Tournament Report: Top 4 at SCG Louisville with Dredge

With a tuned 75 and years of experience with Dredge, Connor Mullaly showed up to play at SCG Louisville. It was the first large Modern event after WAR and we have covered the full results here and the Top 8 technology here. With Blast Zone in tow Connor fought all the way into the Top 4. Today he is here to give us his insights and a round-by-round event for his masterful run. 

Preparation
I have more than two years of experience playing Dredge, but It had been awhile since I played it at a competitive event. I played KCI at SCG Columbus in January of this year and have played Izzet Phoenix since then, including when I lost to Zach Allen playing for Top 8 of SCG Cleveland. I was testing Phoenix in preparation for this event when I began to notice a pattern: Humans was everywhere, and graveyard hate was gone. The new cards from War of the Spark were the talk of the town, and all anybody could think about was beating Tron and UW Control. These two plus Humans and Phoenix appeared to be the top decks going into Louisville. I spent some time studying decklists from the previous weekend’s SCG Classic as well as top players’ articles on StarCityGames. Humans had completely eschewed Grafdigger’s Cage and Anafenza the Foremost. Izzet Phoenix had mostly moved on from Surgical and was playing three pieces of hate at most, all in the sideboard. Tron and UW Control had only two or three pieces. This is how I identified that this was the weekend for Dredge: hate was low, and nobody was talking online about how to beat it.

Decklist
Lands (18)
2 Mountain
1 Blast Zone
2 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 Copperline Gorge
1 Gemstone Mine
2 Stomping Ground
3 Wooded Foothills
Creatures (18)
4 Bloodghast
2 Golgari Thug
4 Narcomoeba
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Stinkweed Imp
Spells (24)
4 Shriekhorn
2 Darkblast
4 Cathartic Reunion
2 Conflagrate
4 Creeping Chill
4 Faithless Looting
4 Life from the Loam
Sideboard (15)
1 Damping Sphere
1 Abrupt Decay
3 Ancient Grudge
4 Lightning Axe
3 Nature’s Claim
2 Thoughtseize
1 Ghost Quarter

The Build
I based my list off of Sodeq’s latest Magic Online 5-0 result (For those of you who are interested in getting better with Dredge, Sodeq is one of the best Dredge pilots in the world and streams regularly. You should check him out). I loved the idea of having Blast Zone in the maindeck as a way to recur removal with Life from the Loam. It proved to be very effective against Humans and also has applications against Thing in the Ice. Four Lightning Axes may seem like a lot, but this is the best card against both Humans and Izzet Phoenix and you often want to draw multiples. I also removed a Golgari Thug from the maindeck so that I could have a second Darkblast against Humans. I purposefully did not include Leyline of the Void as I did not believe that many people would play Dredge and thought that Izzet Phoenix would be represented less than it has at other Opens recently.

Round 1: Izzet Phoenix (W, 1-0)
I was on the draw for Game 1 and was able to get several Bloodghasts and Prized Amalgams in play on turn 2, but my opponent had a very fast Thing in the Ice draw (which is what they need to beat Dredge in game 1) and was able to wipe my board and attack me with a Thing and two Phoenixes on turn 3. My plan after boarding is to keep Thing in the Ice in check with Lightning Axe and Conflagrate and make them race me with Phoenixes, which are easily checked by Narcomoeba and Creeping Chill. I was able to execute this plan in game 2, with my opponent cantripping a lot but never applying pressure after I removed the first Thing. In game 3, I put pressure on quickly with a Cathartic Reunion and my opponent came one Manamorphose short of being able to draw their whole deck with Pyromancer Ascension + Noxious Revival. It is important to be mindful of Ravenous Trap when playing this matchup. Once you have pressure on the board and a Conflagrate in your graveyard, it is often correct to take natural draw steps to protect your Conflagrate from Trap.

