The Other Ability - Pia Nalaar, Consul of Madness

Pia Nalaar welds together filigree above the city of Ghirapur on Kaladesh. Aether and three of her Thopters circle her.
(Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival | Art by Marta Nael)

You're Only Given One Little Spark of Madness

Madness decks don't use the mechanic.

Anje Falkenrath is the most popular Madness commander with over 4,000 decks on EDHREC in that strategy. Most brews don't even think to cast a Madness card. Decks focus on her discard a card: draw a card ability.

The second most popular Madness commander is Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar (Asmo for short). She might cast a few Madness cards, but the rest of the deck is busy with Food tokens.

Madness is a fascinating mechanic that's overshadowed in its own decks.

I wanted to highlight a commander that will change the way you look at Madness. She's the proud mother of everyone's favorite Pyromancer.

An inventor and revolutionist, Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival stands up to oppressive regimes, be it the Consulate of Kaladesh, or Phyrexian invaders. You'd have to be crazy to try to overthrow them. So crazy it just might work.

Madness Can't Possibly Work that Way

But it does!

Madness is actually two abilities.

"If you discard this card, discard it into exile."

After that ability triggers, you can use the second half.

"When you do, cast it for its madness cost or put it into your graveyard."

That moment of exile synergizes with Pia. With this commander, whenever you cast a card for it's Madness cost, it comes with a 1/1 Thopter token with flying. Pia also grants those Thopters haste.

Rules text reads "Good Thopter."

Unlike other "so called" Madness commanders, this deck will cast Madness cards every chance it gets.

Most Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival decks are built around exile, specifically impulse draw. Impulse draw is shorthand for effects that exile the top card of your library and allow you to play those cards from exile for a limited time. These strategies are fine, but can be clunky. If you impulse draw into something you can't play, you can't recoup that value.

If you are looking for something different, complex, but fast-paced, there is a compelling case to focus on Madness instead of impulse draw.

To Invent is to Rebel

Anje and Asmo share a similar role with each other. They are both enablers. In other words, they provide tools to execute the strategy.

In order for Madness to work, the cards need to be discarded in the first place. Anje is famous for discarding through entire decks. Asmo tutors for a discard outlet once she enters the battlefield.

Pia is not a Madness enabler, but a payoff. This means she doesn't help us to use the mechanic, but rewards you for using the mechanic.

How is a Vampire like a Thopter?

The Madness cards and Thopters have more in common than you'd think. They are aggressively costed creatures; creatures that hit hard for comparatively low investment. Madness cards want to be swinging, and Thopters add another evasive body to that onslaught.

The Madness cards that aren't creatures are either:

  • Direct damage spells
  • Creature pump spells
  • Removal spells

All play well with an aggressive game plan.

Red-white decks have been famous for poor card advantage and ramp (Although, many would say this has improved greatly). Madness addresses both these weaknesses in a subtle way.

This deck is very heavy with Rummaging effects, which is shorthand for discarding a card and drawing a card. Rummaging doesn't inherently provide card advantage; the number of cards in hand and in play stays the same. Madness changes that equation. With Madness, you get to deploy a card and get a fresh card for your trouble.

We are not trying to compete with the green ramp decks with sheer volume of mana. Mana advantage comes from our commander and the Madness cards themselves. Each Madness card we cast creates a Thopter with the same game plan.

Go wide, go fast, hit hard.

In a Mad World Only The Mad are Sane

Anje's Ravager is a 3/3 for two mana that lets us discard more madness cards and refills our hand every combat. It has to attack each turn, but that's our plan anyway. Also when cast, Pia makes a 1/1 flying Thopter token with haste.

Stromkirk Occultist generates both card advantage and develops your board. A 3/2 with trample for two mana. On cast, Pia adds a Thopter, absolutely free. While it doesn't enable more Madness, it lets us impulse draw more cards. Every time you play those cards, you get more Thopters. All this for only two mana!

Here's a card you might not have heard of: Strength of Isolation.

Let me be perfectly honest, this card isn't very good. There are two cards in white with Madness, and we are going to include the other one too. They both are still relevant to our strategy. Normally you are limited to your main phases to cast this enchantment. But if you discard it at instant speed, you can cast it right then.

One white mana at instant speed to give a slight pump and make a Thopter is plenty playable. If you manage to dodge a Deadly Rollick by discarding at instant speed, your opponent is never going to forget it.

Madness is Like Gravity, All it Takes is a Little Push

Because Pia doesn't help us cast Madness cards, we need to have our enablers in the deck. This deck uses a ton of Rummagers and other discard outlets. These cards let us cast cards for their Madness cost and help us dig through our deck.

Conspiracy Theorist is a perfect fit for this deck: you want to attack, you want to discard and you want to play cards from exile. The value is trifold here.

There are a handful of creatures that Rummage when they enter the battlefield. Charming Scoundrel has other relevant modes and haste. Normally this isn't powerful enough to use in Comander. However, Pia Nalaar loves to see any support she can get. Most Madness cards cost two mana or lower for their Madness cost. With Pia out, you can get three creatures for cheap. Late game pump spells will have these little Rummagers chunking for big damage on the swing.

It's always wonderful to see characters in cards synergize with other cards of theirs. Mother and daughter are reunited in Cathartic Reunion's original printing. I am not sure if Wizards of the Coast wanted this to be a Madness enabler to then make Thopters, but it's still possible.

Thopter Enthusiasts

There is a slight bottleneck to the strategy, as there are only 20 cards with Madness in red and white. Those cards generate tremendous value to the deck, but a smattering of other exile enablers help round out the strategy.

Urabrask is a fellow renegade that airdrops Thopters and card advantage each turn. An aggressive deck loves to see a 4/4 body with haste. Urabrask can trip up opponents and give us the edge we need.

Neyali, Suns' Vanguard is another card where every single word is relevant to the deck. Double strike to Thopters. Rewarding you for attacking. Impulse draw card advantage. Unlike other impulse draw, you get to cast these cards each turn you attacked with a token. In this deck, every turn. This can grow exponentially as Thopters attack.

Wild-Magic Sorcerer gives Cascade to the first card you cast from exile (including cards cast for its Madness cost). This works incredibly well with Madness. For example, lets say you cast Alchemist's Greeting for its Madness cost of two. Its mana value is still five, which means you get to cascade into a spell of four or less for free. Did I mention that card comes with a Thopter?

Method to the Madness

"Being an inventor means knowing how to use the tools at hand to make something great- or to bring it down."-Pia Nalaar

As an aggressive strategy, Pia wants to get going as soon as possible. Because she is a two cost commander, we want as many ways to ramp on turn one as possible.

This includes cards like Sol Talisman or Mox Tantalite. Each have Suspend three and no other means of casting the cards. If you draw these late game, you're never going to see them hit the battlefield. With this deck though, it's a risk worth running. Assuming you have it early game, it's a nearly free ramp spell that comes with a Thopter because Suspend will cast it from exile. In the event you draw it late game, this deck is built to discard into something more useful.

Also, if you make it to late game, you are already in trouble as an aggro deck anyway.

Early game, we have the edge. By the time mid-game happens, opponents will start playing threats that pack more punch than our simple Thopters and Madness creatures can muster. Fiery Emancipation puts us right back in a threatening position. City on Fire is for redundancy. Double strike works well with our damage triplers while being good by itself.

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer is fantastic in this deck. The Thopters we create qualify his Metalcraft ability and the +3/0 buff is game ending. He effectively quadruples the damage output of the Thopters and makes the rest of our team bigger. At eight power after the buff, Jor is no slouch himself.

Chance for Glory is a risky card, but in an aggro strategy, you can't afford hesitancy. Sometimes all you need is one more swing to end a game. Unbreakable Formation and Make a Stand each double as board protection and help punch through more damage.


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Commander (1)
Creatures (30)
Instants (12)
Enchantments (6)
Artifacts (9)
Sorceries (7)
Battles (1)
Lands (34)

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This deck can be very budget friendly, as the cost from this version comes mostly from landbase and ramp package. There are plenty of fantastic damage increasing options on the cheaper side too!


If you love the fast, attack-heavy decks but are looking for something less oppressive for your pod, this may be a perfect fit. If you wanted to play the Madness mechanic for all of it's nuances, this deck is built to explore that space.

I have to mention, there is a strong case to brew a Madness deck in black-red instead. Black offers the majority of the Madness cards. Anje and Asmo are popular for a reason. Not to mention, Prosper, Tome-Bound is also a Madness payoff in the same vein as Pia. They all would make excellent decks if you wanted to build around playing Madness cards. However, they lack the immediate speed of Pia's zipping Thopters. Who do you think is the best commander for a Madness strategy?

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Jonathan has been a Magic fan for an eternity in internet years. IRL, since 2016. Jonathan is a professional overthinker and an advocate for diversity. You can find him scrawling gibberish into loose papers, supporting local art, or trying out new recipes.

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