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Madness and Discard Outlets in Shadows over Innistrad Draft


In my Shadows over Innistrad drafts to date, whenever I've drafted cards with madness, I have never had more than a couple of discard outlets to go with them. Luckily, most of the cards with madness in Shadows over Innistrad are playable on their own merits. While several get better if you had a discard outlet, only Senseless Rage is unplayable if you don't have ways to discard it. However, several other cards get significantly better if you do have a discard outlet, so I'd like to understand how many discard outlets and how many cards with madness are available in each color.

Cards with Madness

Let's first take a look at the cards with madness in Shadows over Innistrad, organized by color, rarity, and the converted madness cost (Broken Concentration is under its converted mana cost, since that is cheaper). Each card name is preceded by its mana cost and its madness cost (in parentheses). Yellow highlight means I think the card is significantly better if you have a discard outlet. All numbers refer to the expected number of cards of that color in an eight-person Shadows over Innistrad draft.

Madness Cost 1cc 2cc 3cc 4cc TOTAL
Blue 2.1 2.1 0.6   4.8
Common 1U/(U): Just the Wind 1U/(1U): Nagging Thoughts      
Uncommon     1UU/(3U): Broken Concentration    
Rare     2UU/(XUU): Welcome to the Fold    
Black   2.5 4.3   6.8
Common   1B/(1B): Murderous Compulsion

4B/(2B): Twins of Maurer Estate

   
Uncommon    

2BB/(2B): Gisa's Bidding

2BB/(2B): Biting Rain

   
Rare   1B/(1B): Asylum Visitor 3BB/(XBB): From Under the Floorboards    
Red 2.1 4.6 1.8 0.9 9.4
Common 1RR/(R): Fiery Temper

2R/(1R): Bloodmad Vampire

1R/(1R): Senseless Rage

     
Uncommon    

3RR/(2R): Incorrigible Youths

2R/(2R): Stensia Masquerade

3R/(3R): Malevolent Whispers  
Rare   1R/(XR): Avacyn's Judgment      
TOTAL 4.2 9.2 6.7 0.9 21.0

An eight-person draft has 21 playable cards with madness, split 4:3:2 between Red, Black, and Blue. Other than Senseless Rage, all are playable even if you don't have a discard outlet, but there are seven that get significantly better if you have a discard outlet:

Having a couple of these cards in my draft pile would cause me to start prioritizing discard outlets a little higher. However, it is worth noting that there are an average of only 7.2 of these seven cards in an eight-person draft, or 9.3 if you include Senseless Rage.

Discard Outlets

Next, let's take a look at the discard outlets in Shadows over Innistrad. There are multiple axes by which we can evaluate discard outlets: the card's cost, the discard ability's cost, the discard ability's effect, and whether the discard ability can be played at instant speed.

Let's start with the same breakdown we did for cards with madness, organizing discard outlets by color, rarity, and converted mana cost of the card. Each card name is preceded by its converted mana cost (CMC) and (in parentheses, if any) any cost required to activate the ability that lets you discard a card. Strikeout is used to indicate cards that I don't think are good discard outlets, either because the discard ability requires five or more mana, the discard condition is not easy to trigger, or it is a very suboptimal use of the card. Bold means that the discard ability is reusable. Yellow highlight indicates that a discard outlet gives you a chance to gain card advantage by drawing a card, creating a 2/2 or larger creature, or killing a creature for each card discarded. {T} means tap. All numbers refer to the expected number of playable cards of that color in an eight-person Shadows over Innistrad draft. 

Discard
Outlets by Casting Cost
1cc 2cc 3cc 4cc 5cc+ TOTAL
Artifact 0.9     0.9   1.8
Uncommon 1 (creature to equip+2+attack+combat damage): Skeleton Key     4 (creature to equip): Murderer's Axe    
White 2.1         2.1
Common W ({T}): Stern Constable          
Blue   2.1 3.0 1.3 0.9 7.3
Common   1U Ghostly Wings 2U: Catalog   4U+control another Zombie: Lamplighter of Selhoff  
Uncommon   1U+bounce your nonland+control Zombie: Compelling Deterrence 2U ({T}): Reckless Scholar 3U (in graveyard+1U+discard 2): Stitchwing Skaab 3UU: Pore Over the Pages (untaps 2 lands)  
Rare       3U (upkeep+discard hand): Forgotten Creation    
Mythic         3UU+in graveyard+3U+discard 3: Geralf's Masterpiece  
Black 0.9 4.8   1.3 0.4 7.4
Common   1B: Macabre Waltz   3B+dies: Rottenheart Ghoul    
Uncommon B (B+1 life+mill 1): Sinister Concoction

1B (1): Call the Bloodline

1B: Heir of Falkenrath

1B: Pale Rider of Trostad

  3B (upkeep): Creeping Dread 4B+in graveyard+2B+discard 2: Ghoulsteed  
Rare       2BB (1+attack+2B): Elusive Tormentor 3BB (2B): Markov Dreadknight  
Mythic         5BB+discard hand: Behold the Beyond  
Red 3.0 3.0   0.9 0.2 7.1
Common R (sac): Insolent Neonate 1R: Tormenting Voice        
Uncommon R: Lightning Axe 1R: Ravenous Bloodseeker   3R ({T}): Mad Prophet    
Mythic         3RR (attack+1R): Wolf of Devil's Breach  
Multicolor     0.2 0.2   0.4
Mythic     1BR (another creature enters play under your control): Olivia, Mobilized for War 2RW (2 loyalty): Nahiri, the Harbinger    
TOTAL 6.9 9.9 3.2 4.6 1.5 26.1

Interestingly, Blue, Black, and Red have similar numbers of discard outlets, about 7.3 each, which is close to the average number of cards with madness between the three colors. They also have similar numbers of reusable discard outlets (about 2.2 each). Unsurprisingly, Blue has more discard outlets that result in card advantage than Black or Red, about 4.3 vs. 3.1.

