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Budget Magic: $100 Dredge (Modern)

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we're heading to Modern to see if we can win some games of Magic by not playing Magic at all. And by this, I mean we're playing Dredge! Dredge is an infamous mechanic, in large part because it doesn't really play like a real Magic deck by doing things like casting spells and playing removal. Instead, the goal of Dredge is singular and surprisingly simple: get a card with the dredge mechanic in the graveyard and spend each of our turns skipping our draws to dredge that card back to our hand. As we dredge, we'll mill over more dredge cards and ideally mill most of our deck over the course of a few turns, which should let us win the game with a combination of creatures that return from our graveyard to the battlefield for free, like Prized Amalgam, Narcomoeba, and Silversmote Ghoul, and direct damage from Creeping Chill. Can the Dredge plan work on a $100 budget? Can we win games of Magic by refusing to actually play Magic? Let's find out on today's Budget Magic! Oh yeah, a quick reminder that if you enjoy Budget Magic and the other content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Budget Magic: $100 Dredge

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The Deck

Dredge is... Dredge? Honestly, I'm not even sure how to describe the archetype. The best description is probably as a graveyard combo deck, but there's really no other deck in all of Magic like Dredge. Here's the plan:

Step One: Get a Dredger in the Graveyard

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By far the most important thing to know about playing Dredge is that for our plan to work, we need to be able to get a card with the Dredge mechanic into our graveyard by Turn 2 at the latest. This is so important to our deck (and we are so disinterested in casting spells like a normal Magic deck) that we are more than willing to mulligan all the way to three or four cards in hand to achieve this goal. We have a few ways to stock our graveyard quickly. Otherworldly Gaze mills three cards for one mana, hopefully allowing us to mill a Dredger. Merchant of the Vale's adventure mode lets us rummage for a single mana. Meanwhile, Cathartic Reunion and Thrilling Discovery are two of the only cards in our deck we really care about casting. Normally, discarding two cards and then drawing three is a drawback because if the spell gets countered, we won't get to draw any cards (although the wording on Thrilling Discovery gets around this). But this is actually a huge upside in Dredge because we can discard dredge cards from our hand and then immediately skip our draws from Cathartic Reunion or Thrilling Discovery to dredge them back to our hand to fill our graveyard...

Step Two: Dredge (Again and Again and Again)

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Once we get a dredge card in the graveyard, our goal is to stop playing Magic. For the rest of the game, rather than drawing cards, we choose to dredge to fill our graveyard, with the idea being that we can chain together dredge cards (or keep drawing and discarding them from our hand with cards like Cathartic Reunion and Thrilling Discovery) to mill most of our deck at lightning speed. Outside of Darkblast, which is good at sniping things like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Orcish Bowmasters, we essentially never want to cast our dredge cards. (There is one exception we'll talk about later.) Instead, we just want to keep dredging them in and out of our graveyard so we can keep self-milling until we hit our payoffs, build an unbeatable board, and win the game. When it comes to evaluating dredge cards, all that really matters is their dredge number—the number of cards we get to mill when we dredge them. So, Stinkweed Imp is our best dredger since it mills five cards when we dredge it back to hand, following by Golgari Thug and then Darkblast. But as I mentioned before, once we start dredging, in theory, we should keep milling over more sredge cards to keep the self-mill chain going.

Step Three: Winning the Game

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The beauty of Dredge (or the horror, depending on your view of the archetype) is we really don't have to do anything but keep on dredging to win the game since we have a bunch of cards that do damage when they are milled or return from our graveyard to the battlefield for free. If we mill Narcomoeba, it returns to the battlefield, giving us a free 1/1 flier. This will also trigger any Prized Amalgams in our graveyard to return to the battlefield on our next end step. Over the course of the game, we'll also (hopefully) mill all four Creeping Chills, for a total of 12 direct damage and lifegain. The Creeping Chills will also trigger any Silversmote Ghouls in our graveyard to return to the battlefield since they gain us three life. The Silversmote Ghouls will trigger any Prized Amalgams to return as well. Basically, as we mill these cards, they let us quickly build and overwhelming board. It's very possible that we can end our second turn with something like four or five bodies and 12+ power on the battlefield. We don't really care if our opponent has removal because all of our stuff will likely return to play the next turn anyway as we keep on dredging.

