Even before Star City Games' Syracuse Open, Dredge was solidifying its position at the top of the metagame heap. Then the deck sent four of is five Day 2 pilots to Top 32, with two making Top 8 and Ross Merriam winning it all.
Believe it: Dredge's Tier 1 status is all but assured going into the end-of-August Grand Prix streak.
It remains to be seen if Dredge can stay atop the Tier 1 pedestal once players start taking it seriously. Grand Prix weekend will be a major test for one of Magic's most unique and (in)famous strategies. That said, the financial status of Dredge's staples is far more certain. Cards were spiking even before Ross Merriam's list took gold at Syracuse, and if you didn't follow my advice last week, you probably missed this hype train.
I'm just sorry I was on vacation for a big chunk of July and couldn't sound the investment alarms earlier! Hope you got those Greater Gargadons then or, like me, had them from the glory days of Restore Balance combo.
Although Dredge buyouts continue to spike staple prices, there's another subset of critical Modern cards which will also benefit from the deck's rise: graveyard hate. Modern has some of Magic's most spiteful anti-graveyard spells, and if Dredge continues its Tier 1 reign, these cards are sure to see increasing play in the leadup to the Grand Prix.
Today, we'll focus on a few key anti-Dredge cards which should pique your interest as players and investors. With Dredge on the upswing, Modern players will need to pack certain hate cards more than ever, which means there's extensive space for both strategic developments and financial profits.
The Big Graveyard-Hating Guns
Since Ravnica fatefully introduced one of Magic's most broken mechanics, graveyard hate has been one of the most reliable and impactful means of ruining Dredge's game. Nowhere is this truer than in Modern, which gives players access to all-star graveyard exilers like Leyline of the Void, Relic of Progenitus and Rest in Peace.
That said, as anyone who has tried making a perfect Modern sideboard knows, not all hate cards are created equally. Some anti-Dredge bullets are better than others, which means you'll want to focus on select standouts if you're trying to beat Dredge or beat the spike on the next big thing.
Following this, here are the three best anti-graveyard cards which are likely to beat Dredge, beat other decks without overcommitting to the Dredge matchup (important!), and make you big bucks.
Leyline of the Void
Despite two printings, one in the core Magic 2011 set no less, Leyline of the Void is already valued at a surprising $6-$7. This, despite Leyline seeing very little play in even Modern, where it shows up in the occasional Jund sideboard and few other decks.
With Dredge pushing ahead, Leyline's stock improves dramatically. Snapcaster Mage decks alone rarely justified the Leyline. Add Dredge to Modern's other graveyard decks, and the card is looking more attractive with every new event Top 8.
As an added bonus, even Dredge decks are using Leyline as their anti-Dredge card of choice. That was definitely Ross Meriam's call at Syracuse, and more pilots are sure to follow suit. I expect this one gaining at least a few dollars by the end of August, if not doubling in price outright to dual demand from rising Dredge and format king Jund.
The single-printing rare from the seldom-opened Dark Ascension is one of those unique cards which commands a higher MTGO pricetag than a paper one. Both of these are likely to increase even further once players start running more Grafdigger's Cage copies to trump Dredge.
Like Leyline, the Cage is relevant in a variety of matchups including against Dredge, Nahiri, the Harbinger strategies, Abzan Company, Kiki Chord, budding Eldritch Evolution decks, and others. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to run versatile sideboard cards in Modern, and Cage illustrates this perfectly.
Don't be surprised to see Cage keep climbing from the $8-$10 range into the $12-$15 range by the end of the month. It gets an additional edge over Leyline for being an artifact---any deck can run the colorless one-drop without worrying about mana requirements.
Rest in Peace
Single-printing rares are always great investment targets, and Rest in Peace is no exception. The Return to Ravnica rare runs for around $4 in the current market, which is definitely undervalued if it takes off as an anti-Dredge option.
Jeskai strategies have remained major Tier 1 players since May, with Mardu and Esper mages trying to push out of Tier 3 into the upper metagame circles. Add Abzan Liege, Hatebears, Death and Taxes, and other white-based strategies, and it's easy to see where decks are going to pick up Rest in Peace and jam it in their boards alongside the mighty Stony Silence.
Unlike Leyline, Rest is a symmetrical effect which somewhat limits its usability. Snapcaster Mage decks might balk at the card, although Syracuse's 5th place Alan Breitman did use Rest in Peace to get into the Top 8 against a Dredge opponent in the later rounds. Other strategies, notably the Wx Eldrazi/Hatebears/D&T decks, have no such anti-synergies, and will gleefully use Rest in Peace to take matchup edges.
I'm less confident in Rest in Peace's stock than the more proven Leyline and Cage, but with white decks experiencing somewhat of a renaissance in Modern, it's a great bet at its current low pricetag.
