Friday, 18 January 2019
Paradox Engine .dec
After the immense fun that was had at the helm of my Magistrate's Scepter deck I thought I should try a more focused and real build using many of the same support cards and synergies but with an actually good build around card as the key of the deck. Paradox Engine is exactly that good build around card. The idea is fairly simple, get some mana rocks or dorks in play and combine them with things that tap to draw cards. With that general setup you can pretty much draw and cast your whole deck in a single turn. The best bit is getting to use the charge counter mana rocks alongside proliferate cards. In this list I get to play proliferate because it is the best tool for the job rather than because I force it because I like it too much! The deck is a bit like a storm deck and can use a load of storm finishers if it wants. Equally it can go for more of the Ironworks style infinite mana win conditions or indeed both! One of the nice things about this deck is that the mana aspect is in play and just sort of does it self for you once setup. Other storm decks typically have to produce mana and cards in an ongoing capacity while they are going off. This list only really needs to find cards once the pieces are in place to go off. This gives you a lot of freedom in build direction and card choice. I have seen versions of this list using Skullclamp and creatures as the significant part of the draw engine. I have seen versions that are heavily blue spells and ones that are mostly artifact. I am going to proffer a fairly middle of the road, yet dedicated version of the archetype.
Below are the core parts of the deck, most of the rest of what you play is just ways to find these cards or redundancy for them. You can do without some of the cards on this list but only because there are weaker alternatives on offer, really you want all of these.
Cornucopia and Chalice are your key mana producers. Surge Node, Tapper and the proliferate cards empower them over time and the Paradox Engine both furthers this and benefits from it. Once an untap trigger is producing nine or more mana then Batterskull sends you to infinite mana. It it like the Palinchron of this list. It is better too as it affords more utility and protection and is far more easily tutored for. Batterskull won me a bunch of games just being itself as well as many more as part of the combo. Temple Bell, Engine and Batterskull let you draw your deck with eight mana or more worth of non-land mana production. It also greatly helps you power your way up to that point. Both before and after making your Engine. You only really need a couple of mana from non-land sources with Engine and Bell in play to usually go off and win on the spot. Trading Post is seemingly a non-essential support card but I found it to be such a good support card in several different roles that I can't imagine running it to be wrong in any form of build. It just covers you in like three ways at once and is thus very space efficient.
Once you have your core cards in place it is time to pad it out with support, protection and some redundancy where possible. Below is a list of the various cards I was looking at while trying to build this thing that did not make my final cut. I can't easily say how good or bad most of these will be as I am still fairly new to this archetype. I need to do many more builds going in a variety of directions to really get a feel for things. I am sure a bunch of these cards are worthy of playing over things I played and I am also sure that several viable lists for this general style of deck exist for which a much wider greater pool of cards will become viable than I have listed.
Cantrips and card quality (Sleight of Hand etc)
Elixir of Immortality
Sensei's Divining Top
Chromatic Star / Terrarion
Throne of Geth
Merfolk Looter etc
Sai, Master Thopterist
Padeem, Consul of Innovation
Tezzeret, the Seeker
Staff of Nin
This is my take on the deck. It has some creatures which empower the combo and greatly speed things up if they are not met with removal. They also allow for a bit more defensive and interactive game against aggressive decks. With all the artifact and proliferate synergies on the go Walking Ballista seems like the obvious best win condition as it does so much prior to that point. I also ended up running Hangarback as well for multiple reasons. Sometimes it is a good source of sacrificial artifacts, sometimes it is a nice free spell to untap, sometimes it is a solid defensive blocker and sometimes you make it enormous and beat face with it. It did make me want more sac outlets like Throne of Geth or Sai, Master Thopterist. The Throne route wants a bit more support with artifacts you want to sac off and Sai sends you down a more all round deck that can combo kill or just be aggressive. You would want to add in things like Karn with your Sai and then it starts to look even more like my Magistrate's Scepter deck!
Whir of Invention
Seat of the Synod
With the redundancy and tutors on offer it is pretty easy to find the mana rock elements of the combo but finding the final garnish of Temple Bell is trickier. This is where cards like Trading Post, Enclave Cryptologist and Azor's Gateway come in. These all lets you churn through your deck and all work very nicely indeed when you start to get your untap triggers firing off. You can go deeper on the blue Looters but you are increasingly vulnerable to removal with every one toughness dork you add in. The dorks are also a lot less use when you find them while trying to go off as they lack haste. The spread I have in this list gives a good range of power, effects and risk. Azor's Gateway is a bit dodgy as you neither want to flip it or exile cards! Ideally you just pitch lands to it and all is well in the world.
One way of making your creatures more useful when found part way through trying to go off is Grand Architect. He lets you tap summoning sick things and turns everything into a Renown Weaponsmith. This is especially nice as you have a lot of good artifact finding cards on the back of blue dorks. Architect lets you put those to further use although just blocking with them is also pretty great. Those extra two toughness on Weaponsmith is why he makes it in and Vedalken Engineer does not. Weaponsmith is a far more relevant tempo play able to do some really useful blocking and some decent surviving of removal, even if he can't find any weapons for you...
This list performs well but is a little polar. It has really strong matchups against uninteractive decks and really poor ones against decks with countermagic. It has better game against aggressive decks than most combo decks like it despite being a little slower. This is due to the creature support, the nature of that support and the Batterskull ace in the hole. It is really nice Whirring up on of those to block at instant speed! That ends a lot of aggressive lines and is a lot quicker to be a reality than it sounds. To improve it against countermagic you have Defense Grid, Null Brooch if brave, or simply your own blue countermagic. This makes you slower and weakens your artifact synergies somewhat but it is at least still useful across all matchups.
I really wanted to find room for some disposable artifacts that cycle (or better). Ichor Wellspring would have been lovely. I was finding it uncomfortable when having to sacrifice artifacts. Despite having a good number in the list most of them are things you really want to keep in play. The possible cuts are the low end redundancy cards like Prismatic Lens and Azor's Gateway and the more luxurious spells like Gitaxian Probe, Hangarback Walker and Hedron Archive. Alternatively you could all but cull the blue creatures elements and make some space that way. That might well make the curve rather nicer. This list has painfully few one drops and would really like to be able to at least do some Preordaining on turn one. Obviously in a powered cube you can pack all sorts of mental cards like Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Mishra's Workshop and all that jazz and then you can win right off the bat and not have to worry about your curve! I suspect this deck is very tedious in powered cubes when you get a good amount of the right kind of artifact ramp. That is pretty much the case for a wide array of archetypes in powered cubes though so not that much of an acclaim.
I really liked the idea of running Borderposts in this deck. They give you a good thing to do on turn one and empower most of the deck. You get to run a bit less land, you get a higher artifact count, more consistent artifact synergies and you get more back on each Engine trigger. The thing is you have to run mostly basic lands to do this and that means going easy on your utility and artifact lands which seems like a fairly even trade off.
Another weakness this list has is to disruptive permanents. While it handles itself in combat admirably for a combo deck it lacks any sort of way to clear a problem card like Stony Silence. This is not too hard to solve as problems go. There are great options that this list has selection for as well as ways to empower. The issue is more one of space than anything else. Lux Cannon is my favourite of the answer cards as it can be so naughty but it is pure win more. It also fails the Stony Silence test as do a selection of the better general options like Ratchet Bomb and Engineered Explosives. In practice you may need to run something like a Rushing River or Cryptic Command, at least in your board.