On Sideboard.com,* there’s a preview of the new Torment card Compulsion, where they reveal another card with the madness mechanic:
Draw a card.
Madness U (You may play this card for its madness cost at the time you discard it from your hand).
Madness is a great name for what seems to be a very weird, counter-intuitive, rule-breaking mechanic. I’ve heard some rules-gurus try and figure out exactly how this works with the Stack, but I’m not one to delve that deeply into the whys. From the reminder text, we can see how madness will basically work; a card with madness has some sort of mana cost that you may pay to play the card whenever you discard it.
Very interesting, considering the game of Magic often uses the discard mechanic to power some sort of effect. When discarding a madness card, you basically get the discard-activated effect for free. There’s also the potential for casting things like sorceries, enchantments, and creatures at instant-speed with the right discard effect.
Whether or not this will make an impact in Constructed Magic will depend on a few things:
First, cards with madness will need to be worth playing even without using the madness ability. Obsessive Search lets you draw a card, so there’s hope that others will be at least decent. Consulting the Orb of Insight on magicthegathering.com, we get twenty hits, which suggests we get ten cards with the madness mechanic (give or take, since it’s possible there might be some card that mentions madness without actually having it, like a counterspell for madness cards or something). Eight to ten cards gives us a good shot of at least getting a few decent Madness cards.
Second, the madness costs need to be reasonable cheap. Obsessive Search’s madness cost is cheap – and since Alex mentions a madness card that lets you put a creature into play for free, there’s hope here, too. In fact, this statement leads me to believe that madness costs will allow spells to be cast at a discount mana cost for the trouble of combining it with a discard effect.
Without a spoiler, we can’t really reach any certain conclusions regarding the first two points.
However, the last point is, in order to play with madness cards we need to have decent playable cards that have discard as part of its activation or cost to play the card. The key here is probably mana, since the more expensive it is to cast the spell or activate the discard effect, the less mana you’ll have to pay the madness cost. It’s here that we can glean some hints as to what cards players will use to harness the power of Madness. From the current Type 2 card pool:
7th Edition Rare
At the beginning of your draw step, draw a card. At the end of your turn, discard your hand.
After making a brief appearance at Nationals last year, the Skullcap has been quietly lurking in our trade binders. Well, it might be time to take another look at it. If there’s discounted madness burn spells, then Bachman’s red deck might make a comeback, flinging burn during your discard phase. Skullcap also has nice synergy with the Flashback mechanic from Odyssey.
7th Edition Rare
2, T: Draw a card, then discard a card from your hand.
The Tome has always been overshadowed by the cheaper-to-cast and cheaper-to-activate Merfolk Looter. However, if there’s decent madness cards in non-blue colors, this is one way to dig for ’em and to use their effect. Again, this card has decent synergy with Flashback.
Artifact Creature – Golem
Junk Golem comes into play with three +1/+1 counters on it. At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Junk Golem unless you remove a +1/+1 counter from it. 1, Discard a card from your hand: Put a +1/+1 counter on Junk Golem.
Ah, but for the days of Mindless Automaton. Actually, I’m really surprised they didn’t just reprint the Automaton, since it wasn’t particularly overpowered but it had its uses. Still… The Junk Golem gives you a way to cheaply discard a madness card that also swings, so there’s some potential here. Not a lot of potential, but I still wanted to mention it.
Artifact Creature – Giant
Discard a card from your hand: Regenerate Patchwork Gnomes.
It was an interesting move to reprint these guys in Odyssey, since they work well with both Flashback and Madness. The mana cost is perfect at zero. The question is whether a deck would need a 2/1 regenerating colorless creature for three mana.
Whenever a player plays a spell, that player discards X cards from his or her hand, where X is the number of cards in all graveyards with the same name as that spell.
The Shrines are universally loathed as chaff rares, but a few of them have some potential if you’re willing to stretch credibility to the breaking point. For a deck with lots of madness cards to break the card’s symmetry, along with maybe a milling strategy against your opponent, the Cabal Shrine can work to seriously deplete your opponent’s hand. In a world where Fact or Fiction is the most-played spell (as the results of the Masters at San Diego reveals), you might want to take another look at this Shrine.
Discard any number of cards from your hand. Target player reveals his or her hand, then you choose a nonland card from it for each card discarded this way. That player discards those cards.
The only way that Last Rites could possibly be decent is in a madness/flashback or madness/threshold deck. If we see one cropping up, Last Rites might actually see some play.
Creature – Horror 4/3
When Mindslicer is put into a graveyard from play, each player discards his or her hand.
I loved Mindslicer the minute I saw it, but as I’ve been trying to work with it, I’ve noticed a fundamental problem with it – when playing against decks you want this to work best against (i.e. control decks), they will typically remove it without killing it, by bounce and counterspells, or maybe Hobble. There’s also a lack of decent cheap sacrifice effects (ah, where’s Phyrexian Tower and High Market when you need them?) outside of Diabolic Intent. Still, if Mindslicer finds a home somewhere, it may very well be in a deck with some madness cards.
7th Edition Rare
Whenever a player plays a spell, that player discards a card from his or her hand.
Similar to Cabal Shrine, Oppression might work alongside the Shrine in a weird, open-hand black control deck. While madness won’t really break Oppression’s symmetry (since you’ll be playing the madness card you just discarded, and subsequently have to discard another card), it will guarantee you the ability to pay the discounted mana cost of madness.
