Modern Legacy: Return of the Walking Dead

I played at the recent SCG Legacy Open in Baltimore, and I got 20th overall. I think that high of an finish obligates me to write a report and even write up a primer of sorts on my deck of choice. What was the deck that I brought? It was LEDredge.

(Only the first time I mention a card will have card links. This is in an effort to save time because this article is very long. Let me know in the comments if you prefer every card to be linked to.)

First- I’ll talk about my choice- why did I choose the version of Dredge with Lion’s Eye Diamonds, over the version without? The “common consensus” on many forums is that the version without LED is somehow better, due to perceived consistency. It is said that LEDredge has a speedier start, but is prone to slaying itself too much. Before I say much more, I’ll present you with both decklists, and then I’ll compare the differences in the two decks. The lists I will be using is Mitchell Zelmanovich’s LEDless Dredge build that he placed 16th with at Baltimore, with a 7-2 record, and my own LEDredge build, with which I went 7-2 also, and got 20th place.

LEDless Dredge
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
2 Golgari Thug
3 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
4 Putrid Imp
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Tireless Tribe
4 Bridge from Below
4 Breakthrough
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Careful Study
3 Dread Return
4 Cephalid Coliseum
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Tarnished Citadel
1 Ancestor’s Chosen
1 Angel of Despair
3 Ancient Grudge
3 Firestorm
3 Nature’s Claim
4 Unmask
Flame-Kin Zealot
Golgari Grave-Troll
Golgari Thug
Putrid Imp
Sphinx of Lost Truths
Stinkweed Imp
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
Bridge from Below
Cabal Therapy
Careful Study
Dread Return
3 Deep Analysis
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
Cephalid Coliseum
City of Brass (In retrospect, this was a mistake. Probably should have been Underground Seas, but didn’t matter at all in the entire tournament)
4 Darkslick Shores
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Angel of Despair
1 Cabal Therapy
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Chain of Vapor
2 Pithing Needle

When we compare the two decklists, we can see that both decks are 12 cards different in the maindeck, with a massively different sideboard. The main issue with LEDless dredge is that all the major maindeck discard options availble is at the one-CMC slot, a slot that has become much weaker because there is a new free counterspell that can stop it. If you get your discard outlet Mental Misstepped, you are massively slowed down. In my deck, LED gives me a discard outlet that cannot be Mental Misstepped.

In actuality the difference is entirely superficial. Both versions of dredge are heavy favorites in game one vs most decks in Legacy. In game one, your opponents should not have hate against you, so they should not be able to stop you from executing your plan to victory. Dredge’s worst game one matchup is against a variety of fast combo decks. The LED build has the edge over LEDless builds against combo, because of its explosiveness. I chose to go with LED to make sure I’m guaranteed to win game one against as many decks as possible. (Spoiler alert: I won every game one in that tournament.) The major difference between the two decks is the sideboard plan. LEDless dredge plays rainbow lands to have access to a variety of anti-graveyard-hate. In the list above, Mitchell plays 6 dedicated anti-graveyard-hate cards, with Unmask being able to have dual purposes, against both hand-based graveyard hate and combo hate. My sideboard is more focused on changing my plan of attack, with 6 general purpose anti-graveyard-hate cards, and other cards that I would board in depending on what I was facing.

I’ll give you a short primer on how the deck works, so you can get a idea of what I’m doing in each game. The plan is basically find a discard outlet, get a dredge card in your graveyard, then use a massive draw effect such as Breakthrough or Cephalid Coliseum, to explode with your dredging, then after that see how many Narcomobeas you get in play, along with whether you have the following cards in the graveyard: Dread Return, Bridge from Below, and Flame-Kin Zealot.  If you can end up with 6 zombies and a Zealot in play, that’s 21 points of hasty damage out of nowhere.

I’ll now show you my tournament report- I wish that I took notes, but I am never able to because it disrupts my focus. This is me writing from my memory, so I may have forgotten some details.

Match One, Zoo (William)

Game One: I see that he was playing a budget Zoo deck, with shocklands, mixed with duals. I win game one easily, the way I was supposed to.


-2 LED,-2 Deep Analysis, -1 Iona, Shield of Emeria, + 1 Elesh Norn, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Chain of Vapor

(I board the 2,2 spilt to see what type of hate my opponents bring in for game two.)

Game Two: An early Gaddock Teeg shut off my Dread Return, which resigned me to a Ichorid/zombie win. After making a massive graveyard, he drops Knight of the Reliquary. Uh-Oh. I couldnt win on my own turn, and when I passed the turn, he uses the Knight to fetch a Bojuka Bog. With all 4 bridges in my graveyard, that’s game.


