An Introduction to Dredge

What is Dredge?
Dredge is a Vintage deck that relies on abusing its graveyard in a very unique way. This deck functions off of the powerful engine that is Bazaar of Baghdad. This card is so instrumental to the power and speed of the deck that you always want to mulligan until you find it in your beginning hand.

How Does Dredge Work?
Dredge functions off of the immense power of Bazaar of Baghdad with cards that have the keyword Dredge. Bazaar of Baghdad serves the purpose of both digging for a Dredge card and as a discard outlet for the Dredge cards. Once you get a Dredge card in the graveyard you will want to dredge as many cards as possible. Eventually you will hit a free creature such as Ichorid, Bloodghast, Narcomoeba or Prized Amalgam. Once you get a few creatures onto the battlefield then you can begin beating down with your creatures or zombies, disrupting your opponent with Cabal Therapy or go for a quick kill with Dread Return. One of the powers of dredge is that you can often do all three of these things in conjunction because of how synergistic the deck is and how powerful it is.

Why Play Dredge?
Dredge is an extremely powerful deck that has the highest game 1-win rate. This immense power is also its biggest weakness, as it is extremely reliant on having its graveyard intact, and being able to return creatures from the graveyard for free. This means that Dredge is an extremely meta-dependent deck, as you will destroy any tournament where your metagame is not prepared for you. Otherwise you have many options to fight through games 2 and/or 3, such as a transformational sideboard, an anti-hate sideboard, or a mix of the two. If you enjoy playing decks that operate on a completely different axis than other regular magic decks, then this deck is likely very appealing to you. Navigating a post-sideboard game can be very difficult, and is often the most skill testing and interesting games of magic available as you must often bait and play around all kinds of very effective hate. It is also by far the cheapest vintage deck available, and can be built for roughly $200 online depending on your build which is about half of the typical vintage deck price online. In paper it is even cheaper in relation to other vintage decks, as it is only around $6000 to $7000 with Bazaars of Bagdad. If your playgroup or local game store allows proxies, then it is possible to build it for less than $300!

The Core of Dredge:
One of the most beautiful aspects of dredge is how customizable and small the core package is. The typical dredge core takes up only 20 to 40 cards, allowing you to have up to 35 flexible or customizable slots.
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Serum Powder
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Narcomoeba
4 Bridge from Below
4 Cabal Therapy
4+ Free creatures
4+ Support cards
2+ Dread Return
2+ Dread Return target

Types of Dredge:
Pitch Dredge or FOWchorid: right now this is the most popular variant of dredge. It is very versatile because of its inclusion of free counter spells. It typically runs an anti-hate sideboard right now, but in the past many people have had success running transformational sideboards with it. It is a
relatively new development, having started only a few years ago.
Loam Dredge: a hybrid of sorts, this version of dredge takes many of the free, disruptive, blue counterspells, and adds that package to a grindy Life from the Loam plan. This allows the deck to attack from a different angle than most other lists, enabling it to function much better when the deck is not being exiled, but merely hated on. It can also add pressure and consistency as you will have an easier time building up your mana, and will be able to Strip Mine your opponents mana.
[Sunny Dredge or Fatestitcher Dredge]
(https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1dQ6p89Dot0OMjIw0ed_FtDRLRausMMx15_IcvyNWv2Y/edit#gid=455540353😞 this version of dredge is a lot older than Pitch Dredge. It relies on the explosive power of an unearthed Fatestitcher to continue Bazaaring and to eventually Dread Return a Sun Titan or Molderhulk. This variant is by far the quickest, but it uses many more slots than other versions.
Regular Dredge: truthfully there is no such thing as “Regular Dredge”, but it typically runs as many 4 ofs as possible to maximize consistency.

