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Manaless Dredge

Legacy Budget Dredge GWUB



Magic the Gathering as Richard Garfield intended... Just kidding! Beauty of Magic the Gathering rules is allowing this kind of "monstruosity"... Manaless Dredge doesn't play a single mana source, revolves around the graveyard zone, is all about triggers and its playline is a pure linear dynamic. Its philosophy is about breaking parity and bending the rules of MtG way out their original design! The list is built around cards with unique effects that must be carefully mixed to make sure it works. A Manaless Dredge deck must be thought as a "system", with pumps and drive-belts, gears and throttle. If most games will start with the same pattern (draw -> discard -> dredge), they will always be unique in their progress.


Why should you play Manaless Dredge? Well... do you like: Drawing 6 cards per turn? Getting legions of creatures for free? Stripping your opponent's hand of cards? Reanimating huge monsters with devastating effects? Winning against fair blue decks? Do you hate: Being mana screwed/flooded? Having your spells countered? Playing the same old and tired deck as anybody? Do you really HATE blue in general? If so, Manaless Dredge is for you!

However, playing Manaless Dredge is not for everybody. First, you'll need to set aside your natural reflexes of MtG player, like starting every game, wanting a hand full of cards and being OK with sometimes doing absolutely nothing during your turn. Secondly, you'll need to have an absolute and perfect knowledge of Legacy metagame and each of its decks and archetypes, past and present: it's not a beginner friendly deck. And finally, you will need the psychological attitude to accept losing against some overwhelming permanents.

It's difficult to categorize Manaless Dredge. You'll often find it in "combo" section. But is it a true and honest combo deck? Winning by overwhelming your opponent with early game 2/2s isn't exactly combo (it's fast aggro). Winning by annihilating your opponent's hand isn't combo either (it's heavy control). Post-board you'll often have to assume a "control" role before even getting started, and even after that, you'll win by grinding your opponent with a few 1/1s and 2/2s. Still a combo deck? Because of all of these different attitudes you need to master, the more I play it, the more I understand that Manaless Dredge isn't a beginner's deck. Playing Manaless Dredge requires expert skill to get the best out of it.


  • Your first goal is to discard a card at the end of your first turn end step. Then dredge it at your next draw step. You got started.

  • Your graveyard is your hand. "Dredging" literally equals drawing cards. Dredge 6 cards? You draw 6 cards!

  • NEVER go first. Also remember that opponent, after winning the dice roll, has to decide to go or to draw BEFORE drawing his starting hand.

  • Creatures in play are your main ressource, somewhat being similar to lands. They are your starting point for everything, casting spells, enabling triggers, etc. Without creatures in play, you (almost) don't play.


I play Manaless Dredge since 2014 and I played all versions: Heavy combo (with Balustrade Spy ), Blue (with Force of Will ), Green (with Dryad Arbor )... For the current metagame ( Wrenn and Six , Dark Depths , Red and Colorless Stompies, Show and Tell ) I think this list has the best chances.

Card by card analysis

Engine block

  • Since you always want a "dredge" card in your starting hand and never want to mulligan to discard as soon as possible, you need 15 at least "dredge" cards. I ran the numbers, with 15 "dredge" cards you'll have 91% "keep" starting hand, and only 84% "keep" with 14 "dredge" cards. The engine selection is quite straightforward, the best "dredge" cards available, including one card so powerful that it's restricted in Vintage. 4x Golgari Grave-Troll , 4x Stinkweed Imp , 3x Golgari Thug , 4x Shambling Shell . We play 1 more Shambling Shell over Golgari Thug because it's green and thus enable SB's Force of Vigor . You will always want to discard one of these cards at your first end step.

  • Besides a "dredge" card, the other card you want to discard first is Phantasmagorian . Phantasmagorian easily enables you to discard useful cards sitting in your hand, filling your graveyard faster. You can use Phantasmagorian's ability twice: a second time in response to the first, discarding 6 cards.

