Insider: Visual Sideboarding Primer: Standard Golgari Dredge

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Yesterday on QuietSpeculation Insider Mike Lanigan wrote about his experiences playing Golgari Dredge in Standard.

He introduced that article by saying that abusing the graveyard used to be among the most fun ways to win games in all of Magic, and I share the sentiment. Back when the original Ravnica was released it brought a new Extended format with it for the corresponding Pro Tour: Los Angeles. People abused the graveyard a bit, no one more successfully than eventual 2005 Player of the Year Kenji Nakamura with his top 4 finishing “Dregatog” deck.

The World Championships came a few months later, but the full power of Dredge had still yet to be found. The only mention of a Dredge-abusing Ichorid deck was in the coverage blog by BDM, who noticed it had been played by Osyp Lebedowicz in a Grand Prix Trial, and it reportedly reached the finals of a PTQ there. I worked on the deck all week and used it in a PTQ that very weekend, before it was well known. There were three Ichorid decks in the tournament, and I cruised to the finals before beating, you guessed it, a mirror match. The real way to abuse Dredge had appeared, and it dominated Extended from then on.

The Dredge mechanic and decks around it have been around ever since Ravnica, and it plays a role in every format where the mechanic is legal. Dredge decks have been banned into oblivion in Modern, but they are a constant presence in the Vintage and Magic Online Classic formats. It’s an ever-present tier 2 Legacy deck that players like Gerry Thompson would often turn to at SCG events in order to surprise an unprepared format.

The Dredge mechanic proper has been out of Standard for years, but the graveyard was a major theme in Innistrad block, which paved the way for the dominant flashback strategies Unburial Rites and Snapcaster Mage. Those cards left Standard when Theros was printed, but there is still much opportunity to abuse the graveyard.

Mike already introduced the deck, the basics behind its operation, and plenty of strategy and play guidelines. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check that out.  Here's the deck list for reference before we get to the visual sideboarding guide:




Pithing Needle stops Pack Rat, and combined with the maindeck Ultimate Price it gives this deck plenty of outs to the rodent. Pithing Needle also stops whatever land their Underworld Connections is enchanting from drawing cards.

Shadowborn Demon comes out because it is too slow to have much impact against the cheaper threats of Monoblack, and our plan is to simply outclass their creatures.




Mistcutter Hydra is punishing against their deck and helps close the game before their card card advantage takes over. Mistcutter Hydra is also the best way to kill a Jace, Architect of Thought.

Golgari Charm sweeps some of their cheap threats, but also clears Master of Waves and deals with Bident of Thassa and Domestication.

Lotleth Troll does not stand up to their interaction very well, so sinking cards into it is a losing proposition. Nemesis of Mortals is a bit slow, and simply unnecessary because the other creatures can get the job done effectively. Both of these green creatures are terrible against Tidebinder Mage.




Against Esper, Shadowborn Demon does not have any targets beyond possible creatures that come in from the sideboard, and it's clunky as a threat. It comes out for more efficient cards.Ultimate Price typically goes, but opponents may bring in Archangel of Thune so be aware.

The deck becomes much leaner post sideboard. Sylvan Caryatid gets lost in the shuffle here. It does not block anything, and accelerating into threats is not effective against a deck with so many answers. In the end, Sylvan Caryatid will fall to Supreme Verdict. Elvish Mystic shares the same fate.

Nemesis of Mortals is a useful top-of-the-curve bruiser and an equalizer against matchups like Monsters and random aggressive decks, but it is not necessarily fast enough or impactful enough against UW and Esper control. One stays in as potential 2-mana tempo-play in the mid/late game when you are more likely to have a stacked graveyard. Cutting them all or leaving in 2 both seem reasonable depending on the board plan.

Mistcutter Hydra is a large, hasted threat that plays well against their strategy and dodges many of their answer spells. It’s also great for killing planeswalkers.

