ello everyone, and welcome back to Building on a Budget! Three weeks ago, I held a contest in my column. The challenge? Build a budget dredge deck for 30 tickets or less using the following pool of cards:
The response for this contest was overwhelming! There were over a hundred deck lists posted in the forums of the Completely from Scratch article, and the creativity displayed was top notch. Out of a card pool of just 80 cards, there were no less than twelve distinct archetypes that people came up with for this challenge! Everyone did a great job of contributing, so give yourselves a round of applause (or the internet equivalent). Bravo!
On the original list, there were two problems. The first was that I accidentally listed Island
s instead of Forest
s as one of the basic land types. This was corrected in the forums by our very own Kelly Digges, and so all entries that contained basic Forest
s were fine. The second was that Golgari Rot Farm
was accidentally left off of the list of usable lands somewhere along the process between submission and publication of my article. To be fair to everyone, decks that used Golgari Rot Farm
were disqualified from the contest—even though I intended for them to be used, they weren't on the list, there was no indication that they were allowed to be used, and it wouldn't be right to let some people use them, and others not.
There were other cards people were clamoring to use as well—cards such as Elves of Deep Shadow and Svogthos, the Restless Tomb. The Completely From Scratch article was written to show the deck building process in its true, raw nature—and in this case, cards will be missed. I'm sure that every one of you can relate to this feeling: you've just built a deck, you've got a lot of great cards in it—and then you face an opponent who plays a card that would just be perfect, perfect in your deck, except you forgot about that card to begin with! That's Svogthos—it should have been on the list of available cards, but I just missed it. No deck or deck builder is 100% perfect—otherwise, everyone would be playing the same 60 cards, and nobody would be having any fun with Magic!
Enough preamble. Let's take a look at the twelve different archetypes that were submitted for this contest. Thank you again to everyone who submitted a deck – I read each and every entry, and even if your name didn't appear this time, there's always a fair chance that your deck will be featured in an article for my next deck building challenge!
Deck #1: Bridge from Below Dredge (Ttek – 29.4 Tickets)
Ttek's Bridge From Below Dredge
Ttek says: "Typically this deck will win by getting an early enabler down and then use it to discard some choice cards with dredge to get you going. Then move to some combination of recurring disruption, playing/reanimating big Trolls, or getting lots of Zombie tokens along with a Troll or Archon. Don't get too attached to the Bridges; they are powerful and can win you the game but it is often good simply because it makes your opponent start killing his own creatures. The rest of the deck can easily win off of Troll, Nightmare Void, and Archon."
Ben says: This deck does a lot of things right—it has enough early dredge enabling (Llanowar Mentor
, Fa'adiyah Seer
) to make sure that you can be dredging by turn two. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a dredge card (or Bridge from Below
) in your hand with no way to get it to the bin.
There are also a few problems with this deck. The mana for this deck is way off – there is a single black-producing land in the entire deck that comes into play untapped, and only three black mana sources total. Even with Greenseeker (which can't grab Salvages), it's virtually impossible to hardcast Dread Return with this deck. Moreover, there are eighteen black cards in the deck (not counting Bridge from Below), and you certainly want to be able to play things like Darkblast, Stronghold Rats and Nightmare Void with reliability. Playing only twenty lands is also a recipe for trouble, especially with only one copy of Life From the Loam.
In addition, I think that this deck would also benefit from Plagued Rusalkas. Simply put, there's no easy way for your deck to kill your own creatures (with a Bridge in the Graveyard) aside from two Darkblasts. Plagued Rusalka would have a lot of synergy with the deck—getting rid of unwanted Greenseekers/Llanowar Mentors, using Llanowar Mentor tokens as -1/-1 fodder, and triggering Bridge from Below at will. I'd also consider another good reanimator target or two as well—Blazing Archon and Golgari Grave-Troll alone might not be enough when they are your only route to victory.
Deck #2: Black/Green/White Reanimator Toolbox (Bloosh 123 – 25.7 Tickets)
Bloosh123's BGW Reanimator Toolbox
Bloosh123 says: "The whole point of this deck is to quickly get dredgers in your graveyard, dredge to get reanimation targets in the yard, Dread Return, and the swing for game. Greenseeker, Llanowar Mentor and Fa'adiyah Seer are supposed to get dredgers in the yard. These creatures are also used in the late game for Dread Return sacrifice purposes. Grave Trolls, Thugs and Imps, are for dredging, as well as Life from the Loam and Dakmor Salvages. Life from the Loam is used to get more lands in your hand if you are mana-screwed. This deck likes to accumulate mana, and fast. If you have some fattie targets in your hand, use the mana and hardcast them. There are 4 different fatties for reanimation. The best one is Teneb, becuase with him out you can reanimate things in your opponent's grave also."
