ThoughtSeizing the Opportunity: Dredge
By Mitja Bosnič on May 14th, 2010 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5), Tournament Report · Comments not available just now
If you've read at least one of my previous articles, you know that Vesper Green (a slightly more controlish build of Eva Green) was my Legacy deck of choice for a long time. I tested it, tuned it, wrote about it, played it in tournaments, and had reasonable success with it. I often said that what I liked about the deck was its ability to make other decks play fair – you slowed them down with a heap of discard and mopped them up quickly with powerful beaters like Tarmogoyf and Tombstalker. What I grew to learn, however, was that neither of these premises is quite as strong as it seems to be.
Sorry, you're just not broken enough.
Firstly, discard is only somewhat successful in Legacy. Because of the high power level of (almost) every individual card, a lucky topdeck can reduce the significance – or even completely neuter – all of your hard work. Examples of this include my CB Bant opponent resolving a third turn Natural Order against me in GP—Madrid after my flurry of discard left him with a Jitte and three lands in hand on the first turn; and my Lands.dec opponent playing a first turn Manabond after I Thoughtseized away his only action. From Jace, the Mindsculptor to Goblin Lackey, a single card from the top can swing the game hugely in one direction or another. There are two viable ways to harness this power – more about this later – and I've ceased to believe that discard, no matter how effective it may be, is one of them.
Secondly, the deck may have had some powerful creatures, but it never really did anything too broken. Sure, you had Dark Ritual for powering out stuff faster and Hymn to Tourach is, by itself, capable of carrying the deck to some easy wins, but you were mostly doing stuff you could do in any deck. It was a bit like a very efficient Standard deck, where you deploy one threat per turn and hope that's enough. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't. Even the most broken plays I ever started the game with (2x Dark Ritual, Dark Confidan and Hypnotic Specter) managed to not be enough on one too many occasions. And so it was, slowly but surely, that I began to open my eyes to the truth, or what I now perceive to be the truth. Simply going one-for-one, laying down a big dork and hoping that was enough, isn't the way I want to play Legacy right now. I want to play something broken.
So now I had a dilemma: finding a new deck to play. I considered Counterbalance decks (as anyone looking for a Legacy deck should), I considered the aggro variants and I considered combo. I dislike the fact that ANT and Belcher often just fold to a well-timed Force of Will, Spell Pierce or even Daze. The aggro decks just aren't broken enough and, like I mentioned above, I really want to play a broken deck right now. Sure, a Wild Nacatl will usually deal a huge amount of damage before trading for a card with a higher mana cost, but I don't think that's good enough. With everyone packing Krosan Grip and similar annoying stuff against the enchantment, this left me with a lot less options: Canadian Threshold, Dredge, Reanimator, Merfolk, and Loam. I don't really like Merfolk and didn't look forward to the prospect of buying four Mox Diamonds. Canadian Threshold, once more, is not broken enough. Play guys and counter some spells? Seems an awful lot like Vesper Green to me.
This ultimately left me with the graveyard decks to choose from. I suppose it was a combination of Max McCall's article, having played Dredge in Vintage, and generally being more of a Zombie type that led me down the path of undeath. Some playtesting later, I was ready to take down the first tournament of this season's Slovene Vintage League.
A quick update on the Slovene Vintage League
I wrote about my local Legacy+Vintage league earlier so if you want to refresh your memory, you can do so now. It is essentially a series of tournaments (five Legacy and five Vintage in a season) which award prizes to the top competitors and points which lead to a Top 8 playoff for more awesome prizes. Seasons run a little longer than a year each because of time restraints, so the fifth season only started in April.
The first tournament was quite successful, the 20 players present making for a fun but competitive atmosphere. There were lots of new faces and I look forward to seeing how many of them retain the will to play in more tournaments. Eternal formats can be grueling, difficult to master and unforgiving of mistakes, but there is plenty of incentive for everyone to do their best, from cool prizes to a pleasant playing experience.
I had suggested some improvements for the tournament in that article and I'm glad to say some of them were introduced. The entrance fee was increased to €8 ($10.60), which means there is already €60 ($80) in the Top 8 prize pool after the first tournament. There are never quite as many people at the Vintage tournaments and it dies down quite a bit during the middle of the season, but if we average something like 13 players per tournament, it should provide the €400 ($530) necessary for the organizers to be able to give out a piece of power to the winner and have something left for the others as well. We didn't have video coverage this time round, but we did have some photos and several people wrote tournament reports, something I find very enjoyable to read. Some other changes have also been made to the tournament structure, promotion, etc. – if you'd like to hear more about it, let me know in the forums and I'll be sure to write more about it in a future article.
