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Vintage 101: Desperately Seeking Tezzeret...


Desperately Seeking Tezzeret

As I'm sitting here typing this article the spoilers for Aether Revolt have started to trickle in. Usually I'm happy to see what the new cards are going to be, but lately I've been much more interested in the new sets than I used to be. Kaladesh was amazing and had a ton of exciting things for Vintage players. I don't know a lot about the follow-up set to Kaladesh, but I do know a few things. I know that the artifact theme will continue, and that's something that always has potential to effect Vintage. I also know that we're going to get a new version of Tezzeret, and that's something I'm eagerly anticipating. 

Tezzeret has been part of Vintage since he was introduced as a planeswalker. As a matter of fact, Tezzeret the Seeker was the first planeswalker to see widespread play in the format. We're long past the era where Tezzeret was the most dominant force in the Vintage metagame, but the Seeker will always have some relevance in the format as long as people are still playing Time Vault

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Tezzeret the Seeker was essentially dethroned by Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Jace is better at basically everything other than winning with infinite Time Vault activations. Still, Tezzeret can single-handedly win a game on the spot, and that's something Jace can't pull off. 

The second version of Tezzeret, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is also Vintage-playable, although it hasn't seen as much play. Tezzeret 2.0 provides a different sort of advantage than Jace or the original Tezzeret, but in the right deck it can be a formidable card. 

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A few days ago I saw that a new version of Tezzeret had been spoiled and I got very excited. The name was amazing; Tezzeret, Master of Metal is the kind of planeswalker I could head bang to. I was a little disappointed when I read the card, but then I saw that it's just the common version for the Aether Revolt Planeswalker Deck. 

For a card that you'll get for free in an intro deck, this is pretty cool. The abilities are all neat, but they're not nearly powerful enough to be worth six mana in a format like Vintage. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas does almost the same thing, but he does it better and for less mana. On the plus side, I know that the Aether Revolt version of Tezzeret should be much better, so I'm crossing my fingers for a new Vintage planeswalker! 

Paradoxical Tezzerator

Since the Aether Revolt spoilers had me thinking about Tezzeret and his role in big blue artifact-centric Vintage decks, I figured I'd take a look at what the master of all things metal has been up to lately. As I mentioned before, as long as Time Vault is a viable win condition in the format there will be some number of people using Tezzeret the Seeker. It just so happens that some recent printings have breathed some new life into Tezzerator-style decks. 

In the past the Tezzerator decks had to rely on Thirst for Knowledge or Thoughtcast to draw cards. Both Thirst and Thoughtcast are powerful draw engines, but they're not very efficient compared to Gush, a card that provides the exact same card advantage. The printing of Paradoxical Outcome in Kaladesh changes this dynamic considerably. Gush is still less mana-intensive as it is essentially free to cast, but the raw power of Paradoxical Outcome is nearly unmatched by any card ever printed. 




When I first wrote about Paradoxical Outcome I imagined that it would be used in something like the "U/R Welder" decks that were being played at the time. I haven't seen anyone playing that exact list since then, but people have had success using Paradoxical Outcome decks in a variety of archetypes. 

The basic formula is pretty simple. You take Paradoxical Outcome and pair it with a ton of artifact mana to create an insane draw engine. Each Outcome deck is a little different, but they're all using the five true Moxen, Lotus, Mana Crypt, and Sol Ring. Those eight pieces of artifact mana aren't enough though, so people run between one and four Mox Opals, Mana Vault, Chrome Mox, Lion's Eye Diamond, or Grim Monolith. Of all the artifact mana sources I listed, I'd say that Chrome Mox and LED are probably used the least, but the Tendrils builds generally need the mana fixing that those cards offer. 

Beyond the explosive mana base there are other important considerations. The most important decision is choosing what your deck will utilize as a win condition. The win condition you choose will also relate to which supplementary spells you will use. 

