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Thread: [Primer] Dredge

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    [Primer] Dredge




    A short blurb/justification about me: I have played Magic since 1999 and have played Dredge since it was printed in Ravnica block. My underwhelming claim to fame is that I beat David Gearhart (deep6ixer) and Roland Chang in Legacy at one point, and am undefeated against Doug Linn (hi-val) in my lifetime. I have played in various Legacy scenes including Chicago, NoVa, Baltimore, and Dallas over the years. I currently play on MTGO under the handle Ryan_Leaf (tl;dr story). I have played Dredge, Food Chain Goblins, and Two-Land Belcher in Vintage; and Dredge, Goblins, Belcher, Spiral Tide, Spanish Inquisition, Burn, and Cephalid Breakfast in Legacy. I appreciate decks that are considered “outsiders” and thoroughly enjoy writing about my tournament experiences. I am 6’2” and do not own any Volcanic Islands (unnecessary tidbit sorry).


    This is a primer and discussion thread for Dredge with and without Lion’s Eye Diamond in Legacy. Past primers on this forum were written in 2012 by Michael Keller (Hollywood) and in 2009 by Damon Whitby (Parcher). Far less comprehensive primers can also be found on other MTG forums.

    The purposes of this primer thread are to:

    • Provide an update to Michael’s 2012 Dredge primer.
    • Acquaint the reader with the basic cards contained in Legacy Dredge.
    • Discuss strategies and points of note regarding gameplay.
    • Talk about sideboard tactics and potential hate cards.
    • Link the reader to the vast collection of written and video resources concerning Dredge.
    • Make the reader smile, giggle, or even laugh at stupid humor and puns.

    Here is what this primer does not do:

    • Provide the reader with a standard decklist. Readers should take note of this profound quote by Michael in his 2012 primer: I believe Dredge to be by far the most personal archetype in all of Magic currently in existence. I say that because while the deck has endured through years of hate and managed to stick to the basic core group of cards that make up the general foundation of the deck, people tend to like putting their own stamp on their own unique builds. Understand that Dredge is a completely subjective archetype, but it takes an incredibly knowledgeable player who understands the intricacies of the interactions with the cards in the deck as well as playing the best situational Magic they possibly can.
    • Rehash discussion on single cards and approaches to play. The core of Dredge has not changed significantly over the years. Thus, a complete rewording of every piece written on a certain facet of the deck is both a disservice to the original author and a waste of your time as well as mine. You will discover below that most of the single card discussion is merely quoted from Michael and Damon’s primers; this is because they have written accurately and clearly on these points, leaving little to add. The credit goes to them and not me.
    • Give a blow-by-blow history of Dredge. This is explained in the introduction.
    • Explain what cards to side in and out in a particular matchup. Further clarification for this can be found in the sideboarding section.
    • Discuss the Manaless version of Dredge. You can find a separate primer for that deck written by Michael in 2015 here.

    II. INTRODUCTION (start here)

    “Dredge is one of my mechanics. I'll be honest, I have a soft spot for it. I like things that attack the game from a very different vantage point. That said, it's one of the most broken mechanics we've ever made, so I have no expectation that we'll ever see it again.”Mark Rosewater, 5/2/16

    No doubt Richard Garfield would roll in his grave if he saw what the dredge mechanic is able to do. Printed in the Ravnica block, Dredge changed the way that a player could play conventional Magic. A player no longer had to rely on tapping land to play creatures and spells to win the “fair” way. Dredge cheats creatures into play through interactions with the graveyard and through discarding certain cards. Some of the most powerful cards in the format contain the dredge mechanic and indeed, even other decks have found use for certain others of the 13 dredge cards ever printed.

    Dredge is defined in the Comprehensive Rules at Rule 702.51a-b. The experienced player will note that dredge is a static replacement ability that does not use the stack. It cannot be responded to, and can be done more than one time per turn (if you have multiple dredge cards and multiple draws). The number of cards dredged (or “milled”, as the old-fashioned terminology goes) depends on the card; e.g. Golgari Grave-Troll, with a “Dredge 6” ability, will “mill” you six cards when returning to your hand.

    III. DREDGE AND ITS EVOLUTION (or intelligent design?)

    Historically speaking, the Dredge mechanic has provided an incredible amount of controversy to competitive players around the world because of how degenerate it can truly be. Dredge is a deck that bases its core strengths on having the advantage of not interacting with its opponents and overwhelming them with an incredibly large horde of the undead. The archetype deploys a variety of angles of attack and primarily uses its graveyard as a virtual "toolbox" - an incredibly potent strategy when you consider most cards that are being placed into your graveyard at an accelerated rate systematically provide you card advantage in so many ways anyhow.

    Dredge has certainly made its presence felt over the years since its debut in the Ravnica block years back in just about every competitive format - and has changed that much more. In Vintage, the archetype gains an incredible amount of degeneracy and consistency with the powerful Bazaar of Baghdad. In Legacy, however, there are other ways to make the deck degenerate with the current card pool using cards such as Lion's Eye Diamond and Breakthrough to dredge basically through a massive chunk of your deck.
    – Michael Keller, 3/25/12

    This primer is not meant to chronicle Dredge’s rise from Ravnica block to its success in Ravnica standard, Extended, Vintage, Legacy, and finally Modern. There are many articles that account for this development far more effectively and in more words than I can here. Besides, you are not here to determine how Vintage dredge worked in 2010; you are here to determine how it works in 2017. If you follow the path of the righteous and become a Dredge devotee, you will undoubtedly search out these articles yourself.

    In the meantime, here are a couple of history’s interesting Dredge articles that do some of this work for us:

    Richard Feldman, The Dark Art of Dredge Fu, 5/2/11
    Scott Enderfall, Unlocking the Vault: Dredge in Vintage, 9/30/11
    Gerry Thompson, Demonstrating My Range, 6/5/12

    IV. THE BASIC CORE OF DREDGE (necessaries)

    For as long as Dredge has existed as an archetype, so too have a core set of staples that have made up the foundation for which the deck exists. While Dredge can be an incredibly subjective archetype, there are some inclusions that will always give it the fuel it needs to do what it does best. – Michael Keller, 3/25/12

    The cards below are generally accepted to be part of Dredge’s "backbone". Notwithstanding sideboard strategy, these cards should by default always be in the deck when you present for the game. Since there is no need to rehash the work Michael and Damon have already done in past primers, their explanations are in italics below. Special interactions that budding pilots should take note of (and experienced pilots as well) follow these descriptions.

    Golgari Grave-Troll

    Both iconic and powerful, the Grave-Troll is the flagship card for any competitive Dredge deck. It is currently the card which dredges for the most amount at a total of six (6) cards. Generally speaking, Golgari Grave-Troll optimizes most starts in that it allows you to dig farther into your library than any of its counterparts and additionally gives you the luxury of being able to accelerate your engine at a faster rate.

    • In many lists, GGT is the best (and only) target of Dread Return. GGT often enters the battlefield with double-digit +1/+1 counters. Don’t forget that it regenerates too.
    • GGT counts itself when it enters the battlefield as a creature in your graveyard. Accordingly, in situations where GGT comes into play when it’s the only creature card in your graveyard, it enters as a 1/1. (Oracle ruling: If an effect puts Golgari Grave-Troll onto the battlefield from your graveyard, Golgari Grave-Troll counts itself as one of the cards in your graveyard and gets a counter accordingly.) Important to remember in corner cases, e.g. your opponent plays an Exhume and you must return GGT.
    • GGT cannot be hit by Abrupt Decay, Lightning Bolt, or Fatal Push, three of today’s most prevalent removal spells. Keep this in mind as you determine what Dread Return target is appropriate.

    Stinkweed Imp

    The Imp as we've already seen maxes out at a Dredge count of five (5). It is currently the second largest dredger and is also optimal at maxing out with a full set of four. While not the most orthodox line of play, the Imp does fly, can be reasonably hard-cast, and has a built-in ability mirroring deathtouch.

    • Consider situations in longer games where you may be able to hardcast SI. It will reliably kill opposing creatures and come back to be cast again.
    • Michael points out SI’s pre-deathtouch wording. Note that SI’s ability is triggered, and kills only with combat damage. This is very rarely relevant, but worth considering against creatures with activated abilities (e.g. Griselbrand).

    Golgari Thug

    Golgari Thug is third on the list as arguably the most controversial dredger currently in existence, with a dredge count of four (4). One of the reasons the card remains controversial isn't necessarily because of its basic inclusion in Dredge, but rather due in large part to its ineffectiveness in being able to facilitate dredges at a max dredge of four. Most lists that run Golgari Thug parallel its count with Ichorid, another card that takes advantage of the Dredge mechanic and lack of interactivity.

