Last year marked my first Vintage Championship, and the 2014 metagame was predictable: plenty of Delver, along with Oath and other blue combo decks. This year I knew I wanted to play Dredge again but preparing for the 2015 Champs could not be approached like last year. With the restriction of Treasure Cruise and the rise of popularity in Shops, the landscape posed a new frontier of innovations. After playing all ten rounds, my instinct held true. I only played against the same archtype once, resulting in 9 different strategies throughout the day. Here’s what my day round by round (my deck list can be found here):
Round 1: UW Landstill piloted by David Ata
David is a strong player hailing from NYC. His choice to play UW Landstill was probably a reaction to the surge in popularity for Shops. Since he is a New York player, I can also understand hedging against Mishra because up there is Shops country.
I almost lose game one due to his turn one Brainstorm finding the Strip Mine followed by three copies of Swords to Plowshares. Luckily he didn’t have enough offense to race my slow dredging. Game two he crushes me with a Grafdigger’s Cage into Containment Priest into a Rest in Peace. That three-hit combo is always lights out for Dredge. Game Three I’m on the play and he keeps a slower hand, since he can’t play a hate card until turn two. At least it was Rest in Peace, but since I had the play the damage had been done. My mini army of zombies met an Engineered Explosives, but I kept my Narcomoebas in play which eventually went the distance.
Round 2: UG Belcher piloted by Danny Batterman
Danny and I faced off in the final Swiss round of Champs last year. I always dread playing him as a Dredge pilot. Danny from my experience tends to play ballin’ outrageous blue decks. Last year he played Steel City Vault, and this year was no different. UG Belcher was the combo innovation of the tournament. Instead of Tolarian Academy as the one land, UG Belcher uses Tropical Island. This way it can support Land Grant and cast Living Wish to get Academy, Mishra’s Workshop to help against sphere effects, and Kuldotha Forgemaster to tutor for Goblin Charbelcher.
Game One I win the die roll so I have the luxury of playing a Bazaar of Baghdad before Danny combos me out on his turn one. Game two I open the nuts with a Bazaar, Undiscovered Paradise, and a Nature’s Claim. His opener can make a Forgemaster, which I claim immediately (I led with Paradise over Bazaar). Danny now hellbent on his next turn top decks Diminishing Returns to refuel. He manages to find and replay the Forgemaster. I activate Bazaar at his EOT and on my turn finding a single Narcomoeba. I play a Mana Confluence to trigger Landfall on Bloodghast and use the mana to Unearth Fatestitcher. This gives me the three guys I need to flashback Dread Return on Ingot Chewer to kill Forgemaster for a second time. Danny then hits another Diminishing Returns, but he needs to pass afterwards and loses most of his hand to my Cabal Therapies. He doesn’t recover from that and I win the second game.
Game three on the draw I know that a Bazaar only hand isn’t good enough. My opponent is playing a glass cannon deck and game one he torched me before I could even start dredging. Danny snap kept his opening seven so I mulligan away a seven card and six card hand both containing Bazaar. Eventually I go down to four cards and hit Mana Confluence, Cabal Therapy, Nature’s Claim and Bridge from Below. Keep.
Danny plays a Chrome Mox Imprinting Diminishing Returns to cast a Preordain. He leaves both on top and ships the turn. I draw a second copy of Nature’s Claim. On my turn I decide to cast Cabal Therapy because he could just have enough mana to activate Belcher in the same turn and Claim will do nothing.
To my announcement of Cabal Therapy Danny immediately replies, “Resolves.” I tank for a while as he wears a bit of a smirk on his face. Given his confident disposition I had a strong feeling he didn’t actually have Goblin Charbelcher but instead a tutor, one that I might not name. I name Tezzerat the Seeker and Danny shakes his head saying, “Wow. You’re really good with that card,” as he discards his Tezzerat.
The rest of his hand is a bunch of fast mana and a Pact of Negation. I ship the turn and Danny flips the top card of his deck over: Goblin Charbelcher. He plays out his fast mana but can’t activate the cannon on his turn. I knock the top of my deck but don’t find a second rainbow mana source. I attempt to Nature’s Claim his win condition, but he uses Pact to protect it. Stuck with a second Nature’s Claim in my hand that would win the game, Danny activates Belcher on upkeep and kills me.
Round 3: Dark Depths Dredge piloted by Matthew Szabo
Matthew is a great player who you can see in SCG archive coverage. Unfortunately for him he played the mirror, and my version just beats up on his take of the deck. Dark Depths Dredge plays a bunch of counterspells main deck and sideboards into a Dark Depths combo as a gambit to dodge traditional graveyard hate. My list for Dredge is just faster and I’m able to do my thing before he can set up.
Round 4: Martello Shops piloted by Mickey Mahr
If there was one deck I came to beat it was Shops. My Turtle Dredge list maxes out on all the problem cards for a control Shops list. Mickey in the sideboard games does manage to find some hate pieces such as Tormod’s Crypt, but ultimately does not have enough offense to fight through my artifact disruption.