More Info:
Rich Shay is a well known vintage player who often streams. He is currently on the VSL, and has the record for most Eternal Weekend Top 8 ever, but has never won. He is a great resources when it comes to vintage in general, but he recently has been playing and experimenting with a bit of Pitch Dredge. I recommend you take a look at some of his videos to see a master at work.
@volrathxp Is also a content creator when it comes to vintage dredge, and an article writer over on https://www.mtggoldfish.com/. He is also a moderator on the Dredge discord channel. If you would like an invite or any more information, I am sure that he would be more than happy to help.

Notable dredge players that I know of on TMD include @Oestrus, @BlindTherapy, @vaughnbros, @womba and @The-Atog-Lord

last edited by Rat3dE

Thanks for getting the ball rolling on a dredge "primer" discussion!

I'd say the decks core is much smaller than that as I've played plenty of lists that have less than 4 Troll/Imp/Bridge/ect. The true core of the current iterations of the deck seems to be more like:
4 Bazaar
4 Powder (some may argue this as well)
9+ Dredgers
This is the engine of the deck's game 1 plan, and if you deviated from this then you can't play the Mull to Bazaar Dredge my deck strategy. Everything beyond that is really build specific choices. Free Creatures into Therapy+Return just happens to be the current most efficient way to end the game at this point.

As such, the types of dredge are vast. If we are talking about common dredge lists right now, it seems like there are two schools: "Pitch Dredge", and "Loam Dredge". One focusing on supporting the core of the deck with Free Spells, while the other focuses on supporting the core with additional GY dependent cards that function under non-exile effects.

@vaughnbros Personally I feel like the core is pretty set. I understand that you play many interesting versions of dredge, but as a general primer I thought it was a better idea to show what I would qualify as the simple core. I know that for Fatestitcher Dredge they will often cut Bridges, and I understand why, but for most decks I think you really want the playset.

On the other hand I am very interested in what you call "Loam Dredge". I know a little bit about it, but I would like to know more. Do you have any good sources of information or decklists to share?

Most dredge lists have a pretty clear portion of their deck that is 'dredge stuff' and a pretty clear portion that is non-dredge. Dredge stuff includes your dredgers, free graveyard creatures, flashback spells, and of course Serum Powders and Bazaar of Baghdads. The non-dredge stuff consists of disruption, anti-hate, mana, and any transformational plan.

My Pitch lists typically come to 40-43 'dredge stuff' cards, and other lists (like generic anti-hate lists) fall in that same range. Maybe "core" isn't quite the right word because you can trim or expand this section, but it's certainly the core strategy and is quite frequently in the 40+ range in terms of slots taken.

@rat3de Want vs need is the point that I am trying to make here. The core of "needs" to be classified as a dredge deck, and execute the dredge gameplan is extremely small. If the idea to establish of a core of needs then its a very small list.

If the idea is to put commonly played cards, there are others you are missing:
4 Hollow One
3+ Mana Confluence
3+ Nature's Claim
4 Mental Misstep
4 Prized Amalgam
2+ Dread Return (not just 1+)
1 Elesh Norn
1 FKZ / Kologhan
3+ LoTV
So there really aren't 39 flex cards. Its more like 20ish if you want to be strict about the core being the most popular cards. That is to say, the deck is super flexible in terms of "needs" to meet the minimum requirement of the gameplan, but is typically built in a similar fashion.

"Loam Dredge" is what I'd label the current most popular iteration of more "traditional" dredge in that it actually runs mana sources. Historically, its a concept that I developed by merging the ideas of AJ's list and Sullivan's list ~4 years ago that was recently picked up by LSV, and seems to have started to gain some traction from that. I'd put other cards of dredge, like Creeping Chill and Gurmag Angler, under this umbrella since they conceptually fit the build of doing stuff with your graveyard under non-exile effects. I guess maybe more accurate / better names would be "Bloodghast" Dredge vs the other one that is maybe better named "Manaless" Dredge.

last edited by vaughnbros

@ajfirecracker @vaughnbros I decided to make it more general, as I agree with both of your opinions. Also I will add Loam Dredge to the list types of Dredge. If you guys, or anybody else has any more suggestions I would love to hear them!