    The Thug's built-in triggered ability has some corner-case merit, but it's usually moot in most circumstances. However, it's a rather nifty ability to utilize in instances where returning Narcomoeba's or other anti-hate measures becomes the only line of play that can bail you out of troublesome circumstances. Remember, if the Thug is placed into the graveyard from the battlefield and is the only creature card in the graveyard when that happens, he will trigger targeting himself and will be placed on top of your library. Just something to consider in the event he is cast and subsequently killed.

    Bridge from Below

    Ever since its printing in Future Sight, Bridge from Below has become the very backbone of Dredge. Being as how Dredge uses its graveyard advantageously, the ability to create a massive horde of Zombie tokens in a hurry can be just overwhelming to an unprepared opponent. This is one of the more confusing cards in the deck to understand, so let's look at it like this.

    Here's the Oracle wording:

    Whenever a non-token creature is put into your graveyard from the battlefield, if Bridge from Below is in your graveyard, put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.
    When a creature is put into an opponent's graveyard from the battlefield, if Bridge from Below is in your graveyard, exile Bridge from Below.

    We need to understand a few things here about the card, because as some of us have seen, it is a card that requires undivided attention to detail and the ability to use the triggers to your advantage. Let me repeat that one more time, because it is imperative to remember: attention to detail...and use the triggers to your advantage. You must not forget that not only should you make tokens when your non-token creatures die, but also remember to strategically dump Bridges from your hand whenever possible - depending on the match-up.

    The most important thing to consider when an opponent's creature dies simultaneously with your non-token creature(s) is to stack the triggers. Again: Whenever a non-token creature is put into your graveyard from the battlefield, if Bridge from Below is in your graveyard, put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield. When a creature is put into an opponent's graveyard from the battlefield, if Bridge from Below is in your graveyard, exile Bridge from Below.

    This means understand that you may stack the triggers in your favor so you may get Zombie token(s) when the Bridge(s) trigger from the graveyard. It's happened before on the big stage and I still don't understand why people consider the deck easy to play. This is an intricate part of understanding the way the deck works, and this is the most important card to pay explicit attention to. This is an archetype that thrives on remembering triggers, so you must know how and when to stack them appropriately and advantageously. Always run four - always.

    I will insert my own analysis here: take note of your game one wins, and determine for yourself the percentage of wins you gain based on making a boatload of Zombie tokens. You will undoubtedly be surprised how important this card is to today’s Dredge lists. Are you afraid of Echoing Truth or Maelstrom Pulse? Fear no more; this is how you will win the lion’s share of games against the midrange decks that rule today’s format.

    • Your Reanimator opponent rarely recognizes that when they Reanimate/Animate Dead your creatures, you not only keep your Bridges when their creatures die, but you also create a Zombie token(s) for them. Don’t be afraid to discard your dredgers early against those folks.
    • It will be unappreciated that this is printed, but your most valuable Surgical Extraction target is your Bridges. You will be able to recover from your dredgers being Extracted, or even your Ichorids. Losing your Bridges creates a situation where each creature you return is exactly what it represents, which weakens your strategy.

    Cabal Therapy

    Dredge has the ability to overwhelm an opponent with a horde of Zombie tokens extremely fast. One of the primary ways the deck is able to achieve this is by being able to sacrifice its creatures to Cabal Therapy - an incredibly powerful discard spell that requires distinct skill and a solid working knowledge of the format to master.

    Being able to discard cards from your own hand in order to get cards into your graveyard is fine, but the card's primary use should ultimately be to shred an opponent's hand and create Zombies in the process. This is a card that has been most efficient at running a full set of. Whether or not you opt to run three main or one in the sideboard is fine - at least IMO - but just understand like the opening quotation indicates that swapping out a single card for something that acts functionally different can change the entire course of game-play. This has never been truer than of a deck like Dredge where getting maximum value out of your graveyard means the difference between winning and losing games.

    There is plenty of literature out there describing Therapy’s power and the toughness of playing it (pun). Here are several links you can peruse:

    MTS thread on Therapy, circa 2008
    Mike Flores, Pondering Cabal Therapy, 4/13/12
    Caleb Durward, Legacy Weapon: Therapy Session, 9/5/12
    Michael Keller, The Cutting Room Floor: Group Therapy, 12/17/12
    Drew Levin, Single Card Primer: Cabal Therapy, 5/12/15
    User ajfirecracker, Dredge 101 – Cabal Therapy,12/20/15
    Rodrigo Togores, Legacy’s Allure: Cabal Therapy, 11/9/16

    You will find hours of reading on Cabal Therapy in the prior Dredge threads going all the way back to its creation. There is very little we can repeat here that has not already been hashed out sometime in the past. Refer to the previous primer threads and use the friendly Search function at the top of your screen to find your answers.


    Because a very large percentage of your library is going to be finding its way into your graveyard, Dredge needs to continue finding avenues of being able to "cheat" creatures into play from the graveyard. Narcomoeba is a card that, while incredibly good when dredged off the top of your library, can be somewhat of a liability when opened in your starting hand. You never want to ideally hard-cast anything but draw spells or discard outlets, and if you find yourself in a position where you're hard-casting Narcomoeba, you're usually in trouble.

    Being able to fuel Cabal Therapy and Bridge from Below is incredibly important in Dredge, arguably most important, so consider when choosing how many Narcomoeba's you want to run you take into consideration what you're doing. Narcomoeba is purely fuel and a semi-evasive attacker, really nothing more here. However, its utility is paramount and running anything less than four can in some instances be an incorrect number.

    • Remember that Narcomoeba must enter the graveyard before entering play. This does not allow it to get around Grafdigger’s Cage, Containment Priest, Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, or Planar Void. It also makes it vulnerable to Surgical Extraction, Extirpate, Deathrite Shaman, etc.
    • Because it does enter the graveyard, however, it triggers Prized Amalgam, discussed below. Since Narcomoeba’s trigger stacks, thus, you’ll have an opportunity to discard Amalgam (if able) before it enters play.


    Two different descriptions are here. First, Michael’s from 2012:

    …the single most powerful recurring threat in Dredge that refuses to die. Ichorid on its own is a relatively innocuous Black creature that really does nothing more than bait removal or suck up blockers, but when you truly look at why Ichorid is included in Dredge, you'll see why it's as powerful as it should be.

    First off, Ichorid is an efficient, recurring beater that does not interact with your opponent as far as being a spell goes (assuming you don't hard-cast it, which would be relatively rare), so counter-magic is generally out the window. The card wreaks havoc on Control decks because of their inability to stop it from returning turn in and turn out, which makes it incredibly resilient and an intricate part of the deck's strategy of avoiding interactivity.

    Additionally, in conjunction with Cabal Therapy & Bridge from Below, the card can be a menace. Sometimes it is not always correct to straight-up attack with Ichorid on the basis you do not want your Bridges exiled, so simply recurring one by exiling a Black creature and naturally letting it die at the end of your turn is ideal in amassing an army of tokens. Cabal Therapy optimizes this approach as you're able to make tokens and rip an opponent's hand apart in the process. The card speeds games up in a hurry when it has fuel, which is why sometimes only running two or three is the correct number.

    From Damon’s 2009 primer:

    Last things first; always run four. Unlike other formats, not only is Legacy full of creature removal, it is plagued by Swords to Plowshares which is more far more relevant. Legacy is also a format of creature-based damage, so the higher number you have to attack with, the more often your attack will be lethal. Also, the greater number of Bridge tokens you will get, and the greater chance you will be able to continue a threat if your Dredge engine is disrupted. Also may be needed to feed themselves, or pitch to an Unmask. That said, they're still the keystone, and the best card in the deck.

    The “correct” amount of Ichorids to play has varied over time and ties in with a particular decklist. Over time, some have shown preferences to play four alongside four Putrid Imp, like this list here. Others prefer greater diversity in their threats, like this list here, and play 0-3. Like every other listed card, there are pros and cons to every amount and discussion is scattered over the years.

    • Ichorid’s trigger only resolves upon resolution. This matters chiefly in two situations. First, if your opponent chooses to exile it from your graveyard in the upkeep, you will not lose another black creature card to exile as well. The other card is only exiled if Ichorid comes into play. Second, in decks that play Nether Shadow or Ashen Ghoul, you can stack your Ichorid trigger below the other trigger, allow the other creature to return to play, then exile for your Ichorid. This would matter if your graveyard was, e.g.:
    Nether Shadow
    Black creature
    Black creature
    Stack Nether Shadow’s trigger on top of Ichorid’s trigger, return the Shadow to play, and then exile for Ichorid to ensure both creatures get into play. Nether Shadow checks upon resolution, so you must have three creatures in the graveyard when that trigger resolves.
    • An addendum to the above: Ichorid’s trigger may be Stifled; if it is, you need not exile another card for it.


