Delving into Red Black Madness in Modern Horizons 2 Draft

Jeremy Dezani


Hello everyone!

Today, I am going to talk about Limited. It will be a focus on the Modern Horizons 2 Draft and more precisely on one archetype, Black-Red Madness.

When I am preparing for a Limited event, I am always trying to define my strategy for said tournament. For me, if you go to the tournament saying let’s see what I will open, it just means that you didn’t work enough. I am always trying to arrive at a predetermined plan A, B, C … etc.

Even if Wizards of the Coast staff is working hard to have all archetypes and colors at the same power level in a set, it is rarely the case. There is always a color better than the others and a weaker color too. You can enjoy multiple kinds of decks in a set and it’s cool, but if the goal is to win you have to put away this aspect and just focus on what give you the best chance of success at your event.

Expedition EnvoyZada's CommandoExpedition Raptor

As an example, I remember I played Grand Prix Vancouver 2016 and Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch in a space of 7 days. I made the finals in Canada and 5-1 Draft in the Pro Tour and I never played a green or a blue card at any of my 5 Drafts. My strategy was to play any of the 2-color combinations in the Mardu edge to play aggressive allied decks.

What is very good when you have your strategy already set up before the Draft started, its when you will open 2 cards of 2 different color with the same power level, you will not hesitate and pick the one that fit your plan. You’ll miss fewer picks, having fewer cards that are strong but you are not going to use, giving you a better pool to build from in the end. It is just good to know where you are going instead of Drafting in the dark not knowing where you exactly go.

Of course, you don’t always have the perfect scenario during a Draft, and this is why it’s important to have a plan, but with multiple build options. If you plan to force a color combination, it’s important to know the variations of the archetype. Here I am going to go very deep in the description of Black-Red Madness in MH2 to show you all the things you have to think about before Drafting.

Black Red Madness

First of all, a description of the archetype. The goal of the deck is to play cards with madness and cards that make you discard cards. Your madness cards will have a cheaper mana cost to have explosive starts and your discard cards will give you bonus effects at the same time. Most of the discard engines can do it at instant speed so it also makes your creatures having flash and your sorceries become instants.

You need to have a good amount of both and not too many of a kind otherwise the deck just doesn’t work. If you have only madness cards, the mana cost of your spells will be too high and you might have a very slow and not powerful game, If you only have discard enablers, you might create card disadvantage and finally having cards with no effect at all.

Hell Mongrel

The most important card to make these numbers good is 《Hell Mongrel》. The card is a madness creature and a discard engine at the same time. Having many of this card will make your deck have enough of the 2 kinds of cards. It’s actually similar to having a biland to fix your mana base. Add to this that the card has very good stats, 4/3 for 4, it has a boost effect by discarding and you have a creature very good at blocking and attacking. Even if this is great, you will need discard enablers with cheaper cost to makes your game’s starts more efficient.

I am first picking 《Hell Mongrel》 easily and it’s for me one of the best commons of the set. I am not including it in the 2 next ranks, but I would pick only 《Rakdos Headliner》 over him in these lists.

The Rank of Discard Enablers

Here is my rank of the Discard enablers you want in your deck.

1. 《Rakdos Headliner》

Rakdos Headliner

It’s a haste 《Watchwolf》. To have a creature that strong the downside is that you have to discard a card to keep it alive, but in this deck, it’s not a downside but an upgrade. That said, since you have to discard the card at your next upkeep, it means that if you play it turn 2 you will need a madness card for 2 or less mana to be able to play it.

Terminal AgonySkophos ReaverKitchen ImpBlazing Rootwalla

In this list, you find 《Terminal Agony》, 《Skophos Reaver》, 《Kitchen Imp》, and 《Blazing Rootwalla》. It’s sometimes better to keep a 《Blazing Rootwalla》 instead of playing it turn 1 to prepare the discard for 《Rakdos Headliner》. It’s also better to wait the turn 3 to play 《Rakdos Headliner》 if your madness card is a 《Hell Mongrel》.

2. 《Bone Shards》

Bone Shards

It’s an amazing removal that helps you to pay your madness card. It also can be cast by sacrificing a creature, a good alternative if you play a 《Nested Shambler》 or if your opponent is running some 《Pacifism》 like 《So Shiny》 or 《Captured by Lagacs》. If you are running 《Bone Shards》 and 《Kitchen Imp》, be careful, you might need 2 《Swamp》 on turn 2.

