A big takeaway from Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch wasn’t just “play Eldrazi or don’t bother,” but an interesting statement from Wizard’s Development group. Ian Duke mentioned on stream how the interaction between small and midsized Eldrazi along with their Sol lands in Modern was apparent and a risk, however their team doesn’t have the resources to test for older formats. Sets are designed and developed primarily with just Standard and Limited in mind, and the ban list will fix issues when they break something in other formats.
I don’t exactly have a “Sets Since WoTC broke Modern: 0” chalkboard hanging in my apartment, but looking over Eldritch Moon spoilers and seeing pushed cards like Bedlam Reveler and Eldritch Evolution has me thinking there’s a very real possibility one of these cards just gets banned within the next year.
Unfortunately, I’m not going to be the one breaking Eldritch Evolution anytime soon, decks with mana dorks and value creatures are about as far out of my playstyle as decks with Lava Spike or Golgari Grave-Troll. However, a beefy creature that draws cards? My oh my, is Bedlam Reveler manning the helm of my cruise ship’s wheelhouse. Today I’ll be going in depth on Bedlam Reveler and sharing a couple ideas for where to start with this exciting new card in my home format, Modern.
I’ll start out by saying evaluating new cards isn’t exactly a defined science. While a card like Falkenrath Reaver breaks new ground for red, we have a pretty good idea how powerful a vanilla 2/2 is given Grizzly Bears has been bringing the wrath of the Wyoming wilderness since Alpha. Bedlam Reveler on the other hand, is tricky.
It has a casting cost varying from as low as RR to 6RR, its base stats are 3/4 but it could be much larger, and its Dangerous Wager-esque ability could be up to a draw three, a Winds of Change, or maybe it even put you down cards. Almost everything about the card changes with the context of the game.
This means certain scenarios or decks will have Bedlam Reveler look like draft chaff, while others will have you wondering what WoTC was thinking when they printed this card. My solution is instead of asking, “Is this card good?” the real question should be, “How do I break it?”
Gauging Power Level
Power level ultimately comes down to what you get for your mana spent. Think Ancestral Recall, one of the highest power level cards in the entire game. It’s not the flashiest card, but its efficiency is ludicrous. For context, we know drawing 3 cards at instant speed is Standard playable at 5 mana, Ancestral Recall is undercosted by a whole four mana.
When Treasure Cruise was first spoiled, it was difficult to know the power level because of its variable mana cost. A good way I’ve found to look at cards like this is to work backwards and instead ask when is it powerful? I look at Cruise and figure it’s fringe playable at 2U in Modern given that I can compare it to other cards like Painful Truths or Concentrate/Harmonize. Therefore, I’d say its breaking point is when you can discount it by Delving for 5, but starts to get busted when reliably done for more.
This method works much better, because it creates criteria to answer the more abstract questions. Instead of asking, “What does this really cost?” I ask, “What decks could I play this in where it would reliably cost 1U or just U without jumping through too many hoops?” The same type of rationale applies to pretty much all varied casting cards, including Bedlam Reveler.
What’s the Going Rate?
The ideal scenario is obviously casting Bedlam Reveler without any relevant cards in hand and a graveyard that meets the full threshold. This means putting a 3/4 Prowess in play along with an Ancestral for RR. Sign me up for that. However, it’s not going to always be that good, so splitting Bedlam Reveler into two parts makes it easier to evaluate.
Starting out, consider just the body.
This passes Modern’s Litmus Test, dodges Abrupt Decay, and puts real pressure on any opponent, but what is a 3/4 Prowess worth paying? Taking a look at the best threats in Modern, as a general rule they tend to have power equal to at least twice their converted mana cost. Your typical Tarmogoyf totes four power, Monastery Swiftspear swings for two on average, and Geist of Saint Traft hits for six in total.
We can guess that a 3/4 Prowess is on average a 4/5 in decks utilizing this card, therefore I’d consider Bedlam Reveler as a creature alone a great rate at two mana, but lackluster at anything greater.
While determining Treasure Cruise’s breaking point was pretty straightforward, the power level here depends on two factors instead of just one, the number of Instants and Sorceries in graveyard and relevant cards in hand when cast. While it’s simple when drawing three, discarding real cards makes this effect less powerful.
It’s best to consider the cards net when cast with relevant cards in hand.
+2 The first scenario is easy. With zero worthwhile cards in hand, you’re what’s called Hellbent and netting two cards. We can reference the example from earlier with Treasure Cruise, and say straight up drawing three cards at 1RR is fringe playable, while drawing three at RR is getting into ban worthy territory.
+1 You’ll often be faced with whether to cast Bedlam Reveler with something useful still in hand like a Lightning Bolt. With one valuable card in hand, Bedlam Reveler nets one card, which is only fringe playable at two mana when you consider that Night’s Whisper effects are rarely seen in Modern.
+0 With two worthwhile cards in hand, the ability is a card neutral play. This typically needs to be mana neutral as well to see Modern play, think of Gitaxian Probe, Manamorphose, or Street Wraith. Paying RR for this effect is just straight up bad.
