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Against the Odds: Sprout Paradox (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode seventy-five of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an all-infinite combo poll featuring combos from our Brewer's Minute series a couple of weeks ago, and in the end, it was the infinite Saproling token combo of Sprout Swarm and Paradox Engine that came out on top! So, this week, we are heading to Modern to see if we can use one of the greatest commons of all time in limited to go infinite in constructed! At first glance, it feels like the combo could be at least somewhat competitive—it only takes two cards and can go off at instant speed once a Paradox Engine is on the battlefield, but how will it work out in practice? We're about to find out! 

Let's get to the videos, and then we'll talk a bit more about the deck, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Sprout Paradox (Deck Tech)


Against the Odds: Sprout Paradox (Games)

The Deck

The main challenge of the deck was figuring out what colors to build it, since there are actually two other cards that mimic Paradox Engine. Jeskai Ascendancy is one option, but it felt like the worst of the bunch, both because it requires us to be at least four colors and because, considering we need a lot of creatures to help convoke Sprout Swarm, it doesn't do much unless we are comboing off, since it only triggers when we cast an instant or sorcery. Intruder Alarm seemed better, since it is only one color, but there can be some awkwardness when our creatures are tapped, requiring us to draw another creature to start comboing off. In the end, I decided that the main benefit of going infinite with Paradox Engine and Sprout Swarm was the ability to build a really consistent one-color deck, so both Jeskai Ascendancy and Intruder Alarm were left on the sidelines in favor of staying mono-green.

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The basic idea of the combo is simple: we get a Paradox Engine on the battlefield, ideally with the help of some mana dorks; then, we start casting Sprout Swarm by tapping all of our creatures. If we have at least five creatures (at least one of them green), we can cast Sprout Swarm without using any mana thanks to convoke and then get it back in our hand thanks to buyback to repeat the process again. Every time we cast our Sprout Swarm, all of our creatures untap thanks to Paradox Engine, so they are available to convoke again. The end result is basically "make a 1/1 Saproling token, repeat this any number of times." 

More importantly, Sprout Swarm is an instant, so we can do all of this on our opponent's end step (to dodge sorcery-speed removal), untap, and kill our opponent immediately with our swarm of Saprolings. If we happen to have a Chord of Calling in hand, we can just combo off during our main phase and tutor up a finisher that allows us to close out the game on the spot. 

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Our endless mana dorks serve two purposes in our deck. First, Paradox Engine is a bit expensive for Modern when played fairly, but with the help of mana-producing creatures, we can cast the artifact as early as Turn 3, which often allows us to combo off on Turn 4. Any two one-mana mana producers (like Boreal Druid, Elvish Mystic, Llanowar Elves, and Noble Hierarch) over the first two turns will get the job done, as will playing a single one-drop on Turn 1 into Elvish Archdruid on Turn 2. 

Second, after ramping us into Paradox Engine, these cards are important because they give us a bunch of bodies on the battlefield to enable the convoke / buyback ability on Sprout Swarm. To actually go infinite, we need at least five creatures on the battlefield, although we can sometimes start off with less than five, since we can use the Saprolings from Sprout Swarm itself. Plus, all of our mana producers are green, so we can use them to pay the colored mana cost of Sprout Swarm with convoke. They also allow for a tribal synergy that lets us draw a bunch of cards to help find our combo pieces, because while most of them are Elves, all of our creatures are also Druids!

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Gilt-Leaf Archdruid and Lifecrafter's Bestiary help us cycle through our deck and find our combo pieces by drawing us cards as we cast our various mana dorks. More importantly, they both offer backup plans for winning the game when we don't have our Sprout Swarm. With Gilt-Leaf Archdruid, we can use the mana we generate by untapping our mana dorks with Paradox Engine to cast a bunch of Druids and eventually steal all of our opponent's lands, while Lifecrafter's Bestiary can help us draw through our entire deck until we find our combo or another way of winning the game.

