Brewed Up: Paradoxical in Pioneer

Ever since we hinted at it, our readers have been clamoring for it. Well today is the day. This is the Pioneer format’s only Turn 2 win and perhaps the best deck available. As early as Turn 2 you can draw through your whole deck, generate infinite mana, gain infinite life, and deal infinite damage. Today I will present the convoluted combos, my current 75, and my verdict on its future potential. If you are a Modern Urza player or die-hard KCI fan, this is the deck for you so come and enjoy it before it gets banned. Obviously it does not have to be as the hate cards and opposing strategies are far less powerful than those in Modern.

Decklist
Lands (20)
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
4 Mana Confluence
4 Spire of Industry
4 Spirebluff Canal
Creatures (7)
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
3 Sai, Master Thopterist
Spells (33)
1 Aetherflux Reservoir
4 Astral Cornucopia
4 Briber’s Purse
4 Inspiring Statuary
4 Jeskai Ascendancy
4 Mox Amber
4 Paradoxical Outcome
2 Dig Through Time
2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
4 Tormod’s Crypt
Sideboard (15)
2 Abrade
2 Fry
2 Ghirapur Aether Grid
4 Leyline of Sanctity
3 Metallic Rebuke
2 Pithing Needle
75 Cards Total

The Combos

Emry + Ascendancy
This is the combo we pioneered in Modern and it is still legal here. Emry will tap to cast an artifact from your graveyard. Doing so will trigger Jeskai Ascendancy; which will untap Emry (and any other creatures you have), give them +1/+1, and give you the option to loot. So as long as you have artifacts in the graveyard and mana (if needed) to cast them, you can do this infinitely. So how to win?

Option 1: Tormod’s Crypt
It is free and sacrifices itself so you will be able to use it an infinite number of times. You tap Emry to cast Crypt, Crypt triggers Ascendacy which untaps Emry. Sacrifice Crypt again. Repeat as many times as desired. You know have an infinitely large Emry and infinite loots. Which will then set up Option 2.

Option 2: Mox Amber + Mox Amber
You can loot into this with Option 1 or assemble it by other means. You can start with them in the grave, in hand, or in play; it does not matter. Once you have two in play you are forced to sacrifice one to the legendary rule. So now you have one in play and one in the graveyard. Tap your Amber for mana and then activate Emry to cast the other Amber. Now the legendary rule forces you to sacrifice one. Choose the tapped one. You have cast a noncreature spell so Ascendancy triggers; Emry untaps, grows, and you may loot. Repeat this as many times as desired, floating mana and alternating which one you sacrifice. You know have an infinitely large Emry, infinite loots, and infinite mana.

Closing: Aetherflux Reservoir
So you have looted your whole deck, have an infinitely large Emry, and infinite mana at your disposal. You can just turn Emry sideways. Even if the opponent has blockers, you can beat up to four of them with Briber’s Purses. If for some reason you cannot just win via combat, you still just win via Aetherflux Reservior. You have looted your whole deck, have infinite storm count, and have infinite mana. Just tap Emry to play Reservior. Go back to your loop to gain infinite life. Now dome your opponent for fifty. All of these options are available to you once you go off so it would take something extraordinary, such as five blockers and a Leyline of Sanctity, for the opponent to survive. Even if they do, you have infinite life and could generate infinite tokens via Sai/Saheeli to close the game next turn. Once you have this combo together, you are not going to lose.

It may seem at first glance that it will be hard to consistently get to the final parts of the combo but it is actually quite easy. First of all, Emry gives you four shots at them when she comes into play. Failing this, Ascendancy gives you a loot for every cheerio you can play. Tap Emry to play one and loot; maybe even dumping another one in the grave. Then cast one from your hand to get another loot and untap Emry. Then tap her to play another one and get a loot. Between Emry’s four shots at it and every cheerio in hand representing another shot or two, your odds of finding the win are great.

Sai/Saheeli + Inspiring Statuary + Paradoxical Outcome
This is our other combo and though it is not infinite, it does not have to be. If you play Modern, you are no stranger to this. Where Modern players have Urza, Pioneer players have Inspiring Statuary. This combo is not a guaranteed win but even when it fails it will spawn a sizable token army. Typically on Turn 3 you play Inspiring Statuary so that your spell sgain improvise. Now your cheerios (and Statuary) will functionally be colorless mana rocks. Go to Turn 4. Tap a land, Statuary, and another mana source for Sai/Saheeli. Once you have your token spawner in play, every cheerio you play will spawn an artifact creature token. These can then be used to improvise Paradoxical Outcome. Then use Outcome to return your cheerios to hand and draw a bunch of cards. Hopefully among those cards is another Paradoxical Outcome. If you fail to hit an Outcome, hopefully you find a Dig Through Time. You can improvise it out very reliably you just need the UU and it will let you dig seven deep; hopefully grabbing Outcome and an Amber. Assuming you do hit Outcome though, you will just need a Mox Amber or an unused lands to cast it.

