Dredge is a strategy that many players turn their noses up at. It has quite the reputation for being a degenerate, undervalued deck. However, in spite of popular belief, it can actually be a very fun, competitive, and complex deck to play. It is the ultimate graveyard deck in Magic. And the Vintage version is the zenith of the strategy. Today, we are going to be taking an in depth look at constructing and playing Vintage Dredge.
Vintage Dredge is the ultimate graveyard deck. It eloquently combines aspects of reanimator, tempo, and aggro strategies into a single efficient package. The entire deck is one huge synergy, and every card in it helps to push the strategy forward in some way. In fact playing Dredge is honestly unlike playing any other deck. The closest thing to it would be Legacy Elves, or maybe a few combo decks in EDH. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Dredge is, as it is always changing what it wants to be. But at the end of the day, it is fast, mean, and very powerful.
Dredge decks attack the game at a different angle from all other Magic decks. While most decks rely on traditional control, combo, or aggro elements, Dredge decks run almost exclusively out of a pilot’s graveyard. While this does mean that the deck is very susceptible to graveyard hate, it also means that the deck can explosively win out of nowhere — mainly due to the deck’s namesake mechanic, “Dredge”. If you enjoy fast paced, high stake, synergistic games, then Dredge just may be the deck for you. While it does have consistency issues at times, it completely dominates in the games where it works.
Dredge is the mechanic that drives all Dredge strategies forward. Without it, the deck would be nowhere near as functional. “Dredge X” (X is a number) states that if you would draw a card, you may instead opt to put a number of cards in your graveyard equal to X from a creature with Dredge in your graveyard. Then you put the creature card you dredged back into your hand. This mechanic allows Dredge decks to have incredibly explosive turns, allowing the deck to win almost out of nowhere, as well as come back from very bad positions.
Below is an example list. We’ll go through descriptions of each of the cards in it later on. Usually I like to do the descriptions organized by card type. However, this time it will be organized by the card’s respective role in the deck, in order to make the deck’s lines of play more clear.
4 Mana Confluence
2 Petrified Field
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
1 Dakmor Salvage
1 Riftstone Portal
4 Undiscovered Paradise
Other Spells (18)
4 Cabal Therapy
3 Dread Return
4 Serum Powder
4 Bridge from Below
3 Mindbreak Trap
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Golgari Thug
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Dragonlord Kolaghan
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Gurmag Angler
4 Hollow One
3 Leyline of the Void
4 Nature’s Claim
Big Win Cons
While Dredge can win on its own without these, each one of these cards are the big finishers that either win games by themselves, or help to seal the deal. It all starts with Dread Return.
Dread Return: This is one of the most vital cards in our deck. Since most of our deck ends up in our graveyard, Dread Return’s flashback ability is vital to its importance. Typically it will be very easy to cast for its flashback cost, and once we resolve it, we basically have the game in the bag. There are a lot of options for Dread Return targets, but generally the best ones are Dragonlord Kolaghan, Elesh Norn, and other similar creatures.
Dragonlord Kolaghan: This card is very brutal, as it can give all of our creatures haste, as well as effectively prevent our opponent from casting certain spells. It allows us to close out a game very quickly, while not having to worry about dangerous cards our opponent may have already cast, or that we Therapied away. A lot of times Kolaghan is better against control and combo decks.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite: Elesh Norn is another very powerful target for Dread Return. It also allows us to very quickly close out a game. It is typically best against creature heavy decks like Delver and MUD. However, we can still use it to quickly close out any game if we are certain that there are no ways for our opponent to deal with it in time.
Here are a few other cards that some people choose to play as additions, or in replacement, to the cards mentioned above. Each one has its own use in certain situations and metas. Which ones to play are entirely up to you. It might be a good idea to experiment with a bunch of different combinations until you find the ones you like the most.
- Iona, Shield of Emeria – Very good at shutting out a specific color.
- Emrakul, the Promised End – A generally good finisher.
- Griselbrand – Very good at finding answers as well as putting a lot of pressure on an opponent.
- Ashen Rider – Sacrificing it to a Cabal Therapy gives us a way to deal with cards like Griselbrand.
Stinkweed Imp: Stinkweed Imp is not only a fairly cheap blocker that has psuedo deathtouch, but it is a powerful dredger that helps get our engine going. Putting four cards in the graveyard for a single draw is no laughing matter.
Golgari Thug: While Golgari Thug mainly serves as another dredger, its other ability can actually be pretty useful sometimes. If we need to put a Narcomoeba, Ingot Chewer, or some other creature back into our library so we can use it again, Golgari Thug has got us covered.
Golgari Grave-Troll: In general you will never cast this creature. Its main purpose is for dredging. It has the highest dredge number of all cards in our deck, allowing us to win that much faster.
