand Prix or Pro Tours. I guess you could compare it to a Team GP with higher stakes, and everyone knows how much fun Team GPs are. Pretty much the only tournaments that I prepare for nowadays are the WMCQs. So after losing in the semifinals of the first WMCQ (playing Green/White Tokens), I knew it was time to turn my attention to Modern. Not only was it the format of the last two WMCQs, it was also that of Grand Prix Lille (which is about a 1.5-hour drive away from my home) and the format of the next series of PPTQs.
I had some work to do though. The last time I had played Modern must have been at last year’s WMCQ, where I played Infect but failed to make Top 8. I still love Infect, but I hate the fact that Jund is such a hard matchup. I wanted to play something else.
I started with Jund and actually played quite a few matches with the deck. It started pretty well, with me going 4-1 and 3-2 in my first 2 Leagues while learning some things I had forgotten about. (Of course modular doesn’t work when there is a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet on your side of the board! And of course your own Kitchen Finks don’t come back when you have a Grafdiggers Cage in play!) But after that it went downhill quite fast. I ended my 4 Leagues with an overall record of 10-10 and knew it was time to find something different.
I talked a bit to Christophe Gregoir to see what he was up to. He obviously didn’t know yet what he was playing (he never does), but he did tell me that Thomas Van der Paelt had been testing Modern non-stop and that the only deck he was losing to was Dredge. Dredge? Really?!?
To say that I was skeptical at first would be an understatement. The first lists I found online had some real sweeties like Goblin Lore and Burning Inquiry. I picked one of the lists (luckily the one without Goblin Lore) and gave it a try anyways. It didn’t go very well, losing to either (1) a lot of graveyard hate, (2) my own mistakes, or (3) discarding the wrong cards with Burning Inquiry. I must have checked the latest Modern Grand Prix deck list about a dozen times, every time asking myself if it was normal everyone was packing so much graveyard hate.
It wasn’t. Most lists had a maximum of 1 or 2 graveyard hate. Some, like Nahiri Control, didn’t even have any (because it doesn’t interact very well with Snapcaster Mage). Problem #1: solved. As for my own mistakes, I knew I just had to get in some more practice and things would get better. Problem #2: solved. With those 2 problems out of the way, all I had to do was find a good list without Burning Inquiry. I checked some more Magic Online League decks and stumbled upon a list from Mr. Kenji Tsumura-san himself. If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is! I guess I’m not very picky when it comes to taking things as a sign. I consulted Kenji on Facebook and he directed me to this list by Manoah:
Part II: The WMCQ
I didn’t change a lot from the list above for the WMCQ. I added a second Blood Crypt because I was dredging the first one too often and needed the black mana for the Darkblast I added. I added 2 Tormenting Voice because I felt the deck was sometimes a tiny bit too slow. For these 2 cards, I cut the Rally the Peasants (and the Sacred Foundry) because I felt like it wasn’t necessary (turned out I was wrong), and a Vengeful Pharaoh. And I added another fetchland, because I wanted to be able to return my Bloodghast end of turn and because I liked the interaction of fetchlands + Life from the Loam.
As for the sideboard, I cut the Bojuka Bog and the Memory’s Journey because I didn’t expect any other Dredge decks at the WMCQ in favor of a second Gnaw to the Bone and a second Thoughtseize (which was necessary because I needed to sideboard out at least 2 cards—1 Vengeful Pharaoh and 1 Darkblast—against combo and control). I also moved the second Pharaoh to the sideboard while cutting the 4th Nature’s Claim.
The tournament itself started rather promising and I went undefeated in my first 5 matches, beating 3 Nahiri Control (one piloted by Thomas Van der Paelt), 1 Melira, and 1 Jund deck. Unfortunately, after that, the wheels fell off. In round 6 I lost a very close game 3 to Arbor Elf Ramp (of all things), where my opponent cast 2 Primal Command, shuffling my graveyard into my deck and searching up Scavenging Ooze. If it wasn’t for the second Primal Command, I’d still have won. In round 7 I was paired against RG Tron expert Guy Duparcq. After splitting game 1 and 2, I was 3 damage short of killing him before he milled me with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. If I had Rally the Peasants in my deck, I’d have won that game and probably made Top 8. In round 8 I still had a small chance to make Top 8 after beating WB Tokens (fighting through Grafdigger’s Cage and Ghostly Prison!), but it wasn’t meant to be and I ended up 10th.
Part III: An Updated List
Taking into account the things I’ve learned at the WMCQ, here’s the list I’d run right now:
I went up to 21 lands because I was mulliganing way too much. In fact, you never want to keep hands with only 1 land (unless it has double Faithless Looting), because you really need to hit your land drops for Bloodghast. Once you have 2 lands, you get to dredge and play Life from the Loam, which gives you your third land to flashback Faithless Looting. It could be that 20 lands is enough, in which case I’d add Lightning Axe or a third Tormenting Voice.
Cutting the third Conflagrate might be a mistake, but it’s either that or Rally the Peasants. If you expect mainly Infect, Affinity, and Melira, you definitely want the third Conflagrate main deck. If you expect a lot of Nahiri, Jund, and other slower decks, Rally the Peasants is what you want.
