Dredge on you Crazy Diamond: A Look at the Mechanic in Vintage
By Scott Lemenager on January 23rd, 2006 · Filed in Vintage (Type 1) · Comments not available just now
Ravnica has so far been a quiet contender in the world of Vintage deck building. Minor supporting cards have been the only choices of note popping up from time to time in deck lists. We've even seen several big flops in Suppression Field and Flame Fusillade. These two cards were possibly the most initially hyped cards in the set and, for a while, many players' attentions were focused on them. While the verdict might still be out on both, neither has as of yet made any real impact on the format. In addition to these cards we have seen the limited inclusion of Darkblast, Razia, Boros Archangel, Dark Confidant, and finally we are starting to see some use from Muddle the Mixture and Life from the Loam.
I am planning on highlighting several of the newest decks to attempt to break the Ravnica set into Vintage, using primarily cards such as Loam for not only their primary ability, but the graveyard-loving Dredge mechanic also included in the package. Oh, and stay tuned for a savage bonus deck list after the article!
As Jacob Orlove nicely put things to me, there are two types of Dredge cards worth of mention. On one hand there are the "utility" dredge spells, and then you have the "mega" dredge spells. For utility we can consider cards such as Darkblast and Life from the Loam, and in the mega category we can take a look at things like Golgari Grave-Troll or Stinkweed Imp. Each of these Dredge cards fill the graveyard at various levels and some have amazing abilities.
Darkblast as a tool in Vintage is actually quite potent. Briefly surveying the format finds that the most important creature currently available happens to be a 1/1. Goblin Welder has long been a staple of the Vintage environment and Darkblast is a very interesting answer to the little gobbo. Matches versus both Control Slaver and Stax of all kinds should be helped out somewhat by an inclusion of the virtually uncounterable removal. It's also very potent in mirrors where Darkblast is a nice replacement for the often-used Lava Dart. There are other advantages against both Oath and Uba Stax as well.
Life from the Loam is our next most useful dredge spell, as its effect is by all means extremely powerful. Here again we see a dredge 3 card that has a useful ability. Abusing Bazaar of Baghdad is one of the primary uses of this card, but it can also recur Wastelands and Strip Mines without running the vaunted Mishra's Workshop and Crucible of Worlds. In Extended and even Legacy we see the use of Loam as a draw engine with lands such as Cephalid Colosseum and cycling lands from Onslaught. In Vintage these lands are rather weak, so other means of breaking Loam must be found.
For our "Mega-Dredge" cards we can look simultaneously at both Grave Troll and Stinkweed Imp. These cards dredge for 6 and 5 respectively and one of them has a somewhat useful chump blocking ability for those in aggro metas (which are few and far between in the format). Since the Imp's ability is less than useful for many Vintage players, the duty falls upon Golgari Grave-Troll to fill the yard as quickly as possible.
This brings me to my first list of the article. Matt Morrison, of Team GWS, one of the best up and coming teams in the Vintage world, very recently put a Bazaar based Dredge-a-tog list into a medium sized top 8 here in the US. The list is Dredge heavy and breaks Bazaar of Baghdad and Intuition on multiple levels.
This is the first deck that I have seen pop up in Vintage to really utilize the Dredge mechanic to its fullest potential. This deck can easily empty its entire library to the yard in a hurry and follow up with an extremely angry Psychatog to finish the game. Couple this with a very nice disruption suite and reusable land destruction and you have yourself a contender. The Stax matchup is almost a bye at times since lock pieces do little to nothing against much of the deck's functions, and with nearly the same amount of counters as the other high level control decks in the format you have good game in the control mirror as well. The other item of note in this list is the addition of two Riftstone Portals. In the past decks attempting to utilize this card fell short, however in this case the portal is easy to get into the yard and helps stabilize the mana base greatly. Also of note in this list is the abuse of Turbulent Dreams as efficient bounce, even at sorcery speed.
With this list is the expectation for improvements to come. Unfortunately, improvements to the format can take quite a while to make their full impact known, and I suspect that many in the Vintage world looked at the list and tossed it aside with merely a glance. Innovation happens slowly in our world whether we like it or not.
Taking that into consideration, there are often times when a bit of "tech" from other formats sneaks its merry little way into our format. This can be rather sudden or can be a slow introduction. From the Extended format we can evaluate the strengths of an Ichorid conversion over to Vintage. Ichorid decks have recently taken a firm grasp of the Extended format and it is undoubtedly a strong deck elsewhere as well. So how might we go about getting this build set up for Vintage? My French affiliate Stephane Tichadou and his team have been working on an Ichorid build which also utilizes Hermit Druid to create a combo/aggro deck that might just be powerful enough to break its way into Vintage.
Most of you are familiar with Ichorid decks by now, however this one has a twist. With the banned-in-Extended Hermit Druid able to make an appearance, you are able to drop your entire yard into your library on turn 2 setting up a 26 point attack on turn 3 somewhat easily, while still retaining the dredge method of attack. This is attainable due to Darksteel Colossus's ability to go back to the library to make sure you are able to draw. Duress or Cabal Therapy are recommended to make sure your opponent doesn't have acces to a lethal Ancestral Recall. The deck also is able to abuse Bazaar of Baghdad to fill both its hand and graveyard with reusable creatures.
