Over the course of the past week, I identified the top performers with Dredge at Grand Prix Providence and then asked them to take part in a roundtable discussion on the deck. I found four that ended up in the top 32, and all were willing to share their experiences with us. Let's identify these folks, get some basic life info, and then get to the meaty questions.
First up is Max Brown:
Max: I'm 23 years old, and I live in Albany, NY, where I attend SUNY Albany, studying Political Science. I have some high finishes in Vintage tournaments, and I designed the deck (Dark Times) that Ryan Glackin used to Top 8 Vintage Worlds last year. I have also made top 32 in the last three large Legacy tournaments I've played: StarCityGames.com Legacy Opens in Edison and Boston and also Grand Prix Providence, all with LED Dredge.
Second, Justin Russell:
Justin: I'm probably better known as Sunshine, my handle on various forums around the net. I'm 24 years old and currently working as a programmer, application designer, and web developer for a consulting firm in Boston. I can't really claim many significant Magic achievements, though I like to think I make a reasonable showing in the MA/RI (and sometimes NY) Legacy scene. I've won a couple pieces of power, a bunch of duals. That's pretty much it.
Next, Jake Gans:
Jake: I am 15 years old, and I live in Melville, New York. I am currently unemployed. [Damn this job market!] As a Magic player, I competitively play Vintage and have won many pieces of the Power 9. [Believe it. Jake may be the most-decorated Vintage player over the past year-plus, with a ton of top finishes in NYSE and Blue Bell tournaments, playing Dredge or Minus 6.]
And finally, Daniel Brooks:
Daniel: Hi, I am a 21-year-old from Wallingford, Connecticut. I am currently studying Engineering Physics at Cornell University. I really enjoy playing Magic, but I only get to compete in a handful of tournaments every year because of school. I tend to 6-2 a lot of tournaments, but I haven't had any noteworthy finishes. At the GP, I ended up missing the Top 8 on tiebreakers, getting ninth and qualifying for Nationals (on rating) and the Pro Tour, which was pretty awesome.
With that out of the way, let's get to it!
Matt: First, let me thank you guys for participating. Let's start with this: How often do you play Legacy? Is it your primary focus, or one of your primary focuses, with regard to competitive Magic?
Max: I play it pretty often but not usually in local events; I find playing Dredge when everyone in the room knows what you're playing to be self-defeating, to the point where the Dredge player is losing significant percentage both due to opponents knowing what deck you're piloting, and additionally, people are more likely to jam a bunch of graveyard hate for their local 16-man tournament if they know Dredge keeps winning. I play Standard as "seriously" as I do Legacy and draft at least once a week. I also love Momir Basic and Pauper on Magic Online. The format I'm focused on is usually whatever the PTQ season is or the next "big event" within driving distance.
Justin: I'll make it to a Legacy event twice a month, on average. Surprisingly, I haven't managed to find any weekly events in the Boston area. Worcester seems to have some solid weekly events, so if I'm really itching to play some Legacy, that's always an hour or so away. Leading up to the GP, I was getting more or less weekly testing in, though I can't say any of it was with Dredge.
Legacy is definitely my primary focus with regard to competitive Magic. I played Standard on MTGO briefly, but that was short lived, and I drafted quite a bit back in Ravnica block but haven't cracked any packs in a sanctioned event since. I'll play Pauper on MTGO from time to time.
Jake: I don't play Legacy that often because there aren't many Legacy events nearby. I don't really focus on it.
Daniel: I started playing Legacy a week before the tournament.
Matt: What do you find appealing about the Legacy format? What do you find unappealing?
Max: The fact that the format is wide open allows powerful linear decks to be viable, since there simply isn't enough space in sideboards to have everyone try and stop everything. If I thought that most of my opponents were going to have actual graveyard hate—not stuff like Peacekeeper, but dedicated anti-Dredge/anti-Reanimator hate—in any significant amount, I wouldn't play Dredge. I like formats where I can play a powerful, slightly under-the radar combination deck that attacks the format at an angle that people's maindecks (and hopefully sideboards) are ill-prepared to interact with. There is also a big mental edge to be gained when your opponent doesn't really understand what is going on. People understand the basics of Dredge, but at the same time, it plays fundamentally differently from other Magic decks, so that the normal "rules of thumb" about when and how you should be using your spells don't really apply to it.
