Deck Spotlight: Reanimating Modern Dredge

Yesterday we shared with you a number of ways to revive Vengevine and Izzet Phoenix decks not that Looting is banned. To be candid, we saw post-ban Looting decks as surviving rather than thriving. To our surprise, that does not seem to be the case with Modern Dredge. We have been working on a new build that seems to have barely lost a step in post-Looting Modern. If you have been feeling the post-ban blues you will not want to miss this.

This one has been interesting and sometimes frustrating to test. There are a surprising number of surrogate Faithless Lootings but none of them quite cut it. The card did so much for the deck. On Turn 1 it set you up for a large Turn 2 dredge without question; unlike Shriekhorn. Then in the midgame it would allow you to dredge a second and third time after your draw step. It then would also act as a discard outlet for the cards you just dredged up; or anything else for that matter. You did not need it in your opening hand either as the midgame flashback was bound to come around eventually. To be quite honest, there is no single substitute for all of these things. I will summarize those that we tested though:

Insolent Neonate
It has seen play in the deck before, but it just did not cut it as a Looting replacement. It did allow for faster starts but was absolutely useless to dredge into later. Furthermore, you really need an Imp or Thug alongside it in your opening hand. The average dredge deck has ten dredge cards in it. You of course have one in hand. Here are the probabilities that you dredge into another dredge card:

Life From the Loam (3 deep): 43.5% success rate
Golgari Thug (4 deep): 53.6% success rate
Stinkweed Imp (5 deep): 62.2% success rate

Therefore, if your only enabler is Neonate and you only have Loam to pitch, it is likely that you just end up doing nothing. Neonate is the easiest to cast option but the lowest value on average so it just will not cut it.

Thought Scour
I have no idea why people were recommending this. Turn 1 blue mana requires deckbuilding concessions and this is only digging two cards deep. Using the same calculation as above, the success rate is only 31.3%. Seriously, do not play this in Dredge.

Hedron Crab
This is another blue card but a much more impactful one; often digging six cards deep per turn. It may not have the immediate impact of Looting or Neonate but it gets absurd in the midgame. Unfortunately, this one also fell prey to manabase concessions. This deck need green in opening hand, double-red by the midgame, and black by the midgame. Throwing Turn 1 blue on top is a stretch but you can achieve it with a number of rainbow lands; Gemstone Mine and City of Brass. Unfortunately, Crab requires you to max out on fetchlands to be effective. You will eventually be able to just Loam-loop them but it is too slow to effectively replace Looting. The card works but ends up being too demanding for what you get out of it.

Tome Scour
This might be what the deck is really looking for. Again, you need Turn 1 blue but you can actually get away with using rainbow lands to do it. When you slam it Turn 1 with a dredge card in hand, it is equivalent to dredging a Stinkweed Imp so there is a 62.2% chance that you hit another dredger to get the ball rolling. It is harder to cast than Neonate but where Neonate’s best case scenario is dredge five, this is basically always dredge five. More importantly, you do not need a dredge card in your opening hand so you can slam it with all ten hits in your library; improving your odds of success to 66.5%.

All-in-all we were impressed by it and believe it is viable but we ended up dropping it. Blue mana is still a touch difficult. If you go by Karsten math, we want fourteen blue sources to Turn 1 it consistently and that is hard with the aforementioned restrictive costs we face. We are built to mulligan aggressively so I think we can get away with fewer but twelve is a stretch and it is hard to find room for another. Also keep in mind that with each mulligan, your library grows and your success rate shrinks; population size is increasing with a static sample size. With that in mind, we ended up here:

Land (19)
2x Blood Crypt
4x Bloodstained Mire
2x Forgotten Cave
3x Gemstone Mine
2x Mountain
2x Stomping Ground
4x Wooded Foothills
Creature (19)
4x Bloodghast
2x Golgari Thug
1x Haunted Dead
4x Narcomoeba
4x Prized Amalgam
4x Stinkweed Imp
Spells (22)
4x Cathartic Reunion
2x Conflagrate
4x Creeping Chill
4x Life from the Loam
4x Memory Sluice
4x Shriekhorn
60 Cards Total

The Build
After all of this we ended up settling on Memory Sluice. The effect absolutely is weaker than Tome Scour. The success rate of hitting a dredge card on Turn 1 with Tome Scour is 66.5% with all ten in your library; with nine it is 62.1%. When you swap to Sluice, you end up at 57.9% and 53.6% respectively. The difference maker for us was castability. The deck naturally runs a high number of blacks sources so adjustments are not strictly necessary. With the build above, you will be able to Turn 1 slam a Sluice with 91.2% of two-land hands; 68.4% of one land hands as well but you generally should avoid those. So it is more consistent than Tome Scour and has no deckbuilding demands but is slightly less effective.

The conspire keyword does not come up particularly often but it is not irrelevant; every creature in the deck is eligible. Bloodghast and Narcomoeba being free and showing up summoning sick as early as Turn 2 are prime candidates; it is unfortunate that Amalgam enters tapped. I have been pleased with it so far and recommend it going forward but I cannot fault you for choosing Tome Scour for raw power. That being said, none of these cards are worthy successors to Faithless Looting. As explained above, it did so much for the deck throughout the game. These options only cover the early game effect.

To pick up the slack elsewhere you need to make some other changes. The draw effect of Looting allowed us to continue dredging after our draw step each turn, which was critical to overwhelming interactive decks. The closest replacement we have found is the combination of Life From the Loam and Forgotten Cave. With Looting it was a simple 2R cost to potentially net two dredges. To get that effect out of Loam and Cave cycling, you need to now pay 1GRR. However, you will net a bonus land in hand and do not need to pay all of that cost at once. You even can keep it going forever, but running out of Lootings before milling ourselves out was not a common occurrence.

Unfortunately, this still will not take care of everything. Looting also helped us to re-bin dredge cards that we scooped back out of the grave. Conflagrate helps a bit, as it always did, but we cannot dump all of that responsibility on it; we often want to save them for large, lategame Fireballs. To help out in the midgame, we have settled on Haunted Dead. This has been played in the pre-Chill days but has been pushed out of most lists. It returns here to bin two dredgers, or whatever else we need to bin, and trigger Amalgams on-demand. So far it has been a worthy one-of but I would not fault you for just jamming a third Conflagrate.

I do understand that this sounds like a lot of concessions but to my surprise the deck has felt almost as potent as before. Between these updates it often feels like Looting never left. Sluice will launch you in the early game. Haunted Dead will get you through the midgame. Loaming Caves will generate value in the lategame. Looting will be missed but the deck is fine. We must also consider metagame conditions. Players are reducing or even dropping graveyard hate entirely. We are certainly playing a worse Dredge deck. But we are playing a worse Dredge against fewer hate cards than ever before. This is not a deck to be slept on at all and the vast majority of players are totally unaware; take advantage of it.

I must admit that I was not expecting Dredge to feel this good post-ban. Looking over the decks we had listed as “losers” in the B&R’s wake, I would think that Dredge and Vengevine would be the most weakened. I am relieved to say that this is not the case. Dredge on you degenerates. What do you believe is causing this though? Are the Looting substitutes actually worthy or is the metagame just not prepared for graveyard decks? Please share your thoughts with us 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 next week with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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