3. 《The Underworld Cookbook》

The Underworld Cookbook

It cost only 1 mana and the discard effect is free, so it means you could have madness card be played from the very next turn. Creating a Food token might be important in a race situation or if you get to the late game. It replaces itself with a creature from your graveyard when you don’t need it anymore or if you have another discard engine card. Also, it’s an artifact so it might give you the delirium if needed too.

4. 《Cabal Initiate》

Cabal Initiate

It cost only 2 mana so it helps to have a flash 《Hell Mongrel》 on turn 3. What I really like with this little guy is that it become a 3/3 lifelink in the late game so he is actually very relevant. It also can discard any number of cards and it’s pretty good when you want to play multiple madness cards in the same turn. The number 1 choice as discard engine in common.

5. 《Viashino Lashclaw》

Viashino Lashclaw

I prefer 《Cabal Initiate》 a lot, especially because 《Viashino Lashclaw》 become a 《Grizzly Bears》 in the late game. Only being able to activate once a turn is a downside, and you have to choose between using it or attacking, so again not great.

Kitchen ImpSinister StarfishGilt-Blade Prowler

The bonus doesn’t add anything to 《Kitchen Imp》 since it already has haste. That said, it might be sometimes good if you have a big amount of 《Hell Mongrel》. It also works with 《Sinister Starfish》 and 《Gilt-Blade Prowler》 to be able to activate their trigger the turn they come into play. Anyway, you need ways to discard that cost 2 mana or less so if you can’t find the other cards, it’s an option.

6. 《Necromancer’s Familiar》 and 《Mount Velus Manticore》

Necromancer's FamiliarMount Velus Manticore

They are discarding enablers but they cost 4-mana, so I am not sure they can be exactly ranked in the same category as the other 5 cards. That said, they have very decent stats and the bonus they give by discarding cards is pretty good. If you don’t increase your 4-mana cost curve too much they can be added to your deck.

About 《Mount Velus Manticore》, it’s a card that actually works pretty well in multiple copies since it has 2 types of cards but you have to be sure the double red is not a problem. Your decks are generally more black than red so it might be a problem to have a good mana base that can support all your spells.

Drossforge Bridge

《Drossforge Bridge》 can help here, and it also has 2 type to makes 《Mount Velus Manticore》’s effect better.

Cards Not Recommended

Fodder TosserPatchwork GnomesFaithless SalvagingSkirge Familiar

I am not a big fan of 《Fodder Tosser》, 《Patchwork Gnomes》, 《Faithless Salvaging》 and 《Skirge Familiar》 and I prefer to never include these cards to my deck.

The Rank of the Madness Cards

Here is my rank of the Madness cards you want in your deck.

1. 《Terminal Agony》

Terminal Agony

A removal that kills any creature without any condition. 2 mana madness cost remember what 《Terminate》 do since it gains instant speed with a discard engine. Nothing more to say but the more you have the best.

2. 《Kitchen Imp》

Kitchen Imp

The 1 mana cost of the card is so great. It allows you to do so many explosive starts and curve perfectly with 《Hell Mongrel》 too. It can be summoned in flash to block all the 1/1 tokens the format has too.

3. 《Skophos Reaver》

Skophos Reaver

4/3 for 3 mana is great already so for 2 it’s even better. A 2/3 flash might also be able to surprise sometimes an opponent and to block a small early creature like 《Arcbound Prototype》 or 《Cabal Initiate》.

4. 《Blazing Rootwalla》

Blazing Rootwalla

I like the fact that it cost 0, It means you can get full tapped and still play something and your opponent might not anticipate this. The 1 toughness is tough since it trades with a squirrel token but if the field is empty, it’s a real additional pressure.

5. 《Revolutionist》


Don’t get me wrong the card is pretty good, but the mana cost makes you not want to have too many copies of it. It’s not a very high pick anyway and it’s pretty easy to get some. I believe the quantity of 《Revolutionist》 you want in your deck depends on the number of removals you have. I would say that 1 《Revolutionist》 for 4 instants/sorceries is correct.