@vaughnbros Let me know what you think of my description and decklist of Loam Dredge. From what I could find on it, it seems like a mix of Pitch Dredge and a Life from the Loam package.

@vaughnbros
What is 3+ LoTV? I use to know LoTV as being Liliana of the Veil, I think you meant LftL (life from the loam) or is it something I'm missing?

@rat3de said in What Dredge version should i build for others to play? (Common? Best? Easy to pilot?):

@AeonSovarius This is actually a great opportunity for me, as I was starting to write a dredge primer for vintage. This will allow me to collect and summarize my thoughts, so hopefully I do a good job!

Super great help actually. Good timing, and @volrathxp just posted a video on pitch dredge yesterday!

Personally I dislike Gurmag Angler, and I think many people would agree. He is simply counter-intuitive to how dredge function at a basic level.

Oh for sure. I think people aren't going for dredging when they use this, though, but rather as a 1 mana 5/5 as long as the graveyard isn't exile.

  1. Lands: As with nearly all cards, this depends on your list. If you are running more Blooghast, you can run more consistent lands like Dakmor Salvage and Undiscovered Paradise. You do not have any other reason to not run the Rainbow land, as far as I know.

You wouldn't run Paradise if you weren't casting spells and having Bloodghast. I see a good number of lists with barely any land or strictly just the 4 Bazaar or 4 Bazaar/2 Dakmor. The side has 6-7 lands and removal (Claim, Wispmare, Chewer). I'm not sure what the sideboard plan is though? (this is pitch dredge lists i've seen, maybe you board out counters)

  1. Creeping Chill: I personally really like the card, but it is completely unproven. I think if Oath or DPS where to become meta, then it could potential be good.

Why would you said it's good against oath?

  1. GY hate: I would say this has to do with the expected meta. I would avoid Ravenous Trap, as it seems very risky and bad in the mirror. For Leyline, it is generally seen as a low cost inclusion that can help you against a fair amount of the field because of how most decks abuse the graveyard.

My question was in regards to playing it in the main board. As far as i can tell, it is reasonable because you have such a huge g1 win %, those 3-4 cards don't matter vs any deck you autowin against, but is what makes the g1 mirror better. I've only seen a couple lists with rav trap or leyline in the main. But yeah for sure, hurts traditional storm and oath and lots of things on the side.

@aeonsovarius said in An Introduction to Dredge:

  1. Lands: As with nearly all cards, this depends on your list. If you are running more Blooghast, you can run more consistent lands like Dakmor Salvage and Undiscovered Paradise. You do not have any other reason to not run the Rainbow land, as far as I know.

You wouldn't run Paradise if you weren't casting spells and having Bloodghast. I see a good number of lists with barely any land or strictly just the 4 Bazaar or 4 Bazaar/2 Dakmor. The side has 6-7 lands and removal (Claim, Wispmare, Chewer). I'm not sure what the sideboard plan is though? (this is pitch dredge lists i've seen, maybe you board out counters)

Nowadays, typically you will see no or very few lands main-deck. This originated from a MTGO player called tataku, but was popularized by the venerable @The-Atog-Lord. This is due to a decrease in Shops in the metagame, and it frees space in the main-deck that are more useful game 1, while providing lots of value games 2 and/or 3 (such as Hollow One). This allows for a more customized main-deck for your meta. Typically you side-out your Dread Return and Dread Return targets. Then you can side-out a variety of things depending on the matchup. Often you will side out cards like Leyline of the Void, Unmask or Mindbreak Trap. Often this allows you to have at least 8 slots to side in lands and removal, probably in a 4-4 split, but I am unsure of that.

  1. Creeping Chill: I personally really like the card, but it is completely unproven. I think if Oath or DPS where to become meta, then it could potential be good.

Why would you said it's good against oath?

