Legacy: Cheaper Than You Realise! Week Three: Manaless Dredge!
Over my three years of playing Magic, I have played many different formats. The usual culprits, like Standard, Modern and Draft, but also everything from Judge Stack to Unhinged Constructed to Mental Magic. There are so many ways to play the game. Out of everything, though, my favourite format absolutely has to be Legacy.
Legacy hits the sweet spot between the incredibly powerful and game-warping cards in Vintage and the straight, linear strategies in Modern. It has incredible combo potential but also great removal suites, perfect fixing, and most importantly, excellent disruption in the form of counterspells and land destruction. It is much more a format that encapsulates really knowing the meta, reading your opponent’s plays and understanding when to act and react.
It’s saddening that many people will not experience this format in their Magic lifetimes, because they simply can’t justify the money for a deck. Legacy requires an investment if you want to play some of the most well-known decks like Delver, Storm or Shardless. The dual lands and Lion’s Eye Diamond being on the reserved list have sadly made a lot of decks unaffordable for those who don’t wish to spend a lot of money on the game.
However, I’m here to bring you the good news: this isn’t always the case.
Since the printing of Eternal Masters, which, granted, did not address the main issue, but did make some important reprints outside of the reserved list, the average price of Legacy decks has gone down a lot, and some tier 1 or tier 2 decks now cost the same amount as some Modern lists. If you think you can’t play Legacy, it might be time to think again. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to write about a few decks which are the same price as Modern lists (and, indeed, in some cases share cards with Modern), and which are not what you would call budget lists; they are exactly what people are running at GPs.
With more Legacy now approaching on the horizon with the Team Pro Tour, is it time for you to get stuck in?
Legacy Manaless Dredge – The Rundown
This week, I’m going to discuss the archetype Manaless Dredge. This is known somewhat as the ‘boogeyman’ of Legacy, the kind of linear and crazy deck which, if you’re not prepared for it, can run over the majority of the format. It’s fast and very focused, and will usually kill on turn two or three – or lose on turn two or three.
Here is a recent decklist by Kyle Lawton (mtgtop8.com):
The entire deck can be bought for $600 from TCGplayer – around £450. It’s not ‘cheap’ compared to, say, a Standard deck, but if you’re looking at buying anything in the Modern tier lists, it’s definitely in the same price range. Also, a lot of that is the Force of Wills in the sideboard, which are obviously very helpful, but it’s possible to run without.
Is It Really Manaless? Like, No Lands at All?
As you can imagine from the name, Manaless Dredge doesn’t have a single land or mana source in its maindeck. In this strategy you simply won’t need them.
For the sideboarded games you can run 3 fetch lands and 3 dual lands in order to cast your sideboard cards, but in the majority of games or unless you’re expecting severe hate cards, you won’t need to use mana at all.
Say goodbye to flood and screw!
In my previous iterations of the Cheap Legacy series, I have written individually about creatures, instants and sorceries, and enchantments and planeswalkers. However, for this deck it doesn’t really make sense to do that, so instead I’m going to write about the overall strategy and how you’re supposed to win. After all, a deck with no mana sources is not your average list!
So essentially, as with most Dredge decks, the idea is to get as many creatures into your graveyard as possible as quickly as possible. In Modern this is achieved through Cathartic Reunion, and in the Legacy Dredge lists that do run mana, Breakthrough, Cephalid Colosseum or Lion’s Eye Diamond. In this deck, though, it’s achieved in a slightly different way.
Firstly, your opening hand is really important. It’s going to be the seven cards that will win you the game, so in virtually no case should you mulligan, as you will drastically reduce your chance of victory. There is a lot of redundancy in the deck for this reason, as any hand with a dredger and an enabler is likely going to be good enough. You will, in 99% of cases, be putting your opponent on the play in order to discard to hand size at the end of your turn, so mulliganing to six is a big liability and one that should be thought about carefully.
So, let’s say you’ve kept your seven. You will put your opponent on the play and resolve any pregame effects, for example, if you have a Chancellor of the Annex in your hand – a card intended to slow down hate cards, other fast combo decks, and Deathrite Shamans. On your first turn, you draw a card and then immediately go to your discard step, and you need to discard an enabler – Phantasmagorian is by far and away the best one, but if you only have a hand of dredgers and a Street Wraith or Gitaxian Probe, then discarding a dredger is also good.
At this stage your opponent untaps and you have to cross your fingers and pray they don’t have interaction. If they manage to slam down graveyard hate, your game is likely over pre-sideboard. Not many decks will have this in the maindeck, though, so if they do nothing, or just further their own game plan with a Delver of Secrets or Knight of the Reliquary or whatever they’re doing, you have likely won the next turn.
If you have a Street Wraith, you should cycle it and dredge on their second main phase, so you have the chance of hitting a Prized Amalgam before their end step, or Nether Shadow or Ichorid before your upkeep. If you discarded Phantasmagorian and have any of these cards or a dredger to discard to its ability, you should also make sure they are in the graveyard at the appropriate time. If not, dredge your draw step and see where it takes you. Hopefully, you should turn over enough cards to find some of your ‘free’ creatures – Narcomoeba, Ichorid, Nether Shadow, or Prized Amalgam.