The main win conditions that people have had success with are Tendrils of Agony, Time Vault, and Monastery Mentor. Some lists run secondary win conditions in the sideboard like Blightsteel Colossus or a Brain Freeze, usually found with Cunning Wish

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Win Conditions

Tendrils of Agony has the added benefit of needing only one copy to win a game. Playing just one card with which to win frees up more space in the deck for counters, card draw, and mana. The down side is that if somehow your one Tendrils is neutralized, you may not have another way to win the game. 

Time Vault is second only to Tendrils in efficiency. Tendrils is a one-card combo, and Time Vault is a two card combo. You'll only need to hit your Tezzeret or Voltaic Key to win, and doing that only takes four or five mana. The problems with this win condition are that it's weak to spot removal and Null Rod effects. Also Time Vault itself is a total brick without something to untap it with. Luckily Voltaic Key and Tezzeret the Seeker are both usefully without Time Vault

Monastery Mentor seems to be played less online than other versions of the Paradoxical Outcome decks, but it has some distinct advantages. Monastery Mentor is usually played in sets of four so you don't have to fret if one gets exiled. The token production of Monastery Mentor provides a built in protection against spot removal, so it is likely the most resilient threat available. The tokens a Mentor makes get out of hand in a hurry in a normal deck. With Paradoxical Outcome your Mentor becomes a one or two turn clock at the very most.

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Some lists run Thoughtcast for additional card drawing, and some decks seem to stick to the draw-seven effects like Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune. Some Paradoxical Outcome decks run more counterspells, and some run fewer but utilize Defense Grid as well. More controlling Paradoxical Outcome decks are more likely to avoid draw-sevens as they are somewhat antithetical to additional counterspells. In contrast the most aggressive variants are glad to have the additional power of Timetwister and will gladly use Defense Grid to protect their combo. 


U/W Paradoxical Tezzeret

Let's take a look at a Paradoxical Outcome deck that's is using Time Vault and Monastery Mentor as win conditions. 

As you can see the deck has the core of fast mana and card drawing spells like all the other Outcome-based lists. Instead of just relying on one main-deck win condition though, there are several. First of all there's a Time Vault and the associated cards like Tezzeret and Voltaic Key. There's also a single Monastery Mentor too, and I really like how that gives the deck another angle of attack. Mentor helps blank some of the sideboard cards people might bring in to deal with your Vault/Key combo. 

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There's a Cunning Wish in the deck too, which can also act as yet another win condition. If you're playing this list and start to chain together multiple Paradoxical Outcomes, you'll end up with an enormous storm count. When that happens you can Wish for Brain Freeze and end the game on the spot. It does take quite a hefty storm count to kill someone with Brain Freeze, but it's not that hard to pull off in such a deck. Besides drawing cards Paradoxical Outcome creates a lot of storm in a hurry. 

Cunning Wish is also useful beyond Wishing for Brain Freeze. You can wish for Hurkyl's Recall, Disenchant, and Mindbreak Trap. I imagine that Wishing for Mindbreak Trap is a fairly common play when facing other combo decks. 

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The addition of Trinket Mage is also really sweet. There are a lot of good targets to fetch with it, and it combos very well with Paradoxical Outcome. You can use Trinket Mage to find something like a Mana Vault, play the vault and tap it for mana, then bounce the mage, Vault, and the rest of your artifacts with Paradoxical Outcome. That will let you make more mana and gain another Trinket Mage trigger that you can use to find yet another artifact. 

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Snapcaster Mage is fantastic in Vintage. The only thing more powerful than resolving a restricted card is resolving that same card a second time. And just like Trinket Mage, Snapcaster has synergy with Paradoxical Outcome. If things get really crazy you might make enough mana to flashback a Paradoxical Outcome with your Snapcaster. 

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Beyond all the other craziness in this list, Mind's Desire just might be the most insane spell to resolve. Even a relatively small Mind's Desire is likely to be lethal because there are so many powerful cards to flip. Once you're in the territory of casting Desire for six to ten storm it's almost a guaranteed win. 