I would say it has potential against Oath because of Griselbrand. If you can get all 4 to trigger then they are down to 8 life, or only 1 Griselbrand activation, severely limiting their options.

last edited by Rat3dE

Manaless dredge is nothing particularly new. The first builds of the deck in Vintage over 10 years ago were manaless. Dredge playing 2 mana spells/abilities, like Serenity, Dark Depths and Life for the Loam, has actually been the different time period. Manaless has returned though for two main reasons:

  1. Hollow One is a game changer for the deck.
  2. The format is faster than its ever been.

Actually, the first iteration of the deck wasn't manaless. Dread return or narcomoeba had not been printed yet, and people used ichorid and ashen ghoul to win.

@nsammael

I'm definitely very interested in hearing more about some of the historic Dredge lists.

I know Stephen had a list like this back in 2006:
http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/11558_Monster_Mash_Dredging_Up_Aggro_In_Vintage.html

So now my initial question of "how do we define dredge?" comes up as his list runs almost none of the above "core", and doesn't even run the Serum Powder mulligan strategy.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but the earliest great tournament performance that I can find is roughly:
http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/deck.asp?deck_id=325558
So it wasn't until we saw those printings that the deck really took form, and started performing at a high level. At which point the deck ran almost exclusively 0 and 1 mana disruption.

We saw the deck take another big leap with the printing of Bloodghast, and another now with the printing of Hollow One / Amalgam.

last edited by vaughnbros

@vaughnbros said in An Introduction to Dredge:

@nsammael

I'm definitely very interested in hearing more about some of the historic Dredge lists.

I know Stephen had a list like this back in 2006:
http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/vintage/11558_Monster_Mash_Dredging_Up_Aggro_In_Vintage.html

So now my initial question of "how do we define dredge?" comes up as his list runs almost none of the above "core", and doesn't even run the Serum Powder mulligan strategy.

Well, if the core is

4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Golgari Thug

4 Cabal Therapy

Then, yes, the core is there.

I mean, Bazaar + 8-10 dredgers + 4 Therapy strikes me as the 'core'

In my History of Vintage chapters, I basically explain how every new set created new possibilities.

The reason Serum Powder wasn't incorporated earlier was because Dread Return didn't exist yet.

Dread Return was printed in Time Spiral in the fall of 2006. So it wasn't until Dread Return was printed that you could go 'mana less,' and then people started building with Serum Powder.

Every new set offered new cards. Future Sight gave Bridge and Narcomoeba, and so on and on.

So every year or so, the deck got new tools.

I really don't like thinking of the core as a set list of cards. If that's the standard we are using to evaluate a deck, and if this has to be applied over the whole life of a deck, most decks either aren't truly around for that long or they have a tiny core.

I think if you consider the core to be a set of related mechanics accomplishing a coherent strategic objective (and for core rather than periphery packages this should be the main strategic objective of the deck) you can draw what are obviously justified lineages. Ashen Ghoul was part of the core of early Dredge decks, and it is no longer included in the core of the deck but we can still acknowledge that the earlier build was a much earlier version of the same deck.

So, for example, if I cut from 4-3 Cabal Therapy and have a reasonable degree of success with it, I think it's still entirely reasonable to describe Cabal Therapy as part of the core of the deck. On the other hand, if I have a tremendous amount of success with Chalice of the Void, I don't think it makes sense to consider it part of the core because it's not in that strategic group.

@vaughnbros

I haven't been on this site in years, looks good.

Anyway, since were on the topic, I was one of the people WAYYYYY back in the day pioneering Dredge and refusing to add mana to the deck. Here is a small tourney winning list from 2009. I was running some interesting stuff. Dredge doesn't even look the same anymore. I ran Sundering Titan because I just liked the artwork, and it thew people off.

Lands

4x Bazaar of Baghdad
4x Dryad Arbor

Creatures

4x Ichorid
4x Golgari Grave-Troll
4x Golgari Thug
4x Stinkweed Imp
4x Narcomoeba
1x Sundering Titan
2x Cephalid Sage
2x Flame-Kin Zealot

Spells

3x Chalice of the Void
4x Bridge from Below
4x Dread Return
4x Cabal Therapy
4x Serum Powder
4x Leyline
4x Unmask

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