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By: Bertro, Robert Reed
Jun 30 2014 12:00pm
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Pauper Madness!

Welcome to Pauper Madness!  This article starts with a primer on using the Madness ability in MTGO and then does a run through of a UG build!  If you aren't familiar with the Madness ability it's a replacement effect on cards that typically allow you to cast a spell at a discounted cost if the spell is discarded from your hand for any reason.  Here's a quote from the Mothership back in 2002 on the Madness ability:

"Madness is one of the most complex abilities that the Magic R&D team has ever designed.  Our task was to create an ability that would let you play a card whenever you discard it, allowed the spell to be countered, and didn't let your opponent "mess" with the card you were going to play. To do this, we combined different types of effects into a single keyword ability.

First, a replacement effect optionally removes the card from the game for a short time, keeping it safe from your opponent's tricks.  Then, a triggered ability lets you play the spell for its madness cost the next time you get a chance to play an instant.  Finally, if you choose not to play the card after all, it's put into your graveyard, so that it can count towards threshold."

The ability is a little more complicated than the short excerpt above explains, but the linked article goes into some of the other interactions that occur with the Madness ability and I certainly encourage you to read it if you aren't familiar with it.

Madness MTGO Primer

Let's take a look at how to use the Madness ability in the Beta (soon to be only) client.

Step 1: Have a hand that has a discard outlet and Madness cards.  Hooray!  The hand below has a discard outlet with Wild Mongrel and Madness cards in Basking Rootwalla and Circular Logic!

Step 2: Get the Wild Mongrel on the battlefield, click on it to use its discard ability, and select a card with Madness.  We'll select Basking Rootwalla.

Step 3: Select a replacement effect. Most of the time when you use Mongrel's discard ability, the selected card goes directly to the graveyard.  When selecting a card with Madness the client will have us click on the card again to select a replacement effect.  If we select "Discard" then the Rootwalla will go directly to the graveyard.  If we select "Discard with Madness" then the Rootwalla will move to the Exile Zone.  Let's select "Discard with Madness".

Step 4: The Rootwalla moves to the Exile Zone and the Madness Trigger goes on the stack.

Step 5: Casting the Madness card.  Ok, the Madness trigger is on the stack, the Rootwalla has been removed from the Exile Zone and the client is asking if we want to cast the Rootwalla.  Let's look in the upper left hand corner and click...hmmm...let's click "No"?  Do not click "No".  If we click "No" then the card will go directly to the graveyard.  I'm not sure why someone didn't program a "Yes" button for that box, but in the next step (Step 5.1) I'll show you how to cast the spell.

Step 5.1: Cast the spell, for reals this time.  We need to actually click on the card itself and then select "Cast with Madness".  At this point the client will also ask us to pay any appropriate Madness costs or for a card like Circular Logic to pay the costs and ask what card we would like to target.  Since the Rootwalla has a Madness cost of "0" we don't need to pay anything!

Step 6: The Madness card is cast!  After paying the Madness cost the spell will go on the stack and can be responded to like any other spell.  If the opponent doesn't have a counter then then our spell resolves!  In this case the Rootwalla enters the battlefield!

And that's all there is to casting a Madness spell!  There's actually quite a bit of click so remember to just take your time so you don't accidentally send the card to the graveyard.  Not that I've done that before...

UG Madness Deck

Ok, now that the primer is out of the way let's take a look at a deck that seeks to take full advantage of our ability to discard!

UG Pauper Madness
3 Basking Rootwalla
3 Arrogant Wurm
4 Wild Mongrel
4 Aquamoeba
3 Werebear
3 Ninja of the Deep Hours
20 cards

Other Spells
3 Deep Analysis
4 Rune Snag
4 Circular Logic
4 Careful Study
4 Aether Burst
19 cards
3 Evolving Wilds
8 Island
10 Forest
21 cards
Wild Mongrel



