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Explorer Izzet Paradoxical Outcome Deck Guide: Explorer’s Newest and Coolest Combo Deck

Beyond Greasefang, Explorer has functionally no good combo Deck, but Skura is looking to change that! See why Paradoxical Outcome is not just viable in Explorer, but a powerful option for those who love combo decks!

When a new set comes out, the natural reaction is to come up with a deck that utilises the new cards the best or bolstes an already existing shell. However, some of those existing decks hide just beneath the surface, and you may not remember to check those – especially as there are so many. The same applies to Paradoxical Outcome decks in Explorer – a niche deck that nobody really thinks about. With the release of The Brothers' War I decided to revisit this deck in order to see whether it can be boosted to a desired level of playability. In the end, I was very pleasantly surprised, as the deck is resilient, fast, and multi-faceted.

It is essentially a combo deck that wants to win on turns 4-5. I have won on turn three multiple times, which only adds to the deck’s explosive potential. Whenever you can win fast, it eliminates the problem of bad matchups as you might just happen to have that powerful draw against those and win anyways – a luxury that fair decks don’t have. While it plays multiple creatures, none of them are truly necessary for you to win, yet thanks to the large number of them, we might still make the opponent have it a few times too many and have one stick. On top of that, it can easily play a fair go-wide game with tokens. That said, let me quickly list all the game plans that the deck employs:

These six approaches have happened to me the most. In this guide, we will go through each, explaining when you need to go for them and how they actually work. Bare in mind that they will frequently transpose into each other.

Izzet Pardoxical Outcome
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $498.94
best of 3
7 mythic
28 rare
19 uncommon
4 common
Instants (5)
Sorceries (3)
Lands (16)
Shivan Reef
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
60 Cards
15 Cards

Deck Tech

Paradoxical Outcome Storm Win With Aetherflux Reservoir

Let’s start off with the main pay-off in the deck – Paradoxical Outcome

The simplest way to look at it is that you can Outcome, say, seven permanents, draw seven, replay the same seven and potentially more off the cards drawn, win with Aetherflux Reservoir as each spell cast gains you a bunch of life.

Let’s get to more nuance now. You play a lot of mana-producing artifacts in Springleaf Drum and Moonsnare Prototype. Before you want to play Outcome, use all of your mana-producing artifacts to float mana. Let’s say you have got four lands, two Ornithopter, and two Springleaf Drum to make the case simple. You can tap both Ornithopters with Drums to float double blue, pay the remaining two for the Outcome bounce all four permanents to your hand, and draw four. You have still two lands untapped now which you can use to play other spells. To get deeper into this specific line, you can play Ornithopter, one Drum, use that Drum with the Ornithopter to add mana, use this mana to cast another drum, and cast the other Ornithopter. Now you have one land untapped, one drum ready to make mana still, and the other four cards drawn off Paradox. The same applies to multiple drums and Mox Amber if it can make mana.

When deciding to go off, you have to identify if there is any bottleneck. Two most popular ones are going to be cards or mana. You need raw cards to be able to play them in order to up the storm count and make Reservoir lethal. On the flip side, you might have all the cards in the world, but not enough mana to deploy Reservoir and all the other cards. If you have Reservoir in hand already, the best play is to deploy it early and then try to go off the following turn. If, however, you still need to find it and cast it, make sure you have multiple Drum effects. While you cannot cheat on land drops and the most by turn four is four, you can have a myriad of other mana sources.

Manual Storm Win With Aetherflux Reservoir Spread Across Turns

The starting life total matters as it will dictate how many spells you have to play. The spells give you respectively 1 life for the first spell, 2 for the second, 3 for the third, and so on. If you want to gain 30ish life to get up to at least 50 you will need to have cast around eight spells on that turn. You will never have eight cards in hand so there will need to be some ways around it – and there are.

A great way to access a lot of cards fast is Reverse Engineer. Paying two mana to get three cards is an insane deal, and Engineer itself counts as a spell. A single copy of it makes the manual combo much easier. You might draw into another Engineer or Paradoxical Outcome, at which point the win is almost sure.

Emry is a way to make sure there is one more spell cast that turn. It helps with the mana bottleneck as well as you can play a Springleaf Drum or Mox Amber from the graveyard. Frequently, it is Emry who gives you access to Aetherflux Reservoir in the first place, as you replay it having milled it earlier.

You can also use spells which chain into spells like Mishra's research Desk. Playing it counts as one spell, and then you cast a spell revealed off its ability. It is possible that you hit one of the aforementioned card advantage engines, or even another Desk.

Flooding The Opponent With Tokens

I have won multiple games simply by casting my spells, making tokens, and attacking once or twice with a huge army. Both Third Path Iconoclastand Sai, Master Thopterist warp the game around them. They are must-kills as otherwise the opponent won’t break through. Naturally, you may use those tokens not as attackers, but rather as a way to buy time, block the opposing threats, all in order to set up the previously mentioned Reservoir kills. If you have them in the opening hand, don’t play out your zero-drops until you’ve played the creatures. You want to try to squeeze out all the tokens you have with the spells that are available. However, you still want to play out your Drums early, so that you can use the made tokens to make mana with Drums.