Aggro block

  • For a long time Dredge archetypes have been named after Ichorid . It is simply the best creature for the deck, a recuring Lightning Bolt that creates zombies. Manaless Dredge has plenty of black creatures to get him back. By order of priority the creatures to exile: Street Wraith, small dredgers, Phantasmagorian (if multiple), Ashen Rider (if multiple), another Ichorid (if there are 4x).

  • You don't even have to wait one turn to get Narcomoeba back. You dredge it you get it. It is your only free flying creature, a perk in the Depths match-up. Dead Narcomoebas will be used as delve to cast Hogaak.

  • Nether Shadow . The lesser of the three, but shouldn't be dismissed. It comes back fairly easily. Phantasmagorian helps quite a bit by dropping 3 creatures on top of him. When you dredge him, remember to place him the most bottom of the dredged cards.

  • Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is the newest main deck addition. Don't fear playing a full playset if you can. In early game they will mostly be exiled to bring back Ichorids. In mid-game it is a trampling 8/8 monster who will almost always connect to make damages. To summon it, exile your useless Narcomoebas, superfluous/small-dredge cards and tap zombies. Legendary rule will also help to trigger your Bridges. For late-game it adds diversity and another angle of attack. Finally, thanks to how delve mechanic works, you can cast Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis through Trinisphere and any taxing effect like Sphere of Resistance .

  • Bridge from Below . The deck could not be as powerful as it is without this card. Dredge is a rather strange archetype, as it wants its creatures dying and the enemy's creatures alive. Bridge from Below is a fantastic aggro accelerator, as one Cabal Therapy , one Ichorid will create many zombies. Dread Return will create thrice as many.

Tempo block

Manaless Dredge is deck slow to get started. You only really start playing by your 2nd turn, if you're lucky. Thanksfully there are ways to increase your speed, absolute by going faster yourself, and relative by slowing down your opponent.

  • Street Wraith is an absolute way to become faster. You dredge additionnal cards at your opponent end step. Afaik MtG rules allow you to place the cycled Street Wraith on top of dredged cards, this is useful for recuring Nether Shadows.

  • Chancellor of the Annex is a relative way to become faster. You get to tax the first spell of your opponent in the game. So they will either play a spell that is immediately countered, or delay their casting to turn 2. Either way you level tempo. Chancellor of the Annex also protects you against a turn 1 discard ( Thoughtseize , Duress , Inquisition of Kozilek ) which is equivalent to a Time Walk against you. Finally Chancellor of the Annex is an awesome creature to reanimate with Dread Return if you play against spell-based decks or Storm decks.

  • At first it's difficult to see why Creeping Chill is a tempo card. Most often players will only think about the damages done, and categorize it as "aggro". But it's mainly a tempo card by its life gaining function, because in Legacy most decks kill by reducing the life counter to 0. By increasing your life counter you are able to survive more turns, thus dredging more cards, thus creating a winning board state. Against "Ux(x)(x) Delver" decks, 3 life is equivalent of one Delver of Secrets   swing, one Creeping Chill is equivalent to one turn. Against "Depths" decks, one Creeping Chill allows you to survive one Marit Lage swing, also equivalent to one turn. There is more about Creeping Chill, which is the uncounterable, free reach it gives the deck, utterly important against "Tax" decks such as Stompies (= Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void ) or Thalia-based decks. Those sitting 12 damages are utterly determining in the long term.

Utility block

  • Cabal Therapy has an enormous impact to slow down and disrupt your opponent. It's the key card in the system, that can do so much with so few. Playing Cabal Therapy well seems difficult at first. The first secret to success with this card is to know the metagame and to train to identify quickly opposing archetypes. Sometimes you'll have only two permanents to identify them and name blindly but accordingly. Second secret is, based on the information you have, to always name the most damaging card for you. For example, if opponent has played Bayou and Duress , name Crop Rotation (as it can fetch Bojuka Bog ). If opponent has played Volcanic Island and Ponder , name Show and Tell but not Force of Will , as you can manage a countered spell on your side but not a resolved Show and Tell on its side. If he played Underground Sea and Ponder , name Infernal Tutor . etc. Some games will be pretty tight, and it will often be your single resolved Cabal Therapy that will decide them, so you must be very knowledgeable about each archetype and their key cards. Finally, be careful with naming too fast: the spell must have explicitely resolved before.

