Bedlam Reveler appeared to be an innocuous card on the surface. It requires setup to not be overcosted and it discards your hand, which limits the types of cards you can put in your deck. But we've seen some Bedlam Reveler brews start to establish themselves as Tier 1 Modern decks. With Jund being the new top dog of the Modern format, Bedlam Reveler does a fantastic job of outpacing the Jund deck in resources.
So what different decks can we fit this value Horror into? I personally believe we have only scratched the surface of decks including the card. Let's take a moment to discuss the first and only "real" Bedlam Reveler deck in the format:
This is an updated version of Mardu Pyromancer. It had been increasing quietly in popularity pre-Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and then had a breakout weekend with Gerry Thompson taking the deck to a second-place finish. The deck was starting to prove itself as a real competitor in the format and potentially a new Tier 1 archetype.
With the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, the Mardu hype train died down a bit. But with how the format has shaped up over the past few weeks, Mardu Pyromancer might be better than ever before.
With fair decks looking to be at an all-time high in Modern right now, Mardu Pyromancer does a fantastic job at outgrinding all of them. The combination of Bedlam Reveler, Lingering Souls, and the flashback on Faithless Looting provide an insurmountable amount of card advantage, giving the deck fuel at all stages of the game.
I like the maindeck Hazoret the Fervent as another card to go over the top in fair mirrors. I also love the inclusion of Goblin Rabblemaster in the sideboard as a good way to put a real clock on big mana or combo decks. Last, Crackling Doom is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, but one I quite like. As G/W Hexproof continues to put up solid results, having a card like that is truly backbreaking (no fetching up a Dryad Arbor in response to that one, buddy!). Overall, I think Mardu Pyromancer is in a great spot right now and is perhaps the best choice at combating fair mirrors.
Speaking of breaking fair mirrors, if Mardu wasn't already enough, this new Four-Color Pyromancer list goes even farther over the top with cards flushed with value.
Brennan decided to revisit some cards near and dear to his heart this past weekend in Traverse the Ulvenwald and Grim Flayer. For once in my life, I think it was a reasonable decision for him to do so, too! All jokes aside, I was absolutely thrilled when I saw Brennan's list, and I do believe he made some great innovations to the deck.
While we've seen others have success in Modern Classics with a similar deck, Brennan's take had some noticeable differences. As a Mardu Pyromancer player, you're probably asking yourself, "To Traverse or not to Traverse?" Let's take a moment to discuss some of the key differences between this build and normal Mardu Pyromancer.
Traverse does wonders for a deck like this. It functions as both a land drop and a spell for your Bedlam Revelers and Young Pyromancers. On top of that, late-game it's a Demonic Tutor for whatever threat best fits the occasion. It even helps fix your colored mana situation if you're in a pinch. Providing extra consistency in finding Bedlam Reveler is also great for this deck, since it wants to draw that card every game. Last, having the availability of silver bullet targets in your sideboard gives you a lot of flexibility with your Traverses.
Mardu Pyromancer didn't have access to Bloodbraid Elf originally, but I think it's a great inclusion that plays well with the rest of your deck. On top of that, it's just another built-in two-for-one for all these grindy matchups. It's also a reasonable clock when facing decks you need to apply pressure against. It is worth noting that the inclusion of discard spells, Mishra's Bauble, Faithless Looting, and Traverse the Ulvenwald will mean cascading in this deck will generally be worse than it would be in Jund.
A card I'm not positive belongs in the list, Grim Flayer is quite tough on the mana and is just all-around not that powerful. My original inclination when seeing the deck was to replace them with Tarmogoyfs, but after seeing the deck in action, Brennan did make the Flayers look pretty good. It also has great synergy with all the different flashback spells in the deck, fuels Bedlam Reveler rather quickly, and can set up the top of your library before you Faithless Looting late-game.
The big highlights of this version are:
2. It lets you skimp on both lands and threats, since Bloodbraid Elf does a lot of work in that department.
3. It gives you access to a toolbox package via Traverse the Ulvenwald.
However, the main downsides to Four-Color Pyromancer compared to Mardu Pyromancer are:
1. A shakier manabase.
2. You're more vulnerable to linear decks.
3. No access to Blood Moon.
When Tron and Scapeshift are peaking in popularity, straight Mardu is going to be the better call. If you're expecting almost all grindy mirrors, it's time to throw some Traverse the Ulvenwalds in your deck.
The other iteration of this Pyromancer deck that caught my eye was one by popular streamer and North Carolina native HolyShamgar.
For those of you don't know, HolyShamgar is Ryland Taliaferro, a very skilled local player from my area who has turned into quite the Magic streamer. If you like Modern and tight technical play, then I'd highly recommend you check his stream out. As it turns out, Ryland has quite an affinity for Death's Shadow, as I do.
He told me that he started with the original build of Four-Color Pyromancer and quickly added Death's Shadow to the deck and went 5-0 with relative ease. He also took the deck to a local Invitational Qualifier I attended and easily stomped the competition. As a result, his deck certainly has caught my eye.
Adding Death's Shadow to the deck certainly helps the deck in its matchups where it struggles the most, your big mana decks and all the various spell-based combo decks. It also means your deck is much faster and able to pressure opponents who stumble. On top of that, it means you get to play even more of the zero-mana cyclers, effectively making your deck 50 cards. Ryland told me he thought his deck was so busted because he got to play all the free cantrips and that Manamorphose should likely be a four-of going forward.
While I do like Ryland's list, I'm not sure Death's Shadow is where you want to be both in the format and in Mardu. There are a few big reasons why I'm not confident this build of the deck is great. With grindy mirrors becoming more and more popular in Modern, having a card like Death's Shadow can be a liability. It means you're going to be at a lower life total and that your topdecks will generally be worse. Death's Shadow pulls you in the opposite direction of what the rest of the deck is trying to do. Trying to pay all your life and slam a big creature isn't coherent with trying to grind your opponent to dust and refuel with a Bedlam Reveler. You certainly don't want to be drawing Street Wraiths off your Turn 8 Ancestral Recall!
Overall, I like all three of the lists shared here and think all of them have their merits. Mardu Pyromancer appears to be a great choice in the current Modern metagame and seems to be the deck always one step ahead of the rest of the metagame. I'll explore it further in the coming months. So, whether you like Mardu, Four-Color, or the Death's Shadow build, don't stop making those Elementals!