Deck Tech: Dredge with Frank Skarren

Posted in Event Coverage on November 5, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

When Modern was first created, cards from the powerful Dredge archetype littered the initial banlist: Dread Return and Golgari Grave-Troll were both deemed too strong for the fledgling format. That was enough to keep the former boogeyman on the sidelines. Some time later Golgari Grave-Troll was released into the wild. Despite some fears, the deck proved to be strong but inconsistent, relegating it to a fringe role in Modern.

Fast forward a few years. More and more new cards have made their way into the archetype, breathing new life into a deck operating from the graveyard.

Prized Amalgam. Insolent Neonate. Cathartic Reunion.

Just like that, Dredge is back.

“Most of the time it feels like you're not even playing the same game,” explained Frank Skarren, who was off to a 5-0 start with the deck. “You're just cycling through your deck while your opponents sit their and flip through their cards. Even in games where they have graveyard hate you can still beat it.”

The former terror of both Legacy and Extended has now firmly lodged itself in Modern. Fueled by a litany of enablers like Insolent Neonate, Faithless Looting and newest addition Cathartic Reunion — “hugs” as it is commonly called — Dredge has the potential to move up to 30 cards from its library to the graveyard by the end of the second turn thanks to its namesake cards in Golgari Grave-Troll and Stinkweed Imp.

“Reunion is good, it's almost not real,” Skarren said. “Any hand with it has the ability to mill so many cards it's so hard to not do something explosive. They could not have printed a better card for Dredge than Reunion, it just does everything."

That's when the fun begins. Narcomoeba and Bloodghast both return from the graveyard naturally to trigger Prized Amalgam, flooding the board with power early enough to overwhelm opponents' defenses before they can fully set up. Moreover, the recursive nature of the creatures means that they can shrug off Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay and simply return to the battlefield in time for the next attack step. The pressure just keeps coming as Dredge whittles down opponents' life totals.

What the creatures start, the Conflagrate engine finishes. The perfect card for the deck, Conflagrate can take down dangerous creatures early or finish off opponents late with enough open mana. While the front half of the card is good, the back half is even better. It functions as an additional discard outlet for dredge cards, but also pairs perfectly with Life from the Loam to fill the hand and then cast Conflagrate for huge totals. Just when opponents are finally getting set up to handle the parade of 2/1s and 3/3s, Conflagrate comes over the top to finish them off.

Two-time Grand Prix winner Frank Skarren was off to a hot 5-0 start with Dredge in Dallas-Fort Worth.

It's not possible to talk about a graveyard-focused deck like Dredge without also talking about the hate cards it must fight through. Relic of Progenitus, Rest in Peace, Tormod's Crypt, Grafdigger's Cage and more are prevalent throughout the room, as players lean on the powerful cards to try and shut down the graveyard deck.

Only problem is, they don't always work.

“My first round opponent played Relic of Progenitus on turn one and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet on turn four, and I still easily won,” Skarren said. “The hate just isn't enough, and effects like Relic and Grafdigger's Cage don't stop you. They either have to pop the Relic early or the Grafdigger's Cage just sits there waiting for you to dig to an Abrupt Decay to take it out, and your creatures are still in your graveyard just waiting to come back. Rest in Peace is a little better, but I think if people really want to beat the deck they need things like Surgical Extraction and Ravenous Trap, cards that really make the Dredge player commit before taking out the graveyard. Those are the hard ones to play around.

“I don't usually play the boogeyman deck of the format, but this weekend I went for it. I think a lot of the pros are aware of how good the deck is, but the general populace may not be yet. But Dredge is the real deal.”

Frank Skarren’s Dredge

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