Round 2: Tron (W, 2-0)
In game 1, this matchup is all about racing. I was on the play and had a Faithless Looting + Cathartic Reunion start with several Dredgers. My opponent played a turn 1 Relic of Progenitus, but I was able to put multiple creatures on the board before they could activate it. My opponent stumbled getting Tron online and I won the game on turn 4. My sideboard plan involves bringing in Damping Sphere, Thoughtseize and Ghost Quarter to keep them off Tron, and Ancient Grudge is an excellent answer to everything from Relic to Wurmcoil. My opponent mulliganed to 5 and only had access to 2 Tron lands and no Relic, so I was able to put pressure on the board with a Faithless Looting. I Thoughtseized my opponent on turn 3 (after they didn’t play a 3rd land) and saw a hand of Karn Liberated, Ugin, Wurmcoil, Ancient Stirrings, and Sylvan Scrying. I took Sylvan Scrying and they immediately drew a forest and played Stirrings, but did not find the third Tron piece and I was able to win. Some important interactions to keep in mind are that you can leave Bloodghasts in your graveyard with a fetchland in play to play around Ugin minus to wipe your board. If you are trying to bring back Amalgams this way, you get blown out by Relic, so pay attention to how your opponent is playing and make your decision accordingly. You can also attack into a Wurmcoil and Ancient Grudge after blocks to prevent them from gaining life.

Round 3: Christoffer Anderson on Humans (W, 3-0)
The first of many Humans matchups on the weekend. I don’t clearly remember the details, but in this matchup my plan is to get on the board as quickly as possible and use a Conflagrate to remove multiple creatures before the opponent can get a Meddling Mage in play. I won game 1 fairly easily after a Cathartic Reunion and no disruption. Postboard, I bring in all of my removal and 1-2 Ancient Grudges to hedge against Grafdigger’s Cage. On the play, I take out 4 Shriekhorn and trim some Bloodghasts and Dredgers, and on the draw I cut 2 Shriekhorn and 2 Reunion to hedge against Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Humans’ plan often involves using Auriok Champion to play the control role and making their creatures too big to attack through. Blast Zone throws this out the window. I was able to stymie the initial assault with a Lightning Axe, and used Blast Zone to mop up a Champion and a 2-mana Thalia to stabilize around 8 life. My draw this game was very slow (I didn’t find a way to discard cards until about turn 6 or 7) but my opponent flooded out and drew 3 Aether Vials so I was able to win.

Round 4: Ross Merriam on Izzet Phoenix (W, 4-0)
In game 1, I was on the play and had a fast draw with multiple copies of Faithless Looting. I believe that his main threat was a Pyromancer Ascension that he was not able to turn on in time. Game 2 was one of the most interesting that I played in a long time. I kept a 6 that was 2 lands, 2 Lightning Axes, 1 Bloodghast and 1 Prized Amalgam. The ideal start from him would have been two Thing in the Ice for me to remove, and that I drew a Dredger to discard to an axe. I remove one Thing but am unable to find a card with Dredge. Ross is also light on threats: we play draw-go for several turns. Eventually, he hardcasts an Arclight Phoenix (which I Axed) and I find a Shriekhorn, which lets me put a Bloodghast into play. He hardcasts another Phoenix, and the next turn I find a Loam off of my Shriekhorn. Dredging the Loam finds me a Faithless Looting and a Conflagrate. I cast the Loam and attack for 2. Ross had fetch-shocked several times and spent his turn cantripping and playing Pyromancer Ascension, so he was low on life for the pressure that I had. I had spoken to him about his deck, and knew that he had 2 Ravenous Trap but no Surgicals in his sideboard. When I untapped for my turn, he had 2 cards I tanked for a little bit about whether to Dredge or draw. I determined that if he had Ravenous Trap, I wouldn’t be able to use Conflagrate for a large enough number to be threatening the following turn. I dredged, cast Loam and tried to recur a Bloodghast with a shockland. Ross bolted the Bloodghast in play and cast Ravenous Trap. I had nothing relevant left in hand, so I conceded the next turn. In game 3, Ross mulliganed to six and I had a fast start with Faithless Looting and a Cathartic Reunion that won the game on turn 3.

