Can I Play with Madness?

I. Overview

II. History

III. Main Deck Card Choices

IV. General Strategy

V. Sideboard Card Choices

VI. Match-ups


  • A) “If a player would discard this card, that player discards it, but exiles it instead of putting it into his or her graveyard” and “When this card is exiled this way, its owner may either put it into discard or cast it by paying its’ madness cost rather than paying its mana cost.”
  • B) Extremely foolish behavior.
  • C) The state of being mentally ill, especially severely.

I. Overview

With the recent unbanning of [card]Ancestral Vision[/card]s and [card]Sword of the Meek[/card] Modern has seen an influx of Blue based control strategies. Players have argued for quite some time that Modern could not support a proper control deck with the lack of card draw in the format. [card]Ancestral Vision[/card]s fixes that problem. With [card]Sword of the Meek[/card] being unbanned Wizards of the Coast has allowed a new controlling combo deck to be brought into the format. [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] Combo/Tezzerator has been an effective fringe Legacy control deck for quite some time. The deck doesn’t combo in the usual sense of the term where you go “oops I win”, but the interaction between [card]Sword of the Meek[/card] and [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] is a combo in itself. With the possibility of Blue/x Control taking over the format I feel it’s time for a new strategy to keep it in check.

Shadows over Innistrad brought back an old mechanic, madness. The mechanic itself screams to me. It haunts my dreams with bizarre ideas that most wouldn’t dare to try in Limited, let alone Modern. SOI didn’t give us much in the terms of eternal viable madness cards that we haven’t seen, but it brought the idea to the forefront of my mind. I want to make madness into an archetype in Modern. I believe that is viable all thanks to [card]Call the Bloodline[/card].

By using a variety of discard outlets that produce other effects we discard cards with madness or various graveyard abilities to gain as much value as possible out of every card in the deck. Currently I’m running a combination of [card]Zombie Infestation[/card] and [card]Call the Bloodline[/card] as my continuous discard outlets. There are multiple options in Modern for discard outlets, but I feel these are the best ones. Both cost 1 and 1 black, both have very low activation costs, and since both are enchantments they don’t get removed by most one shot removal in the format. Running instant speed discard outlets like these allow the deck to cast spells and produce permanents at instant speed. Remember that playing on your opponents end step is the best time to resolve your spells.

You may be asking yourself, “Why should I play this?”. I feel this deck is strong in this meta with a lot of discard floating around as well as plenty of control. The ability to get creatures into play without being subject to permission while being relatively impervious to discard seems too strong to pass up.

RB Call the Bloodline

4 Bloodghast
4 Demigod of Revenge
2 Grave Scrabbler
4 Gorgon Recluse
2 Squee, Goblin Nabob
4 Call the Bloodline
4 Faithless Looting
4 Fiery Temper
4 Lightning Axe
2 Thoughtseize
2 Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
3 Zombie Infestation
3 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Marsh Flats
3 Mountain
4 Smoldering Marsh
5 Swamp
2 Aura Barbs
2 Big Game Hunter
2 Biting Rain
1 Devastating Summons
2 Rakdos Charm
2 Shatterstorm
2 Stain the Mind
2 Torpor Orb

II. History

The precursor to this archetype was an old Legacy deck called Toronto Stompy. It used [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] and [card]Wild Mongrel[/card] as discard outlets to efficiently run out [card]Arrogant Wurm[/card]s, [card]Basking Rootwalla[/card]s and other madness creatures one after another. This strategy was decent until Mike Long broke [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] with [card]Tendrils of Agony[/card] and [card]Yawgmoth’s Will[/card]. In time the printing of the Dredge mechanic killed the deck. My original version of Modern Madness was running [card]Vexing Devil[/card]s and [card]Olivia, Mobilized for War[/card] to get some extra value, but it wasn’t quite as efficient. The addition of enchantment based discard outlets as well as [card]Faithless Looting[/card] and [card]Bloodghast[/card]s has proved far superior.

III. Main Deck Card Choices

[card]Bloodghast[/card]: [card]Bloodghast[/card] has been a mainstay in many Mono Black and Dredgevine lists. The main value [card]Bloodghast[/card] brings to this deck is its ability to come back over and over due to its landfall ability. [card]Bloodghast[/card] can be a ten turn clock on its own and once your opponent gets to ten or less life they become a little more dangerous since they gain haste. I suggest running 3-4.

[card]Demigod of Revenge[/card]: I have waited so long to use this card in Modern. Demigod is another creature that is difficult to cleanly answer. When it is cast [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card] returns all copies in your graveyard to play. If your opponent tries to counter one with the trigger on stack the original one will come into play with the trigger as well. I’m running these since it doesn’t exactly hurt to discard them and they can close out a game very quickly while dodging your opponent’s counter magic and removal. Even though this card is for ending the game either run 4 or none at all.

[card]Gorgon Recluse[/card]: We don’t want to hard cast this at 3 and two black, but, when it is cast for madness it is perfect. Casting it at instant speed by discarding it to [card]Call the Bloodline[/card] or [card]Zombie Infestation[/card] can catch some of the nastiest threats off guard and ruin your opponent’s game plan. At four toughness with pseudo-deathtouch it can block [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] effectively. This card can be your bread and butter defense. I would recommend 2-4 copies in your deck.

