Dredge going into Summer 2017
Later this summer I am finishing my playset of Bazaars and planning on playing Dredge in cardboard (and likely MTGO). I found a store planning on running Vintage every other week (100% proxies allowed)
I wanted to get some thoughts here on where Dredge sits in the metagame. I will have the ability to play "traditional" Dredge or Pitch Dredge (with or without the Dark Depths transformational sideboard)
I occasionally play Dredge online (it's my only deck online and I don't have the money to get other decks). I really like playing Dredge and I think people underestimate how fun it is to play it, since it has such a bad reputation for being an unfun deck. People who haven't played much Dredge can't have an appreciation for the strange games that very regularly come up when playing Dredge.
So where does it sit in the metagame right now? Unfortunately, I don't think it's incredibly well off right now. It's certainly not that bad, but it's probably under 50% to win a random sample game, in general. Ironically, I don't believe it's because of Dredge hate. It is my belief that Dredge can fight through tremendous amounts of hate with either game plan it chooses to (transformational or anti-hate, both being viable). It's sure rough when someone is playing nine hate pieces, but most people don't, and a lot of people are even cutting Dredge hate right now.
Dredge suffers a lot from recent printings. Specifically, Paradoxical Outcome, Hangerback Walker, and Walking Ballista. Let's get Paradoxical Outcome out of the way first because it's easy and intuitive to understand why it's so bad for Dredge: it's very fast. Slower controlling decks can play Paradoxical Outcome, but it's so good at going through their deck that it allows them to find multiple hate pieces, if that's what they need to do, or Tinker, which Dredge can rarely beat. Faster combo decks that play Paradoxical Outcome just crush Dredge because they're so much faster and, unlike against Ritual Storm, things like Leyline and Mental Misstep don't really help against PO. It's definitely notable that Pitch Dredge versions that play Mindbreak Trap and Force of Will are much stronger against Paradoxical Outcome for obvious reasons.
Now for the Workshop pieces. Well, I want to first start off by saying that from a historical perspective, Dredge has had a rather strong matchup against Mishra's Workshop in the past. Workshop decks used to be so slow and focused on players being unable to cast spells that sometimes they'd just lose to Ichorid and a Bridge or two and Dredge doesn't have to cast spells to win. Even hate pieces backed up by Spheres sometimes wasn't enough because the Workshop players just didn't have a whole lot of pressure. Also, Dredge anti-hate just so happened to be able to destroy any of Workshop's clocks, so Dredge was in a commanding position in the matchup.
Workshop plays on a different axis now. The printing of Hangerback Walker quickly led to Ravager Shops being the default Workshop build and other Workshop variations became practically extinct due to the success of Ravager Shops. Arcbound Ravager is BAD news for Dredge because it's so effective at shutting down Bridges (Hangerback Walker can also shut down Bridges, though it isn't nearly so effective at it by itself). Sometimes Workshops can win without playing any hate pieces and even without stripping Bazaar just by shutting down Bridges and folding the Dredge game plan into dust. In addition, it can finish a game out of nowhere, which isn't the sort of pressure Dredge wants to see when it needs to take some time to find answers.
The printing of Walking Ballista has made things even worse for Dredge by solidifying the position of Ravager Shops as the best deck in the format, and also as a Triskellion that can by casted for 2 mana (Triskellion being another creature that can destroy Bridges on its whim). Walking Ballista is now yet another creature in Workshop decks that can kill itself at will to shut off Bridges, and it's also led to even more pressure because its combination with Arcbound Ravager can lead to quick kills that Dredge can't recover from without Bridges.
In a few short years, Workshops have transformed from having a fundamentally weak game plan against Dredge into a deck that just so happens to incidentally destroy Dredge's pieces. Workshops is pretty much universally (at least it seems that way) considered the best deck in the format and it's definitely one of the most popular, and other popular decks right now include Paradoxical Outcome decks of all flavors. It's just not Dredge's time right now. For what it's worth, I think Dredge has solid matchups against most other decks.
Dredge is poised to do really well, I have finished in several top8s this year so far and as long as you have a deep understanding of the cards and their roles in the various match ups, you can easily attack a meta and roll over your opponents. Knowing what to change main deck/side board is the largest hurdle a dredge player needs to overcome to be competitive. Learning how to play pre and post board is relatively easy once you understand the nuances associated with different match ups. I will say that I think unmask is or ought to be a 4x in every dredge list.
Dredge recently took down two notable events in paper, and is still a strong archetype.
As always, the question is "are other decks skimping on a sideboard plan for dredge. If yes, brains are on the menu. If not, it can be a rough field."
Also, the ability to vary up your dredge approach can be great. Pitch dredge is magical in a blue heavy field. The shops match-up depends a bit on what flavor of Workshop decks sits across the table.
Dredge is a fascinating deck. When playing against dredge it can be difficult to predict if passing the turn may or may not bring a lethal horde of zombies.
Thanks to everyone for some advice. I'm on Dredge for Eternal Weekend and also know I need real-world games to understand what to do against various decks.
@Winterstar I would say that the first thing people need to learn when battling dredge (aside from the basic premise of what the deck does) is learning how to evaluate just how threatening their graveyard actually is, in particular learning to recognize when you are likely to die next turn. Knowing when you need to immediately play to thin outs will add some points to the matchup.
@rikter It also helps to agressively mull to your sideboard cards against dredge. >.>
I am proxying Dredge after NYSE. I am going with traditional Unmask Dredge. If I like it enough I will move on a set of Bazaars but i'm not too worried about it.