Round 5: Dredge (W, 5-0)
Oh, the Dredge mirror. Probably the most boring and least skill-intensive matchup in Modern. The goal is to kill your opponent as quickly as possible, use Conflagrate to keep their board presence low and their Prized Amalgams tapped and not get Leylined. The player with the better draw will win 99% of the time, and the best card is probably Cathartic Reunion (weird, right?). In game 1, I punted by Conflagrating my opponent and their blockers, attacking for lethal, and forgetting about the Darkblast that he had in hand (we had a lengthy judge call in between him Dredging the Darkblast and this turn). He Darkblasted a Bloodghast to leave himself at 1, but he never found a Conflagrate so I was still able to win. My plan for sideboarding is to shave a Shriekhorn, a Bloodghast and a Darkblast in favor of 3 Nature’s Claims. If I know for certain that my opponent does not have Leyline, I may bring in some number of Thoughtseizes instead. In game 2, my opponent mulliganed aggressively for an answer to Leyline, which is something that I don’t like to do. I prefer to make my opponent have the Leyline and find a Claim with my draw spells if they have one. I kept a strong 7 with Looting and my opponent started on 5 cards and never hit his second land drop.

Round 6: Izzet Phoenix (W, 6-0)
I’ll be honest, nothing really stuck out to me about this match. I did Dredge things, and my opponent did Phoenix things that couldn’t outrace my Dredge things. In game 2, I was able to kill 2 Things with Axe and Conflagrate, leaving my opponent with no pressure, and they never found a way to disrupt my graveyard.

Round 7: Humans (W, 7-0)
In game 1, I kept a hand that could cast Darkblast. My opponent kept a 1-land hand with 2 Noble Hierarchs. At least we both tried hard, right? In game 2, I again kept a hand with Darkblast, which slowed down my opponent’s Noble Hierarch start. My opponent played an Aether Vial on turns 3 and 4, and on turn 4 I was able to use my Ancient Grudge to destroy both. At some point, my opponent put Gaddock Teeg into play to shut down Conflagrate, but I dealt with that by casting Darkblast in my upkeep, dredging it, and the Darkblasting again.

Round 8: Samuel Thompson on Titanshift (L, 7-1)
We played this matchup on a backup feature match, and wow am I glad that we weren’t on camera. The plan for Shift is to be as fast as possible, while leaving Bloodghasts in our graveyard with fetchlands to play around Anger. In game 1, I mulliganed to 5, but had a strong 1-land hand with a Reunion. I scried a land to the top and thought I was in a great position, but I dredged 15 cards without finding a single Narcomoeba, Prized Amalgam, Bloodghast, or Creeping Chill. I then proceeded to die on turn 4 to a Scapeshift. I brought in Thoughtseizes and 2 Ancient Grudges to combat their artifact-based graveyard hate. In game 2, I mulliganed to 5 and kept a hand with no lands, but that had a Shriekhorn and a Faithless Looting. My scry gave me 2 looks to either card on my turn 2, which I figured was a higher-percentage chance to win than going down to 4. I didn’t find the land, Samuel played a Relic on turn 1, and I lost without taking a game action. Samuel didn’t lose a match until he came across my teammate Noah Strasler in round 11 and ended up making it to the Top 4.

Round 9: Humans (W, 8-1)
Unfortunately, the match began with my opponent receiving a game loss for a deck error. In game 2 (pre-board), I mulliganed to 6 and my opponent had a fast start with Thalia and several of her Lieutenants to run me over. In Game 2, I was able to use Lightning Axes and Conflagrate to control the board and eventually grind to a win.