Non-Madness or Non-Discard Enablers Cards

Now, I will talk about the cards that do not have madness or are discard enablers. You also want these cards in your deck just because they are individually powerful. Of course, I am talking about removals spells.

1. 《Flay Essence》

Flay Essence

Unconditional and it exiles the creature. That is actually really relevant against a modular deck or BW reanimator decks.

Tizerus ChargerTimeless WitnessMaster of DeathPiru, the Volatile

Also good against specific cards like 《Tizerus Charger》, 《Timeless Witness》, 《Master of Death》 or 《Piru, the Volatile》, and many others. Sometimes it impacts opponent delirium, and you even get some incidental lifegain which is never bad. It cost 2 black mana but your decks are generally 70 % black anyway.

2. 《Flametongue Yearling》

Flametongue Yearling

The card is great, like his ancestor 《Flametongue Kavu》 was. The problem with this card is the double red mana cost. Because of it, it pretty hard to consider it as a 2-mana card in your curve since red is only your support color. That said even if you consider it as a 4-mana card it’s still very strong and you really want to pick it early. Just try to not accumulate too many double red cards. Don’t forget to play a 《Mountain》 turn 1 in case you draw it for turn 2.

3. 《Tragic Fall》

Tragic Fall

《Tragic Fall》 is a one for one removal that deals with every early guy. It can be a combat trick against bigger guys in the midgame and become a perfect removal in the late game. The condition of not having cards in hand is not so hard to reach in black red madness.

4. 《Unholy Heat》

Unholy Heat

1 mana is so cheap. It allows you to deal with an opponent blocker without impacting your proactive plan. It’s the only delirium card you want in your deck. If you have many of them, you might keep in mind during the Draft that double-type cards will improve this card a lot.

5. 《Bone Shredder》

Bone Shredder

First of all, you have to notice it’s not a you may or an opponent creature only. The second, its non-black/non-artifact. So please don’t kill your own creature with it. It’s not rare to sideboard it out in the wrong matchup. That said, the card is still good but I would not pick it over non-condition cheap good removals.

6. 《Mine Collapse》

Mine Collapse

4 mana is hard but it kills almost everything in the early/midgame. It’s especially good in your deck if your mana curve is very cheap since you can use the free mode of the card without impacting your 5 or 6 mana cards. Also, sacrificing a 《Mountain》 is not hard since you might have already used your red card before and you can play mono black easily in madness decks.

7. 《Sudden Edict》

Sudden Edict

The card is high variance. It can be very strong in some matchups and very bad in others, so think a lot about it during sideboarding when you decide to keep or not this card in your deck. I believe the more aggressive you are, the best is this card, since your opponent might trade tokens and cheap creatures in the early game. If you don’t do this early work, 《Sudden Edict》 might not be useful to kill big guys later.

8. 《Kaleidoscorch》


You play only 2 colors and you don’t want to play another bridge other than the Rakdos one. In the end, it’s just a 2 mana 《Firebolt》. Not very bad, not so exciting. In this set, you have better removal options.

9. 《World-Weary》


Way too expensive and searching a land for 2 mana is not what you want to do with this deck. Sometimes you want it if you have many 《Unholy Heat》 and you care about delirium.

Other Cards

《Gilt-Blade Prowler》

Gilt-Blade Prowler

I like to have one, sometimes 2, but not more since it does nothing by itself and it’s very aggressive.

《Echoing Return》

Echoing Return

I play it especially if I have the same creatures in 4/5 copies, otherwise, I prefer to not have it.

《Mogg Salvage》

Mogg Salvage

It’s only for sideboard but it’s very good to have some. In the right match-up, a free instant speed removal is so good since you can play proactive and react at the same time. It also works very well with 《Revolutionist》.

Think of Another Plan

So here I talked about your main plan cards when everything is fine and your Draft is going well. What is interesting, is how you manage to have a good deck if these cards stop coming to you. Sometimes it’s because somebody else picks the cards but it could also be because other common and uncommon are opened instead. Here is what you can do with it.

1. Go for the Control Rakdos Version

Sinister Starfish

In this version of rakdos, the most important card might be 《Sinister Starfish》. Games are going to be long and you don’t have many extra drawings card option. It means that you can’t draw too many lands. 《Sinister Starfish》 is filtering your deck making you draw only spells. To play well with the card, you need to know some things. I see only 3 moments you want to activate the effect.

