Improving "Merciless Rage" – "Magic: The Gathering"

The card game Magic: The Gathering is arguably the most complex game known to humankind so far. It continues to baffle AI seeking to determine an algorithm able to declare a winner early in any given game. Artificial intelligence can do that with chess, with hardly any difficulty at all! Seeing how intricate chess is, and how much time and practice it takes chess masters to hone their craft, it shows that Magic is a magnificent masterwork of complexity. One could almost say to manage to build the perfect deck is… maddening?

On that note, we at Bleeding Cool have been aiming to improve upon the Commander 2019 decks for Magic. Our focus is simply to find the twenty best cuts from the deck, and twenty worthwhile inclusions to replace them. Last Tuesday, August 13th, we went over the Morph deck, Faceless Menace. A week ago, we went over the Flashback deck, Mystic Intellect. Two days ago, on August 20th, we went over Primal Genesis, the Populate deck. Finally, today we will be going over "Merciless Rage", a deck that's appropriately based on the Madness mechanic.

Commander Tower art (promo)

Merciless Rage is a build that is based heavily on discard, reanimation, and recursive value (sort of like Mystic Intellect, but with more creatures off the bat). We will be trying to keep to the discard theme, but we cannot deny the importance of payoffs in the deck since self-discard (which otherwise would have a negative effect on us) is so prevalent here.

Choice of Commander for Merciless Rage

The above having been said, we will be sticking with the "face commander" of the deck, as we have in my previous articles in this series. To reiterate, the "face commander" is the commander primarily showcased in the packaging of the preconstructed deck. In Merciless Rage, that commander is Anje Falkenrath.

Anje Falkenrath

Before I go any further, I want to make a point that Anje isn't necessarily the best commander to lead the deck. While everything is situational in Magic the Gathering, I feel it pertinent to note that Chainer, Nightmare Adept is a better fit, as he manages to encapsulate each of the major themes of the deck in full. I'm hoping to write a more thorough list led by him in the future for Bleeding Cool.

Best Choices to Cut

The following twenty Magic: the Gathering cards were cut from Merciless Rage to make room for new additions to the deck, for varied reasons. Some were not synergistic with the theme, some cards were outclassed by other cards, and some were simply unnecessary in general. The list of cuts and why they were cut is as follows:

Creature (10)
  • Bloodhall Priest – Not impactful enough for the multiplayer aspects of Commander
  • Champion of Stray Souls – Too expensive of an effect
  • Gorgon Recluse – Madness not impactful enough to retain in here
  • Greven, Predator Captain – Not synergistic enough for this deck
  • Nightshade Assassin – Hardly ever going to kill something of importance in Commander
  • Sanitarium Skeleton – Outclassed by other cards already in the deck, not strong as redundancy
  • Scaretiller – More synergistic than in the other decks, but still not strong enough for this deck
  • Soul of Innistrad – See Champion of Stray Souls
  • Stromkirk Occultist – Not impactful enough in positive ways to include
  • Wildfire Devils – Not synergistic, and too random to merit inclusion in a focused deck
Sorcery (1)
  • Alchemist's Greeting – Not nearly impactful enough for Commander, let alone this deck
Instant (2)
  • Fiery Temper – See Alchemist's Greeting
  • Violent Eruption – Not impactful enough for Commander
Land (2)
  • Memorial to Folly – Superfluous, but also weaker than the mana rocks we have available
  • Rakdos Guildgate – see Memorial to Folly (also, we cut this over Cinder Barrens because it is a Gate – I've discussed this elsewhere)
Artifact (2)
  • Key to the City – We have faster "rummaging" (discard -to-draw) effects
  • Rakdos Locket – Outclassed greatly by the mana rocks we are including
Enchantment (2)
  • Hedonist's Trove – Not synergistic with the recursion of the decks, and also too expensive
  • The Eldest Reborn – Not as impactful of discard/recursion as other sources
Planeswalker (1)
  • Ob Nixilis, Reignited – Not synergistic enough with the focus of the deck

The deck was relatively easy to make cuts for, although being a two-color deck in a release of mostly three-color decks, it is clear that it is a little more difficult to change cards out as the deck is a bit more focused overall. Nevertheless, the deck is able to be improved, and here is how:

Choice Inclusions, and Where to Obtain Them

Like I did with the other three Commander 2019 decks, I have compiled a list of the good additions for the deck. I tried to use newer cards from sets mostly in print, although some cards are older and thus are a bit less easily-accessible. That being said, you can view my completed decklist with a more detailed list of reasons for the changes. This decklist is in my TappedOut link, here.

Creature (10)
  • Archfiend of Ifnir (Amonkhet)
  • Barbed Shocker (Conspiracy)
  • Kulrath Knight (Shadowmoor)
  • Mindslicer (9th Edition)
  • Muck Drubb (Planar Chaos)
  • Putrid Imp (Premium Deck Series: Graveborn)
  • Rummaging Goblin (Ixalan)
  • Sepulchral Primordial (Gatecrash)
  • Skirge Familiar (Urza's Saga)
  • The Scorpion God (Hour of Devastation)
Sorcery (3)
  • Dark Deal (Fate Reforged)
  • Living Death (Masters 25)
  • Reforge the Soul (Commander 2016)
Artifact (3)
  • Geth's Grimoire (Darksteel)
  • Rakdos Signet (Rakdos Guild Kit)
  • Talisman of Impulse (Archenemy: Nicol Bolas)
Enchantment (4)
  • Liliana's Caress (Magic 2011)
  • Megrim (Magic 2010)
  • Waste Not (Commander 2016)
  • Words of Waste (Onslaught)

Concluding Improvements

This deck, upon playtesting, showed a very strong aggressive playstyle. If you like that sort of style, this decklist will certainly be a fun one for you.

Magic: the Gathering – Commander 2019 releases to local game stores tomorrow, August 23rd. It will be printed in English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian.

Commander 2019 packaging

About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.