Round 10: Humans (W, 9-1)
I took a risk by keeping a 6-card hand with Darkblast, but no ways to discard cards. I got very lucky that my opponent led on turn-1 Champion of the Parish. My opponent baited me into punting away game 1. He knew that I had a Darkblast in hand, I had a Blood Crypt and a Stomping Ground in play tapped, and a fetchland out. He ticked his vial up to 2, hardcast a Thalia’s Lieutenant and passed the turn. I somehow convinced myself that fetching on his end step was correct in order to save myself 2 life. I don’t remember the exact thought process, but I knew that he could give it a counter. He ended up putting in another Lieutenant in response to my fetchland and I shocked anyway to kill the second Lieutenant. The correct play was obviously to just untap and potentially to fetch in my upkeep. I lost this game, but I think that my opponent’s draw was good enough that I would have lost even without misplaying that way. Game 2 was relatively uneventful: I drew enough removal to keep his humans in check and he eventually ran out of gas. In game 3, he put a lot of pressure on with a Champion and a Mantis Rider. Blast Zone was very good, letting me destroy the Champion, a Hierarch and a Vial all at once. This gave me enough time to block with Narcomoebas and set up a Conflagrate to wipe the board, and from there I was able to establish a loop of Loam + Blast Zone to keep any more threats in check.

Round 11: Oliver Tomajko on Dredge (L, 9-2)
Here is where I was punished for excluding Leylines. I stand by my decision, but it definitely made me an underdog to Oliver, who had two in his sideboard. In game 1, I kept a hand with Shriekhorn and Faithless Looting. I led on Shriekhorn first, which did not find any Dredgers on my first or second turn. I made the decision to discard Stinkweed Imp and Bloodghast to my Looting instead of Stinkweed and Golgari Thug. It is important to get on the board early in the mirror, and I felt that the five-card dredge plus two from the Shriekhorn would be enough to find another card with Dredge before I flashed back my Looting on turn 3, but I wasn’t able to find another Dredger. Only Dredging 5 cards in the first three turns is unacceptable in the mirror, and I was soundly defeated by Oliver’s Cathartic Reunion draw. I have not done the math, but I stand by my decision to discard the Bloodghast instead of the Golgari Thug. Had I dredged over any Prized Amalgams in those top 7 cards, it would have been important to have a way to return them to the battlefield that turn. In game 2, I kept a hand that had Nature’s Claim but no green mana. Oliver started with a Leyline, and so I had to use my only Faithless Looting to find a green source to destroy it. This game was very slow: after several Faithless Lootings, Oliver was not able to find a second land, and I was not able to find a way to get a card with Dredge into my graveyard. We played draw-go for several turns with him discarding to hand size twice. Eventually, I found a Shriekhorn the turn before he found his land. He was able to bring back several creatures and Conflagrate me to attack with two Bloodghasts, because I had had to shock and then fetch-shock in the early turns to get my mana properly set up. The turn before he won the game, I had no board presence and no Dredgers, but I played a Shriekhorn (which flipped over a Stinkweed Imp) and flashed back a Faithless Looting to bring back a Narcomoeba and three Prized Amalgams. I had to Nature’s Claim my own Shriekhorn to put myself up to 9, but he had naturally drawn a Darkblast to remove my blocker and attack me for exactly 9.

Round 12: Jeskai Saheeli (W, 10-2)
I had a fast draw in Game 1 with Cathartic Reunion. My opponent cast no spells aside from a Path to Exile, but missed their fourth land drop and I won on turn 5. Based on the lands they played, I assumed they were normal Jeskai control. I brought in Abrupt Decay, Nature’s Claims and Thoughtseizes to fight Rest in Peace. I kept a 2-land hand that included Blast Zone, a Nature’s Claim and multiple copies of Faithless Looting. I cast the Looting on turn 2 to play around Rest in Peace, but my opponent Remanded it. Not having another red source, I tried again the next turn only to get Remanded again. The third time, my opponent cast Snapcaster-Remand. I finally resolved a Faithless Looting and discarded a Life from the Loam and a Bloodghast, finding a third land in the process. My opponent untapped, attacked with Snapcaster and cast Felidar Guardian to untap the Snapcaster. I untapped, dredged Loam, and flashed back a Faithless Looting. I didn’t have anything to do except pass back and hope my opponent couldn’t kill me. He ended up playing a second Felidar Guardian and I breathed a sigh of relief. I went to my turn and counted the cards in my hand- I was going to be one card short of casting Life from the Loam and Conflagrate to remove both Feldiar Guardians. I opted to just cast Life from the Loam and cross my fingers again. This turn, my opponent drew a Rest in Peace to exile my graveyard- I had the Nature’s Claim to get it off the table, but the damage was already done. I had nothing to do but hardcast a Bloodghast and hope to draw more copies of Faithless Looting. My opponent made it easy on me by drawing Saheeli Rai off the top and putting me out of my misery. For game 3, I brought in Lightning Axe to protect against the combo. I drew up an opening 7 that every Dredge player dreams of: multiple lands, a Stinkweed Imp, a Life from the Loam, a Faithless Looting and a Cathartic Reunion. I put 10+ power in play on turn 2, and my opponent played a Celestial Colonnade tapped on turn 1. If they had had Rest in Peace on turn 2 followed by a sweeper, it’s possible they could have clawed back in, but they didn’t find any of this and conceded.