    Being as how there are a multitude of varying sub-archetypes of Dredge such as Manaless, Hybrid, Lion's Eye Diamond, etc., we can look at some of the cards that help facilitate the aforementioned archetypes and what makes them successful. We'll also look at some cons, as sometimes cards that are deemed "suboptimal" in one build could have tremendous value in another. Again, to reiterate: Dredge is an incredibly subjective archetype, so we need to keep an open mind as to what is deemed optimal to one player and suboptimal to others. – Michael Keller, 3/25/12

    Various Dredge lists are built with various packages. Your target configuration when building the deck should maximize how cards in this section interact with others in this section and in the core. Of those listed below, no card is “required” to be included or if included, played as a four-of. While your final tournament list might end up quite tight (rhyme), your paths to getting to 60-ish are very diverse. Here are some of the most popular cards to include.

    Lion’s Eye Diamond

    While Lion's Eye Diamond requires very careful consideration when including it in your list, it also necessitates some thought as to what spells you'll opt to run with it. The Diamond is a card that is purely combo and enables some incredibly broken starts with just about any draw spell. However, the card can force you to go "all in" at times as you're discarding your entire hand in the hopes your draw spell resolves. Even if it doesn't, you still should have a dredger in your graveyard - but that doesn't mean that will be ultimately effective in how the game turns out should your draw spell be negated.

    Lion's Eye Diamond is a card that, while not very price-friendly, can be essential depending on which variation of Dredge you're opting to run. Obviously, a deck that incorporates LED to its overall strategy is going to want the best draw/discard spells the format has to offer in order to complete broken opening hands. Also keep in mind that when using Lion's Eye Diamond, you know when to maintain priority so you can fuel your graveyard before maxing out with a draw spell.

    The Diamond is a card that also gets shifted sometimes to the sideboard, which can be a mistake against some match-ups. Keep in mind that LED is a very powerful spell that requires a proper setup and opening hand to go along with it. Being able to discard your hand at will is nice, but know that sometimes that is not always the best line of play - especially in a format filled with varying kinds of hate.

    The clear majority of high tournament Dredge finishes have included LED. Those that eschew it do so both by choice and for budget reasons. There are very few well-performing lists that can be found without it following the printing of Faithless Looting, discussed below.

    • LED’s Oracle text states: The ability is a mana ability, so it is activated and resolves as a mana ability, but it can only be activated at times when you can cast an instant. Yes, this is a bit weird. Remember that even though the ability says, “as an instant,” you can do it in response to another spell or ability as long as you have priority.
    • Remember to hold priority when sacrificing LED in response to a draw spell. Ensure you either audibly say so in live play or hold CTRL in MTGO play, as failing to do so allows your opponent to respond.
    • An interesting opening hand parlay occurs when you are on the draw and open with Cephalid Coliseum, LED, and other stuff. You can draw, play Coliseum, LED, and sacrifice it so you can activate Coliseum’s ability. Remember to count LED when you’re trying to get to seven.

    Putrid Imp, Tireless Tribe

    From Michael’s 2012 primer:

    [Putrid Imp] is right at the top of the list due in large part that it is included in a vast majority of builds currently in existence. It is an intricate part in Dredge today because of the powerful amount of draw spells and the choice to eschew what is known as the "DDD" plan, or "Draw, Discard, Dredge" plan. Understand that not everyone feels as though Putrid Imp is optimal as far as giving your opponent an opportunity to interact with you goes. However, at one mana and being a Black creature, it provides an incredible amount of resiliency in being able to repeatedly fuel your graveyard with the most effective dredger available, feeds to a hungry Ichorid, and gives you access to dredged Therapies in your graveyard.

    Putrid Imp empties your hand at your leisure and works well with many core cards like Cabal Therapy, Bridge from Below, and Ichorid (and Unmask, if you play it). Tireless Tribe does the same thing without the Ichorid interaction. For this reason, and because it flies, Putrid Imp is usually the first choice for a one-mana discarder. A special interaction note: you may block an attacker with Imp, then discard past Threshold to get around the “can’t block” text on Imp, if you need to ditch your dredgers or Bridge from Below. Further, Imp gets in a second point of power, further in line with the deck’s quick strategy.

    Tireless Tribe is usually the 5th-8th creature to run in the discard spot. Tribe is often played in a budget list that plays without Lion’s Eye Diamond, as seen in the 2012 primer.

    Prized Amalgam

    This card did not exist when the previous primer was last updated. Amalgam does several things:

    • Upgrades our lists with another threat to make it more diverse (i.e. less vulnerable to hate like Surgical Extraction).
    • Returns to play at EOT whenever Narcomoeba or Ichorid do in the same turn. Consider effects that allow you to draw and dredge Narcomoeba on the opponent’s second main to get it in at their end step (e.g. Coliseum).
    • Gives a freebie zombie with Cabal Therapy when you’re recurring Ichorid several times.
    • Sacrifices and returns when you flashback Dread Return.
    • Exiles to Ichorid in a pinch.
    • In some lists, functions as an extra blue card for a sideboard Force of Will.

    Amalgam’s large body intimidates most opposing creatures, and its nasty ability to keep coming back to play makes it a super inclusion in any list. Most that include it play 1-3; four are usually only found in the Manaless dredge decks. Note that the Oracle rulings state it must be in your graveyard at the time you return another creature from the graveyard; you may not, e.g., dredge a Narcomoeba and then discard Amalgam later in the turn to have it return EOT.


    If you're looking to run LED in your deck, look no further than Breakthrough - an incredibly potent accelerate that in conjunction with LED can blast through a massive portion of your deck in a hurry. However, it is not always necessary to run LED and Breakthrough together. You can always opt to eschew running LED in favor of more conventional discard outlets such as Putrid Imp and or Tireless Tribe (which has since fallen in favor of just Imp), and that can work still just as fine. Also take note that you can choose to keep a card or more in your hand depending on the amount of "X" you want to pay, although you really want the card to resolve and to dump as many cards into your graveyard as soon as possible (in most circumstances) so you don't want to open yourself to more conditional counter-magic or hold off until something like Gaddock Teeg hits the table.

    You don't necessarily have to run a full set of Breakthrough, as some winning lists run only two or three main and keep a third or fourth in the board for Combo. This is, however, usually not the right line of play, as Breakthrough is just incredibly powerful when it resolves. However, let it be known though that LED does in fact produce mana when your hand is discarded.

    Most of the dredge lists over the past couple of years have played Breakthrough as in the paragraph above. It’s often correct to board in the final copy you have in matches where you must win quickly. Sometimes, you may consider boarding it out if you’re on the draw in a match where you prefer to dig for immediate answers against graveyard hate (e.g. Leyline of the Void, Grafdigger’s Cage, Tormod’s Crypt), a task which Breakthrough performs poorly at. These are the exception though, rather than the rule.

    • LED’s instant-speed ability does not let you pay for Breakthrough with it. Thus, you cannot announce Breakthrough and then pay the X cost by sacrificing it.
    • However, you are free to respond to Breakthrough by using LED. This gets your dredgers into the graveyard and gives you extra mana (e.g. red for a dredged Faithless Looting).
    • Don’t forget that you can pay 2 to cast it to get around a Chalice at one counter. You don’t always have to make X be zero. In many cases, you don’t want X to be zero anyway. (Would not say this unless I had repeatedly witnessed it to be a thing.)

    Faithless Looting

    The newest and brightest star in the Dredge galaxy. This card not only draws you and allows you to discard two cards, it lets you be able to do it...again! That's right, for 2R (wink wink, LED) you can flash this card back and repeat said process. That is incredibly powerful when you consider that for all intents and purposes your primary objective is to plow through your deck as fast as you can and turn your graveyard into a smorgasbord of answers and win-conditions. Looting gets the job done very well and is seeing a very high percentage of play in Dredge currently.

    While not necessarily a staple, Looting does in fact cost a single Red mana to cast. While this might be moot to some players, it really isn't when you consider the way you set your land configuration up. A deck for instance with twelve (12) land - eight (8) Gold including four (4) Cephalid Coliseum - can have awkward starts with a Coliseum and Looting attached to it. Be aware that if you're going to run Looting, you need to be able to hard-cast it and not necessarily believe that it only works discarded and flash-backed with LED.

