Rainbow Dredge in Modern
Rainbow Dredge in Modern
Author: Zen Takahashi
Back to Modern Magic
Today I will be taking a break from writing about Legacy, and will instead be focusing on Modern again! I was initially planning to write about the new Jeskai Day’s Undoing deck in Legacy or Blue-Red Tempo in Vintage, the latter which I recently made the Top 8 of a Vintage Challenge with on Magic Online, but then an order I made for Modern Dredge arrived, so I decided I needed to write about that instead!
My Current Deck
This is a photo of my current deck! I still have a couple of cards I want to upgrade, but I am very close to completing it. It has taken me multiple years to get all the cards – finding all the Chinese versions of the dredge cards from Ravnica: City of Guilds was extremely difficult!
My history with Dredge
My history with Modern Dredge is, to put it bluntly, helping to create the deck with Hall of Famer and former MPL player Lee Shi Tian. When Golgari Grave-Troll was unbanned in Modern, it didn’t see any play for quite some time, until mid-2016, when we noticed the potential in Insolent Neonate and Prized Amalgam that was just printed in Shadows over Innistrad.
Shi Tian came up with the concept of using “enablers” (Faithless Looting, Insolent Neonate and Tormenting Voice) alongside dredge cards (Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll) to essentially mill our deck, which will reward us with “free” creatures in the form of Bloodghast, Narcomoeba and Prized Amalgam.
We had this idea in the past, but with the printing of the two new cards from Shadows over Innistrad, we finally felt that we had enough tools to make the deck work.
After Shi Tian came up with an initial sketch of the deck, we quickly realised that we needed some interaction or else we wouldn’t be able to beat cards like Scavenging Ooze or even a big Tarmogoyf.
That’s when we realised we could adopt the technology of Life from the Loam with Conflagrate that Jason Chung put to good use when he made the Top 8 of GP Melbourne with Zombie Infestation during Eldrazi Winter.
Life from the Loam was the perfect card for the deck, as it helped you guarantee land drops for Bloodghast and flashing back Faithless Looting, as well as growing your hand size to set up a big Conflagrate.
Since I had a World Magic Cup Qualifier (WMCQ) coming up at the time and I was still a university student, I had a lot of time to work on the deck.
I took the theory discussions with Shi Tian and put it into practice, and helped tune out the numbers of the deck, like upping Life from the Loam and Conflagrate to three copies each and building the manabase and the sideboard.
The following was the list I brought to the World Magic Cup Qualifier in New Zealand:
Rainbow Dredge (WMCQ Version)
Practicing on Magic online
Leading up to the event, I kept crushing leagues on Magic Online with the deck as nobody knew what was going on and there was no graveyard hate going around at the time. The event itself was probably the most edge I had ever felt over a field as I took down the WMCQ without losing a match and only played against a single piece of graveyard hate in ten rounds in the form of a Relic of Progenitus from a Jund opponent.
Dredge on the rise
After that WMCQ win, Dredge was firmly put on the map in the Modern metagame, and the deck had a lot of success that WMCQ season around the world. Later that year, Kaladesh was released just before the World Magic Cup, which brought with it Cathartic Reunion.
Due to the Unified Modern structure at the World Magic Cup, Dredge ended up being one of the most played decks at the event, and was part of the winning Team Greece’s lineup as well.
Different Decks, same strategy
What I was most proud about with this list was just how well tuned it was – until the printing of Creeping Chill, which significantly changed how the deck played out, the list essentially remained unchanged all the way.
Cathartic Reunion was brought in over Tormenting Voice, and Golgari Grave-Troll was switched out for Golgari Thug when the former was banned, but that was about it.
A lot of people experimented with different versions of the deck, whether it be with Greater Gargadon, Bridge from Below, Scourge Devil or a rainbow manabase (City of Brass/Gemstone Mine/Mana Confluence), yet ultimately this original list that we came up with stood the test of time and reigned supreme.
