Saturday, 12 November 2016

Another Kaladesh Combo Deck

Dramatic ReversalTime for another Kaladesh inspired combo. This one is fairly similar to artifact based storm decks except it has several other tricks up its sleeve courtesy of some nice new cards. Really there are two separate combos going on in in this list but they share a great deal of overlap. The first new combo is Dramatic Reversal on an Isochron Scepter while having two or ideally three mana able to be produced from tapping non-land sources. This is infinite storm and infinite mana as well if you can make three each time. This is a simple two card (plus appropriate conditions) infinite loop combo. The other new combo isn't really a combo as it doesn't ultimately do anything nor is it loopable nor able to go infinite. It is much more like an Egg deck combo engine that also just so happens to power everything up that you want it to. Basically you just cast as many cheap mana producing artifacts as possible, float some mana and cast a Paradoxical Outcome. This will draw you a pile of cards and allow you to drop down all your mana rocks again either generating you mana in combination with cost reduction effects or just generating you loads of storm.

Isochron Scepter
Given this list has essentially two combos going on in it as well as it being an engine deck to some extent and therefor very reliant on consistency the build is going to be really tight. I would need quite a lot of playing with this archetype to be able to properly refine the list and this is my draft so it will be pretty rough round the edges. A subtle change to a deck like this can have pretty drastic effects on its performance. As such even if I get pretty well stomped to begin with I will not assume, as I would with some creature based deck, that it was just a terrible archetype. Getting just the right balance of lands, mana rocks, action and filter/tutor will be key to the success of this deck and presently I am still just guessing at what that will look like.

25 Cards

Mox Opal
Paradoxical OutcomeMox Diamond

Mana Vault
Voltaic Key
Chromatic Star


Talisman of Dominance
Dimir Signet
Grim Monolith
Helm of Awakening

Etherium Sculptor
Dramatic Reversal
Aetherflux ReservoirIsochron Scepter
Demonic Tutor

Merchant Scroll
Brain Freeze
Prophetic Prism

Thirst for Knowledge

Paradoxical Outcome
Aetherflux Reservoir

Tezzeret, the Seeker


15 lands

Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Seat of the Synod
Vault of Whispers
Academy Ruins

10 x Islands and UB duals that enter play untapped most of the time

UpheavalLeaving home without at least a Duress is pretty risky with a deck like this. Leaving yourself with no outs to disruption or countermagic is asking for trouble. You become far too easy to counter-play and are purely relying on speed. If this deck isn't good enough to support at least one pure safety card, ideally two, then that is a problem for it. Upheaval covers you pretty well for an out on anything the Duress can't hit and a lot of the ones it is too late to hit. The engine decks are always the hardest to squeeze in non-combo cards to. Ideally you find something that works with the deck, Defense Grid might be better than Duress against countermagic for example because it has some synergy with your artifact stuff.

The win condition is one of the more awkward things about this deck. Essentially the win conditions are non-combo cards in that they don't help you to go off. You want the most painless cards that you can include as a result. A land like Shivan Gorge might be a good win condition if it actually worked with what was going on. Brainfreeze is the best win condition but is doesn't do anything at all before then and is often dead weight. You can power Brainstorm out in several ways, go infinite on the storm or even just stick it on a Scepter and race them. I wanted to try out the new Aetherflux Reservoir as the backup storm win condition over the more typical Tendrils of Agony. While Tendrils has some merits to it the Reservoir offers some new things. Reservoir can be thrown out before you storm off, perhaps it sits in play and gains you some ongoing life or perhaps it just saves you some key mana for the following big turn. You can tutor up Reservoir with a Tezz, you can recur it with a Ruins. Sometimes it is more annoying have a storm precursor spell rather than one you play at the end but you still have the Brainfreeze for that. Tezz and sort of Upheaval are your backup win conditions if you can't win with the storm stuff for some reason. I considered things that might be good to take advantage of infinite mana or untap but I didn't find any that did anything else useful for the deck. I feel there must be something out there that lets you win in a non-storm way should you get infinite mana that isn't a pile of do nothing in the deck like Goblin Rocket Launcher or whatever it is called...