On the converse, even if your opponents play perfectly, they might still just lose if they are unprepared for the matchup in terms of their sideboarding. Beating Dredge means more than playing well or having hate; it means that you know how to use it.
I don't find anything really unappealing about the format. I think it is a lot of fun, and I think it allows players to be rewarded for knowing the format even if all they do is read articles, watch SCGLive, and play in big tournaments when they come to town.
Justin: I've been playing since Revised but only really got competitive as a Constructed player in the mid-2000s. At that time, I lived with my parents in the Amherst/Hadley area, where there was a pretty strong Eternal crowd; I just fell into the Vintage and Legacy scene. After leaving for college in Maine, I was really only able to play Magic during the summer months, and as there wasn't much Magic being played locally, the Eternal formats just made sense. I could more or less pick things up where I left off once the school year ended. I loved that I could shelve a deck in September and have it be more or less relevant when I picked it up again in June.
Since graduating, I've gotten to play a lot more regularly. I love the diversity of Legacy, how much room there still is for innovation, and the fact that we're still seeing new cards with every set that make an impact on the format despite its extensive card pool. Also, I think the Legacy community in general is a pretty amazing group; it's not too difficult to show up to an event and find someone willing to lend you the cards you need to finish a deck.
The thing I find least appealing about Legacy as a format is the cost of entry, and I say this already owning playsets of nearly every Legacy staple. I think it's pretty obvious that the track Legacy is on isn't sustainable, and sooner or later Legacy either will go the way of Vintage (die) or be severely crippled due to bannings driven by the secondary market. I don't want to start a flame war over the Reserved List, but the idea that we're marching towards one of those eventualities is not my favorite thought. I would have much rather seen my duals be Standard legal again than have them drop completely off the radar of sanctioned Magic. [Preach on, brother; can I get an amen!]
Jake: I find Legacy very appealing because it is a very diverse format, and you could literally play against anything. I find it fun that any deck can be viable in Legacy.
Daniel: It's really great that the cards don't rotate. Legacy decks will stay legal forever, which is great for people who only play a handful of tournaments a year.
It's unfortunate that Legacy isn't supported very well, and some of the cards are prohibitively expensive, because it is otherwise a great format.
Matt: With regard to this Grand Prix, why did you consider Dredge to be a good deck prior to the event? And did card availability have any impact on your deck decision? How much prep work did you do specifically with Dredge?
Max: I knew Mental Misstep was the issue coming into the Grand Prix. I knew Dredge would be a good choice because players—myself included—have a tendency to try and diversify their sideboards, which meant that they were going to be leaning on "permanent-based" solutions to the matchup that were useful in other matchups as well: things like Peacekeeper, Moat, Ensnaring Bridge, Pernicious Deed, and Engineered Explosives. They play these cards instead of dedicated graveyard sweepers like Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus or the real hosers: Yixlid Jailer, Leyline of the Void, and Planar Void. With the only other major graveyard deck being Reanimator, I expected to see some number of Surgical Extractions and Extirpates also, which, while sometimes effective, are not enough on their own to win the matchup.
With regard to card availability, it wasn't an issue for me. The day of the event, I leant out four Tarmogoyfs, an entire ANT deck, Mox Diamonds, etc. I could have played practically anything I wanted except for maybe a deck with Imperial Recruiters, The Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale, or Candelabra of Tawnos. I chose Dredge because I have the most experience with it, and I thought it gave me the best chance to win the tournament. For prep work, I practiced a bunch of games against some locals who were also going, but more importantly, I just thought about what was going on in the format with regard to Mental Misstep and how I was going to deal with it. Things worked out basically the way I drew them up in my head.
