A month and a half ago at GP Stockholm 2018, I was talking with Tomek Sodomirski, better known by his Magic Online stage name Sodeq, and he told me about a new card that had been revealed from Guilds of Ravnica: 《Creeping Chill》.
It was immediately obvious that we wanted to play some number of them in Dredge, the question was just what we could cut from the deck to make room for them. While the deck becomes a bit more inconsistent, it also becomes much more powerful. Previously Dredge couldn’t realistically kill before turn 4, but because the 《Chill》s work beautifully with 《Bloodghast》s and 《Conflagrate》s, you now have a reasonable amount of turn 3 kills. A couple 《Chill》 triggers and a 《Conflagrate》 can give your 《Bloodghast》s haste, and then you can kill them with just one attack step. On average, the deck becomes about a full turn faster than it used to be.
This is a massive change in many matchups. Now you have a much more realistic chance of racing decks like 《Krark-Clan Ironworks》, Infect and Storm. Many of these matchups used to be ones that were quite bad, especially in game 1, so the 《Chill》s help you specifically in the matchups where you needed the most help.
It also means that you don’t need to devote as many sideboard slots to those decks. You don’t really have many bad cards to board out anymore. The deck is now so tight that you have even less room to maneuver than before. I think it’s often important to try to board as little as possible. In his recent article, Hareruya Pros Piotr Glogowski explains in detail how and why many players often over-sideboard, so I recommend checking that out as well.
- Dangers of Surface-Level Sideboarding and the Importance of Opportunity Cost
- Piotr Glogowski
The lessons from that article are very relevant with Dredge, not only in the act of sideboarding itself but also in the deckbuilding phase. For example, I think playing the full four copies of 《Leyline of the Void》 in the sideboard is an even bigger mistake than before, but I’ll get to that a bit later.
At Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, I played 4 《Ancient Grudge》s and 1 《Driven // Despair》 to combat Ironworks Combo. Dredge was a significant underdog in the first game, so I wanted to have a great sideboard against the deck, as I thought it would be one of the most popular ones in the field. After the printing of 《Creeping Chill》, I think 《Driven // Despair》 can be cut completely and you don’t need as many 《Ancient Grudge》s either.
《Creeping Chill》 is also absurdly good against Burn. The matchup used to be a tight race, but with 《Chill》s it’s really hard to lose. Most people seem to focus solely on the life gain aspect of the card, but the three damage part is good at swinging the races as well.
First, let’s go through the updated decklist:
2 《Stomping Ground》
2 《Blood Crypt》
2 《Wooded Foothills》
2 《Arid Mesa》
2 《Scalding Tarn》
4 《Copperline Gorge》
1 《Blackcleave Cliffs》
1 《Dakmor Salvage》
1 《Gemstone Mine》
-Land (19)- 4 《Narcomoeba》
2 《Golgari Thug》
4 《Stinkweed Imp》
4 《Prized Amalgam》
4 《Cathartic Reunion》
4 《Life from the Loam》
4 《Creeping Chill》
To make room for the 《Creeping Chill》s, I have cut one land, one dredger and one looter, and moved the third 《Conflagrate》 to the sideboard. I think I would rather go down to three 《Creeping Chill》s than cut anything other than the third 《Conflagrate》 from the main deck. In most matchups you can get by with two 《Conflagrate》s, but against creature decks you still want access to three, so the last copy has been relegated to the sideboard.
All of these are significant costs and make the deck less consistent. With this deck you really want to have at least one dredger and one looter in your opening hand to get the Dredge chain rolling, and missing either one of those or the mana to cast the looter can make a good hand unkeepable. Cutting a dredger also means that your Dredge chains will break more often and cause losses that way. This is particularly important with 《Cathartic Reunion》, which gets a lot worse if you have to actually draw cards with it.
When 《Assassin's Trophy》 was revealed, I thought it would be an automatic inclusion as a 3-4 of, as it can answer any of the hate cards. However, I’m not sure if I even want the first one anymore. While it is quite versatile, it’s also a bit hard to cast, incredibly slow, and helps your opponent. Against some 《Leyline of the Void》 decks it’s crucial to be able to destroy their 《Leyline》s before they can cast their discard spells, which 《Nature's Claim》 does but 《Trophy》 doesn’t.
