Hello everyone. My name is Matti, and I am an addict.
I’m still not sure which one is more intoxicating, Dredge or winning. They often get mixed together so it’s hard to separate the effects of the two. As a long time user, my tolerances for both have kept increasing over the years, and I have needed more and more of both to satisfy my hunger.
I managed to stay away from them for months, but in February I finally relapsed. There was a big, local Modern tournament coming up in Finland and I couldn’t find any 《Grinding Station》s for the 《Underworld Breach》 deck. My teammate in the tournament series, Joonas Eloranta, made matters worse by enabling my habit and giving me an updated Dredge list to get started. In a moment of desperation, I gave in and dug up my 《Bloodghast》s and 《Prized Amalgam》s from their graves. When I met my faithful servants again, I almost teared up – some might even describe the reunion as… cathartic.
Hooked on Ox
The deck got a nice new addition from the latest set in the form of 《Ox of Agonas》. I was excited to try the new toy in a Magic Online league as practice for the local tournament. The Ox immediately carried me to a perfect 5-0, 10-0 league. After I had my first taste of the Ox, there was no going back. I was immediately hooked.
The local tournament, Poro Tour(*), soon followed and Joonas and I both top 8’d it after finishing the swiss rounds as first and second seed out of more than a hundred players.
(*Poro is the Finnish word for reindeer.)
And after that I haven’t been able to stop dredging and winning. Most recently I took the Bull by its 《Shriekhorn》s and top 8’d a Super Qualifier on Magic Online, and once again a friend of mine and I played the similar lists and we finished as the first and second seeds after the Swiss rounds.
Even though my favorite dabbing propellerhead might disagree with me, I firmly believe that Dredge is one of the best decks in Modern right now.
Raging Bull – Memoirs of a Professional Oxer
For a long time, I thought that the only realistic ban that Dredge wouldn’t survive would be 《Faithless Looting》. It was a key piece in all of your best hands, and gave you an important tool in the midgame to keep a steady flow of dredges going. So last summer when Looting actually got banned, I wasn’t sure if it made sense for even me to play Dredge anymore. It was still a playable deck, especially with the inclusion of 《Forgotten Cave》 covering some of the midgame duties that Looting used to do, but it just didn’t feel fast or consistent enough. The problem with looping 《Forgotten Cave》 + 《Life from the Loam》 was that it was slow, and you often ended up with all of your good dredgers in hand and no way to discard them.
But now, after drinking excessive amounts of energy drinks, Dredge has revitalized. While cans of caffeine might give you wings, the Red Ox gives you something even better: wins.
While 《Merchant of the Vale》 isn’t even nearly as good as Looting was for your opening hands, the Ox is insanely powerful in the midgame. It’s like a turbo-charged flashback Looting.
In addition to dredging 3 instead of 2, discarding before drawing is usually a significant upside in the early midgame. What often happens is that you dredge your best dredgers first, so you have a couple of 《Stinkweed Imp》s in your hand and 《Life from the Loam》s in the graveyard. With Looting, you dredged up the Loams and then discarded the Imps to set up better dredges in the future. But with the Ox, you get to discard the Imps first, and after dredging half of your remaining deck with them you should have some good additional dredgers for the following turns as well. Or to put it more accurately: the following turn. There probably won’t be more than one.
To put it in numbers, with Looting a typical scenario went like this:
With Ox, a typical scenario is this:
That’s a huge difference in the number of total cards dredged.
Red Ox – Best Served Chilled
What makes the massive dredges even better is that 《Bloodghast》s and 《Creeping Chill》s get a lot better in multiples. Reaching the critical threshold of 10 life for hasty 《Bloodghast》s is now easier, and your deck becomes much more explosive than it used to be. Dredging 《Dakmor Salvage》 is a lot more common now, as you often take it as the last dredger from Ox to bring all the 《Bloodghast》s into play.
The Ox also comes along with a 5/3 body that brings back 《Prized Amalgam》s and gives you a wider variety of threats against 《Surgical Extraction》. In the past, double Extraction used to be rough if they managed to hit both your 《Bloodghast》s and 《Narcomoeba》s, because it meant that your Amalgams had no friends left to make sure they show up for work on time. But now, the sleepy little zombies have yet another friend who can kick them in the butt and get them moving, and it’s much harder to get rid of 3 enablers than 2.
Turn 3 kills are now more common than they used to be, which is particularly valuable for Dredge, because the worst matchups are usually the ones where you need to race.
Fair decks are mostly good matchups anyway as your threats are so hard to deal with. The problems come when the opponent is playing something faster than you, as Dredge isn’t the best at interacting quickly – except for the 《Underworld Breach》 decks, which happen to get hit by every kind of cheap interaction in your sideboard. Or, you know, pretty much every kind of interaction in general, which is why that deck isn’t very good.
3 《Stomping Ground》
2 《Blood Crypt》
2 《Arid Mesa》
2 《Bloodstained Mire》
2 《Scalding Tarn》
2 《Wooded Foothills》
2 《Copperline Gorge》
2 《Forgotten Cave》
1 《Dakmor Salvage》
-Land (20)- 4 《Bloodghast》
3 《Golgari Thug》
4 《Stinkweed Imp》
3 《Merchant of the Vale》
3 《Prized Amalgam》
3 《Ox of Agonas》
4 《Cathartic Reunion》
3 《Life from the Loam》
4 《Creeping Chill》
Card Choices: Mainboard
The deck is already a tight package so fitting in the Oxen can’t be done without making some sacrifices. Running only 10.5 dredgers (《Dakmor Salvage》 being the 0.5) is cutting it close, but with the Oxen you don’t need to worry as much about your dredge chains breaking. You can easily afford to brick once if you can Escape an Ox as follow up, because it lets you pitch back the original dredgers and get the chain started again. Your opening hands get slightly less consistent though, as you’ll get more hands that are missing a dredger.
