Going Rogue: Sultai Dredgevine
Hello and welcome back to another edition of Going Rogue, where winning isn't the goal but it often happens anyways.
This week I'm going to walk you through an alternate build of one of my favourite Modern archetypes, Dredgevine.
For the unfamiliar, Dredgevine is a Black and Green-based archetype that aggressively fills up its graveyard using effects like Dredge, discard, looting, and other forms of self-mill, and then casts cheap creatures to recur its namesake Vengevine to start doing some big damage.
The typical Dredgevine build is in Jund (Black, Red, Green), and is actually a very competitive deck despite its infrequent appearances. It was my main Modern deck for most of 2014-2015, and it performed very well at local events, including winning a local GPT. The general consensus best-build of that deck was written about on MTGCanada earlier this year here.
Today though, we're going to take a look at a different version, to see what changes when we swap out Red for Blue.
Sultai Dredgevine (or BUGvine) can be an incredibly explosive deck. Unlike its Jund counterpart which plays more of a grindy game, BUGvine wants to win yesterday, and very often throws 20+ power onto the board from the graveyard by turn four.
BUGvine seeks to fill its graveyard even more quickly than its Jund counterpart. Although it requires a little more luck, it can accomplish this by swapping Faithless Looting for Hedron Crab. Hedron Crab is one of those cards that just begs you to put it to work, and - if it doesn't eat a Lightning Bolt - in this deck it really does. You desperately want one to stick on turn one and start churning through fetch lands to quickly get your graveyard to tower over your remaining library.
On the Dredging side of things, BUGvine usually prefers to use Stinkweed Imp over Golgari Grave-Troll, because it has other powered-up forms of self-mill (so the extra Dredge is less relevant), and seeks to end the game before GGT becomes remotely castable.
Meanwhile Lotleth Troll and Satyr Wayfinder are two-drops that actually come down best on turn three, to leave mana up either for regeneration, or for casting a second creature to recur the Vines. While Lotleth Troll can certainly get threatening on its own, one of the beautiful things about this deck is that cheap creatures translate well towards late game value as ways to enable your real stars:
Vengevine is the deck's namesake, so of course it's a highlight of the deck - no explanation needed.
Our second-best attacker comes in the form of Bloodghast, where the Jund version tends to play Gurmag Angler instead. The Zombie Fish is also suitable in the Sultai build, but it is generally better suited to beating Tarmogoyfs than it is to mindlessly racing damage to the face. The faster a Dredgevine deck is, the more it benefits from a wide attack.
Our third and final win con is more of a stranger to the Modern scene. Despite strong stats, Skaab Ruinator never really found its home beyond the kitchen table. In this deck, however, its alternate cost is fairly easy to pay, it will often be played from the graveyard (or what Dredgevine players might call their "other hand"), and it compensates for the lack of Gurmag Anglers by being a Zombie to turn on Gravecrawlers. Keeping the Zombie balance in check is important so we don't need to play any weak Rotting Rats/Tymaret, the Murder King shenanagins. (Although we do get a minor upgrade in the form of Fatestitcher, which is an option worth considering.)
The deck also gains access to some alternate spell-based ways of enabling the graveyard, such as Thought Scour and Glimpse the Unthinkable... targeting yourself. As strange a concept as that may be, dumping a sixth of your deck into the graveyard in a single move is no joke. The deck often prefers to do nothing on its second turn otherwise, so it's actually a strong play.
The Hedron Crabs and Glimpses also enable something more on the funsies side of things: When faced down with an often-unbeatable Ensnaring Bridge, we have access to a fairly aggressive alternate win condition in milling our opponent out. It sounds ridiculous, and I wouldn't suggest going for it as a main strategy, but it's not a bad thing to have an extra out against prison strategies, and I have actually won this way once.
The end result of this build is a much more all-in and aggressive angle for the main deck - and it needs to be this way. Hedron Crabs and Glimpse the Unthinkable give you a greater edge in the early game, which is critical since a lack of Faithless Looting and Golgari Grave-Troll make it impossible to grind with the same edge as its Jund cousin. If you sequence a T1 Hedron Crab into a T2 fetch + Glimpse the Unthinkable, there is a very good chance you are winning this game. On the other hand, a bolted Crab might leave you without a way to start the graveyard grind, and an early Rest in Peace is pretty lights out.
Thankfully, with access to blue, BUGvine gains an important advantage against hate cards with countermagic coming in from the sideboard. Ready to see what this pile looks like?
Alex's Sultai Dredgevine
A few quick notes on the sideboard:
- Spell Snare is in full force because of the concentration of graveyard hate at a CMC of two. Scavenging Ooze, Rest in Peace, and Rakdos Charm are all a nightmare for us. Another option here, however, is Stubborn Denial, as it's much more versatile against combo decks, although I would suggest that it needs Gurmag Angler to work reliably.
- Hurkyl's Recall is a pretty significant downgrade in place of Ancient Grudge, but we only have so much to work with. Stalling Affinity for a turn or two can be just enough time to overwhelm the board state, though, and it is versatile enough against annoying obstacles like Grafdigger's Cage.
- In a world where Griselbrand and Protean Hulk are sending stupid decks to tournaments (Hello, Pot? It's me, Kettle.), Memory's Journey can seriously save your hide. It's also pretty hard to beat Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, so this card has some pretty versatile applications in the format.
- Got problems with Tron? Sounds like a job for the old Ghost Quarter/Life from the Loam loop. Fatestitcher is also critical in this matchup, as using it to start a Gravecrawler chain and then tapping down their Wurmcoil Engine is going to very often end the game.
- And of course Abrupt Decay and Spellskite are helpful in a sea of Splinter Twins and other nonsense that needs stopping.
Looking for more graveyard nonsense?
There is one other very cute (and powerful) angle that Dredgevine decks have open to them, which is to run Varolz, the Scar-Striped alongside Death's Shadow, and throw a billion +1/+1 counters onto an evasive threat like Birds of Paradise or Lotleth Troll. It's a great alternate way to generate value from your graveyard (Gravecrawler and Skaab Ruinator are good Scavenge resources as well), and will often end the game out of nowhere with 13 power your opponent didn't know they had to deal with.
I did not include it in this built, because it really needs the Birds to thrive, but it is an option. If you wanted to run this package, I would suggest cutting the Darkslick Shores, Thought Scours, two Satyr Wayfinder, a Skaab Ruinator, and a Gnaw to the Bone, and adding in 1 Overgrown Tomb, three Birds of Paradise, two Varolz, the Scar-Striped, and three Death's Shadows.
Whichever way you build the deck - Jund, BUG, Varolz - you're going to have a blast. (Heck, there's even a Grixis build out there that I'll write up someday.) I highly suggest getting your hands on a set of Vengevines, and letting your inspiration guide you the rest of the way.
With all that said and done, that's all for this week. Tune in next week for the first edition of Rogue Tech Report, where we will discuss some of the most surprising cards that are winning games in Modern. Until then, have fun, and may the force be with brew!
(Dave) Thanks for reading Alex's great article. If you feel like brewing up a new deck use the coupon code "Sultai Dredgevine" to save 10% off your MTG singles order at www.wizardtower.com. Coupon expires before December 4th. Can't wait to see the next installment of Going Rogue.