Like many of you, I've been eagerly waiting for Ravnica Allegiance preview season. But when I saw Bedevil earlier this week, I instantly knew what my article would be about.
This decklist has a lot of significance to me, since it's the deck I played the first time I ever made the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. It's a classic midrange build and one of the strongest decks I've had the privilege of playing in a major tournament.
I spent a ton of hours with Reid Duke testing and tuning this list, and the numbers we arrived at were not by accident. We truly believed that the optimal configuration was one Murder and one Dreadbore, and looking at these cards together, they're almost laughable compared to Bedevil.
If I had to guess, Reid and I were the only people in the entire room who registered Murder, and that speaks volumes to how much value and importance we placed on the ability to kill a creature at instant speed. I suspect instant speed will be highly relevant against Teferi, Hero of Dominaria so that you can Bedevil it in response to its ability which untaps two lands, thus dodging a counterspell.
I shared this list to help demonstrate that a solid balanced Jund Midrange strategy wants many different types of removal so that it has the best chance to draw a little of everything and allow for maximum optionality. I'm also tickled to see that, with the exception of Kessig Wolf Run, this is a Standard-legal manabase today and I see no reason why Jund can't be successful again.
I feel good about the look of any deck which starts something like this…
I strongly suspect Bedevil and Vraska's Contempt won't compete for space against each other but instead coexist and each find their space in the metagame. Exiling creatures is still very much a relevant aspect of Standard and I don't expect Rekindling Phoenix is going anywhere anytime soon.
I'm excited to see what happens to Treasure Map in an environment where Bedevil is heavily played in maindecks. Treasure Map wasn't played at all while Abrade was widely played; I understand that because it's hard to justify the investment cost of two mana when you cast it and (potentially) three more as you try to transform it, only to see it killed in response. Paying five mana to scry 3 is a terrible rate of return on mana investment; sure, you got a card on a one-for-one basis, but the mana spent is a big early developmental cost.
Previously we lived in a world where the only artifact destruction you could justifiably run maindeck was Conclave Tribunal, which heavily contributed to the success of Treasure Map. When you get a matchup where they have a slow clock and can't interact with Treasure Map, you can use it as a ramp spell, since it both transforms into a land and grants three Treasure tokens upon transformation, and currently ramping into Carnage Tyrant or Niv-Mizzet, Parun is all anyone cares about.
Bedevil won't be the best card in Ravnica Allegiance Standard, but it does seem to check all the boxes in terms of power and utility. You can have extra answers to Niv-Mizzet without it being a totally dead card early in the game, since you actually do care about Treasure Map.
We're also seeing a noticeable shift in how control decks have operated in the past. Previously, we saw control decks with zero win conditions or creatures with the objective of winning by decking via Teferi. Nowadays, even successful Jeskai Control decks often run Crackling Drake, Niv-Mizzet, and even Lyra Dawnbringer. Not only is removal not dead against Jeskai, but it can often be actively good. Magic has a heavy focus on creatures now and that bleeds through all the way to control decks, which makes Bedevil that much better.
When any Constructed format has a card as powerful as Llanowar Elves, other top decks need to play some amount of cheap creature removal just to compete, and when the decks become too saturated with removal, it's easy for decks like Jeskai Control, or really anyone who wants, to sideswipe the whole "Do I play into removal or play around it?" question and play important cheap threats which aren't creatures. Treasure Map, Search for Azcanta, and Arguel's Blood Fast are all cards that have seen play maindeck that can come down early, dodge creature removal, and provide repeated advantage. I love the printing of Bedevil for artifacts and Mortify for enchantments. Black midrange decks – my favorite strategy – won't be caught defenseless.
The more Standard I play, the more I appreciate its diversity, and I want a removal spell that's going to be solid against almost any deck I play against to match that. Each set that comes out has me nervously checking which artifacts are printed to see how much better Karn, Scion of Urza is. I really feel like Karn is one of the best planeswalkers printed in the last few years, and all it takes is one artifact that's slightly too strong for it to be all over the place.
I'm relieved to see a new card fill the void Abrade has left behind. While I never felt like Abrade was overpowered, I do feel it helped curb the issue of certain unique card types being oppressive. And don't forget about Sai, Master Thopterist, a card that dominates Modern tournaments regularly and is still Standard-legal but sees no play.
I feel as if Bedevil was made just for me. Whenever Abrade or Hero's Downfall has been legal, it's been an integral part of tournament Magic, and both cards always slot beautifully into Standard midrange decks that I love. Removal isn't in the best space right now, thanks to Carnage Tyrant and Niv-Mizzet often being paired with Dive Down, and there's little incentive to play Detection Tower with the heavy mana commitments that exist in the world of Ravnica. Still, I'm confident Bedevil will break through and be a popular and successful card.
I for one can't wait to try it.