Squadron Hawk and Dredgevine Decks in Modern with Paul Mclachlan

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Squadron Hawk and Dredgevine Decks in Modern with Paul Mclachlan

I’ve had my brewing cap firmly on in the last couple of weeks. The exciting Modern format and writing these articles has allowed my mind grapes to ripen and spill their juices into whatever the container it is that you would use for brewing. I don’t know what that would be. A cask, maybe? A cauldron? Send your answers on a postcard to: I’ve Been Watching Too Much 30 Rock, Somewhere in the Wilds of Scotland.

I’ve been working on the Aether Vial/Squadron Hawk list I’ve written about previously. There was plenty that I enjoyed about the deck, but there was something missing: a third colour.

Here’s what I’m working with at the moment:

Eeeevil Vial-ent Birds

Creatures (12) –

4 x Squadron Hawk
4 x Dark Confidant
4 x Snapcaster Mage

Spells (25) –

4 x Path to Exile
4 x Inquisition of Kozilek
4 x Aether Vial
3 x Spell Snare
4 x Rune Snag
3 x Lilliana of the Veil

3 x Engineered Explosives

Lands (23) –

4 x Marsh Flats
4 x Darkslick Shores
4 x Seachrome Coast
3 x Moorland Haunt
2 x Island
1 x Academy Ruins
1 x Watery Grave
1 x Godless Shrine
1 x Hallowed Fountain
1 x Plains
1 x Swamp

Sideboard (15) –

4 x Smother
4 x Ethersworn Canonist
4 x Kitchen Finks
3 x Thoughtseize

The differences between this version and the previous U/W iteration of the deck:


– 4 Thirst for Knowledge, – 3 Vendilion Clique, – 1 Meloku, The Clouded Mirror, – 3 Spell Pierce, – Almost the entire manabase

+ 4 Inquisition of Kozilek, + 4 Dark Confidant, + 3 Liliana of the Veil, + 1 Engineered Explosives, + Almost entirely new manabase

The sideboard is almost entirely different beyond the Ethersworn Canonists.

Why the changes?

I wanted cards that would do the same job, but were more widely applicable. Inquisition and Spell Pierce serve a similar purpose, but Inquisition is just as good against Zoo as it is against combo. Liliana can be disruption, sort of a clock, or removal as needed. Dark Confidant replaces the under-performing Vendilion Clique. He’s a much more fragile form of card advantage, but with an average casting cost of less than one, he shouldn’t deal you a large amount of damage.

This deck can take either a controlling or aggressive role, and it’s largely thanks to the deck space freed up by Squadron Hawk. If it wasn’t for that single card I would be forced to play a larger population of creatures, making for less spells and so on and so forth. They don’t pack much of a wallop, but the Squadron can certainly peck your opponent to death over time.

I’m going to climb some ladders and prepare myself now. You see, I’m terribly afraid of heights and I’m about to go off the top dive and right into the deep end.

Callin’ on the Dredgevine

Creatures (24) –

4 x Gravecrawler
4 x Drowned Rusalka
4 x Hedron Crab[/card]
4 x Golgari Thug
4 x Stinkweed Imp
4 x Vengevine

Spells (19) –

4 x Faithless Looting
4 x Zombie Infestation
4 x Ideas Unbound
3 x Life from the Loam
4 x Bridge from Below

Lands (17) –

4 x Misty Rainforest
4 x Verdant Catacombs
3 x Watery Grave
1 x Scalding Tarn
1 x Stomping Ground
1 x Breeding Pool
1 x Steam Vents
1 x Overgrown Tomb
1 x Bloodcrypt

Sideboard (15) –

4 x Thoughtseize
3 x Ancient Grudge
3 x Gnaw to the Bone
2 x Overgrown Tomb
1 x Life from the Loam
1 x Watery Grave
1 x Island

The basic game plan of this deck is to mill your library with the utterly fair Dredge mechanic and recur Vengevines with Gravecrawlers, the exciting new zombie from Dark Ascension. The day ‘crawler was spoiled I went into a frenzy of excitement. “Cast? How can it say cast? That’s utterly busted!” As soon as I was home from work I threw together a list and began to goldfish it.

I was hoping to be able to kill people on turn three with some sort of nut draw. While that possibility was there, it wasn’t that probable. I was discouraged, and put the deck away forlornly, a single tear trickling down my cheek. Then I got to play against a live opponent earlier today, and my enthusiasm for the concept has been reignited. This deck is capable of some extremely unfair things, but I’ve also been finding it extremely hard to play.

I’m going to break the deck down into sections, as there are a lot of moving part in the deck.


Hedron Crab, Drowned Rusalka, Faithless Looting, Zombie Infestation, Ideas Unbound

This sub-set of cards allows you to kick off your Dredge engine and start dumping cards into your graveyard.


Golgari Thug, Stinkweed Imp, Life from the Loam

Largely these cards are just here for their high Dredge value, but they do have other uses. Golgari Thug is cheap enough that he can help trigger Vengevines, for example. Life from the Loam provides fuel for Hedron Crab and Zombie Infestation.

Card Draw

Drowned Rusalka, Faithless Looting, Ideas Unbound

This class of cards allows you to speed up your Dredging, getting multiple Dredges in a single turn. It’s possible that you can have milled twenty eight cards from your deck by the end of turn two, with a turn one Faithless Looting followed up by an Ideas Unbound.

