There are few decks that have captured my interest more than the Legacy deck Manaless Dredge. A deck that broke all the rules, A deck that didn’t need any lands to work and, A deck that was unique to all other decks in magic. This led me down a dark path with one single goal.
How do I make this work in Commander?
Now to be completely transparent you can’t make a deck that works completely like the Legacy Manaless Dredge in commander. However, if we twist the definition, we can make this work. So to make a “manaless” dredge work we need to run zero lands… well at least zero real lands. This is where the MDFCs from Zendikar risings come in, This deck doesn’t run a single “land” instead of running 28 of the MDFCs. Now there is a deck-building reason for this, as it lets a few cards that otherwise seem downright terrible and changes them into game-winning bombs.
These three cards in this deck function as a one-card combo with both Undercity Informer, Hermit Druid, and Balustrade Spy milling the entire Library into the graveyard which is a place that baring disruption from the opponent the deck is always able to win from.
Now how does this deck win?
There is a linear route that this takes but, there are a few routes that the said path can take. Assuming that the entire deck is in the graveyard with either Undercity informer, Balustrade Spy, or with the dredge cards (Those are coming up a bit later). There are a few “routes” that the deck can take to win. So, step one you need to reanimate something from the graveyard and since this is a graveyard-focused reanimation spells with flashbacks are the best way to bring stuff back. With the best of the Three being Dread Return.
Dread Return is the go-to reanimation spell in the deck with a near-guaranteed ability to cast it when the deck is put into the graveyard. This takes us to the first tangent
Cards that bring themselves back
So to cast Dread Return there need to be creatures to sacrifice, which is surprisingly easy considering a near guarantee that Narcomeoba will be milled and will enter the battlefield.
Now there are only a few hoops that we need to jump through to get that third creature on the same turn and, to do that the Narcomeoba must DIE!
Now the Narcomeoba needs to die so that it can turn into a 2 2/2 Black Zombie with Bridge from Below and Magus of the Bridge. with this setup, the tapping of the Zombies and the Delving of 5 useless spells. The scourge of modern can come onto the battlefield, the creature that never dies,
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis Shall Arrive.
Only for Hogaak to be sacrificed again with Dredge Return
What to reanimate?
Here is where the win conditions start to come in, from this possession there are a few routes that can be taken. My personal favorite being the Goblin Dark-dwellers and Living End. First, you target Goblin Dark-Dwellers with Dredge Return, then you target and cast Living End from the graveyard, Re-animating the entire graveyard.
Then once the horde of creatures comes out of the deck and, assuming that all the other combos are exiled with Hogaak. Then you can swing out with haste due to Dragonlord Kolaghan which grants all of your creatures haste dealing a total of around 94 damage and if you sacrifice Magus of the bridge and all the 0/X’s, 1/X, 2/X and, 4/X’s to Viscera Seer it is possible to deal over 154 damage divided among players (This is not taking into account blood artist triggers)
Now while this path is a lot of fun this path isn’t the most effective finish, with there being two possible combo finishes with this deck with the first one starting with Sun Titan re-animation. Now as you start hearing someone singing “Sasageyo Sasageyo” in the distance, you target Sun Titans ability Animate Dead which comes onto the battlefield bringing back Worldgorger Dragon.
This creates an infinite combo where there is an infinite amount of Sun Titan triggers that are used to bring back blood artist Viscera Seer and any other creature that you please. Which ends up dealing infinite blood artist triggers and Sun Titan brings back the creature that is to be sacrificed to kill the player.
The last route is the most boring and the most effective. While This is the one, I cut from my list it is the hardest to stop. The last thing you bring back with Dread Return is Thassa’s Oracle which wins the game as there is only going to be a total of 1 card in your deck
Now if Dread return is countered a few other reanimation spells are also used but are a tad bit slower with Unburial Rites, Reanimate (if it is in your hand), Diregraf Rebirth, and finally, Can’t stay away. Which helps give the deck a bit more staying power against counterspells or other disruptions
Now there is one more win condition before moving forward and, that is Goblin Charbelcher which functions as a death star being able to kill an opponent once each turn for only three mana as this deck doesn’t have any lands
Won’t you die from Mill?
Now the most important thing that this deck has to deal with is not dying once the library is our graveyard and, thankfully there is a solution to solve our woes, with that card being Nexus of Fate
Because nexus of fate gets shuffled into the library anytime, it enters the graveyard it is possible to create a loop in which Nexus of Fate is drawn discarded or in the best-case scenario cast and is put into the graveyard where it is then put back on top of the library to be drawn again.
How do you get through the deck?
Now the section that makes or breaks this deck is card draw and, thankfully, there is plenty of support that allows the deck to be drawn through at a record pace. Now the one thing that makes this deck slightly different from other decks is that Mill cards also are the same thing as card draw in this deck so cards like Increasing Confusion or Dream Twist function as top-notch draw spells in this deck.
The deck still runs traditional card draw spells and, thankfully with the new set Innistrad: Midnight Hunt There is a new toy to play with, Faithful Mending. Faithful mending is the card that I feel made this deck possible as it gave the deck another Faithless looting type of effect which the deck needed desperately. Plus, Faithful Mending, Faithless looting, and Farm//Market work well with dredge creatures as they let you dredge them back to your hand only for them to be discarded again.
Other Card draw spells like Deep Analysis and Chemister’s insight gives a way to get more cards in the hand if we are searching for another land, or give an extra way to dredge at a faster rate which gives the deck a certain element of strategy so that it can be piloted effectively. However, most of that can be solved by asking a simple question: do I have enough lands to continue to draw more cards?
