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Commander 2019 - Merciless Rage

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Welcome back to Commander 2019 Week! It's a heck of week to come back - after a quick leave of absence, I get to return right in the middle of one of the best times for Commander players. My fellow CSI Commander writers are killing it this week, and we've got some great stuff to work with. But when I saw these decks, I knew which one I wanted to write about right away - MADNESS.

Madness is an unforgiving mechanic. We build some amount of our deck to intentionally throw away our resources in the hope we can get some benefit. We're playing out of our graveyard, which is risky in this format. And while Black is pretty good at refilling our hand, it's most often at the cost of our life total, which is scary. We don't even get Green to recover our lands from the 'yard! Nope, we're Rakdos all the way, and we're going to attempt to throw as much damage around as possible. Let's take a look at Merciless Rage right out of the box.

Merciless Rage | Commander | Wizards of the Coast


Here's what I'd like to do. I'd like to spend this time talking about individual cards, rather than the deck as a whole. The deck is pretty clear - discard cards for value. While we're at it, sacrifice stuff, keep your graveyard full, play stuff out of the graveyard, and probably have no cards in hand, so... draw some. Let's look at some one-for-one upgrades, adding value where the original cards are a bit weak. While we're at it, let's work within a few financial ranges, but you can decide on your overall budget. Plus, we're not going to mess with the mana base. If you want, make it better. It probably doesn't matter. Just don't cut any.

THE < $1 UPGRADES

In: Voldaren Pariah $1

Out: Bloodhall Priest

Voldaren Pariah
Bloodhall Priest

We're kicking a 4/4 for 3 (with Madness) for a 3/3 flier for bbb (also with Madness). However, the 2 damage we get from the priest isn't comparable to forcing someone to sacrifice three creatures, plus a 6/5 flier matters.

In: Strength of Lunacy $0.25

Out: The Eldest Reborn

Strength of Lunacy
The Eldest Reborn

The Eldest Reborn makes our opponents discard. Nothing wrong with that, but not what we're up to. Strength of Lunacy is a slick trick which makes just about every creature we've got better, and it's really cheap, which we want. As long as you can cause the discard at instant speed, madness occurs at instant speed, and the pro-White of Strength of Lunacy can annul a lot of removal.

In: Distemper of the Blood $0.50

Out: Malevolent Whispers

Distemper of the Blood
Malevolent Whispers

Malevolent Whispers is an expensive Threaten effect. While it works with our deck, because we can sacrifice so many creatures, it takes up too many of our resources to be worth it. Instead, we get a weird Giant Growth that can go on any of our things to punch through some necessary damage.

In: Glint-Horn Buccaneer $0.50

Out: Skyfire Phoenix

Glint-Horn Buccaneer
Skyfire Phoenix

The Phoenix is a good card, no question. But Glint-Horn is like a backup commander for us, if she's been priced out or otherwise made so she can't tap. Worth it.

In: Mind Stone $0.75

Out: Hedonist's Trove

Mind Stone
Hedonist's Trove

One problem with decks like this is they churn through cards and want to cast a few things. If we discard three cards with Madness, we need some mana. 40 lands is a good start, but we really need more. Both of these cards are here to get us more mana. One of them comes down early and cashes in for an extra card later. The other one could win the game and costs seven mana. We've got other haymakers. Let's hit our mana.

In: Gibbering Descent $1

Out: Hate Mirage

Gibbering Descent
Hate Mirage

Both of these cards do a similar thing in they mess with our opponents. The difference is one chips away at life totals plus helps us by giving us a free discard every turn, while the other doesn't even Threaten, just makes some tokens to whack with.

THE $1 - $10 UPGRADES

In: Archfiend of Ifnir $1.50

Out: Violent Eruption

Archfiend of Ifnir
Violent Eruption

Violent Eruption is pricey, even when cast for Madness. Four damage will kill some stuff, but not much. The Archfiend, on the other hand, is a threat by itself and permanently damages opposing armies, plus hoses token decks pretty well.

In: Gamble$3.99

Out: Boneyard Parley

Gamble
Boneyard Parley

If we're going to take a risk, I'd rather Gamble (see what I did there?) on what our deck is designed to do than on a seven-mana spell that may do very little. Also, Gamble doesn't draw much hate as a tutor. Use it when you can.

In: Vilis, Broker of Blood $1.25

Out: Soul of Innistrad

Vilis, Broker of Blood
Soul of Innistrad

Vilis is pricier, but an 8/8 flier is probably better than a 6/6 Deathtouch, and drawing cards is better than an expensive effect to put cards from our 'yard back in our hand. Soul of Innistrad is great, for sure, but Vilis will do good work, plus kill some stuff along the way.

In: Disciple of Bolas $2.25

Out: Alchemist's Greeting

Disciple of Bolas
Alchemist's Greeting

While Madness-based removal is useful, in this case 4 damage just isn't worth it. Disciple, on the other hand, gains us some much-needed life and draws us a bunch of cards to refill our hand, plus we'll probably be able to get that creature back.

THE >$10 UPGRADES

In: Razaketh, the Foulblooded $15

Out: K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth

Razaketh, the Foulblooded
K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth

K'rrik is awesome. Truly. But if we're going for sheer power, a tutor on a very, very large stick is really strong. Probably stronger than a 2/2 for {7}, which isn't a fair way to describe K'rrik but isn't inaccurate. Razaketh will be very powerful in this deck. It will also make it draw extra hate, and it might be worth finding even more mana ramp.

In: Sheoldred, Whispering One $18

Out: Soul of Innistrad

Sheoldred, Whispering One
Soul of Innistrad

Yup, Soul of Innistrad comes out twice. Why? Because Sheoldred is better than Soul or Vilis. She draws a lot of attention, which is good. If she survives for a turn or two, the value is absurd. When we play a deck that can sometimes get her back, even better. Sheoldred wins games.

GENERAL NOTES

I know I said I was going to talk about individual cards, but after writing the article, some bigger points popped out.

  1. The deck is probably creature-light. There are a lot of effects to play with cards in the graveyard, but one of the reasons I cut Soul of Innistrad (twice!) as it's unlikely there will be three creatures in the 'yard we really want to return.
  2. The deck wants more mana ramp. This deck will be mana-hungry with all the Madness spells, and one big turn will be better than spreading out the spells over multiple turns. It feels bad to put more artifact mana in here, but it's probably going to make the deck more explosive and, therefore, better.

I hope some of these cards help you figure out how you want to change up Merciless Rage. Did I miss anything? What would you do to make it your own? Please let us know in the comments and help everyone!

Enjoy the rest of Commander 2019 week!

Thanks for reading.