Here’s the breakdown on what the deck is running and why.
Madness Cards
Basking RootwallaArrogant WurmCircular Logic
Basking Rootwalla is our utility creature.  We can play it on turn one if we don’t have any other options or chuck it and cast it for its Madness cost of “0”!  As long as we have a card in hand and a discard outlet on the battlefield the opponent has to be prepared for a surprise blocker even if we are tapped out on lands.  If we’re not tapped out then Basking Rootwalla shares the once per turn growth in P/T for a mana investment ability as its Rootwalla cousins.  While I have three in the above build, I imagine I should make room to include the fourth.
Arrogant Wurm is a new addition to the Pauper Madness family thanks to Vintage Masters!  Arrogant Wurm’s Madness cost lets us put a 4/4 trampler on to the battlefield for 2G at instant speed!  The Wurm makes another great surprise blocker or just a great creature to play at the end of an opponent’s turn.
Circular Logic is another Pauper addition from Vintage Masters.  It’s a counterspell that should get better as the game goes on (assuming the opponent isn’t running graveyard hate like Bojuka Bog).  Just remember that you shouldn’t cast it with an empty graveyard because the spell goes on the stack before the ‘yard so the opponent would only need to pay a whopping “0”!
Discard Outlets
Wild MongrelAquamoebaCareful Study
Where Basking Rootwalla is the utility creature Wild Mongrel is the all-star of this deck.  It’s difficult to block or attack in to profitably, particularly in a format where a 4/4 is on the big end of creatures.  Mongrel gives us instant speed discard the turn it comes into play which beyond giving us a Madness outlet will help set-up plays for some of the cards I will mention below.
Aquamoeba is a card for which I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand it gives us another instant speed discard outlet from the moment it hits the battlefield, but I’m never as happy to play it as I am a Wild Mongrel.  Part of the reason is that it’s discard comes with a switching of the P/T so whereas the Mongrel’s discard helps it survive, Aquamoeba’s discard ability actually makes it more likely to die.  Also Aquamoeba’s discard is best used during our attack phase and that’s seldom the time we want to be playing a card.  Aquamoeba isn’t bad, but I’m hesitant to call it good as well.  It’s one of the cards I would consider switching out for another option (and I’ll give a few options further down in the article).
Careful Studyserves multiple purposes in this deck.  It allows us to filter through our deck and toss out unwanted cards from our hand.  It fills the graveyard which benefits Circular Logic and Werebear.  And it is a Madness outlet albeit at sorcery speed which isn’t ideal, but hey, sometimes you just need to put a cheap creature on the field.  Careful study won’t give us card advantage like traditional card draw, but it can help improve the overall quality of our game state between the battlefield, our hand, and graveyard.
Graveyard Matters
Aether BurstRune SnagWerebear
Aether Burst and Rune Snag are both cards that improve in casting as more cards with the same name are in the graveyard.  I’ve had many games where I’ve had two copies of Aether Burst in hand and I chuck one to get the additional value out of casting the second to bounce two creatures.  The other nice piece about Aether Burst is that it doesn’t limit whose creatures we can bounce so it can be used in a pinch to save our own creatures from removal.
Rune Snag is similar to Aquamoeba in that it’s not a bad card, but I seldom feel I get full value from the card.  If it’s not in my opening hand then I fell it’s often it’s a card that reads “Pay 2 mana” in addition to another cards cost.  It might slow down an opponent, but it doesn’t keep the threat off the board or from advancing the opponent’s game plan.  This is the other card in the deck that I would highly consider cutting for another option.  I think the option should probably still be a counter and I kept it in the build to keep it on theme.
Werebear is mana acceleration early and becomes a beater rather quickly with Threshold and our ability to fill the graveyard.
Card Draw
Deep AnalysisNinja of the Deep Hours
Deep Analysis is a great card to chuck to the graveyard and even gets an easier mana cost once it’s in the bin.  Of course just be aware of the life loss with the Flashback cost.  One Deep Analysis shouldn’t hurt too much, but that life loss does add up particularly against aggressive decks.
I find that opponents are often hesitant to block the creatures in this deck because of the variety of combat tricks available so (Ninja of Deep Hours) really plays to this reluctance.  In an ideal, and not uncommon, scenario we can be attacking with a Wild Mongrel and Basking Rootwalla and the opponent does not block the Rootwalla.  We can Ninjutsu  in Deep Hours for the Rootwalla and then use Mongrel’s discard to put the Rootwalla back on the battlefield to give the Mongrel +1/+1 which if the Mongrel is unblock lets us still get in for the same amount of damage as if we spent 1G for the Rootwalla’s growth ability.  Only now we’re spending 1U for the same amount of damage and we get a card to boot!
Non-Basic Land
Evolving WildsTerramorphic Expanse
So in the above build we’re using Evolving Wilds, it’s cousin Terramorphic Expanse would work as well, instead of something like Simic Guildgate.  Both bring lands into play tapped and the Guildgate actually gives us two colors so why use Wilds?  The answer is the graveyard.  Evolving Wilds and/or Terramorphic Expanse add to our graveyard count.  I’ve had games where top decking and cracking an Evolving Wilds is the difference in achieving Threshold.  I think an argument could be made to use Simic Guildgate over Wilds or Expanse, but the value of adding to our graveyard count is really hard to overcome.
Other Potential Creature Choices
GreenseekerDeepwood DrummerTrickster MageThought CourierMerfolk LooterWaterfront Bouncer
