Back from vacation and back to the Modern grind! Although this week will start with all eyes on Pro Tour Eldritch Moon results, and spikes around breakout Standard staples like Emrakul, the Promised End and Grim Flayer, Modern is just around the corner.
The weekend of August 26-28 will bring us three Grand Prix from across the world, and as Modern Nexus will be discussing in this week's pending July update, the metagame has seen some important stabilizations and evolutions since our last Grand Prix weekend.
The Nexus June update saw a number of new strategies punching out of their old weight classes, as well as standbys such as Jund, Affinity, and Burn re-establishing their positions at the top. Notably, Jeskai Nahiri continues to defy skeptics and stay at the top of Tier 1. July promises to see this trend continue.
Of all the metagame developments since the May Grand Pix, however, perhaps none is more significant or impressive than Dredge's ascent. Shadows over Innistrad gave the anemic strategic both Insolent Neonate (a Hapless Researcher reprint even better suited for Dredge) and Prized Amalgam (the critical 9th-12th creature after Bloodghast and Narcomoeba that hits play after dredging).
With Neonate and Amalgam joining recently unbanned, and previously irrelevant, Golgari Grave-Troll, Dredge has secured a Tier 2 foothold in the format off a commanding string of MTGO finishes and newfound paper momentum. Bust out the graveyard hate because the Dredge factor is back in a big way.
As with all upstart Modern strategies, Dredge has initiated a slew of buyouts and spikes across its once cheap core. Although the deck remains an MTGO budget all-star at around 250 tickets, its paper stock has almost doubled in the past month from the $200-$250 range to $400-$450. Today's article will help you navigate these spikes when buying into the deck.
Whether you're playing Dredge in the upcoming Grand Prix or just looking to invest around the hot new strategy, this article will give you important advice around purchasing Dredge's volatile stock. We'll review different Dredge variants before separating their staples into two categories: cards you need to buy immediately before further spikes and cards which should drop with time.
The Dredge Core and Variants
According to our Nexus metagame statistics, preliminary for July, Dredge remains solidly Tier 2 in the 2.5% to 3% share range. This share may even increase into the 3%-4% band based on MTGO results, where Dredge has made the most convincing inroads since its rediscovery in May and June.
This means Dredge is definitely going to be a major player at the upcoming Grand Prix, which means you'll need to learn its different iterations. Knowing these variants will also help you decide what is a safe investment and what is more risky.
Modern's Dredge core isn't too different from the Dredge mainstays of old Ravnica-era Magic, or of Legacy Dredge today. Here's a loose outline:
- 10+ dredgers (4 Golgari Grave-Troll, 2-4 Stinkweed Imp, 0-2 Golgari Thug, 0-4 Life from the Loam)
- 12 recurring creatures (4 Prized Amalgam, 4 Bloodghast, 4 Narcomoeba)
- 12 discard/mill outlets (4 Insolent Neonate, 4 Faithless Looting, 4 of either Burning Inquiry or Shriekhorn)
- 2-4 Conflagrate
- 18-20 lands (including 2 Dakmor Salvage)
From a gameplay perspective, Dredge's goal is to get one of those 10+ dredgers into the graveyard on turn one, either dredging immediately via Insolent Neonate or starting the chain on turn two during the draw step. From there, Narcomoeba's and Salvage/fetchland-powered Bloodghasts start hitting play, bringing with them the Amalgam bruisers.
Conflagrate helps clear the path or seal the game, and the deck typically wins by turn four through beatdown and burn. Turn three is possible with good draws and minimal interaction.
In July alone, we've seen multiple examples of high-level Dredge finishes, each illustrating slightly different angles to the deck. Justin O'Keefe won the StarCityGames Baltimore Classic just last weekend with his Greater Gargadon and Bridge from Below list. In early-July, we saw Rinsei Ooike take down the finals of the 287-player Modern God Final in Japan, eschewing the Bridge combo for Darkblasts and Rally the Peasants. Between Ooike's and O'Keefe's finishes, the Tokyo WMCQ featured two Dredge players in its finals, Kazuyuki Takimura and Kenji Tsumura at 6th and 7th respectively.
Between the deck's metagame share and its headline finishes, Dredge has excellent positioning heading into August. The Dredge core has gone from Tier 4 gimmick to Tier 2 exemplar in just a few months, and its track record is a testament to the core's theoretical power. This gives you some telling guidelines about where you want to spend your Dredge money.
Buy 'Em Now
It's always risky to dive into a Modern deck that takes off between Grand Prix. If a deck makes it on the big stage, its stock will rise even further than its hyped start point. If the deck bombs out, all those spikes will quickly retreat.
Thankfully for Dredge buyers, this strategy has all the hallmarks of a real Modern contender. Although Dredge is unlikely to maintain a Tier 1 status, Tier 2 honors should be solidly in its future, which means you'll want to invest in Dredge the same way you invest in any other Tier 2 deck: focusing on low-circulation, critical pieces. Here are the three best, even if they are much higher today than they were before I went on vacation.
Time Spiral cards make great investments, and the never-reprinted Conflagrate is no exception. Almost all Dredge decks use at least one of these sorceries, with many using 2-3, and the card remains an indispensable discard outlet, interaction piece, and reach element in the linear strategy. If Dredge puts up big Grand Prix finishes, this is a huge steal at just $3-$5.
Because it's an uncommon and isn't commonly associated with Dredge (it isn't a dredger nor a dredge-enabled creature), Conflagrate can fly under the radar. That will not last if Grand Prix weekend is kind to Dredge. Get these immediately if you want to play the deck, as even a lackluster Grand Prix performance will not see the price fall significantly below its present value.
Remember the ineffectual Troll buyout a few months ago? Some enterprising speculator underestimated the card's stock (the Duel Deck printing messes with this kind of buyout math), but Golgari Grave-Troll did see a price increase and that was well before Dredge was a deck. With Dredge now a major Tier 2 player, Troll is the non-negotiable playset that is just waiting to explode again.
Even a modest Grand Prix performance will see Troll stabilize its current $6-$8 price tag. A Top 8/16 run will easily double it overnight. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Modern's best dredger is also one of Dredge's best investments, so don't sleep on this card before Grand Prix weekend arrives.
It's Goblin Guide all over again! If Guide and those beloved Zendikar fetches taught us anything, it's that chase Zendikar rares command big dollars if they never get reprinted. Bloodghast is the newest example of that time-honored trend.
Like Troll, Bloodghast is a non-negotiable playset in all Dredge strategies. That said, I'm somewhat leery of putting the Vampire in the "Buy 'Em Now" category because its current price seems a bit high. Guide is about $13 more than Bloodghast, but sees play in both Tier 2 Gruul Zoo and Tier 1 Burn. Bloodghast is just in Tier 2 Dredge. This might suggest the current price is a bit of a bubble that will stabilize with time, but I also know the Vampire holds intense casual appeal outside of Modern.
I'm in a buying mood on these cards because even if Bloodghast does underperform Guide in the end, a Grand Prix Top 16 will guarantee it rises in the short term.
Make the Gamble
The following cards aren't sure bets, either because of uncertain inventory or unstable positioning within Dredge. That said, if you're feeling lucky or have a good sense of Dredge's variations, these might be rewarding targets.
Greater Gargadon and Bridge from Below
Justin O'Keefe put Gargadon and Bridge from Below to work at the SCG Baltimore Classic on July 31, and players are sure to notice this technology in the leadup to the August Grand Prix. I haven't seen the combo as much on MTGO, and it's unclear to me if this synergy dilutes the Dredge core or makes it more consistently explosive. If you're betting on the latter camp, however, the Time Spiral rare makes a great financial gamble.
Gargadon already saw small increases around the Restore Balance combo deck, and Dredge is a much more enduring strategy to supports its price tag. That said, if Gargadon flubs at the Grand Prix, price memory will only sustain the $3-$4 price-tag for so long. By contrast, a repeat of O'Keefe's finish would send Gargadon into the stratosphere. The same is true of Bridge from Below, which has a Modern Masters reprinting on top of its Future Sight run, but is in similarly limited supply.
