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Author Topic: [Free Mini-Article] Breaking the Cage: Updating Vintage Dredge  (Read 6904 times)
voltron00x
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« on: February 13, 2012, 04:37:53 pm »

Breaking the Cage: Updating Vintage Dredge

(A Free mini-article, powered by Team ECW)


---------------------------------------------------------------

No one expected any good players to be rocking Dredge at the Top Deck Games Winter Open on February 11th.  But, a few of us - and I acknowledge that I am loosely including myself in the bucket of “good players” - did just that.  Why would we do so, when everyone knew the printing of Grafdigger’s Cage was back-breaking for Dredge?  It isn’t just that I’m a contrarian (though I surely am). 

Here’s a summary of my thought process…

Prior to Grafdigger’s Cage being spoiled: 

“I want to play Dredge on 2/11.  The deck hasn’t been doing that well, a lot of the local players who are best with the deck haven’t been running it, and people may start cheating down their hate cards.”

Day Grafdigger’s Cage was spoiled: 

“I can’t play Dredge on 2/11.  Gradigger’s Cage is going to see maindeck play.  Damn you, Wizards of the Coast!”

Week after Grafdigger’s Cage was spoiled: 

“I think the buzz on this card may be dying down, and it might only be a sideboard card.  Time to start brewing a list and testing with this assumption, because if it is accurate, Dredge might actually be a sublime choice.  Specifically, other Dredge pilots should be few and far between due to the threat of Grafdigger’s Cage; surely I’m not the only person to consider this, and the result may actually be people playing less Dredge hate than they normally would.  After all, why play hate for a deck no one will be playing?”

Week of the tournament: 

“It is unlikely that Cage is going to be more than a one-of for this tournament in terms of maindeck play, yet the influence of the card is very real.  Dredge has a real shot at winning this tournament.”

The genesis of the original list was from reverse-engineering Turtle Dredge and taking elements of current European lists and the Sun Titan list.  If using the Sun Titan build as a model, I removed all the fast mana (Lion’s Eye Diamond, Black Lotus, Mox Sapphire, Lotus Petal), the Ancestral Recall, one Dread Return, one Fatestitcher, and two Sun Titan, and added four Mental Misstep, four Nature’s Claim, and another rainbow land.  If using Turtle Dredge as a model, I removed two Petrified Field, four Leyline of the Void, four Chalice of the Void, and one Terastodon and replaced them with four Mental Misstep, two Nature’s Claim, one Dakmor Salvage, two Fatestitcher, one City of Brass, and one Sun Titan.  See below for the source lists I’m referencing.

In terms of speed, the resulting deck is faster than Turtle Dredge, which typically wins game one on turn three, and slower than Sun Titan Dredge, which typically has a turn-two goldfish.  At the actual event, I won three of my game ones on turn two, two on turn three, and lost one. Giving the deck a goldfish kill of 2.5 turns seems accurate.

The Mental Missteps and Nature’s Claims give the deck resistance to maindeck Grafdigger’s Cage, but are also versatile enough to warrant maindeck inclusion; Misstep is terrific at slowing down blue opponents, taking out Ancestral Recall, Sol Ring, Fastbond, Voltaic Key, and top-deck tutors while Nature’s Claim can help stop a quick Key/Vault or Oath of Druids. 

As far as the thought process, it no longer seems as necessary to race Gush and Dark Ritual decks as it was six months ago, as Dark Ritual decks aren’t that popular and Gush decks are leaning more on the side of control instead of combo.  That said, the deck needs to acknowledge the existence of Grafdigger’s Cage and the possibility that it will see maindeck play, thus the inclusion of Mental Misstep and Nature’s Claim over more traditional Dredge disruption like Chalice of the Void, Leyline of the Void, and Unmask.

The maindeck Mental Missteps I noticed in a tournament organizer report on themanadrain.com and seemed like an interesting choice; they tested really well, regardless of Grafdigger’s Cage.  In post-board games, they also take out Relic of Progenitus, Pithing Needle, and Nihil Spellbomb, which some people had started to use against Dredge for reasons like versatility and the ability to dodge Chalice of the Void set on zero.  I originally started out with Chain of Vapor in place of Nature’s Claim, with the thought process being that it provided additional “outs” against a quick Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus, but in the event that Cage did see maindeck play, Nature’s Claim would just be better.

In the sideboard, I proposed a few Ingot Chewers; Ingot Chewer used to see play several years ago, as did Wispmare, as answers against Pithing Needle / Tormod’s Crypt and Leyline of the Void, respectively.  With the printing of Nature’s Claim, Dredge players were able to fuse those cards into one and save sideboard space.  Today, several things have happened to make Ingot Chewer and Wispmare more attractive again. 

The printing of Mental Misstep, and the realization that it is incredibly powerful against Dredge’s anti-hate of choice (Nature’s Claim and Chain of Vapor), has pushed Dredge players to adopt their own Mental Missteps and look for removal that dodges Misstep altogether.  Both Wispmare and Chewer have some unique advantages:

•   They can’t be countered with Mental Misstep, Spell Pierce, or Flusterstorm.
•   They get around Chalice of the Void set on one counter.
•   They ignore Thorn of Amethyst.
•   If you have one or more Bridge from Below in your Graveyard, and resolve either of those creatures using Evoke, you’ll receive zombie tokens.

