Madness has a long history in competitive Magic.
The mechanic itself used to work a little differently. If you discarded a card with madness, it went to a special “madness zone” where you could play it until the next time you passed priority. This meant that if you drew a land off of a Careful Study, you could actually play the land to pay for the madness cost on the card you were discarding.
Vialing in Meddling Mage in response to a madness trigger used to be an interaction that people cared about.
UG Madness was one of the more successful tempo-based aggro control decks of all time, which is an impressive stat for what was basically a pile of commons and uncommons. A deck to beat while it was in Standard, it was solid in Extended, and even won a Legacy Champs.
Later, Legacy UG Survival used the madness on Basking Rootwalla as a way to efficiently trigger Vengevine. Today, the only madness card that sees play is Big Game Hunter, and that’s because it’s a Chord of Calling target against Modern Eldrazi.
In Shadows over Innistrad, madness is back.
The biggest knock against Incorrigible Youths is that Reckless Wurm has been printed, and it didn’t do much.
On the plus side, haste is much better than trample, especially on a 4/x that you’re trying to play on turn 3.
Another positive is that you already have a couple of great discard outlets at the 2-drop spot in Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Heir of Falkenrath. Heir isn’t repeatable, but it is nice and has nice tempo, and way less embarrassing on its own than Aquamoeba. If you curve Heir into Youths, you’ll have to spend your turn 4 doing something else before you can start casting your extra Youths, but that doesn’t seem all that bad on paper.
We’ll see how many playable discard outlets we end up with, but you don’t need that many. The important thing is that the discard be free, because if you’re paying a mana cost to discard, then that’s being added on to the cost of madness. You’ll still get some card advantage because you’re playing a card that would’ve been discarded, but you’re not gaining the huge boost in tempo—that’s the real benefit of a cheap alternate cost. And a 4/3 haste screams tempo.
While I don’t have all of Shadows over Innistrad intel yet, I have an idea of what I want to start testing:
While it’s hard to tune a mana base without playing with it, not to mention pick out a sideboard for an unknown metagame, this is a general idea of what a Grixis Madness deck might look like.
Currently, I only have one interesting madness threat. If Shadows over Innistrad has another one for us, it’s likely that I’ll want cards like Ravenous Bloodseeker, in which case, the deck’s composition gets closer to the UG Madness decks of old.
While I’m only dedicating a few slots to creatures, I have a decent threat density thanks to Wandering Fumarole and Chandra, both of which are reasonable ways to close out a game after Incorrigible Youths has softened the opponent up.
Since I have a ton of effects that want to discard naturally, Fiery Temper is almost better than Lightning Bolt. From a pure card advantage perspective, being able to cast the cards you’re discarding to Chandra seems huge.
Speaking of Chandra, she was already starting to take over, and with the heavy-hitting tri-color gold cards leaving, I have to imagine that she’ll only see more play. She matches up well against the new spoiled planeswalkers and she kills people fast. The best answer to an opposing Chandra is a Chandra of your own.
I like Elusive Tormentor, but it’s not an effective madness enabler because you’re turning your 4/4 into a 0/1 and need to invest more mana to flip it back. As such, you’re not gaining any tempo. Still, discarding Fiery Temper is sweet if you want to activate Tormentor anyway.
Tormentor is in here because it’s borderline unkillable, and it has a funky evasion to break through board stalls—think a weirder, cheaper Aetherling. I’m not sure exactly how much play it should see, but I’d be surprised if it’s “none,” and it should fit well in an aggro-control shell like the one above.
I considered Olivia, Mobilized for War, but I don’t think she fits the deck’s plan. The more expensive your madness enabler, the less effective it is, and Olivia only works if you’re casting another creature (so it’ll cost at least 2).