Unlike Gargadon, Bridge has the added benefit of featuring prominently in Legacy Dredge decks, as well as being a casual favorite for its unique effect. I'm personally optimistic about these cards because Modern is historically a format that rewards swingy and explosive synergies, but I can also see the combo watering down an otherwise tight core. Time will tell!
Foils: Burning Inquiry and Shriekhorn
These two commons might be better investments than I am giving them credit for, which is largely because I do very little investment in the foil common market. That said, if any foil commons are worth investing in, it has to be a pair of single-print run Dredge staples from sets 5+ years old.
Although Burning Inquiry remains the most explosive (and potentially unreliable) Dredge outlet, Shriekhorn has rapidly made headway as a strategy mainstay. The Mirrodin Besieged artifact has a lot in its favor. Its a one-drop artifact which can enter turn one play off any land other than Dakmor Salvage. Between the turn one and turn two upkeep activation, it mills four cards before your turn two draw step, which gives Dredge a big chance of finding its dredger or getting creatures into play. The artifact also gives you milling in controlled bursts, which insulates you from graveyard hate.
These qualities make Shriekhorn a frontrunner for the Dredge "discard" outlet core, and make foil copies a valuable commodity.
If you're not using Shriekhorn, you're definitely using the powerful Burning Inquiry in its slot, a Magic 2010 common which hasn't seen serious play since its printing. Inquiry has the biggest potential for enormous turn two plays, but lacks Shriekhorn's consistency and resilience. This creates an odd tension between the two cards: hedge your bets by picking up foil copies of both.
Wait for the Drop
Modern finance has some of the most erratic changes in all of Magic, and breakout decks like Dredge are a big factor in this. Numerous Dredge staples have shot up well over their actual value, so these are the cards you'll want to avoid until some of the hype dies down. That said, a Grand Prix performance will probably push even these overvalued cards higher than they are now.
It feels odd that Dredge's most important new enabler is also a card to avoid for now. Yes, Prized Amalgam is the biggest reason Dredge has enjoyed newfound success after Shadows over Innistrad, but the new rare in a Standard-legal set is not where you want to put your money. Even at the lower-end $3-$4 range, the card is grossly overvalued.
Amalgam sees play exclusively in Modern Dredge, with basically nothing in Standard, Legacy, or any other format. By contrast, Reality Smasher is a multi-format powerhouse from a slightly older Standard-legal set. It is also a rare. Despite this higher profile, Smasher is still just a $3-$4 card. That does not bode well for Amalgam, whose niche Modern status (even in a Tier 2 deck) can't support its price for long. I expect this to drop as more Shadows stock is opened.
Conflagrate makes the cut but Narcomoeba falls short? What gives? The culprit in this case is Modern Masters, which reprinted the timeless Dredge classic and ensured a lower price tag for years to come.
A great point of comparison here is Eldrazi Temple. Temple sees Legacy and Modern play in multiple decks, all with higher shares than Dredge. Like Narcomoeba, Temple had a Modern Masters reprinting at uncommon. Unlike the illusion, the Eldrazi land's original printing was at rare. If Temple is stuck at a $4 card, it seems very unlikely Narcomoeba can get over its $2 hump with so much volume. If you can get them at sub-$1, that's another story and a great opportunity for a 100%+ profit. Otherwise, stay away.
Gearing Up for Grand Prix Weekend #2!
We have a few weeks before August's Grand Prix bash, and we'll be checking in on the metagame standings to advise some financial moves ahead of the event. In addition to being the first big stage since Dredge's rise, the Grand Prix will also be an opportunity for Eldritch Moon cards to shine. I'm still optimistic on both Eldritch Evolution and Bedlam Reveler in this post-Moon format, but we'll need to wait until the Grand Prix to see how these cards pan out.
Thanks for joining today and let me know in the comments if you have any questions about other Dredge cards or investment opportunities. I'll be back next week with a financial review of the Modern Nexus July metagame update, coming out sometime this week, and to get us pumped for the upcoming Modern tournaments. See you then!