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By: stsung, Jaroslava Stefankova
Jun 14 2017 12:00pm
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There were players that wanted to see Gush or Gitaxian Probe go. We could see everywhere that usually people tended to play either a Monastery Mentor deck or a Thorn deck to fight the Mentor deck. Any other decks were caught in between the fight of these two oppressors and many players just gave up. They either stopped playing altogether or joined one camp or the other. I joined the Thorn decks camp and was on Ravager Shops for the past few months. If you are not familiar with the deck I introduced it in one of my previous articles Vintage - Introducing Shops. This time I'd like to talk about something blue - Paradoxical Outcome.

A lot has happened in Vintage since the restriction of Gush and Gitaxian Probe this April.

The last few months of 2016 was a rough time for Vintage. There were players that finally got too sick of Monastery Mentor. Since the printing of Monastery Mentor there has been a rise of Gush decks in the Vintage metagame. While the number did not really go past 30 percent of the metagame it felt like Gush Mentor was omnipresent for us. I alone experienced several Power Nine Challenges in which 6 out 7 decks were Monastery Mentor decks. After such an experience it was hard to believe that I just ran into a deck that comprised 'just' 25-30% of the metagame. Other players had similar experiences and it raised never ending discussions about what cards are problematic and how Mentor decks could be stopped. This in the end, resulted in a poll in which Monastery Mentor came out as the card to restrict. It was Gush and Gitaxian Probe that was restricted this April though. Gush is a tricky card that has been restricted and unrestricted several times. It is a card that creates more complexity and many articles and even a book was written about it. The card allows for a lower land count and higher spell density which makes the decks running it more consistent and thus puts non-Gush fueled decks behind. The card started to see play when Delver of Secrets was printed (also meaning that after the unrestriction of Gush in 2010 the card didn't really see play for 3-4 years). As I usually say Delver of Secrets is the card that changed all the formats for me and I hated the card for its nature. Ironically I'm known now as a Gush player, a Delver player to be more precise. For me the printing of Delver of Secrets meant the inception of a new deck archetype or rather a pillar in Vintage. Thanks to all the cantrips and Gush the decks did not need to run too many lands because they often were able to get to the lands and threats they needed. Gush also was creating huge swings. Against other blue decks this is what made Gush decks better. When Gush decks were pitted against Thorn decks these decks started to struggle though. That is why we had seen Workshop decks rise in popularity and why White Eldrazi followed and why other deck archetypes waned.

All of us could easily see that sooner or later the metagame would become binary. It would be the ultimate battle between Gush Mentor and Thorn decks. This was slowly starting to create a negative player experience. Players started to be disgusted by either Gush Mentor or Shops and wanted a change.

With the printing of Walking Ballista and Paradoxical Outcome people rejoiced because they felt that these cards could change the Vintage metagame. It didn't take long to see that Shops would be packing 4 Walking Ballistas but it took a long time for people to figure out what to do with Paradoxical Outcome.

I suppose that many people that looked at the card thought about it in conjunction with Storm. At least I did. Dark Petition Storm decks pre-Paradoxical Outcome started playing Defense Grid main deck to fight the prevalent Gush decks that could often win the game with enough permission and cheap threats that could end the game very soon. If a Storm player started to combo off and was suddenly stopped by a succession of counterspells, for example, they had problems recovering from this position and often died to a token generator quickly. I personally didn't fear DPS with my Gush deck even though I had to tweak my main deck in order to be able to win game 1. Null Rod effects were often the cards that helped deal with both Storm and Shops decks. One disenchant effect main deck also helped me in these matchups.

Paradoxical Outcome soon found its way to a Storm deck or rather it happened the other way round because the first Paradoxical Outcome Storm decks weren't that similar to DPS deck. That started to change though and with time it was clear that Paradoxical Outcome Storm would replace DPS decks entirely. These decks were fast and with fast I mean often winning on turn 1. I was very desperate when this deck emerged because Flusterstorm wasn't fast enough. The best way to fight these decks were Mindbreak Trap and Null Rod effects. In the second case one really needed to play the card on turn 1. Some of these decks were running a little bit of additional permission (usually Flusterstorm) and some had Tinker and Blightsteel Colossus in their sideboard but often neither was necessary because of how fast the deck was. Paradoxical Outcome Storm had one more advantage over DPS. One of the cards that people also complain about since its printing is Mental Misstep. While this card doesn't do a thing against Shops (with the exception of countering Sol Ring) it is a card that had many targets against other decks. There was always a plethora of spells one could counter with Mental Misstep and people often got upset when their Ancestral Recall got hit by this uncommon from New Phyrexia. Mental Misstep is a card that was also very useful against DPS because it could counter a key card (see Dark Ritual for example) or discard spell for free and without losing an additional card. Against Paradoxical Outcome Storm deck one could counter Sol Ring or Mana Vault but that didn't really play a big role since the deck could easily go off without these cards.