When looking at other potential creatures for the deck I focused on creatures that can be cast for CMC of 2 or less and allow instant speed discard with a relevant ability.  Looter Il-Kor is a great source of card draw and discard, but since it doesn’t allow for instant speed discard I don’t think it’s a good fit for this style of deck. 
The reason I focus on a CMC of 2 or less is because most discard abilities are the same at two or three mana and three mana might buy us an extra point of power or toughness, but I don’t think that increases the value for including a card vs. one that can be cast a turn earlier.  Particularly since all of the above creatures’ discard is with a tap ability so we need one turn for the ability to actually come online due to summoning sickness.
I think Greenseeker could be a very real option for a deck like this.  It helps fix mana and thin out the deck plus it replaces the card we discarded with another card for our hand and if we have enough land in play already then it’s another card to discard.
With Deepwood Drummer I think there are better options, but the Drummer does offer another combat trick and can help push through extra damage.
Trickster Mage is a card that offers a lot of options from keeping key lands tapped down to allowing us to attack past creatures or keep them from attacking us.  I think the Mage is a card to consider, but I don’t know if the utility it offers is better than the next two options even when they cost 1 more mana to cast.
I’m counting Thought Courier and Merfolk Looter as one card since they have the same ability and I don’t know why you would run both in a deck unless you are really concerned about a card like Echoing Decay.  The advantage of both of these cards is that they will allow you to filter through your deck and not deplete your overall hand size.
Waterfront Bouncer is probably one of the biggest contenders for a spot in the deck because it can keep creatures off the opponent’s board or help save your creatures from removal.  It does have a mana investment that goes along with its discard, but I think it provides a lot of options for what we want to do with our deck.
The Sideboard
I didn’t include a sideboard in the above build because I’m still working on what are the best cards to include.  This section will discuss 12 possible sideboard options.  They aren’t grouped in any particular order other than being in groups of 4 to make them easier to view.
RancorPiracy CharmSpreading SeasSteel Sabotage
Rancor is a great option  against creature heavy match-ups since Arrogant Wurm is our only creature with an extra ability to push damage through.  All of our other creatures can be chump blocked all day if the opponent can play enough on the battlefield.
Piracy Charm gives us options.  It can push through unblockable damage against matches in which an opponent has an Island.  It can kill off 1 toughness creatures.  And it’s another option for instant speed discard to use on ourselves or against the opponent.
Spreading Seas is mostly there for the Tron match-up.  I think for the most part mana bases are simple enough in Pauper that Spreading Seas won’t be used to great effect, but it can slow down the Urzatron player.
Steel Sabotage is a great option against affinity to bounce their artifacts or even better just keep them off the field!
Moment's PeaceAccumulated KnowledgeBlue Elemental BlastSnap
Moment’s Peace is to help stop aggressive decks and since it has Flashback it makes a great discard option! 
Accumulated Knowledge could be in the mainboard as a replacement for Deep Analysis.  I need to do more testing to see which option is better overall.
Blue Elemental Blast can come in against either Kiln Fiend or Urzatron.  Against Urzatron it can be used to stop a big Rolling Thunder.
Snap as free bounce might be the better option than Aether Burst, but I like that Burst is still useful even if we need to discard it.
GushNaturalizeQuicksandSerene Heart
The biggest issue with Gush is that our mana tends to be tight, but it does offer essentially free card draw and gives us more cards to discard to help grow our Mongrel.
Naturalize or really any spell that can deal with enchantments to help combat white’s bag of creature targeting enchantments.
Quicksand helps slow down aggressive decks and can present very real challenges for Kiln Fiend and adds to our graveyard count.
Serene Heart is here mostly to stop Hexproof, but has obvious implications in any match-up that features heavy use of auras.
How to Play the Deck
Now that we’ve gone over the card selection let’s take a brief look on how to play the deck!
I want to start by stating that this is not a Tier 1 Pauper deck in its current form.  It’s a fun deck to play and I’ve won matches against some Tier 1 decks, but those are typically very close games.   I think it’s a deck that can keep you competitive in games, but sometimes it lacks that final oomph to push the last damage through.
In an opening hand we are looking for a discard outlet and hopefully some Madness cards or a Rune Snag (since the first Rune Snag has the most utility early).  We get our creatures down and turn them sideways.  Basking Rootwalla and Arrogant Wurm are typically best cast at instant speed either at the end of the opponent’s turn, as a surprise blocker, or in response to removal against our discard creatures.
I think the most difficult match-ups are those where an opponent gains life so Urzatron with Fangren Marauder or mono-Black dropping a Gary.  Or match-ups like Hexproof where we can’t effectively target their creatures.  Post-board we can hopefully side in some enchantment hate for Hexproof, but I don’t have an effective answer for life gain other than to win the race.
The biggest part with this deck is we want to be attacking from turn 2 or 3 on even if it’s just punching through 1 damage with a Basking Rootwalla because we need to leave mana open for a counter.
Hopefully this article has given you an idea for a shell for a UG Madness deck!  Like I said the build above is really about taking full advantage of discard and the graveyard, but this is a deck that can be made more competitive.


