Facing Judgment

Posted in Card Preview on March 22, 2016

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

When we say a world has gone mad, we mean it.

Innistrad has gone mad in basically every sense possible. Flights of blood-tinged Angels litter the skies, tearing apart those they once protected. Comrades who once fought arm in arm are now tearing each other's arms apart. Even the pathway of Clues has created a trail that may indeed lead directly to insanity.

Simply put, it's a rough time to live on Innistrad.

But what about mechanically? What does that all mean here?

Well, there was a clear fit: madness, of course!

By now, you've certainly seen some madness cards. (And if you haven't, definitely hop over to the Card Image Gallery and check them out!) But today, I have a brand new one for you that's part of a semi-cycle—and it's quite a doozy.

My favorite madness cards in the set are the ones that link in so well with the madness of Innistrad. After all, as any math professor can tell you, madness plus madness equals double madness!

But enough preamble. Let's get to the card! Prepare to face Avacyn's Judgment!

Okay, so let's absorb this craziness for a moment.

On its surface, the card is a two-mana Forked Bolt. And considering that Forked Bolt has seen play all the way back to Legacy, that's a pretty good starting point.

Oh, but wait. There's so, so much more.

Avacyn's Judgment is a member of a three-card cycle of rares in Shadows over Innistrad. (They appear in the madness colors: red, blue, and black.) The way these all work is they do a cool thing at a locked-in number for their mana cost. But if you manage to discard one, you can turn it into an X spell!

So, an early-game Forked Bolt becomes a late-game better Rolling Thunder. And all while you're probably discarding the card to something else!

Yeah, I'll play that.

This card can be great both offensively and defensively.

In an aggressive deck, it's a cheap removal spell with tremendous upside. You can use it to win the midgame and clear your opponent's board to attack through—or just send it straight to their face for the kill.

In a controlling deck, you can use this as a flexible removal spell early on and then as a way to clear the board later on. Many red control decks have traditionally won by a little bit of incremental damage and then burn to the face, and this card is primed to do just that.

So, how about we take a look at both of those for Standard today?

First up, the aggressive take!

Vampiric Judgment

In the first Innistrad, each of the five main tribes had a theme. Shadows over Innistrad is no different. And while the Vampires are still aggressive, attacking Vampires, this time around many of them have a new tool at their disposal: madness!

The set has plenty of built-in ways for Vampire decks to beneficially pitch their own cards away. And when you're enabling madness on top of that, you're making both cards stronger!

Let's take a gander at what you might expect a Madness Vampire deck to look like in upcoming Standard:

Gavin Verhey's Mad Vampires in a Box

This deck boasts an aggressive curve, with either Heir of Falkenrath or Ravenous Bloodseeker setting you up for madness early on. You have access to the ever-potent curve of Heir or Bloodseeker into Incorrigible Youths, which amounts to a ton of damage quickly. (Prepare to face that down plenty this Standard season!)

Judgment plays a great role here. It not only is a removal spell, but clears out pesky cheap blockers that could otherwise trade off with your Vampires. Many Vampires feature higher power than toughness, and you definitely don't want to trade down with tokens or paltry 2/1s.

And then late game...boom!

You see, the great thing about both Heir and Bloodseeker is that their abilities don't require any mana to use—meaning that when it's time for Avacyn's Judgment to rain down from above, all of your mana will be nice and untapped to sink into that X cost!

Even if you flood out a little bit, it's okay: Judgment can easily crack your opponent's dome for a good 5-plus damage out of nowhere. Keep in mind that you can even cast it at instant speed if you have an enabler lying around.

A Vampire deck wants to feature mostly creatures—so a flexible removal spell that can also kill off your opponent is just what it's looking for.

And this is just a starting point. There are still a few juicy Vampires cards you don't know about yet. Keep your eyes peeled (but not in the way Innistrad can literally keep people's eyes peeled) for those as preview season continues!

Now, how about the other end of the spectrum: control!

Maddening to Play Against

On the surface, playing a control deck with a lot of madness might seem like an odd fit. After all, traditionally control wants to draw a lot of cards and answer its opponent's threats. So unless your plan is to draw a ton of cards and discard for madness in the end step, what exactly are you doing to discard cards?

Well, there are a surprising number of good options here. First and foremost, you might be familiar with this little guy:

Love him or hate him, Jace is already a control staple and is here to stay for a few more months. And with madness around, he makes for an excellent enabler.

An important aside: one note about Jace and madness is that if your madness card would be the fifth card you discard to transform Jace, if you madness that card then Jace doesn't transform. (Madness replaces the normal process of a card going into the graveyard.) That may work for or against you this Standard season, but it's good to know.

But even past Jace, there are some solid options. The brand new Pore Over the Pages is an excellent choice here.

Pore draws you three cards and then makes you discard a single one—and if that cards happens to have madness, that's the perfect outcome. You're using one card to draw you more cards and enable madness for you!

On top of that, there are a number of other cards that pick up stock in a world with madness. Tormenting Voice was on the borderline many times, but madness might finally nudge it over into some main decks. Oath of Jace is another draw spell that "forces" you to discard cards. Chandra, Flamecaller can both find you the cards you need and turn on your madness cards at the same time. There's a lot of different options circling the same core strategy right now.

Check out one attempt at this strategy:

Gavin Verhey's RU Mad?

This deck controls the board and slowly chips away at whatever your opponent can do while simultaneously working toward creating a board state, almost out of nowhere, that will start to kill them.

Thing in the Ice is an excellent example of this. You can lay it down on the second turn and let it sit there mostly ignored by your opponent. And then, before you know it, a few spells have been cast—and suddenly your opponent gets attacked for a bunch of damage. From there, suddenly they're on the back foot, as a slew of burn spells to the face could end the game over a couple turns.

Instead of using counterspells, this is more of an offensive "tap-out" style control deck. You'll be doing a lot on your turn—and what you do will certainly be powerful.

It's a Mad, Mad World

Innistrad's madness can be frightening—so if you embrace it yourself, it will soon be your opponents who will have the fear of madness instilled in them.

These are two takes on madness, but there are plenty more just waiting to be discovered. What kind of control deck might blue-black or even blue-black-red madness look like? What happens when you merge these cards with some of the efficient discard outlets in formats like Standard or Legacy?

I'll leave those as questions for you to explore yourself as you tread down the many mad pathways of Shadows over Innistrad.

If you have any thoughts or questions about anything in this article, I'd love to hear from you! You can always reach me by sending me a tweet or asking me a question on my Tumblr and I'll check out whatever you have to say.

Have fun building decks in a brand new Standard format, and I'll talk with you again soon!

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

GavInsight

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