Justin: After looking over results from larger events in recent months, there seemed to be a noticeable lack of graveyard hate running around, and many lists weren't even sporting a single Crypt or Relic in their entire 75. I felt like Dredge was positioned to catch people off guard, provided that Mental Misstep didn't prove to be too much of a problem.
Also, I've had quite a bit of experience with Dredge over the last few years; at this point it's probably the single deck I feel most confident piloting.
Card availability wasn't a factor in my deck decision. I was lucky enough to join with Team Awesome a year or two ago, which specializes in Legacy. Between my personal collection, borrowing from teammates, and borrowing from other friends, I've never had a problem getting my hands on anything from Tabernacles to Moats to Imperial Recruiters if I needed to. Making friends is probably the single most important thing a Legacy player can do from a card availability standpoint.
I can't say I did a lot of prep work or testing with Dredge leading up to the GP. For a couple of months beforehand, I had been working on some homebrews, one of which I was actually planning on playing at the GP, but it didn't perform so well in the Friday grinders. I've had a lot of experience with Dredge in the past and still had the same 75 I played at the SCG Open in Boston sleeved up, so I brought that with me Saturday morning and waffled on what to play right up until deck lists were collected at the player's meeting. In the interest of full disclosure, rk post was on location and altered my shiny Ichorids, which may have nudged me towards playing the deck as well [ here's a pic if you're into that sort of thing].
Jake: I found Dredge to be a good deck to play at the Grand Prix because I didn't expect many people to have any dedicated sideboard hate for Dredge. When Erik Hegemann made top 4 of the Bazaar of Moxen [see deck here] with it, I was 100% sure it was good to play at the Grand Prix.
Card availability had nothing to do with why I played the deck. I really didn't do too much playtesting until I got to the event and looked at results of many tournament results for ideas of the sideboard.
Daniel: My success in the tournament is really the result of really solid testing with my testing partner, Jason Ellis.
The first step in our testing was to find a good list to play. We both decided to play Dredge because the deck seemed cheap and competitive. We encountered a lot of suspect lists with sketchy sideboard plans. Fortunately, we came across Richard Feldman's article on Dredge, which was well written and seemed to make a lot of sense. We trusted his list and sideboard plans and used them as a starting point for testing.
The second step was learning to pilot the deck. We proxied up Zoo, Merfolk, and Ad Nauseam and played a lot of pre- and post-board games. After each game, we would talk about all the questionable decisions that came up in the game. At first, this mostly meant learning how to organize the graveyard and remembering all of the triggers. Later, we discussed more gameplay-oriented choices like when to attack, what card to name with Cabal Therapy, and how to play against countermagic. Discussing all the questionable plays that come up really helped us learn quickly.
At the actual tournament, I focused on playing each turn correctly, phase by phase. During my upkeep, I decided whether or not to return Ichorid and use activated abilities. During my draw step, I decided how to dredge. During my main phase, I would decide how to cast any sorceries that I had, and then I would figure out which creatures I would attack with. During my opponent's turn, I would focus on figuring out his game plan. This systematic approach helped me play to the best of my ability.
Overall, finding a good list, practicing, and playing tight are a solid formula for tournament success.
Matt: What matchups did you believe were favorable for Dredge prior to the Grand Prix, and did your results confirm those beliefs? Which did you believe were unfavorable?
Max: I knew coming in that all the Standstill decks were great matchups, and during the tournament, I played against four and beat them all. The bad matchups are the turn 1 and 2 combo decks like Belcher, Reanimator, and Hypergenesis, but luckily all these decks are pretty bad in my opinion, and I never played against them. The turn 3 and 4 combo decks like High Tide, ANT, Show and Tell, and Elves range from slightly unfavorable to favorable, depending heavily on specific choices out of the Dredge deck, such as Lion's Eye Diamond (LED) or no LED and the Dread Return targets. Of these, I only played against one Elves deck and was able to win games two and three largely on the back of my sideboard Dread Return targets: Iona and Elesh Norn.