  • Dread Return is your all-around reanimator spell. It has no limitation and will get back into play any target, so you are free to choose your poison. One strategy is to bring back a creature that mills all your library into your graveyard, like Balustrade Spy , bringing back all your available Narcomoebas, Cabal Therapy, Bridge from Below and Dread Return, allowing for a kill like Flayer of the Hatebound or Lotleth Giant . However my strategy is different, I want to get back a creature that can manage EVERY permanent without even killing it: Ashen Rider .

  • Reanimation target: Ashen Rider . The rationale behind playing 3x Ashen Rider is as follow. Fair blue decks match-ups: Manaless Dredge tramples them and there is absolutely no need for a combo finish. Stompy decks match-ups: when you lose, it's either to a combination of lock pieces namely Trinisphere + Ensnaring Bridge , or to few Stompy aggro elements. In the first case, having a combo finish target is useless as it can't be reanimated. In the second case, having a few Ashen Rider triggers is enough to win. Dark Depths decks match-ups: if you win it's thanks to some luck, and if you are able to reanimate a target, having Ashen Rider is a technical K.O. as it will exile Marit Lage and be aggro enough to kill them in a few turns. Show and Tell match-ups: there Ashen Rider really shines, you will put her on the battlefield and exile your opponent's permanent, then beat face with a flying 5/5. Random match-ups with problematic permanents: Ashen Rider is absolutely a beast here to exile Glacial Chasm or Elephant Grass .


The deck has an incredible game 1 winning ratio (probably 65/35 against the whole field), and notably an insanely positive ratio against fair blue decks (90/10) which make up nearly 50% of the metagame. It is immune to Legacy's great moderators: Force of Will (played by 50% of competitive decks), Wasteland (52%), Chalice of the Void (14%), and it preys on fair decks from the unexpected graveyard / triggered abilities angles. However most decks will board in specialized moderators against graveyard-based strategies.

The four great menaces

We can categorize Manaless Dredge moderators in four types. I will rank in each type the danger level (black > red > orange > green).

  • Type 1: Enchantements and artifacts. Black threat: Rest in Peace , exile all your graveyard and prevent you from even having one, often played in UW(x) decks, so backed up by counterspells. Red threat: Leyline of the Void and Grafdigger's Cage , both do a fair amount of damage, but are very manageable. Leyline of the Void is often played in Stompy archetypes as turn 0 anti-graveyard, Grafdigger's Cage is encountered in Delver decks and Show and Tell decks as usually comes later in the game (since they play only 2x and must find them with cantrips). Orange threat: Ensnaring Bridge , Elephant Grass , both prevents you from attacking, but not from dredging or putting creatures in play. Orange threat: Trinisphere , ranked as orange because you can still play creatures and attack. Combinaison of Trinisphere and Ensnaring Bridge is red threat.

  • Type 2: Targeting moderators. They are of three orders: whole archetypes that target you (Storm, Burn, ...), disrupting cards that target you but not your graveyard (turn 1 discard spells) and cards that target you to damage your graveyard ( Bojuka Bog , Tormod's Crypt , Nihil Spellbomb , Relic of Progenitus first ability). We see that while there is only a portion of these Manaless Dredge moderators that only damage your graveyard, having hexproof would be very helpful to protect against the Storm and Burn archetypes and against discard spells. Black threat: Storm, the archetype plays turn 1 discard spells and its kill targets you. Red threat: Bojuka Bog , Tormod's Crypt , Nihil Spellbomb , Relic of Progenitus , these graveyard reset cards can come on the board anytime ( Crop Rotation into Bojuka Bog), nuking your momentum. Orange threat: turn 1 discard spells as they become a functional Time Walk . Green threat: the archetype of Burn.

