It’s 2007, and college me is looking at one of my Torment cards from high school. The movie 300 has been released recently, and I smile at a silly idea for a card alter. I draw a “no” symbol over the card’s keyword and write beside it: “THIS. IS. SPARTA!”
The keyword on that card? Madness.
Flash forward to now, and the “Merciless Rage” Commander 2019 deck releases this month. But this time around, I’m embracing the madness.
While the precon is a good baseline, you might wonder, “How do I dial it up to 11?” You’re in luck. I’m going to go over some “mad” deck upgrades. Cards with madness to add, some good discard outlets to use, and more.
Ready to begin the descent into madness?
Anje Falkenrath is the star of the show here. Include enough madness cards in the deck, and you theoretically wouldn’t run out of cards. However, not every madness card in Magic is a winner. Given this, going all-in on madness won’t be the deck strategy here.
Instead, we’re going to capitalize on what Anje naturally does. This means playing with cards that love when you do a lot of drawing, discarding, and filling your graveyard.
Additionally, if anything bad should happen to Anje, the deck has plenty of other discard outlets. That way you can keep the madness going.
Eventually, you’ll drain your opponents’ life out with “discarding matters” cards or finish them by reanimating scary creatures.
With Anje as the commander, every madness card’s madness cost is its “mana cost.” And all madness cards are cantrips. Most of the best madness cards in Magic’s history are already in the deck, but we could make a few substitutions.
First, let’s consider the Muck Drubb. What the heck kind of beast is it? Not sure. But we do know that Anje needs protection from targeted removal. And Muck Drubb is the perfect madness creature for the job of redirecting those spells to target itself.
But let’s say the opponent has a few scary creatures. That’s where Voldaren Pariah comes in. There are some Zombie token-generating cards in the deck to help with its transform cost. Plus, you can always surprise your opponents by casting Pariah at instant speed for its madness cost!
Madness cards need a way for you to discard them, of course. And Anje is fantastic for the job. But let’s say your commander gets enchanted with Song of the Dryads! This means you’ll need to include some extra discard outlets.
Chainer, Nightmare Adept and Grimoire of the Dead are already in the deck. Both are great at letting you use those killer cards stuck in the graveyard. And Geier Reach Sanitarium is a much-needed backup plan, if you need another way to loot.
But let’s say you’ve got a few madness cards in hand, and you want to tear through the deck by casting those discarded cards. You’ll need some mana. Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion can help you generate potentially tons of mana!
Conversely, if you’re still interested in mana but focused on the deck’s instants and sorceries, Jaya Ballard helps.
Bone Miser, one of the new cards in “Merciless Rage,” rewards you for discarding a lot of cards. You can get more mileage out of this card (and punish your opponents) by adding Archfiend of Ifnir. Imagine discarding your whole hand and putting four -1/-1 counters on each opposing creature!
You can also draw twice as many cards with Anje if you equip her with Illusionist’s Bracers! But why only draw TWICE as many cards? How about throwing in Alhammarret’s Archive? With both artifacts out, you can tap Anje and draw four cards! The Archive also synergizes nicely with Faith of the Devoted.
Removal and Protection
While you’re discarding cards and casting madness spells, your opponents aren’t just going to sit idly by. Some will threaten your ability to do what your deck does. Or, worse, threaten your ability to survive the game! Typical.
Be prepared and protect Anje with Swiftfoot Boots. “But wait,” you might ask, “why not Lightning Greaves?” Lightning Greaves would give Anje shroud, so you wouldn’t be able to equip her with other artifacts, such as Illusionist’s Bracers or Darksteel Plate. With Swiftboot Boots and Darksteel Plate equipped, you can protect Anje from targeted removal AND board-wipes!
But what about adding more removal to “Merciless Rage” itself? Bedevil is a good option, since it can target several different types of threats. Avatar of Woe is also a great source of repeatable removal, and it’s easy to reanimate.
As for board wipes, you don’t want to just throw down a Damnation and accidentally set yourself back! “Merciless Rage” already includes In Garruk’s Wake, which will destroy your opponents’ creatures while you keep your madness engine going. If you’re looking for other, similar options, Necromantic Selection is a sneaky solution. You can let Anje hit the graveyard and then come right back — untapped, even!
Lastly, a cycled Decree of Pain won’t destroy Anje, but if you’re in a dire situation, you can always bite the bullet and cast it. Drawing a bunch of cards from casting Decree can make up for losing Anje. Then, you can get some powerful spells back with Volcanic Vision and do yet more damage to your opponents’ boards.
Ramp and Lands
The preconstructed “Merciless Rage” deck is a bit lacking in ramp spells. On top of that, taking advantage of casting discarded madness cards requires extra mana. So, a healthy inclusion of ten ramp cards will do, with Jet Medallion and Ruby Medallion being your all-stars. These artifacts will make your madness cards cost even less, allowing you to keep up a flurry of spells or pay extra mana for Faith of the Devoted.
As for the mana base, look for lands that can be discarded or that allow you to discard. Since there are “discard matters” cards, cycling lands can pull double duty. Every possible cycling land for the black-red color identity is included in this deck upgrade. Madness, right? Mwahaha!
If your madness deck is working as intended, you’ll eventually end up with a graveyard full of cards. If you need to close out those games, it’s best to have some cards that are worth bringing out of the graveyard. (You’ll need some reanimation spells, too.)
Sheoldred, Whispering One is a card that just screams “merciless.” It can help get other big monsters back from your graveyard while forcing your opponents to sacrifice their creatures. If you really want to pour salt in your opponents’ wounds, look for ways to return their creatures to the battlefield under your control (such as Sepulchral Primordial).
But neither of these creatures pack too much of a punch. That’s a job for the Colossus of Akros. This indestructible creature is a great blocker while you’re building up your madness game. But once you’re ready to start attacking, a 20/20 with trample is difficult to get rid of.
It’s a Mad World
Mad props for joining me on this journey through the upgrading the “Merciless Rage” Commander 2019 deck. If you want to see a full decklist, I put one together over on TappedOut.net: Merciless Rage Upgraded
You can also catch me at the Commander party at MagicFest Vegas this month. And, as always, you can find me on Twitter at @bradleyrose! Let me know if you find any excellent synergies and combos that I didn’t mention here!
Bradley is a co-host of a weekly Magic: The Gathering design podcast, Beacon of Creation. He was among the Top 101 contestants in Wizards of the Coast’s Great Designer Search 2. He enjoys crafting custom Magic product experiences, like Archfrenemies, and building Commander decks with creative constraints.