Well let’s go down the Dredge theory rabbit hole then. I agree with the assessment that via reductionism the deck only loses through 3 routes:
- Faster “combo”
The problem is though that all 2 and 3 are incredibly complex. 2 and 3 can also be intertwined at times complicating the problem even more. Let’s cover 2 first.
Faster “combo” can be almost any deck in the format right now with exception to Xerox/Blue Control decks that as I laid out the decks I played had over a 50% win % post board. So slower decks simply arent a big problem assuming you have some decent plan at tackling hate.
Beating the other decks involved disrupting their particular game plan, and/or speeding the deck up past it’s more typical turn 3 kills. That means focusing on cards actually capable of disrupting / winning before turn 3. Other cards that don’t do this and don’t help with beating hate are simply win mores. One of the first things that I started doing as a Dredge pilot was cutting down on these no-added value cards. My first win with the deck didn’t play Dread Return and a number of wins there after didn’t play Bridge from Below. The idea that you need to play these cards, and you need to play them together is patently false. Commonly played cards that are potentially pinned here:
Bridge from Below when not in multiples
Too many copies of Ichorid/Amalgam/Nether Shadow
Often Dread Return in current builds
Cabal Therapy when not in multiples
These cards do almost nothing against hate cards and rarely push you to turn 2 wins unless you happen to luck into multiple copies of Bridge, Therapy, and Return (basically the perfect Dredge). So in most situations they are really superfluous. There was a time when cards like Cabal Therapy and Bridge from Below combo’ed to beat certain hate, but that isn’t really the case in current Pitch Dredge lists. You can’t run 4x Gitaxian Probe to support Therapy. Most decks choose not to run Ingot Chewer or Wispmare to support Bridge triggers.
As go cards that probably should be seeing more play /new cards in this role of speeding the deck up, there is one very big one:
Fatestitcher into Dread Return
Hogaak into Dread Return
Any “free” creatures into Dread Return (like Hollow one)
These all allow you to get to the magic number of 3 Creatures on turn 2 thus opening the route of Dread Return kills before your creatures would’ve done it anyway.
Now let’s shift to talking about reason 3 that Dredge losses games, hate cards. The number of hate cards and variety people are playing is really at an all time high as far as I can recall during my ~10 years as a Dredge pilot. Even the simplest, most predictable is the Shops decks running Tormod’s, Ensnaring Bridge, Strip Effects, AND Grafdigger’s cage along with other major nuisances like Walking Ballista and Wurmcoil Engine. Add on top of that the deck is fairly fast. A dredge decklist from 10 years would’ve been pummeled into the ground by these decks, but we have new tools and with the right cards the matchup can be pushed to favorable (as I have experienced). A variety of hate cards means you need versatile answers, which is the biggest reason that Pitch Dredge has rose in popularity. It helps that Pitch spells are also good at disrupting those game 1 losses too. So naturally, this has been the best way to build Dredge in a traditional manner.
However, there have been a number of new printings that now allow Dredge to almost completely ignore non-exile effects. Including Hogaak, Creeping Chill, Shenanigans, Hollow One along with old ones, like Life from the Loam and other cast-able Dredge cards. I once played won with Dredge lists with no Golgari Grave-Trolls because I wanted to be able to cast all my Dredgers post board. We are a long way from just being able to cast Dredgers now when our opponents don’t exile our graveyards.
The real issue though for Dredge are decks that satisfy both reason 2 and 3. Turn 3 Combo decks running Leyline of the Void and/or 7+ hate cards. Use your pitch spell to take their Hate card and they kill you on turn 3/4. Use it to take their win con and their hate slows you to a crawl. As a result the excessive number of pitch spells post board becomes somewhat of a liability.
I had been keying off these decks with a combination of 4x Ancient Grudge and sideboard Null Rods to beat Tormod’s, but that’s not really very effective at beating Ravenous Traps and Leylines that other decks have shifted to. On top of that space is tight these days playing 12-16 pitch spells and a Red card that costs mana is a dramatic shift from where Pitch Dredge wants to be right now. Finding a little more space via some cuts, or restructuring the deck entirely (by cutting blue) seem like the only ways to really make the deck good against all major matchups.
As to the aside on Narcomoeba, the card is great game 1, but is by far the worst at overcoming hate cards. In ideal situations your expected value of Narcomoebas is only 2.7. That number becomes even less when fighting through hate, and should you have other options they will often be better in games overcoming a resolves hate piece. This means Narc excels at helping reason 2 of losing, but not much when reason 3 of losing is happening.
Bloodghast is the best free creature if you choose to play lands in your decklist (which I highly advise) because it comes into play turn 2 and returns as soon as hate is removed. So he helps tremendously in both reasons 2 and 3. Tapping to cast Hogaak now is also very big.
Amalgam / Ichorid are distant 3rd/4ths to Narc and Ghast. Since they come a turn late and can be fairly difficult at times to get into play. Amalgam pitches to Force (very important), is a great blocker, and sticks around if an opponent drops hate later so seems to be the preferred option, in my opinion. I wonder if 4 is the correct number on these though.