I believe the Merfolk matchup is slightly favorable, but the win percentage increases drastically if your Merfolk opponent does not know all of the intricacies of the matchup. I played against Merfolk three times and lost once to a build that included Stoneforge Mystic for Mortarpod (!) that destroyed me game three. Finally, the Hymn to Tourach decks are all good game pre-board, with the post-board games depending heavily on their specific sideboard choices.
Justin: Assuming equal amounts of hate coming out of the board, Dredge typically has a tougher time with the tempo decks and faster combo decks. Merfolk is probably my least favorite matchup simply because they're able to steal wins by just by countering our first couple plays and Wasting a lone mana source. Lion's Eye Diamond helps here by letting you blow through Daze and Spell Pierce, but the Fish can definitely give Dredge a hard time and are backed by a reasonable clock. Getting more than one mana source is pretty important.
Most other decks packing counters can't really do enough with the extra turns gained by countering an early discard outlet to stop dredge. Merfolk is also often fast enough to race the DDD plan, so even if your first dredger hits the yard by a natural discard, you almost always have to resolve a spell to win. Things only got tougher with the printing of Mental Misstep. I ended up playing Merfolk twice at the GP and picked up one of my losses against the deck.
Winning the combo matchup is all about resolving Cabal Therapy as many times as possible and usually making your first blind one count. You often have to aggressively mulligan for a hand capable of getting 20+ cards in your graveyard by the end of your second turn or one with multiple copies of Cabal Therapy already.
Your favorable matchups include more or less everything else that doesn't pack a critical mass of hate in the sideboard. That may be an overgeneralization, but not by much.
Jake: I thought that any matchup without hate would be relatively easy, and I knew that I would have a good matchup against Zoo and Merfolk. The only tough matchup I had was against a Stoneforge Mystic deck with Batterskull because when they return Batterskull to their hand while the Germ token is equipped, your Bridges from Below are removed from the game.
Daniel: Matches against unprepared players were much easier than matches against prepared opponents, who had tested against Dredge and had a plan.
At the Grand Prix, we won a lot of matches because we were piloting a fairly strong deck, and most of our Day 1 opponents were relatively unprepared. I went 12-2-1 with zero byes, and Jason went 6-3 with one bye and won a side event 3-0.
Matt: How often did your opponents sideboard in significant anti-graveyard hate cards, like Tormod's Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb, Relic of Progenitus, Leyline of the Void, Yixlid Jailer, Planar Void, etc.? How many matches did you feel were determined by opponents having a significant portion of their sideboard dedicated to the Dredge matchup?
Max: I faced actual graveyard hate cards in only two rounds. My Goblins opponent had Leyline of the Void, which, by design, I have no way to remove. One of my Merfolk opponents had Surgical Extraction and Relic, but he didn't maximize them, and I was able to play though them and win the match 2-0. So, I guess one match was determined by my opponent's Leylines, although I actually lost game one of the match also.
Justin: I saw targeted anti-graveyard hate in fewer than half my matchups. It's likely that more people brought in hate, but it definitely felt like the field was, by and large, opting not to devote many slots to Dredge. Tormod's Crypt was the most popular option; I didn't see a single Relic and only one Leyline of the Void.
Jake: I had six opponents who played specifically dedicated Dredge hate, but I believe the max amount of total cards they had was three. The cards that I saw were Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus, but I did have one opponent play Wheel of Sun and Moon, which was a card I wasn't expecting.
Daniel: Dredge operates in a very different way than most decks. It tries to put a lot of cards in its graveyard and then uses these cards to produce creatures. This means that cards like Tormod's Crypt temporarily stop our creature production. This is similar to how Mind Twist temporarily stops a normal deck from casting spells. These cards are generally most problematic when accompanied by pressure. Overall, the players I faced averaged around 1.5 Tormod's Crypt–type cards per sideboard, which was very manageable.
Matt: Please talk about your Dread Return targets, or lack thereof; why did you include/exclude any specific common targets? What is your pre-/post-board strategy with regard to Dread Return and DR targets?
Max: Firstly, I think that Flame-Kin Zealot (FKZ) is terrible and is a win-more. There are almost no situations where FKZ wins you the game where one of the better targets does not.