    In openers where you can play Looting twice (e.g. Land-LED-Looting), you’re nearly always going to resolve at least one. In openers where the Looting is another draw card (Breakthrough, Careful Study), the ability to dredge into a Looting still makes that draw lightning quick. Remember to sacrifice your LED in response to playing Looting (in all but exceptional cases) so that you both get your dredgers in the graveyard and have the mana to replay it.

    Most lists will employ Looting as a draw spell and usually do so in fours. Others may leave it out in favor of Careful Study and other spells. Still others will include both Looting and Study. Where you find LED, you will usually find Looting.

    Careful Study

    From Michael’s 2012 primer:

    Careful Study might as well be a staple in Dredge at this point because of just how good it is and always has been. It costs one Blue mana, which is very good because of the aforementioned reasons in regard to Looting. It's important to consider that Study does what Looting does, except without the bonus of Flashback. Study is a very potent accelerate and hand-filterer that can help facilitate the dredging process in addition to being a mana-friendly spell.

    Incredibly good for what it does, I wouldn't run anything less than four - which I already do.

    From Damon’s 2009 primer:

    Weak. Seriously. I have run this card in every iteration of the deck, and in numbers from one to four. I've never been anything but disappointed. Yes, it does function as both draw, and discard. Yes, it can dig for answers, especially post-board. Unfortunately, it does none of this well; in most cases not even adequately. In almost every situation, I would prefer a more powerful and/or cheaper spell that might be limited in its variety of uses.

    Obviously, opinions have differed on this card. In comparison to Looting, Study holds the advantage of being available with Coliseum, but the disadvantage of only being available once. Some lists prefer it because they need more blue cards (read: Force of Will). Others use it in addition to Looting. The discussion of Study is deep and available in past threads.

    Dread Return

    Dread Return is one of those cards that gives the deck a straight-up combo finish in being able to create a massive number of Zombies and the ability to recur a creature that either facilitates an instant win, provides incredible defensive resistance, or is absolutely huge (or any combination of these). Some people have begun shifting Dread Return to the sideboard as it has become somewhat of a "win more" card that can be situational at times and unnecessary given that the deck already has a very solid game one win percentage among most of the format.

    The sideboard where you would ideally place a specialty creature like Iona, Shield of Emeria, which can oftentimes shut an opponent off entirely. Iona is usually the most common sideboard choice for Dredge as a Dread Return target, but there are other popular choices as well.

    While its value in (non-Manaless) Dredge is not really disputed, the number of copies and its targets are hotly debated. A separate primer could (and perhaps should) be written on the value of different DR targets. Without broaching the subject of a dedicated target, DR is valuable on its own when it sacrifices your own creatures to create a load of zombies with Bridge from Below. You might DR a huge Grave-Troll, a flier to block a Marit Lage token, a Thug to recycle Narcomoeba, or something random just to make more zombies. Speaking for myself, I have DR’d every creature in the deck at one time or another depending on the circumstance.

    Some people swear on a special maindeck DR target, while others prefer to keep them in the sideboard. To try and tabulate every single discussion of DR targets would be far too onerous and not worth our time. Again, the search button is your friend. Below is a non-exhaustive list of various targets mentioned in our threads at one time or another.

    Akroma, Angel of Wrath
    Ancestor’s Chosen
    Angel of Despair
    Ashen Rider
    Blazing Archon
    Cephalid Sage
    Chancellor of the Annex
    Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
    Empyrial Archangel
    Eternal Witness
    Flame-Kin Zealot
    Flayer of the Hatebound
    Grave Titan
    Greater Gargadon
    Inferno Titan
    Inkwell Leviathan
    Iona, Shield of Emeria
    Realm Razer
    River Kelpie
    Sadistic Hypnotist
    Sphinx of Lost Truths
    Sphinx of the Steel Wind
    Stalking Vengeance
    Sun Titan
    Sundering Titan
    Whirlpool Rider/Whirlpool Drake
    Woodfall Primus

    Street Wraith

    I add this card to today’s discussion because of its versatility and utility against various hate cards we see often. Some lists play this in the sideboard to respond to cards like Surgical Extraction and Deathrite Shaman. Others play it because it draws without casting and exiles to Ichorid. Its big body and swampwalk ability are not negligible either.

    Speaking from personal experience, I often seesaw between sideboard strategies that either want to get rid of threats slowing me down (e.g. the aforementioned hate cards) or power past it. Since Street Wraith fills both of these roles to an extent, I find myself playing with some number of copies in most lists I choose. Some find that their best way to utilize it is in decks that either try to play as few spells as possible or use more than four discard creatures (Imp and Tribe). Again, the way you choose to construct your deck will affect how useful Street Wraith might be.

    Other considerations and diversions to the support cards

    Various lists have, over time, employed different strategies for presenting a threat, with most of them coming as different creatures. Some of the cards listed below are included in various versions and usually require more attention to the rest of the list to make them functional. Defer to past primers and discussions to go over these thoroughly.

    Ashen Ghoul
    Nether Shadow


    A standard-ish LED Dredge list plays 11-14 mana sources (not including LED). The majority of these are five-color sources because of the need to play certain sideboard cards, as well as facilitate three colors for the maindeck.

    Gemstone Mine

    Mine is the first land usually included because of its pain-free mana. While use is limited to three mana, utility beyond the third use is usually limited since the game is often decided by that point. Don’t forget that an opponent’s Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or Blood Moon, etc. (as for any of these lands) allows you to use it for mana without losing a counter. In a pinch, you might also deplete Mine intentionally so you can use it towards your threshold count (read: Coliseum).

    Mana Confluence, City of Brass

    These are the second/third gold sources. Confluence fills the deck before City does because of the few corner cases where City might be tapped by an opponent (e.g. Rishadan Port) for a free Lava Dart. The downside of these lands is that they don’t play well after you have run out of gas and must hardcast cards, but it’s difficult to be avoided.

    Tarnished Citadel, Undiscovered Paradise, etc.

    These cards were used before Confluence was printed. Paradise might still be used if your deck plays something like Bloodghast or if your personal preference is to use it.

    Cephalid Coliseum
    It's an un-counterable three draw. Play four unless you find consistent problems casting non-blue cards.

    Lotus Petal

    Throughout the deck’s lifespan, various players have come forward and either exulted or decried Petal. Its single use makes for difficult opening hand decisions, especially in situations where replacement by another land card would have made that decision clearer. When seen in the last couple of years, Petal has come out of the sideboard as a concession to the need for more mana sources against Wasteland or as an accelerator versus combo. More debate about its utility can be found in the previous threads.


    That is precisely the point. Dredge is not Magic: the Gathering in the traditional sense, since we are not strictly using lands and mana to play spells that win. The dredge mechanic creates a completely new, unforeseen way of approaching killing the opponent. It employs what some call a linear approach to the game, or winning the game in one redundant way. Therefore, most players consider Dredge to fall under the “combo” category of decks. You will win the game the same way nearly every time.

    Like any combo deck, determining what to keep in your opener is a critical juncture in the game. Dredge mulligans reasonably well since it takes a mere three or four cards to explode. Consider the power that an opener of Land-LED-Breakthrough-Grave Troll has in a mulligan to four (the new Scry 1 rule helps immensely).

    You should look for four different types of cards in your opening hand. These include:

    • A dredger.
    • A mana source (e.g. land).
    • A discard outlet.
    • A draw spell.

    A useful mnemonic (altered from an example found in another MTG forum) you could use might be, “Dredge Goes Off the Deep End”. You need a dredger, a gold source (mana), a discard outlet, and a draw spell. (The deep end is your graveyard. This is a swimming reference.)

    In most cases, you should consider a mulligan if your hand does not contain at least three of these. From Damon’s 2009 primer:

    The most difficult obstacle to overcome when learning to play this deck is the situations and frequency with which you must mulligan. Not only are there specific needs for your opening hand, but they may change depending on your opponent, what game it is, and who is on the play. As a very general rule, there are four things you are looking for in your opening hand; Mana, Discard, Dredger, and Draw. Some cards count as both, but only in conjunction with others. I've found that in most cases if you don't have at least three of these four requirements that you must mulligan. If you have multiple draw spells, or are playing what you know is a good match/slow deck, this can vary a little. Some combinations such as LED-Coliseum, or LED-[Deep Analysis] allow you to break this since Lion's Eye Diamond acts as Mana and Discard, but this is an exception. I can't stress enough how important it is to force yourself to mulligan hands without these needs, and to then learn when you can risk breaking that rule.