Side note Mickey had the most gorgeous Shops deck I have ever seen. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting/playing him, you will be blown away at the miscuts sleeved up in his deck.
Round 5: Martello Shops piloted by Tom Nelson
Tom is a super friendly dude and a great representation of the Vintage community. Although I went dredge crazy on him, he still boasted a smile and we had a blast joking while playing. Awesome guy and I wish every opponent was as cool as this dude. The best part about Vintage is that there are more Toms than sharks.
Round 6: Jeskai Mentor piloted by Michael Swailes
A strong player who made the finals of an SCG Legacy Open, it’s no surprise someone this good is doing well deep into the event. Michael is playing what I believe is Dredge’s worst matchup in the current metagame. I win game one but he crushes me game two with Monastery Mentor backed by Cage and Priest. I tested this matchup with multiple friends for hours and won maybe 25% of sideboarded games (and that’s generous). Lucky for me Michael keeps a very slow hand game three. He didn’t have any fast mana on his first turn to power out a two-drop hate piece, and after casting Ancestral didn’t find any hate to stop me.
Round 7: Blue Moon piloted by Brad Gutkin
Game one I dodge any fast bombs out of Brad’s deck, such as a turn one Blood Moon. He uses Trinket Mage to buy time but game one my deck is just too fast. Game two he sets up triple Grafdigger’s Cage, so it was time for the casting dudes plan. The list of Turtle Dredge I played includes a lot of mana sources, so casting two drops isn’t hard and getting to three mana for Stinkweed Imp is very reasonable. He found a couple of Trinket Mages to potentially race me, since my pain lands did a lot of damage; however, my parade of 1/1 and 1/2 Flyers eventually did Brad in. Kudos to Brad for going out in style by casting Rolling Earthquake to kill himself.
Round 8: Doomsday piloted by Mike Brotzman
I win the die roll game one and kill Mike fast enough so he can’t combo me out. I actually didn’t see much of his deck in game one, and found out after the match that if he had one more turn I would have lost (Good thing I won that die roll). Mike also thanked me for not only presenting my graveyard like a gentleman, but actually stacking my triggers in the appropriate way (e.g. waiting to finish discarding from Bazaar of Baghdad before putting Narcomoeba into play).
Game two he killed me counting to ten the old fashion way and draining my life away with Tendrils of Agony. Game three I brought my Leylines back in, but they didn’t matter because he was actually a Doomsday deck. Unfortunately for Mike he mulliganed down to five cards and after casting a Brainstorm conceded realizing he was locked.
Round 9: Frobots piloted by Rich Shay
Rich Shay is an amazing ambassador to the game, and I’m happy to call him a friend. There’s no better opponent I’d rather have in my win-and-in match. I felt great going into the match because Frobots shouldn’t be too difficult for Dredge to beat. Unfortunately I spent all my luck in earlier rounds dodging bullets. Rich Shay creamed me 2-0. Game one his nut draw did me in, and game two I made an overly aggressive play that eventually cost me the game. I attacked with both of my guys assuming he would block with Phyrexian Revoker since I didn’t have any bridges and he would lose that race long term. He snap didn’t block and then I realized he had a Sword of Fire and Ice, which inevitably took over the game by connecting with my face the following turn.
Props to Rich and our friends for teching out Frobots to improve the Dredge matchup. Sword of Fire and Ice is the best card in the deck and playing more of those is correct. Also Relic of Progenitus is definitely superior to Tormod’s Crypt in that build against Dredge. Congrats to Rich on his Top 8.
Round 10: Terra Nova piloted by Raffeele Forino
Not a surprise that at the top tables I kept playing legends of the community. Raf is one of the best guys around. His new Terra Nova list deployed some cool metagame tech, but ultimately proved too slow for Dredge. I did my thing game one no problem. Game two I cruised past three pieces of hate to victory. His two copies of Bojuka Bog and Tabernacle of the Pendrall Vale didn’t matter because he couldn’t follow up with pressure.
Last year the event paid out to Top 64, and I squeaked into 60th place, so with a 20th place finish I keep my streak alive for cashing at Vintage Champs. Dredge will always be a fine choice at champs, assuming you have a lot of experience with the deck and adjust to metagame trends. This year I expected to play against more Shops than usual, but still knew there would be variation within the pillar. I played against Martello twice, but Terra Nova and Frobots play very different from the Forgemaster-centric list.
I also didn’t discount the variety of blue decks. The flavor of the week this year was Shops. Last year it was Delver. But every year people are going to play blue combo decks because they are fun and that’s their jam. I played against Doomsday and UG Belcher, two decks people would not consider viable in a Shops heavy world. Doomsday I played in the X-1 bracket in round seven.
Overall the metagame in Vintage appears healthy. Innovation has yet to be stifled … yet. After testing and playing in Vintage champs I would like to see some changes to the Banned and Restricted List, but that’s another article. For now players can sleeve up a pet deck and expect to do pretty well in a tournament, no matter what that’s a good thing.
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