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Insider: Betting on Modern Dredge

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Graveyard decks in Modern have never been quite there. There's always something more degenerate to be doing, and the graveyard hate is powerful if and when the time comes to keep these decks in check. That said, there are isolated tournament results that demonstrate that graveyard decks in Modern have some real potential. When Abzan was the deck-to-beat for Pro Tour Fate Reforged, Ray Tautic put up solid results with this list:

This was before the Twin and Amulet bans, and this deck is fairly one-dimensional, though the ability to aggressively commit to the battlefield and overwhelm fair decks is consistently demonstrated with the Gravecrawler plus Vengevine package featured here. This deck never really took off after the Pro Tour, though it's not the only time we've seen graveyard decks in Modern.

This deck received some buzz a little while ago on Magic Online:

This deck was more about having a combo finish, but also was able to create substantial board states off the back of Bloodghast and Bridge from Below. This deck showed up during Eldrazi Winter when Lightning Bolt wasn't really around, though once again the explosive potential was there.

With the release of Shadows over Innistrad, there's a potential new kid on the block.


While you won't see a winning graveyard list coming from the Milwaukee Open, there was a lot of rumbling on the floor about the deck. A number of players were talking about the deck and there was some buzz regarding whether anybody had solidly figured it out. The interaction between Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam is simply too powerful to shrug off.

Curiously, there was a graveyard deck that saw success at SCG States, though it didn't feature this interaction:

This is a very curious sampling of graveyard decks. I'll tell you what I know for sure. Modern is a format where people do oddball things, and inevitably there will be a graveyard deck in the Top 8 of a large tournament. I can also tell you that there will be price movement when such a deck is featured winning on camera.

The difficult matter is in the lack of overlap when you compare the above three decks posted. Despite the fact that these decks all use the graveyard as a resource, the spells across all three vary quite wildly. Further, I'm convinced that Prized Amalgam is worth exploring on top of these options. It's unclear what the best cards to speculate on are from this range of options, though there are a few that stand out from the rest from my perspective.

Crypt of Agadeem


Crypt of Agadeem is a four-of in the most recent list of the bunch, and it's essential in reliably activating Soul of Innistrad or casting Demigod of Revenge. It can be found easily with Life from the Loam, and this particular build is impossible without this card. This is probably the most consistent list, if at times it can be the most sluggish.

Crypt was reprinted in Commander 2014, and this reprint will of course impact the ceiling of the card, but more relevant is that the card is currently just not worth anything. There are tons of copies in the sub-fifty cent range, and as a four-of in an off-the-wall Modern deck, this could explode very easily. This is a cool card for casual players on top of the Modern potential, and you really don't have much to lose on this one. This is easily my favorite pick of the lot.

Golgari Grave-Troll


Golgari Grave-Troll really limped off the ban-list, and with a duel-deck printing the card is pretty cheap right now. It's the best bang for your buck when it comes to repeatable self-mill, and it's not surprising to see it featured in both of the lists above that can cast it---and it can at times be totally reasonable to just cast.

If Grave-Troll goes from obscure in Modern to commonly played, expect it to jump to at least $10. Foils are already very high given the power level of the card in eternal formats, so at this point in time I'm more interested in non-foil copies.

Lotleth Troll


This card is pretty mopey, I won't lie. Spell Snare is quite good in Modern right now, and the pay off for discarding to Lotleth Troll is quite low. That said, this one appears in both the Gurmangler and the Demigod lists. I don't see it as an essential or even terribly good piece, but it's there.

Troll also has a reprint in Commander 2015, though like Crypt of Agadeem it just isn't worth anything. Troll could randomly become otherwise relevant with some great madness spells out of Eldritch Moon, though I wouldn't bank on it. I like Crypt better than Troll, but Troll is certainly a solid enough position.

Gravecrawler


Gravecrawler is a more expensive position, but it's a freaking flavorful zombie. This card is worth about $5 based on casual appeal, which will only creep up whether the card breaks out in Modern or not. It's a steeper buy-in and it's not clear when you'll be able to sell out, though I like picking up at least a set of these. In particular, if you're the type of player who likes having options in Modern, then this is a card that you are likely to end up having to pay more for later.

Bloodghast


If there's a store that has an easy time keeping this card in stock, then I've never been there. Casual players adore Bloodghast. The "free" recursion off of landfall makes Bloodghast an extremely powerful inclusion in dredge decks, and despite it not making the cut in Demigod Dredge it's still a very powerful card for the other archetypes. It's also possible that it's just supposed to be in the Demigod build.

Barring a reprint, Bloodghast will be $20 before long based on casual and Commander appeal alone, and a breakout performance in Modern could make it a $30+ card. The buy-in is steep, though the only thing you're betting against is that potential reprint.

Magus of the Bazaar


Magus of the Bazaar fails the Lightning Bolt test. This is a problem. That said, when it gets humming it's an absurd engine for setting up your graveyard. Planar Chaos seems like ancient history, and a set or three of Magus of the Bazaar seems like a no-brainer for the "some day" box.

Bridge from Below


Bridge from Below was reprinted in the original Modern Masters, so there are a reasonable number of copies out there, though despite not having real Modern demand the card is still worth about $5. I played the Rally build briefly on Magic Online, and the power of Bridge was undeniable, even in a format without Cabal Therapy or Dread Return.

Notably, that was the only build of a Modern graveyard deck to feature Bridge, though I believe there is real potential with Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam to make a solid stream of zombies. Bridge has no place in something like Demigod Dredge, though I still like owning a set or two.

~

There really isn't a commonly played graveyard deck in Modern yet, so it's hard to say exactly what one will look like when it rolls around. I can't stress enough the fact that there are options for deck builders. When investing in the future potential of the archetype, you want to lock in the cards that are the most generally sound investment.

For example, you'll notice that I didn't write on Demigod of Revenge. The card crutches entirely on Crypt of Agadeem to be playable in Modern, and as such I'd advocate dumping any Demigod money into Crypts instead, as they look like more sound investments to me. From a player perspective, picking up a set of Demigods is fine, though it specifically isn't the exciting element of the graveyard decks, and has a slightly steeper buy-in price.

At any rate, despite the fact that I couldn't give you the exact list for a Modern graveyard deck, I can tell you that one being successful is a matter of when, rather than if. What is still up in the air, but I believe that I've outlined the best picks.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

7 thoughts on “Insider: Betting on Modern Dredge

  1. I was just looking at Dredgevine lists in the recent SCG Modern States results.

    It for sure seems it’s creeping up in relevancy, and there’s a few cards of note (which you also outlined) that seem like very good positions to have in stock.

    Gravecrawler seems ready to start increasing, much like Geralf’s Messenger recently did. It had a DD printing but from the looks of it did absolutely nothing to slow it down. Foils are still the play I think, and are less than a 2x multiplier.

    There’s also Goblin Lore, which seems incredible value.

  2. I can tell you that Lotleth troll is an essential piece to the deck. It allows you to discard your dredge spells or get your vengevines and gravecrawlers in the yard that you need to. It’s the only creature in the deck that can play defense and can regenerate. Not to mention sometimes you just discard a bunch of creatures to it and your opponent cannot remove it and a big trampling threat is enough to get the job done.

    1. I’ve been messing around with the deck all weekend on MTGO and have never once been happy with or wished that I had Troll. I’ll be writing an update to this with more finding for next week most likely.

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