The key to this deck is turning your library into your graveyard as quickly as possible. Once you have some dredgers going, the next step is to hit a Dread Return and get some free creatures into play. Using Gitaxian Probes and Street Wraiths to dredge extra cards is excellent, and you are also hoping to hit Bridge from Below which will give you even more free creatures. If, for example, you hit a Narcomoeba, a Bridge from Below and a Cabal Therapy from your Wraith dredge, you can flashback the Therapy, neatly taking Force of Will out of their hand, and get a zombie for free.
Once you have three creatures in play – either Bridge from Below zombies or any of the aforementioned ‘free’ cards – and a Dread Return, you start enacting your win condition. Essentially, this deck looks to win in one turn. You use Dread Return, flashbacked by sacrificing three creatures, to bring back a Balustrade Spy, which turns your entire deck over into your graveyard. Then, you have access to four Bridge from Below, as well as any remaining Narcomoebas and Cabal Therapies to trigger them.
If you don’t have three creatures in play anymore, you can use Cabal Therapy as a way of generating zombies, sacrificing your Spy or your Narcomoebas. If you do, then you can flashback a second Dread Return for your win condition. In this particular deck, your win condition is Flamekin Zealot. You sacrifice any three nontoken creatures you have in play to make an army of twelve 3/3 zombies plus the Zealot, all of which have haste – in addition to whatever zombies you made to get to this point, or any other extra creatures you have still hanging around. Some decks run Flayer of the Hatebound instead, which you reanimate first, and then it deals damage directly to your opponent’s face for each zombie that follows it. Either one of these is usually good enough.
Naturally, the deck is very weak to graveyard hate and can lose on the spot to a Force of Will or a Surgical Extraction without the right draws. It is, however, very powerful and very redundant so you are likely to hit the nut draw more often than not. It puts the burden on your opponent to have the answer, or find it quickly. Every piece is a working part of the combo engine, and it’s fascinating to examine each card and see where it fits.
Much of this deck is practice – learning to hold priority on Phantasmagorian to discard six cards, stacking your Nether Shadow and Ichorid triggers correctly, and basically oiling the machine so it all works as quickly and neatly as possible. If you enjoy playing decks that reward player skill immensely, this might be a good list for you to pick up, because the difference between a veteran and a newbie is vast, and your improvement will show after continuous reps with it.
In most matchups, you are the faster deck, so your sideboard is going to be dedicated to answering the hate they have for you, rather than worrying about what they’re doing. In this list, there are two hate spells and a counterspell, in addition to the mana to actually cast them:
Force of Will is there for the rare occasion when you are going to be slower than your opponent. Although you don’t have many blue cards in the deck other than Gitaxian Probe, Prized Amalgam and Narcomoeba (which you don’t want in your opening hand), this card is a necessary evil against other degenerate strategies such as Belcher, R/B Reanimator and Storm which just have the opportunity to punish you for the extra turn you take to discard. It can also be (sparsely) brought in against other decks if you fear they have a lot of hate – anything running the Rest in Peace/Helm of Awakening combo, for example.
Fragmentize and Demystify serve the same purpose. They are there to kill Grafdigger’s Cages, Rest in Peaces, Relics of Progenitus, Leyline of the Voids – you name it and they kill it. The only thing you care about is making your graveyard work, and so if you expect them to bring in a lot of hate, you need to make sure you have the ability to answer it.
You can run a sideboard without mana as well, and in this case, there are a few select options:
Disrupting Shoal: If you are running a lower budget build and want to get away without Force of Will, you can use this card instead, or alongside it if you really need countermagic.
Progenitus: For its shuffle effect so your opponent can’t mill you out by reanimating your own Balustrade Spy before you’re ready. Also pitches to Force of Will.
Serra Avatar: Tech against Show and Tell, as it can potentially buy you time against Emrakul.
Faerie Macabre: A good way to interact with your opponent’s graveyard for free, and also counts as a black creature for Ichorid or a creature in the graveyard for Nether Shadow.
Ashen Rider: This deck has them in the main, but they are also possible in the sideboard, if you are running Flayer of the Hatebound in the main instead.
Unmask: Essentially another copy of Cabal Therapy for the matchups where you need to deconstruct your opponent’s hand or if you fear they have a lot of hate cards.
Contagion/Sickening Shoal: Free creature removal for matchups against decks that flood the board.
The main issue you have to remember with sideboarding in this deck is that it’s such a streamlined strategy that a lot of the time, you don’t want to board out too many cards because it dilutes your redundancy and could leave you without one of your crucial pieces. Only do it if necessary, and if you think that the chance of you losing to what they’re doing is higher than the percentage you take away from trimming your important cards.
And there you have it; Manaless Dredge! A deck that has been almost the same since its inception, and one which is greatly feared amongst the Legacy community for being fast and resilient. If you are interested in learning more, there is a primer available here (note that it is from 2015, but not much has really changed).
If this deck isn’t for you, then tune in next time where hopefully I will be writing about something more to your taste. There is a deck for everyone in Legacy, and plenty more affordable than people think!
Don’t forget that its the Legacy & Modern Challenge Weekender at Manaleak.com Birmingham! this weekend. To preregister, simply click “Going!”
Thanks for reading my article and I hope you enjoyed it!