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As far as actually closing out the game, apart from simply making a ton of Saproling tokens on our opponent's end step, we use Chord of Calling to tutor up some game-ending one-ofs, including Regal Force and Craterhoof Behemoth

Let's start with Chord of Calling itself. It's amazing in our deck because in the early game, we can use it to find another mana producer to enable our convoke combo. In the mid-game, we can use it to tutor up a Gilt-Leaf Archdruid to generate some card advantage and maybe even steal all of our opponent's lands. After we've comboed off, Chord of Calling provides a way we can win right away by tutoring up Craterhoof Behemoth!

So, say we're comboing off on our main phase. We likely have at least two or three mana dorks as we start the combo, and as we continue, we build up a board full of Saproling tokens with our Sprout / Paradox combo. The problem is that all of our Saprolings are summoning sick, and if we let our opponent untap, there are any number of cards that ruin our plan, from Pyroclasm to Yahenni's Expertise to Supreme Verdict. In this situation, we simply tap all of our creatures to Chord of Calling up Craterhoof Behemoth (which untaps all of our creatures thanks to Paradox Engine), give all of our creatures something like +15/+15 (or even +1,000,000/+1,000,000) along with trample, and swing in for lethal!

As for Regal Force, we never actually cast it during our games. While I could imagine situations where it would be good (mostly pre-combo to draw us a bunch of cards and help us find our combo pieces), there are actually very few situations where we want a Regal Force over a Craterhoof Behemoth. While I think it's fine in the deck, based on our matches, it doesn't really seem necessary. 

The Matchups

Apparently, this deck is the Elves assassin. We played a total of seven matches and won two, both against Elves builds. So, what is it that makes Elves such a good matchup? It hits this weird and rare-in-Modern sweet spot for our deck. Our deck is pretty good at comboing off on Turn 4 or 5, assuming our opponent doesn't have a lot of disruption (either creature removal or discard). The problem is that there's a large group of decks in Modern that can win before Turn 4 or 5 (think Affinity, Tron, Burn, etc.), and the decks that can't win early are usually overloaded with disruption (think Grixis Control, Jund, Abzan). While it's possible we can best the fast decks (if they get a slow draw) or the slow decks (if they don't find the right removal and / or counters), our best matches are the decks in the middle—not super-fast but also not overloaded with disruption—which leaves Elves, some builds of Scapeshift, maybe Merfolk, and some Death and Taxes decks. 

As for our worst matchups, they are decks at the extreme. I'm not sure how we ever beat something like Infect, since we don't have much interaction and it's very unlikely they let us live until Turn 4 / 5. Just as bad is a deck like Jund, which can simply Thoughtseize a combo piece on Turn 1, kill a mana dork on Turn 2, and then Kolaghan's Command a Paradox Engine or Lifecrafter's Bestiary on Turn 3 (along with killing just about any creature in our deck). 

The Odds

As I mentioned a moment ago, we got in a total of seven matches and won two of them, giving us a match win percentage of 28.57%. As for games, we played 17 and won 5, raising our game win percentage up to 29.41%. Unfortunately, nearly all of our wins came against Elves, and some of our other matches didn't feel especially close. While the combo itself is solid and we were able to set it up fairly consistently with the help of our card draw, it feels just a turn too slow (or a bit too fragile) to really be competitive in Modern. 

I've mentioned before that one of my goals in playing a deck—even a deck that ends up not working out—is to learn something. And for Sprout Paradox, the revelation is that Lifecrafter's Bestiary is actually a really, really good card, even in Modern. I'm excited to try it out in a deck like Elves that can consistently play it on Turn 2. After it's on the battlefield, the Thassa, God of the Sea-like scry-on-upkeep ability helps filter out bad draws, and the card-drawing ability is amazing if you have a ton of mana. In Elves specifically, I can imagine it being of a bad version of Glimpse of Nature. When you have a ton of mana from Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel, the bottleneck is cards, and being able to pay one mana every time you cast a creature to draw a card could go a long, long way in the deck. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We are only halfway through Modern Masters 2017 previews, and while the set is overloaded with playable and expensive Modern staples, not every card can be an all-star. So, this week for our poll, let's put some of the less-popular Modern Masters 2017 cards to use! Which Modern Masters 2017 reprint should be play in Modern next week? Let us know by voting!

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Anyway, that's all for today! Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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