A really basic stack of creatures would look something like: (from the bottom up)
One or more non-creature cards
Nether Shadow x4
Ashen Ghoul x3
Stinkweed Imp x4
Rest of cards...
This allows you to recur all of your hasted creatures in one shot, and they all will happen to have flying thanks to Wonder. Hermit Druid's ability and Dredge both allow you to stack your graveyard in any order when used, so make sure you use this to its fullest potential.
This deck is also able to abuse Life from the Loam to protect its mana base and Dredge.
So with these new decks what other adaptations can the Dredge mechanic bring to the format? All sorts of decks in the format might benefit from the inclusion of one or more of these cards. We can look at Gifts decks that might run Darkblast which can help against both Stax and Control Slaver while at the same time working with their build to Recoup powerful sorceries, or simply to build to an amazingly powerful [card]Yawgmoth's Will[card]. Stax at the same time can shore up its mirror matches and others with the card that has solid synergy with Goblin Welder.
One of the most powerful applications still appears to be with Bazaar of Baghdad as a way to fill the graveyard with all sorts of juicy threats to be brought back to the table with cards such as Animate Dead, Goblin Welder, or Replenish. Since the most prominent Bazaar deck has been Dragon, perhaps we can adapt that list to include the Dredge mechanic into its engine. Here is a newly suggested list taken off of www.themanadrain.com which helps demonstrate what a Dragon list with Dredge might look like.
While in my opinion this list somewhat overvalues the uses of Golgari Grave-Troll, you can get a sense of what it is like to be getting twelve cards a turn into your graveyard. Animate Dead in hand or a Regrowth should be game over rather quickly. The deck utilizes the Eternal Witness kill, however it doesnt protect this method as well as some existing lists. Faster, yes...but is it better? This might not be the best list imaginable for the use of dredge in Dragon, however it should give you a good place to being your search for the proper build. I fully expect some form of dredge to show up in Dragon lists for the future though.
Other existing Bazaar based decks should benefit from the inclusion of some form of dredge as well, from Cerebral Assasin to Leviat to Infestation. I suspect that their are actually multiple viable mixtures that require some examination.
All of these lists do share several common aspects, the most important of which is a virtually uncounterable draw/dredge system. It also shows great resistance to Stax due to free dredging and a negation of Uba Mask with Dredge's replacement effect. Life from the Loam further acts to counteract Stax's lock pieces and the decks can all fill the board with permanents in a hurry. Beyond that each deck can be a solid choice in other metas filled with everything from Oath to Gifts to Control Slaver and be successful.
So, all in all, perhaps we were blessed with more than initially hinted at with Ravnica. The dredge mechanic seems like it might actually go somewhere in the format, especially with its exceedingly strong matchups against the #1 deck in the format, Stax. Shoring up the combo and control matchups will need to be a top priority for these decks, and I have all the confidence in the world that some version of a dredge-based deck is going to make a real splash into the overall Vintage meta.
Certainly this block like it will be superior to the Kamigawa block, and while that block did allow for two extremely potent decks to come to the forefront, perhaps Ravnica will come forward as well. Hey, even Muddle the Mixture has been showing up in Oath of Druids based decks as of late, so maybe we are really in store for a few treats out of the block that had previously been dismissed. Just look how long it took both Uba Mask and Gifts Ungiven to actually show up in numbers. What Guildpact and beyond brings us we aren't 100% on yet, but I expect good things.
I look forward to what the next few major tournaments hold for the Vintage format though, and while the Northeast might be too firmly entrenched in their Mana Drains to budge for now, look to the Midwest and the South (and maybe even us out West here) for what may hopefully be just the shaking up Vintage needs. Oh and don't forget those Europeans... Bazaar of Baghdad has been their baby. I cannot wait to see what else they come up with.
For any questions feel free to shoot me a PM here or elsewhere.
- Scott Lemenager aka Lunar
As a bonus section for the article I wanted to also include a list I was not able to include in my Peace in the Middle East article. This Bazaar Madness list was provided to me by Stephane Tichadou when I attended Pro Tour LA and my team has been having a blast with it as of late...enjoy!
Enjoy folks...These are the cutting edge of Bazaar and Dredge decks available for the format. Go wreck somebody with one of these decks and make me proud, heh...
By Scott Lemenager on January 23rd, 2006 · Filed in Vintage (Type 1) · Comments not available just now
About Scott Lemenager
Scott Lemenager is one of the best up in coming Vintage writers in the United States. Recently voted as "Best Vintage Strategist" on MTGSalvation and published on the front page at Star City Games, Scott continues to write solid articles on the Vintage format. Other recent accomplishments include the startup of www.norcalmagic.tk , a site dedicated to Vintage Magic on the West Coast, and the startup of his own proxied Vintage tournament Series. A shift in career goals also has Scott headed to the California Culinary Acadamy to continue his training as a World Class Chef and one day small business owner.