    Draw, Discard, Dredge (DDD) strategy

    In some situations, you will find that it is unnecessary and even counterproductive to cast spells. Thus, you may find it useful to employ the DDD strategy. Here you draw a card for the turn, pass through the end step, and discard a dredger to reduce hand size to seven. Then, you dredge next turn, discard it again, and keep repeating. This is the engine of the Manaless deck and various builds of non-Manaless have been built around this strategy, like this one here.

    This strategy should not be discounted against slower, grind-ish control decks. An advantage of this strategy is that you can employ it at the outset, then play your spells later when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

    Navigating various matchups

    Hot take: An oft-overlooked point by those demanding analysis of certain matchups is that your linear strategy does not change from game to game. You are still going to win by dredging a bunch of cards and returning those cards to play. Understanding how your opponent’s cards either prevent you from doing that or outrace you is more important than reading about what to do in a specific match. For example, blue-based decks employing Deathrite Shaman (e.g. BUG Delver, Grixis Delver, etc.) use Deathrite and counterspells to slow you down. Figure out how to maximize your strategy against them: use Putrid Imp and Coliseum to get around Spell Pierce and Flusterstorm, quicker draw spells to outrace Deathrite, etc. Ritual-based combo demands you use Therapy to strip acceleration and tutors, while at the same time gunning to outrace. The list goes on and has already been well-documented by others.

    The predominant outlook you should consider is that if you are playing a deck with Cabal Therapy, you will both know how an opponent’s deck works and at some point, obtain perfect information about how your opponent is going to play their hand. From there, your task is execution.

    Sources of strategery

    Various articles through the years have aided us in our playing philosophy. Here are several for your review.

    Patrick Chapin, Dredge in Extended: A Serious Problem and How to Deal with It, 9/17/07
    Anwar Ahmad (AnwarA101), Practical Legacy: Interviewing an Ichorid Innovator (Damon Whitby), 7/30/09
    Max McCall, Ideas Unbound: Legacy Dredge, 3/12/10
    Richard Feldman, The Dark Art of Dredge Fu, 5/2/11
    Adam Barnello, Recurring Nightmares: Dredge Returns, 7/19/11
    Matt Elias, Legacy’s Best Combo Deck, 4/19/12
    Gerry Thompson, Demonstrating My Range, 6/5/12
    Jim Leonov, Learning to Dredge, Part 1 2/7/13 and part 2
    Drew Levin, How to Build Dredge,1/21/14
    Kate Donnelly, Legacy Dredge 9/23/16
    Last edited by RThomas-; 08-26-2017 at 10:54 PM.

  2. #2
    Reanimate on Phage
    RThomas-'s Avatar
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    Nov 2010

    Rockford, IL


    [Primer] Dredge


    There is no matchup and card-by-card breakdown on sideboarding in this primer. This is partially because I would rather explain why you are doing what you are doing, not just what to do (give a man a fish, teach a man to fish). But more than that, it is because there is not a “correct” method to sideboard. Different players will feel differently about different strategies and different methods. See the difference? My advice will be different from Michael’s, whose will be different from Joseph’s, whose will be different from Damon’s.

    However, whatever your strategy is, you must figure out what you want to do and why you want to do it. It will be mind-blowing to know this, but consider the fact in every tournament, you will play more games against sideboarded hate cards than against an un-sideboarded deck. In a way, your game 2 and 3 strategy must be equally as good or better than your game 1 strategy. You must decide: Do I go all in on turn one? Do I mulligan to a safer opener? What do I name with Cabal Therapy? What is my role in this game?

    I drag on in this section because it is the most important part of considering whether to play with this deck. You must know Legacy concisely, as well as your metagame, the popular sideboard cards at that given time, and what your card selections do or do not do well against them. There is no secret to the fact that this deck is one of the more easily hated against; your job is to make that hate ineffective, or meager, or just irrelevant. Thus, you must learn before you earn (stupid proverb).

    My general sideboard strategy involves asking two general questions:

    • Is the other deck going to outrace me?
    • What hate must I protect against?

    In my personal experience, I find that the first question is usually easily responded to. If our deck is too slow (e.g. against Ritual combo, Reanimator, Belcher, Turbo Depths, Show and Tell, etc.), we know we want cards to slow them down. Some are proactive, most are reactive. Valuable sideboard cards we want against these decks might include, but are not limited to:

    Ancestor’s Chosen
    Ashen Rider
    Blind Obedience
    Chain of Vapor
    Chalice of the Void
    Disrupting Shoal
    Faerie Macabre
    Force of Will
    Iona, Shield of Emeria
    Leyline of Sanctity
    Leyline of the Void
    Memory’s Journey
    Mindbreak Trap
    Root Maze
    Sadistic Hypnotist
    Surgical Extraction
    Tormod’s Crypt

    As you see, these cards are all free or nearly free. In my experience, I look for the cards that can either do more than one thing well (e.g. Unmask, Memory’s Journey, etc.), or are powerful enough to win for you if they resolve (e.g. Ashen Rider, Mindbreak Trap, Iona, etc.) Your experience will differ from mine as well as your consideration that you will usually have less spots to devote to such cards than the other category. There are some cases where you must worry about answering hate while blithely outracing your opponent. If you find yourself doing both on a regular basis in your metagame, I encourage you to choose another deck to play that day.

    Answering the second question is far more expansive. There is a great deal of graveyard hate people employ in our format and no two decks will employ the same strategy. It must be noted here that, especially in today’s larger metagames, your opponents are not sideboarding devoted Dredge hate cards. This means that while you will see less total hate cards than, say, the Mental Misstep era, the suite of hate cards your opponent brings in against you will be quite diverse and tailored to their specific deck. You must be prepared to deal with nearly everything you can imagine thrown at you.

    While a deck-by-deck breakdown of possible hate is unnecessary and possibly does a disservice to a proper strategy, certain maindeck cards can signal what you must prepare against. Here are some answers that, in my experience, are helpful when determining what a opponent will bring in.

    Deathrite Shaman? Expect to see various cards like Surgical Extraction, Grafdigger’s Cage, Extirpate, Containment Priest, Faerie Macabre, Tormod’s Crypt. You can usually discount, though never eliminate Leyline of the Void, Relic of Progenitus, and Rest in Peace.
    Snapcaster Mage? Expect to see Surgical, Extirpate, and the above artifacts to a lesser extent.
    Scavenging Ooze? Expect to see Surgical, Bojuka Bog, and possibly other artifact-based hate.
    Dark Ritual? Such decks employ an array of hate, from artifact-based hate to Surgical/Extirpate/Faerie, to Leyline.
    Plains? Expect to see RIP, Priest, Surgical, Faerie. Leyline is usually eschewed because of its inability to be cast, while artifacts are eschewed for the better options above.
    Ancient Tomb, Cloudpost, Eldrazi Temple? Expect to see Leyline, Faerie, and/or artifact-based hate. Decks like Dragon Stompy, Eldrazi, and other sol-land stompy seem to simplify post-side games against our deck and employ the all in/fold strategy. Many pilots simply mulligan until they either find it or give up entirely.
    • Various blue cards not mentioned above? Expect to see Surgical, Cage, Crypt, and other lesser hate cards. It is impossible to run the gamut of possible decks from Sneak/Show combo to Morphling control thoroughly. Through time you will learn what decks and what pilots play what cards at what times. What?
    Goblin Game? Make sure you are at the right tournament (useless).

    You can find longer discussions on “Dredge Hitmen™” in Michael’s 2012 primer. Other cards you might see include Coffin Purge, Ensnaring Bridge, Nihil Spellbomb, Phyrexian Furnace, Wheel of Sun and Moon, Withered Wretch, and Yixlid Jailer.

    Thanks to our five-color mana base, we have a diverse array of cards ready to answer all this hate. A sideboard should seek to employ cards that answer several of these at once. Your options include but are not limited to the following:

    Abrupt Decay
    Ancient Grudge
    Ashen Rider
    Chain of Vapor
    Echoing Truth
    Ingot Chewer
    Memory’s Journey
    Natural State
    Nature’s Claim
    Pithing Needle
    Ray of Revelation
    Street Wraith

    A couple of short, off-the-top considerations:

    • Consider that many decks playing Leyline are also playing Chalice of the Void. Keep this in mind when deciding what enchantment destruction to select.
    • Street Wraith is special because of its role against Surgical and similar hate cards. Cycle it in response to a removal spell/ability to save your dredger and counter the spell/ability at the same time.
    • Note that Wispmare will destroy a Leyline/RIP when it enters play. Its evoke ability is a triggered instead of a static ability. In those few cases where you can both get rid of an enchantment and discard, e.g., a Bridge, stack the Evoke trigger under the destroy trigger, let the destroy trigger resolve, and discard your other card in response to the evoke trigger. At the least, it provides one more creature when you Dread Return your Grave-Troll.
    • Natural State does not hit Leyline (too bad).