Against other 《Leyline》 decks, like BridgeVine and Hollow One, it’s crucial to be able to destroy the 《Leyline》 immediately or they will kill you before you get your engine online. Not to mention the times when you have a basic 《Mountain》 in your opener and can’t cast the 《Assassin's Trophy》. Giving the opponent an extra land is also a big cost.
The worst part of 《Creeping Chill》 is that Dredge has now gotten more attention than it can handle. As a result of all the hype, too many people have picked up the deck, and too many people have added too many hate cards for it to be great right now. In fact, I think Dredge is going to be quite a risky choice for GP Atlanta 2018.
(Editor’s Note: this articles was written before GP Atlanta 2018.)
If you check out the results from the most recent SCG Open, the players who did well either had a ton of hate cards or played decks that are naturally favored against it. Both finalists played Amulet Titan, which has a tutorable 《Bojuka Bog》 in the main deck and can re-use it with the bounce lands. It’s also a fast combo deck for which Dredge has very little interaction. Before Guilds of Ravnica it was common for decks like 5C Humans to have no graveyard hate at all in the sideboard. Now some of them are playing as much as 2 《Grafdigger's Cage》 AND 2 《Ravenous Trap》.
Due to the popularity of the deck, most of the Dredge lists I have seen recently have adopted 4 《Leyline》s in their own sideboards. I strongly believe this is wrong. In matchups where 《Leyline》s would be good, like Hollow One and BridgeVine, they have their own 《Leyline》s as well. The problem is that it’s much more critical for you to be able to remove their 《Leyline》 than it is for them to remove yours.
If both players have 《Leyline》s, they are going to win. That’s why the first priority is to bring in the 4 《Nature's Claim》s. Then if you want to bring in 《Leyline》s in addition to the 《Claim》s, what do you cut? While 《Leyline》 is a good card in a vacuum against those decks, fitting them in means completely dismantling your own synergies and any semblance of a proactive game plan. You try to prevent losing, but end up being unable to win instead. In this case, offense is the best defense.
Therefore, 《Leyline》s are only good in the Dredge mirror, if even there. If you decide to bring them in, you will lose a lot of games to your own deck malfunctioning. I would prefer to play 0 《Leyline》s myself, but if I don’t have any they can just skip the 《Claim》s completely. But if they see a single 《Leyline》 being played or Dredged into the graveyard, they will want the 《Claim》s as well because it is much more likely for me to have 4 than just 1 (Let’s read my old article here).
I would much rather be fighting with 4 《Claim》s and 1 《Leyline》 against 4 《Claim》 and 4 《Leyline》, than with 4 《Claim》s against 4 《Leyline》s. I actually think 4 《Claim》s and 1 《Leyline》 might be favored against a 4 《Claim》 4 《Leyline》 build, because the linear version is so much better at executing its own game plan and winning the races.
While Dredge is undoubtedly a stronger deck than it used to be, I would advise against playing it in the near future. I wish I had another Modern deck with me for GP Atlanta, but I’m basically pot committed at this point. Assuming the metagame calms down a bit in the coming weeks, I believe Dredge will be one of the best decks in the format going forward.
My biggest concern is that it may have become so good that many decks can’t adapt to it without an abundance of hate. That leads to unhealthy and uninteresting play patterns. If the format warps too much around it and metagame diversity ends up suffering as a result, another ban might even be in the horizon. Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that.
There are ways to beat Dredge without excessive amounts of sideboard cards though. It will just take some time for Modern players to drop badly positioned pet decks and pick up ones that are in a better spot. Decks like Amulet Titan, Storm and Bogles are still bad matchups despite 《Creeping Chill》 helping you race them, and they will certainly rise in popularity, as the SCG results indicate. Combo decks that aren’t as reliant on the graveyard should also be able to prey on the people who have filled their sideboards with graveyard hate.