Step Four: The Finishers

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There are two final non-land cards in our deck we haven't discussed yet: Ox of Agonas and Conflagrate. Ox of Agonas is basically a Cathartic Reunion that we can mill and then escape from our graveyard as a 5/3. Not only does this add a meaningful body to the battlefield, but discarding our hand and then drawing three cards (which actually means dredging Stinkweed Imp three times) also usually mills most of the cards left in our deck, which should find us the Creeping Chills and other finishers we need to close out the game. On the other hand, Conflagrate is an oddball one-of. The idea is that we will hopefully mill it (if it ends up in our hand, we typically cast it with X = 0 just to get it in the graveyard); then, later in the game, we can flash it back, discard our hand, and get a burst of damage (while also restocking our graveyard with dredgers). This can let us take down an annoying creature on our opponent's side of the battlefield or simply throw damage at our opponent's face. (A full-hand Conflagrate combined with four Creeping Chills adds up to 19 total damage, potentially enough to win the game without any combat damage, assuming our opponent cracks a fetch land or plays a shock land untapped.)

The Sideboard

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If you look at our sideboard, you'll see it's very narrowly focused on one thing: stopping our opponent's graveyard hate. While Dredge is incredibly annoying, unique, and powerful, it does have one big issue: our entire plan can fall apart if our opponent can shut down our graveyard with a Rest in Peace or even just whip it once with an Endurance. As such, our sideboard is overloaded with cards that can answer artifacts and enchantments (the most common form of graveyard hate), while Leyline of Sanctity stops us from being targeted by Endurance, another popular graveyard-hate spell.

What happens if our opponent manages to stick something like a Rest in Peace and we can't find any answer? Remember when I mentioned there was one exception to the "never cast your dredgers" rule? Welp, this is it. If our graveyard gets shut down, we try to win the game by hard-casting Golgari Thugs, Stinkweed Imps, and friends. It isn't especially likely because all of our creatures are pretty underpowered if we have to, you know, pay for them, but it does happen on occasion.

In general, you should assume that every opponent will have some sort of graveyard hate, which means you should bring in at least some answers every match. We're likely to win anyway if our opponent doesn't have graveyard hate, even with some dead draws in our deck, but if they do have graveyard hate, we need to answer it, or else we are in for a bad game. In general, the way Dredge works is that we hopefully win game one of the match while our opponent is lacking sideboard cards, and then we hope to steal one of games two or three while fighting through the hate.


Record-wise, I played two leagues with the deck and went 2-3 twice, although I don't think this is because we're playing on a $100 budget. Sure, our mana base could be upgraded a bit, but in general, our mana wasn't an issue. We just ran into a lot of opponents who had graveyard hate, which makes life as a Dredge player tough. In general, Dredge is a metagame deck. If the meta gets too fair or too lacking in graveyard hate, Dredge can sneak in and wreck everyone, but if the meta is prepared for Dredge, it can have a hard time fighting through the hate.

As far as upgrades to the deck, outside of general mana base upgrades, the one big card we're missing is Gemstone Caverns, which often shows up as a four-of in Dredge sideboards. You bring it in on the draw and hopefully speed the deck up by a turn, and then take it back out on the play where it is horrible. The problem is a playset of Gemstone Caverns is currently around $200, tripling the deck's price, but if you are trying to eke out every advantage in a tournament, it's probably worth the price, even though you'll only use it in something like 30% of your games.

So, should you play $100 Dredge in Modern? I think Dredge is a great second or third deck to have around. It can be put together cheaply, and if your LGS meta gets too fair or people are skimping on graveyard hate, you can bring in Dredge for a week and probably win the event. The problem is the next week, everyone will load up on graveyard hate, so you'll probably want to switch back to another deck for a while until the heat dies down. As such, I wouldn't want Dredge to be my only Modern deck—it's too easy to hate on if your opponents know it's coming. But as a second or third option, it can be a hilarious way to win games of Magic while not really playing much Magic at all!

Ultra Budget / Non-Budget Dredge

I don't think an ultra-budget version of Dredge is really possible. The only expensive card in the deck is City of Brass, but it's essential in making the four-color mana work. I guess you could replace it with a tapped five-color land or something like Aether Hub, but my guess is this will make the deck too slow and / or inconsistent to really compete, although it would drop the deck's cost down to under $50.

Meanwhile, you can check out tournament-winning Dredge lists here. They look a lot like our deck but with upgraded mana and sideboard cards, with the most expensive upgrade being Gemstone Caverns, as we discussed before. The good news about Modern Dredge is that, even fully upgraded, it's still not that expensive compared to most decks in the format, coming in at around $500 or $600 depending on the build.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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