Ben says: Another great effort! This deck uses Life from the Loam as a way to make sure it has enough mana in the mid-game, but I still think that 20 lands is too few to run in a deck that wants to make sure it hits four lands on turn four. Since reanimation targets are the way this deck intends on winning, I would have tried to fit in a couple more targets in this deck as well. The basic engine of this deck seems great, you just want to be sure that you don't get stuck with a ton of dredgers and dredge enablers, and nothing to win the game with!
Deck #3: Mono-Black Fatties (Ankou – 25.1 Tickets)
Ankou's Mono-Black Fatties
Ankou says: "I ended up going mono-black with Edge of Autumn for cycling. The point of the deck is to get as many Tombstalkers and/or Avatar of Woes on the field as quickly as possible by having a lot of things in your graveyard or playing Zombify or Dread Return while either Tombstalker or Avatar of Woe are in your graveyard. I picked Tombstalker and Avatar of Woe over Mortivore because they have evasion. Both Edge of Autumn and Street Wraith are dredge enablers and Street Wraith can get you an early extra card (plus he can be a 3/4 beater in a pinch) while Edge of Autumn can get you an extra card in the later game and thin out your deck. Stinkweed Imp, Darkblast, and Nightmare Void dredge and get rid of threats your opponents has, Dimir House Guard can tutor for Dread Return or Zombify (plus House Guard and Imp can also be used for attacking if needed.) The creature count could be upped by putting in Plagued Rusalka instead of Darkblasts and Stronghold Rats instead of Nightmare Void, making it easier to get creatures into the graveyard, but I think the first build should stick with dredge spells."
Ben says: "I love the idea of combining Avatar of Woe and Tombstalker as kill conditions—both are big, beefy, and evasive. I like having eight reanimation spells to go with eight major fatties, so the kill condition seems fit. However, there are a couple of problems with implementation in this deck. First, how do you get dredge cards into your graveyard? Unless your opponent has a first-turn creature you can Darkblast, the earliest that you'll be dredging is turn four (assuming you play a Stinkweed Imp on the third turn, and then it dies). Without a reliable way to get your dredge cards into your graveyard, there isn't going to be a lot of dredging going on. A card like Stronghold Rats would definitely help as a way to put your own cards from your hand to your graveyard.
Also, are there enough creatures in this deck to support Avatar of Woe? Tombstalker should be fine because of dredging and Edge of Autumn, but Avatar of Woe expressly needs creatures, and you only have sixteen creatures in this deck, total. You also aren't running a lot of creature removal, so you won't be able to directly put your opponent's creatures into their graveyard from play either. This deck has a solid concept, but I think that you probably would want to add green for a dredge engine, which would give you access to Greenseeker (as an early dredge enabler, and as another creature), Golgari Grave-Troll (again, a creature and a dredger), and a way to play Edge of Autumn if you draw it early.
Deck #4: Black-Green Beatdown (Sam111111 – 29.5 Tickets))
Sam111111 says: "From a glance, it looks like this build could have color distribution problems—Nether Traitor is two black, which the rest of the deck doesn't need, while Mwonvuli Acid-Moss is two green. It seems relatively resilient against both aggro (early walls leading to finishers) and control (recursive finishers and the ability to start on a fast clock), while rolling over to combo (no hand disruption and a slower clock). Since you have .5 tickets left over, you can put Nightmare Void into the deck in the sideboard (along with 11 basic lands, I guess). If combo's too prevalent in your meta, or if Extirpates are running around like mad for your Grave-Trolls, you could add them to the main, perhaps even removing one of the Tombstalkers and opening up enough tix to run Harmonize... but that's a different take. Changes are for you to make. (Only YOU have the power!)."
