Paradoxical Outcome is F**king Busted

Written by Zach Cramer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Paradoxical Outcome is F**king Busted

Zach Cramer

Zach is a Northeastern Magic grinder who specializes in eternal formats. When building decks, he has a strong preference to Blue cards, toolboxes and combo decks. With a recent RPTQ finish just short of an invitation, Zach hopes to take his skills to the next level and play on the Pro Tour.

Hey everyone! I’m back with another article about my favorite standard deck before rotation: Mono Blue Outcome. Today, I’m here to talk about the deck, the card choices, and why it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The Deck:

This deck has been on the cusp for a very long time, but, it’s important to know why this deck is rising to the top.

There’s a couple things that I want to address in this article before we get into the sideboard guide:

Glint-Nest Crane is a bad Magic Card:

Here’s the thing, Glint-Nest Crane is cool. First off, it’s a bird. Second off, it gets things. Third off, only one of those things is true. Glint-Nest bricks so often. Especially in the post board games. You’ll notice that the list increases on Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot and only plays 3 artifacts in the sideboard. When I plan to board out some number of 0s in almost every single matchup, and then Crane only has about 16 hits. If I want a 1/3 that blocks mostly nothing and finds basically nothing, I’d rather play Baral. I could see configurations that include Crane, but, the fact is that it’s not a powerful card and it often does not find what you’re looking for, especially with the configuration of the deck after sideboard. The thing you’re looking for after board: counterspells and lands. One advantage for Crane is that it is the best blocker of all your development cards in that it actually is legally allowed to block. It can be picked up with Paradoxical Outcome but when it misses, you’re in a very bad spot. I think playing a permanent that you can pick up is better than Anticipate, but, Anticipate and Puzzleknot are better than Crane a majority of the time.

Puzzleknots and Prisms are EXACTLY what you need:

If Glint-Nest Crane is bad because it misses, Puzzleknots are never missing. Puzzleknots fuel Sai, fuel Rebuke, improve Karnstructs, and can be picked up on Outcome and improve Statuary. The reasons that I was losing games was because I ran out of ways to capitalize on my mana advantage with Statuary out or losing games by not hitting the 3rd and 4th land to cast Statuary productively. I was winning because I could find Inspiring Statuary, but, Puzzleknot offers a solution to the previous two problems without sacrificing the ability to find Statuary. The Outcome deck is like a puzzle. It’s not the same every time. The cards in this deck are so functionally diverse that it’s about building to a win rather than following linear steps. Cards like Sai and Karn build armies of tokens. Cards like Statuary and Baral’s Expertise gives you access to enormous amounts mana while cards like Outcome and Memory give you immense card advantage. All of these tools come together to provide a powerful deck that does the most busted things in Standard, given enough time. It’s like Uncle Ben said: with great power, comes great responsibility. Puzzleknot is the developmental glue that holds things together and grant consistency and synergy.

Karn is a better win condition than Reservoir In Game 1:

This probably isn’t a hot take, but, it’s important to know. While Reservoir offers you a way to keep gaining life incrementally and offers a clean way to win games of Magic, Karn is far less susceptible to hate and far easier to cast and use again and again. The key is that Karn can cost actual factual 0 mana with Inspiring Statuary. Additionally, once you can cast a Karn for free, you can make a 5/5 or bigger out of it. Karn cannot be Abraded and Karn can soak up damage while people try to get it off the table. At the end of the day though, you’re playing 18 lands and it’s really hard to find your 4th land easily, and it’s even harder to play a 4 mana card like Reservoir and then have it do nothing. Because of all of this, I’ve started playing 2 Reservoirs instead of 3 and moved up to the full 4 Karns. Karn is useful in a majority of contexts, too. Against Aggro, he provides great blockers and another target to attack. Against midrange, he provides card advantage, an efficient way to double spell, and a high value target for their disruption. Against Control, Karn minus is just a win condition and the fact you can spend 0 on him makes him an excellent bait spell and an even better card to cast after your control opponent thinks you’re done for the turn. In the mirror, Reservoir is important, when you want a better Goldfish and don’t expect tampering, but, otherwise, Karn is better for midrange fights.

Your Game 1s are GREAT but your Game 2s can be better:

Here’s the deal: the number of cards that can hate out Outcome combo are a very short list indeed. Abrade, Thrashing Brontodon, Cleansing Nova will sometimes appear, but, that’s fairly easy to navigate. After board however, there’s going to be more hate cards. Your opponent will trim on removal, add more interaction and slow their clock down to try and beat you. This can be incredibly helpful as we transition away from eggs in one basket strategies and move to just trying to get value out of our cards. For example, if I know I’m playing against a removal spell or a shatter effect, I’ll make sure to have a payoff of Inspiring Statuary or Sai rather than try to get mana efficiency. Relying on Karn after board really puts the screws to your opponent because it’s hard to interact with Karn if Vraska’s Contempt is a bad card to have in your deck. Moreover, because of the way priority work in Magic, once a spell resolves, you get a chance to do something again before your opponent responds and you always get to respond to your opponent doing something. Using these windows to maximize incremental advantages and pick up cards being targeted with Paradoxical Outcome is the key to winning your post board games. Speaking of post-board games, here’s a sideboard guide:

