Back in 2005, when the original Ravnica set was released, an odd little mechanic hitched a ride alongside it. Since then, this keyword has been given a 10 on the Storm Scale, indicating it will never be printed again. It’s made a splash in Vintage, Legacy, and Modern, with dredge archetypes constantly being seen at the highest levels of competitive play. In Modern, it’s also seen it’s fair share of bannings.
has been on and off the banlist a few times now, entirely due to the 6 next to the word dredge, and allowed dredge decks to bring in big boys like as early as turn one. So the deck has been known to be broken in the past. Mark Rosewater has said the following about Dredge, in regards to how it limits development of other cards:
Dredge is probably one of the three most troublesome mechanics of all time.
This seems to have been warranted, as when Dredge gets better, it’s often not because of some chase rare or super expensive card, but random, otherwise “draft chaff” commons and uncommons. In 2017, when GGT was banned again, it was in an environment that had and introduced into it. Those tools added to Dredge make the deck quite degenerate.
What Broke it This Time
I don’t want to jump and say that Dredge is broken just yet, as it’s only been a few weeks since the meta has shifted with the release of Guilds of Ravnica. However, it is clear that the deck has gotten a power boost through the otherwise unplayable .
When this card was announced, the general barometer of it was that it could be pretty good in Dredge. Cards like this are always hard to evaluate before playing with and against them. Turns out it’s pretty good. Before now, Dredge has mainly been trying to win through combat and boardstate. Having lots of 2/1’s and 3/3’s before your opponent can deal with them. The answers to this are usually sweepers like , graveyard hate, the usual suspects of sideboards everywhere. If Dredge got knocked back hard enough, you could probably win before the got their footing back. With , that’s not so much the case anymore.
How it shakes up the Dynamic of Dredge
With a free here and there, Dredge has all of the sudden gotten two things. The first, and most obvious, is a back door into Burn for the win. It used to be that once you have some stopgaps in place for your opponents side of the board, you felt pretty safe. You had a good idea of the clock they have on you. But when you get doubled bolted out of the blue, you’re one or two turns closer to dead.
The second is sustainability. In the same way that you might just have one, two, or three less turns to beat your opponent, they now have that many turns to try and redo their game plan. Against graveyard hate like (which might even be more needed for a reprint now) this doesn’t matter much. But for things like , , and , it might mean you deal with ten threats, only to have new threats bearing down on you a few turns later. Dredge now has the means to do that.
Is the Deck Broken?
Dredge plays on such a different access than other decks. It’s not just a graveyard deck, it’s a graveyard engine. It can power through its deck like nothing else. And when it works, oh boy, does it work. However, it is relatively fragile. Having graveyard hate in the sideboard is not anything new, but dredge’s rise in power probably means you’ll have to dedicate 3 or 4 slots to graveyard hate, rather than 1 or 2. Having a in your opening hand is often just a free win. I think there are other ways to keep the deck in mind when considering which cards to run. In Jund, you might want to use as your beefy dude in the sideboard rather than something like a . might become the sweeper of choice. I definitely think there’s checks in place to make sure it isn’t broken.
However, I think that these checks come at a cost that is very unhealthy for the format. People may not realize this, but was rebanned not solely because of its latent power level, but because it caused an unhealthy format
Dredge, the mechanic and the deck, has a negative impact on Modern by pushing the format too far toward a battle of sideboards
It’s clear that Wizards has their eye on decks like Dredge, and are ready to ban things if they realize that Dredge hate makes up 25% of the Format. The interesting thing is how decks that fight on different axes than dredge, but still do broken things, might benefit from this slimming of sideboards. Without room for and , maybe Tron will start making a comeback (it was already here).
There’s a B&R announcement in November, so in then, you might want to keep the deck in mind if you’re heading to some competitive play.