After getting most of the cards I needed for my deck (thanks, Mario!), I was left with a problem: I had found everything I needed except for two Tarnished Citadel. Nobody had them so I replaced them with the fourth Golgari Thug and a Flame-Kin Zealot which in turn left room in the sideboard for the fourth Leyline of the Void. I liked the fourth Thug and would definitely play it over the weird singleton Darkblast (it dredges more, is a creature for Ichorid and Golgari Grave-Troll, and is potentially useful when cast), but the Zealot is probably unnecessary in the maindeck. There were a lot of combo decks in the field, however, so it's not like I just chucked it in there. I chucked it in there after some serious thought!
After helping some people search for the ultimate sideboard tech and figuring out how to project the pairings onto the wall (very useful!), we were off …
Round 1 – Nelvis with Mono Black Control
This was Nelvis' first foray into competitive Magic and he made Top 8 already, so I'm sure we can expect lots more from him after he has learnt a bit more about specific matchups and played a few dozen games. As it was, I don't think he had ever played against Ichorid before, making for a very weird match.
I had an awesome hand game one (turn two something like a 15/15 Troll and 10 Zombies), but he Wasted my only mana source and I was left to slog my way to several Zombies while beating down with Putrid Imp and a Narcomoeba. His Sadistic Sacrament on the three Bridge from Below left in my library also slowed me down considerably, but in the end the little dorks proved they could.
I sideboarded in the Chain of Vapor because I thought he would probably be bringing in some Leylines and the Ancient Grudge to fight potential Relic of Progenitus or Crypt tricks.
He told me after the second game that he had sideboarded in four Leyline of the Void and four Tormod's Crypt but didn't see any. It didn't take long for me to beat him down when he didn't really offer any resistance and I tried to explain the concept of mulliganing into your hate cards after the match.
Round 2 – Tine Rus with Funky Fish
Tine had built an interesting UW concoction with tons of little synergies. It features a Stoneforge Mystic package, the Painter's Servant + Grindstone combo and plenty more.
Finds Jitte. 'Nuff said.
While I can't say that the deck is complete, it served him well throughout the day – he drew into the Top 8 on table one in round five – and there is a LOT of inherent card advantage. Shaving off some of the singletons that you can't tutor for would go a long way towards making the deck more streamlined, but it would also remove some of the surprise element present when facing this deck. I'm looking forward to seeing its evolution in the future.
Back to the match, the first game was a long, drawn-out affair where he countered my first discard outlet, which forced me to go the slow route of discarding one dredger per turn. It did also slow him down enough that he couldn't play a Trinket Mage and get the Relic of Progenitus out in time, whereas a Tormod's Crypt would have won him the game, had he had it in the maindeck. I eventually made a bunch of Zombies and he didn't find any of his equipment that would have won him the game. I sideboarded in the three Ancient Grudges and a Terastodon because he could make an army that wouldn't get stopped by a well-timed Swords to Plowshares. I also brought in a couple of Chain of Vapors just in case he had something very nasty in his sideboard. He didn't really, but it pays to be careful.
In order to avoid getting set back like the game before, I decided to discard at end of turn and start dredging the slow way. He had a Relic, however, so that plan wasn't going to work. I soon found a Grudge to take care of that, but a combination of countermagic and a second Relic was enough to send me packing.
Game three was much of the same, but took a lot longer to finish as I tried to fight through a Crypt, a Meddling Mage, and some equipment-wielding Stoneforge Mystics. There were a lot of decisions to be made throughout the game and I'm sure I messed up during the second turn when I went for the Grudge on his Relic. I had the third land in hand (to protect it from Daze and a Relic tap), but didn't want to give him infinite time to get his engine going. He did keep a speculative hand without a source of colored mana, but his Vials were kind to him and gave him enough beaters to kill me.
Round 3 – Ales with UW Thopter
The Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek combo seems to have grown quite a bit of a following since it's easy to set up, can be recurred via Academy Ruins, is relatively hard to disrupt via conventional means like removal and counterspells, and stops most decks dead in the tracks.
In game one, I mulliganed a hand with no mana source, but considering the fact that I knew what Jeraj was playing, maybe I should have kept it and gone for the slow game. As it was, my six looked good until my Breakthrough got countered and gave him more than enough time to assemble the combo. I sideboarded in the Chains and the Terastodon for a Moat or Humility I was sure he would be bringing in.
I had an awesome hand in game two, with a Chain + Cabal Therapy to get rid of his Wheel of Sun and Moon. Now I knew what his sideboard plan was!
