Advanced Tips and Tricks for Playing Legacy Dredge
- Andreas Reling
Last time, Andifeated introduced you to his pet deck in his Legacy Dredge deck discussion. Because the deck is very complex and hard to master, this time, he will teach you all the important rules, interactions, and tricky plays that a masterful Lich Lord can use to his advantage in order to maximize the deck's potential.
From my last article, you may now be familiar with how a Dredge deck works in general and which cards are played as well as their respective roles in Dredge's strategy. But since the deck is very special and requires specific knowledge on rarely seen cards and interactions, I've decided to explain all options and give advice on how to use those weird cards to their full potential. The deck is often referred to as "not playing magic" and that exaggeration doesn't come without reason. One article simply isn't enough to explain the deck and all it's unusual cards.
Ichorid is my favorite recursive creature in the deck. It is put onto the battlefield without spending any mana but rather demands a flow of black creatures to feed on. The first thing you need to understand about this card is that its triggered ability goes onto the stack at the beginning of your upkeep. However, you don't communicate any decisions, if you want to return it to the battlefield this turn or which creature you're going to exile, until the ability resolves. This is important because it could bait your opponent into a bad play. It's not always obvious to your opponent if you will even return Ichorid at all and what you will exile. Therefore, make your opponent use their Stifle before you tell them if it's a good play or a wasted card. If you have Cephalid Coliseum and another mana source alongside a dredger and Threshold while Ichorid's ability goes to the stack, you can hold priority instead of passing and now use your Coliseum to find more black creatures before the ability resolves. That will give you more options and help you feed the least relevant creature to your Horror while also putting more cards in your graveyard, since you will be able to discard your dredger again before the draw step.
Also note that you don't need to "overextend" Miracle's Terminus or Swords to Plowshares with your Ichorids. If you expect your opponent to cast those during this turn, it may be a better idea to leave your Horrors in the graveyard for this turn and just attack with your Zombie tokens instead. This wastes the mana your opponent was holding up or simply reduces the impact of their cards.
Finally, it's pretty obvious that Ichorid should eat Putrid Imp and Street Wraith first because they don't have the Dredge ability. But there is a tiebreaker when deciding between the two. If your opponent is playing Exhume in his deck, it's better to eat the Imp first since the Wraith is the better creature to put on the battlefield – It can attack past a lifelinking Griselbrand due to Swampwalk. Against a Death's Shadow deck, it's better to eat the Wraith first because they can Reanimate it to decrease their life total for bigger and faster Shadows while adding a relevant blocker to their battlefield.
Bridge from Below
Bridge from Below is another complicated card, but it goes very well with the previously discussed Ichorid. The card is best in your graveyard to produce tokens but note that you can technically cast it in order to destroy it with your Nature's Claim and gain 4 life. Yes, I've won a match because of this play.
The card has two different triggered abilities and you are responsible for putting them onto the stack. If you miss the ability that exiles it, this could be considered as cheating by a judge, so try to never forget it. But this also means that you can decide in which order they're put on the stack, if they're triggered at the same time. This comes up a lot when a player casts a spell that destroys all creatures like Supreme Verdict or when combat damage is dealt when creatures engage in trades. Use this rule to your advantage, put the abilities that will create tokens on top of the stack, and communicate this clearly. Bridge will only create tokens if it's still in the graveyard when the ability resolves, so this is always important to remember. Because of this, cards like Walking Ballista, Skirk Prospector, Warping Wail, Batterskull, or even Lightning Bolt can be used to exile all Bridges at instant speed with devastating effects. If you have Ichorids and Bridges, try to calculate how much damage you'll deal to your opponent by attacking and if that's worth giving him the option of removing your Bridges. Oftentimes, it's better to play around Snapcaster Mage or other Flash creatures and not attack at all in order to create more Zombie tokens in the end step when Ichorid dies to its own ability.
Leyline of the Void
If you happen to control Leyline of the Void, your opponent's dying creatures won't exile your Bridges, except when they're token creatures. That's because they are not "cards" and won't be exiled by Leyline. They will be put into the graveyard, cease to exist, and trigger your Bridges to exile them –which is pretty nasty.
Street Wraith is another tricky card that is included in one of the deck's most broken openings: Play a land, cast Lion's Eye Diamond, cast Breakthrough for X equals 0, keep priority and cycle Wraith, keep priority and use Diamond which discards cards with the Dredge ability, and provide red mana for flashbacking Faithless Looting later this turn. If you sequence this turn in another way, you won't be able to put the maximum amount of 41 cards into your graveyard with dredging. But! It can do more tricks! It's a very good piece of interruption against the most popular and prominent sideboard card against us: Surgical Extraction.
You can keep your Wraith if you want to play around it with the following tricks:
- When your opponent tries to extract one of your dredgers, respond by cycling the Wraith and dredge the targeted card to your hand. The extraction will fail to resolve since there is no legal target left.