My two maindeck targets (Woodfall Primus and Sun Titan) serve two very different functions. Woodfall Primus is both a nail in the coffin type card and a maindeck out to things like Moat, Solitary Confinement, Ensnaring Bridge, Glacial Chasm, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. In lieu of needing to kill those, the card often kills two lands and, along with Cabal Therapy, has them drawing dead to your attack. Persist has enormous synergy with both Bridge from Below and Cabal Therapy.
Sun Titan is the thinking man's replacement for Sphinx of Lost Truths. Bring back an LED to flashback Deep Analysis and dredge more; bring back a Cephalid Coliseum to activate it and dredge more; bring back a Hapless Researcher to dredge more and make some extra Zombies; bring back a Golgari Thug to sacrifice it to Therapy and re-buy a Narcomoeba flip; bring back a Stinkweed Imp to block and kill that pesky Emrakul or Coralhelm Commander; and so on.
Post-board, you can bring back Serenity to blow Affinity, Enchantress, and MUD out of the water, or bring back Pithing Needle to shut off your opponent's incoming Pernicious Deed or Engineered Explosives. Also it is a 6/6 with vigilance, which is not irrelevant.
Post-board, I have Iona and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and their uses are pretty self explanatory; in the matchups where you bring them in, they generally end the game on the spot. Of note is that I bring in Elesh Norn against any deck I think might have Peacekeeper post-board; this happened several times during the GP, although if it is early enough in the game, you might be able to kill all their white sources with Woodfall Primus.
Justin: Dread Return targets need to be able to bring something more to the deck than a flashy finish. For the GP, I ran Eternal Witness and Iona as DR targets maindeck, with no additional targets in the board. With a format as diverse as Legacy, I feel like devoting one maindeck slot to handling whatever random strategy you might come up against is not a fine use of that slot. The fact that Iona can fly over a Moat (or a field of Merfolk or Goblins) is not irrelevant either.
Eternal Witness is almost a strict upgrade of Sphinx of Lost Truths, as you can recur a Breakthrough when you need to keep dredging. Perhaps more important is the ability to grab Firestorm and Nature's Claim in post-board games.
Notable omissions include Flame-Kin Zealot and Elesh Norn. FKZ falls into the "win more" camp in my opinion; for it to be lethal, you need a reasonable army of Zombies, which usually means you've got the game wrapped up anyway. FKZ is too dependent on things going well to be worthwhile; conversely, Iona is a sizable, evasive, disrupting, self-protecting threat all on her own. I hadn't had a chance to get any testing in with Elesh Norn, though she (he/it?) can obviously pull you back from behind against the swarm decks, which is pretty solid.
Jake: My game one Dread Return targets are Golgari Grave-Troll and Flame-Kin Zealot. I played FKZ because I wasn't sure if there would be combo decks that I would need to try and race. For game two, I had Realm Razor—which never came up—along with Iona, Shield of Emeria and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Against Lands, Mono-Blue Control/Standstill Control, and High Tide, I would side in Realm Razor. For creature decks and Belcher, I sided in Elesh Norn. Against control decks and monocolor decks, I sided in Iona.
Daniel: Dread Return targets often win the game in a convincing fashion. That being said, they also eat up precious slots in an incredibly tight decklist. Don't forget that Golgari Grave-Troll is a pretty reasonable reanimation target. I chose to follow in the footsteps of some of the best LED-less players and not play maindeck DR targets. I won most of my games off of Zombie tokens and Ichorids backed by Cabal Therapies.
Post-board, I use Feldman's plan of Elesh Norn against creature decks and Angel of Despair against decks with troublesome permanents.
Matt: How much has Mental Misstep changed matchups for Dredge against blue decks, if at all? How often did you find yourself winning by using the “Draw, Discard, Dredge” (DDD) plan to dodge Misstep and other counters?