Creature – Minion 1/2
Discard a card from your hand, Sacrifice Overeager Apprentice: Add BBB to your mana pool.
Okay, I know I have a lot of nerve mentioning this card outside of my Twilight’s Call deck… But I just wanted to note that a madness card goes halfway towards making this almost playable.
Discard two cards from your hand: Put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token into play.
Infestation has been making a huge splash in Extended and even showing up in some Type 2 decks. The mana activation cost is free, so expect to see some madness cards help further fuel decks featuring Zombie Infestation. I predict this card to be the Number Two Most Likely to Be Seen in a Madness Deck.
Rites of Spring
Discard any number of cards from your hand. Search your library for that many basic land cards, reveal those cards, and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
A single madness card turns this into an interesting way to filter your hand without losing any card advantage. Rites of Spring is one of those cards I’ve been keeping an eye on since Odyssey came out, since being able to thin a bunch of lands out of your deck has some great potential.
Creature – Hound 2/2
Discard a card from your hand: Wild Mongrel gets +1/+1 and becomes the color of your choice until end of turn.
You know that free madness creature Alex mentioned? Expect to see it trotting alongside the Wild Mongrel, which is the Number One Most Likely to Be Seen in a Madness Deck card. Again, like Infestation, Mongrel’s mana cost is perfect at zero, giving you plenty of mana for the madness cost while pumping up your Mongrel.
Draw two cards, then discard two cards from your hand.
It’s cheap, and with madness becomes effectively a cantrip. The recent Masters tournament has shown us the value of stoking your graveyard and cycling through your deck. Cephalid Coliseum is more powerful once you attain threshold, but Careful Study can get you there. However, with Sleight of Mind around, this will probably only see use in Reanimation strategies.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control a red or green permanent, draw a card, then discard a card from your hand. If you control a red permanent and a green permanent, instead draw two cards, then discard a card from your hand.
Ceta Sanctuary popped up in Fires variants last year but eventually faded away (no pun intended). Will madness help spark more interest in this card? It’s possible; there’s no mana activation for the effect, so that’s a positive start.
Creature – Cephalid 2/2
T: Target player draws two cards, then discards two cards from his or her hand.
Creature – Cephalid 2/1
T: Target player draws a card, then discards a card from his or her hand.
1U, Creature – Merfolk 1/1
7th Edition Uncommon
T: Draw a card, then discard a card from your hand.
How may I loot? Let me count the ways. Merfolk Looter is cheapest to cast and has historically gotten a lot of play, but we do have the potential to really load up on deck cyclers if that’s what we want. Again, the mana cost to loot is zero, it’s simply a tap of the creature. I expect Merfolk Looter to be just behind Zombie Infestation on the Most Likely to Be Seen in a Madness Deck card.
Kicker 1B (You may pay an additional 1B as you play this spell.) Draw three cards, then discard two cards from your hand. If you paid the kicker cost, target player discards two cards from his or her hand.
Probe has seen some action here and there, and there might be a few madness cards that work well with Probe. We’ll have to see. Probe with kicker doesn’t leave much extra mana floating around, but if there are zero madness cards there’s some possibilities.
7th Edition Common
Discard your hand, then draw that many cards.
Like a super-charged Careful Study, a madness card in hand turns this into a cantrip. There’s already a Type 2 threshold deck that uses this card, a few madness cards might help.
Creature – Merfolk 1/2
When Vodalian Merchant comes into play, draw a card, then discard a card from your hand.
If you want your cycling Merfolk to stay at the two-mana mark, this could be Looters numbers 5-8.
2RG, Discard two cards at random from your hand: Meteor Storm deals 4 damage to target creature or player.
The activation cost is a bit prohibitive to combine with all but the cheapest of madness cards, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.
Creature – Atog 1/2
Discard a card from your hand: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
The breakout star of the San Diego Masters, don’t be surprised if some P-togs you see have”Finkel” scribbled across it. Madness cards seem custom made to power up the mighty P-tog, so add him to the list of cards to keep in mind when Torment comes out.
T: Add U to your mana pool. Cephalid Coliseum deals 1 damage to you. Threshold – U, T, Sacrifice Cephalid Coliseum: Target player draws three cards, then discards three cards from his or her hand.
Another shining star at Masters, the Coliseum works great in conjunction with the P-tog and it’s cheap activation and digging potential should make it a great companion for madness.
So in summary, my picks for current Type 2 cards most likely to abuse Madness:
1. Wild Mongrel
2. Zombie Infestation
3. Merfolk Looter
5. Cephalid Coliseum
It looks like blue and black are the colors best suited to take advantage of the madness mechanic, with green in the running strictly on the power of Wild Mongrel. We’ll want to take a good look at blue and black madness spells, along with madness spells in colors that might be strongly partnered with blue and black.
Torment itself is bound to give us some great cards that have discarding as part of spell’s cost or effect, so keep your eyes peeled for that word”discard” at the pre-release!
* – By the way, Star City fans of Dr. Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar need to drop Sideboard a line letting them know we noticed that they mentioned everyone except Dr. Jay in the review of MagicTheGathering.com on the Week in Review Jan 2 – 9, and that was not cool at all.