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Budget Magic: $55 (18 tix) Standard Paradox Engine


Χαίρετε, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time once again. Aether Revolt is finally here, and that means we are going to be delving into the fresh Standard format for the next few weeks, starting with one of my favorite cards from the set: Paradox Engine! As soon as Paradox Engine was spoiled, it was clear that the card has almost endless combo potential, but what I didn't realize is just how easy (and cheap) it would be to go infinite in Standard with the legendary artifact. Today's deck feels a lot like Standard Eggs, with long draw-your-entire-deck combo turns. And the best news? It's essentially ultra-budget, at only $55 in paper and 18 tix on Magic Online!

We'll talk more about Paradox Engine after the videos, but first a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all of the latest and greatest.

Paradox Engine: Deck Tech

Paradox Engine vs. Jeskai Copy Cat

Paradox Engine vs. Temur Tower

Paradox Engine vs. GR Energy

Paradox Engine vs. GR Ramp

Paradox Engine vs. RB Aggro

The Deck

Paradox Engine is actually simpler than it seems. We try to get a few mana rocks on the battlefield alongside a Paradox Engine, and then we simply win the game. That said, there are some tricks to the deck, and the purpose of each card isn't always all that obvious, so let's break down each piece of the deck individually. 

Paradox Engine

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Paradox Engine is—by far—the most important card in our deck. It's pretty much impossible to win the game without having a copy on the battlefield, but once we have one, we are extremely likely to win the very next turn from just about any board position. The basic idea of the deck is that we use the "untap all your stuff" ability on Paradox Engine to repeatedly untap mana rocks like Hedron Archive and Cultivator's Caravan, which makes enough mana that we can draw (and play) our entire deck until we eventually kill our opponent. 

Whir of Invention is also extremely important because it works as copies five through eight of Paradox Engine. Since our deck is overflowing with cheap artifacts, we can typically use improvise to tutor out a Paradox Engine as early as Turn 5. Plus, there are a couple of huge upsides to Whir of Invention. First, since it is an instant, it's much easier to slip it through our opponent's defenses, casting it in response to a Glimmer of Genius or at the end of our opponent's turn. Second, Whir of Invention isn't a colorless spell, so it gives us a Paradox Engine that isn't countered by Ceremonious Rejection. Once we have a Paradox Engine on the battlefield, we can use Whir of Invention to tutor out anything, from some card draw, to a mana rock, to our finisher. 

Mana Rocks

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To go infinite with Paradox Engine, we need at least two mana rocks on the battlefield, and the more we have, the more mana we make. Hedron Archive is great because it taps for two mana, while Cultivator's Caravan is essential because it makes blue mana, and while we have a lot of colorless cards, some of our card draw and Whir of Invention are very blue-mana intensive. When it comes right down to it, the basic idea of the deck is that, with a combination of Paradox Engine and mana rocks, we can make it so our spells are either free or turn into rituals where they are actually generating extra mana, which leaves us with a bunch of mana floating and the ability to cast anything in our deck! Let's use Prophetic Prism as an example.

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So, let's say we have a Paradox Engine, a Hedron Archive, and a Cultivator's Caravan on the battlefield. We tap all of our mana rocks (adding 2U to our mana pool) and cast our Prophetic Prism (using the 2, leaving U in our mana pool). The end result is that we added one mana to our mana pool and drew another card. Now, let's suppose that card is another Cultivator's Caravan. We tap our mana rocks again (for three total mana), cast Cultivator's Caravan (which costs three mana), and untap all of our mana rocks (meaning the Cultivator's Caravan was essentially free). Now, we can tap mana rocks for 2UU, so the next Prophetic Prism we cast will end up netting us two mana and drawing us a card! Eventually, as we keep drawing cards and going through the loop, we are going to end up in a position where we have a ton of mana rocks on the battlefield, so we float something like eight mana and then, when we cast a two-mana spell, we gain six mana!

The other important part of Prophetic Prism is that it allows us to combo off with just Hedron Archives, even though they only make colorless mana, by adding an extra step into the loop. Instead of just tapping our Hedron Archives and then casting a spell to untap everything with Paradox Engine, we tap our Hedron Archives, tap our Prophetic Prisms to transform some colorless mana into blue mana, and then cast the spell to untap everything. 

Rituals / Card Draw

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Cogworker's Puzzleknot and Metalspinner's Puzzleknot work pretty much like Prophetic Prisms as cards that add a bunch of additional mana while we are comboing off with Paradox Engine. While Prophetic Prism has the upside of fixing our mana, both Cogworker's Puzzleknot and Metalspinner's Puzzleknot have upsides as well. Metalspinner's Puzzleknot helps make sure we don't fizzle because we can sacrifice it from the battlefield to draw another card, while Cogworker's Puzzleknot helps power up our improvise cards by adding two artifacts to the battlefield.

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Reverse Engineer is an absurd card in our deck, since we can tap all of our random artifacts—thanks to improvise—to cast it for only two real mana, and then, all of our artifacts will untap anyway thanks to Paradox Engine. Drawing three cards for two mana is huge, and it helps make sure that we won't fizzle when we are comboing off. Meanwhile, Glimmer of Genius gives us some backup card draw and can help pressure our opponent at the end of their turn—if they spend their counter to stop our Glimmer of Genius, we are free to resolve a Paradox Engine after we untap. 