As of now, and unlikely to be surpassed ever, Modern Dredge is definitely the deck that defined my Magic career and the deck I have had the most success with. Alongside this initial WMCQ victory that broke out the deck to the world, I also came second at Grand Prix Brisbane with it in 2017, won an online PTQ and cashed multiple Grand Prix with the deck. Most of this happened in the same season, where I managed to hit Silver in the Pro Players Club with multiple Pro Tour qualifications in the bank, and this helped propel me into a chain of about three years on the Pro Tour scene.
Without the success I had with this deck during those two years between 2016 and 2018, I definitely would not have got to compete in all the other events and make friends all over the world.
For that, I am eternally grateful.
Today’s Version of Dredge
However, it has now been over three years since all of this happened, and Modern Dredge looks very different today.
Below is the current version of the deck, which mirrors the photo from above and is primarily based on a list from Sodek – definitely the most successful Dredge player online and has made a name for himself for his absolute domination and mastery of the Modern format as a whole.
I highly recommend you follow him on Twitter, which you can find here, if you are interested in learning more about combo decks in Modern or about the format in general.
Rainbow Dredge (Today’s Version)
How the deck works
I like to refer to this new version of the deck as Rainbow Dredge, as it adopts the “rainbow” lands in the form of City of Brass, Gemstone Mine and Mana Confluence…
Dredge is primarily a combo deck that is built around using the “dredge” mechanic to create an overwhelming amount of “free” card advantage. The basic gist of the deck is you use your twelve “enablers” (Otherworldly Gaze, Cathartic Reunion and Thrilling Discovery) to get as many of your twelve “dredge” cards into the graveyard (Darkblast, Golgari Thug and Stinkweed Imp).
From there, you then start replacing your draws with the recursive dredge effect instead, which will allow you to mill more cards from your library. This will ultimately reward you with the “payoff” cards, which include a number of cheap and free creatures (Narcomoeba, Prized Amalgam, Silversmote Ghoul and Ox of Agonas), as well as cheap and free spells (Creeping Chill and Conflagrate).
The combination of these creatures and burn spells allow you to close the game out quickly, with the deck winning as early as turn three, but more often than not on turn four or five.
The main strength of this deck is that compared to other combo decks, it is much more consistent. This is because you don’t need to draw a specific card to win the game, but rather, you just need to draw a combination of cards.
Since you have at least twelve copies of each of the three parts of the engine (enablers/dredge cards/payoff), you’re more resilient to discard spells and counterspells – if they discard one of your enablers, it’s likely you have another one in hand.
Also while you are a creature deck, the recursive nature of your creatures means that you can largely ignore removal spells – a big factor in a format where almost every fair deck relies heavily on its removal as their key interaction spells.
Staying alive on the Graveyard
The main disadvantage of this deck is that it is based around the graveyard, which has arguably been the most targeted area of the game in terms of people’s sideboards for all of Magic’s history.
While the consistency of the deck means that it can fight through graveyard hate reasonably well, it is ultimately still an uphill battle and some of the more recent graveyard hate cards, such as Sanctifier En-Vec, are near-unbeatable once resolved.
Rainbow Dredge vs. Life from the Loam Dredge
Although this version may look relatively similar to its predecessors, which notably played Life from the Loam over Darkblast, it’s surprisingly different in how it plays out. While the core game plan of using your enablers to abuse the dredge mechanic and get free creatures and spells is the same, the actual execution is very contrasting.
The old Dredge lists with Life from the Loam often played more as a midrange deck, and against creature decks, it was usually a straight-up control deck. Instead of trying to close out the game as quickly as possible, you would use Life from the Loam to ensure you can keep recurring your Bloodghasts and flashing back your Faithless Looting, while building a sizeable hand size to set up a big Conflagrate – either to point at your opponent’s face or wipe out all of their creatures.
You didn’t need to aggressively maximize your dredging in the way you do with Rainbow Dredge today, but rather you often took a conservative approach of setting up an unbreakable engine first and then overwhelming your opponent with card advantage. One of my very favorite play sequences with the old Dredge lists was to keep recurring Stinkweed Imps and create a wall of them that any given creature deck would struggle to get through.
However, Rainbow Dredge eschews that whole gameplan to instead focus on being as fast and aggressive as possible. Very seldom do you not try to just get your opponent dead as quickly as you can.