  • Type 3: Creature-based hate. The creature-based hate is efficient with two creatures: Scavenging Ooze and Containment Priest . We could say that creatures-based archetypes with a lot of self-sacrifying creatures such as Goblins belong to this type. Containment Priest is red threat since you basically can't play anymore and must rely on what you have left in play and Creeping Chill . Scavenging Ooze is red in early game, orange in mid-game because it will have a lot to eat before drying you up. If played along Bojuka Bog, Knight of the Reliquary belongs to this category, and is orange as it takes some time to sep up. Gaddock Teeg is green threat, it only shuts down your Dread Return plan. Last but not least, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben , a very played main deck creature, is a bit painful to play against, and I rank her as orange.

  • Type 4: Hate that must not resolve. This type somewhat overlaps the first three types because it takes another approach for some of these moderators: the best way to deal with them is not to manage them AFTER they have resolved, but BEFORE. Cards categorized here are Rest in Peace , Relic of Progenitus and Ashiok, Dream Render . The very best ways to deal with them before they have resolved are discard spells or counterspells.

  • Type 0: Hate that you shouldn't worry about. Surgical Extraction , unlike its cousin LED Dredge, Manaless Dredge doesn't rely on only two creatures to win (Ichorid and Narcomoeba). You have plenty of threats, actually 6 differents, and your opponent will not have enough Surgical Extraction to get rid of them all. Chalice of the Void with 1 counter, isn't even worth to destroy, all it does is to counter your Cabal Therapy that are cast anyway, so creating 2/2 zombies. Plague Engineer and Engineered Plague , so -1/-1 effects, aren't really a problem since all your creatures have different and non-overlaping types.

Your answers

  • Force of Vigor . There is a before and an after Force of Vigor. Before, you scooped to Leyline of the Void and Grafdigger's Cage, these cards entered the board and that was it, you lost. Now when your opponent drops one or two Leyline of the Void before your first turn and smiles, you chuckle sensibly and destroy them, and a fews turns later, you win. Force of Vigor manages up to two different threats, so if your opponent has put down two threats like two Leyline of the Void at turn 0, you are able to blow them both.

  • Leyline of Sanctity . It works perfectly against type 2 threats for the price of one card from your starting hand, so one free Time Walk for your opponent. Despite this it will make a huge difference as a solution

  • Creature-based hate is quite tricky to play against. It can come really early and shut you down totally for the worst cases, and accumulation of lesser creature-based hate can thwart your plans. The first option is spell-based solutions, you cast them with the help of a pitch card. Sickening Shoal (best) / Force of Despair (good) / Contagion (average). In my opinion the best spell is Sickening Shoal. With Phantasmagorian in hand it will kill basically anything, even Griselbrand and big Knight of the Reliquary or Scavenging Ooze . Only problem is it can't kill Gaddock Teeg . Other spells are OK, Force of Despair won't kill Containment Priest, while Contagion won't kill big creatures.

  • Vengeful Pharaoh (best). Second option is going the way of the trigger and destroy creatures with Vengeful Pharaoh sitting in your graveyard. However, at first glance, you'll think that Vengeful Pharaoh is kinda meh because your opponent will know about him and not attack with his key creatures (the ones you want killed). But you can discard it thanks to Phantasmagorian! And that changes everything. You'll get a cheeky Vengeful Pharaoh trigger at instant speed allowing you to destroy that pesky Thalia or Containment Priest. It even kills Griselbrand. Only critter it can't reliably kill is Scavenging Ooze. Other upside of playing Vengeful Pharaoh is tempo. With one (or more) in your graveyard, your opponent will be less likely to attack mindlessly, giving you precious turns to dredge and develop your board.

  • Unmask (best). Works both as an proactive discard spell against your opponent and as a discard outlet. A complementary tool to Cabal Therapy and to your other sideboard cards, play Unmask as soon as the first turn to discard suspected type 4 threats. Second use is discard on yourself, complimentary to Force of Vigor and/or Leyline of Sanctity mulligan strategy, it becomes a free discard outlet to get started even without a full hand.

