Paradox Combo Historic Deck Guide: The First Tier 1 Combo Deck in Historic
Welcome back everyone! Today I’m going over a deck that exploded in popularity just over the weekend and has been putting up extremely promising results, Paradox Engine Combo. First created by Kai Budde and Joel Larson for the Zendikar Rising Championship, the deck did decently and there wasn’t much talk about it after. The deck did powerful things, but didn’t do them super consistently.
A week later, Kristoff Prinz and his teammates Simon Nielsen and Tristan Wylde-LaRue saw more potential in it and got working. They kept tuning the deck until they arrived at what is now the base list, making it significantly more powerful and consistent than the original version. Let’s take a look.
The big innovations were cutting Black, adding Jegantha, and adding Karn for the Wishboard. Black was for interactive elements which is nice, but that only slowed down your own game plan. Jegantha was functionally free considering Jace wasn’t even good in the deck and gave the deck additional things to do with it’s mana. Lastly, but most important, adding Karn gave the deck way more consistency. Just this list by itself is an excellent base, but that was just the first tuned iteration of the archetype. If we’re looking for the latest version of this deck, I recommend going with Temur.
Adding Red does hurt your mana base a little bit, but Escape to the Wilds is just busted in this strategy and gives your deck even more resilience. Before I talk about card choices, I don’t want to forget about my Best of One friends.
These lists all play super similar cards so the card breakdown and matchups should be helpful no matter what. As a general tip for playing with this deck, don’t keep any hand that can’t do something relevant quickly. The most common mistake I found playing this deck is keeping a hand that seemed good but the first play was turn 3 and you just died before casting anything. You don’t even need any combo pieces in hand as long as you have lands and castable spells. With that in mind, let’s talk card choices.
COMPANION: Jegantha, the Wellspring
As I said before, this card is functionally just a free inclusion in the deck. It does happen to synergize well with Skysovereign and Paradox Engine as well which is a minor plus!
4 Karn, the Great Creator
The biggest improvement to this archetype overall was the inclusion of Karn and the artifact wishboard. Now instead of 4 Paradox Engine, you functionally play 7 and have access to a whole slew of situationally powerful artifacts. Furthermore, his passive is also excellent at stifling decks that use artifacts such as Sacrifice Strategies, Colorless Ramp, and the mirror.
1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
Good for helping you find combo pieces while also fueling the graveyard for Uro or Emry. I like 1-2 copies of Tamiyo as it can be strong, albeit a bit inconsistent if you plus a few times, whiff on your naming and have it get killed.
4 Llanowar Elves
This card is just busted and it pairs insanely well with Kinnan.
4 Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy
I knew this card was broken ever since I saw it previewed and was just waiting when, not if, it would find a home in a Tier 1 strategy. Today’s the day as it allows you to combo off easier or just accelerates you very quickly. With 2 mana rocks out, playing Kinnan is functionally free which can lead to very powerful turns.
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Emry serves many functions in this deck: it fuels Uro, rebuys artifacts for comboing or value, and it turns on Mox Amber. Emry is required for most of the infinite combos this deck plays so keeping it alive is quite important.
3 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
It’s really gross when a deck just incidentally gets to play the best card in Historic, and that’s exactly what’s happening here. Uro is just to have a back up plan if getting the combo online isn’t working out and also does everything else the deck likes, card draw and ramp. Little trick with Uro, if you’re not escaping him you can hold Full Control and use him before he’s sacrificed whether it’s to turn on Mox Amber or crew Skysovereign.
2 Bala Ged Recovery/Bala Ged Sanctuary
Most of the time this will act as a tap land, but being able to use this late game to recur an important permanent is a nice addition to the deck. I’m unsure if these are better off as good spells in the late game or better lands earlier in the game, but they’ve been alright for me so far. I’ve been in situations where it’s my only out and others where I needed an untapped land and drew this so think carefully whether or not you want to include these.
3 Escape to the Wilds
The whole reason to add Red is to give you a 5 mana draw 5. This can find you pieces to the combo and makes your deck significantly more resilient to hate as you can just draw into more pieces easily.
3 Mox Amber
Considering the amount of legendary creatures we play this is functionally just a Mox every time you draw it. I’m unsure if you want to play the 3/1 split or 4/0 as it’s somewhat rare you’re tutoring for it, but it has come up. Not much to say beyond this card is really gross.
4 Chromatic Sphere
This card, like many others, serves multiple functions in this deck, but it’s primary use is with Emry. You can use this to color filter, to draw a card, to rebuy for value, go infinite, you name it. All for 1 mana.
4 Mind Stone
A mana rock for Kinnan and Paradox Engine, an artifact for Emry, an infinite loop if you have Engine and enough mana accelerants to make 4 mana per loop.
1 Unstable Obelisk
I wasn’t a big fan of Unstable Obelisk overall, but it was good at accelerating into your 5 drops which you now play significantly more of. However, everything changed literally 20 minutes ago from me writing this. I was in a game where I had too few cards in my library and the wrong cards to combo off with and win. I had infinite mana, but I didn’t have a way to win the game from that spot. However, I realized that I had milled my Unstable Obelisk earlier in the game and used infinite mana and Emry to blow up every permanent my opponent had, including lands. Believe it or not, that was good enough for my opponent.
3 Paradox Engine
The card that makes this deck possible. If you untap with Paradox Engine you generally should be winning the game or getting very close to it, not that you even need to wait a full turn to win half the time. All of your combos with the deck will involve a Paradox Engine as that’s what is going to enable your infinite loops.