Dakmor Salvage: Dakmor Salvage is a one of because it doesn’t do a lot. However, having a land that also dredges can be useful sometimes.
Narcomoeba: Narcomoeba primarily serves as a way to get Dread Return online quickly. However, it does have the added benefit of being a flying blocker and beater that can sometimes help push extra damage through.
Bridge from Below: Bridge from Below is a very powerful card in our deck. Since we have a bunch of creatures that will be leaving and entering the battlefield a lot, we can quickly build a huge army of zombies in only a few turns. Just be careful that your opponent doesn’t find a way to sacrifice their own creatures to remove Bridge from your graveyard.
Mindbreak Trap: Mindbreak Trap is very good against a lot of combo and storm decks. It primarily serves as protection so that we don’t lose the game on the spot.
Cabal Therapy: Cabal Therapy is good against almost every strategy, and since most of our creatures are easily reoccur-able, we can very easily get double use out of Cabal Therapy without much worry.
Serum Powder: Since most of our deck is a huge synergy, exiling some cards only helps to make the deck faster. In a lot of games it is best to muligan until you get a Bazaar of Baghdad, and Serum Powder lets us do just that. While it seems like it would be bad to exile cards from our deck, it can actually make us way more consistent overall.
Bazaar of Baghdad: Bazaar of Baghdad is the key that turns our engine on. It is one of the pivotal cards in the deck, and we would struggle without it. The land allows us to put a ton of cards in our graveyard in one turn, getting dredge online, and placing key pieces into our graveyard.
Fatestitcher: Fatestitcher is nice because it is reoccur-able and allows us to tap annoying creatures that our opponents may be throwing against us. We can use it to prolong a game, or to prevent our opponent from blocking our creatures.
Petrified Field: Petrified Field can be used to return our destroyed or dredged lands back to our hand. It can be useful to get Bazaar’s back, as well as multi-color sources if we need to cast sideboard cards.
**Please note that this is just an example sideboard. Depending on your meta it may need a lot of revision, but this is just a general list that should be alright for a wide variety of match ups.
Abrupt Decay: Since so many decks in Vintage run very low costed spells, Abrupt decay can be a really good option. It dodges counterspells, and ensures that we are able to remove whatever card may be causing us trouble.
Gurmag Angler: Gurmag Angler is good for dodging hate. It allows us to actually circumvent a lot of our opponent’s hate cards and still win games.
Hollow One: Hollow One does much the same thing as Gurmag Angler, however it is possible to play this card on turn one with Bazaar. A lot of opponents will muddle up their deck with hate pieces for dredge, not expecting to face a turn one 4/4. Sometimes it just simply can’t be answered, and that is what makes it a very powerful meta option in an attempt to bypass dredge hate.
Leyline of the Void: Leyline of the Void is very good against the mirror match, as well as many combo decks like storm. Usually you’ll want to be running four of this card if you are going to play it. However, since we have three Mindbreak Traps in the maindeck, the list above only runs three of these.
Nature’s Claim: Nature’s Claim serves much the same purpose as cards like Abrupt Decay and Ingot Chewer. There are a lot of annoying artifacts and enchantments in Vintage, and these cards help to get past them.
Combo: Combo matchups can be rough for us. A lot of combo decks in Vintage are very fast and also have relevant control pieces that can easily shut us down. While we do play a lot of cards that can also shut combo down, the matchups can be pretty difficult. Ripping hands apart with Cabal Therapy can help, but if we can’t race them or find our few answers, the game is very difficult to win.
Control: Control match ups can also be kinda difficult. Many control decks just simply have too many ways to deal with our threats. It is possible to overwhelm them if we get going early enough, but a lot of the time they will overwhelm us with their sheer amount of consistency. This match up isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either.
Midrange: Going off as early as possible is key in these match ups. If a midrange deck is left to play against us for too long, then we lose our ability to catch up to them. We have to overwhelm them, shoot past their disruption, and go for the win, all while presenting them a ridiculous amount of our own redundancy. The matches can get quite grindy, so be ready for a long game.
Aggro & Tempo: Aggro and Tempo are at the same spot against Dredge. Even though Tempo has more answers than Aggro does, both decks are not too difficult for Dredge to get by. Our deck just overwhelms them too much to keep up. Typically their few answers will be used on high priority cards, but our deck’s consistency will power us through to a win. It is possible to lose quickly to these decks, however, we also have a pretty good chance at overwhelming them.
Overall, Dredge is an intricate deck that is in a league all its own. Playing unlike any other Magic deck, it has powered its way into relevancy in many of Magic’s eternal formats including Vintage. If you are looking for a fun, powerful, and very explosive deck, that steers away from typical Magic: The Gathering strategy, then Dredge just might be the deck for you (just be careful that you don’t accidentally run out of cards by dredging too much).
I hope this article was helpful in some way to you! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to leave them in the section below.
And as always, happy gaming!