Other Anti-Graveyard Options
If you only had limited time for testing and money for speculating, Leyline, Cage and Rest in Peace are probably the safest options. On the other hand, if you're willing to go off the beaten path, or willing to test around cards that aren't necessarily very profitable, here's a short list of other options to consider:
- Relic of Progenitus - It's a versatile one-drop like Cage, with just as widespread relevance in Modern. Check out the foils for some real value, although even non-foils linger in the upper $1-$2 range after tons of reprints.
- Scavenging Ooze - Jund, Abzan Company, Elves, and other green-based decks will use the Ooze as a flexible answer to numerous strategies, Dredge included. Ooze will rarely keep up with Dredge's onslaught, but its versatility and utility still give it a nod.
- Anafenza, the Foremost - I'm big on Eldritch Evolution in the new Modern, and I love the idea of turn two Anafenza off a mana dork in the Dredge contest. The legend shuts down most of Dredge's strategy cold.
- Yixlid Jailer - A bizarre oldie but a real goodie! Jailer has long been outclassed by other two-drop creatures, but if Dredge is here to stay, black-based decks might take a second look.
Versatile Dredge Bullets
Graveyard hate isn't the only way to go against Dredge. Sometimes, it's not even the best---we watched Tom Ross win through Leyline of the Void just last weekend due to Insolent Neonate beatdown. Here are some alternate solutions to Dredge, both of which are strong against the deck and have some real potential for profit.
Anger of the Gods
Aggro is big in Modern these days, especially aggro with three-toughness Wild Nacatls in the backbone. Good news! Three is also Dredge's Magic number (except for big papa Gargadon), with everything else from Prized Amalgam to Bloodghast hitting exile after the Anger sweep.
With just a single printing, albeit in a recent Standard set, Anger of the Gods has a lot of potential for growth. It doesn't hurt that red is already one of Modern's best colors and Anger sees frequent play across strategies.
I'm particularly keen on Anger because it works so well alongside trendy Nahiri decks, particularly those using Through the Breach. Anger is also a Jund sideboard mainstay, and despite failing to take down Syracuse, Jund is still arguably Modern's "best" deck. All of this points to Anger being a big winner in August and beyond.
Here's a niche one straight out of the SCG Syracuse coverage. Harrison Gil put this limited-run rare to work in his later round Dredge matchup, leveraging its shuffling and Fallow Earth modes to take the match. Whether you're playing R/G Ponza, Nykthos Green, or any of the other green-based ramping decks, Primal Command is worth a second look in the coming weeks.
Admittedly, Command is probably the most niche card featured in this article, with only a few decks capable of fielding the powerful five-drop sorcery. Then again, Scapeshift, Valakut, and other ramp decks are among some of Modern's strongest these days, with numerous Tier 2 and even Tier 1 slots. All of this makes Command a worthy investment both from a financial and a strategic option.
Don't get caught in the graveyard-hate trap against Dredge! Sometimes, the best way to beat the deck is to employ other resources (or, as is often the case in Modern, to just race the strategy). Assuming you take the more interactive route, here are a few options to consider for your arsenal:
- Hallowed Moonlight - Can't we just get Containment Priest? In lieu of the better Legacy card, Moonlight might have what it takes to fill a sideboard or maindeck bullet slot in the Dredge contest. It has enough cross-matchup relevance to be worth a second look in this new format.
- Ghostly Prison - Dredge's primary path to victory is through the combat phase, and Prison grinds that route to a halt. Prison is often going to beat out Ensnaring Bridge in this role because Ancient Grudge can't hit the white enchantment.
- Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite - What can I say? I love Eldritch Evolution! If you can get this one out quickly, or hold the line long enough to get this by turn 3-4, she'll cut Dredge's creatures out of the game (Bridge from Below tokens included!).
- Darkness - I'm an Ad Nauseam guy, so Fog effects are my sideboard specialty. Darkness, Holy Day and classic Fog are spectacular in this metagame, buying a critical turn against Infect, Dredge, Affinity, Death's Shadow Zoo and many others.
Adapting in Time for the Grand Prix
As Dredge opponents have known since Ravnica, having a solid anti-Dredge sideboard (or even maindeck) plan is no guarantee of victory. We've seen Dredge pilots win through even Leyline of the Void, and between answers like Ancient Grudge, reach and removal from Conflagrate, and Plan Bs from Gargadons and Grave-Trolls, Dredge can still pull out games even from the jaws of apparent defeat.
The moral? Be cautious when facing down Dredge, even if the deck is a much weaker version of its nuclear Legacy option. Also watch out for Dredge's evolving technology, whether the Gargadon and Bridge from Below combo of last week, or the unveiling of Collective Brutality this week (another card I eyeballed early and I hope you didn't wait too long to pick up).
Two weeks to go, many more events in between---the Grand Prix weekend is on the horizon and we have a lot more Modern in store as we get close. Make sure you've reviewed the Modern Nexus July metagame update before doing serious preparation for the events, and stay tuned for more Modern content in the 11th hour before the Grand Prix. Hit me up in the comments if you have questions and I'll see you all soon!