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Vintage 101: Dredge-a-pa-looza!

I love Diversity! 

I have spent an inordinate amount of time scouring Vintage metagame results over the past two years. During that time I have noticed many different trends, but the major takeaway was that very few decks were dominating everything. The big decks from the past are still very good, but overall things seem much more varied than they used to be. Reading the results on the MTGGoldfish Vintage Metagame page used to feel like listening to a broken record, but now I find an interesting deck list or two every time the page is updated.

There's another occurrence that has been consistent since I started writing about this format and that is the fact that people always mention how expensive it is. Well, they're not wrong, but the situation isn't quite as dire as people like to think. Last year at Eternal Weekend one of the "budget decks" from the Vintage Championship actually made Top Eight in the event and that's truly impressive. The Tribal Eldrazi decks have not been as popular recently, but Eternal Weekend is coming up again so I expect to see people testing out some Eldrazi Stompy decks very soon!

The other archetype that gets mentioned every time that people talk about the cost of Vintage is Dredge. Depending on how you build it Dredge can be very affordable online and in paper the deck is also one of the cheapest available. The main cost is Bazaar of Baghdad, but otherwise the deck is filled with a lot of draft-chaff looking creatures and spells.

This past weekend, in the Vintage Challenge there were several Dredge decks that did well, and it was a Pitch Dredge deck that won the entire event! I figured that this week would be a good time to celebrate this archetype by showcasing each of these decks from the top sixteen. 

Vintage Challenge Winner Erin Campbell's Pitch Dredge

I'm not surprised to see Erin win this event; she plays a lot of Dredge in Vintage and Legacy and is quite adept with the archetype. The thing about this event that I find a bit surprising is the fact that there were a total of four Dredge decks with a 4-1 or better record. With Paradoxical Outcome in the format along with some nasty anti-Dredge sideboard tech, I really didn't think that the Dredge archetype was in that good of a position. It appears that I was incorrect because Dredge performed very well in this event!

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Another interesting thing about the decks is how they all had Hollow One in the sideboard, even though the Dredge decks that placed were a mixture of "Pitch Dredge" and "Traditional Dredge." Erin Campbell's winning list was running Force of Wills with Hollow Ones and Gurmag Anglers in the sideboard. The next highest-placing Dredge deck piloted by the German mad scientist Oddseidank played a similar Pitch list but he kept the Dark Depths plan that used to be the norm.

Pitch Depths

OddSeidank's main deck is pretty typical of Pitch Dredge. The sideboard plan he's using has changed somewhat. In the past these decks ran Depths and Thespian's Stage along with some Vampire Hexmages and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. This list drops the Hexmages and replaces them with four Hollow Ones and two Gurmag Anglers. So it basically splits the difference between the old transformation sideboard and the newer adaptation.

The downside to playing with this sideboard configuration is that it leaves no room for any anti-hate cards. If you can't interact with a hate card on the stack with Force of Will or Mental Misstep you now have to depend entirely on your transformation plan. These days people are much more prepared for a Dredge deck to alter their game plan. This means that a Dredge player's opponent is likely prepared with more than just graveyard hate. Opposing players will likely have either Swords to Plowshares, Balance, Pithing Needle, or something else that can disrupt the Dredge deck's "Plan B". 

Combo Dredge

Against a goldfish a Dredge deck will win by turn three most of the time, probably about 75% of the time if I had to guess. In Vintage that's not always fast enough, especially since Dredge decks don't always run counterspells, and they don't have mana-taxing cards to slow their opponents down either. This next build of Dredge plays with certain spells to enable it to win as early as turn one (rarely) or two. 

This deck has no Mental Missteps, no Force of Will, not even Unmask. There's only Cabal Therapy for disruption, but it's used simply to clear a path for Dread Return most of the time. In the place of the aforementioned disruptive spells this deck includes Fatestitchers, Lion's Eye Diamond, and other fast mana, and Sun Titan

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Fatestitcher gives this deck more Bazaar of Baghdad activations. Any Dredge player will tell you that the games where they get two active Bazaars are very explosive. A Fatestitcher in the graveyard does a reasonable impression of drawing a second Bazaar. Usually the extra activation will mean that you can win one turn faster, and this is how the deck is able to win on turn two. Dredge decks don't play a ton of lands, and that's why there's some fast artifact mana in this list. 