– 2 LED, – 1 Deep Analysis, +2 Chain of Vapor, +1 Cabal Therapy

Game three: I start turn one with a Cabal Therapy for Gaddock Teeg. It hits. I go on to dredge and do graveyard things, while he gets a blazingly fast start with two Kird Kitties.  I go down to nine life, knowing that i had one last turn, due to the Lightning Bolt and Fireblast in his hand. I plan out a long and elaborate turn involving me hitting a Narcomobea with my dredge, then Dread Returning Sphinx of Lost Truths twice in search of my third dread return and Flame-Kin Zealot. He passes his turn. I draw a card. WAIT WHAT. I managed to forget to return a Ichorid in my graveyard to play, AND dredge up more cards. I just shot myself in the foot…. I pass the turn, to my predictable demise. No matter how good you think you are, there’s a very good reason to put heavy tokens on the top of your deck if you want to do things before you draw. The draw reflex is conditioned in the average M:TG player’s brain, due to too much Standard, I believe. Knowing that my prospects of finishing in the money just became very dim, I sign the match slip and move on, ready to face the long day ahead of me.


Match Two: UW Landstill (Michael)

Game One: He plays an Island, so I go on the Draw-Discard- Dredge plan. It carries me to a win in this game. Uncounterable discard outlets, along with Ichorid beats is really good against landstill.


-4 Lion’s Eye Diamond, -3 Deep Analysis, +2 Ichorid, +1 Cabal Therapy, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Chain of Vapor

Game Two: I go on the DDD plan again. I force him to blow a Tormod’s Crypt on my graveyard, then I go for broke with Breakthrough. It resolves, but he then plays a Vendilion Clique and Enlightened Tutor for a Moat on my endstep. I check my exile and graveyard and see that I already dredged away both of my Chain of Vapors, so I scoop.


-1 Iona, Angel of Emeria, +1 Angel of Despair

Game Three: I choose to draw (DDD, obviously), and open with a really bad starting seven. It has a dredger, and I did not want to slow myself down too much, so I decide to gamble on my opponent not having any graveyard hate, and stick to DDD. On his second turn, he lays down a Standstill. Standstill is THE worst card possible to play against Dredge. Dredge does not need to play spells whatsover. Ichorid time. I massed a massive army of Bridge Zombies that beat up my opponent for his crucial play error.


Match Three: Deadguy Ale (Anthony)

Game One: I do my thing. Iona naming White shuts down his deck.


-3 LED,-2 Deep Analysis, + 1 Elesh Norn, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Chain of Vapor

Game Two: On turn one, he picks out my only discard outlet with Thoughtseize, then he gets off to an amazing start with Stoneforge for Batterskull and Sword of Fire and Ice, along with a Dark Confidant. I was really slowed down, but I was able to get both Elesh Norn and Iona, 3 Bridges, 2 Dread Returns, 2 Cabal Therapies in my graveyard along with one Ichorid and a Narcomobea in play. I Therapy targeting him. He thinks, then says okay. I name Swords to Plowshares. I hit. 3 zombies come in. I Therapy him again. Another three zombies come in. I reanimate both white fatties. Iona named white. I hit him with Iona the next turn. I have zombies and Elesh Norn ready to block his Batterskull. He has one more turn to live. He rips a Elspeth and plays it, giving his Batterskull +3+3 and flying for exactly lethal. I stare at the board disbelieving at how I lost. I then notice my Iona. I point her out, and my opponent apologizes for his mistake and scoops. Whether a honest mistake or not, I don’t know, but the important thing was that I caught it.


Match Four: Merfolk (Brad)

Game One: I DDD on the first turn, then go for the Cephalid Coliseum-LED-Deep Analysis explosion. My Deep Analysis gets countered. No problem. I pass. He plays a Cursecatcher. Um. That prevents my Dread Returns from working, due to having no lands. I just go on to the zombie and Ichorid plan. I win.


-4 LED,-3 Deep Analysis, -1 Iona, Shield of Emeria, + 1 Elesh Norn, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Chain of Vapor, +2 Ichorid, +1 Cabal Therapy

Game Two, I bait a Cursecatcher with a Cabal Therapy targeting myself. The next turn consisted of Putrid Imp, Resolve, Discard almost entire hand, flashback Therapy naming Force, hit, Breakthrough, then Dread Return Elesh Norn, and win. Elesh Is really good against Merfolk.


Match Five: Cephalid Breakfast (Anthony)

Game one: I see a Underground Sea and decide to DDD. Not very well-advised with only a Golgari Thug to dredge with. His second turn he plays a Kor. I get very worried because I do not have any outs to his deck in the main. But, ironically, neither of our decks works correctly this game. He never draws a tutor, Therapy, or a Cephalid Illusionist, and he ends up hard casting a Sky Hussar, with a Kiki-Jiki stuck in his hand. I end up winning with a Ichorid that was used eight times. This game took thirty minutes.


-4 LED,-3 Deep Analysis, -1 Careful Study, -2 Ichorid, +2 Pithing Needle, +4 Chain of Vapor, +4 Leyline of the Void

Game Two: I mistakenly keep a no-lander without Leyline and he murders me on the third turn. I force him to go through the motions, milling his deck, then I take a careful look at what sort of hate he had for me. I see only 2 Tormod’s Crypt, and no bounce spells. (I missed 2x Venser, Shaper Savant)

Game Three: Armed with my knowledge, I resolve to mulligan until i found Leyline of the Void. The reason: he had no way to deal with it in his deck. I find one at 5 cards. No lands, but i keep and plop down Leyline smugly. He says ok. I ask him if he can beat it. He says “Yeah, Venser” and I then facepalm. He does not draw Venser. I do not get started quickly enough, so he wins through Kor and Cephalid aggro. Embarrassing, but I accept my loss and move on.


