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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Dec 19 2007 12:30pm
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I started to play tournament magic in 1999.  Anyone that played during this time can tell you that the speedy games of cards that were played during this time were a real turn off.  Games ended in the first three turns with alarming regularity (Yawgmoth's Bargin and Replenish based combo decks were the rage in this time frame.) and the Urza's Saga block had a fair amount of cards placed in the Standard banned list. 

Memory Jar was banned before the set even hit the shelves! 

With the amount of short "unfair" games that were played during this time, it was really hard on me.  I had a limited gaming budget, and had not yet heard of the internet as a tool for getting decklists.  I was taking decks like Mono Green Aggro into battle against these tuned machines, and getting rocked.  It was frustrating to say the least, and honestly I sometimes felt like I should not be playing the game.  I clearly was not good at it. 

Of course, some people would go out and say that I am clearly still not good at Magic.  They are more than likely correct in that statement. 

Things changed for me when I decided that I was going to start traveling to tournaments outside of comfort zone, and also wanted to do better than waste a Saturday.  Regionals was coming up soon, I borrowed a copy of Bargain combo from a friend and than decided that I was going to play something else as I was registering the deck the morning of the event. 

If I could give any advice about tournament preperation it would be this:  Do not change your deck the day of the event.  Go with what you test.  You'll do better. 

Since that date, I have been capitivated by not only becoming a better Magic player, but also playing as many competitive combo decks that I possibly can. 

I've played Necro Donate when it was the top deck in Extended, and moved on to playing the Mono Blue version after the rotation.  I've played tournaments with decks that featured Krark-Clan Ironworks, Mind's Desire and Tinker.  Even in Legacy my deck of choice is Two Land Belcher (This deck runs two lands, a lot of mana acceleration, and either wins with a large Empty the Warrens or Goblin Charbelcher activation).  I even went so far to play Dragonstorm at this past Regional championship.  I guess what i am saying is this; if there is a viable combo deck in a format, I am going to learn how to play that deck, and I'm going to play it for as long as I possibly can. 
Illusions of Grandeur

Of course, Extended season is coming up, and I'm looking for some ridiculous combo deck.  One where I do not have to interact with my opponent, and one that I can finish each round with quickly.  Thankfully since we have such a gigantic card pool we have plenty of options for combos in extended. 

The most successful combo deck in the format now is Enduring Ideal.  Of course, this deck has Orim's Chant in it, and I'm not really into paying so much for a play set of cards that I may play with on here for a few months.  We can choose to play Cephalid Breakfast, but for some reason, the wonderful programmers for MTGO have not fixed the interaction between a Sutured Ghoul and removing Tarmogoyfs from the graveyard.  Sadly, I can not test that deck on the program, because it is broken, and that makes me sad.  Heartbeat of Spring is being played as well, and actually that deck is one of my other options.  It's got a good aggro matchup and because of the card draw it has, it is really resistant to cards like Cabal Therapy, Duress, and Thoughtseize.  Heartbeat's biggest weakness though is that it rely's in my opinion a little too much on Mind's Desire.  There is another Desire deck in the format called TEPS (which is short for The Extended Perfect Storm) which is really good, but again relies too much on Desire. 

So far, none of those are decks I am really excited about playing.  I could work on fringe combo decks like Draco/Erratic Explosion (This is also an alternate kill condition in some builds of Ideal) Tooth and Nail (No the mana is too terrible for me, and I hate the tron lands) Ironworks (If I wanted to play something that rolled to Pernicious Deed, I would play Affinity.)  or maybe a Belcher deck. 

I'm not going to do that, although I may get the stuff for Tooth and Nail, because I do like doing dumb stuff with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.  This has left me with one more combo deck to play, and it's what I have been playing for the past five months in some form or another. 

I'm talking about Dredge, the most broken mechanic since Gomer Pyle. 

Dredge has been a known deck for sometime now, and was one of the top decks to play before Pro Tour Valencia.  After it was hated out to the point of near exsistence at the Pro Tour It has started to show back up in force in the events on MTGO. 

Dredge is capable of winning on turn two with a god draw, and consistantly wins before turn five in my own expirence, so clearly the amount of hate that was targeted at the deck was with merit.  It's consistant, much like all good combo decks are, and it is explosive.  You can win games out of no where, maybe with a really good Dredge activation, or a really good Breakthrough gave you the right cards.  Let's take a look at the decklist I have been using for the powerful deck. 

Dredge as suggested by Joshua Claytor

1 Wonder
4 Breakthrough
3 Cabal Therapy
4 Careful Study
4 Cephalid Coliseum
1 Cephalid Sage
2 Darkblast
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
3 Flooded Strand
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Golgari Thug
3 Ichorid
1 Island
3 Polluted Delta
4 Putrid Imp
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Tolarian Winds
4 Watery Grave
4 Bridge from Below
3 Dread Return
4 Narcomoeba

1 Ancestor's Chosen
1 Cabal Therapy
4 Chain of Vapor
1 Darkblast
1 Echoing Truth
2 Leyline of the Void
3 Pithing Needle
2 Merchant Scroll

Golgari Grave-Troll

As you can see this is a fairly stock list for Dredge, there really is not much innovation here at all.  However, there are a couple of card choices that I feel need to be looked at a little more in depth. 

Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Some versions of Dredge are running Akroma in the main, which is pretty awesome if I do say so myself.  However, I feel there is a benefit to running Wonder over Akroma.  In the aggro matchup, sometimes the ground gets muddled up.  The game will go long, and well maybe you did not combo off enough, or had to sac some creatures in order to make Zombies to survive until you could take a bigger turn.  Wonder will let you fly over the muddled board position and win, leaving your opponent with very little in the way of outs.  Wonder also gives you a secondary win condition in reanimating a flying Grave Troll. 

Akroma on the other hand, gives this deck a secondary win condition that is not reliant on having an incarnation in the graveyard.  She is a bit slower in comparsion to a large troll.  Regardless, I picked Wonder after heavy testing of aggro matchups. 


One of the things I love about Dredge is the main deck is fairly standard in every version.  You're going to have four copies of Grave Troll, Stinkweed Imp, Putrid Imp, Careful Study, and Breakthrough.  Each deck will have some number of Cabal Therapy, Dread Return and Ichorid, all of these usually clock in at three copies.  Eventually after you round out the deck with lands you've got some extra slots to get to the magical number that is sixty.  This is where the customization of the deck can come in.  I've managed to make my version of Dredge have four open slots, which rotate on a tournament by tournament basis in regards to what I think will be played.  Right now these slots are taken up by Tolarian Winds and Darkblast.  Winds gives you another discard outlet and doubles as a dredge enabler.  Darkblast is fantastic against Dark Confidant based aggro decks and Goblin beatdown.  However, these four cards have been different many times since I started to test the deck. 

Last week for instance, I played with a full compliment of Chain of Vapor in the main.  Affinity at the time (and it has rightfully started to go back towards this trend.) was playing Tormod's Crypt in the main.  Crypt makes it really hard to go off, and combined with Ravager makes winning via Zombie beatdown almost impossible.  However, with an early Chain of Vapor you could negate the Crypt, and go off with little disruption.  Chain of Vapor is also insane against Enduring Ideal based decks.  Pithing Needle was added in when Chase Rare started to pop up in huge numbers.  Needle is golden against Tormod's Crypt, Engineered Explosives and Pernicious Deed. 

In fact, I have saved multiple copies of Dredge onto my net deck files just so I could pick the version that I thought would be the best against what I expected the field to play. 

Let's talk about the sideboard quickly.  We are going to assume that we are using the board that I listed in the decklist earlier, and for a reminder, it is off to the left. 

Ancestor's Chosen is boarded in against all aggro decks, and is there mainly when you get a poor dredge and need to gain life to keep from being overwhelmed.  Darkblast is another anti aggresive card that will save your behind when you need it to be rescued. 

We have a huge part of the board dedicated to the feared hate cards that can come out of the board.  Leyline of the Void is a speedbump when you bring in Chain of Vapor and Echoing Truth.  You can find these cards easier with Merchant Scroll, which will tutor any one of those cards.  Pithing Needle is of course your out to Crypt, Deed, Ravager, and Explosives. 

Leyline comes in for the mirror match, where you are looking for any possible edge you can get.  

1 Ancestor's Chosen
1 Cabal Therapy
4 Chain of Vapor
1 Darkblast
1 Echoing Truth
2 Leyline of the Void
3 Pithing Needle
2 Merchant Scroll

Merchant Scroll

Match up Notes

This section will give you a glimpse into each of the top six decks that you can expect to play in any given event. 

Deck Win Percentage (Pre and Post Board) Are you the Dog Game one?  Sideboarding Notes General Notes
Chase Rare Pre 40% Post 50%

Yes you are.  They have main deck Crypt, and can tutor the card up, and can also recur the powerful artifact with Ruins.  If the first game goes long you're going to be fighting an uphill battle. 


You're going to be bringing in Chain of Vapor, Pithing Needle and Merchant Scrolls.  You will be taking out Tolarian Winds, Wonder, Darkblast and some number of Breakthrough and Careful Studies (You can do this because Merchant Scroll will add a little more redundancy.) You have to race them to the combo kill.  Cabal Therapies should try to hit Trinket Mages.  If you knock the mage out of their hand, it will make it a bit harder for them to find the single copy of the Crypt. 
Zoo Pre 40% Post 50% I've lost more game ones that I care to remember, however, I feel that this could be more of a coin flip.  It always seemed that they had a Fanatic to shut my Bridges down.   

Out: Cabal Therapy, Wonder

In: Ancestor's Chosen, Darkblast, Chain of Vapor
Therapies are dead draws in game one, but can help generate enough tokens to go off.  Against Zoo, I almost always name Tribal Flames.  You really can not afford to get hit for five. 
PT Junk Pre 50% Post 50% This match up is better than Zoo because this deck does not have the burn that Zoo packs.  It's still a really fast deck, you just have to go off before they can win. 

