Since the spoiling of a number of these cards on Modern Horizons I, I have been working on a few different iterations of Dredge and was finally able to get some live tests in matches this weekend with their release late last week. In sum, there have been multiple major printings that were just released from Modern Horizons I that will have long term implications on how Dredge is played from here on out.
I finished 21-14 last weekend (for a match win % of 60%) on slightly different variations of Pitch Dredge (for reference I will put one of the lists at the bottom), but for the most part my goal was to accumulate some data on how the deck functions in the current meta to give a reference point on where the deck needs to improve. I feel like getting a fairly decent sample of 35 matches (90 games) in a short time frame should be able to paint a pretty good picture of where the deck is right now. You can find the full list of splits here, along with some of the raw data, but I am going to focus on some of the biggest results.
Highlight of the weekend was winning under this game state:
Every game win was with a hand size of 5 or more, and there was not a big difference between game 1,2,3 or even hand size 5,6,7 here. This highlights the importance of the incoming London mulligan in about a month, and the need for Serum powder (even after that rule is enacted). The deck needs cards in hand to survive all of the pitch spells, and that means maximizing that number. Problem here is that there isn’t really any new cards that address this issue. Its basically just keeping Serum Powder in the deck list after the new rule change. This hand size problem is co-dependent on the pitch spells in the list as the win % is dramatically higher with 2 or 3 pitch spells than with 0 or 1.
The hate pieces to look out for.
The expected value of Tormod’s crypt in a game 2/3 is 0.473 followed by a distant second of Leyline of the Void and Strip effects at 0.200, then third Ravenous Trap at 0.145. Win %’s against these most frequent hate pieces are, well, not good. I only won 3/9, or 33.3%, of games against Leyline of the Void despite running both Force of Vigor and Wispmare/Nature’s Claims. Against Ravenous Trap (42.9% win %) and against Tormod’s (38.1% win %). These are not really what you want to see as a Dredge pilot and kind of highlights the problems with the current deck list as the deck was not winning at a good rate at all against these hate cards.
Quite frankly, I’m not sure much can be done against Leyline of the Void given the constraints of the deck. However, against Ravenous Trap and Tormod’s Crypt there is 1 card that shuts these out: Leyline of Sanctity. Of all the changes that I will suggest here, this has to be the #1 thing, add 4 of these to your deck.
Some additional options: Ancient Grudge (for Tormod’s Crypt), Misdirection (for Ravenous Trap), Unmask (on the play against Tormod’s or against Ravenous Trap), mana source to actually cast Cabal Therapy.
Containment Priest (25% win %) and artifacts, like Grafdigger’s Cage (50% win %) and Ensnaring Bridge (20% win %), are certainly still threats too, they are just not as frequent so it may be worth eschewing for the more commonly played hate cards.
Game 1 win % is not actually all that high. I finished 63% in game 1. Losses were mostly due to strip effects (only winning 6/11, or 55%, of game 1s against these), but also losing to things like mull to oblivion, 3/35 to opposing storm hands (mentor or tendrils), the dredge mirror, vault+key, tinker, oath. All of these are what I’d call “usual suspects”, but when people discuss Dredge, I feel like these are seen as the exceptions than the norm, but all added up there are a lot of exceptions that drag down the deck’s win %. One thing that may be able to correct this is trying to tune the main deck to beat these strategies.
Options for beating Strip effects game 1:
Direct answers (e.g. Noxious Revival, Petrified Field, Life from the Loam):
All of these are ways to get back your Bazaar of Baghdad. Noxious revival is the fastest, but is the most unreliable (if your opponent has a sphere). Loam is the most reliable, but is the slowest (you can get it from your graveyard, but you also need mana).
Indirect answer (Adding a higher density of graveyard cards and Dredgers):
This helps because even if your Bazaar gets stripped, you can win through a slow-dredge assuming you can chain Dredgers together and actually hit good graveyard cards. The major issue here for a Pitch Dredge list is that none of your pitch cards are also graveyard cards so inherently your have already reduced your density of graveyard cards.
Beating fast openers from opponents (e.g. mirror, storm, tinker, vault+key):
I’ll add another split here is that the deck has relatively bad matchups against storm / outcome decks. Despite running an absurd number of pitch spells to try to match up well against these decks, the deck still had some difficulty beating them. Game 2/3, you have to fight their speed and their hate leaving only a 36.4% win % in game 2/3s against outcome decks.
Add more “free” spells that actually impact these decks (e.g. Unmask, Mindbreak Trap):
Unmask is the one that I think is pretty big here as it is flexible enough to hit almost any hate piece, their win conditions, or even a mana source after you’ve already seen what their hand hinges on.
Add more speed (e.g. More dread returns, Gitaxian Probe, Fatestitcher/Lion’s Eye Diamond/Black Lotus, Vengevine/Basking Rootwalla/Hollow One):
Turning Dredge back into a consistent turn 2 deck can make a big difference in these match ups (instead of a turn 3-5 deck). Grinding out wins just doesn’t really seem to happen in the current meta as I had 0 wins after turn 8, and a majority were on turn 3 (pre and post board). Cashing out some of the later game grind cards (like Acorn Harvest that I was testing) for some of these earlier game one can make a big difference.
This leads me into the next set of cards where we can discuss what to cut from the list.
6-4 in games (3-1 in matches) against the mirror without getting any Dredge hate in the mirrors, and even overcoming some opposing hate in those matchups. Its interesting to me how the trend has been for Dredge decks to add more mirror hate, when I think in all my experience I have never noticed it making much of a difference. Anyway, here is some actual data to support what I have experienced. Most of my opponents here had Steve’s 7 hate pieces, and yet I came out with the better record. For those of you looking for deck space, getting somewhere between 4 and 7 cards by cutting these makes a lot of sense. If you want to still have a good mirror %, I’d advise going to the above and adding more speed as this will play into other bad matchups than just the mirror.
Game 2 and 3, I won 50% of games against Grafdigger’s cage and 75% of games against Deathrite shaman, in addition against Blue control lists the deck posted an over 50% match win % (53.8%). This is to say that Mental Misstep doesn’t seem all that important. It might be better to find other blue cards if that is the main goal of the card.
Winning the game was mostly done on the backs of free creatures (over 70% of the wins). This highlights the importance of keeping your free creature count high, but also highlights the lack of importance of winning with Cabal Therapy + Dread Return. When we look for where to find space, I think that these cards could be trimmed down (and potentially cut in Cabal Therapy’s case), in favor of some of these other options.
One of the deck lists used: