November Vintage @ Eudemonia
Dredge Dredge Dredge Dredge
Fortunately there’s a pretty sweet Vintage community in the “Northern” (I mean really, San Francisco is barely north) California area, and I was able to make it out to 15-proxy Vintage at Eudemonia in Berkley. We had 9 players, 4 rounds, prize-out to top 4. I had the misfortune of the first-round bye, after my already chronically-early arrival….c’mon @Smmenen & Robert, EW wasn’t too much Vintage that you couldn’t make it, was it?
Anyway, while playtesting the Fatestitcher/Titan/LED version I’d come to the conclusion that Dread Return felt like overkill to me. If I was Dread Returning with Bridges for value I was winning anyway, since main board answers to a haste-less zombie horde aren’t exactly prolific either, so why not just get there a turn slower with more resilient threats? I wanted to take out that whole package, and when I went to the internet to catch myself up on the state of Dredge, I saw this on TMD courtesy of @vaughnbros (whose Dredge performances on MTGO I’ve been quietly admiring on for ages now). That, the linked primer, and previous discussion with @Islandswamp had me convinced that it was a sweet version of the deck, and honestly my last experience with traditional Dredge left me feeling like the hate-for-hate sideboard strategy just wasn’t my style - it felt like everything had to line up properly and you were very draw-dependent. I don’t really have enough experience to back up that assertion, but that was in my mind every time I was sideboarding. Pitch Dredge was doing what I wanted to do, spending the flex slots and cutting a win condition (Bridge, in this case) to play cards that stopped the hate main deck.
Now, what I didn’t like was attempting to fight a counter war without near the pure card advantage & selection had by blue decks - when you’re playing Ponder / Preordain / Recall / Brainstorm, you’re probably going to have more and better cards than the deck that plans on effectively skipping most of its draw phases (this is an oversimplification, see the @vaughnbros articles for the nuance). I’m imagining the plan here is to use Therapy to strip counters so that you win the war when you Force, or just asking “Do you have it?” when they aren’t really expecting to need counter backup. Misstep feels like the worst card in traditional Dredge to me, as it’s the one place you’re interacting with the stack and if it comes to an important fight over a card, you’ll lose it against blue decks, so I wanted to stay off of the stack as much as possible. I liked the Force + Probe split in @vaughnbros’s list, but wanted to give Unmask a shot in place of Force - why not go all-in on proactively stripping their hand of hate or win conditions? Between Probes and Therapies you’ll know what’s there. I wasn’t sure if this theory was sound, plus it was late by the time I gave myself permission to tinker with an established list (experience & tuning is so real, I’m always intimidated to try things), but I thought why not, this is for fun anyway, and I knew I’d enjoy the spice.
So here’s what I sleeved up (format copied from @vaughnbros’s primer so you can check the differences):
Dredge Portion: (41)
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Serum Powder
4 Bridge from Below
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Life from the Loam
1 Golgari Thug
1 Dakmor Salvage
Control Portion: (19)
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Undiscovered Paradise
1 Strip Mine
1 Riftstone Portal
1 Mana Confluence
2 Cabal Pit
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Abrupt Decay
2 Thespian’s Stage
2 Dark Depths
1 Dakmor Salvage
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 City of Brass
1 Mana Confluence
I decided to play Bridge over the Dread Return plan simply because I wanted to avoid the stack as much as possible - unless I was ripping cards out of their hand. I wasn’t (and still am not) sure this is an optimal plan. I imagine you can plan on clearing the way for Dread Return with Therapy, checking with Probe to see if the way is clear already, or Forcing their response if they have one…but I wanted to go all in on the “no stack interaction” theory. Leylines protect Bridges, and I (incorrectly, apparently) wanted to have some hate for the expected mirror. I trimmed dredgers for them, and I’m not sure I’d do that in the future, they’ll probably come out for more Loams. Since I was planning on grinding out with creature recursion rather than massive Bridge turns, I chose to play one Undiscovered Paradise over a Mana Confluence.
The singleton Loam wasn’t intentional so much as I hate proxying if I don’t have to and was at my Magic budget for the time being already (hello, Kaladesh Inventions and Commander 2016)...I gotta have the Oracle text written out on my proxies and had already spent enough time blanking cards for Karakas and Depths. Blame the exhaustion. I plan on playing more of them. Sideboard land adjustments are for similar reasons, Horizon Canopy is certainly better and that Expedition sure is beautiful :’).
Why no Recall? No lie, I didn’t see it in vaughnbros’s list until writing this up. I could have sworn up and down that the list was “4 Force of Will, 1 Mindbreak Trap” but sure enough there is an Ancestral sandwiched right there in between. Go figure. Complements the Laboratory Maniac plan nicely.
Well, I got the dreaded first-round bye. Fortunately, that let me check out what everyone was playing - in particular, I got a glimpse of nearly everyone’s sideboard plan against me. I spotted:
2 Oath of Druids
1 UWx Gush, I didn’t see enough of this one
1 Grixis (Thieves, possibly)
1 4-color Pyromancer w/Leovold
(and me with Dredge, for a complete list)
Out of the sideboard, the non-white decks had Grafdigger’s Cage with the odd Spellbomb here and there. White decks had Rest in Peace and Containment Priests. I didn’t catch the sideboard for the Lands deck. Turns out someone was also playing Yixilid Jailer, and one of the Oath players had double Ravenous Trap as well.
Round Two (1-0)
For round two I was paired against Ryan on Oath. I kept a 6 or a 7 with Bazaar but no Dredgers, though I had 2 Bridge and an Ichorid so I was pretty set up. I’d won the die roll. What I didn’t count on was a t1 Strip Mine against my otherwise awful hand, a fortuitous keep for Ryan as no one knew I was on Dredge at that point. A follow-up Oath + Orchard put the game away in short order.
I made some questionable sideboarding decisions in this round, particularly on the play, I wish I’d written them down. Suffice to say I should have kept with @vaughnbro’s wisdom and only brought in 3 Serenity. Ryan assembled Vault-Key in short order.
Round Three (1-1)
I’m awful with names and I only have a “C” on my notes, but I’m pretty sure this was Corey. Corey was on Landstill, which I’d seen before, but what I didn’t see was his mainboard Rest in Peace that he proceeded to deploy on his second turn. I had enough mana that had I hit some creatures I’d try to fight it out, but I wasted too much time sticking it out when I should have scooped to game 2. There were 30 minutes on the round clock at this point. I brought in the whole board. He stumbled on mana, and my slow hand with Serenity and several Unmask was enough to take out his hate (2 Grafdigger’s Cage, 1 Pithing Needle on Bazaar). Thespian’s Stage did work copying his single Plains to give me the white mana for Serenity, even if it took ages. I had the pleasure of baiting a Force with a Stinkweed Imp against his Vendilion Clique off of Lotus (he was counting on that as a clock I assume, with no other blue mana), only to see a bit of a frown as I dredged Stinkweed on the next turn and recast it. I made some zombies off of Narcomoebas and Bridges to put the game away.
At this point we have 5 minutes left on the clock, and I’m playing against the slowest of slow decks, so what do I do? Keep in my grindy sideboard. Knowing that he couldn’t close the game out in 5 minutes + turns, I really should have just kept all of the dredgers and powders in, and just hoped to Serenity in time or Unmask the hate and race with a full graveyard. I didn’t, and we went to time. I honestly felt super favored in this match, other than the damn mainboard Rest in Peace can I complain about that again for a second so I really wish I hadn’t wasted so much of our time in game one. Corey (if that’s his name) was a super nice guy and we had what I felt like were fun and kind of silly games, so I wish we’d gotten to actually finish the third one. We drew.
Round 4 (1-1-1)
After a brief mishap where WER didn’t get the updated points from Round 3, we were repaired and off to the races. Well, repaired except for the 4-pointers at 1-1-1. This was Elliot on the 4-color Pyromancer deck. I’m not sure which of us won the roll, but mulliganing to 1 Strip Mine + forgetting to scry (honestly I forgot all day, oops) was not going to get me there. He had possibly one of the best hands I’ve ever seen and won with Pyromancer & co. with a Jace on the field in ~3 turns?
Note, at this point, I am playing Dredge and haven’t won a single game one. What’s up with that?
I brought in the whole board (did I switch out a Dakmor Salvage from the side with the one from the main all day, since I never wanted to board out Karakas? Yes, yes I did. Didn’t even realize I was doing it until this round). Game two he took 4 for Misstepping my Therapies, while I was aggressively filling my graveyard under a Cage. Serenity cleared out Cage and I was able to get Amalgams and Ichorids going to fuel swing swing swing for lethal after a few turns, including the saddest Deathrite Shaman that had to block instead of being able to wait a turn and exile my goodies
For game three, he was relying on a Grafdigger’s Cage to get there, but Serenity hit it and his Jet just after he got a Leovold into play. I had Unmasked the turn previously to see Leovold, Leovold, Cage, Snapcaster; I took the Snapcaster as I was pretty much ignoring Cage and going for the Depths plan at this point, which was in my opener. His next turn didn’t see an answer, and after taking a hit from Leovold I made Marit Lage on his end step to swing for lethal.
Final Record : 2-1-1
Now obviously I can’t take credit for the win from the bye, but winning the last round left me in 4th place just after the 3 3-1s. Landstill could have drawn for the winning record, but they chose to play it out and the landstill player lost, I think to the Gush deck.
Honestly, I felt great about the deck - my game one losses felt a little bit like bad beats (can we talk about main deck Rest in Peace one more time), and my game 2/3 wins felt decisive. Game 2 against the Oath player was certainly my loss for not only oversideboarding, but also missing a line where I could have Bazaar’d in an attempt to put a Therapy in the grave and stop his Oath activation for a turn (at least we were pretty sure that worked). I felt good about my position in the game that went to time, plus winning the post-sideboard games against 4c Pyro. The grind was real, and Amalgam was an absolute all-star. I loved Unmask; Therapy - Therapy - Unmask was just the greatest feeling. I did miss having a dredger a few times during the day, and if the math is there to back it up I’ll add more, but otherwise I think I’d plan on adjusting my dredging suite going forward to include more Loams. The Leylines are my flex slots - I think they’re a wise hedge against the mirror, particularly in paper when Modern dredge is such a big thing, but I’d be interested in exploring other options. From talking with the players there it didn’t seem like Dredge was a popular choice...you don’t have many people like me who are actively trying to trade a Sapphire & blue duals for Bazaars because they just really love Dredge. If another event reveals the same story, I’ll probably try adjusting the color counts to fit in Force of Will alongside Unmask - there were games where Force would have kept me in, and it’s got a proven track record among the Dredge luminaries, so why not both? Given the funtimes nature of paper Vintage in this area, having the self-given permission to experiment is really empowering and failure is low impact. I don’t think any of us were there to win prizes today - we had a great time. Shout out to the wonderful friendly group of Vintage players that showed up at Eudemonia today, as well as to the store for a well-done event despite the fancy Standard qualifier going on next door, a Pokemon tournament, and two drafts.
Until next time - maybe give Unmask a second look, and may all your openers be Bazaars & Trolls!