Reaper of the Wilds comes in as a very powerful threat in its own right. It also helps combat any potential graveyard hate the opponent could be packing.

Lifebane Zombie comes in to buff the creature count as a solid clock that provides some hate against potential Archangel of Thune or stray Blood Baron of Vizkopa.

Thoughtseize is useful for picking apart their strategy, be sure to use it wisely. It is best used to protect whatever plan you are working towards. Taking removal and paving the way for your creatures is a fine route. In grindy games where you have plenty of action, taking a Planeswalker or Sphinx's Revelation will often be best.

Pithing Needle is a proactive answer to planeswalkers that will prevent them from gaining any value, or an answer after-the-fact that will generate tempo.

Golgari Charm can be used to blow out Detention Sphere at the end of their turn or clear out a wave of Elspeth, Sun's Champion's tokens.

Boros Burn



Shadowborn Demon does not have many targets but is actually pretty useful for shutting down the skies. Herald of Torment is painful and this deck does not have life to spare, but one is useful as an Angelic Blessing that helps end a game quickly.

Golgari Charm is useful as a counterspell for removal, but it’s also a great answer for Chained to the Rocks.




This list of the deck is very much pre-boarded for this and other creature matchups with 3 Shadowborn Demon and a pair of Ultimate Price maindeck.

In this matchup all of the maindeck cards are pretty great, but Lifebane Zombie is too good not to bring in. Sylvan Caryatid is the weakest individual card in the deck. so it comes out for the more powerful Lifebane Zombie. This gives the deck a slightly flatter mana curve and should allow it to consistently produce high-powered draws against Monsters. There is also an argument for simply shaving some graveyard enablers and/or graveyard abusers.


I’d be interested in hearing how others approach sideboarding in any of the matchups!

Here’s to dredging into the nuts,


5 thoughts on “Insider: Visual Sideboarding Primer: Standard Golgari Dredge

    1. I’m playing this deck for FNM tonight, excited to see how it goes! Thanks for this article – sideboarding is an artform I’m still wrapping my head around.

        1. Unfortunately, Fnm was canceled. But I played a couple matches for fun, a white aggro and u/w control. Aggro was tough round 1, but after side boarding lifebanes it was a quick game 2/3 for me. My opponent played celestial flares, and my final win was saccing a 15/15 lifebane zombie with Jarad.

          U/W was actually the easiest games I’ve played so far. Game 1 went a little long but I wore him out with troll/nighthowler. Game 2 I sideboarded in the usual but kept nemesis. I ended up putting 7 creatures in the gy by turn 4, and had two in hand. Pithing needle stopped his win conditions, and he wasn’t able to sphinx’s rev through the damage.

          My favorite game was against a G/R monsters deck. He got me down to 7 before I was able to stabilize the board, but then we were at an impasse. Mybiggest card was a nemesis/nighthowler, but I hadn’t even done any damage to him. I had a herald in hand but knew I couldnt survive more than one swing. I top deck a grisly salvage, cross my fingers, put 2 creatures into the graveyard, tap all my mana dorks and mana to bestow herald, monstrous nemesis, swing for 20.

  1. Just took a long break from MTG and picked up this deck a couple weeks ago and have really enjoyed it. Played this exact list at FNM and went X-0, definitely my favorite version by far.

    Before this I was playing this with +2 Deathrite Shaman, +2 Whip of Erebos, -2 Ultimate Price, -1 Shadowborn Demon, -1 Elvish Mystic. I thought I would miss Whip and Shaman but I felt like having them out of the deck smoothed out my draws and made the deck a tiny bit more consistent. The Ultimate Prices were definitely awesome and took out big troublemakers like Scavenging Ooze/Demon/Thundermaw during game ones which made the respective matches all that much easier. The Lifebanes out of the board were also really effective and the third Golgari Charm was a welcome addition.

    Really nice article, especially for someone like myself who has just come back to the game and can make full use if the extra sideboard information. Thanks again!

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