Helm of Awakening
The deck is unusually hard to play because the overlap in the synergies does not go much beyond the cards themselves. They way in which you use your things really depends on which direction you think is best for any given game. Sometimes you will blow an Outcome early just to draw three or so cards, sometimes you will blow the Reversal for a mana boost. Sometimes you will ramp up your mana and sometimes you will hold your mana rocks so you can use them for storm. It is quite hard to change direction once you start to move on one but you typically have to chose pretty early on. You could really up the complexity by throwing in a Krak-Clan Ironworks but I would want better mana sinks before I wanted to go down that route. One thing I feel the list does lack is a recursion mechanism for non-artifact cards. Almost all of the good ones exile cards and so are they are that much less exciting. Loads let you cast a second Dramatic Reversal but not that many let you re-use it to imprint something. Time Spiral can help here but is heavily dead weight much of the game. You have to be super careful how much of that stuff a deck can have. Ideally you would have Brainstorm over one of the other card quality spells to help with that. You probably have some more ramp, perhaps even some land based ramp like Simulacrum or Myriad Landscape.

Merchant ScrollThe Reversal on a Stick part of the combo was very easy to find and play and made the deck incredibly dangerous, it can just win out of nowhere with seemingly few resources. It was the way the deck won quickly, pure storm wins didn't tend to happen before turn five yet turn two Reversal wins happened and turn one is entirely possible. Paradoxical Outcome was impressive and versatile but not being able to chain them into each other makes it a lot less viable in cube. You really want four Outcomes (obviously then in a sixty card deck) so that the first finds the second and pays for them both, the second finds the the third and generates a load of mana and the third utterly kills them. Most of the times the Outcome was played it was just a quirky Concentrate, overall it probably averaged just over four cards per use so pretty good draw in this kind of deck even without all the utility and potential ramp it can bring. Yawgmoth's Will and Time Spiral likely the best tools to try and get any sort of chain going with the outcome. Yes, it will only ever be for two with those but the added power of them should make up for not being able to chain Outcomes. If going Yagmoth's Will I would consider Ironworks much more heavily.

Dimir Signet
Etherium Sculptor is the most cuttable card in this deck by a long shot. It makes your big Outcomes better and helps with your pure storm wins but it is so much weaker of an effect. It is that much more vulnerable than Helm of Awakening combined with supporting the less consistent, slower backup plan for the deck that I don't think it is worth it overall. Perhaps a Mind Stone or a Lim-Dul's Vault would be a better replacement. I tested out Borderpost for a bit but found it to be terrible, the alternate cost was too inconsistent and it was too slow anytime you were trying to combo to be of any use. The land count in the list is on the high side too, that would be the other place I looked to make a cut from. Only 14 is a bit gross but with so much cantrip you will flood out too often for my likeing with the exact balance given in my list. An argument would be to cut the cantrip filler but I am not sure which "better" cards the deck wants as yet. I am liable to make the list significantly worse by doing that.

Overall I think this deck actually has some real potential for cube. The Dramatic Reversal Scepter plan is super strong and trying to counter both it and the potential storm wins is going to be rather too much for a lot of decks to cope with. Artifact storm is comparably powerful to Heartbeat style storm and Ritual style storm, they all have their pros and cons but the big issue for the artifact storm version is that it has way too many contested cards. Not only did you need all the key storm stuff but you needed all the artifact things too. While certainly at its most powerful with Monolith and Mana Vault I think this version of the deck can perform well enough without them and as such this archetype is probably in the best place it has ever been now for cube. Hard to counter, reasonable options, speed and consistency and less dependence on loads of critical and contested cards than ever before. I will try and work out what correct builds of this deck look like and which of the directions you can take it are viable. If I find something that works usefully in the deck and also uses infinite mana to win then the deck should be a solid tier one deck. A lot more impressive than the Aetherworks Marvel combo deck and that wasn't afwul! Impressive to see several new cards working well in some of the most powerful archetypes in magic. Now I guess I have to go and make some Saheeli combo nonsense...

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