There are also only 3 《Prized Amalgam》s and 1 《Conflagrate》 anymore, but I don’t feel like those are critical omissions. Ox brings its own 5/3 body to the table so you actually have more threats than you used to, and you usually only wanted to cast 1 《Conflagrate》 per game anyway. Ox lets you dig through your deck so quickly that finding the 1-of 《Conflagrate》 is usually quite easy. Even if you don’t, you’ll usually hit more 《Creeping Chill》s than before, so hitting the 《Conflagrate》 is less important. Note that with Oxen in the deck, your average hand size is a bit smaller anyway, and thus 《Conflagrate》 is a bit less powerful in the first place.
Ox also incentivizes some changes in the mana base. Fetchlands are more important than they used to be, as they fuel faster Oxen and let you keep payoffs and dredgers in your graveyard instead of having to exile them as part of the Escape cost. Fellow Dredge artist SodekMTG goes all the way up to 9 fetchlands, but I’m not quite comfortable with cutting all of the 《Copperline Gorge》s yet. It is still your best land in many starts and matchups.
Increased life loss from the lands is mostly offset by the fact that you dredge harder and find more 《Creeping Chill》s. Extra fetchlands and large dredges also mean that it is much easier to run out of lands to search for, so I think I want a third 《Stomping Ground》 in the deck nowadays.
Card Choices: Sideboard
The sideboard is a bit up in the air at the moment. Honestly, half of the cards in your sideboard don’t really matter all that much. You want a couple 《Ancient Grudge》s, a couple 《Nature’s Claim》s, some 《Lightning Axe》s and a 《Blast Zone》, but after that you can mostly just add whatever sweet cards you like.
Even the Claims and Grudges aren’t as important anymore, as graveyard hate has mostly moved from 《Leyline of the Void》s and 《Rest in Peace》s to 《Ashiok, Dream Render》s. This has been a great development for the deck, as Ashiok is one of the easiest hate cards to beat. It’s often just a 3 mana 《Tormod’s Crypt》 that gains 4 life, and 《Tormod’s Crypt》 has never been scary even as a 0 mana card. It also comes down so late that it’s easy to find the time to 《Thoughtseize》 it away before they can cast it.
If you’re concerned about Ashioks, you can even add a third 《Thoughtseize》 to your sideboard, although I don’t think it’s necessary in most metagames. As Jacob Nagro said in his latest article: “Ashiok is a little too inefficient against dedicated graveyard decks like Dredge or 《Vengevine》, so I expect those decks to also be on the rise, as people aren’t actually playing much with 《Rest in Peace》 of 《Leyline of the Void》.”
- The Rise of Uro in Modern
- Jacob Nagro
I would also like to note that I usually don’t like 《Thoughtseize》 in Dredge very much, but the popularity of Ashiok specifically has made me willing to include them, as it is fairly effective there. I’m also considering adding a 《Pithing Needle》, because in addition to Ashiok, it also shuts down 《Relic of Progenitus》 and prevents 《Karn, the Great Creator》 from fetching up a 《Grafdigger’s Cage》.
Other reasonable options that are missing from this list are 《Blood Moon》 and 《Magus of the Moon》, which I have had in the deck for most events. They just ultimately feel a little bit too ineffective. The upside is definitely there, as they help against Amulet Titan, which is your worst matchup out of the popular decks. On the other hand, the Moons have very few other applications, Amulet isn’t quite as prevalent anymore now that 《Once Upon a Time》 has been banned, and it can even be too slow against the one matchup that it’s there for (especially on the draw).
All of that combined leads me to think that it might just be better to spend the sideboard slots otherwise and cross your fingers that you either dodge Amulet completely or win the die roll and kill them quickly by focusing on your own game plan. If you expect a lot of Amulet in your local metagame, you should definitely still have a couple of Moons, probably one of each. The split means that it’s harder for your opponent to bring in applicable answers, as they might draw a 《Reclamation Sage》 against Magus or 《Dismember》 against 《Blood Moon》.
Here are some examples of how I usually sideboard in different matchups. All the usual warnings about following these instructions blindly apply.
In this matchup it’s good to remember that 《Creeping Chill》‘s trigger is optional. Sometimes it’s better to not use the trigger, if it makes it harder for them to deploy their 《Death’s Shadow》s and/or kill you with them.
Mono Red Prowess
《Leyline of Sanctity》 works double duty here as protection from 《Tormod’s Crypt》 and burn spells. They usually don’t have other hate, and I don’t think it’s worth bringing in answers to the Crypts as they get value out of them anyway.
Mono Green Tron
It’s a great time to be a Dredge pilot. If you like the deck or think you might like it, I heartily recommend giving it a go. The inclusion of 《Ox of Agonas》 is as impactful to the deck as the printing of 《Creeping Chill》 was a year and a half ago, and really brings it to a new power level.
The hardest hate cards to beat are also at an all-time low, as there are very few 《Rest in Peace》s and 《Leyline of the Void》s going around. 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 and squads of 《Auriok Champion》s used to be rough, but 《Blast Zone》 gives you an easy way to beat both of those.
If you’re just getting started on the deck, I recommend checking out my earlier articles on Dredge as well. Some of the contents are a bit outdated (like everything related to 《Faithless Looting》), but there’s a lot of timeless advice there as well, such as general mulliganing guidelines.
- The Updated Guide to Modern Dredge
- Matti Kuisma
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Sides of Creeping Chill
- Matti Kuisma
If you have any questions, you can reach out to me on Twitter.