About 60% of the discard outlets cost one or two mana, so there are plenty of discard outlets that are cheap to cast. However, the discard abilities on reusable discard outlets might not be quite as cheap to activate, and that has a bigger impact on which madness spells we're able to cast, so let's delve into that next. Non-reusable discard outlets are included in this table in the column corresponding to their converted mana cost. Strikeout, bold, and yellow highlight have the same meaning here, and all numbers refer to expected numbers of playable cards in an eight-person draft.

Discard Outlets by Discard Cost 0cc 1cc 2cc 3cc 4cc 5cc+ TOTAL
Artifact 1.8           1.8
Uncommon

4 (creature to equip): Murderer's Axe

1 (creature to equip+2+attack+combat damage): Skeleton Key

           
White 2.1           2.1
Common W ({T}): Stern Constable            
Blue 3.4   0.9 3.0 0.0 0.0 7.3
Common 1U: Ghostly Wings     2U: Catalog   4U+control another Zombie: Lamplighter of Selhoff  
Uncommon 2U ({T}): Reckless Scholar   3U (in graveyard+1U+discard 2): Stitchwing Skaab 3UU: Pore Over the Pages (untaps 2 lands)      
      1U+bounce your nonland+control Zombie: Compelling Deterrence        
Rare 3U (upkeep+discard hand): Forgotten Creation            
Mythic         3UU+in graveyard+3U+discard 3: Geralf's Masterpiece    
Black 1.8 2.2 3.0 0.4   0.0 7.4
Common 3B+dies: Rottenheart Ghoul   1B: Macabre Waltz        
Uncommon 1B: Heir of Falkenrath 1B (1): Call the Bloodline 1B: Pale Rider of Trostad 4B+in graveyard+2B+discard 2: Ghoulsteed      
  3B+upkeep: Creeping Dread B (B+1 life+mill 1): Sinister Concoction          
Rare   2BB (1+attack+2B): Elusive Tormentor   3BB (2B): Markov Dreadknight      
Mythic           5BB+discard hand: Behold the Beyond  
Red 3.9 0.9 2.3       7.1
Common R (sac): Insolent Neonate   1R: Tormenting Voice        
Uncommon 1R: Ravenous Bloodseeker R: Lightning Axe          
  3R ({T}): Mad Prophet            
Mythic     3RR (attack+1R): Wolf of Devil's Breach        
Multicolor 0.2     0.2     0.4
Mythic 2RW (2 loyalty): Nahiri, the Harbinger     1BR (another creature enters play under your control): Olivia, Mobilized for War      
TOTAL 13.2 3.1 6.2 3.6 0.0 0.0 26.1

Surprisingly, about half the available discard outlets don't require any mana. Blue and Red each have about 3.6 such discard outlets, twice as many as Black, because they each have a Common discard outlet whose discard ability doesn't require mana (Ghostly Wings and Insolent Neonate, respectively). Those two Commons do have the disadvantage of not being reusable discard outlets, however, unlike almost all the other discard outlets that don't require mana (the only other playable one is Heir of Falkenrath).

Finally, let's look at when the various discard outlets that allow you to discard a card. In the list below, permanents are assumed to already be in play and, unless specified otherwise, the cards listed allow you to discard anytime you could cast a sorcery. Cards that aren't listed allow you to discard at instant speed, which is preferable since, among other reasons, they allow you to cast creatures with madness at instant speed.

Roughly a third of the playable discard outlets don't allow you to discard a card at any time, but the majority do, so that is not a limiting factor either.

Finally, let's look at the intersection of these two groups: playable instant-speed discard outlets whose discard ability requires no mana.

Neither of the Commons is particularly exciting: Stern Constable results in card disadvantage unless you have a card with madness each time you want to tap a creature, and Ghostly Wings is not reusable. This means that all of the best discard outlets in the format are Uncommons: Reckless Scholar in Blue, the non-reusable Heir of Falkenrath in Black, and Ravenous Bloodseeker and Mad Prophet in Red. Even if a Blue/Black (Zombies), Blue/Red, or Black/Red (Vampires) deck gets most of these prime discard outlets, it will still only have an average of about 2.7 discard outlets. Combined with the fact that most cards with madness do not need a discard outlet to be playable, I think I would only look to build a dedicated madness deck if I had multiple copies of Reckless Scholar, Mad Prophet, Ravenous Bloodseeker, and the non-reusable Heir to Falkenrath.

Conclusions

Cards with madness are split 4:3:2 between Red, Black, and Blue, while discard outlets are split evenly between those three colors.  Overall, there are roughly as many cards with madness as there are discard outlets (about 21 across the three colors). Sixty percent of discard outlets cost one or two mana, so there are plenty of discard outlets that are cheap to cast. Surprisingly, about half the available discard outlets don't require any mana once they're in play.

While the numbers make it seem like there are are a lot of good discard outlets, there are a few Uncommons that are far above the rest. Reckless Scholar and Mad Prophet have instant-speed discard abilities that don't require mana, and that allow you to get card advantage if you have cards with madness. Ravenous Bloodseeker also provides those options, but without the card advantage, and Heir of Falkenrath is also very good but not reusable.

Wizards of the Coast seems to have tried to make up for madness being very strong in Odyssey block by nerfing it in Shadows over Innistrad. However, it doesn't end up mattering too much since most of the madness cards in the format are quite playable even without access to any discard outlets.


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