golgari grave troll art

“The ocean is big and blue. I just wanna sink to the bottom with you.”
-Fountains of Wayne

Introduction

Before Pascal Maynard was infamous for having some fiscal sense in a GP, I respected him for his Modern Dredge deck. I faced him round one of a daily and watched him dredge 18 cards on turn two. The cards included Unburial Rites, Bloodghast, and Craterhoof Behemoth. In short, my clock was ticking, and fast. A Narcomoeba and another Bloodghast later, in addition to his Greenseeker (of all things!), and I was to be attacked for well over 25 trampling damage on turn 4. Here is the deck he was playing:

Garltik Dredge (Modern)

Lands (18)
Windswept Heath
Grove of the Burnwillows
Blood Crypt
Temple Garden
Stomping Ground
Godless Shrine
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Forest
Mountain
Plains
Swamp

Creatures (27)
Bloodghast
Narcomoeba
Greenseeker
Llanowar Mentor
Golgari Grave-Troll
Stinkweed Imp
Craterhoof Behemoth

Other spells (15)
Faithless Looting
Life from the Loam
Lightning Axe
Unburial Rites
Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Engineered Explosives
Abrupt Decay
Gnaw to the Bone

I really loved what he was up to, and I acquired the deck that night. When I was taking it out for a spin, though, I noticed a lot of times that I would limp out of the gates. Whether one of my precious 1/1 enablers were killed before I could untap with them, a card with Dredge never appeared, or the only engine piece I had was Faithless Looting, I found Craterhoof Behemoth to be less exciting in this deck than, say, Legacy Elves. Why jump through all these hoops when the end result was a non-lethal 5/5 for 4? With all the power creep going on, is a Juzam Djinn even playable?

None of this is to say that Maynard failed brewing this up. The deck is extremely consistent at turn 4 kills, and in the control matches where Unburial Rites will not resolve, we have recurring 10/10 Golgari Grave-Trolls as backup.

Nevertheless, I wanted a fatty that would come into play and virtually win the game immediately even if the only thing I had done all game was cast Faithless Looting. I tried Iona, Shield of Emeria and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and while both did win many games on their own, there were still games that they weren’t enough. I consulted results from Legacy daily events and found this gem tucked away in some of their sideboards:

Stormtide Leviathan

He doesn’t win immediately, but he shuts down most opponents (I’ll get to you later, Affinity and Merfolk), and he wraps up the game in 2 to 3 attacks.

Then I decided that instead of going all Job 40 on people, I was going to go Job 41 on them. (Plus 1 for getting the reference.)

stormtide leviathan art

My adaptation

Immediately, the first change is to take out Craterhoof Behemoth and replace them with Stormtide Leviathan. During my practice sessions, against Zoo, Burn, and other aggressive decks, I was tremendously disappointed with Bloodghast. So often, I needed him as a blocker, and he wouldn’t come to my aid. Now that he can’t attack when we have gone off, he is certainly on the chopping block. Narcomoeba, meanwhile, helps us get to our critical turn by blocking Tarmogoyf et al. Additionally, Stormtide Leviathan making our lands into Islands allows us to cast the worthless Narcs that would otherwise be totally dead draws.

In place of the 4 Bloodghast, we have a few packages that are interesting to me:

A) 2 Vengeful Pharoah + 2 Gnaw to the Bone
B) 4 Lingering Souls
C) 4 Tormenting Voice
D) 4 Simian Spirit Guide

Each of these serve some different functions. Option A makes the most of a good thing. You want to beat Zoo and Burn nearly 100% of matches? Here you go. Since Merfolk is a problem (Islandwalking creatures can attack), it is nice to combine these two cards and try to see if they stall long enough for Vengeful Pharoah and a dredge card can wrath their board. Option B is helpful against Affinity and Infect, providing critical blockers. Additionally, it is solid in the control matchups that suffer some from losing Bloodghast. Option C gives us another enabler, allowing for dredging 12 on turn 2 even without our one-drops. Finally, option D allows for a turn 3 combo. With Craterhoof Behemoth, this was bad because he wouldn’t have enough company. Now, with a standalone reanimation fatty, it is an option to consider.

I tested each option some and found A and B to be the best because they operate after being dredged. Option B wins out because it helps favorable and unfavorable matchups.