- When you put a Narcomoeba ability onto the stack and your opponent responds by targeting it with Extraction, cycle your Wraith before it resolves to dredge more cards. It will also give you a chance to put more illusions on the battlefield before all copies from your library get exiled.
Putrid Imp also gets some play to it. People always use it in their opponent's end step – that's just the wrong time to use it in most cases. Having the Imp fly for a turn is better on your turn in most scenarios. Discard the dredger in your upkeep. This avoids the Imp from getting ambushed by a Dryad Arbor jumping out of a fetch land or another Flash creature from removing your Bridges. You will be able to discard another card most of the time, but sometimes, it will be awkward against Tormod's Crypt and that's okay.
Speaking of cards like Relic of Progenitus and Nihil Spellbomb, Putrid Imp can help bait your opponent into activating these cards, restarting your engine right away. Discard a single dredger in your upkeep, as explained, and ask if you may move to the draw step. If they use their artifact to stop you from dredging, you will receive priority again in the upkeep and can simply discard another dredge card then move to the draw steps. Patient players won't fall for that trick, but it certainly won me some games against inexperienced opponents.
Players always put their Narcomoebas on the battlefield as soon as they flip them from the top of their library. But that's not the correct way to do it. When a spell or ability is resolving, triggered abilities can't be put on the stack until the effect is completely resolved. Only then will the active player receive priority again. Therefore, you need to completely resolve your Breakthrough, Cephalid Coliseum, or Faithless Looting before announcing your Narcomoeba abilities. To not forget them while doing all that stuff, I mark my Narcomoebas in my graveyard by turning them sideways or pulling them a bit out of the row without interfering with the graveyard order. This is mandatory in Legacy due to cards like Nether Shadow and Ashen Ghoul, which some versions of the deck play. Also keep in mind that you don't need to return your Illusions to the battlefield if you don't want to. That trick is only useful if you can achieve threshold for your Coliseum by leaving the Illusion in your graveyard to dredge deeper into your deck.
Cephalid Coliseum says: Target player draws three cards.
You can use this to force your opponent into drawing cards they can't when their library is empty or almost empty as a last resort to win the game. This can come up in mirror matches or against combo decks that want to win with Balustrade Spy, Laboratory Maniac, or Doomsday. Furthermore, if you plan on activating your Coliseum, you may want to keep it in your hand in order to protect it from Wasteland.
Sometimes, a Stinkweed Imp will end up on the battlefield. If it's a convenient target for Dread Return or simply dredged and cast when you're out of draw effects, it can work as a relevant blocker against creatures like Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn, Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration, or Death's Shadow. In those situations, you need to know that the Imp doesn't actually have Deathtouch. Instead, it has a triggered ability that can kill the other creature, therefore can be met with Stifle or Trickbind. Try using that knowledge to your advantage since those cards can appear in Legacy decks from time to time.
There is no shame in casting Golgari Thug. If you run out of actions, but still have a pair of lands left over, why not cast this guy and sacrifice it? It'll be the same as hitting another Narcomoeba but will provide the useful ability of putting one of those back on the top of your library in order to guarantee that you hit at least one Illusion. However, keep in mind that its triggered ability is a must. You cannot choose to not put a creature on top of your library if that would turn out to your disadvantage. Use the Thug wisely.
Sure, the main purpose of Dread Return might be to return something scary like Ashen Rider or Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite to the battlefield, but sometimes you won't have access to those monsters and will have to get really creative. Don't underestimate a giant Golgari Grave-Troll as many decks struggle to deal with it because it provides a fast clock while being the only creature that can win against an opposing Elesh Norn in many scenarios. I certainly had opportunities wherein my Return became a glorified Lava Spike and just returned an Ichorid for three more damage to win the turn. Just keep in mind that Silent Gravestone will forbid you to cast Dread Return, so don't side them together.
Dredge is often referred to as a stupid deck that's not really playing Magic and where you're not in control of many things. I couldn't disagree more with this prejudice. I think most experienced players think that and shy away from the deck because they struggle to accept its risks and are afraid to lose to random sideboard cards without any chance of putting their knowledge and experience to use. It is true that the deck doesn't interact with the opponent's strategy as well as other decks, thus it lacks some control over what is happening. But it rewards knowledge of your own cards, the metagame, and current decklists like no other deck. This is mostly due to Cabal Therapy – probably one of the most difficult Magic cards to use properly.
I didn't discuss this card today – despite being the deck's main interaction with your opponent –because it's simply too complicated to say only a few sentences about it, and this article is already pretty loaded with information. Therefore, my next article will be a complete guide on casting Cabal Therapy. I will be naming the right things in popular matchups and early game situations wherein you have little information to work with.
Until then, let me know in the comments if you've used one of the above tricks before or if you want to share others that I didn't have room to explain.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.