Despite their blocking capabilities, if you produce 1-3 tokens a turn, it is very difficult to keep up, especially when sometimes they have flying. After just a turn, they already demand a Wrath of God.

Forsaken Monument Growing The Creatures

While Aetherflux Reservoir is our main expensive artifact pay-off, Forsaken Monument comes at a close second. It has overall utility as it gains a bit of life and helps add a bit of mana. However, I’ve found that it works exceptionally well with the token plan. When you have two or more token-makers going, you won’t need Monument, but it really does shine when your Sai has been killed and you are left with four tokens total. In such a case, Monument makes your board formidable seemingly out of nowhere. Instead of chumping, you can make profitable trades or just kill the opp in one attack.

This is a good moment to mention a key card in the deck – Whir of Invention. While you don’t really use it to find any 0-1 drop, it is essential in finding the combo pieces. With that in mind, it is imperative that you know which avenue to take – whether to find Aetherflux Reservoir for the storm kill or Forsaken Monument for a longer, more fair game. Unfortunately, games of Magic are way too varied for me to give you a very specific rule to abide by. However, what you can do is determine whether you have any bottlenecks for the storm kill. If you don’t, go for it. If you do, it’s possible you might want to play Monument.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Paradox Engine

Now, it’s time for my favourite sneaky combo kill in the deck. Paradox Engine is our third and last pay-off to be found with Whir of Invention or replayed with Emry, Lurker of the Loch from the graveyard. Its main function is to provide you with copious amounts of mana when you have multiple mana-producing artifacts. However, there is an actual kill there.

With Paradox Engine on the battlefield and a not summoning sick Emry, Lurker of the Loch, there is a potential for a way. Remember that every time you play a spell, all nonlands untap – including Emry. If you can cast something with Emry constantly, you will keep triggering Engine. There are three ways to do it. One – if you have two Mox Amber, every time you play the second one, the first one gets sacrificed due to the legend rule, hence there will always be one in the grave to be cast. As Emry itself is legendary, you can keep doing it and add blue for each iteration – the outcome being an arbitrarily large amount of blue mana. From this point, you need to sink the mana into something – Whir of Invention for Aetherflux Resevoir, Reverse Engineer for draw, Paradoxical Outcome for draw, Sai, Master Thopterist‘s ability to draw, etc. Most frequently though, I use Research Desk”]. Once you’ve floated, say, fifteen mana you can start performing the loop with Desk, not Amber. Yes, you are losing mana every time, but you are digging deeper to find a pay-off. If you are close to run out of mana, go back to Amber loop.

The second way is Tormod's Crypt as it can sacrifice itself, you use its ability targeting the opponent, Crypt lands in the graveyard, you replay it with Emry, untap Emry, and loop is established. As you are not generating mana this time, you need either at least one Drum to make mana off it or a token-maker so that each iteration grants you a token.

The third way out is to warp you game plan to find some of those pieces. For instance, you can deploy a second Emry and keep the original one – just to get the mill four ability. You can also Whir of Invention for Mox Amber or Tormod's Crypt– the rare case that you’d do so.

Hope of Ghirapur Lock With Emry, Lurker of the Loch

This is a cheeky combo that I baked into the deck. Basically, you hit your opponent with Hope, make them unable to cast spells, replay it with Emry so that Hope can attack the following turn – rinse repeat. It’s not unbreakable as they can still cast spells on your turn before you hit them again, but it shuts down non-interactive decks completely. Even if it’s not a full lock, it does buy you multiple turns to set up as you only spend one mana a turn to keep the loop going. I am considering playing more copies of Hope in the main/side due to the presence of the combo.

As you can see, the deck has a multitude of avenues to win and they will often intertwine and transpose. The two best ways to internalise all those lines is to read this article thoroughly (and the Tips section!) and play the deck a lot.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Paradox Engine Art by Christine Choi
Paradox Engine Art by Christine Choi

In most matchups I side out a similar assortment of cards as they are great game one, but frequently lose value for post-board games in certain matchups.

Rakdos Midrange

+2 Karn, Scion of Urza-2 Tormod's Crypt
+2 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker-1 Pithing Needle
+1 The Antiquities War-1 Hope of Ghirapur
-1 Moonsnare Prototype

Thanks to the fact that Rakdos has no on-stack interaction, we know that everything we do will work. They are great at disrupting us from having all the pieces come together e.g. for a combo kill. That’s why I side in five value cards which offer some alternative lines. Collectively, they will have to contend with all the tokens, value Emry, Lurker of the Loch, Forsaken Monument growing our army, and our five sided-in threats. They won’t be able to keep up with those value cards. Karn, Scion of Urza creates very big threats and The Antiquities War is a ticking time bomb.

Rakdos Sacrifice

+3 Voltage Surge-1 Hope of Ghirapur
-1 Moonsnare Prototype
-1 Witching Well

This matchup has quite a different vibe from the midrange variant. Their best disruption is Mayhem Devil, which essentially stops all the loops involving sacrificing – which is all of them except for the Paradoxical Outcome kill. That’s why I only side in Voltage Surge to combat specifically Mayhem Devil. Other than that, it shouldn’t be very tough as, once Devil is dead, the Cat Oven loop is quite slow in how it kills.