Akash Naidu killing me on his turn 1 in one of the Power Nine Challenges. If you are interested you can watch the commented match here. The second game starts roughly at 7 minutes.

A bit later we realized that thanks to this card Storm decks might become even oppressive. They had a good matchup with current Gush Mentor decks. Storm wasn't the only place we could have seen Paradoxical Outcome. A Paradoxical Outcome Mentor deck emerged. As a Gush player I was often terribly crushed by Paradoxical Outcome Mentor decks and I started to wonder if this could shape the new metagame and if Mentor could be dethroned. Unfortunately it was clear that Paradoxical Outcome Mentor shined as well.

While the best way to fight PO Storm was with Stony Silence or Null Rod it was difficult to stop a Paradoxical Mentor with it from my own experience. For Paradoxical Outcome Sphere effects are the best cards.

Playing Hurkyl's Recall for 7 or Engineered Explosives for 2 was rather impossible to do...

Finally in the past two weeks people started to abandon Mentor and Shops and started to wonder what else could find its spot in the metagame. While some players in the meantime tweaked their Mentor and Shops lists for the new metagame, there were many players that started to brew. The biggest question we all had to answer when building a deck was 'What card draw engine would I be using?'  Many people decided to go for Paradoxical Outcome because this card is not fully explored and appeals to many players by its 'combo nature'. It was the perfect time for me to see if I could try to play a Paradoxical Outcome deck too. I'd like to break down my deck and comment on it. This most probably won't become an established deck but it should give you an idea what can be done with Paradoxical Outcome (I won't be talking about Storm but rather combo-control variants).

When I started putting my deck together the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to run Paradoxical Outcome as my draw engine so I started with that card in four copies.

Mana Sources
Then I added 14 lands. I wanted a few basic lands (Islands) and fetchlands (any 5-6 blue fetchlands). I also figured that Library of Alexandria should be good. Since my deck ended up with a Human tribal feel, I decided to include Cavern of Souls. I needed to see if the deck can support it or it will lose more games because of not having a blue source for noncreature/non-human spells. The one land that should be always included in heavy artifacts decks is Tolarian Academy. I was also wondering if by a chance I do not want to run Ancient Tomb but I decided that this will most probably end up being a sideboard card, so I put it there and it proved to be the right place to be. Next it was time for all the good mana rocks out there so I could play my Paradoxical Outcome and have something to bounce to draw many cards - Black Lotus, 5 Moxen, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring, Mana Vault and Mox Opal. Since my deck wasn't supposed to be a fast combo deck but rather a combo-control leaning more on the control side (which changed with time) I didn't include cards like Grim Monolith.

Permission
A blue deck in Vintage also needs some basic permission. Running Force of Will is a must. Mental Misstep is also a powerful card but running 4 copies shouldn't be necessary. There are several reasons for that. First, this deck is not really running the 1 mana spells that matter that much. The deck is not dependent on them so it doesn't need to protect them with Mental Misstep. Second, the metagame shifted towards Big Blue decks in general, Shops decks, and Mentor decks that are less cantrip heavy as they used to be when Gush was around unrestricted. This means that in general the need for Mental Misstep is not that big. Anyway, I put three copies because I didn't feel like running 2. Since I also wanted to play this deck because I wanted to play control I added 3 Mana Drains. Unfortunately this card showed to be very difficult to cast and later I cut it completely replacing it with 2 copies of Flusterstorm.

Win condition

The battle of 2 Paradoxical Mentor decks.

Next it was time to figure out what my win condition should be. Honestly that is something I just didn't know and it showed when I was building the deck. Since I wasn't really sure what to put there as a win condition I started with cards I liked. Trinket Mage is the card I like a lot. It searches for 0-1 converted mana cost artifacts which could be awesome in this deck - or so I thought. I put 3 copies there. Then I included Snapcaster Mage because I haven't played with the card in Vintage for a long time too. This deck shouldn't have problems casting Snapcaster Mage and flashbacking even a Force of Will. Since all these creatures are Humans I decided to put 1 Monastery Mentor in the deck to see if the card can work as my win condition. So far, wherever I put Monastery Mentor in it usually became the primary win condition even when there was one copy of this card in the deck. I really needed to find a deck where this card wouldn't be the best card to play and I think I finally succeeded in that. Monastery Mentor showed to be hit or miss. I was also trying Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir because SeahOhh killed me with this card in one of the Vintage Challenges, Emrakul, the Promised End because that card often is rather game ending, Tezzeret the Seeker with Time Vault/Voltaic Key, Tinker and Blightsteel Colossus, Auriok Salvagers and Tendrils of Agony. Out of these the win conditions that didn't really persuade me were Teferi (while the effect is brutal that alone doesn't stop some decks), Emrakul, as it just seems to be more of a win more card, and Monastery Mentor failed to win a game in more scenarios than I would have liked. The other win conditions were working fine even through heavy artifact and graveyard hate. Each of those has its pros and cons against certain decks and takes up relatively quite a lot of slots in the deck.