Ben says: This might be the logical evolution of the Mono-Black deck built above. This deck packs early threats (Plagued Rusalka, Nether Traitor, Moldervine Cloak), late threats (Golgari Grave-Troll and Tombstalker), and some mid-game disruption (Mwonvuli Acid-Moss and Stinkweed Imp). I think that this deck might want to run Llanowar Elves over Wall of Roots, as it's a better target for Moldervine Cloak, and the deck doesn't have a great need for the extra early defense that a 0/5 wall can provide. This would free up the budget to add a Nightmare Void or two, which would be a fine choice as hand disruption—giving the deck a way to attack creatures (Darkblast, Plagued Rusalka), the hand (Nightmare Void) and lands (Mwonvuli Acid-Moss). All in all, a very polished deck.
Deck #5: B/G/W Toolbox (XmontyX – 26.6 Tickets)
XmontyX says: "I combined classic dredge reanimator with a Dimir House Guard toolbox. First turn either Greenseeker or Mentor for a quick discard outlet and color fixer/thinner or accelerant. After this you can play the deck two ways. Either immediately start dredging by discarding upkeep and dredging during draw, hoping to dump reanimator targets, or play a little more control early on: fix and accelerate your mana, transmute for persecute to empty their hand. Or transmute for Greater Good as a draw engine with a fattened Grave-Troll once you start dredging. The kill is Grave-Troll, Mystic Enforcer, Teneb, or Blazing Archon."
Ben says: Wow, I really like everything that was put into this deck—with a full three point four tickets left to spare, XmontyX managed to cram Persecute
, Mystic Enforcer
, Loxodon Hierarch
, Greater Good
, Teneb, the Harvester
, and Blazing Archon
into one deck. In addition, he made it so that most of these cards could be tutored for with Dimir House Guard
—which also goes to feed Golgari Grave-Troll
That is not to say that this deck is without need of tuning. For one, there simply aren't enough lands in this deck to support a deck that needs a minimum of four lands to get going. Even with the mana acceleration, you're going to want another four lands in this deck to ensure smooth sailing. These would probably be Swamps, since five Swamps is not enough to reliably transmute Dimir House Guard, even with Greenseeker to help out the mana base. I think I also would have liked to have seen one Avatar of Woe as a reanimation target, since this deck lacks any removal—it's just a good a kill card as any other creature in this deck, plus it gives you an out if you desperately need to kill an opposing creature on the board.
Deck #6: Black/Green/White Control (Chiefbandit – 30 Tickets)
Chiefbandit's BGW Control
Chiefbandit says: "I played a deck that was similar to this at Regionals. It had a good showing going 5-3. Between the Edge of Autumn and Evolution Charms you shouldn't have land problems, and there should be enough removal to let this deck build into the real creature drops. With the ability to dredge Nightmare Void you can handle control decks and combo decks."
Ben says: This deck was one of the few to really feature a good amount of control cards—a suite of Faith's Fetters, Mortify, and Putrefy really works wonders for controlling the board. In addition, the mana-fixing is there with Edge of Autumn and Evolution Charm. Loxodon Hierarch, Teneb, the Harvester, and Vulturous Zombie are fine finishers, and Debtors' Knell gives the deck a bit of a late game punch—especially if it is killing opposing creatures all day long.
Once again, though, there just aren't enough lands in this deck. This deck wants to get up to seven mana on turn seven, and twenty-one lands isn't going to cut that. In addition, this deck doesn't have a real way to get card advantage—all of its spells are one-for-one, so if the opponent starts recurring creatures (say, with their own Debtor's Knell) or outdrawing this deck (which gets one card a turn), this deck could run into trouble. I'd probably find a way to up the land count in this deck (maybe cut an Edge of Autumn, an Evolution Charm, and a Nightmare Void) to make room for three more lands, and then consider cutting the Bitter Ordeals in favor of Harmonize. I think this deck would rather draw three cards than remove 1-2 threats from an opponent's deck. Otherwise, very solid—although this isn't a dredge deck, it shows off the power of the card pool available.
Deck #7: Green-White Cards-in-Hand (Zachary74 – 29.45 Tickets)
Zachary74's GW Cards-in-Hand
Zachary74 says: "The idea is to keep your hand size large and slowly but surely drop large creatures. Most of the cards either net you extra cards (Harmonize, Life from the Loam, Magus of the Library) or replace themselves (Edge of Autumn, Greenseeker). Once you get a Magus of the Library and Life from the Loam, you should be able to wreak some serious card advantage."
