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By: Blackdeckwins, Anthony Davis
Jun 07 2016 12:00pm
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I love madness: it takes a normally negative mechanic and flips it into a powerful, positive mechanic. It changes the normal mindset of deckbuilding and playing, and has the potential to be explosively powerful. Shadows over Innistrad released plenty of new madness cards into Magic, including several options into Pauper. During a Shadows over Innistrad draft, I managed to build an aggressive Red/Black Madness deck that tore through my opponents with a low curve and turn-five kills.

After the success with a largely-common deck, I started converting it into a Pauper deck: increasing the numbers, removing all of the uncommon cards, slipping in a few Temur Battle Rages. However, while I was working on it, Eternal Masters cards began to be spoiled, including the card that almost everyone is excited about: Nimble Mongoose. I never got to play with the mongoose in “Standard” and I have yet to try Legacy, so I was excited to try the little green aggressive monster. While I wanted to test with the new addition, I hated abandoning my madness brew. Then, I thought, why not take the best of both worlds?

Fortunately for me, Alex Ullman had already outlined a Red/Green Madness deck when Shadows over Innistrad was spoiled, so it gave me a solid game plan to start building with.
 
 
I decided to run the deck as-is through a Pauper league, to test how it was set up, see what cards were not pulling their weight, and most importantly, see if the deck could reliably turn on threshold.
 
The overall goal of this deck is to abuse the madness mechanic with discard outlets to flood the board with cheap threats, and end the game relatively quickly. The key cards that make this deck run are the discard outlets. Red gives the deck access to the new Insolent Neonate, which lets you chip away for damage early and cash it in for a new card and a madness creature later on. It also allows the deck to play Lightning Axe as a ritual and a removal spell that can kill almost every threat in Pauper. Finally, green offers the long-time madness engine, Wild Mongrel, to act as both a discard outlet and an aggressive threat.
 
The engines are important, but the madness cards are the pay-offs for playing those cards. Green offers the deck the classic Arrogant Wurm as a giant, efficient, evasive creature and the classic Basking Rootwalla as a free madness creature. Red, on the other hand, offers the new, hyper-aggressive Bloodmad Vampire as an early-game surprise threat, and Fiery Temper as a second Lightning Bolt. Gathan Raiders pulls double-duty as an engine and a cheap threat, since the deck can easily make use of its morph cost to discard a threat. Finally, Hooting Mandrills cleans up the discarded cards and fallen creatures as a final efficient threat.
 
Of course, an aggressive deck is not an aggressive deck without some form of reach to close out games, and this deck as a few viable options on top of its large creatures. Eight copies of Lightning Bolt (thanks to the “madness bolt”) means it can close out games with surprise damage. Temur Battle Rage also doubles the damage any creature deals, and almost always grants trample: a deadly combo with Bloodmad Vampire. Finally, as some recurring power and pump, a single Wild Hunger makes an appearance. This deck has a good shot at closing games out of nowhere.
 
Though the main deck is unchanged from Alex’s original brew, I did have to put together the sideboard on my own. Red gives the deck plenty of hate on artifacts: two copies of Gorilla Shaman hose artifact-heavy decks like Affinity, while Ancient Grudge is better suited for decks that use artifacts as utilities, like Kuldotha Jeskai. Natural State also helps against artifacts, while being able to hit any enchantments out of Bogles and the eponymous Journey to Nowhere. Pyroblast is the best way to hate out blue decks filled with counterspells and Relic of Progenitus slows down graveyard decks. Electrickery is here to clean up tokens and tiny faeries and Young Wolf is a cheap creature that shores up the deck’s removal problems. Finally, an extra Lightning Axe handles high-toughness threats like Gurmag Angler, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Fangren Marauder. Like most aggressive decks, the sideboard is set up to shore up problem matchups while swapping only a few cards.
 
After a few practice rounds, I took the deck into a Pauper League on Magic Online to see how it handled against the titans of the format. After five rounds, the deck and I limped away with a 2-3 record, and plenty of new information about the deck.
 
Like most aggressive decks, Red/Green Madness is capable of some seriously broken draws. Insolent Neonate followed by Bloodmad Vampire is more power than would be expected on turn three, especially if Temur Battle Rage is available. Turn two Wild Mongrel dumping multiple Basking Rootwallas onto the battlefield also makes a powerful force, especially when followed by Arrogant Wurm. Being an aggressive deck, it also punishes bad mulligan decisions, and a slight mistake from the opponent can end the game in short order.
 
