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This Is SPART— No, You Were Right. This Is Madness.


Madness is back. I mean, we play Commander. Madness never left, per se. Nothing leaves unless it’s banned out, so while madness isn’t like, back back, we’re going to see new madness cards, and maybe some of them will be good. Wizards hasn’t officially previewed any good madness cards, and I don’t like to write about unofficially spoiled cards, which means all I can really do is suggest a home for any new potential madness cards that could be potentially printed. Between the new stuff we’ve seen and the older cards with madness we have . . . well, we have fewer effects than you’d think and way fewer cards. New cards mean new opportunities for madness effects, and if enough of them are good, we want to have an impetus to trigger madness. So what kind of effects would we like to see?

Desert Twister
Green would most likely give us some cheaper fatties, and discarding cards seems to be a good way to trigger delirium. Green hasn’t shown us anything like a Rampant Growth–type card with madness, a Regrowth effect with madness (perfect for a deck in which you mill and discard with abandon), or a Desert Twister–type card. I realize Desert Twister breaks the color wheel a bit, but so does having a spell with madness—and paying a ton of mana for the effect, mitigated by a madness cost, could potentially “offset” and flavor difficulties. You could even throw the Desert Twister on a creature, although they may want to attenuate its scope. An Acidic Slime with a madness cost of 1g isn’t exactly what I want—maybe a World Breaker with a cost of 1gg or 3g or something.

White was all but immune from madness, giving us a single card with madness worth even looking at. A Wrath of God with madness wouldn’t be fair unless the madness cost was the same or higher than the regular mana cost, and even then, it’s a bad Rout unless you get some sort of discount or upside. A Karmic Guide with madness that essentially replaces another creature in the ’yard could be fun. I’m not too interested in what white would give us, though.

Red has given us burn in the past, but I would like to see a Wheel of Fortune effect with madness—possibly one that doesn’t have a mana cost at all, meaning you can only play it for its madness cost. If they printed something like this, it would be nutso with other madness cards.

Blue has a lot of good madness cards already, and there isn’t much I really want to see that they haven’t already done. Maybe a spell that does more stuff if you played it for its madness cost would be good, but with the set already finalized, I’m just spitballing.

Black has also given us quite a few good cards with madness. I would like to see something that makes the opponent discard a lot, potentially one card for every card either you have discarded or each card that has gone to your graveyard this turn.

Gwendlyn Di Corci
Why do I bring up all these ideas? Not because I want to try to make my own set or even design my own cards. It’s actually because I have a few decks in mind, and those cards do the kinds of things those decks are currently missing, and cards printed with those types of abilities would warrant taking a card out to make room for it. We haven’t seen the entire set, but I wanted to still write “The Madness Article” this week because I’m very excited to talk about a concept in 75% deck-building that occurred to me.

I used to have a Gwendlyn di Corci deck. It was fun and powerful, and it got the job done if, by the job, I mean “everyone mad at me” and “done.” I mean . . . no, I just mean done actually. People hated it and, by extension, me. The problem with the deck was that you either make casual enemies with everyone or you make best enemies with one person. Either way, no one is happy to see you untap with her. Putting Freed from the Real on her so you can make everyone discard in a turn cycle isn’t exactly going to win friends no matter how much you insist it’s “more fair this way.” People don’t like Intruder Alarm for similar reasons.

The thing is, the first time I played the deck in a given group, people were okay with it. They gave me a few turns to see what I was going to do with her, and they let me deserve the dogpiling I got. I don’t think Gwendlyn suffers from “The Rafiq Problem” to the extent that a lot of other commanders do. I really feel that you have the chance to demonstrate you’re not going to be as much of a monster as you can potentially be. Accordingly, what if you never really established yourself as a true monster? What if you used Gwendlyn’s ability to make yourself discard cards?

Make no mistake—I still fully intend to shred opponents’ hands with our commander, but it wouldn’t hurt to be able to use her ability to fill our graveyard with fun stuff to reanimate, copy, and the like while also being able to trigger madness on some of our spells. Even if there aren’t too many really good madness cards in Grixis colors, we’re still going to have a big advantage paying much less for our spells, and the more we make ourselves discard, the less upset our opponents will be when we set our sights on them. Luckily, we can’t play Prophet of Kruphix in this deck for a lot of reasons, so we’re not going to untap Gwendlyn quite as often as we could be, but we can still find a few creative ways to do that, and maybe we’ll find a few ways to make the most out of being able to force ourselves to discard while we’re at it. What would this self-discard Gwendlyn deck look like?

You will notice this only has ninety-five cards. Why did I do this?

Basically, I expect Shadows over Innistrad to give us a few sweet madness cards and madness enablers. I left room in the deck for those spells. However, it’s possible we don’t want any of them in here. What do we plug in? Anything! Hypnotic Specters and their ilk, Bribery effects, and cards like Recoil that turn into removal spells when opponents’ hands are empty would all be good. Between madness and the new delirium ability word, you may even be cutting stuff to make room for all of the new cards you love.

The deck functions pretty simply: Use Gwendlyn both as a madness card and to keep the hand of the person furthest ahead, or with the most cards, in check. Your spells have flashback and madness to the extent that it was possible, and we jammed cards like Snapcaster Mage and Memory Plunder to make sure we gain at least some value out of every card. Keeping everyone’s hand sizes low benefits us because we’re ready for it. You like the idea of going for hellbent? There are some sick hellbent cards such as Anthem of Rakdos and Demonfire that might appeal to you. Want more flashback or madness? There are a few I cut that might be worth a look.

This deck benefits a bunch from turning our commander’s sights to us and allowing us to benefit from the times when we make ourselves discard to the extent that I could manage. Situations in which you don’t want to poke the bear and cause an opponent to discard are easier to deal with since you can always just throw something your ’yard to set up a big Living End, to give yourself a Body Double target, or to play a madness card for cheaper. You are going to do plenty of making opponents discard, but once they see you’re insane and willing to use a card that makes you randomly discard a card on yourself, they’ll think twice.

Gibbering Descent
Gwendlyn’s effect is not always going to work the way you want it, so I included a few cards that let you discard a specific card so the effect isn’t quite as punishing to you. You will want to manage your mana carefully because you gain no benefit from discarding a land card, and that can easily happen with a deck like this. This deck has the added benefit of being able to play more competitively by focusing your discarding onto your opponent and playing more like a normal deck. Once you form a sense of the table’s politics, choose your Gwendlyn targets accordingly. Using Gwendlyn’s ability on yourself won’t make it appear you are taking it easy on (read “patronizing” or “babying”) your opponents, it will appear you get lucky and cast a cheap Gibbering Descent in response to a play from your opponent. Nearly every card you discard that isn’t a land can benefit you in some way, so it’s fine to hit yourself with abandon, but if someone pulls ahead, feel free to drag him or her down to the table’s level. Intruder Alarm is a great way to play a second Oppression, for example, so the more plays someone makes, the more you can punish that player. This is about as 75% as it gets.

Don’t like what I’ve done here? That’s cool. Drilling yourself in the face with a Mind Twist every turn isn’t for everyone. However, what I have done is mitigate The Rafiq Problem to an extent with a commander I feel people won’t dogpile immediately and that can give you a chance to establish you’re a lunatic hell-bent on, well, hellbent. If the opponents make you go harder after one of them, the deck is more than capable. What we have is a deck that can play differently in different groups without you actually playing as though you’re taking it easy on them. What could be more 75% than that?

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