-1 With three or more other relevant cards, you’re netting less cards in return. Cards like this actually do see play in Faithless Looting, Insolent Neonate, and actual Dangerous Wager. However, tacking on a difficult to support rider like demanding a deck of mostly Instant and Sorceries means this is unlikely to be seen in a Dredge strategy anytime soon.
Tying it All Together
Now that we have a bit of context, take into consideration how adding a 3/4 Prowess body to the above scenarios of the wager changes what’s a reasonable rate.
+3 Bedlam Reveler cast with zero or only dead cards in hand is a four-for-one. Even when you compare the dream Bedlam Reveler to a card like Tidings, you have to account for one of your cards being a zero mana 3/4 Prowess.
+2 In my playtesting, decks built to abuse Bedlam Reveler often will want to ditch one worthwhile card in the bin when casting it. Common three-for-ones to Modern players might be Collected Company into Witness and an Anafenza, or Snapcaster flashing back a K Command.
+1 Throwing away two cards is when Bedlam Reveler starts to lose some luster. It’s not unreasonable to toss a Mana Leak and Bolt to end up with a couple lands and a Thought Scour. While that’s about as bad as it gets, the consistency that comes with a sizable creature and proper deckbuilding alleviate this concern.
+0 This scenario strikes me as rare for a couple reasons. Having an abundance of spells in the graveyard and being Hellbent tend to go hand and hand, and if you have three or more worthwhile spells in hand, why not cast those first?
The risk of turning your reasonable cards into duds starts to become real here, but many decks just can’t get rid of a creature with four toughness. Determining whether or not your cards in hand are actually valuable is key in this scenario, but pass it up if it costs more than RR.
Breaking Bedlam Reveler
Anyone who’s seen the words “Instant or Sorcery” before knows that even though Bedlam Reveler has double red in the casting cost, it’s secretly a blue card.
Delver is the most natural shell to play Bedlam Reveler for multiple reasons. On the surface, they both want to be paired with as many spells as possible. This means opting for a select few creatures and cutting unnecessary lands by dropping the curve and utilizing the Turbo Xerox rule of replacing lands with cantrips.
Digging deeper, this biggest boon to Bedlam Reveler in Delver comes down to matchups. Delver decks historically fall short when the opponent is playing an abundance of removal and focusing more on a value oriented gameplan.
Cheap card draw always has and always will be straight up busted. It allows low to the ground decks to be as hyper aggressive as possible without worrying about losing in the midgame. Oftentimes, the Plan A of going underneath the opponent before they get their footing works, but if they do start to turn the corner, casting four-for-ones for two mana is one hell of a way to shut the door on a game.
Bedlam Reveler allows Delver to fall back on it’s low to the ground, aggressive routes from the Cruise era and and dramatically shift how its Midrange and Control matchups look. The decklist below should be reminiscent of what Delver looked like back in the Khans Block days, and a stark contrast to the more value oriented lists from today.
A basic, straight UR shell is a natural starting point to abuse the potential of Bedlam Reveler. The key here is designing a deck that can churn through cantrips and dump its hand. Getting six Instants or Sorceries into the yard is an easy task for a deck like this.
It might seem tempting to cut a few slots to increase the Snapcaster Mage count from zero, but it is simply not worth it. Taigo has always been a flex option at best in low to the ground Delver strategies and he needs to be cut to keep the curve low and the creature count below 15.
Twisted Image is a fine option to consider as it two-for-ones the few zero power creatures running around. Sleight of Hand is the safe choice, but opting for the more jank Visions of Beyond is interesting tech that helps solidify the Jeskai Nahiri and Jund matchup. On that subject, don’t forget that Vapor Snag allows you to rebuy Reveler for even more value in a drawn out game.
The idea of drawing three with Visions of Beyond is sweet, but it begs the question, “Do other colors offer better cantrips?” Splashing Green lets you play the best creature in Modern and gives you a way to consistently see Bedlam Reveler using Traverse the Ulvenwald.
Traverse the Ulvenwald has been nothing but impressive in testing here and in Traverse Tempo. Straight UR is rock solid consistent, but RUG offers toolbox fans a higher power level strategy that has much more flexibility.
Traverse fixes a land light opener and late game feels like the best topdeck possible. With Delirium online, you’ll most often want to chain Bedlam Revelers over and over to you crush anyone trying to play fair, but there are a variety of one ofs in the deck to combat a sticky situation.
The basic logic is that just one copy of a specific card feels more like five. A great example of this is the miser’s copy of Snapcaster in the main. While he’s a poor performer alongside Bedlam Reveler, he’s worth playing a single copy here compared to UR because it can be reliably searched up. He often is dealing the last couple points of damage with a used up burn spell in the graveyard, or getting rid of a lone blocker in the way with a binned Vapor Snag. More information about these Traverse targets can be found in my Traverse Tempo article linked above.
It’s difficult to know exactly what will happen to Modern after Eldritch Moon drops. Part of me wants to see Delver and a shadow of Pod back on top again, but maybe for more than a few months this time. Hopefully you’ll be on the right side of the battle – the one with blue of course.Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.