    These should take up at least a plurality of your sideboard spots. Seek to employ those that are most effective to you without putting a large wrench into your strategy.

    Other considerations for your sideboard might include:

    • Extra mana: Since the deck is weak to Wasteland/Ghost Quarter, consider adding a City of Brass or Lotus Petals.
    • Dread Return targets: Included in most sides, choose cards that wreck certain matchups like Iona, Elesh Norn, Hypnotist, Terastodon, Ashen Rider. You may also consider cards that serve narrower roles, like Ancestor’s Chosen, Flayer, Akroma, Woodfall Primus, Sun Titan, and the like. More on these options can be found in the Dread Return section.
    • More threats: We often have problems getting to 20 damage when our beaters are Extracted or Deathrited (made-up word). You may consider additional threats like Nether Shadow, Ashen Ghoul, Prized Amalgam, etc. to keep presenting new threats. Opinion: decks like Deathblade, four-color Leovold, and similar decks rely on Surgical and Snapcaster to keep you at bay. If you find these decks often, consider threats with different names such as these to keep the pressure on.
    Greater Gargadon: Damon discusses Gargadon at length in his 2009 primer.

    A note on Firestorm

    Firestorm and its inclusion is a hotly debated topic. Some players love it, while others hate it. Fans justify its inclusion by noting that there is no other effective way to remove Deathrite Shaman and Containment Priest. Haters note that it is easily countered and doesn’t advance the strategy as effectively as, say, Putrid Imp. You will undoubtedly run through this card at some point in your experience.

    From Michael’s 2012 primer:

    Recently, a card was printed that completely changed the dynamic of how we as Dredge players build our sideboards. It's a card called Scavenging Ooze, and it's a bitch to deal with. Basically, at this point in Legacy it is the bane of Dredge's existence as Maverick decks running Green Sun's Zenith can fetch it up in a pinch. It is imperative to have an answer to this creature at the ready, and no other card does it better than Firestorm.

    The thing about Firestorm that completely separates it from other discard outlets is that it can do a massive amount of damage to your opponents' creatures - and your opponents - and the fact is the discard part of the card is an additional cost, so no matter what happens the cards you selected to discard are headed to the graveyard no matter what. At one mana, this is an incredibly good answer in dealing with Ooze and clearing the way against fast decks like Affinity and Elves, where creatures can swarm the board in a hurry.

    Take note too of the fact that when you discard a Bridge from Below to Firestorm, it can potentially be exiled if you can't kill any of your own creatures upon resolution. However, sometimes it's a small price to pay if you need to wipe their board in a hurry. The card is a blowout and very hard to play around.

    From Richard Feldman’s 2011 article:

    Finally, there's Firestorm.

    First, remember that you pitch cards as an additional cost to casting it so even if they counter it you still get to discard. This makes it literally the most reliable starting discard outlet in the entire list although it doesn't give you the recurring discard power of Tribe or Imp.

    Second, understand that you can't pitch more cards (or deal more damage) than there are legal targets. So if there's only one creature in play at most you can Firestorm with X=3 targeting you your opponent and the creature. This means that if there are no creatures out yet using Firestorm to pitch two cards entails shooting both you and your opponent for 2. (Which favors you on average by the way so don't be afraid to damage yourself if you need a Careful Study-sized discard effect.) It also means if you're just one target shy of killing a big creature or the opponent you can add yourself to the mix so long as the racing math still works out.

    Third, don't underestimate the power of Flame Wave to swing games. Even if casting it for enough to cripple or obliterate the opponent's team will force you to pitch your backup dredgers directly into the opponent's Crypt consider whether the opponent can still beat you—Crypt or no—if you wipe his team dome him for 3-5 and swing for the fences.

    From Damon’s 2009 primer:

    I never cease to be amazed at how absolutely insane this card is in Ichorid. Its original inclusion was for a cheap answer to both Yixlid Jailer and Magus of the Moon, but it does so much more. The discard is a cost, so against permission decks, it foils their primary plan of stopping your discard outlets. It can also act as a devastating sweeper against swarm decks such as Goblins and Merfolk. Spot removal can often be needed against less common problems such as Goblin Sharpshooter or Platinum Angel. The other common use I've found is after a stall of creature attacks and damage dealt, going straight to the opponent's dome with a Firestorm as a finisher. Eternal Witness makes this easy even after Dredging your library away. The possibilities go on and on.

    Use your search function to find more Ad Nauseam (wrong deck) discussion of Firestorm.


    Fortunately, in the age of streaming and YouTube, there exists a wealth of content that both discusses strategy and displays real-time & recorded matches. This playlist is a great place to start to find YouTube recordings of various matches. More videos and regular livestreams will be added here later on

    Feel free to post more in the comments below. Below are some written Dredge tournament reports:

    Ryan Thomas, 11/27/10, Baltimore Legacy event
    Brot_Ohne_Kruste, 5/17/11, Top 4 Bazaar of Moxen
    kombatkiwi, 5/21/11, New Zealand Legacy event
    4eak, 9/13/11, 1st Place SCG Atlanta
    Ando Ferguson, 3/16/12, Top 8 GP Indianapolis
    Michael Keller, 3/26/12, 13th Place SCG Baltimore
    "athiestpiece", 5/4/15, Fire/Dice Legacy staples event
    "bltzcrg", 8/31/15, GPT

    X. NON-CARD CONSIDERATIONS (how to mentally play like a pro)

    In my personal experience, Dredge lends itself to some neat mind tricks in tournament play. The adept pilot will notice these and attempt to take advantage of the opponent’s inattention to the stack, ignorance of how cards interact, or abhorrence for Dredge in general. Here are a few I have noticed in my years of play with this deck.

    • Generally, players hate playing against Dredge. Pure demon hellfire and sinful vibes to the soul are technically reserved for those playing Manaless Dredge, but standard Dredge screws up emotions just as adroitly. Because of this, you will often find that most of your opponents decline to test against Dredge. Use this to your advantage. Clueless opponents will do silly things like Surgical the first dredger to hit your graveyard or reanimate a dredger to exile your Bridges. These things don’t work.
    • Because of this loathing, your opponents will either quickly keep post-side hands with one piece of hate (even as slow as Deathrite Shaman) or mulligan aggressively until they find that hate. A well-timed “snap keep” can throw them off balance and make them seriously doubt the power of their opener. Use this play judiciously.
    Hot take: When using Cabal Therapy, you name a card upon resolution, not upon announcement of the spell. Various players attempt to take advantage of this trick by naming a card upon casting Therapy, only to name a different card upon resolution. I am (opinion) not a fan of this sort of angleshooting. I can understand the move in a Grand Prix-level tournament against an opponent who you know to be a high-performer, but in your garden-variety monthly, this seems like a dick move bordering on fraudulent. Figure out for yourself if and when you want to employ this strategy.
    • Remember what triggered abilities are on the field. Your opponent will do whatever they can to try and hide them from you. For example, I remember one match several years ago where my opponent led with a Chalice of the Void on one counter. At the time, I had a terrible time remembering Chalice triggers. So, I took a leaf from my 8.5"x11" notebook, wrote, “THERE IS A CHALICE FOR ONE” on it, and put it squarely in the middle of my playmat. Laughs were had all around. I won that game in part because (I like to think) my opponent was distracted by the pure absurdity of that move. My reasoning was, if my opponent thinks I’m already a mutant by playing this deck, play to that strength.
    • Your deck is already weak against combo. The thoughtful hesitation at times can be game-saving at times you can’t stop them but you want them to think you can. Tank on that third spell of the turn to telegraph Mindbreak Trap if you don’t have it. Perhaps they’ll play Goblin Charbelcher or LED and pass, out of fear you’ll just counter their next enabling spell. Then play Ancient Grudge the next turn and ruin their day.

    XI. CONCLUSION (end here)

    I sincerely hope you have enjoyed and learned from this primer. For me, I treasure Dredge in all formats since it is a special deck that breaks all the norms. The surprise and dismay that crosses my opponent’s face when I lead with Coliseum and Careful Study is worth all the hate I receive when I play the deck. Dredge players are a special breed and I’m glad to be part of this small fraternity. I hope you will provide gallons and even liters of feedback via this thread, PM, my MTGO handle, or directly at rwt422[at]gmail[dot]com.