Now some of the card draw spells like Ox of Agonas have been seeing play in dredge decks since it was first printed, and for good reason as Ox of Agonas provides an effective way to get through the deck at a shocking pace. When casting Ox of Agonas there is a high probability that there are cards in the hand that need to end up in the graveyard which Ox of Agonas does by discarding the hand and, because there is most likely a few dredgers in that hand you can immediately start dredging cards filing up the graveyard with around 10 to 15 cards in my experience. Now the other card that stands out in this deck is Siphon Insight that while technically not being a card draw spell it still feels like it fits here. The wonderful thing about Siphon Insight is the ability to get lands from our opponent deck and, with lands being a rare resource in this deck any card that can get more becomes a powerhouse that pumps this deck to the next level.
Dredge and other Dredge support cards
Now as you would expect a deck that is named Manaless Dredge is running quite a few Dredge cards, which is a correct assumption to make as the deck runs 7 dredge cards. With three of the dredgers standing out from the rest, those being Golgari Thug, Stinkweed Imp, and Golgari Grave-Troll. The reason they stand out about the rest being that they can dredge four, five, and six cards. These three cards are the backbone that builds this deck. Making sure that the graveyard ends up in the library at a record pace.
Now there are a few support cards that bring these dredgers into the next level with those support cards being separated into two main categories, this card works while in the graveyard, or this card works while on the battlefield. Now the first group has some of the most unique cards with unknown gems such as Gigapede and Phantasmagorian. These two cards both have abilities that for the cost of discarding card(s) that card can be brought to the hand.
Now Gigapede works really well with dredge creatures because its ability triggers before the draw step on your upkeep allowing you to discard a dredger like Golgari Grave-Troll and then immediately Dredge it back to the hand making so that the same dredge card can be used twice
Then if Gigapede and Phantasmagorian are paired up together hand-making you are starting to play with gas. With Phantasmagorian making it so that you can discard three cards and bring Phantasmagorian into your hand. Now assuming that both Gigapede and Golgari Grave-Troll are in your hand from the interaction above, you can then discard those two cards along with an extra card and do the same song and dance. Now in certain circumstances, it is best to discard Phantasmagorian with Gigapede’s ability and then activate Phantasmagorian’s ability to fill up the graveyard with dredging goodness. Plus if a combo piece is stuck in hand after the library has been put into the graveyard, then you can activate Phantasmagorian’s ability, put those cards in the graveyard, and then Continue and combo off.
The next group is the most effective in the long-term as it allows for repeated discard of dredgers so that there will never be a time where a dredger isn’t in the graveyard. This is the key role that Putrid Imp and Noose Constrictor play in the deck with both creatures having an ability that must discard a single card as its cost. This gives the deck some consistency with the main drawback being that they are fragile creatures. The other main discarder would have to be Tortured Existence which functions as the most valuable piece of dredging and recursion in this deck with it discarding dredger and being able to bring back an MDFCs that are also creatures making so that there is no fear to dredge as land drops are always an activation away.
What about removal?
Removal is the area in which this deck struggles the most with as this deck doesn’t run a single board wipe because zero board wipes that are priced with a flashback. So overall the best course of action for this deck is to ignore what our opponents are doing, try, and win faster than they do. There are a few pieces of removal that this deck runs. The main purpose of these spells is to stop graveyard hate as that all but kills this deck so to hopefully get around those cards like Ray of Revelations and Shenanigans take care of troublesome enchantments and artifacts. While Start // Finish helps take care of troublesome creatures and the front half synergizes with the commander of this deck. Finally, Vengeful Pharaoh functions as an anti-attack measure making it so that if an opponent attacks us, they are for sure going to lose a creature in the process.
How does this deck ramp?
Due to this deck’s nature, it can’t fall on the traditional search for lands strategy that the green deck can rely on and, with the minuscule number of lands this deck runs, those ramp spells that are being run need to be cheap and efficient. There being a total of around eight ramp spells in this deck with those ramp cards falling into two categories, Repeatable ramp spells and, one-time use ramp
Now the first category runs a few of the zero mana artifacts with the well-known ones being Chrome Mox and Mox tantilite. However, this deck also runs a few obscure zero mana ramp spells such as Jeweled Amulet which allows you to store up mana from one turn and bring it into the next turn. There is also one enchantment that is being run that can either be the best source of mana in this deck or the worst and that card is Carpet of Flowers. With its main source of inconsistency coming from the fact that it relies upon the opponents to have Islands in play, however even if Carpet of Flowers only can generate one mana that is still enough for this deck to go off because Carpet of Flowers can generate mana of any color.
Now one-time mana ramps spell functions a bit different but, overall are just as effective to get to a winning place. Overall, the best time to use these effects is when you can win from them such as if you have Hermit druid and Elvish Spirit Guild in your hand, plus land on the battlefield. Then the best course of action is to exile Elvish Spirit Guild to cast Hermit druid.
Who is the commander?
Overall, this deck doesn’t care about the commander other than it must be a five-color commander. However, the best choice of a commander is a cheap commander that is easy to cast (preferable one color in its casting cost) and can hold down a game on its own if the graveyard is wiped and, after looking at all the commanders, only one commander fits that bill. So to head this deck I choose Najeela, the Blade-Blossom. The main reason Najeela is the best commander is due to her first ability as it allows her to create an army that if left alone is more than capable of taking over a game, with her being able to create 2(x-1)+1creatures where x is the number of combat stops. Also, Najeela’s second ability starts additional combat steps which quicken the pace it would take to kill our opponents with combat damage.