Round 13: Humans (W, 11-2)
My opponent was on the play for game one. I mulliganed to 6 and had a slow start, whereas my opponent had an early Meddling Mage to shut down Conflagrate and a Thalia’s Lieutenant to apply pressure. I wasn’t able to stem the bleeding and lost quickly. In game 2, I had a Cathartic Reunion start (putting multiple creatures in play), but my opponent had an early Auriok Champion and two Meddling Mages naming Darkblast and Conflagrate. They also played Thalia, Heretic Cathar, which meant my Narcomoebas got a lot worse at blocking. I determined that I did not have enough time to natural draw to find a removal spell but should instead dredge to find my copy of Blast Zone. My opponent and I both assembled large boards. I was attacking with 3 Narcomoebas and holding back Prized Amalgams to block. The Blast Zone was in the bottom 10 cards of my library, and by the time I found it, I did not have enough time to put a counter on it and destroy my opponent’s 2-drops. Instead, I hardcast a Golgari Thug at put my opponent in a spot where they needed to win the game before I found my final copy of Creeping Chill. I got down to three cards left in library but could not find it, leaving my opponent in a spot where they needed to draw a Mantis Rider, a Reflector Mage, a Phantasmal Image or a Thalia’s Lieutenant from their draw step and a Horizon Canopy draw. Two Humans that my opponent could cast from three mana would have also won the game. Fortunately for me, my opponent found 2 lands off the top and we went to game 3. Game 3 was very simple compared to game 2. I kept a hand with two copies of Lightning Axe, which both discarded a Stinkweed Imp. I assembled a large board quickly and won the game once I found Blast Zone.

Round 14: Matthew Dilks on Amulet Titan (L, 11-3)
All of day 2, I had been hoping to dodge Matthew. He’s one of the best players on the Tour, he’s playing the deck that is among my worst matchups, and I’ve played against his team in team events to an 0-3 record so far. The plan for this matchup is to be as fast as possible and pray that they don’t draw Bojuka Bog. We got deck checked, which gave us the opportunity to watch Ross Merriam do some messed up things with Finale of Promise and Pyromancer Ascension the table over. When we started to play, I kept essentially the perfect hand for the matchup: 3 lands, a Faithless Looting, an Imp, a Thug, and a Reunion. Matthew mulliganed to six. On the play, he used a Ghost Quarter to cast Amulet of Vigor. I cast Faithless Looting, discarding Imp and Amalgam. As I passed the turn he looked at his hand and said “alright, you’re dead.” I prayed he would play Bojuka Bog and let me Cathartic, but instead he had another Amulet, a bounceland and two Summoner’s Pacts for the turn 2 Titan, attack for 20 win. I boarded in Ghost Quarter, 2 Ancient Grudges and 2 Thoughtseizes. I kept a 6 with Cathartic and Ancient Grudge but only 1 land and missed my second land drop for a turn. When I drew it on turn 3, I had the decision to cast Cathartic Reunion with multiple Dredgers or to Grudge his Amulet. He had played an Azusa the previous turn, and something about his play made me realize that he would be able to play a Titan if I didn’t destroy the Amulet. I did that and cast Cathartic Reunion on turn 4 but wasn’t able to put any creatures on the table. He played a natural Bog to get rid of my graveyard, and then had a Titan the turn after and tutored up a Tolaria West. With an irrelevant hand and no graveyard for the rest of the game, I conceded and wished him luck in top 8.