Game three was similar to game two, but turned into a slightly more drawn out affair when he cast an Enlightened Tutor in response to my second (or maybe third) Therapy, finding and then casting Moat. There were only six cards left in my library and I knew the bottom three from some Wheel shenanigans, so I could safely dredge the Stinkweed Imp to find the last Dread Return and the big elephant, and then kill him on my next turn with no cards left in my library.
Round 4 – Andrej with Ninja-Faeries
Whoever won this round would be able to draw into Top 8, so it was a bit like being on the bubble, but without the drawbacks!
Game one was very strange, as he started out with Aether Vial into Standstill so both of us were ill-inclined to play spells. This meant that my plan of slow-dredging was perfect, as it created a gradually overwhelming advantage of Zombies and other random dorks. He failed to draw a Tarmogoyf which would have been enough to slow me down considerably, and I won the game without playing a land or casting a spell. I sideboarded in the Ancient Grudges.
Game two was a blowout, as my Putrid Imp enabled a turn two 12/12 Grave-Troll and several Zombies. Engineered Explosives blew my little guys away, but a second Troll (15/15 this time) joined the crew in short order to ensure even a Swords wouldn't have been enough.
Round 5 – Nejc with Reanimator
Both of us were sitting at a comfortable 3-1, so we opted for an intentional draw. Perfect timing for a kebab across the road! Some hard-fought battles later and we had our Top 8: Slivers, Dredge, Zur the Enchanter, UW Thopter, Funky Fish, Reanimator, Zoo, and Mono Black Control.
Quarterfinals – Rus with Funky Fish
Time for my revenge! I now knew more of his deck's tricks so I could plan accordingly – with only six counterspells (4x Force of Will and 2x Daze), his permission suite was not strong enough to warrant me playing around it. This would mean mulliganing into a discard outlet and going from there.
Game one I did exactly that, where being on the play meant I didn't even try to play around Daze. Without Force, he was cold to my aggressive start and could only watch as my Breakthrough practically won me the game on turn two. I sideboarded in the Grudges and two Chain of Vapor to give me more outs to his annoying permanents.
Game two started of similar, with me having a great hand and him not doing much. He did fight back with a Relic, but my first dredge found a Grudge and that was game. This match was a classic example of the sheer power of the Zombie monstrosity. Sometimes it feels good grinding out game after game where it takes a considerable amount of skill, some cool deck tech and a lucky topdeck or two to take the game. And sometimes it feels just as good killing your opponent on turn three when there's nothing they could have done to prevent it.
Semifinals – Nejc with Reanimator
My starting hand was alright against a control deck and decent against combo. I didn't know what he was playing so I kept and went for the end-of-turn-discard plan. He cast Entomb for Blazing Archon and that was that. My mind blanked so much that I actually drew a card instead of dredging, but that turned out to be a mixed blessing as it was a Breakthrough. It just wasn't enough, however, as he revived the flying lion thing and I couldn't win through that. It seemed irrelevant at the time, but dredging could have given me a Narcomoeba and Therapy to have a shot at removing his reanimation spell. It likely wouldn't have been enough either way, but there's no reason not to give yourself the 2% chance of winning as opposed to the 0% chance I forced myself into. The four Leylines in my sideboard would finally see some use! I also brought in the Chains as I didn't know what to expect and didn't want to dilute my deck too much.
As it turned out, he wasn't expecting a Leyline and it was only a matter of time before I took him down. I don't think he had anything to remove it, judging by how quickly he scooped them up, so maybe I should have mulliganed more aggressively in game three. I remembered to bring in an Angel of Despair in order to have an out to Iona, Shield of Emeria naming blue.
I didn't, however, as my hand was very good. I even had a Chain for his Archon. But then disaster struck. He reanimated Iona and Archon the next turn, meaning the Angel was my only out. I tried to play some deadly blockers in the form of Stinkweed Imp, but he was unimpressed and cast an Echoing Truth to bounce my Imps, giving him the game and match.
Final result – fourth place (on Swiss results)
verstatility + power = profit
Nejc went on to beat the Slivers player in the finals, giving him the lead at the beginning of this season's Vintage League. I was very pleased with my deck and am looking forward to playing it again. The only changes I would make would be to replace the Flame-Kin in the main deck with the second Tarnished Citadel and improve the sideboard with several Nature's Claim. The card is exactly the kind of diverse answer this deck needs and I doubt that it will disappoint. This month's tournament is Vintage, where I hope to borrow a Tez or Storm deck and lend my Ichorid deck to someone, because trying out something new is always a good opportunity to learn and have fun. I'll let you guys know how that went!
Until then, have fun and Seize every opportunity you get!
By Mitja Bosnič on May 14th, 2010 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5), Tournament Report · Comments not available just now