The 2 Shriekhorns are tricky and I’m not sure they should be there. I kept 2 because I wanted at least 10 ways to start dredging on the draw step of my second turn. Shriekhorn might not look very reliable, but the numbers are actually “fine.” Assuming you have a hand with 2 lands, Shriekhorn, 2 Stinkweed Imp/Golgari Grave-Troll, and 2 other cards (I think that’s the worst hand I would keep that involves a turn-1 Shriekhorn), you have about a 40% chance that you hit at least 1 Stinkweed Imp or Golgari Grave-Troll on your first 4 cards (I’m sure Dr. Frank Karsten will correct me if I’m wrong). If you’re holding only 1 Stinkweed Imp/Golgari Trave-Troll, that chance goes up to about 44%. And even if you don’t hit Imp/Troll, you might dredge some Bloodghast/Narcomoeba/Prized Amalgam or lands to get back with Life from the Loam. I think the 2 Shriekhorn/2 Tormenting Voice is about what you want because you’d rather have 1 Shriekhorn + 1 Tormenting Voice in your opening hand than 2 of either. The disadvantage of running Shriekhorn is that Tarmogoyf will often be a 5/6 instead of a 4/5 (against Jund), which could actually make a difference when it comes to racing.
As for the sideboard, the only cards I’m missing are the second Gnaw to the Bone and the Vengeful Pharaohs. Vengeful Pharaoh is great against Jund and Grixis Delver, but worse than you’d think against Merfolks and Melira. If Jund and Grixis Delver rise in popularity, I could see adding them back again. The second Gnaw to the Bone depends on the amount of aggressive decks (Burn, Suicide Zoo, Naya Zoo, etc.) you’re expecting.
Engineered Explosives could be Abrupt Decay as well. Both cards serve as an answer to problematic cards like Rest in Peace and Scavenging Ooze, while not being completely useless when they don’t have these cards.
Part IV: Tips and Tricks
- Both Narcomoeba and Bloodghast are “may” triggers. Sometimes it is correct to not bring them back in order to play around cards like Anger of the Gods or Detention Sphere. What you usually want to do is fetch a land at the end of your opponent’s second main phase to return any number of Bloodghasts and return the Prized Amalgam during their end step. But be careful—if they still have mana open, they will get priority after you’ve fetched so they can still play these cards. In that case, it could even be correct to wait until the end of your opponent’s turn, but your Prized Amalgams won’t return until your own end step.
- Whenever a Prized Amalgam comes into play at the end of your turn (which, for example has been dredged together with a Narcomoeba in your draw step), it will trigger any additional Prized Amalgams that have been put into the graveyard during your main phase or attack. These additional Amalgams will return at the end of your opponent’s turn (which is another way to play around Anger of the Gods, by the way).
- You can play Conflagrate for 0 on turn 1 just to be able to play it on turn 2 and dump your whole hand into your graveyard. In fact, it will often be correct to just play it for 0 even when you have a spare mana.
- 10 life is the magic number. The difference between Bloodghast with or without haste is huge. Keep this in mind when deciding on how many cards to discard to your Conflagrates. Sometimes you’ll want to play Conflagrate before your attack to put your opponent at 10 so that your Bloodghasts can attack.
- Prized Amalgam comes into play tapped, so don’t count on them for blocking.
- Narcomoeba is a trigger that goes on the stack. This means that you can still respond to it with, for example, activating your Shriekhorn or sacrificing your Insolent Neonate. If you put any Prized Amalgams in your graveyard that way, they’ll trigger!
- Dredge first before fetching. Some people might think it is better to thin your deck first, but if you hit a Bloodghast, you want it to return!
- You can Darkblast in your upkeep, dredge it, and play it again in order to kill a 2/2.
- If you already have 2 Stinkweed Imp/Golgari Grave-Troll in your graveyard, don’t bother discarding another one to Tormenting Voice or Faithless Looting. You’d rather discard any Prized Amalgam or Bloodghast you’re holding. In fact, sometimes you want to play your Stinkweed Imps (especially when facing big Tarmogoyfs).
- When Dredging with Faithless Looting, you decide which card to dredge one by one. If you hit a couple of Bloodghast with your first dredge, it might be better to dredge Dakmor Salvage with your second dredge in order to hit your land drop.
- Be aware of how many “fetchable” lands you have left in your deck. Sometimes you have dredged them all.
- Sometimes you’d rather use your fetchlands instead of playing your Copperline Gorge in order to be able to return the full 3 lands with Life from the Loam. Returning that extra land will be important if you plan on casting Conflagrate on one of your next turns.
- Stinkweed Imp doesn’t have deathtouch. It will only kill a creature when it deals combat damage. This means it will not kill Polukranos when they fight (yes, this happened to me at the tournament).
- Practice! The deck is very hard to play. Sequencing your dredges, knowing when to play Life from the Loam (sometimes you want to do it just to be sure to hit your land drop on the next turn without having to spend mana that turn), knowing when to return your Bloodghasts/Narcomoebas, knowing what card to dredge, etc. are all important things to learn. It will take some time to learn all of these things.
There you go. I hope you enjoyed the article. I didn’t expect this article to become this long, but I guess I just got into the flow after 3 years without writing anything Magic related. Don’t call it a comeback just yet, but I promise that if I find another sweet deck for the next WMCQ, I’ll write about it!
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, please post them and I’ll try to answer them as quickly as possible. I might even post some sideboard advice in the comments when I find the time!