Dredge, The London Mulligan, and the continued use of Serum Powder

You don't want to play magic without any understanding of statistics (and Frank Karsten is my favorite magic writer of all time), but the Bazaar math really only paints part of the picture. Bazaar is the most important card in the deck, but it's not the only card that matters. Powders mean that on average, your opening hands will be bigger and better. Powder makes you more likely to draw all of the best 10-20 cards in your deck, and cutting it for something else makes you more likely to draw the worst 4 (i.e. the last 4 cards you added)

versus

Because it's only useful if a) the exiled cards provide some ancillary value (castable creatures for example) b) your deck relies overwhelmingly on 1 and only 1 card and your deck doesn't rely on 1 or 2 of's to function that you can't afford to powder.

This is because the card Serum Powder itself once mulligans are resolved is a Bone Flute for the most part. If your hand includes Bazaar and Serum Powder it's largely irrelevant. So the reduced over all quality of a hand is marginal because a measure of a great hand and an unkeepable hand is simply whether it contains that ONE card.

Dredge is so far the only competitive deck in Vintage that meets that criteria. There have been Shop decks so bent on having Shop the opener they've played it. In Legacy an example of a deck that can use it is Leylines ... the deck needs 1 card in its opener, Opalescence. The Powder is moderately castable off Sanctum as well.

Powder would actually support your ability to find critical 1-of cards, so I don't think that's a very sensible argument against it unless you need a lot of specific 1-ofs in combination with each other.

The "draw your worst cards less and your best cards more often" thing applies to any deck in the format vis-a-vis Serum Powder. I'm aware that some Shops players have experimented with the card, but by and large Shops players don't run it. If it's such a no-brainer it seems like they should generally be running it, and the fact that they are not suggests that there are downsides to the card that Andy is not really accounting for. The card being close to blank after the initial mulligan phase is only one of those downsides.

@ajfirecracker I think you make some fair points.

I think Powder is underrated in vintage. I have run it in non-dredge decks I find it very hard to evaluate how Serum Powder affects a deck... Powder's drawbacks are very visible, but its upsides are hard to measure. I'm still unsure on the card, but I feel like most players haven't seriously considered it in any way.

I do think Dredge is uniquely qualified to ignore the downsides. Bazaar makes the card quality disparity super high, can filter away dead Powders, and Grave-Troll very quickly compensates for the CA disadvantage.

Also I don't think that it's completely incomprehensible for a card to have huge raw power but not be playable in every deck. Mishra's Workshop is a clear example.

But all that isn't to say that Serum Powder has no drawbacks. For sure it does. I'm confident it's still right in Dredge but I admit it's not a clean argument.

@brass-man the fact that bazaar filters cards, ignoring the drawback of having dead cards in the deck, raises an obvious question: why do non-dredge bazaar decks not play the card? currently this means mostly survival, of course. is it survival not needing to mulligan so much, or does not having the dredge mechanic effectively make bazaar a different card?

@blindtherapy

Because survival has other lines of plays. You don't need that bazaar is 100% of times in your starting hand.

@brass-man

For the record I think 1-2 Serum Powder is currently optimal based on my understanding of the math.

The drawbacks of Serum Powder for Dredge are 1) it's a dead card, so your actual density of useful cards isn't necessarily increased all that much and 2) it denies you the potential to use the London mulligan to its ultimate potential because you don't necessarily get to filter your final hand from 7, and 3) you actually have a much higher chance of decking yourself than most decks in the format, and additional Serum Powder accelerates that issue, which is especially important given the prevalence of exile-based hate in the format right now.

Powder should see more play in other decklists, but it’s also nowhere close in power level to Contract from Below or a number of cards on the restricted list, especially after the new mulligan rule comes into play. It has obvious limitations that have prevented people from playing it outside of Dredge.

Replacing Powders with say 4 more GY-based cards increases Dredge’s threat density as it goes off, which could potentially make up the win % losses from smaller hands in the right build.

I think the returns to additional graveyard cards beyond what the graveyard plan needs to function are quite low and this is one of the main ways the deck is being misbuilt currently. The chief offender here is Prized Amalgam in my view, which I think contributes very little to win-rate.

The number of important restricted cards is going to be important too.

@ajfirecracker
Can u point me to the math on running 1 or 2 powder?

Math is misleading here. It isn't about what the minimum number of Powder's is needed to find Bazaar, it's about the principle than a larger starting hand size is correlated with winning for Dredge, as you often need lots of disruption to win post-board games.

@smmenen
I totally agree for the full 12 force list but I'm testing lessor # of forces + lesser # of powders with more accelerant (wraith & probe). 4 may still be the right # of powders but it also may be worth giving up a little consistency for more speed/evasion in the current meta. Atleast that's what I'm exploring.

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