    This primer is by no means meant to be comprehensive. Various lists, cards, and strategies have been excluded, and I would be happy to hear about it in the comments below or any other communication method listed above. The community development of Magic is what sustains it above all other factors.


    I am indebted to the work that Michael Keller, Damon Whitby, Joseph Moreno, ajfirecracker, and others have done to develop this deck. A great deal of their work is quoted here and, while not the end-all-be-all of analysis, it is an invaluable starting point for determining what to play and how to play it in this deck.

    An equal amount of thanks goes to every single person that has ever contributed to the discussion over the past ten years. Without your thoughts, Dredge does not evolve to the terrific deck it is today. I cannot thank each person by name, but if you have posted in this thread or written an article about this deck, I am grateful to you.


    If this post bored, enraged, or upset you, enjoy a picture of my pups Icky and Narco playing. Obviously, black is the best color for a very good boy (please do not sig this sentence).

  3. #3
    Chronatog's Avatar
    Join Date

    Feb 2015

    Berkeley, CA


    Re: [Deck] Dredge

    Quote Originally Posted by slave View Post
    Carefully - if at all. I haven't been playing the deck much in the last 6 months, but I love this deck more than any other for some reason I haven't worked out!
    I don't really see the point if you're going to be battling against RiP & LotV in every match-up, but if extraction is going to be the main obstacle I feel we have a fighting chance. The only bugger with playing carefully, is that the whole LED/Breakthrough line of play that serves this deck so well on Turn1, is something of a punt.
    I also like Dredge and don't want to give it up. Perhaps just right now is note the best metagame cycle for Dredge, but everything changes. Mind Over Matter has a very relevant flavor text.

    Yes, hand discard effects doesn't work well after sideboarding. I think that in most cases for a LED based deck transformational sideboard is not to have LED's.

    Quote Originally Posted by slave View Post
    In the past I've tried Unmask's but we're not really black-cards heavy enough for it to be consistently a good line of play. Brainstorm was always the enemy with any form of targeted discard really. Now with Top gone from miracles, this line of play might actually be a little more viable than it was back when I tried it.

    Personally, my first optimized deck in legacy was manaless dredge. Many people pass the deck off as trash, but miss the point of the deck. The fact that most of the lines of play with manaless cannot be interacted with, from using things like Street Wraith, Phantasmagorian etc., is something that rates a mention.
    I dunno if some freakish dredge deck could utilise these un-interactive elements with LED, and actually be a good deck....
    This sounds like a good idea to explore more. I never played manaless dredge, but used 4x Street Wraith in my LED-Dredge deck and liked the effect a lot (good scenario - play LED, cycle Wraith, in response sacrifice LED, discard hand with dredgers and Faithless Looting and go off). Combined with Phantasmagorian, perhaps the deck can be turned into something less interactive even in case of Surgical Extraction.

    However, permanent based hate still is a big issue and I don't see how counterspells can be reliably used in a build with Street Wraith and Phantasmagorian. I think it will be easier to have more black cards - Unmask is one of them. Also Leyline of the Void is hard to deal with whether you use counterspells or discard, so Nature's Claim or Fragmentize are still important to have. On the other hand, Leyline of the Void can potentially fits well into a black-based dredge deck as extra copies can be pitched to Unmask.

    Quote Originally Posted by slave View Post
    I currently run a blue FoW variant of Dredge. I've been running the blue build for quite a while now, in both Manaless and LED-dredge.
    The main problem with the FoW build is that you do sacrifice some raw speed, as B-thru's are problematic with FoW in hand. Having FoW in hand is great, and whilst it can be effective in baiting your opponent, you only have 4 of them. I tried testing Disrupting Shoal as redundancy for a little while but it was terrible. Mindbreak is my 2nd counter of choice FWIW when I choose to run them.
    I'm going to be testing out the new Failure // Comply as a sideboard option but it might end up being far too slow to ever be a threat.
    FoW, Misstep, and Trap are good in Pitch Dredge as there are plenty of blue cards to pitch. I tried legacy dredge with FoW's and didn't find it consistent enough to grand addition of countermagic. Though, effect of surprising your opponent can help to win the game.

    Comply potentially can be useful to partially protect yourself during a turn you try to go off. However, many threats are played at instant speed (notably Surgical and Priest) and will be played in response. I would be very interested in hearing about your test results.

    Quote Originally Posted by slave View Post
    Quite a few of the guys here like using Lotus Petal's in from the side. I like this approach too.
    I've been running 2x Iona in the side, with the plan on naming whatever colour relates to their hate, or combo pieces.
    I like the idea of a transformational side, but given how many of the mainboard cards are unique to dredge, I'm not sure how we avoid simply being a very bad version of whatever we're aiming to impersonate. I've tried the Dark Depths version that some have suggested but I found it horribly inconsistent.
    Petals are good mana accelerators, but dilute deck a bit and provide only one time effect. And casting 2CMC spells is not what dredge can do well and consistently :(. And Iona, as any other reanimation target is of no help when you don't have a graveyard or dredgers. I think if you were able to resolve Dread Return, you are winning anyway. The problem is that I don't see how to reliably get to this winning part in games 2 or 3. I can see how Dark Depth plan can be challenging in Legacy and perhaps this strategy requires an absolutely different deck build - something with Life from the Loam and Riftstone Portal, for example.

    Anyway, I'm still adjusting to the new reality for Dredge so it is hard for me to evaluate different possibilities. One of the avenues I plan to explore is to try Blodghast + Dakmor Salvage + Undiscovered Paradise. With a bit more lands in deck, this build may be more resilient to permanent hate. Time will show.
    Carpe Diem

  4. #4

    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Awesome work! Really ejoyed reading about the mental tips how to play...:) Also a great description of all important triggers and stuff around them... Once again - good job!

  5. #5

    Re: [Deck] Dredge

    Hi everyone!

    First time posting here on The Source, just to share my first experience with the deck IRL.

    Yesterday I played on a side event in GP São Paulo, the Power Legacy with 52 players (sorta). It was my first Legacy tournament, since that I had just finished building the deck and there is not much of a legacy community here in my city. Well, here is a quick report:

    -Match 1: UR Delver W 2x0 (not much to say about this game, the deck did its thing)

    -Match 2: 4C Dever(?) L 0x2 (both games i think i mulliganed pretty wrong, keeping slow hands. Wastelands and Fow didn't let me do anything)

    -Match 3: Burn W 2x0 (same as the first match, the game did his job, cabal therapys helped me. Game 2, my opp mull to 5 looking for a Leyline, but didn't find, keeping a hand with 2 Mulan, one bolt and two mountains)

    -Match 4: Sneak and Show W 2x0 (game 1 my opp Show and Tell an Emrakul, but i had already built a pretty strong board with 3 bridges on the grave. He attacked with Emi and I go down to 5 life, but with annihilator i get to put around 6 zombies token and had 3 Ichorid on my grave for lethal next turn. Game 2 Cabal Therapys saved me, as it strip downs my opp hand, leaving him only with a Emi. Quick note: game two he cast surgical extraction on response to my first Narcomoeba trigger, I use my Cephalid Coliseum abbility and manage to put the 2 left on battlefield)

    -Match 5: ANT Storm L 1x2 (game 1 he probe and therapied two breakthrough from my hand, and stormed out, game 2 i mull to 4, make him discard 2 dark rituals with therapy and prevent a turn one win, game two we both mull and keep slow hands, he storm!)

    -Match 6: Food Griffin W 2x0 (both games we made punts, but it was a grindy game where we both mull hard. He didn't find his combo and forget to cast a walking balista at 0 to exile my bridges)

    After this 6 rounds I didn't manage to get to Top 8 but I did won 18 boosters, at 12º place!

    The list I used is pretty stock, with 3 careful study and 3 breakthrough. The only differences was 4 City of Brass and 1 Mana Confluence (didn't find more Mana Confluence) and 4 Ichorids MD.

    Some others notes:
    -Dredge is a strong deck and carried me around during the tournament. I made a LOT of missplays, but the deck forgived me and helped me.

    -I loved the format, the first time I get to play IRL! It was the feeling I got when I first started playing MTG! Everything was new, the decks, the cards!

    -I got to meet with RK Post! He was here at GP, one of the most awesome artist in MTG!

    Well, after this, I wanted to ask you guys for some kind of advices with sideboards against "unknown" decks (like when you combo off turn 1 and the opp concede before you get the chance to see what he got), the anti hate package?

    Thanks in advance and sorry for my english!