20 Lands + 2 MDFC
Sideboarding with this deck is quite different from most others as you functionally don’t sideboard at all besides bringing in the occasional Negate or Aether Gust. More importantly, I’ll try to encapsulate when you should Karn Wish for any of these targets and explain their function.
1 Mox Amber
Wish for this when you need extra mana or need it to enable an infinite combo with Emry and Paradox Engine. The easiest and fastest way to get infinite mana is Paradox Engine, Emry, and 2 Mox Ambers so if you are running low on time or just need to get to infinite mana then you have the win, this is the simplest and fastest way.
1 Aether Spellbomb
This is simply when you need to bounce a creature to stall your opponent 99% of the time. There are corner case scenarios where when you go infinite you can bounce your opponents entire board and you have better infinite loops, but it could be relevant for whatever reason.
2 Aether Gust
One of your two traditional sideboard cards. The red decks can be difficult as they are generally quite fast and have good interaction so having some interaction of your own can be helpful.
The second of the two traditional sideboard cards. If you are facing a deck that’s looking to interact with you early and often, this is really good.
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
This will primarily serve to shut off Nissa if you’re facing Sultai, however turning off opposing Karns or even Emry can be useful as well.
1 Portal of Sanctuary
There are only 2 real infinite loops you can accomplish with Paradox Engine and without Emry, this is one of the enablers. However, you functionally never fetch this without getting Ancestral Statue first. With at least 4 mana produced per Paradox Engine trigger, the idea is you play Karn, get Ancestral Statue first, play it as many times as you need then use your last trigger to bounce Karn, replay Karn, get Aetherflux Reservoir for the win. The problem with this line is that it’s mana intensive and requires one more spell to be in your hand and castable after this entire loop. What Portal does is saves you some mana and guarantees that you’ll have a spell after the loop as you can just bounce the Golem at the end of it. The new loop then looks like Karn, get Statue, play Statue to bounce Karn, replay Karn, get Portal, bounce Statue, play Statue as many times as you need, play Statue to bounce Karn, play Karn, get Reservoir, play Reservoir, bounce Statue or another creature with Portal, win.
1 Aetherflux Reservoir
Your primary win con when you go infinite. This can also be helpful if you don’t have a true infinite, but can play many spells in one turn and gain a good chunk of life. That’s very rare that doing that line is better than wishing for a different target, but it can come up.
1 Ancestral Statue
As I said before, enables infinite loops with Paradox Engine and 4 mana worth of mana producers. Ideally you have more than 4 to net a mana per loop but you can win while going mana neutral in most scenarios.
1 Gilded Lotus
Getting Gilded Lotus is good when you have an early Karn and not much of a board presence yet. Going Karn into Gilded Lotus gives you a nice mana advantage and can help set you up to do something more impactful later.
1 Paradox Engine
The last copy of Paradox Engine when you need to combo.
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
One of the other Plan B options for this deck, but you’d be surprised how often you want this. This can be a win condition or board pressure for your opponent’s stuff. If you need to go for an alt wincon or want to kill something on your opponent’s board, this is what you want to grab.
1 God-Pharaoh’s Statue
When you want a proactive threat and you don’t want Skysovereign. Really good against something like Sultai as they have few answers to it and makes it really hard for them to win if they don’t get rid of it.
1 God-Pharaoh’s Gift
Another one of your Plan B options. Primarily this will be used as an alternate win con in really grindy matchups, but there are scenarios when you can bring back an Emry with a Paradox Engine out so you can go infinite. This is generally going to be fetched way later than your other alternate win conditions.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
|+1 Negate||-1 Paradox Engine|
This matchup is going to be very grindy as they are going to try to slow you down enough that they can kill you with a Nissa. However, if they don’t find a Nissa quickly, this matchup feels quite favourable. All of your cards accrue value one way or another and you are really good at getting Uro onto the battlefield. Comboing becomes harder in the post-board game, but it’s certainly not impossible. I would say your wins post board are about half and half comboing them off and winning with a Plan B.
You don’t want Negate or Gust here so you’ll run back the main deck. This matchup can be scary if they have a fast start, but if they are at all slow or stumble at all you generally can kill them pretty easily. Be mindful when you escape your Uros as they are going to keep in all their Claim the Firstborn against you. Try to keep your Tamiyo and Karn alive as both passives are really relevant in this matchup. I fetch Skysovereign really often in this matchup as Mayhem Devil is a huge threat since it kills you really quickly and can stop most of your combos from working.
|+2 Aether Gust||-1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales|
|-1 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath|
This matchup is one of your toughest as they can combo off nearly as fast as you and they play a lot of interaction in Abrade, Goblin Cratermaker, Goblin Incinerator, and Goblin Trashmaster. Your goal is to combo off as fast as possible and hope they don’t have the right interaction to beat you as grinding them out or using your Plan Bs really isn’t a tenable option in this matchup.
This matchup is more or less a complete joke. You win way faster than them and they don’t really have ways to interact with you.
|+1 Negate||-1 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath|
The most unfortunate part of this deck is that the Mirror is a bit of a crap shoot. Really whoever gets Karn first will generally be the winner as both sides are really bad at killing Planeswalkers and it shuts off a quarter of your deck. If you land your Karn first, make sure you keep it alive no matter what and get a Skysovereign to kill your opponent’s creatures.
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