There are three Modern Grand Prix this weekend in Indianapolis, France, and China, which means Modern is on the mind of many players. There have been some major developments in Modern since the last Modern Weekend this spring, specifically the breakout of Golgari Grave-Troll-fueled Dredge decks that were supercharged by Shadows over Innistrad cards like Insolent Neonate and Prized Amalgam, and Eldritch Moon cards like Haunted Dead. The continued evolution and refinement of these decks has earned them sustained high-profile success, which has turned Modern on its head by adding a brand new top-tier competitor that demands its own special class of sideboard hoser.
Metagame evolution in Modern is slower relative to Standard, and so far Dredge has been a minor presence in the metagame. Its successes over the past few weekends means the ball is beginning to roll downhill and gain momentum, and things will come to a head this weekend as scores of players try their luck with Modern's newest broken offering.
The impact of Dredge in the metagame is further magnified as tournament rounds go on and Dredge players rise to the top tables. If you want to win a Modern tournament anytime in the near future, you are going to have to get through Dredge.
The same old sideboard cards as last month aren't going to do the job anymore. Dredge has evolved over the past few months in a world where graveyard hate has grown from an incidental factor to its major obstacle to success. The classic Modern sideboard gives some small amount of respect to the graveyard, with maybe two copies of Grafdigger's Cage or Rest in Peace in the sideboard, and that is not enough help for most decks to beat Dredge the majority of the time. Those old sideboards don't reflect the current situation — Dredge is a tier-one deck that most opponents require a critical mass of specific and dedicated hosers to beat.
Players are gaining awareness of Dredge and increasing their number of hosers, but Dredge decks have reacted by positioning their sideboards squarely against the solutions opponents bring to the table. A player leaning on Leyline of the Void to get the job done against Dredge will be left vulnerable by a single Nature's Claim, which makes it just a minor speedbump for the opponent, and Abrupt Decay and Ancient Grudge make short work of other commonly-played hosers.
With Dredge decks well-tested and designed to Withstand the graveyard hosers the field is throwing at it, the next step is to re-position by playing the graveyard hosers that Dredge decks aren't prepared for. There are swaths of unique graveyard hosers in Modern, and some of them are specifically excellent for the current situation. Today I'll lay out the best-kept secrets against Dredge decks that will catch them unprepared and leave you with the advantage.
Rest in Peace is powerful and Relic of Progenitus offers value, but Tormod's Crypt is efficient. It removes the opponent's entire graveyard in one shot for no mana investment, and that's a huge benefit because you need to enact your own strategy and close out the game, otherwise Dredge will take the time to rebuild from whatever you throw at it. Compared to Leyline of the Void, Tormod's Crypt is much more consistent because it does not need to be drawn in the opening hand. The volatile Leyline of the Void is exactly what Dredge is prepared for with Nature's Claim, which makes playing it senseless given its inherent risks. Tormod's Crypt can also be comfortably played in any number, where Leyline of the Void is best as a four-of. Keep in mind that Tormod's Crypt can be found with Tolaria West or re-used with Academy Ruins, and Ancient Stirrings digs towards it.
A reasonable halfway point between Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus is Nihil Spellbomb, which is functionally a one-mana Tormod's Crypt with upside in black decks.
If Dredge decks are prepared for permanent-based graveyard hosers, the natural thing to do is play hosers that do their job in the face of such countermeasures. Like Tormod's Crypt, Faerie Macabre removes cards from the opponent's graveyard for free, but it does so with a surprise factor. This makes it useful for its ability to catch the opponent off-guard, potentially even in response to a card drawing spell to neutralize their ability to dredge. It's not very powerful, so a deck would want a good reason to play it over Tormod's Crypt. Its creature status is one benefit, so it could turn Traverse the Ulvenwald into a hoser. Faerie Macabre could be useful in the future if Dredge decks begin to fight back against Tormod's Crypt and other cheap hosers with Chalice of the Void.
Much like Tormod's Crypt, Ravenous Trap can be used for just zero mana, and like Faerie Macabre, it comes with the surprise factor of instant speed. The downsides are obvious, in that its use is largely restricted to situations where the opponent has already built their graveyard that turn, but that makes it no less powerful. It's arguably the most backbreaking card against the Dredge deck because it can take their entire graveyard by surprise after they spent a turn building it, which potentially effectively ends the game if their library has run out of resources.
Beyond the high upside, Ravenous Trap is one of the finest hosers against Dredge because it is difficult for them to counteract. Currently, most Dredge hosers are permanents, so Dredge brings in removal for them. If hosers moved towards other cards like Faerie Macabre and Tormod's Crypt, Dredge could react by using other disruption like Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker, but Ravenous Trap gets around those as well. Ravenous Trap requires that the opponent have non-Inquisition of Kozilek discard to be counteracted, but discard isn't a viable option for them when opponents are using Leyline of the Void and one-mana graveyard hosers. Thus Thoughtseize has gone from a staple in some Dredge sideboards to conspicuously absent, which means Ravenous Trap will be highly effective.
Like Tormod's Crypt, Bojuka Bog exiles the opponent's graveyard for no mana, although replacing a land drop means it is clunky in its own way. Bojuka Bog isn't the first hoser of choice for most decks, but it does come with its own unique advantages. One, its triggered ability means it can't be stopped by Pithing Needle, Chalice of the Void, Thoughtseize, Counterspells, or really anything Dredge might realistically play.