I think a looter effect is by Rerepete at Mon, 06/30/2014 - 15:14
Rerepete's picture

I think a looter effect is need in the deck (also consider Krovikan Sorcerer) Gush should not be more than a 2 of because you lose tempo in land on board if drawn early and can't cast normally until T5 anyhow.

I would rather see Waterfront bouncer than Aquamoeba. Bouncer can block and bounce to neutralize 2 threats.

Also Obsessive Search is deck thinning possibility.

You have to consider whether you are playing a control deck or an aggro deck.

You also have no flyers/flyer protection in this deck. Could consider Skywing Aven for this role. Without a flier, it may be difficult to get ninjas into play.

I agree on the looter effect. by Bertro at Mon, 06/30/2014 - 22:37
Bertro's picture

I agree on the looter effect. I would probably replace the ninja for a looter. The ninja might just be too cute for the deck vs. the benefit of another discard outlet. The problem I have with Krovikan Sorcerer is that it's a 3 mana spell which I feel is just too much in Pauper. This is a deck that really wants to start leaving mana open on turn three if possible. Arrogant Wurm is 3 mana (with madness), but it can also be cast at instant speed.

In regards to Bouncer vs. Aquamoeba, the one advantage of Aquamoeba is that it can be used as a discard outlet immediately. That holds a lot of value with many of the spells in the current build. I think the Bouncer is a great card in the sideboard.

I never had problems playing a Ninja even without flyers. Like I said a lot times opponents let creatures go through because it's hard to block profitably with all of the combat tricks open to this deck. Pauper Classics Tuesdays #2 (sorry for lack of link, I'm using a Mac at the in-laws and I don't know how to do much beyond type) also published today has a similar UG Madness build and it also has a lack of flyer protection. I think it's a weakness of this deck at least in the main. It's tough to get around and still keep the decks focus (at least in my experience piloting it and other variants).

I looked at Obsessive Search and it's a card I'm just not a big fan of using. I'm willing to admit though that I could be undervaluing the card.

Also I want to say thank you for the feedback you've given me on my articles. I appreciate it!