[card]Grave Scrabbler[/card]: When it’s cast for its madness cost you can get beck a valuable [card]Gorgon Recluse[/card] or bring back a [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card] to set up the kill on your next turn. Against decks that use the graveyard this card really shines. It acts as mainboard hate for Grishoalbrand and Unburial Gifts since you can bounce their reanimate target to their hand at instant speed all while getting a creature of your own. I would run a minimum of 1 to a maximum of three since this is not a super powerful card.

[card]Squee, Goblin Nabob[/card]: Everyone’s favourite annoying goblin. With [card]Call the Bloodline[/card] he’s basically a free token, [card]Zombie Infestation[/card] becomes cheaper to activate, and [card]Faithless Looting[/card] generates more value since he just goes back to your hand. With 2 Squees or more in your hand there’s no limit to his uses. I recommend a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 3. Any number of this card will have your opponents cursing his name just like Tahngarth did.

[card]Call the Bloodline[/card]: This card is deadly. It’s a cheap uncommon from Shadows over Innistrad and it wrecks face. For one mana and one discarded card you get a 1/1 vampire with lifelink. The applications for this are endless. It lets you activate madness, set up [card]Bloodghast[/card]s and Demigods, and makes chump blockers that gain life at instant speed. The only downside is it’s limited to one use a turn. I still would recommend 3-4 copies in your main board.

[card]Faithless Looting[/card]: I love this card. I wish I could just jam it in literally every deck I own, but unfortunately not every deck abuses graveyards and discard effects or runs red. The biggest thing this deck needs is reliable card draw and discard. Faithless Looting accomplishes both. For one mana you can set up multiple [card]Bloodghast[/card]s on turn one or later in the game set up madness cards and graveyard tricks. Even just digging through your deck when you get mana flooded or mana screwed isn’t bad. Immediately run 4.

[card]Fiery Temper[/card]: While every other deck is running [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] we abuse [card]Fiery Temper[/card]. In most situations lightning bolt is an overall better card, but if you discard a Lightning Bolt that’s it. No more use. With [card]Fiery Temper[/card] you still get value. I recommend 3-4 in your list.

[card]Lightning Axe[/card]: This kills almost every common creature used in Modern outside of combo decks and with all the cards in this deck that have effects when they’re either discarded or already in the yard you almost never lose value. 2 mana kills a creature and can bolt your opponent’s face or kill another creature, depending on what you discard. Seriously, the sky’s the limit here. Run 3-4 copies.

[card]Thoughtseize[/card]: One black and 2 life to take a problem out of your opponent’s hand. Mainly this is in here to even out your combo matchups. Alternatively I would run [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] in this slot. Either works. Run 2-4 depending on how much combo you expect to face.

[card]Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded[/card]: Enter the worst Planeswalker ever printed. I know some people are walking away from their computers at this point thinking, “Nope, this is a joke. Why would anyone in their right mind run Tibalt?” Well let me tell you why. Once you have set up your hand with nothing but value cards Tibalt is basically guaranteed to send off something exciting to the yard. In long drawn out control matches, assuming Tibalt doesn’t immediately eat a bolt, his -4 can quickly end a game. If the opportunity arises his -6 should end almost any game. I’m not that crazy. Run no more than 2.

[card]Zombie Infestation[/card]: Call the Bloodline’s downside was being limited to 1 activation a turn, this is limited by needing 2 cards to activate it. The upside of this card is it requires no mana to activate it, so your mana pool is free and clear to cast cards that you discard. Run 1-4 in your list.

IV. General Strategy

The main goal of this deck is attempting to get value off discarding cards or sending them to your graveyard. This strategy is similar to Dredgevine strategies in the that you want things leaving your hand. But, it’s more resilient to graveyard hate since very few things ever actually hit the graveyard. An ideal run is;

  • Turn 1: land, [card]Faithless Looting[/card], discard 2 [card]Bloodghast[/card]s.
  • Turn 2: land, trigger [card]Bloodghast[/card]s, cast [card]Call the Bloodline[/card].
  • Turn 3: land, attack with [card]Bloodghast[/card]s, discard something to [card]Call the Bloodline[/card] (ideally Squee, Demigod, [card]Fiery Temper[/card], or [card]Gorgon Recluse[/card])
  • Turn 4: Land, attack with everything, discard more stuff to Call the Bloodline
  • Turn 5: Land, [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card], Kill

This strategy is a turn slower than most other aggro strategies but is a turn to two turns faster than other midrange strategies so it fits right between the two archetypes. The nice thing about this strategy is while it is slightly slower it can stall out a game very efficiently with [card]Call the Bloodline[/card] then close it out quickly with [card]Demigod of Revenge[/card].

V. Sideboard Choices

[card]Aura Barbs[/card]: It is no secret that B/R has absolutely no enchantment removal. Bogles, Pillow Fort and Turbo Fog can be aggravating for any deck that can’t deal with all the enchantments. Aura Barbs doesn’t remove the enchantments, but it certainly punishes your opponents for running them. It may not kill a Bogles player, but it almost certainly will kill their creatures.