My Verdict on U/w Tezzerator

I'm not sure what the best Paradoxical Outcome deck looks like, but I think that this list is quite good. Having a variety of win conditions goes a long way towards making a more balanced deck. Null Rod and Stony Silence are still a pain for a deck like this, but the deck can still win through those cards with either a Tezzeret ultimate or by creating a horde of Monk tokens. 


Paradoxical Mentor

Here's a Paradoxical Outcome deck that's focused more on Monastery Mentor as a win condition.

Tigersbadger's take on Paradoxical Mentor is very interesting. Instead of running Thoughtcast and Seat of the Synod, he's opted for a slightly more stable mana base. There's also Mystic Remora to control the flow of the game as well. 

Running Seat of the Synod and Thoughtcast offers additional cheap and explosive card draw, but it's not without a cost. It's tough to run Thoughtcast without three or four artifact lands, and those lands make you even more vulnerable to Null Rod than you'd otherwise be. By not running those cards this deck does sacrifice some ground, but hopefully Mystic Remora helps mitigate that somewhat. 

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This deck produces a ton of mana so it should be trivially easy to keep a Mystic Remora going for a long time. This list is full of must-answer bombs, so Mystic Remora ends up creating a win-win situation if cast early. If your opponent tries to wait to cast spells until you can't pay for the cumulative upkeep, you'll likely play a million spells and win the game. If your opponent does try to interact with you, you'll keep drawing extra cards the entire time. The downside is that Remora is a bad late-game topdeck, but with three in the list chances are it should be relevant in the early game much of the time. 


Tigersbadger's list isn't running any Swords to Plowshares in the main deck or sideboard, which is somewhat unusual. My understanding is that the strategy for beating other creature-based decks is to simply produce more Monk tokens than they can deal with. Even though there are no copies of Swords to Plowshares, there are two copies of Fragmentize in the main deck and two more in the sideboard.

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Main-deck artifact and enchantment removal isn't all that common in Vintage aside from the occasional Ancient Grudge in a few people's Oath lists. Considering how prevalent Workshop decks are, it makes a lot of sense to have a card like Fragmentize in your starting sixty. With a deck like this you're much more worried about a Thorn of Amethyst than an opponent's creature anyway. 

My Thoughts on Paradoxical Mentor

I like the idea of playing a hybrid of Mentor and combo, which is essentially what this deck is. Mentor is probably the best single-card win condition ever made, and decks like this illustrate why.

I like that there is more than one win condition in the deck too. Besides the three copies of Monastery Mentor the list also utilizes Time VaultTinker, and Blightsteel Colossus. I definitely think Mentor is the best win condition in this deck, but having other options is never bad. If you find yourself facing a deck with Thorn of Amethyst you can try Tinker up a Colossus before your mana is locked down. 

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I like the idea of having a Tinker bot in a deck like this. The only think I don't like about it is that this deck doesn't have a way to shuffle the Blightsteel back into the deck if it's drawn (other than one Brainstorm). Usually Vintage decks will be able to put a Blightsteel Colossus back into their deck by discarding it to Thirst for Knowledge or Dack Fayden, or by using Jace, the Mind Sculptor to put it back on top of the library. 

The deck isn't playing red, so Dack is out of the question. Thirst for Knowledge is probably not good enough anymore with all the better options available. There is more than enough mana to run Jace, the Mind Sculptor though, and that would be the first addition I would look for to solve this issue. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy could also be useful to discard a Blighsteel, and flashing back a Paradoxical Outcome isn't too shabby of a play either. 

While I would definitely consider a few changes if I was building a deck like this I think that the underlying ideas are sound. Paradoxical Mentor is an exciting new archetype and I expect to see more of it in the future. 

That's all the time I have for this week, I'll see you in seven days. I don't know about all of you, but I am giddy like a school kid waiting for these Aether Revolt spoilers! Hopefully I'll have something from that set to talk about for the next installment of Vintage 101! You can chat with me about #VintageMTG on Twitter @josephfiorinijr -- Islandswamp on Magic Online and TMD

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