Zombie Creators

Drowned Rusalka, Zombie Infestation, Bridge from Below, Gravecrawler

These are the cards that allow you to get your Gravecrawler engine online. You need a zombie in play to cast him from your graveyard, after all.

Recursion Engine

Gravecrawler, Bridge from Below, Vengevine

The engine that runs the car.

Here’s a goldfish game to show the deck in action:

My opening hand is: Hedron Crab x 2, Drowned Rusalka x 2, Gravecrawler, Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn.

This is a decent hand. It’s not spectacular (that would require a draw spell), but it’s certainly keepable. On turn one I played Misty Rainforest, crack it to fetch out a Breeding Pool, play one of my Hedron Crabs and pass the turn. On my second turn, I draw a Vengevine. Not the greatest draw. I play my second Hedron Crab, then play Scalding Tarn. I respond to the two landfall triggers on the stack and got an search for an untapped Watery Grave. I then resolve all four Crab triggers, milling twelve cards. Of relevance here is a Vengevine, two Stinkweed Imps and two Gravecrawlers. I play the Gravecrawler from my hand, triggering Vengevine, and bash in for four.

My third turn begins with replacing my draw by Dredging Stinkweed Imp. This one hits a Stinkweed Imp, Faithless Looting and nothing else of relevance. I play a Drowned Rusalka out and bash for six damage. The goldfish’s life total has been halfed. Using the Drowned Rusalka’s ability I discard the Vengevine in my hand and Dredge a Stinkweed Imp, sacrificing one of my useless Hedron Crabs. Sadly, I’ve not managed to hit a Bridge from Below, so I don’t get zombies out of this deal. My dredge nets me Golgari Thug, Life from the Loam and Faithless Looting, plus two blanks.

The fourth and final turn sees me dredge another Stinkweed Imp, and I hit a Vengevine and some other cards that aren’t that relevant. I cast Drowned Rusalka from hand and a Gravecrawler in my graveyard and smash in for fourteen damage, putting the goldfish to negative four.

How about another example?

Last one, people finding this boring, I promise. Epic Dredge Time:

My opening hand is: Hedron Crab, Zombie Infestation, Ideas Unbound, Bridge from Below, Stomping Ground, Breeding Pool, Misty Rainforest.

This isn’t an unreasonable hand, and it has the potential to be quite broken. I lead off with Breeding Pool into Hedron Crab on turn one. On my second turn I peel a Verdant Catacombs (next level land fetching apparatus). I play the Catacombs and crack it in response to the Crab trigger to fetch out an untapped Watery Grave. I’m dripping that millin’ sauce for six cards, but the haters have stacked my library and I brick, flipping two Faithless Looting and a Life from the Loam. Instead of going nuts with Ideas Unbound, I play out that Zombie Infestation. Smart.

On our end step, we make a little zombie homie, discard that Bridge from Below and that Stomping Ground. Turn three we be dredging that Life from the Loam, playa. The haters are still on us, and we brick once again. Things aren’t looking great for Team Paul’s Awesome Decks are Never in Doubt. We cast Life from the Lizzle, and pick up three bright, shiny lands, including two Verdant Catacombs. We be mad fetching for a Watery Grave, but only take one damage ’cause we street. Milling that millin’ sauce: Vengevine, all these Golgari Thugs (two), some other stuff. It all goes into our graveyard. Little zombie homie pecks in for some beats with a Z. We call up another undead beater by discarding two lands (leaving out hand Fetchland, Ideas Unbound). Ship the turn, hater.

Turn four we be all about the Thug Life. Golgari Thug life. He dredges for four and hits all the gold. Stinkweed Imp. Life from the Loam. Faithless Looting. Zombie Infestation. Actually those last two ain’t so good, but I don’t know any better because I’m stupid! Smart. We crack, sac, take three and mill six. We dump that Vengevine and that Gravecrawler into the yard like they be ex-girlfriends and we be Pimps. Pimps with Magic cards. Smart.

Tap goes the Breeding Pool. Tap goes the Watery Grave. Coming soon to DVD: Thoughts Gones Wild! I mean; Ideas Unbound. We get all the luck: milling fifteen cards… Stinkweed Imp and Stinkweed Imp and Stinkweed Imp and Stinkweed Imp and Stinkweed Imp and Stinkweed Imp and Stinkweed Imp… Actually, forget everything but the first three Stinkweed Imp. That would be cheating. I call up two Gravecrawlers and recur three Vengevines. We bash that goldfish for sixteen damage, leaving them on two. Next turn they die.

That was a reasonably clunky draw, but the deck was still able to do some unfair things and put a large amount of damage on the board. Dredge is more of a sketch than a complete deck at the moment. There’s still a ton of work to be done, but there’s potential here. The deck interacts minimally, is hard to disrupt and can win most attrition wars thanks to it’s central recursion engine. The problems the list has are that there are many moving pieces to consider, the mana base is a nightmare, the sideboard was concocted on a bet (it’s supposed to allow you to transform into a Rock deck post-board) and sometimes the Dredge gods just refuse to smile upon you. Give it a try though, there’s some potential.

Thanks for reading,

Paul Mclachlan

Squadron Hawk and Dredgevine Decks in Modern with Paul Mclachlan
I've been working on the Aether Vial/Squadron Hawk list I've written about previously. There was plenty that I enjoyed about the deck, but there was something missing: a third colour.

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