Strategy to consider:

  • Force of Will (best) / Disrupting Shoal (good) / Force of Negation (good) / Mindbreak Trap (situational). Force of Will is stellar to counter everything, the other three proposed cards are very situational and each require its specific set-up. The problem being, besides Mindbreak Trap that should be played in a very heavy Storm metagame, you need in your deck at least 11x other blue cards. Your maindeck Narcomoeba playset leaves you with 7x cards to find... I personnaly don't play blue enough at the moment to have counters in my sideboard, so this option is unfortunately out of consideration.

The art of sideboarding

The first secret of sideboard art with Manaless Dredge is to blindly guess your opponent graveyard hate. Like playing Cabal Therapy, it requires knowledge of metagame and Legacy's archetypes. There are indeed so many choices to fight against graveyard-based strategies, that correctly guessing what counter to put in is already half the battle. What is better than playing Force of Vigor against an opponent who just triomphally dropped two Leyline of the Void, thinking he just won the second game?

The second secret is to enter all those counter cards in your carefully tuned deck, without having its mechanic fail. Manaless Dredge is delicate, that works around calculated proportions of cards from specific blocks (Engine // Aggro // Tempo). Generally you'll want to remove some Dread Return and some of its targets if you play against Stompy or Thalia decks, since you won't be able to resolve them. You'll also consider removing 2x Phantasmagorian as these cards aren't mandatory for the deck to work.

The third secret is to know when to aggressively mulligan to find your sideboard cards. If you KNOW that Leyline of the Void will be dropped, you have no choice but to find Force of Vigor . If you KNOW that your opponent has targeting hate, why not keep an extremely strong first hand without Leyline of Sanctity like Chancellor of the Annex + Street Wraith + Street Wraith + Unmask + big "dredge" card? If you know that your opponent only plays Surgical Extraction , don't board at all as the deck is really strong against this puny hoser.

Playing post-board

Depending on the match-up and your knowledge of the hate you'll face, you'll either play all-in or play very carefully.

You'll want to go all-in, the fastest possible, if you know that you face hate that doesn't nuke your graveyard, like Containment Priest or Surgical Extraction to have a board before hate happens.

If you know that your opponent plays hate that removes all your graveyard like Tormod's Crypt , it is advised to play slowly, keep your hand full, fill your graveyard with threatening stuff to force your opponent to crack his hate.


Legacy has dozens upon dozens of known decks but thanksfully most can be grouped in some archetypes. In this section I'll describe common match-ups, and will provide an approach to beat each archetype pre and post-board. I'll also note the odds to win pre-board, and for each archetype I'll describe its post-board known behavior.

Major archetypes

  • Ux(x)(x) Delver decks

  • Thalia-based decks

  • Stompies

  • UW(x)(x) control decks

  • Depths-based decks

  • Show and Tell and Reanimator

  • Storm decks

Minor archetypes

  • Burn and very aggressive decks (Affinity, Infect)

  • 3 colors midrange including green, Loam-based decks and Nic Fit

  • Tribal combo decks (Goblins, Elves)

  • Aggro decks with some blue (Merfolk, Death Shadow, Slivers)

  • Lands and Enchantress

  • 2/3 cards combo decks (Painter, Food Chain, Aluren)


Back in 2012 Michael J Flores stated the quite obvious evidence that "...Magic is a game that is ultimately tied together by mana costs ...". Manaless Dredge is probably the only deck that allows you to play the game without paying a single mana. But is it still "real" Magic? It bends the basic design rules much further than playing free spells, you often get incredible effects with minimal ressource investment. Think about it that way: What mana cost investment is a turn 2 Lightning Bolt that also discard an opponent's card and make one 2/2 Zombie (Ichorid, Cabal Therapy and Bridge from Below)? There are of course plenty of examples of stuff Manaless Dredge can do with a few cards and triggers to make big effects.


Updates Add


Date added 2 years
Last updated 1 year

This deck is Legacy legal.

Rarity (main - side)

3 - 0 Mythic Rares

27 - 15 Rares

18 - 0 Uncommons

12 - 0 Commons

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 4.12
Tokens 2/2 Zombie
Folders Legacy, Legacy
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