Mono Red:

-1 Outcome/Puzzleknot -2 Baral’s -1 Karn -1 Ornithopter -1 Amber -2 Commit
+3 Meltdown +2 Compass +2 Baral +1 Reservoir

Karn isn’t great here because you’re usually not losing to the beat downs, you’re losing to the spells. That said, I like Meltdown because it can lock down Hazoret. Another important factor here is that while Sai is excellent at blocking and makes lots of Thopters, it’s important to block with those Thopters whenever you get a chance because of the threat of Chainwhirler. Remember earlier when I talked about getting value out of your cards? That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about: minimizing the damage of your opponent’s threats. Baral’s Expertise is too slow here and having blockers like Baral is more important and helps speed you up. Compass also helps gain life while helping you develop.

Mono Green:

-2 Puzzleknot -1 Outcome -1 Amber
+1 Baral’s +3 Meltdown

Here, again, we’re trimming on similar pieces and bringing in similar cards. Because Green’s threats are more expensive than Red’s we can actually buy time with Baral’s Expertise. Being able to bounce Rhonas, Steel Leaf, Thrashing Brontodon and even Heart of Kiran can be a huge boon because our opponent likely can’t recast them and you can stop them from getting closer to Ghalta. The key here is to try and get to these Expertises as quickly as possible and try to wait until you can use them most effectively. Burning Expertise or using it and Meltdown unharmoniously is going to cost you. It’s okay to get down to a low life total in this matchup because the green deck has no burn spells and doesn’t usually have a Haste threat. This matchup is on the downturn and if I expected an increase, I’d go up to a 4th Expertise and potentially have Exclusion Mage for more tempo plays and blocks.

Blue Midrange (Grixis, UB Midrange, and other associated byes):

+2-3 Negate +2 Jace’s Defeat +1 Tezzeret +0-1 Baral
-3 Ornithopter -1 Amber -1-2 Baral’s Expertise

I could write a lot about all the ways you embarrass these kinds of decks but that’d just be mean. You just do your midrange thing and trim some of the combo pieces and you’ll grind them out without much trouble. Cards like Baral and Negate can be added or reduced based on the prevalence of removal or aggression. These matchups are the reason to play the deck because they’re very easy to beat and are very easy to prey on. Just hit your land drops, play your spells and pick your windows. You’ll win easily.

Rb:

-1 Ornithopter -2 Puzzleknot -1 Commit
+3 Meltdown +1 Baral’s Expertise

This is a tougher matchup because of the aggression combined with black disruption. However, if you can maintain mana advantage, find early Rebuke targets, and can gain tempo off Baral’s Expertise while keeping Scrounger and Heart in check with Meltdown, it’s just as easy as the rest of the matchups. If you do experience issues and losses, this is where they’ll come from. Losing development for situational aggression and needing to keep hands that keep you safe open you up to Duress and Doomfall as well as more sticky threats like Chandra or haste-y threats.

Nexus:

+3 Negate +2 Jace’s Defeat +1 Tezzeret +2 Baral +1 Reservoir
-4 Ornithopter -2 Baral’s Expertise -2 Sai -1 Puzzleknot

This matchup is great and only gets better once you have Reservoir. Game 1 they’ll have lots of fogs but won’t likely have them in Game 2. It’s very easily to develop and just keep them off of Teferi. You’ll win those games and you’ll win the games you can pinch Nexus or use Memory to set them back to 0 again. This matchup is very favorable. You trim on Ornithopter, Expertise and Sai because they don’t line up as well when you’re just trying to check their other threats. Baral helps speed you up and filter your draws.

Blue Control Decks: (UW)

+3 Negate +2 Jace’s Defeat +1 Tezzeret +2 Baral
-4 Ornithopter -2 Baral’s Expertise -1 Map -1 Sai/Puzzleknot

This matchups are also great because they put no pressure on you and let you develop cleanly and set up good powerful turns and pull ahead. You board almost identically to Nexus and mostly do the same thing. Keep them off of Teferi and try to win counter wars with Baral. The mana advantage of Statuary is huge here. This deck and the Blue midrange decks are why Outcome is so good right now.

UW Gift:

+3 Negate
-1 Puzzleknot -1 Amber -1 Ornithopter

The only way you lose this matchup is if they play T3-4 Refurbish. Don’t worry about anything else and protect against the combo. Baral’s Expertise and Commit are nice Gift safety valves. You’re the better combo deck, don’t open the door for them to take advantage.

Mirror:

+3 Negate +2 Jace’s Defeat +2 Baral +1 Reservoir
-3 Karn -2 Baral’s Expertise -2 Sai

This is the toughest matchup you’ll face because it’s the best deck you’ll face. The Reservoir helps swing the game in your favor. Don’t let their Statuary resolve and try to be on the play. In a recent 2K, I actually declined double drawing because I wanted to be on the play for the mirror match. Sai and Karn are weak if your opponent has a Reservoir, but, are essential if you don’t have it. Play the mirror a good bit if you want to pick up the deck. It’s very tough and intricate.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Send your questions to me in the comments or on Twitter. Until next time!

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