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As we are comboing off, making tons of mana, and drawing through our deck, we'll eventually draw into our one copy of Quicksmith Spy, and then fizzling becomes almost impossible, since we can cast it and use its ability, targeting our Paradox Engine; then, whenever we cast a spell we can first tap the Paradox Engine to draw an extra card! At this point, not only does everything we cast generate additional mana by untapping all of our stuff, but they cantrip as well!

Finishing the Game

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To actually kill our opponent, we have a single copy of Aetherflux Reservoir, which we can tutor up with Whir of Invention. Typically, we wait until we've already cast a bunch of spells as we combo off, so all we need to do is cast a few spells and we can 50 our opponent. Just a word of warning: if we somehow lose our Aetherflux Reservoir, we're going to have a really hard time winning the game (Quicksmith Spy beatdown isn't a reasonable plan), so be careful. This is why using Whir of Invention is ideal—if it gets countered, we don't really care because we can always draw into another copy or into the Aetherflux Reservoir itself. 

And that's pretty much the deck: resolve Paradox Engine (maybe with the help of Whir of Invention), get two or three (or more) mana rocks on the battlefield, draw (and cast) our entire deck, and win the game with Aetherflux Reservoir! In my experience with the deck, we are extremely consistent at winning on Turn 6 and can occasionally win on Turn 5 with our best draws. This means that we are in great shape against midrange and control decks. On the other hand, we can have trouble against fast aggro (especially decks that start with a two-powered one drop and then curve out). 

The Sideboard

Our sideboard can be broken down into two parts: things that help us survive against aggressive, creature-based decks and things that help us fight through counterspells and other removal from control decks. 

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Dispel, Negate, and Unsubstantiate come in against control decks to help us force our Paradox Engine through counterspells and also protect our Paradox Engine from instant-speed removal like Anguished Unmaking or Natural Obsolescence

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Meanwhile, Engulf the Shore helps us survive against fast creature decks by basically being a super-Fog that not only prevents combat damage for a turn but also forces our opponent to spend their mana recasting their hand. Imprisoned in the Moon deals with weird things like planeswalkers and creature lands, and Warping Wail gives us an answer to the Copy Cat combo by exiling the Felidar Guardian in response to the "copy" trigger, while also having additional utility as a ramp spell or by countering a random sorcery. 

Ultra-Budget Paradox Engine

No ultra-budget deck this week. At only $55 in paper and 18 tix online, the version we played in the video is already ultra-budget!

Non-Budget Paradox Engine

So, there are a couple of issues with building a non-budget build of Paradox Engine. First, if budget isn't a concern, we'll probably need to add another color or even two, but I'm not certain which color is best (I can see merit in every color). Second, the challenge to building a non-budget version of the deck is to do one of two things: either figure out a way to slow down super-aggressive opponents by a turn or so or somehow speed up Paradox Engine by a turn or two, all without significantly weakening the combo itself (and increasing our fizzle rate, which is pretty low in our current build). Because of this (and since I haven't figured out a non-budget build I'm happy with yet), instead of giving you an actual list this week, let's talk about a few of the cards that I think could improve the archetype if we can find the right build.

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The main benefit of adding green to the deck is that it has the potential to help speed things up by giving access to a bunch of two-mana mana dorks (although we can do this colorlessly with Hedron Crawler, to some extent), which gives us a weird sort of nut draw where we can play a Druid of the Cowl or Deathcap Cultivator on Turn 2, a Hedron Archive on Turn 3, a Paradox Engine on Turn 4, and then win the game on Turn 5 (which essentially speeds the deck up by a turn while also giving us random mana dorks to chump block with). The problem with this plan is that we are relying on creatures to combo off, meaning that removal spells have the potential to fizzle our entire combo, which isn't a problem with the current build.

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Another possibility is to try to slow the opponent down by adding some cheap removal to the deck, but each removal spell we add to the deck is one less combo piece we get to play, so we'll have a balancing act in figuring out just how much removal we can fit into the deck before our fizzle rate becomes too high. 

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Finally, we can try to play some sweepers to deal with multiple creatures at once, and here I'd expect that the most competitive option would be Radiant Flames, since it is the cheapest of the bunch. While Fumigate could be powerful, once we get to five mana, we are usually ready to win the game anyway, which might mean that a five-mana wrath is just too slow for our deck.

Altogether, I think the next build of Paradox Engine I'll try will probably be UR, with Radiant Flames, Harnessed Lightning, and maybe some Shocks. My only question is figuring out how to make everything fit together without slowing down the combo, which sort of defeats the purpose of these changes. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. We finished our video matches 3-2, but our overall record was a bit worse because we lost another match against Temur Tower and approximately a million times to GR Energy / Pummeler (which isn't surprising—I never beat that deck, no matter what I'm playing, and the Paradox Engine matchup isn't great because they can kill on Turn 4 / 5 pretty regularly). More importantly, I think this deck got more of a reaction from opponents than any other deck I've played, with opponents either thinking the deck looked super sweet or getting salty while we comboed off for 10 minutes at a time. It's also super fun to play, and you simply can't beat the price, so give it a shot—I don't think you'll be disappointing!

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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