Ben says: I like how this deck has a goal, and builds around it—get cards in hand and keep them there. Drawing extra cards is never a bad thing (extra cards equals extra options equals extra chances to win the game), and a deck that benefits creatures (Maro, Magus of the Library) by drawing extra cards is just a bonus. Twenty-four lands is the right number for this deck, so the land count is spot-on as well.
If I were to tinker with this deck, I'd absolutely get four Selesnya Sanctuary into the deck! This is a land that helps mana-fix the white-green connection, plus lets you play a land drop while returning a land to your hand (which works towards the deck's focus of keeping cards in hand). In addition, I think I'd want to lean a little more heavily on Mystic Enforcer as a finisher. With all the card drawing (and dredging) that's going on, it shouldn't be too hard to achieve threshold with this deck. If you took out 1 Harmonize and 1 Congregation at Dawn, you could add in 2 Mystic Enforcers, which I think would make a big difference in giving this deck more oomph.
Deck #8: White-Green Threshold (Endymion2 – 25.6 Tickets)
Endymion2 says: "Get seven cards into the graveyard to empower the Mystic Enforcer, while gaining life from Peace of Mind. As an extra, use the Moldervine Cloak to have a complete nasty flyer. Or what about getting out some more lands with Edge of Autumn/Evolution Charm and let Jolrael do her work? Loxodon Hierarch is there as backup if something goes wrong with the attack, and he can chew some enemy himself. By the way, 4 life gain from our hearty elephant is also nice. Enjoy!"
Ben says: This deck packs a powerful one-two punch of Mystic Enforcer and Loxodon Hierarch. In addition, it has a lot (and I mean a lot) of mana acceleration—Llanowar Elves, Selesnya Signet, Llanowar Mentor, and Edge of Autumn. In addition, there are threshold-enabling outlets (Peace of Mind, Llanowar Mentor, Jolreal), and so this deck can just come out swinging.
I would have liked to have seen a way to easily get threshold in this deck through Golgari Grave-Troll. A single dredged Grave-Troll is nearly instant threshold for Mystic Enforcer. Perhaps a couple of copies of Congregation at Dawn would have worked well for this deck—the ability to tutor up three straight major threats (Hierarchs, Grave-Troll and Mystic Enforcer) is very strong. Plus, this deck has no way to affect the opponent's board. I might have tried to get some Faith's Fetters (3-4) in there as well, just as a failsafe. Faith's Fetters can play both offense (shutting down blockers) and defense (shutting down attackers), so they are rarely ever useless.
Deck #9: White-Green Glare Control (Suicidal Hamster – 29.95 Tickets)
Suicidal Hamster's WG Glare Control
Suicidal Hamster says: "I decided to avoid a Dredge strategy for two main reasons:
a) I thought it would help me stand out from the crowd.
b) I wasn't overly impressed with the selection of cards Ben chose for us to use (oh well, there goes my shot at winning this thing!). I struggled to construct a good dredge decklist without Delirium Skeins and especially Svogthos. The choice of reanimator targets was also unappealing, as the better targets are either in the wrong colour (Bogardan Hellkite) or too expensive (Akroma).
This deck aims to consistently play out efficiently costed creatures and beat down for the win. The Elves and Wall of Roots help me to accelerate into the likes of Calciderm, Mystic Enforcer, and Big Dumb Elephants, and then also serve to remove blockers via Glare of Subdual. Congregation at Dawn allows me to consistently draw the creatures I need and also serves as a tutor for utility creatures such as Saffi and the singleton Enforcer. Finally, the Guildmage can either pump out extra chump-blockers and tappers or pump my team for the last few points of damage, and the Deadwood Treefolk give me some late-game staying power."
Ben says: It's no dredge deck, but it is a pretty finely tuned machine. The deck starts out with acceleration and set-up effects (Congregation at Dawn, Glare of Subdual, Wall of Roots, Llanowar Elves) and then explodes mid-game with big fatties (Calciderm, Loxodon Hierarch), recursion elements (Deadwood Treefolk, Saffi Eriksdotter) and removal (Glare of Subdual, Faith's Fetters). This deck is pretty much complete, and would only need very fine tuning—the most immediate change I'd make is trying to find a way to fit a third Glare of Subdual in the list somehow.