This change was mostly due to the power level of Modern simply increasing to a point that you cannot just rely on a slow, grindy Life from the Loam game plan to win the game anymore. Also, the printing of Ox of Agonas pushed the deck to want to be more aggressive, as the card can single-handedly win games on its own, but it contradicts with Life from the Loam as it’s more focused on dredging as hard as you can than to make land drops and build up a substantial hand size.
The key to understanding how to sideboard with Rainbow Dredge is very much aligned with how the deck operates.
As explained above, the deck’s engine relies on each of its three parts humming to make it work. Therefore, you generally want to minimise the amount of cards you sideboard as each card you board out will only make your deck more inconsistent.
You also want to shave a small part of each of the three sections instead of boarding out a number of cards in any given section or else the deck won’t be functional. The enablers won’t work if you cut too many dredge cards and vice versa, but also the deck won’t be able to win if you don’t have enough payoff to mill into.
My usual method of sideboarding is to cut one enabler, one dredge card and one or two payoffs. For the enabler, Otherworldly Gaze is usually the cut, especially in matchups where Darkblast is good, or you’re bringing in Thoughtseize, as you’d prefer to cast those on turn one. Against decks with a lot of discard spells and counterspells, you can cut a two-mana enabler instead. Thrilling Discovery is a better card in a vacuum, but [/card]Cathartic Reunion[/card] is better against decks with counterspells as it guarantees you to put a dredge card into the graveyard.
For the dredge card, you can cut Darkblast against non-creature decks and Golgari Thug against creature decks. I often see people board down to ten dredge cards, which I dislike, as the two-mana enablers rely on you to have a dredge card in your hand to discard, and you’re often sideboarding out an Otherworldly Gaze as well, which acts as a way to find dredge cards when you don’t have one in your opening hand.
For the payoffs, the card to cut is almost always Silversmote Ghoul. It’s simply the worst of the bunch. The rest of the deck should be left untouched and unless in very corner situations, I would not sideboard out anything else in the deck – it is very tight as it is.
The Gemstone Caverns come in any time you are on the draw – and I would usually swap out two of the two-colored lands and either a Gemstone Mine or City of Brass, depending on the matchup. Which two-colored lands you board out depends on what you’re bringing in e.g. if you bring in Thoughtseize, keep in Blackcleave Cliffs, and if you bring in Prismatic Ending, keep in Inspiring Vantage. Against decks where life total matters, cut City of Brass – otherwise cut Gemstone Mine.
Overall, this typically means that you have a maximum of four cards you can board out, though ideally you don’t want to bring in more than three. If you really want to stretch it, you can cut a fifth card. Your sideboarding is pretty straight forward – in any given matchup, you choose which of the four sideboard cards you want to bring in (Thoughtseize/Leyline of Sanctity/Ancient Grudge/Prismatic Ending), and you additionally bring in Gemstone Caverns if you’re on the draw.
Mono Green Tron:
I hope you enjoyed this article as I went down memory lane to talk about the most defining deck of my Magic career – Modern Dredge! Hopefully my history with the deck wasn’t too boring to read about, and you were able to take away some key points about the new Rainbow version of the archetype.
While Dredge is now quite different to its predecessor, as it’s taken a very combo-centric identity, the deck will always be near and dear to my heart. With the new cards having arrived in the mail, I cannot wait to take this to my next local event!
In my next article, I will be back writing about Legacy! I haven’t decided on the exact topic yet, but I will most likely be covering in-depth one of the key decks in the format!
Till next time!
About the Author
Zen Takahashi is a seasoned writer and mainstay on the Three for One Trading writing team. He is an avid Eternal player from Auckland, New Zealand and enjoys competing in local Legacy events and playing Old School over webcam with friends.
Previously, he was a Silver Pro for multiple years and his results included five Grand Prix Top 8s, a 27th place at Pro Tour Amonkhet, three consecutive online Regional PTQ wins, and he co-created the Modern Dredge deck.
Nowadays though, he primarily plays Legacy, his favorite format, but he also branches out into Pioneer and Modern.
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