Treasure Cruise Modern was easily my favorite Modern format of all time---and my addiction to Delver of Secrets is well-documented. Given this, a lot of people have asked me about Bedlam Reveler since it was spoiled. I think it's important to be open to the potential viability of new cards, as being the first to discover a new strategy gives you a leg up on the field. Initially I'll admit I was excited about Reveler's prospects, but my fervor has since cooled somewhat.
With regard to Bedlam Reveler I started looking at decklists almost immediately, and it didn't take long to feel like R&D was playing with my heartstrings. The first thing that one must realize about the card is that it is much harder to get a discount on than a delve spell. I've cast a lot of turn two Tasigur, the Golden Fang in my day, but doing so is aided by fetchlands. Reveler only counts instants and sorceries and also has a higher base cost. In order to try to turbo-Reveler I started playing with Faithless Looting. It was at this time that I realized things just weren't going to work.
The idea was to be a dedicated Reveler deck. This meant a lot of cheap cantrips: Gitaxian Probe, Thought Scour, Serum Visions, and Faithless Looting. Maybe even some Izzet Charm. Goldfishing that list, it was clear that I was not consistently able to cast Bedlam Reveler on pace where a comparison to Treasure Cruise was anywhere near fair.
I still think Reveler has a place in Modern, but my early dreams of a full-on "Reveler deck" have fallen by the wayside. From working on these lists, here are my findings on Bedlam Reveler.
A Bad Goryo's Vengeance
After casting some combination of Serum Visions, Faithless Looting, and Thought Scour on turns one and two and not being able to cast Bedlam Reveler on turn three, it occurred to me that there is a deck with most of these elements that could have a Griselbrand in play at this point in the game. This composition also starts to look at lot like Dredge, which is another deck that is better able to exploit aggressively filling its graveyard. Even outside of those extreme arguments, a Thought Scour into a turn two Tasigur out of Grixis Delver is arguably stronger than most, if not all, early plays from a dedicated Reveler deck.
The thing is, when you go to the extreme your deck ends up filled with a lot of air, and while "draw three cards" would be a great textbox from here, discarding your hand to do so is far form ideal. Not to mention that a 3/4 prowess is only pretty good in Modern, not exceptional. The primary objective of building a new deck is not to build a worse something else, and dedicated Reveler feels like a worse version of at least two different things. It also provides a unique drawback.
Multiple Revelers in Hand
Bedlam Reveler is your payoff card. The nice thing about is that chaining them together is easy given that it leaves your graveyard behind. So in that respect, you can get to the second Reveler a little easier than the second Cruise. The problem is that keeping a hand with two Revelers is a mulligan. You never want to draw more than one copy at a time, and as such it makes sense to trim on Revelers. That's a problem. Dedicated Reveler distorts your deck significantly for a card that you are incentivized not to play four copies of.
From here the next logical step is to trim on Reveler, and also to trim on the cards that are concessions to being Reveler-heavy. As you move off of Faithless Looting, Reveler becomes more of a plan B, which is not a bad thing to have in Modern. What is problematic though, is that Reveler doesn't necessarily gel well with many plan As. Let's talk about some of these applications, and where they fall short.
Delver of Secrets, BFF?
Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration is the most commonly suggested pairing for Bedlam Reveler. The idea is that both Delver and Reveler are looking for a high instant and sorcery density. Theoretically, both cards are trying to play fast games as well, which suggests another degree of synergy. The issue, as stated above, is that Reveler just doesn't come down fast enough. Reveler actually ends up forcing you to play a slightly longer game. In principle I have no problem with that---in fact, my Grixis Delver deck is built for that exact sort of thing. But the cards that help achieve this purpose don't play well with Reveler.
Mana Leak is an essential element of every Delver deck that I've ever built. You will have some opponent playing low-to-the-ground decks where the card doesn't shine and your other cheap interaction will be the heroes---though Mana Leak is the singular card that enables Delver to compete with three- and four-mana spells. Spell Snare is also hugely important, as trading up on mana matters a ton for these lean decks. It also offers the ability to fight attrition wars against Snapcaster Mage, which otherwise leaves these decks dead to rites.
Counters have the same problem with Reveler as redundant Revelers. You will often be forced to discard them. You can technically build a Delver deck that is light on counters or off them entirely, though at this point you're not actually taking advantage of being blue. The UR Delver decks in Legacy play a counter-light burn-heavy strategy, but Modern decks are missing out on both Chain Lightning and, more importantly, Price of Progress. The damage output and modality of most red spells in Modern are too low to reasonably pair them with Delver. Delver does not combine nearly as well with Lava Spike as Goblin Guide does.
Bedlam Reveler Burn
I can appreciate the angle here. Without going over individual card choices, from a theory perspective this deck looks to do a good job of addressing Burn's problem with running out of gas. Bedlam Reveler can gas back up, and this is a rare version of Burn that can realistically flashback Bump in the Night!
Which brings us to my problem with the core strategy---this deck is too slow. In a field of all Junds, this build seems quite strong. But Modern is full of other decks that are just trying to kill you. With the majority of the spells being non-interactive, this deck simply can't afford to be this slow. If you watch the video, you'll see Sam taking some beatings from Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. While it is true that Obstinate Baloth is problematic for Burn, Burn's average goldfish is at least a full turn ahead of Valakut's, and the Skullcracks and Atarka's Commands usually found in stock lists make this matchup solidly favorable. Sam's list gives the deck better longevity, but in a way that seriously damages the deck's speed in a format where speed can be everything.
In a format that is largely about speed and consistency, Bedlam Reveler offers neither. What it does offer is a way to claw back into a game, or to intentionally play a longer game. There are decks in Modern that will put you in positions where this will pay off. In particular, Reveler offers a lot to like against all of the three-color "good stuff" decks of the format. Given the way that Reveler pulls deckbuilding, it makes the most sense as a one- or two-of, and/or as a sideboard option.
Bedlam Reveler is a card that can win you games in Modern that no other red card could, and I am not trying to posit anything to the contrary. That said, it doesn't line up in a way that contorting your deck significantly to enable Reveler makes sense in Modern. While I don't know how much I approve of the maindeck, I will commend fellow Modern Nexus author Jordan Boisvert on his Reveler management in his latest build of Monkey Grow. Game 1 he has largely conceded a poor attrition matchup, with no Revelers and lots of cards that line up poorly against the interactive decks. This allows him to load up the Revelers and attrition tools in the sideboard and transition for Games 2 and 3. The Traverse the Ulvenwald package in particular is an effective way to avoid overloading on Revelers while maintaining easy access to the card.
I see Bedlam Reveler as a player in Modern, though not a flagship card. Reveler generates significant tension in deckbuilding, and doesn't necessarily offer a tool that fits the Modern format at large. At this point in time, I believe that it fits best in the sideboard of red decks. In particular, I like two or three copies in the sideboard of Burn, and could see other low-to-the-ground decks adopting it as a sideboard option or in a small number in the maindeck as well.
When evaluating new cards and strategies, an open mind is a powerful ally. That said, it needs to be backed by a logical process, and good theory. Brew happily, but brew carefully.
Thanks for reading,
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter