I’ve come up with a new idea on how to present some information about decks when the amount of actionable information for the finance side of Modern Magic is low. Once in a while I’m planning to write, what I’m going to call, a “Financial Deck Tech.” In these articles I’ll discuss the costs of buying and maintaining a specific deck, as well as the best strategies to acquire it over time. I’m going to start with Dredge because it recently won the Star City Games Modern Classic and Invitational in Atlanta.
To begin, here’s Jacob Baugh’s winning decklist from the Invitational for reference:
Dredge, by Jacob Baugh (1st, SCG Atlanta Invitational)
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Haunted Dead
4 Insolent Neonate
4 Prized Amalgam
1 Scourge Devil
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Cathartic Reunion
4 Faithless Looting
2 Life from the Loam
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Dakmor Salvage
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Mana Confluence
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Gnaw to the Bone
2 Golgari Charm
1 Lightning Axe
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Collective Brutality
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Who is Dredge for?
Dredge is definitely a veteran’s deck. It’s operates on a very unorthodox axis and has a lot of complexity in its operations. As a result, I generally think it’s a poor choice for someone newer to Modern, or Magic in general. It’s also one of the few decks that has pretty egregious physical dexterity requirements. There is a huge difference between a player with a reasonably organized graveyard and a messy pile.
Dredge is also a deck that can be fairly easily hated out via sideboard cards. If your plan is to play this at a local card shop for months at a time, you will have probably have to get used to a wide range of graveyard-hosing sideboard cards. Dredge is similar to Affinity in the ways that it operates after sideboards are introduced—but the best anti-Affinity sideboard cards are colored and thus unavailable to every deck.
The Future of Dredge
Dredge has a lot of people complaining about its speed and low amount of interaction. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it brought down a notch via a banning in the next six to twelve months. As far as new cards in the pipeline, we only know that the next block coming out is a new plane. Amonkhet has a Nicol Bolas dynasty overlaid on an Egyptian theme. Due to the fact that mummification and the dead are such a big part of pop-culture Egypt, I would not be surprised to see some new cards that interact with the graveyard and bring more power to Dredge.
With that in mind, please don’t assume we will get some insane graveyard cards to make Dredge unstoppable. Kaladesh is an artifact-themed set where the best cards from Modern were a red sorcery and a green pump spell. On the other hand, Dredge is unlikely to get much worse than it is now, unless a lot more maindeckable graveyard hate cards get printed, or something weird happens like Deathrite Shaman getting unbanned.
The core of a deck are those cards you absolutely need to play, where substitutions are likely impossible and copies of these cards are included almost universally across decklists. For example, the cards that are most definitely part of the core of Dredge are Insolent Neonate, Bloodghast, Prized Amalgam, Narcomoeba, Golgari Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp, Conflagrate, Faithless Looting, and Cathartic Reunion.
There are many other cards that will usually make the cut in lists that are of less interest to us here. First of all, different players may be drawn to different versions, and second of all these non-core cards can change in response to metagame shifts, new printings, and more. For our purposes, this includes sideboard cards.
The core of Dredge is relatively inexpensive compared to other Modern decks. The 35 most important cards in the deck come to approximately $192.50, which includes 4 Bloodghast ($25/each) at the top. That’s pretty good for a Modern deck, which can often be bogged down by a few extremely expensive cards. For less than the cost of just the Noble Hierarchs in Infect, you can finish almost half of the maindeck of Dredge. In fact, most of the rest of the deck’s cost is in building an optimal manabase, which can be substituted with less expensive versions. At a minimum, you want to purchase the entire core of Dredge before going forward. Incremental upgrades can be made after that.
Which Purchases to Prioritize
Far and away the best thing to buy first is Bloodghast. It’s on the harder side of things to reprint, due to a fairly unique mechanic, and it’s also played in a lot more brews than Golgari Grave-Troll. Granted, anything on this list could be reprinted at any time, but I think it’s not likely to. We could get it as a promo (like the Inkmoth Nexus in the pipeline) but those are also particularly difficult to predict.
After that, I would recommend making sure you have the cheap commons and uncommons. If you or your friends have played Standard or drafted in the last six months, somebody probably has some Insolent Neonates and Cathartic Reunions. Faithless Looting was reprinted in Eternal Masters, which is getting another printing to end the year. If you’re just sitting around your LGS, don’t be afraid to ask people drafting Eternal Masters if you can thumb through their bulk for a few Lootings. Stinkweed Imp is also pretty cheap despite being fairly old. I’d recommend getting those when you see them.
Conflagrate is a difficult card to evaluate because we don’t know the mechanics in Modern Masters 2017 yet. It’s probable that they put in flashback because it’s a popular draft mechanic and presumably they want to reprint Snapcaster Mage. But that doesn’t guarantee that they noticed Conflagrate as a weird Time Spiral block uncommon that needed a reprint. I wouldn’t buy them until I was done with the rest of the core.