[card]Big Game Hunter[/card]: It gained popularity recently during Eldrazi Winter. For 1 Black, when you discard it, or 1 and 2 black to hard cast it you kill something with 4 power or greater and get a chump blocker.

[card]Biting Rain[/card]: Another card released in Shadows over Innistrad. This is a 4 mana Infest/Drown in Sorrow which makes it seem kind of bad, but being able to cast it on your opponents turn with madness makes it feel better than [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card].

[card]Devastating Summons[/card]: In more aggressive matchups sometimes you need slightly more power on board to get through to your opponent’s face. This spell can be hazardous to you, so be careful casting it.

[card]Rakdos Charm[/card]: This is a former R/ B staple from before [card]Splinter Twin[/card] was banned. Anything with multiple modes can be valuable. This card stops opposing graveyard strategies in place, remove problematic artifacts, or close out a game if your opponent overextends on creatures. Rakdos Charm is almost good enough to mainboard.

[card]Shatterstorm[/card]: There is a simple elegance to this card. When you’re staring down Affinity or Lantern Control this card says, “I’m sick of dealing with your deck.”

[card]Stain the Mind[/card]: Our combo matchup is rather difficult. Most of the decks we’re afraid of win before we can cast [card]Slaughter Games[/card] or [card]Memoricide[/card]. [card]Stain the Mind[/card] has convoke so we can use our [card]Bloodghast[/card]s and vampire tokens to pay for it early and remove whatever problem card it is we don’t want to deal with.

[card]Torpor Orb[/card]: The banning of [card]Splinter Twin[/card] and [card]Birthing Pod[/card] removed the two main decks that this was used against. In their absence other decks, Kiki-Chord, Melira Company, and [card]Thopter Foundry[/card], have taken their place. [card]Torpor Orb[/card] stops all these decks in their tracks.

VI. Matchups

Jund/Abzan: Our goal here is to out value them. Their [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s, [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card], and [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]s become less effective when we already want to put many of our cards into the graveyard. All of the aforementioned cards run the risk of triggering madness. [card]Gorgon Recluse[/card] can deal with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and most other threats the G/B/x decks produce. In games 2 and 3 cut the [card]Bloodghast[/card]s since they will bring in extra [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]s and avoid putting Demigods in the graveyard.

Burn: This is not a great matchup as you’ll need to be on the play. Your vampire tokens are extremely valuable in this match since that tiny bit of life gain can mean the difference between winning and losing. Post board [card]Bloodghast[/card], [card]Gorgon Recluse[/card], Grave Scrabbler, and [card]Biting Rain[/card] will deal with their threats without triggering Eidolon of the Great Revel.

[card]Scapeshift[/card]: [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s and any life gain you can get are very strong in this match. You’re probably going to lose game one. Game 2 and 3 you have to get to your [card]Stain the Mind[/card] as fast as possible. [card]Big Game Hunter[/card]s will help with their Titans and Baloths while [card]Torpor Orb[/card] will stop their Titans from triggering.

Ad Nauseum: You need your [card]Thoughtseize[/card] here in this match for sure. Post board you want [card]Stain the Mind[/card] to take out their Lightning Storms and [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card]s.

Zoo/Stompy: [card]Call the Bloodline[/card] must come down as fast as possible. You can’t afford to miss producing vampires in this match. Try to out value your opponent as much as you can.

Kiki Chord/Melira Company: In game 1 you’re probably going to have a bad time. In games 2 and 3 you get [card]Torpor Orb[/card] and [card]Stain the Mind[/card] to even out the match. Being able to cast Biting Rain in response to them trying to combo is a very powerful play as well.


In the current Modern meta the speed and versatility of the madness mechanic is heavily overlooked. Given proper timing and use of resources, I feel this could be the next tempo deck to break into the format. If you like playing things on your opponent’s turn and don’t feel like playing blue this deck is for you.

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Dan Williams

I have been brewing a modern madness deck ever since SOI came out. I’m on the fence about Call…I’m using Oona’s Prowler in its’ place, and it’s actually a really good card. I’ll post my list here in the hopes you could critique…I used old school u/g madness as a starting point.

Dan Williams

4 Ravenous Bloodseeker
4 Oona’s Prowler
4 Reckless Wurm
4 Bloodghast
4 Asylum Visitor
2 Drana, Liberator of Malakir
1 Extractor Demon

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Fiery Temper
3 Thoughtseize
3 Dark Withering
2 Kolaghan’s Command
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Stensia Masquerade
1 Infernal Tutor

4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Blood Crypt
3 Dragonskull Summit
1 Foreboding Ruins
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
3 Swamp
2 Mountain

This is just a rough list; I have been building and tweaking it for weeks now, so any input would be great! I opted for discard outlets that cost no mana and have no limit per turn, as well as only requiring 1 card to discard…infestation usually leaves me unable to discard when I have a smaller hand, unless you run Squee, which, I feel, is just an inherently weak card otherwise.