Bojuka Bog would be effective as part of a Traverse the Ulvenwald toolbox. It's colorless for Ancient Stirrings, and it's a necessity for anyone playing Knight of the Reliquary, which can be looked at as a graveyard hoser in its own right because of its interaction with the land. It's also curiously targetable by Life from the Loam, so it could work as a way to earn an advantage in the Dredge mirror match.
An old favorite hoser against Dredge is Loaming Shaman, which comes attached with the ability to disrupt the opponent's graveyard or Recycle your own. It shuffles cards back in, so it's not quite as nice as exiling them, but it definitely has the ability to set Dredge decks behind. Loaming Shaman costs three mana, so it's a bit slow to be a primary Dredge hoser, but what it lacks in efficiency it makes up for with its 2G 3/2 body, which can be found with Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution, Collected Company, or Traverse the Ulvenwald. Perhaps the biggest upside of its creature status and its come-into-play trigger is that it can be re-used, so it works very well in toolbox packages alongside Reclamation Angel and/or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in particular.
An oft-forgotten graveyard hoser is Jund Charm, which comes with the mode of cleanly exiling the opponent's graveyard like an instant-speed Tormod's Crypt. Three mana makes it slow and clunky, but the effect is invaluable for creature removal-laden Jund decks that are vulnerable to Dredge strategies. Doubling up as a board sweeper makes it a great way to contain aggression and buy time, and it could deliver a knockout blow if backed up by Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet or Scavenging Ooze.
The younger, smaller, leaner sibling of Jund Charm is Rakdos Charm, which comes with the same ability to exile a graveyard, except the mana discount makes it a more reliable option as a primary graveyard hoser. Like Jund Charm, Rakdos Charm comes with the upside of its other abilities. The ability of each creature dealing a damage to its controller could actually prove situationally useful against the Dredge deck, but the main upside of playing Rakdos Charm is the benefit of its alternate use as artifact removal. It's a valuable card against Affinity or any other graveyard strategy like Lantern Control, so it's a versatile and powerful sideboard in a condensed package. One of the strengths of Dredge is that players just can't afford to play a lot of hate for it, and intelligent solutions like Rakdos Charm replacing something like Ancient Grudge would allow a deck to increase its amount of Dredge hate while maintaining the same number of cards to use against another deck famous for demanding sideboard space, Affinity.
While not a graveyard hoser directly, Anger of the Gods sweeps the entirety of the creature base of Dredge besides Greater Gargadon and Golgari Grave-Troll, and it exiles them so they can't be reanimated again, all without triggering Bridge from Below. It directly attacks their strategy of flooding the board with creatures that will inevitably win any attrition war, so it's an ideal card for any deck attempting to control the Dredge deck over the course of the game, and it's a great way to buy time in decks that aren't winning with small creatures of their own.
Anger of the Gods used to be a Modern staple but has declined in popularity with a decrease in Abzan Company decks. Now is the perfect time to bring it back. Sweepers are great against a format filled with aggressive opponents like Infect, Affinity, and Merfolk, and dealing three damage is particularly useful against the marked increase of Wild Nacatl in decks like Death's Shadow Zoo and Burn.
Hallowed Moonlight is beginning to appear in Modern sideboards because of its flexibility, including its use against Dredge. It has been used in Mardu decks as a great way to counter Collected Company and Chord of Calling, but it also comes in handy against Dredge creatures entering the battlefield from the graveyard. It can be used in response to a Narcomoeba trigger to prevent it from entering play, but it's specifically excellent against Prized Amalgam; it has a trigger that isn't optional, so Hallowed Moonlight can be used after the first trigger to force any returning Prized Amalgam to instead exile itself. It can also be used in response to Bridge from Below triggers to prevent any Zombies from entering play. Hallowed Moonlight is not specifically excellent against Bloodghast, which has an optional trigger, but it can be used to stop them for a turn, making an upkeep Hallowed Moonlight something like Time Walk against Dredge decks.
The old favorite from Standard Abzan Aggro, Anafenza, the Foremost, is very punishing against the Dredge deck because it stops all of their payoffs from happening. It doesn't do anything about what has already occurred, but it prevents all future development, something like a Leyline of the Void for creatures on a body, and its knack for aggression allows it to close out the game quickly. It's a viable option for any aggressive deck that can cast it, which makes it a great card in specifically Abzan midrange, but it could also have potential in a Death's Shadow Zoo deck. It's the only card on this list that has to stay in play to do something, which means it is vulnerable to Abrupt Decay and Conflagrate, but its aggressive potential and resistance to Lightning Bolt make it an otherwise reasonable card with maindeck applications.
Dredge is difficult for the average opponent to interact with, so it requires that opponents either race it with their own strategy or rely on graveyard hosers to neutralize it. Even opponents planning to race tend to bring in some form of graveyard hoser, meaning Dredge constantly lives in a post-sideboard world where it is aware of and ready for the hate opponents bring to the table. As players find that their hosers are not effective, they will begin to diversify and force the Dredge deck to play a more broad suite of countermeasures to deal with the full range of hosers opponents present. The reality is that many decks won't be able to contain Dredge even with more hosers, so the metagame is going to shift towards faster, more aggressive and synergistic decks that are effective at racing against Dredge, and away from slower, more controlling decks that fall prey to Dredge's speed and durability.
How are you combating Dredge? Share your thoughts in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!