At the end phase of your opponent turn, with maximum information before your turn. At the upkeep, when you need specifically a land or a spell. Just before 《Sinister Starfish》 dies because of a removal or a block. If either a land or a spell is a fine draw, I like to not use 《Sinister Starfish》 at the upkeep. The reason behind this is that if a land is ok, 2 might not be. So, if you keep the first one, you put yourself in a position where you have to scry every upkeep to avoid another land draw. Having 《Sinister Starfish》 doing his effect end of opponent turn is much better and it also give you an additional blocker.

Nested ShamblerLoathsome Curator

Other cards you want in the control version is the synergy between 《Nested Shambler》 and 《Loathsome Curator》. 《Nested Shambler》 is a good blocker against some aggressive match ups with creatures like 《Arcbound Mouser》, 《Fairgrounds Patrol》 or 《Blazing Rootwalla》. It makes the sacrifice for 《Loathsome Curator》 easy since you can sacrifice chambler or the token it produces.

《Loathsome Curator》 is your main win condition since menace makes your removal better. Especially instant speed removal who can kill one of the two blockers and makes the other one to chump.

RevolutionistTourach's CanticleTizerus Charger

In the control version rakdos, you might run 17 lands. 《Revolutionist》 might become a very important card to create advantage by having your removals coming back. It is also important to have some 《Tourach’s Canticle》 for the slower matchups. I like to have one maindeck and another in sideboard. 《Tizerus Charger》 is an option but it doesn’t work very well with the delirium for 《Unholy Heat》, 《Revolutionist》 trigger or threshold for 《Cabal Initiate》.

《Fast+Furious》 is a very impactful card in some match up and you can play it. I just don’t like to lose 《Sinister Starfish》 in the process.

2. The Reanimator Option

Young NecromancerVile Entomber

Sometime you find some 《Young Necromancer》 during the Draft. If you have 2, you can go for a reanimator plan. The best card in combination with it is 《Vile Entomber》. You can reanimate creatures from any color, the bigger, the best. If you draw the creature, it might not be too hard to discard it anyway.

Archfiend of SorrowsTizerus ChargerPatriarch's Bidding

《Vile Entomber》 is working also very well with 《Archfiend of Sorrows》 and 《Tizerus Charger》. It’s also interesting to notice that 《Patriarch’s Bidding》 can reanimate both by choosing warlock as creature type.

PersistDiscerning TastePiru, the Volatile

Don’t forget that you need 2 cards to exile to reanimate something with 《Young Necromancer》. 《Persist》 and 《Discerning Taste》 are also good in this plan. Splash white reanimator cards and pick dual lands is also an option, especially if you got 《Piru, the Volatile》 since you want to be able to pay his upkeep cost.

3. Not Play Red but Blue Instead

Discerning TasteDihada's PloyEtherium Spinner

It’s very similar to playing the control version of Rakdos. The most interesting cards for the deck will be 《Discerning Taste》 and 《Dihada’s Ploy》 for the card advantage, 《Etherium Spinner》 for the synergy with 《Loathsome Curator》. Note that they are both wizard types so 《Step Through》 become a good card to assemble the synergy.

Other common and uncommon I didn’t mention previously might sometimes be playable but I prefer to not play them if I can.

If Black-Red madness and other variation of the deck represent most of my success in the format, I also like mainly 2 other decks, Blue-Green tokens, and Blue-Red delirium control. I prefer to never play white since I think it’s the less powerful color.


This is how I am Drafting in MH2. I recommend you to think this way for your future events in Limited, I truly believe this is how you can be successful in competitive events. That said, it means you have to work a lot to do it, but we have nothing without work anyway.

Thank you for reading, and be strong during these hard times. Hopefully, normal life comes back as soon as possible and we can all travel and play our favorite game anywhere again.

Jeremy Dezani (Twitter / Twitch)

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Jeremy Dezani He was the 2013-14 Player of the Year with his crowning achievement taking place at Pro Tour Theros where he won in spectacular fashion with Blue Devotion back in 2013. He has a stunning over 10 Grand Prix Top 8s to his name including 3 wins and Runner-up 4 times. He will also be the first Non-Japanese player to join the ranks of the Hareruya Pros. Read more articles by Jeremy Dezani

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