Your failrate it highest at the first Outcome but after that you have more cheerios so you are drawing exponentially more cards each time. The hope is that you draw your whole deck. Then play Mox Amber and tap it for mana before dropping another one; repeat for all of your Ambers. With this four mana play Aetherflux Reservoir, follow it up with a cheerio, and dome the opponent for 50 damage. You do not need to draw the whole deck of course. Just get to the point that you have four mana between unused lands and Ambers. If you have cast six spells, Reservoir followed by a cheerio will gain you 36 life so you can probably just win on the spot. This has made me consider a second copy but I have yet to test it.

Sometimes this will fizzle out though and you will just draw a bunch of cards and make a bunch of tokens. Chances are you will just win on the following turn anyways. Perhaps you have enough tokens to just alpha strike. Or you can play Ascendancy followed by cheerios to pump the team and crash in. Or you used your last mana to stick an Emry during the previous turn and now you win with her combo instead. As long as your first Outcome was not awful, you probably either won or set yourself up to win the next turn. If you want to minimize the fail rate, stick Ascendancy before you try to go off. Now every cheerio you cast gives you a loot toward Paradoxical Outcome or Dig Through Time while going off.

The Build
Now that we have the convoluted combo wins out of the way, we can actually talk about the decklist that houses them. The manabase looks a little whacky but has felt perfect. Every land makes blue because, outside of Ascendancy, the mainboard is a mono-blue deck. As explained above, it is extremely helpful to have untapped blue sources before going off with Paradoxical Outcome. Beyond that we are set up for a dozen red sources and a dozen white sources. Mana Confluence is already looking to be a format staple for tri-color decks that can win in a reasonable timeframe.

Spire of Industry is even better because we do not always have to take damage. We basically always have a cheerio around to get it up and running as well. Spirebluff Canal was an easy choice for our red dual because fastlands are bananas and we already take some mana pain. Unfortunately Seachrome Coast is not legal so we must settle for Hallowed Fountain. If our opening hand does not have Emry, we often skip out of Turn 1 anyways so I have not hated it too much.

Let’s start with the spells with the cards that actually lead to wins. Emry is a great card but honestly she is better in Modern. We do not have Engineered Explosives to wrath people every turn. She is still a value engine but the cards she is grabbing are mostly do-nothing cheerios. It is still value for the Paradoxical combo but the only disruption occurring is Crypt against graveyard strategies. In Pioneer she is mostly for setting up and achieving the combos. She is great at that though and allows what is, as far as I know, the format’s only Turn 2 win.

After her we just have the token spawners and they are quite similar to one another. Sai is a little easier to kill but his tokens fly and he can cash excess artifacts in for card advantage. Also when you start your Paradoxical combo turn he can be improvised down to a single blue mana; slightly lowering your fail rate. Saheeli is not bad by any means though. Planeswalkers are usually a little harder to kill, she spawns tokens off of all noncreature spells (not just artifacts), and allows Amber to generate red mana for Ascendancy. However, the -2 is almost entirely useless. Our creatures are legendary and our artifacts are redundant or inert. However you split them, you want four or five copies of this effect and should be mindful of the legendary rule when deciding.

Our cheapest spells are the humble cheerios and honestly they are better than I expected them to be. The worst among them is Astral Cornucopia but even that can bail us out on the rare occasion that we are short a color for Jeskai Asecendancy. Briber’s Purse is a little better because outside of the combo it still buys us time; although it is somewhat inefficient. Then in the context of the combo it can help us get in on the opponent if necessary but this is quite rare.

The second best cheerio is Tormod’s Crypt and it is a doozy. As explained above, it straight up ends the game with Emry + Ascendancy. It also happens to be mainboard graveyard hate which is showing to be quite the asset in this format. The best cheerio though has to be Mox Amber because the deck straight could not exist without it. It is critical to both of our combos and we have nine legendary permanents to make it a functioning Mox. It is a touch slow though so do not fool yourself into thinking that Mox Opal is legal in Pioneer.

Our more costly artifacts are Inspiring Statuary and Aetherflux Reservoir. I cannot pretend that Statuary is as good as Urza. Blue mana is way better than generic mana and Urza comes with a mana sink for all of the excess mana. That being said, it is the only Pioneer-legal way to consistently reduce the cost of Pardaoxical Outcome over and over to combo. It will not be producing much mana elsewhere though. It can help with the token spawners and Dig Through Time but that is about it.

Reservoir is similar as it is pretty much junk outside of combo. I have already explained how you can do a huge combo into it but that is not always necessary. If you stick it, you just need Paradoxical Outcome and some cheerios to win on the very next turn. Three cheerios into Outcome followed by four cheerios will let you win as long as you began with at least 15 life. This has not come up for me but I am tempted to squeeze in a second copy just to get a better feel for its potential.