Given the expectation that some players would change from Leyline of the Void to Grafdigger’s Cage, it made sense to look at Ingot Chewer in particular.  While I proposed using two, my teammates pushed to up to a full set of four. 

I also originally wanted to try Force of Will in the sideboard, but we had to bail on this idea when we realized that most Workshop pilots would be using Grafdigger’s Cage plus one-shot cards like Tormod’s Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb, and Bojuka Bog.  Therefore, Chain of Vapor would be a liability in the Shop match-up, and the deck wouldn’t be able to support Force of Will post-board.

Instead, we looked to Unmask, which I played off and on in Turtle Dredge but has remained popular with European Dredge players.  The theory was that against Workshops, you’d need to rely on Mental Misstep on the draw, but on the play, you could use Unmask  to strip away hate cards actively instead of reactively. 

Compared to other recent builds, we also cut back our outs to Yixlid Jailer, figuring that people would be more likely to play Grafdigger’s Cage, given the fact that it is strong on the draw and more versatile.

Ultimately, the list that my team settled on was as follows:

Cagebreaker Dredge by Team ECW

4 Mental Misstep
4 Nature's Claim
4 Narcomoeba
2 Fatestitcher
1 Sun Titan
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
2 Golgari Thug
1 Darkblast
4 Serum Powder
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
2 Dread Return
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Bloodghast
2 Ichorid
4 Bridge from Below
4 Undiscovered Paradise
3 City of Brass
2 Dakmor Salvage

Sideboard: (15)

SB: 4 Chain of Vapor
SB: 4 Ingot Chewer
SB: 3 Unmask
SB: 1 City of Brass
SB: 2 Petrified Field
SB: 1 Ichorid

Typical sideboard strategy against blue decks involved siding in Ingot Chewers, Chain of Vapors, and the City of Brass.  Against Workshops on the draw, we sided in Ingot Chewers, City of Brass, Petrified Fields, and Ichorid, and then brought in Unmasks when on the play again.

While the list wasn’t perfect, it was very good, as you’ll see in Mark’s forthcoming tournament report article on Starcitygames.com; he may have some suggestions for further improvements.  I’ll also let him speak to his specific sideboarding strategies.

This tournament was pretty incredible, by the way, with a great venue, diverse field, and awesome players. Bill Copes bought me a beer after using the power of his mind to remove all the Bazaars and Serum Powders from my deck in two consecutive games.  We learned that I'm not a spy, except for the times when I am a spy, in which case you'll learn far too late.  Also, women tend to find the phrase "sand in your vagina" less amusing than men. When playing Cards Against Humanity, know your audience!

The end.

Appendix - Source lists:

Philadelphia 27.02.2010
- 82 players
Turtle Dredge - Matt Elias

Maindeck (60):
Spells (47):
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Serum Powder
4 Bloodghast
4 Bridge from Below
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Darkblast
2 Dread Return
2 Golgari Thug
2 Ichorid
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Narcomoeba
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
2 Nature's Claim
1 Woodfall Primus

Lands (13):
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
2 City of Brass
1 Dakmor Salvage
2 Petrified Field
4 Undiscovered Paradise


Sideboard (15):
4 Chain of Vapor
2 City of Brass
1 Darkblast
1 Ichorid
2 Nature's Claim
2 Pithing Needle
3 Unmask
   

Blue Bell 16.07.2011
- 33 players
Sun Titan Dredge - Matt Elias

Maindeck (60):
Spells (47):
1 Black Lotus
1 Lion's Eye Diamond
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mox Sapphire
4 Serum Powder
4 Bloodghast
4 Bridge from Below
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Darkblast
3 Dread Return
2 Golgari Thug
2 Ichorid
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Ancestral Recall
3 Fatestitcher
4 Narcomoeba
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
3 Sun Titan

Lands (13):
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
3 City of Brass
2 Dakmor Salvage
4 Undiscovered Paradise


Sideboard (15):
2 Ancient Grudge
4 Chain of Vapor
1 City of Brass
2 Darkblast
2 Firestorm
4 Nature's Claim
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cvarosky80
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2012, 05:01:16 pm »

Very nice article, Matt. I got to play Allen in Round 6, and I have to say, this deck was very very solid. He came very close to beating me in Game 3, until I topdecked Tinker to go for Inkwell Leviathan (My answer to all of the Blightsteel hate). That was the most intense Dredge game I have yet to play. Looking forward to Mark's report as well.
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2012, 05:50:46 pm »

That's it. From now on I am running 6 mental missteps!
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XxtSundaybxX
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2012, 11:05:57 pm »

Nice article Matt. It's nice to see you writing again.
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2012, 08:58:22 am »

Great read, Matt.  Thanks.
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2012, 02:22:18 pm »

Good stuff Matt, as always.
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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2012, 11:39:02 am »

We had a good first 2 games. Game 3 was a debacle.
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