Out: Cabal Therapy, Wonder

In: Ancestor's Chosen, Darkblast, Chain of Vapor

Vindicate seems to be my favorite Therapy target. 
Goblins Pre 30% Post 50% You are a huge dog.  They have plenty of ways to keep you from beating them with a lot of zombies Skirk Prospector will ruin your Bridge plans.  They can win quickly so you may need to hardcast Narcomeobas and Stinkweeds.   

Out: Cabal Therapy, Wonder

In: Ancestor's Chosen, Darkblast, Chain of Vapor
I feel like this is your worst aggro matchup.  Therapies should try to get warchief. 
Enduring Ideal N/A (See General)  See General You will be bringing in Therapy, Chain of Vapor and Merchant Scrolls.  You will be taking out Winds, Darkblast and a Breakthrough. 

Game one is a coinflip.  If they get to Ideal before you win, you're not going to win, unless they make a huge mistake like getting Form of the Dragon if they feel really safe.  If they do not see Wonder chances are, They will try to get the quick Form kill, and you can dredge Wonder into the yard and just win. 

Therapies game one go in this order.  Burning Wish, than Enduring Ideal.  Burning Wish gets less outs, and well Enduring Ideal is their win condition. 

Flow Rock Pre 60% Post 60% This is one of your best matchups.  They have very little in the way of disruption, and your deck can fight through their major control element which is Destructive Flow.  They can stick the enchantment on turn two, while you will be getting rid of a land and winning on the next turn.  See Enduring Ideal  They are more than likely bringing in Leyline from the board.  Chains remove that, and you're back to the winning ways after you deal with the speed bump. 

Closing Thoughts
I love playing Dredge, and feel it is one of the most powerful decks in the format.  If I did not, I would not have spent so much time play testing the deck over the past few months.  I would recommend that you play this in an upcoming PE, but before you do let me leave you with some advice.  Learn when to mulligan with the deck.  You'll get deceptive hands that will more often than not leave out to dry.  The deck is not all about Dredging as fast as you can sometimes.  Maybe you need to find another land, or a way to kick start the Dredge engine.  Know when you need to trust the top of your deck, and pay careful attention to the resource that you can see, which is the graveyard.  There may be something hidden that you were counting on.  

That is all I have for this special look at one of my favorite decks, take it out for a spin, and I think you will be surprised by how redundant (and good) this deck really is.  I'll be back later on this week with the Extended PE recaps, and I am sure there will be some surprises for you there! 


Pre/Post board by iceage4life at Thu, 12/20/2007 - 16:13
iceage4life's picture

They are taking out threats to bring in hate.  You're taking out parts of your combo to bring in answers.  The other thing is combo decks are hurt more by siding out cards.  Aggro decks can side out their burn spells and loose maybe a turn off the clock.  If you side out dredge enablers you might never go off if your draws are poor.  Combo decks are built on consistancy, siding out spells hurts this.  Aggro decks are built on cards being interchangable so they are hurt less.  This favors them.

They draw hate, you don't draw answer, +them
They don't draw hate you draw an answer, +them
They draw hate, you draw answer, even
They don't draw hate you don't draw an answer, even

So when combo sides in answers to hate on average it looses.  You can also side in the wrong answers before seeing which hate they run versus your combo deck.  You bring in Needle vs their crypt and they play turn 0 Leyline.  Or if they have two hate cards and you draw wrong answer (same as above)

by JXClaytor at Wed, 12/19/2007 - 18:26
JXClaytor's picture

That is the thing with the other decks.  They are taking out good cards to keep you from winning while you are bringing in answers that woudl beat you outright.  When Zoo is sideing out Men, and taking pressure off of you, the percentages will increase. 

by Dreager_Ex at Wed, 12/19/2007 - 12:54
Dreager_Ex's picture

From what your chart indicates you side in darkblast and chain vapor in almost every game rather that have such a low pre-board only to side in darkblast and chain each time why not just simply mainboard chains and darkblasts? I think it is far more reasonable, no?

by JXClaytor at Wed, 12/19/2007 - 12:58
JXClaytor's picture

I've thought about main decking some copies of Chain of Vapor for some time now, and have in the past, I think right now, it is better off in the board.  Thankfully there is a small amount of flexibility in the deck so I can make that change later without disrupting it too much. 

Pre Board? by iceage4life at Wed, 12/19/2007 - 16:46
iceage4life's picture

I find you pre/post board numbers very odd.  I've not played much Extended recently but dredge should NOT improve post board.  Most decks bring in 4-8 hosers, sure you bring in some answers but you should be aiming to win g1 and then hope to get g2 or 3.  Being 40% vs most of the feild g1 is just awful with a deck like dredge.


Also vs PT junk what are you worried about Vindicate hitting that you therapy it? 

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