Then we come to the sweetest spells in the deck. Jeskai Ascendancy is amazing in here. In the Emry combo it is nuts. When put into play before the Paradoxical combo it makes it hard to fail. It evens helps you to set up the combos by turning every junky cheerio into “draw a card, discard a card”. When all else fails, the plan is to spawn some tokens and win with Ascendancy beatdown. I wish we could run more than four or tutor it in some way but oh well.

Paradoxical Outcome is pretty great too. The combo has already been explained but it is respectable outside of it. Even dropping three or four cheerios and paying four mana to reset them and draw a bunch of cards is quality card advantage. Curving a token spawner into this can set you up to just win. It is easy to spawn six to twelve tokens in this situation. If you draw into Ascendancy when you do this though, hold back a cheerio or two for the overrun effect. For example, six 3/3s are much better than eight 1/1s.

The last slot is Dig Through Time and it has been a few things lately. Sage of Lat-Nam let me cash in cheerios for value or even acted as Part C of the Emry combo. Reverse Engineer was a smaller Dig-type effect that could be used early to set up the combo and was still okay mid-combo. I am on Dig at the moment because it gives the tokens something to make mana for during the combo and it is the best way to dig up the next Outcome. I would not call it an auto-include but I really appreciate the decreased fail rate. But I am winning the turn after a fizzled combo so frequently that I could see moving away from this. Next I would like to try going back to Reverse Engineer and trim a Sai for a second Aetherflux Reservoir.

Finally, we are at the sideboard and you can feel free to ignore it. There is no metagame data to work off of so I am trying to cover what I have seen so far. Abrade deals with creatures and artifacts; the best card against Hardened Scales strategies. Fry blasts a hole in troublesome planeswalkers, particularly Saheeli Rai, and the threats out of Spirits. Ghirapur Aether Grid is a backup win condition against disruptive decks and absolute slaughter against decks with small creatures. Pithing Needle is a proactive catchall for the various combo decks and can be scooped up with Emry.

Metallic Rebuke has been pretty wild. In here it is pretty much just Mana Leak for half the cost and I catch myself boarding it in constantly. Then finally we come to Leyline of Sanctity and I worry that I might be wasting space. It is solid against Burn but I do not think that Burn is the optimal red deck or enough of the format to warrant these slots. Thoughtseize is annoying but many of the black decks do not target us with anything else. I think we might be better off with a split of Padeem and Blessed Alliance. But if this takes off like it should, we should be looking to play more anti-hate cards. Fragmentize is an enticing candidate for that. For now though, I think this is what I would like to try out next:

Lands (20)
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
4 Mana Confluence
4 Spire of Industry
4 Spirebluff Canal
Creatures (7)
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
2 Sai, Master Thopterist
Spells (33)
2 Aetherflux Reservoir
4 Astral Cornucopia
4 Briber’s Purse
4 Inspiring Statuary
4 Jeskai Ascendancy
4 Mox Amber
4 Paradoxical Outcome
2 Reverse Engineer
2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
4 Tormod’s Crypt
Sideboard (15)
2 Abrade
2 Blessed Alliance
2 Fry
2 Ghirapur Aether Grid
3 Metallic Rebuke
2 Padeem, Consul of Innovation
2 Pithing Needle
75 Cards Total

The Veridct
Kids, we broke the format. This has the potential for a Turn 2-3 win and is quite good at pulling it off on Turn 4. The only matchups that give it any trouble in my experience are fast red decks that can cheaply pop Emry, Hardened Scales decks if they have Turn 1 Thoughtseize, and Copy Cat’s more interactive draws. Everything else has felt almost free. This deck is very tedious and hard to play but the reward is massive. You can race creature decks, grind out control decks, and hang in there with the other combo decks.

This is a moderately nerfed version of a deck that is currently Tier 1 in Modern. The result is one of the best decks in Pioneer. My recommendation though is to not build it unless you already own the Modern deck because this will not remain legal in the long term. If I had to guess, I would say Jeskai Ascendancy is going to get the boot in Q1 of 2020. I have no idea if a pure Paradoxical build would be viable. Perhaps if they ban the other combo decks, but I am not sure. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Wrap-Up
Well there you have it. 3,000 words on the fastest deck in the Pioneer format. Drawing your deck, generating infinite mana, gaining infinite life, and dealing infinite damage within the first three turns is pretty disgusting. Paradoxical Urza players rejoice as you have an easy jumping in point. That being said, tread carefully. This deck is too powerful to remain legal. I would expect this and Copy Cat to both eat the hammer in Q1 of 2020. What else do you think is going to be banned before the first Pioneer Grand Prix? What do you think will be the best deck after the dust settles? Please come and share your ideas with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back soon with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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