The sideboard is going to change a bit to help us against the three decks that can still attack us: Affinity, Infect, and Merfolk. Here is what we’re left with:

Behold the Leviathan (Modern)

Land (18)
Grove of the Burnwillows
Windswept Heath
Overgrown Tomb
Blood Crypt
Godless Shrine
Stomping Ground
Sacred Foundry
Temple Garden
Forest
Plains
Mountain
Swamp

Creatures (23)
Narcomoeba
Llanowar Mentor
Greenseeker
Stormtide Leviathan
Golgari Grave-Troll
Stinkweed Imp

Other Spells (19)
Faithless Looting
Unburial Rites
Lingering Souls
Lightning Axe
Life from the Loam
Sideboard (15)
Blazing Archon
Terastodon
Vengeful Pharaoh
Gnaw to the Bone
Ancient Grudge
Abrupt Decay

How does this monstrosity work?

Well, the gameplan is simple, and there are not too many decisions to make. This was going to go under the Linear Primers series, but I felt that more established archetypes should go there.

Essentially, we want to discard dredge cards into the graveyard, dredge every draw step that we can, and cast Unburial Rites targeting Stormtide Leviathan for the soft lock and kill. By turn 4 (or 3 if we have accelerated with Llanowar Mentor), we want to have a fatty in the graveyard with Unburial Rites and four mana, one of them being white.

greenseeker mtg

Turn Zero

In order to do this, we need a hand that contains one of the following things:

A) Two mana sources, one of them green, a discard outlet, and a dredge card
B) A Greenseeker
C) A Llanowar Mentor and a white source

With option A, we can find Life from the Loam and get the colors and lands we need.

Option B is simplest because it operates on green mana alone and can find the colors we need as well as discard cards.

Option C allows us to ramp, flashback Unburial Rites, and discard.

Other than these things, most hands are mulligans. An ideal opening hand will include one of these and a dredge card.

Turn One

Sometimes our opener presents a few decisions. If you have multiple enablers, which takes priority between Faithless Looting, Greenseeker, and Llanowar Mentor?

If you have two lands in your opening hand that produce green mana, then Llanowar Mentor should be played first. You can cast Greenseeker afterward to get the other colors you need, and you will benefit from the mana acceleration.

Otherwise, a creature should get priority over Faithless Looting. First of all, looting is more powerful when you already have a dredge card in the graveyard, and secondly, you want the creature to be active on turn two rather than three.

Playing in MTGO, remember to set a stop at your upkeep to ensure you activate your creatures or cast Lightning Axe and dredge cards from your library during your draw step.

Against control, simply play your creatures out as you are able, and recur Golgari Grave-Trolls for beatdown. If you ever have a window, go ahead and cast Unburial Rites. Stop dredging when you are under 30 cards in your library.

Against everything else, go off as soon as possible, and enjoy the easy ride to victory! A fatty that prevents your opponent’s creatures from attacking AND blocking is rather sweet!

Sideboarding is fairly simple. The matchups where Lightning Axe can be cut are easy to identify. Otherwise, you can shave on combo pieces, particularly against combo and aggro.

8-man report

In the midst of testing this, I accidentally queued it up for an 8-man and didn’t realize it until going into round one versus burn. Expecting to see a Death’s Shadow in my opening hand and instead seeing a Llanowar Mentor, I was in for quite a shock.

RD 1 Burn 2-1
You will likely lose 90% of game 1s against burn, but with 4 Gnaw to the Bone (for combo pieces and Lightning Axe), games 2 and 3 are so easy.

RD 2 Zoo 2-0
Somehow he stumbled game one enough for me to chump block into Stormtide Leviathan. I was at 4 life, so he had two turns (because of his manabase) to draw Boros Charm or some combination of bolts, and he did not.
Other than his misstep in game 1, this match is much like Burn.

RD 3 Anafenza’s Company 2-0
He has Scavenging Ooze, but Lightning Axe took care of him before he got out of hand. Besides, the deck is constricted on green mana if you are able to dredge well. You are slightly concerned for their infinite combos, but with Abrupt Decay and Lightning Axe, you should be able to keep the problem under control.

I had no intention of writing about this deck until after this mistake, but once I played these decks and found them to be such a cakewalk to beat, I realized that this deck is very powerful. I want to play some ranked events where I encounter Merfolk, Affinity, and Infect to be sure, but I am otherwise positive that this deck is an easy one to acquire some packs and qualifying points!

-drinkard

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