Deck #10: White-Green Glare Beatdown (Pablofactor - 27.8 Tickets)
Pablofactor's WG Glare Beatdown
Pablofactor says: "I post this deck because I think it could be good for a budget deck and it fits within the parameters of the contest. A lot of decks posted so far contain cards not on Ben's list. Without decent-three drops, you need to have a Llanowar Elves, a Weathered Wayfarer, or an Edge of Autumn to hit a powerful four-cost creature on turn three. A Moldervine Cloak played on even the smallest creature is a fast clock and Glare of Subdual works well in this deck too."
Ben says: Similar in principal to the Glare Control above, this deck uses Glare as the finisher for the deck—a way to punch through damage of smaller creatures. I love the synergy between Edge of Autumn and Weathered Wayfarer—many people ignore this completely, but Edge of Autumn can give Weathered Wayfarer a surprise activation when your opponent least expects it.
I think this deck definitely wants to run Selesnya Sanctuary. It has a lot of white-green gold cards (or cards with dual activations like Selesnya Guildmage) and the Sanctuary would help with this a lot. Otherwise, a very solid-looking (non-dredge) deck.
Deck #11: Jolrael Land Destruction (Camlok80 – 26.3 Tickets)
Note: Although this deck included Golgari Rot Farm (which disqualifies it as the deck I'm going to choose to evolve), I thought it was an interesting enough twist that I wanted to include it in this article.
Camlok80's Jolreal Land Destruction
Camlok80 says: "Early defenses are from Imp and the Mentor, and the various creature removals. Bitter Ordeal can be used with gravestorm = three or more during early game just to have an idea on the opponent's deck. Does not really need to use Empress + Punishment + Ordeal as that is overkill; Empress with lands should ensure your victory already. A better way might be to use those Elf tokens + Punishment + Ordeal + Recollect + Ordeal."
Ben says: Jolreal can target either player—so if you turn all of your opponent's lands into 3/3 creatures, and then play Crime // Punishment for zero, you kill all of your opponent's lands! Combine this with Bitter Ordeal, and you will have left your opponent with no lands on the board, and have taken out 5-10 cards from their deck (one for each land you killed) as the punishment!
Although Camlock80 says that the deck doesn't need the Empress/Punishment combo to win, I would have liked to have seen it pushed a little more—maybe with another Empress, and one fewer Bitter Ordeal. I also think this deck might have wanted to run Tombstalker—both as another way to win, and as a way to take advantage of all the cards being dredged/thrown in the graveyard.
Deck #12: Black-Green-White Gruntcursion (DELangley)
DELangley's Black-Green-White Gruntcursion
DELangley says: "My central goal for the deck was to find a reliable engine to exploit the mechanic... Jötun Grunt allows for mean, MEAN deck stacking (and Reclaim serves as a hella sick tutor) when a full quarter of your deck is dredgable. More chatter after the goods.
Ideally, the deck drops creatures steadily and is perfectly willing to trade them until its engine is intact, while serving the dredge/threshold cause in the meantime. Putrefy and Mortify serve to eliminate heavy threats. The Jötun Grunts allow you to recycle both removal and tutors once the engine is running. Continue eliminating impediments until you can swing with baddies for the kill. With an appropriate sideboard (and maybe a little less budget restriction), I feel this deck can be a serious contender. Thanks, and holla with any comments."
Ben says: Ladies and gentlemen, we have our winner! This is the deck I'm going to start evolving next week—this deck just seems like it's got so much going on! Dredge works really well with Mortivore
, Mystic Enforcer
and Nether Traitor
(since you get to throw them into the graveyard for free, and bring them back once something dies). It has mana fixing (bouncelands, Greenseeker
), removal (Mortify
), card advantage (Life from the Loam
, Nether Traitor
with Dredge), and best of all, an engine!
It's the engine which really drew me to this deck. If you can dredge your entire deck into the graveyard, and then play Jötun Grunt, you get to put cards back on the bottom of your library in any order you want—effectively, turning Jötun Grunt into a way to set up your deck for the rest of the game. Not only is it a big 4/4 beater (that you feed with your own dredged cards), but it can ensure that you'll draw whatever you need, when you need it, late in the game.
See you all next week as I start with DELangley's build, and evolve his dredge deck from there! Thank you to everybody who participated in this challenge—I will definitely do this again (it was extremely popular), and I read each and every entry in the forums and appreciated the effort that went into them.