While Red/Green Madness benefits from the usual upsides of aggressive decks, it also has a few unique benefits. Any opponents who play any discard effects will find themselves heavily punished when they accelerate out our aggressive threats. This deck also packs unusually large creatures like Arrogant Wurm and Hooting Mandrills so it dodges small removal spells like Lightning Bolt and Disfigure. Finally, since it packs eight bolts and Lightning Axe, it can kill virtually any threat available in the Pauper format for a fairly cheap cost.
 
Unfortunately, while the deck has plenty of upsides, it has as many weaknesses, if not more. Like the average aggressive deck, if it does not win quickly, it usually loses. Decks that go slightly larger than it while grinding out an advantage can easily win by answering the first few threats, since the deck is looking to deploy its hands as fast as possible. And, of course, it tends to live-and-die by its opening hands, so poor draws mean quick losses.
 
While Red/Green Madness is vulnerable to most of the normal weaknesses of aggressive decks, it also falls to its own Achilles heels. First and foremost, Chittering Rats is an absolute beating for the deck. Wild Mongrel, Insolent Neonate, Lightning Axe, and Gathan Raiders encourage you to hold late lands in hand, which makes Chittering Rats a terrible beating. The deck also has few threats, so if those are answered, the deck easily crumbles. Bloodmad Vampire was a particularly easy-to-answer glass cannon. Finally, as this is an early version of the deck, the mana base is just bad. It often wants access to both double-green and double-red, and the card colors are split almost directly down the middle, which spells death for an aggressive deck in Pauper: there were plenty of hands with two or three mountains and the rest green spells, and vice-versa.
 
In addition to the ups and downs, I also learned how well the deck could achieve threshold. And, in a word…it didn’t. The most cards that were ever in the graveyard was six, and most of them were usually eaten by Hooting Mandrills. So, clearly, there will be no simply slotting Nimble Mongoose into the deck and hoping for the best. However, there are a few tweaks that could be made to ensure threshold is reachable. Terramorphic Expanse can give the deck an extra playset of fetchlands to fill the graveyard quickly (and thin out the deck) and Faithless Looting can quickly churn through cards will giving the deck another discard outlet and late-game card filtering. Dangerous Wager is even potentially a way to dump unneeded cards for card advantage.
 
To play Nimble Mongoose alongside Fiery Temper, the deck will certainly need to lean more towards one color or the other for consistency. To play the mongoose, the obvious choice is to lean towards green.
 
Red/Green Madness (Green Heavy)
Pauper Brew by Anthony Davis
Creatures
4 Wild Mongrel
3 Gathan Raiders
4 Nimble Mongoose
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Arrogant Wurm
4 Werebear
23 cards

Other Spells
4 Faithless Looting
2 Lightning Axe
4 Fiery Temper
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Wild Hunger
15 cards
Lands
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Terramorphic Expanse
9 Forest
5 Mountain
22 cards

Wild Mongrel
 
However, if Nimble Mongoose is going to be more of a cheap later-game threat, Red could be the focus for early-game action, with some green late-game pressure and sideboard cards. It might even be able to lean more towards a burn deck.
 
Red/Green Madness (Red Heavy)
Pauper Brew by Anthony Davis
Creatures
3 Gathan Raiders
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Nimble Mongoose
4 Bloodmad Vampire
4 Insolent Neonate
19 cards

Other Spells
4 Faithless Looting
2 Lightning Axe
4 Fiery Temper
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Fireblast
2 Mutagenic Growth
1 Temur Battle Rage
19 cards
Lands
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Evolving Wilds
5 Forest
9 Mountain
22 cards

Fiery Temper
 
To be an aggressive deck in Pauper, the deck will definitely need to lean towards one color or the other. Because the green version packs the newest toys, I will probably be testing it as soon as Nimble Mongoose is available for combat, but I will have my eye on the other version, just in case.
 
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, you can always contact me on Twitter (@blackdeckwins) and on Tumblr (also @blackdeckwins), where I write articles about Limited and custom Magic card design. You can also check out all of my previous articles on PureMTGO by following this link.