Round 15: Noah Strasler on Humans (W, 12-3)
I’m finally paired against my Tempest Teammate! We had close to the same record since round 8 of this event, as well as all of SCG Cleveland’s Day 2 (where he made Top 8) without getting paired. At this point, Noah was at 12-2 and had good tiebreakers, and I had the best tiebreakers of anybody at 11-3. He decided to concede to me so that we could both be in the Top 8.

Quarterfinals: Noah Strasler on Humans
Unfortunately got paired against Noah in the quarters to play against Humans for the sixth time on the weekend. I was the higher seed and got to be on the play. In game 1, he kept a risky 7 with one land and a vial. I kept a 7 with an Imp, a Looting, a Reunion and the lands to cast them. I put all four Amalgams in play on turn 2 and quickly won. I sideboarded in all of my removal but did not bring in Ancient Grudge because I knew that he didn’t have Grafdigger’s Cage in his sideboard. In game 2, I kept a hand with two Lightning Axes, an Abrupt Decay and a Dredger. He wasn’t able to get anything going and I won quickly.

Semifinals: Oliver Tomajko on Dredge
If you haven’t seen this match, check it out here. Nothing about it was close, but Cedric and Patrick’s commentary was some of the funniest I’ve ever heard. Again, the strategy in the Dredge mirror is that it’s a pure race. In game 1, I drew up a 7 with no lands, so I threw it back. I kept a 6 that had Faithless Looting, Imp, a Bloodghast and the necessary lands. I just had to hope my dredges were better than his, but he had a Cathartic Reunion to go along with his own Looting and I was quickly dispatched. In game 2, I kept a 6-card hand with a Cathartic Reunion and Dredgers and just hoped that he wouldn’t have a Leyline. As anyone who has seen the match knows, he had both of his Leylines in his opening hand. I knew as soon as he dropped them that I didn’t have a chance to win, so I just tried to have fun the rest of the game. I hope that everyone watching enjoyed it as much as I did. Big props to Oliver for taking the whole thing down, but especially for the style points of killing me with a hardcast Creeping Chill.

Moving Forward
Dredge is not good every weekend. I do not plan on playing it at the Invitational: with Oliver winning the event and me finishing in the Top 4, I expect people to be building their sideboards with Dredge in mind. Once you are good at playing the deck, the best skill a Dredge player can develop is to learn what weekends the deck is good. When nobody is talking about it or building their decks to beat it, that is when you can really take advantage of having Dredge in your back pocket. I think that my maindeck was very good for the weekend. If I had the opportunity to change the sideboard, I would probably cut the Thoughtseizes and add more copies of Damping Sphere, or maybe try the Alpine Moon that Oliver had. When you need a sideboard card to be in your opening hand, like Thoughtseize needs to be, I prefer it to be as high-impact as possible, and Thoughtseize usually slows somebody down but rarely stops them.

This weekend, I’ll be traveling to the Invitational, where I’m looking forward to casting more Faithless Lootings (only this time, I’ll be using them to discard some birds!). Big shoutout to everyone who sent me messages of support this weekend: it means more than you know. If you want to follow along with me at tournaments or talk more about Dredge, check out my Twitter @MullalyConnor. Thanks for reading!

Wrap-Up
I very much enjoyed reading this report and I hope you did as well. A huge shoutout to Connor for his contribution as a report of this size is quite the undertaking. So please give him a follow on his Twitter to keep up with him going forward. Where do you folks think Dredge will land post-Horizons? Does the London Mulligan give it an edge? Come give us your take in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow with a spotlight on Standard Mono-Blue Tempo. Until then my friends.

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