Max: Against any non-fish, non-black Misstep deck, it is correct to choose to draw first game one, and any kind of read or hunch is enough to make me pull the trigger on that, as being on the draw isn't nearly as "bad" in the matchups where you want to be on the play as it is "good" in the matchups where you don't. Moreover, being on the draw clues you in on how to play your hand against your unknown opponent. I'm much more likely to want to play in games two and three, once I know what is going on. The main danger of drawing first against an unknown opponent is that getting hit with Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek can hurt a lot.
Misstep has changed the matchups enormously, especially against the decks that have it in conjunction with Wasteland; with Misstep in the format, just running your Putrid Imp out there on turn 1 on the play is the fastest way to lose that game. When they go “Misstep, Wasteland,” and you're stuck drawing your card and passing for three turns while they develop their board and draw more counters/threats/Plows, you're going to lose.
Justin: Mental Misstep gained a lot of ground for the blue tempo decks where the DDD plan isn't always fast enough. When your opponent opens with an Island on the play, I still think it's correct to move straight to your discard 95% of the time when you keep a seven-card hand containing a dredger. In these matchups, you'll often need to resolve a spell at some point, but there's little added value to trying to make that happen turn 1 as opposed to turn 2 or 3. I've always been a proponent of slowrolling your discard outlets and draw spells in the face of countermagic (generally speaking).
At the same time, Mental Misstep has made the slower blue decks much more viable in general, which is a very good thing for Dredge. Oddly enough, while Mental Misstep is a strong card against Dredge in the abstract, it seems to be pushing the format towards decks that Dredge has an easier time dealing with.
Jake: Against any deck with blue that I was 100% sure ran Mental Misstep, I would choose to draw. I did draw, discard, and then use Cephalid Coliseum to play around Misstep. I did have a really funny match against Martin Juza, where I chose to draw first game two, and then he chose to draw game three.
Daniel: Mental Misstep makes it a lot harder for us to resolve our spells. If we have a seven-card hand on the draw against a blue deck, we're typically going to Draw, Discard, Dredge (DDD). Once we have a dredger or two in our graveyard, we typically start playing out lands and spells as normal. This is a solid opening against blue decks. Against Landstill, I always chose to draw and then DDD, though I don't know if this is correct.
Matt: Lion's Eye Diamond, yes or no? Why?
Max: Resounding yes, and this ties into the previous question: In simplest terms, LED dodges Mental Misstep. While your Putrid Imp went from having a 40% chance of being countered on the play to over 60%, your LED is still on 40%, and if you play it before you play your land (or even better play Gitaxian Probe and then LED), they might put you on ANT or Belcher and let it resolve. Post-board, LED is still dangerous against graveyard sweepers, which is why you should sideboard it out sometimes if you expect that kind of action; out of Fish, for example, where you can replace your missing discard outlets with the matchup all-star: Firestorm.
Critics of LED claim it is less "consistent" than the non-LED versions. This is only true if you discount the fact that your opponents are trying to interact with you, and LED is the least interactive card in the deck, playing around Misstep and Daze. Also, on the draw, it combines perfectly to activate Coliseum on turn 1 without ever being exposed to Daze or Misstep. From there, you can hopefully roll up your Coliseum activation into a couple Cabal Therapies or a Deep Analysis flashback, which should win you the game on the spot.
Justin: Lion's Eye Diamond's stock rises and falls with how much graveyard hate there is in the field. I think the amount of hate out there has been on the decline lately, so LED gets the nod. The argument against LED is that it comes out in almost all cases for games two and three and that Dredge is a huge favorite against the field in game one even without the artifact; so why bother wasting slots on it? I think each part of this argument was true at one time or another, but not so much anymore. Many Dredge pilots exaggerate their game one win percentage, and I don't think leaving LED (and Breakthrough) in for post-board games is a horrible plan right now. You should never just blindly pull out your LEDs (or any other card in any deck for that matter) when sideboarding simply because that's what you've always done.
Jake: I feel like it's more all-in and much riskier in a way; if someone goes to remove your graveyard, it just feels like you're just too far behind. But, if you're a person who just wants to go for a kill as fast as possible, it would be good.
