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Against the Odds: Underworld Dredge (Standard, Magic Arena)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 225 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our first all–Theros: Beyond Death Against the Odds poll, and in the end, Underworld Breach took home a close win over Gallia of the Endless Dance. As such, we're heading to our new Standard format today to embrace the power of an enchantment that looks suspiciously like Yawgmoth's Will—one of the most broken cards in Magic's history—assuming we can fill our graveyard for escape. While there are a few ways to build an Underworld Breach plan in Standard, our deck is going all-in on the graveyard in a pseudo-dredge shell, looking to mill cards like Arclight Phoenix and Creeping Chill, which can steal some wins on their own, or at least keep us alive long enough to win by casting some game-ending spells from our graveyard with Underworld Breach. What are the odds of winning with Underworld Breach in Standard? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Underworld Dredge (Standard)

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The Deck

My first thought when Underworld Breach was previewed was that it would be sweet with Thousand-Year Storm, and while that thought seems to be correct and I expect we'll play the combo before long, a few people (most notably Ali Aintrazi) have already been streaming and making content with Underworld Breach and Thousand-Year Storm. So I wanted to try to do something different with the card rather than rehash something that at least some of you have already seen. Thankfully, it seemed like a good choice in the end since our deck today is super sweet!

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Underworld Breach is an incredibly powerful card but has a couple of major deck-building restrictions. Once it hits the battlefield, we can cast anything we want from our graveyard thanks to the escape mechanic, which allows for some sweet combo finishes. But for the plan to work, we need to have a full graveyard (to keep paying escape three for each spell we cast) and enough mana to cast those spells. One way to build around Underworld Breach is to ramp aggressively to try to make as much mana as possible. But our deck has a slightly different plan: rather than try to cast a ton of spells from our graveyard with Underworld Breach, we're more than happy to cast somewhere between three and five cheap spells (and sometimes as little as one) on the turn when we resolve Underworld Breach since these spells will usually be enough to win us the game!

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Our main way to stock the graveyard for Underworld Breach is Drowned Secrets, which allows us to mill ourselves for two whenever we cast a blue spell. Our deck has a bunch of cheap blue cantrips, including Opt, Discovery // Dispersal, and Radical Idea (which can trigger Drowned Secrets twice thanks to jump-start), so once we get a Drowned Secrets on the battlefield, we can stock our graveyard at lightning speed. Merfolk Secretkeeper is another way to fill our graveyard and synergizes with Drowned Secrets since we can cast it once to mill four cards, send it on an adventure, and then cast it as a 0/4 blocker to trigger Drowned Secrets again. In the end, this amounts to putting eight cards into our graveyard for just two mana, assuming we have a Drowned Secrets on the battlefield, which is a solid deal.

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Part of the reason why Drowned Secrets is so sweet in our deck is how it synergizes with Underworld Breach. If we have a Drowned Secrets on the battlefield, we can often cast Underworld Breach and combo off even if our graveyard isn't that full because as we escape blue cards from our graveyard, we are milling ourselves with Drowned Secrets to keep the escape chain going. With two copies of Drowned Secrets on the battlefield, every blue card that we escape ends up milling us for four cards, which is more than enough to escape something else and keep the process going. 

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So how we do actually benefit from all of our aggressive self-milling and win the game with Underworld Breach? We actually have three different, somewhat related plans. First, as we are milling ourselves, we'll find our four copies of Arclight Phoenix, which we can get back from our graveyard for free as we cast our cheap cantrips, and four Creeping Chill, which together amount to draining our opponent for 12! While Underworld Breach might not seem essential to this plan, the ability to cast it with five mana and cast something like Opt three times from our graveyard (while also hopefully milling over a bunch more cards with Drowned Secrets) to get back all of our Arclight Phoenixs is extremely helpful. Meanwhile, Ox of Agonas is just a two-of, but it gives us another way to loot through our deck and another cheap threat from the graveyard that takes advantage of all of our self-milling. 

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Our second way of winning with Underworld Breach is simply to Shock our opponent to death. One of the unique aspects of Underworld Breach is that it doesn't force us to exile the card when we escape it from the graveyard, so we can keep casting the same card over and over again as long as we have enough mana and cards to exile to escape. In the late game, we can often play Underworld Breach with something like eight mana and 30 or more cards in our graveyard, which means we can just keep escaping Shock until we burn our opponent out of the game, with the uncounterable drain from Creeping Chill helping to support the plan.

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Our last way of winning the game is a single copy of Thassa's Oracle. Thanks to our massive amounts of self-mill, it really isn't that difficult to mill our entire library. Then, we can simply cast Underworld Breach and escape Thassa's Oracle into play from our graveyard to win the game on the spot with its enters-the-battlefield trigger! While cards like Arclight Phoenix and Creeping Chill are often used aggressively, they are also very strong on defense since Arclight Phoenix can chump block and then come back from the graveyard to do it again next turn, while the lifegain from Creeping Chill helps us stabilize against aggro while we work on milling our deck. Thassa's Oracle and the ability to escape it into play with Underworld Breach allow us to switch gears and play defensively, knowing that we'll be able to win the game once we empty our library, regardless of our opponent's life total.

The Matchups

Underworld Dredge isn't a deck that especially cares about what the opponent is doing, with one big exception: graveyard hate. Our deck is very all-in on the graveyard, and while we can theoretically win by hard-casting cards like Arclight Phoenix or milling our entire deck for Thassa's Oracle, in reality, things become much more difficult if our graveyard gets locked down by something like Leyline of the Void or Kaya, Orzhov Usurper. On the other hand, we have the tools to compete with all of the major archetypes in Standard, with Creeping Chill and Merfolk Secretkeeper (for blocking) being solid against aggro, while Arclight Phoenix is great against control since it keeps coming back through wraths and removal and is good at pressuring planeswalkers. As such, rather than having good or bad matchups against specific decks, the success of Underworld Dredge is more about the specific graveyard hate cards our opponent has in the sideboard. 

The Odds

All in all, we finished 3-2 in our five matches, giving us a 60% match win percentage and making Underworld Dredge slightly above average for an Against the Odds deck, although in reality, the only reason we didn't go 4-1 was a punt against Jeskai Fires (we put a Merfolk Secretkeeper to the bottom of our deck with an Opt during our big combo turn and ended up one card short of milling enough cards to win the game), so the deck was even better than its record suggests. We even managed to beat some graveyard hate along the way, which was impressive! 

As for Underworld Breach itself, the card is obviously an insane combo supporter, but its most surprising aspect is how good it is as a fair card. We had some games where running it out just to cast a Drowned Secrets from the graveyard or to Shock one of our opponent's creatures was essential to allowing us to eventually win the game. While its combo potential makes Underworld Breach such a scary card, don't sleep on how strong is it as a way to reuse one or two key spells from the graveyard early in the game while we are looking to get our combo pieces organized and stabilize the board to set up the eventual combo kill.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

So far our exploration of Theros: Beyond Death has mostly been focused on Standard, but there are some cards from the set that have potential to do some crazy things in Pioneer! Which of these jank all-stars should we build around in Pioneer next week? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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