  6. #6
    Reanimate on Phage
    RThomas-'s Avatar
    Join Date

    Nov 2010

    Rockford, IL


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Hey folks. Let's rekindle this discussion with a new, really stupid (good) card: Driven // Despair

    I noticed this gem in a new HOU pack I opened the other day. Then I tried it in Modern Dredge.dec. This card is wonderful and I don't know why we haven't discussed it yet. Here is why you should try Driven // Despair:
    • Driven functions as another draw spell when in your hand. It either fills your graveyard immediately or helps you find what you're looking for to do so.
    • Driven gives your guys trample when in your hand. This is helpful when, say, you're trying to climb over Young Pyromancer tokens, or a bunch of Goblins, or a bunch of Death Tax creatures, or other similar situations you can imagine.
    • Driven stacks your draws so with a Putrid Imp, you can dredge a guy, discard him, and dredge again if you hit with multiple guys.
    • Despair gives your guys menace, which is useful for that one-turn alpha strike. Pretty useful when we're in a middling situation with 2-4 zombie tokens. Perhaps it ends the game nearly half a turn faster on average in the deck.
    • Despair makes your opponent discard a bunch of stuff. It's pretty much a 1B Rakdos's Return when you consider at least some of your guys will reach. I have found this immensely helpful against stuff like ANT, where they're not always going to go off turn 1 or 2.

    Here is what it does not do:
    • Cost one mana. This might be enough to weaken it to a point where we don't want it. I have not yet been sorry to cast it, however.
    • Refill your hand.
    • Get around a Chalice for two (who cares)

    I have wanted some more discard against stuff like Leovold.dec and Delver decks. I wanted a little more strength against Storm. I wanted a little extra oomph against Death Tax. I think this does all of these things, and reasonably well. I'm interested to hear your takes on it.

  7. #7
    potatodavid's Avatar
    Join Date

    Jan 2013

    Land of Snow and Purple Rain


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Quote Originally Posted by RThomas- View Post
    Hey folks. Let's rekindle this discussion with a new, really stupid (good) card: Driven // Despair

    what would you be cutting, and how many would you run?

    I feel like you will never have enough lands to run this efficiently.

  8. #8

    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    There is almost no mention of Cephalid Coliseum?

  9. #9
    cdnza's Avatar
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    Feb 2015

    SF, CA (via London, UK)


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    New thread! But no lists in the primer - does anyone have any to offer?

  10. #10
    Reanimate on Phage
    RThomas-'s Avatar
    Join Date

    Nov 2010

    Rockford, IL


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Quote Originally Posted by potatodavid View Post
    what would you be cutting, and how many would you run?

    I feel like you will never have enough lands to run this efficiently.
    I wouldn't play more than one. I don't really care what you cut to play it: 11th-12th dredger, a draw spell, the 13th-14th land. You could not cut anything and play it as card 61 instead. I would never want to see more than one. The drawback of having only 12-14 lands in your list to play it is somewhat offset by the fact you can use LED to cast Despair. It takes the same input as Coliseum, anyway.

    If you insist, here's what I am playing with today:

    4 Cephalid Coliseum
    4 Gemstone Mine
    4 Mana Confluence
    1 City of Brass
    4 Lion's Eye Diamond

    4 Golgari Grave-Troll
    4 Stinkweed Imp
    3 Golgari Thug
    4 Ichorid
    4 Narcomoeba
    4 Putrid Imp
    2 Prized Amalgam

    4 Faithless Looting
    4 Breakthrough
    4 Cabal Therapy
    4 Bridge from Below
    1 Dread Return
    1 Driven/Despair

    4-5 artifact/enchant anti-hate
    1-2 DR target
    0-3 Firestorm
    4-6 combo hate

    There is almost no mention of Cephalid Coliseum?
    It's an un-counterable three draw. Play four unless you find consistent problems casting non-blue cards.

  11. #11

    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    After a long hiatus, I made my return this weekend back to Dredge at Eternal Extravaganza VII. Went 7-2 (good enough for 13th place), and got on feature twice.

    EE7 Match here at around 3 hours in.

    Report to come.
    Last edited by Michael Keller; 09-17-2017 at 08:00 PM.

  12. #12
    meffeo's Avatar
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    Oct 2013



    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Keller View Post
    After a long hiatus, I made my return this weekend back to Dredge at Eternal Extravaganza VII. Went 7-2 (good enough for 13th place), and got on feature twice.

    EE7 Matches here.

    Report to come.
    Great Hollywood! Link's not working, it goes to a vintage match.
    TEAM MtG Berlin

    "Dredge isn't a deck, it's public masturbation with graveyard triggers."

    Quote Originally Posted by phazonmutant View Post
    So dismissive.
    Quote Originally Posted by danyul View Post
    This thread is great. I've been able to save so much money on seasoning! Whenever I'm eating something bland, I just wander over here to borrow some of the infinite salt.

  13. #13

    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Link fixed.

  14. #14
    Oestrus's Avatar
    Join Date

    Oct 2015

    Milwaukee, WI


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Keller View Post
    After a long hiatus, I made my return this weekend back to Dredge at Eternal Extravaganza VII. Went 7-2 (good enough for 13th place), and got on feature twice.

    EE7 Match here at around 3 hours in.

    Report to come.
    I see Lion's Eye Diamond, and Prized Amalgam, which I'm completely here for.

    Good to have you back, sir!

  15. #15

    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Just won an Underground Sea at a Dual Land event today with the following list:

    4 Cephalid Coliseum
    3 Gemstone Mine
    4 Mana Confluence
    1 City of Brass

    4 Lion's Eye Diamond

    4 Golgari Grave-Troll
    4 Stinkweed Imp
    3 Golgari Thug
    3 Ichorid
    4 Narcomoeba
    4 Putrid Imp
    1 Prized Amalgam
    1 Street Wraith

    4 Faithless Looting
    3 Breakthrough
    4 Cabal Therapy
    4 Bridge from Below
    2 Dread Return
    2 Careful Study
    1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

    3 Firestorm
    3 Faerie Macabre
    2 Serenity
    2 Duress
    1 Ancient Grudge
    1 Ashen Rider
    1 Street Wraith
    1 Prized Amalgam
    1 Breakthrough

    R1 W2/0: BUG Delver
    R2 W2/1: GW Cloudpost
    R3 L1/2: Grixis Delver
    R4 W2/0: Grixis Delver
    R5 W2/0: UR Delver
    T8 W2/0: Death and Taxes
    T4 W2/0: Enchantress
    T2 L1/2: Grixis Delver

  16. #16
    Bob Ross
    Kap'n Cook's Avatar
    Join Date

    Jun 2012

    West Coast


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    5th place in the Legacy Challenge today. 1st seed after swiss, report this week.
    Last edited by Kap'n Cook; 10-04-2017 at 12:17 AM.
    Strawberry Shortcake

    What a brainstorm do? Draw card and activate on draw effects fix hand, removing woods

  17. #17
    Man of the Bounce
    Que's Avatar
    Join Date

    Apr 2011

    City of Angels


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Quote Originally Posted by Kap'n Cook View Post
    5th place in the Legacy Challenge today. 1st seed after swiss, report to come.
    Congrats Kap'n.

    Not a bad week for Dredge. I just got 4th at my monthly LGS Staples tournament. :T

    Also Congrats Hollywood on the win!
    DREDGE Playlist

  18. #18
    Man of the Bounce
    Que's Avatar
    Join Date

    Apr 2011

    City of Angels


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Here is the VOD of my semi finals match where I don't quite get there, but I figure the more gameplay there is the better. Overall I was happy with my performance, but I'm always trying to take 1st so on to the next one. :T

    DREDGE Playlist

  19. #19
    WTP's Choice
    CabalTherapy's Avatar
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    Aug 2010

    Berlin, Germany


    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Good to see Dredge putting up some solid results lately.
    former: Team SpasticalAction & Team RugStar Berlin
    Team MTG Berlin

    Quote Originally Posted by guillemnicolau View Post
    Since the print of dark petition grim tutor hasn't seen play in legacy (not in competitive decks).
    Quote Originally Posted by THerzog41 View Post
    I believe Maverick is still the best deck in the format and definitely the most underrated deck in the format.
    The Dragonstorm

  20. #20

    Re: [Primer] Dredge

    Is there any reason for the recent, successful lists not having a singleton flame-kin zealot as a dread return target? Do you feel the kill being one turn faster is not worth it, or just that, the board state for being able to kill your opponents with a dread return for zealot does not come by often enough to warrant a slot?

    Also, thanks for keeping this primer alive! It's been a great help for someone starting anew with this archetype!

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