Well, the Helvault has been broken. This means quite a few things, both good and bad, for the plane of Innistrad. For one thing, Avacyn has been released! (Yay!) This is good since the forces of evil need to be driven from Innistrad once and for all and she's just the candidate to do it! The bad news, however, is that upon its destruction the Helvault has also released all the horrors upon the world that it once contained, most notably all the Demons that had been imprisoned. (Boo!) While Demons escaping from the Helvault are one of our primarily concerns, we mustn't forget about the lesser represented perpetrators that also begin with the letter “D”: devils!
An angel subtheme has already begin to show itself in Avacyn Restored, and while you can't have angels without demons, you almost certainly can't exclude devils from any sort of holy lore either .
This is good news, for without devils I would have an entirely different preview card for you guys today. Without further ado, I present to you...
Lightning Bolt! How good is this card!? I mean, three damage for one mana...that has to set some sort of precedent for damage-to-mana ratios, or...
Okay, you're right. Lightning Bolt is not my preview card. But it is the Standard to which all burn spells are compared. If you want to cost one red mana, you have to be able to compare yourself to Lightning Bolt, the mother of all burn spells. So what does this have to do with my actual preview card? Well let's take a look at the casting cost...
Well huh. Things are making a little more sense now, eh? But wait...this clearly isn't a burn spell.
...or is it?
Ya know, it's a red card, so who knows? It could be bo-
Hmm. Well, okay, I guess now we know. Yes, it is a creature. So right now we have a 4/3 for...wait...one mana? There has to be a catch, right? If this was a vanilla creature it would be bookoo bonkers!
Yes, of course. There's always a catch. But this one is quite befitting of a tricksy devil in that even I can't tell if his enters-the-battlefield ability is better if taken advantage of...or not. Let's take a look!
Yup, there he is, in all his devilry.
I'm gonna let you soak that guy in for a minute.
You ready to continue?
One of the most efficient things a red deck has at its disposal is its mana. In fact many red decks are able to skimp on mana - specifically by running less lands - because of their lower curves that often top out at at three (or perhaps one or two fours). What does this mean? It means that every single mana is important. You never want to waste mana on your turn and you never want to overpay for your spells and abilities. At one mana, this guy couldn't be more perfect on the curve. You're able to play him on turn one (obviously...) or play him along with a second Stromkirk Noble on turn two. Whenever you have a spare mana lying around, you'll be able to either sneak in a 4/3 or deal four damage to make sure every Mountain at your disposal is efficiently utilized. And do I need to mention that he adds a counter to Shrine of Burning Rage regardless of what your opponent chooses?
But let's talk about four damage since I think that's where the card's sweet spot lies. Before Vexing Devil, the earliest - or cheapest - a red mage could deal four damage was turn two with two mana.
Do you know what Flame Rift does? Sure you do...because it's a Legacy staple! Ask Patrick Sullivan! A two mana spell that deals four damage to you as well as your opponent at sorcery speed finds its way into every Monored deck in Legacy. Flame Rift is basically a Vexing Devil at its worst, for one less mana, and one that doesn't deal you four damage. Uh...well that certainly seems good.
How about Lava Spike? You familiar with that one? Well guys like TCGplayer's own Zach Krizan have been fond of Lava Spike for ages, especially in the recent Modern format. Lava Spike deals three damage, always to a player, for a mere one mana. Vexing Devil takes it to the next level, dealing four damage for one mana, and that's if the opponent opts to not let you get a 4/3 on turn one! Sure, if they give you the 4/3 it might turn on their Path to Exile, but that's just one more Keldon Marauders or Hellspark Elemental that is going to actually survive when you cast it!
There are only two one-drops I can think of that see consistent play in Monored decks in older formats. Those two creatures are Spark Elemental and Goblin Guide. In comparison to Sparky, this guy is either a Spark Elemental that has +1/+2 and never has to be sacrificed, or it's a Spark Elemental that deals an extra damage and cannot be blocked. Are we in agreement that - if room in the deck is limited - Vexing Devil takes the place of Spark Elemental every time? The only benefit I can see to Sparky is the haste, which means if your opponent doesn't happen to have a removal spell ready and available on the exact turn you cast him, you get in there, while with the Devil they have one more turn to find and prepare their answer.
Okay, so what if we don't want to play Vexing Devil in a Monored deck. What now?
Well, I'm glad you...er, I asked! How about this guy with Ranger of Eos in Modern? Play a Ranger and search out two Vexing Devils! Or how about one Devil and a Goblin Bushwhacker! No matter what you choose, if you were planning on waiting until the next turn to cast the searched-up creatures, then Vexing Devil might just be a better target than Goblin Guide in that situation since he's going to get haste from the Bushwhacker anyway.
How about Standard? This guy is perfect to return to play with a Sun Titan! Think about it: how big are the creatures you can actually get back with Sun Titan? Outside of Blade Splicer (and, like, Skaab Ruinator or something...), returning a 4/3 is one of the best power and toughness values available! And if they choose to just take four, well, your Sun Titan is an entirely new card...
What kind of applications might this guy have in terms of deckbuilding? Well, what if UR Delver decided to make a comeback? Let's take a look at what we could expect - and bear in mind that this is with only six cards from Avacyn Restored being revealed:
A deck like this is insanely aggressive and comes packed with 14 one-drops. Phantasmal Image is awesome with Vexing Devil as it either ends up as a second 4/3 or flat-out four damage. You're also taking advantage of the newly printed Thunderous Wrath, which is a card that is going to deal five damage, and get this: if your opponent does choose to take four damage from your Devil, well, that triggers morbid, and you can deal an extra five with Brimstone Volley if you have the mana for it. Nine total damage is pretty insane...
Heck, you could even add Temporal Mastery to the deck if you're feeling bold! After all, we do have Ponder and Delver of Secrets, both of which combo nicely with the card. And getting an extra attack with our creatures could mean game over.
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There are also going to be situations where your opponent lets your Devil live thinking they can get rid of them, only for you to drop an Island and protect it with a Counterspell, allowing you to beat for four a turn beginning on turn two.
While Vexing Devil might not be the best one-drop ever printed, he definitely joins the ranks of amazing red one-drops such as Jackal Pup, Goblin Guide, Stromkirk Noble, and Mogg Fanatic. I have no doubt that this guy will be seeing plenty of play across multiple formats, as four damage for one mana is unprecedented. Thanks for reading, and I can't wait to see what you think of this guy!
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