 

Other cards
Next, I could still add some restricted cards so I took out Ancestral Recall and Time Walk from my Delver deck. From the other restricted spells I choose to put in Gitaxian Probe and Ponder. I knew I'd want more of the cards but I couldn't decide which ones so in the end I put in Treasure Cruise (because I simply needed to draw cards, not particularly look for something, the card was a disappointment though), Gush and Brainstorm. Brainstorm is a card I pondered about the longest. I know that this card often doubles as Ancestral Recall but without too many fetchlands in this deck and also a different nature of the deck I came to the conclusion that the card might actually be bad. So during my whole adventure with Paradoxical Outcome I was switching from Brainstorm to Preordain and back and out of the two Preordain seemed better. I put Gush in primarily because of Monastery Mentor and the fact that I can play it for 5 mana in most cases. Next I put Hurkyl's Recall and Repeal in my deck so I wouldn't make the same mistake twice - last time when I played with a Big Blue deck I built I totally forgot that Null Rod would totally shut my deck down and since this card is often being played main deck by Mentor decks I had to include these cards main deck too. It is a no-brainer but sometimes when you are focused on something else you forgot about even basic stuff like this. Hurkyl's Recall and Repeal can be played on my own cards either saving them or getting them back to recast them and trigger Monastery Mentor or get a higher Storm count for Tendrils of Agony. Since Paradoxical Outcome works well with Sensei's Divining Top (allows to draw an additional card) I decided to play a pair of Sensei's Divining Tops. This also led me to wanting playing Voltaic Key since it can untap cards like Mana Vault or also work nicely with Top. I didn't include the card in the deck at first but later put it there along with Time Vault and Tezzeret.

 

Decklist

Here is the decklist I came up with in the end even though it is not in its final form. I concluded that this deck fares fairly well against more or less fair decks but those decks that are more focused and usually often faster are not so good matchups. This deck is good in an open meta since it is somewhere in the middle of the combo-control spectrum, which is also the decks biggest weakness - sometimes it's not fast enough for a combo deck and sometimes it's not able to control the game for long enough. The deck is complex and tricky to pilot. It is very easy to misplay which can lead to a really fast loss. Variance plays a big role due to the unfocused nature of the deck. It was a good exercise to be meddling with Paradoxical Outcome and different win conditions though. It allowed me to see both the combo aspect of the deck and the control aspect of it. That is why I later decided to see how the deck would change if I would shift its game plan more in either the combo direction or more in the control direction which resulted in two different decks - Esper Paradoxical Storm (combo) and BUG Paradoxical Tezzeret Control (control).

 

In my following article I will talk about my play experience and evolution of my Paradoxical Human list.

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung (stsung on Magic Online and stsungjp at Twitter)

2 Comments

You said that to me about by Paul Leicht at Wed, 06/14/2017 - 13:03
Paul Leicht's picture
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You said that to me about Sphere effects but then I watched you demolish shops with many sphere effects out via well timed Hurkyl's recall. I feel like there is no good answer sometimes to the tier 1 vintage decks.

the thing is that you need to by stsung at Thu, 06/15/2017 - 04:46
stsung's picture

the thing is that you need to actually survive to be able to play well timed Hurkyl's Recall. Often this does not need to happen (happens more often than not though). Anyway sometimes it does happen, that you can't do anything. No matter what deck you play and what you play against. The cards themselves are so powerful that sometimes it just means a very one sided game that doesn't last long. That's also one of the aspects of Vintage.
We don't know what tier 1 is right now. There many decks around, yes, many are powered by Paradoxical Outcome engine but they are also very different. Some are faster, some are slower. Faster often means being more prone to hate but if you go to the extreme you end up with Paradoxical Storm that is very difficult to stop and can win on turn 1. If you go slow, you can control the game and then win on the spot later.
We'll have to wait and see how the metagame will settle. So far we just need to be aware of what can make our decks crumble and have cards that allow us to fight that (in our 75).