A Beginners Guide to Madness in Shadows over Innistrad, by Joe Butcher

Describing and explaining the Madness mechanic and the applications.

Incorrigible Youths madness banner mtg

A Beginners Guide to Madness in Shadows over Innistrad, by Joe Butcher

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to my very first article written especially for Manaleak mtgUK. It’s an absolute pleasure to be able to write for you guys and I sincerely hope that my rambling are both enjoyable and, most of all, educational. My primary goals with these articles will be to teach you lovely people about some misconceptions, misunderstandings and new things Magic: the Gathering related.

On that note, let’s jump straight into my first topic of order: the Madness mechanic.



So, the normal format of the articles will be the same as this one, an introduction, some talking points and then a summary of what I have covered. A TL; DR if you will.

Now, the Madness mechanic was first released in the Odyssey block, reprinted in Time Spiral and most recently in Shadows over Innistrad. Therefore it is by no means a brand new mechanic like Ingest or Devoid. It is an ability that has two parts but effectively lets you play a card from your graveyard for a different cost.


So let’s dive right into the actual ruling.

Madness is an ability that is split into two pieces, a static effect (an effect that happens no matter what) and a triggered effect. In this case, the static ability from Madness is the card is exiled before it enters the graveyard, at which point the triggered ability allows you to decide to pay its Madness cost and therefore play the card. In essence, it allows all cards that have Madness to be played at instant speed, or technically speaking, as if they had flash. So if you want to discard it on your opponent’s end step, you can.

It’s important to take note, although it may not seem like a big change, that the Madness keyword has been changed, or updated, slightly with Shadows over Innistrad. Until this year, both effects were triggers. When a card with Madness was discarded, the player would choose to discard it into exile, then the player could either cast the spell immediately, or put it in their graveyard. With the updated wording, the card first enters exile (this is no longer a “may” effect), then the player may either cast the spell immediately, or put it in their graveyard.

Now, in order for the Madness trigger to occur, you must remember two things. Firstly, playing a card for its madness cost does not change its Converted Mana Cost (CMC). If I’m discarding a card that costs 2GG and I’m paying 2G for its Madness cost, its CMC is still 4.
Secondly, the card must be discarded. It doesn’t have to be discarded in a certain way; you can discard it to a spell, or just because you have too many cards in hand. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, the Madness ability still triggers.


What can we do with this information?

Well, first and foremost, it effectively gives Creatures with Madness the ability to be cast at Instant speed. That means you can do it at any point in time that an Instant can be cast. Madness-ing in a Arrogant Wurm in response to declaring blockers can cover you back in a bad situation. It happens to be my favourite mechanic from any set and therefore I own a Casual deck focusing on Blue- Green (Simic) Madness creatures.

Inspired by when the cards were used in tournaments, the deck aims to control the game early while putting out efficient creatures with their Madness cost when opponents least expect it.

So here’s my Maindeck list:

Arrogant Wurm
Basking Rootwalla
Merfolk Looter
Thought Courier
Void Grafter
Wild Mongrel
Careful Study
Slip Through Space
Treasure Cruise
Lonely Sandbar
Simic Growth Chamber
Yavimaya Coast
Aether Burst
Circular Logic
Mana Leak

Ancient Grudge
Diplomatic Escort
Frontier Bivouac
Gruul Guildgate
Memory’s Journey
Ray of Revelation
Spell Pierce
Spreading Seas

Using this deck, I have won quite a few games versus other decks. Most opponents view it as just another Control deck until I drop an Arrogant Wurm. Remember that this deck was popular in 2004. There is no guarantee that Madness decks are going to take off like they did back then. For one thing, there are far stronger mechanics nowadays than there were back then.


What about in Standard, y’know, where it’ll live?

In my honest opinion, I think that people will underestimate the mechanic, or at least misuse it to begin with.

Looking at one of the simpler cards in Standard:

Just the Wind SOIWorking this alongside Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy allows us to effectively change his ability from Draw a card, discard a card to Draw a card. Every time you get to effectively discard a card with Madness, you’re gaining card advantage because you get both the abilities, not just one, and the discard drawback is removed through synergy.


So let’s look at the efficiency of the cards with their Madness costs…

Incorrigible Youths Shadows over Innistrad mtg A 4/3 with Haste for 5 isn’t really a good deal. We would probably expect it to cost 4, or have a higher average Power and Toughness. So actually if this was a vanilla card (one with no abilities whatsoever), we’d chuck it in the bin and never really look at it unless it’s the last pick in a bad draft round.

However if we look at its Madness cost instead, we find that we’re getting a 4/3 for 3, with haste. A saving of 2 whole mana and therefore a card that is highly efficient. The closest we have to this card otherwise is Scab-clan Berserker.

Most cards will become more efficient when using their Madness cost. It’s the whole point of the ability and it’s why its so fun to play. Not many people tend to factor a Madness cost in when they’re looking at untapped mana per turn.


Releasing the madness inside

My final point is going to be some examples of cards that enable you to use the Madness mechanic to its fullest extent. For this I’ll look at cards in the Standard format and might look at Madness in Modern another time.

The most standout example of an enabler like this is Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Drawing a card, the discarding is hugely strong in this sort of deck, especially as he turns into Jace, Telepath Unbound afterwards. There’s also Tormenting Voice which lets you net 2 cards if you discard one with Madness. Artificer’s Epiphany can also be strong, doing the same as Tormenting Voice, but at Instant speed for 1 generic mana more.

In Shadows over Innistrad we get a few more ways to use Madness outside of the basic card advantage route. Elusive Tormenter lets us find ways to swing in for 4 unblockable damage if we play our cards right (gettit?). Lightning Axe lets us remove a creature quite nicely alongside the discarding, Pore Over the Pages is a nice lategame method and finally, Olivia, Mobilized for War can produce a nice 2-for-1 with her ability.

Obviously there are plenty more cards in the Standard format post-rotation that can be used, but these are just a few that stood out to me as strong methods. The very last thing I’d like to point out is that Madness in sSandard will probably manifest in some form of Red- Blue- Black (Grixis) form as Green and White don’t thematically follow the concept of Madness.



So, things we have hopefully learned from my ramblings:

  • I actually got rather nervous writing this article.
  • Madness isn’t a new mechanic and can lead to some fun interactions where you trick people with your available mana.
  • There are more Madness enablers than people think. Remember that if an opponent makes you discard a card, you can still activate the Madness ability.
  • Again, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is probably going to be able to shine…

There you are, my first ever article for you guys. Please feel free to leave any comments you have (preferably positive ones) and tell your friends if you really like it. I have a podcast that I occasionally appear on, so if you want to check that out, its called Converted Mana Cast.
For your convenience I have included episode 2 from our Coverted Mana Cast podcast, I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you all very much and I’ll see you in the next article.

Joe Butcher

A Beginners Guide to Madness in Shadows over Innistrad, by Joe Butcher
A Beginners Guide to Madness in Shadows over Innistrad, by Joe Butcher
My primary goals with these articles will be to teach you lovely people about some misconceptions, misunderstandings and new things Magic: the Gathering related.

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