May 19, 2016

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Going Rogue: Dredgevine Updated

Hello and welcome back to Going Rogue, where winning isn't the goal but it often happens anyway.

Today I want to take a look back at one of my favourite archetypes in Modern that has fallen a little bit even off the rogue map: Dredgevine.

Around this time last year, someone won the Magic Online 'Modern Festival' with approximately this build.

Now before we get on with dissecting the list and showing what it ought to look like today, it's worth mentioning that yes, Dredgevine is that kind of rogue deck. The deck that people dismiss, the deck that folds easily to graveyard hate, and the deck that can win a tournament out of nowhere if the meta is just right.

It's a super explosive strategy that is very difficult to beat without attacking the graveyard. What makes it especially powerful is that even though there are faster decks in Modern, Dredgevine's sideboard angle is incredibly consistent thanks to the reliability of combining Dredge and Flashback.

Dredgevine 2015

But anyways. Dredgevine got a bit of a boost to its popularity with the release of Fate Reforged, thanks to the introduction of Gurmag Angler. It was quickly realized that everyone's favourite Zombie Fish gave the deck an edge against the 4/5s of the format, while also enabling Gravecrawler to help recur the namesake Vengevine.

This addition of a larger body that had to come from the hand (similar to Lotleth Troll) pushed the deck closer into the midrange spectrum of things, and pilots started to do previously unthinkable things like play interactive spells like Abrupt Decay and Lightning Axe, as well as actually casting Golgari Grave-Troll rather than just using it as an engine.

The deck got a little slower, but a lot bigger.

Dredgevine 2016

Fast forward to today. With the release of Shadows Over Innistrad, we got two spectacular gifts for the deck in the form of Insolent Neonate and Prized Amalgam. (Which also enabled a more all-in Dredge deck, which you can see here.)

Insolent Neonate is effectively extra copies of Faithless Looting that are stronger on turn one. But it's Prized Amalgam that has really added to the deck, forming a brutal trifecta with Bloodghast and Gravecrawler.

Next-Level Recursion

Bloodghast got edged out of the deck last year because it just wasn't good enough when it wasn't helping add to Vengevine's creature-casting triggers. But now it can be the critical piece that turns a Life from the Loam (or any land) into an instantly-huge board, even immediately following something like a wrath. A land recurs the Bloodghast, which sets up a delated trigger on the Amalgam, and since it's a Zombie, once it is in play you are free to cast as many Gravecrawlers as you want.

These three working together are a bona fide Vengevine workshop.

This new development is definitely strong enough to push the deck back to its smaller, wider roots, and lists have been popping up all over the internet with this new trifecta, pushing Gurmag Angler and removal back out of the deck, and even eating into copies of powerhouses like Lotleth Troll.

The new deck is faster, and much more difficult to deal with in the absence of graveyard hate like Rest in Peace. The tradeoff is that it's even more susceptible to RIP than it was before, but the added speed can certainly make up for it.

One of the biggest tricks to this deck is getting the mana base right. It wants red mana turn one, and often black and green on turn two, and two or more black mana by turn three. So despite the fact that there is so little red in the deck, it needs to occupy a disproportionately large priority within the mana base.

Meanwhile, the deck is light on interaction, which is fine in certain matchups, but in certain others it will be critical to attack opposing land, so Ghost Quarter is wanted in multiples, putting further pressure on the real land. Thankfully, this deck isn't actually ashamed to GQ your own land to solve a colour issue, since you will very often end the game soonafter.

Then there's a bit of an oddball inclusion in the form of Golgari Rot Farm. Many lists will run Dakmor Salvage as a surefire way to hit land and trigger Bloodghast, but the bounceland is a great way to sequence the mana requirements of our early turns while also providing repetitive recursion for Bloodghast. Besides, we have ten dredgers in the deck, and Dakmor Salvage is the lightest available.

Dredge: To Vine or not to Vine?

As the deck moves in a wider and more aggressive direction, the question arises as to why you would play this over the non-Vine Dredge list I linked to higher up in the article. This deck isn't necessarily better or worse, but here's some key differences to keep in mind:

  • It loses to itself less. With a less insane mana base, Vine decks tend to be more often satisfied with their opening seven. On the other hand, non-Vine decks run 13+ dredgers and more looting effects, so they mulligan better. I haven't had to drop below six with Vine decks too often, but I've won with Dredge on a mulligan to two. Pick your poison.
  • It's better against control. Surprisingly, regular Dredge isn't as good as it looks against control, because if the opponent can even remotely stabilize with 11 or more life, your Bloodghasts get a lot worse. Meanwhile, Vengevine always has haste, and it also mows down Wall of Omens. It's also nice that Lotleth Troll is extremely resilient and survives Anger of the Gods, which both decks otherwise roll over to.
  • It's more engaging to play. Dredge is a hoot to build, but playing it is fairly auto-pilot-y once you've resolved mulligans. Dredge like a madman and pray to hit a Narcomoeba. Not so with Vine lists, as you have a more intricate formula surrounding how and when to discard cards, and need to be more deliberate about setting up big Vine recursions on future turns.

All in all, even though it sports a more all-in strategy than Dredgevine circa 2015, it's still a step back from the committed Dredge lists that are bouncing around these days. 'To Vine or not to Vine' is really up to your, your meta, and your preferences, as they are similar decks with similar power levels. I like the Vine, but that's me.

Anyway, that's all there is for this week. I hope you enjoyed this latest instalment of Going Rogue. Until next time, have fun, and may the force be with brew.