To win on turn one, the deck needs Lion's Eye Diamond. The Diamond gives the deck the mana it needs to unearth a Fatestitcher, but the discard clause on LED is equally as important. By discarding your hand with Lion's Eye Diamond you are most likely filling your graveyard with dredgers and/or Fatestitchers.

Sun Titan gives the deck even more ways to get extra Bazaar activations. Once you start your big dredging turn you may get to a point where you could cast Dread Return for Flame-Kin Zealot, but it wouldn't create a lethal horde of zombies. In those cases if there's a Sun Titan in your graveyard you can reanimate it with Dread Return and use the Titan's trigger to put a Bazaar  onto the battlefield from your graveyard. 

With three Titans, three Fatestitchers, and four pieces of artifact mana this deck should be much faster than a traditional Dredge list. This speed does come at a cost though; there isn't much in this deck that can stop your opponent from doing anything. If in game one your opponent happens to be playing something like Sorcerous Spyglass and they lock down your Bazaar before you can do anything, you're probably going to lose.

After sideboarding the deck gains access to Serenity and Nature's Claim which adds some much-needed disruption. Just like the other Dredge decks from this event there's also the Hollow One/Gurmag Angler sideboard plan. 

Traditional Dredge

The fourth Dredge deck with a 4-1 or better record was this more traditional Dredge deck played by GrindSonic.

GrindSonic's list contains some important cards that many other Dredge decks on Magic Online now choose to omit. The most obvious and important of these spells would be Leyline of the Void.

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Leyline of the Void is important to Dredge for a couple of reasons. First of all, Leyline gives Dredge an edge in mirror matches. If you can start the game with a Leyline in play then you stand a great chance of dominating the mirror. The other important factor here is that Leyline of the Void protects one of your most powerful cards; Bridge from Below

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Since Leyline of the Void stops creatures from entering your opponent's graveyard it prevents Bridge from Below from exiling itself whenever one of your opponent's creatures die. Bridge from Below is fantastic at grinding down your opponents, especially in situations where you are unable to cast any spells. Workshop decks can stop the Bridge plan by playing a Walking Ballista or Hangarback Walker for zero mana and letting it die. Arcbound Ravager can also be used to exile a Bridge from Below. Given the prevalence of Workshop decks in Vintage it makes sense why Leyline of the Void is important. 

On Magic Online I see many people cutting Leylines from their deck due to the overall low amount of Dredge decks in the online meta. In paper Vintage events it seems to be far more common to include Leylines in Dredge builds, and I assume that is due to Dredge being more common in paper Vintage tournaments. 

The one major caveat about Leyline of the Void in Dredge is that since it's only useful in your opening hand it creates some tension with the "mulligan for Bazaar of Baghdad plan." Unfortunately this is just a reality of playing with these particular cards, so there's not much that one can do about it. 


Dredge in Vintage

Dredge is always present in the metagame due to the consistent and powerful nature of the archetype, but its success rate waxes and wanes considerably. When the majority of decks in the field are well-prepared to fight Dredge you'll see the deck be less successful. When people trim too much of that graveyard hate though, that's when Dredge starts to be a nightmare for the opposition. 

With Eternal Weekend coming up, I kind of expect to see more Dredge being played on Magic Online over the following weeks. Other than the expense of a paper set of Bazaar of Baghdads the Dredge archetype is very inexpensive to build. The Vintage Championship at Eternal Weekend is sanctioned and as such no play-test cards are allowed. This fact makes Dredge look very attractive to someone wanting to play in the event, and Magic Online Vintage Leagues are the perfect place to test out a new Dredge build 



Looking at the top sixteen decks from that Vintage Challenge showed that there were several interesting lists. The "Combo MUD" from my last article put up a 4-1 record in the event, and their was a really cool Storm deck with Force of Will, Show and Tell, and four copies of Yawgmoth's Bargain. Ravager Shops also had a few appearances, but overall the field seemed pretty diverse from my point of view. 

I'm stoked to see that Dredge did so well because it's one of the decks that many people can afford relatively easily. Dredge can be a really fun deck to play at times too, even if it occasionally gets me into hyper-tilt mode. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll be back soon with more Vintage action! Congratulations to Erin Campbell again, and be sure to watch her on this season's Vintage Super League. 

You can find me on Twitter, The Mana Drain, or Magic Online @Islandswamp



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