Golgari Grave-Troll is the second most expensive card in the deck and was already reprinted once in the Izzet vs. Golgari duel deck. That being said, I can’t see a place where it gets reprinted in the near future. The dredge mechanic was already used in the first Modern Masters set, and it’s not terribly loved in Limited. My gut says the chances that Grave-Troll gets printed again are low and it’s a pretty integral part of the deck.
Narcomoeba is a weird card (man, a lot of this deck is really odd, huh?) that also probably won’t be reprinted unless it’s alongside the dredge mechanic. It’s pretty abysmal in draft as a two-mana 1/1 flyer. At $3 you can wait for Modern Masters or get them now. It is unlikely to matter.
The last card is Prized Amalgam. I’m not sure how much of this card’s price is due to Standard (where it’s playable, if not very good in my opinion) and how much of it is due to Modern. Standard prices are pretty volatile, so I would say the latest I would wait to buy them is right before spoiler season for Amonkhet. If they spoil any insane Zombie (Mummy) thing that can come back from the graveyard, it could cause a run on Amalgams for Standard play.
While the Dredge manabase is not particularly expensive since it doesn’t need access to Zendikar fetchlands, it still comprises about half of the cost of the deck. Blackcleave Cliffs and Copperline Gorge are the easiest lands to replace with cheaper, less optimal versions. Blood Crypt ($7), Stomping Ground ($12), Sulfurous Springs ($4), and Karplusan Forest ($2) are reasonable replacements, and for the most part the extra life lost won’t cost you too many games. While it’s not standard in every Dredge list, you can also substitute some cheap Mountain fetchlands—Wooded Foothills ($15) and Bloodstained Mire ($13)—to make your Bloodghasts better.
Past these more expensive fast lands, Gemstone Mine and Mana Confluence are typically played. While they’re not that expensive, if you want to save a few more bucks you can play City of Brass ($3) instead. I wouldn’t recommend it, however, since they’re only a few dollars cheaper than Confluence and Mine ($2 and $5 less, respectively), and City of Brass isn’t really played in any other Modern deck.
The last land I want to talk about is Dakmor Salvage. If you’ve never played Dredge before you might think that land is optional, but it’s really not. It’s not particularly expensive and I would have included it in the core of the deck, but the reality is that it’s not strictly necessary. In my experience, however, you probably shouldn’t cut it.
After Assembling the First 60
If you’ve managed to avoid picking up the fast lands from Scars of Mirrodin, I would continue to wait until we start to see spoilers from Modern Masters 2017. We haven’t seen a ton of dual lands in Masters sets yet, but the fast lands might just be a small enough cycle to sneak in. Blackcleave Cliffs in particular had a large price spike when Modern Masters 2015 was released, making it likely on radar for a reprint.
I would not recommend purchasing any of the expensive sideboard cards until you figure out what your local metagame looks like. Even though you can use our metagame analysis to predict some amount of what to expect, nothing is better than actually going to your LGS and playing. It’s possible you don’t need the Thoughtseizes that are in the sideboard of Baugh and Scherer’s decklist from the Invitational weekend if there aren’t a lot of combo decks.
A Note on Inkmoth Nexus
Before closing, I’d like to touch on Inkmoth Nexus. It was recently spoiled by an unofficial source as the promo card for the WMCQs (World Magic Cup Qualifiers) next year. These promos are not typically released in large quantities, and past ones started out pretty expensive. Last year’s promo was Abrupt Decay, which can now be found for about $35 on TCGPlayer.
Normally there isn’t a lot of information to glean from promos, but in this case it seems almost impossible that Wizards would undercut the excitement generated by such a high-profile promo with a reprint right beforehand. A lot of people have pointed to the recent Judge promos in Eternal Masters, but the difference is that those came out before the set release. Modern Masters 2017 will be released in March of next year; the WMCQ dates haven’t been announced yet, but this year they were in June, July, and September. Putting a reprint of Inkmoth Nexus in Modern Masters 2017 seems almost against the very idea of the promo.
Another point against Inkmoth Nexus being reprinted in Modern Masters 2017 is the number of draft slots they need to support an infect strategy. Given the fact that the most popular cards with the mechanic are both $1 commons (Blighted Agent and Glistener Elf), there’s not a lot of incentive to squeeze infect into Modern Masters 2017. My final judgment, given the evidence presented, is that I’m fairly certain we won’t see Inkmoth Nexus appear in Modern Masters 2017.
I hope you enjoyed this “financial deck tech,” as I’m calling it. If you are interested in seeing more, which decks would you like me to cover? Please leave a comment below and I’ll try to get one of these done every couple weeks. If you didn’t like it, also let me know below. I’m interested in knowing your questions and opinions on what you would like to read from my column.