Match Six: UBW Stoneblade (Marsh)

I do not recall much from this game. I think Engineered Explosives engineered my loss in game two, but I won through DDD’ing in the first and third games.

I know that this was my sideboard: -4 LED,-3 Deep Analysis, -1 Iona, Shield of Emeria, + 1 Elesh Norn, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Chain of Vapor, +2 Ichorid, +1 Cabal Therapy

Match Seven: UGB Deedstill (Joshua)

Game One: I do my thing, and win on the second turn, not seeing much from his deck.


-4 LED,-3 Deep Analysis, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Chain of Vapor, +2 Ichorid, +1 Cabal Therapy

Game Two: DDD, then he plays Pernicious Deed. I bounce it to his hand with Chain of vapor, then Therapy him, finding 1 Go for the Throat and 1 Maelstrom Pulse. Cool. I Dread Return Iona naming Black. Game over.


Match Eight: UGB Deedstill (Mark)

Game one: I destroy his hand of counters with multiple Cabal Therapies, then kill him.


-4 LED,-3 Deep Analysis, +2 Pithing Needle, +2 Chain of Vapor, +2 Ichorid, +1 Cabal Therapy

Game Two: My deck goes really slowly after my turn one Putrid Imp and Turn 2 Cephalid Coliseum plan gets foiled with a counterspell and a Wasteland. Lucky for me, he gets stuck on a Tropical Island and Mishra’s Factory. I eventually win, then ask him why he kept a bad land hand. He revealed what his opening hand had: Deed, Damnation, Maelstrom Pulse, Misstep, Wasteland, Tropical Island, and a Mishra’s Factory. Pretty good hand.


I’m pretty nervous at this point because I knew that the next round would decide whether I got in the top 32, or not. I really wanted it because i barely missed the top 32 the previous day, at 36th place.

Match 9: Belcher (Matthew)

Game one: I made a play this game that I’ll remember for a long time. I had no idea what my opponent was playing. I was playing first (I won my first die roll all tournament), but with my seven it looked like I would have to do the Go, then-DDD plan. It’s a really slow plan, so I hoped that my opponent was playing Landstill. My opponent took a quick look at his hand, then mulliganed. He drew his six, then I was watching him at this point, having already decided on a DDD plan, and i noticed something. He was moving around cards in his hand and counting. I’m deaf, so I couldn’t hear what my opponent was muttering, but I thought i saw him say “Six”. I personally play Belcher, so I knew that six was a important number. It was the number of mana needed for Burning Wish into Empty the Warrens. I decide to play Cabal Therapy on the first turn, scrapping my original plan. I named Burning Wish. What he revealed to me was: Land Grant, Desperate Ritual, Chrome Mox, Rite of Flame, Tinder Wall, and Burning Wish. JACKPOT. He discards it. I Therapy again next turn, hitting Land Grant. I win on the third turn.


-2 Ichorids, -1 Careful Study, -1 Deep Analysis, +2 Pithing Needle, +1 Elesh Norn, +1 Cabal Therapy

Game Two: He keeps a slow hand. My turn, I play Needle, naming Goblin Charbelcher. His turn, nothing, Me, Start setting up a big turn with Putrid Imp. His turn: Empty the Warrens for 10 goblins, My turn, Go insane, make 30 zombies. I win.

7-2 and 20th place.

MVPs of the day: Ichorids and Cabal Therapies. Ichorid is really strong against blue decks, and Cabal Therapies is amazing when used aggressively.

Interesting Facts: I mulliganed in three games in the entire tournament (This tells me that the deck is very stable). I have kept no land hands in this tournament. I have won without casting Spells. I have not Dread Returned a Golgari Grave-Troll or Angel of Despair. I have hardcast Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Thug twice each. I dredged to 0 cards in deck in 6 games in this tournament. I lost both games due to player error, not due to the deck. I accidentally draw a card instead of dredging four times.

General Tips:

  1. You’ll usually never keep a hand without a dredger.
  2. Pay attention to what your opponent is doing. This paid off for me in the last round.
  3. Heavy things on top of your deck are really good at reminding you about having to return Ichorids to play and dredging instead of drawing.
  4. Play at a slow pace. With Dredge, its like your graveyard IS your hand, so take the time to make sure you know exactly what was in your graveyard. You usually don’t need to worry about the time because your game one is so short.
  5. When evaluating an opening hand, you want to look at the possible speed and what the plan of attack will be. Adjust to fit the deck you are facing.

Be forewarned, LEDredge is a deck for the bold, for the people who are willing to gamble, and try different plans that they never thought of before. If you pick up this deck, you are sure to face many challenges.

If you have any questions, ask away in the comments.

Happy Dredging!


Posted on June 28, 2011, in Articles, Modern Legacy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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