Azorius Control

+4 Metallic Rebuke-2 Tormod's Crypt
-1 Pithing Needle
-1 Moonsnare Prototype

This matchup has a different dynamic to Rakdos as they can deny our spells. It means that four-mana threats lose out a lot as we’d be very tempo-negative should they get Absorbed. That’s why I opt for a countermagic approach only and carry the game with my game one tools. Frequently, a single Third Path Iconoclast will necessitate Supreme Verdict. With that in mind, don’t overcommit your creatures – make them use a sweeper on a single creature and its tokens.


+4 Voltage Surge-2 Tormod's Crypt
+2 Karn, Scion of Urza-1 Pithing Needle
-1 Witching Well
-2 Research Desk”]

We basically fear Thalia, Guardian of Thraben It thwarts our plan immensely. However, quadruple Voltage Suge deals with it quite cleanly. Karn, Scion of Urza is here only to make huge blockers and allow us to stay alive for longer. I’ve had games where I gummed up the ground with tokens so that they couldn’t attack ever – there is no Brave the Elements in Explorer after all. Behind that safe wall of tokens I set up a combo kill anyways.


+2 Metallic Rebuke-1 Witching Well
+2 Soul-Guide Lantern-2 Research Desk”]
-1 Hope of Ghirapur

I’ve stolen a lot of game ones against Greasefang with main deck Pithing Needle or Tormod's Crypt. There will be games where you Emry lock them out of the game with Crypt every single turn which will obviously make it very hard for them to win. I could see siding in more Rebukes and/or Voltage Surge, but there is no need I feel – we already have plenty of tools to stop them. Conversely, they do not have that many tools to stop us.

Mono Blue Spirits

+4 Voltage Surge-2 Tormod's Crypt
-1 Pithing Needle
-1 Witching Well

This matchup is quite problematic as they will counter our pay-offs, but Sai, Master Thopterist is back-breaking for them if it sticks. The best starts are those very very fast Emry, Lurker of the Loch into Sai, Master Thopterist, preferably on the play. If they do keep up countermagic, your best strategy is to make the timing awkward for them like casting removal on their upkeep, then double spell on your turn.

Tips and Tricks

Emry, Lurker of the Loch Art by Livia Prima
Emry, Lurker of the Loch Art by Livia Prima

For this deck, Tips section is vital. There are so many micro-interactions that I couldn’t list them all. – a big chunk has been described in the deck tech section. Let’s go through some of the other neat synergies that I’ve discovered and added to the deck.

  • Try not to rely on the autotapper. Between the lands, painlands (which the tapper does not prioritise), Springleaf Drum, Moonsnare Prototype, and improvise on Whir of Invention and Reverse Engineer, you are going to be disappointed pretty often with the software. Try to take your time to properly ration out all the mana for the turn, tapping the appropriate permanents.
  • One might think that Mox Amber could produce a single colorless with Forsaken Monument in play and no legendary. It is unfortunately not the case. You have to be able to add colorless in order to produce the extra amount. This works with Shivan Reef and Moonsnare Prototype though.
  • When comboing off, keep track of your Springleaf Drums and Moonsnare Prototypes and add mana in the correct order. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you spend your blue mana on Prototype and now have no colored mana left.
  • You can tap Witching Well with Prototype to add colorless, and then sacrifice Well to its own ability.
  • Play Research Desk”] preemptively so you can sac it at your own convenience.
  • As Research Desk”] allows you to play the card until the *next* turn, you can crack it with some leftover mana to prepare best for the following turn.
  • You won’t make mana with Mox Amber when you have Hope of Ghirapur on the field despite it being legendary. Mox makes only coloured mana.
  • Play out Pithing Needle proactively even you’re naming completely in blind. Your artifact count on the battlefield is important for Improvise and Witching Well. An exception would be when you know you have Sai, Master Thopterist or Third Path Iconoclast and Needle will trigger them.
  • There will be spots where you block with some tokens and then pre-damage sacrifice them to Sai. This way you both get the block and a card drawn.
  • As the deck uses improvise a fair bit, remember to prioritise tapping non-artifact creatures to Springleaf Drum as they can make mana this way, but wouldn’t help with, say, Whir of Invention.
  • 99% of the time, Riverglide Pathway is going to be played on the blue side.
  • Keep track of artifact pay offs to tutor out with Whir of Invention. In this version, there are numerous 0s and 1s, a single 4, and two 5s. Consequently, in this build Whirring for 2 or 3 does not make sense unless you want to make your opponent think that you might find something weird – works against control and decks with countermagic.
  • Don’t confuse Sai, Master Thopterist‘s ability with Third Path Iconoclast‘s, they both trigger when you play a non-creature artifact. However, Ornithopter would only trigger Sai while Reverse Engineer would trigger Iconoclast.
  • When you cast a second Mox Amber to loop with Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Paradox Engine, hold down the control button on the keyboard so that you can add mana from the first Amber post untap but before the other Amber enters play and gets rid of the first one due to the legend rule.

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Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

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