Daniel: I was following Feldman's advice, so I didn't. New Dredge players with any sort of budget concern should play the version without Lion's Eye Diamond. The LED and LEDless Dredge lists are both fine. The LED list is more “all-in.”
Matt: For those that used it: What was your experience with Gitaxian Probe? What led you to try this card initially, and how did it impact your results at the Grand Prix?
Max: When I first saw Gitaxian Probe, I was instantly excited to try it, at first for the obvious synergy with Cabal Therapy. As I began to play with it more and more against Mental Misstep decks, I found that its real value lay in how it's kind of like a free Time Walk / Duress split card. The best way to illustrate this is with an example.
You're playing against a U/W Stoneforge/Standstill-type deck with Wasteland, and you appropriately choose to draw. Your opening hand is: Golgari Grave-Troll, Gitaxian Probe, City of Brass, Breakthrough, and three irrelevant cards (more dredgers, Narcomoeba, Ichorid, Bridge from Below, whatever). Your opponent plays Island and passes; you draw and discard Grave-Troll. They play a fetchland and pass, and you dredge six, hitting Stinkweed Imp and maybe an Ichorid and some lands.
Now you have eight cards in hand. If you play Gitaxian Probe here, it puts your opponent in a very awkward position. They can Misstep it, but because you didn't have to play your land to Probe, you can simply DDD again next turn and continue to build your yard, and because you still have seven cards in hand, you never "miss" a turn of dredging the way you would if you went turn 2 land, Careful Study. If they Force it, that means they for sure don't have Misstep, and they probably don't have another Force, so you can slam land, Breakthrough (if you want to), and go for the win. If they don't have a counter at all, you can dredge five, then slam land, Breakthrough, and win. If they let it resolve and do have a counter, you can dredge five, discard your Grave-Troll and wait until you flip a Cabal Therapy (if you haven't already) and take their counter (with no guesswork involved) and then Breakthrough for the win.
The thing to note here is that even in the "worst" scenario—where they Misstep it—you never give yourself a blank turn of not dredging, and you still get their Misstep out of their hand. The main way to lose any game is by not being able to dredge, and Probe is the card that exposes you the least while giving you the information you need in order to play around exactly what your opponent has. This is the crucial skill of Dredge, balancing your exposure to counters and hate and against the pressure your opponent is applying.
Against a combo deck, you are a blazing fast disruption machine, tearing apart your opponent's hand and ending the game with an army of Zombies. Against Standstill, you are a solid rock of non-interaction, building up an ever-expanding army without even casting a spell if you don't want to. Knowing the format and the capabilities of your opponent's deck is everything, as this cues you in on how to play (or not play) the cards in your hand, including lands.
At the GP, I had a game where I sandbagged a land for the entire fifteen-plus-turn game so I could hardcast the Therapy I needed to force through a Dread Return on Elesh Norn to kill his Peacekeepers and swing for the win with zero cards in my library.
Matt: Thanks again to Max, Jake, and Daniel!
Appendix – Decklists:
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 3 Golgari Thug
- 1 Hapless Researcher
- 3 Ichorid
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Putrid Imp
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 3 Golgari Thug
- 4 Ichorid
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Putrid Imp
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 1 Flame-Kin Zealot
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 3 Golgari Thug
- 3 Ichorid
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Putrid Imp
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Tireless Tribe
Bonus – Round Recap:
Round 1: Show and Tell 2-1
Round 2: U/W Landstill 2-0
Round 3: U/w Merfolk 2-0
Round 4: B/W 2-1
Round 5: Natural Order Bant 2-0
Round 6: Burn 2-0
Round 7: Team America 2-1
Round 8: Natural Order Bant 0-2
Round 9: Zoo 2-0
Round 10: U/W Landstill 1-1 DRAW
Round 11: Junk w/ Stoneforge 2-0
Round 12: R/U/W Stoneforge 2-0
Round 13: U/W Landstill 0-2
Round 14: NO Bant 2-0
Round 15: NO RUG 2-0
Final Record: 12-2-1