After my brief foray into sacrificing Implements for value, I wanted to explore more Sram, Senior Edificer shells, and I instantly thought back to the U/W Paradoxical Outcome decks that existed briefly around Pro Tour Kaladesh. I immediately got to work on a list and am happy with both its budgetness and brewyness. It’s not easy finding a great list for storm in Standard, but the deck is literally built around a card called Paradoxical Outcome, so all hope is not lost!
U/W Paradoxical Outcome (36 tix)
Sideboard Key Cards
Without a Reservoir you can’t really win, so it’s pretty important. There isn’t a full playset of them since they can collect in your hand, and between Glint-Nest Crane and Whir of Invention it isn’t too hard to find a copy. One nice interaction is with Baral’s Expertise. It can let you cast the Reservoir while resetting your opponent’s board but also helps you combo off if you already have have the Reservoir in play by bouncing your cheap artifacts and letting you recast them. The main way you win though is with Paradoxical Outcome, which draws a ton of cards and lets you chain cheap spells for a one-turn lethal with the Reservoir.
There’s only one copy of this card, but it helps accelerate your most broken turns. It really is only here to work with Paradoxical Outcome and Baral’s Expertise, but letting your Cranes effectively cost 1 is a nice upside too. With Inspiring Statuary out your Paradoxical Outcome will only cost 1 mana most of the time, and you can even re-cast your cheap artifacts you tapped for improvise. Paradoxical Outcome will often chain into another and so this interaction is key, letting you dig deeper into your deck or tick up storm for lethal with Reservoir when you normally wouldn’t be able to.
Whir of Invention
This is just an Aetherflux Reservoir/Inspiring Statuary split card with a hefty cost attached. That flexibility is nice, but you don’t want to run too many or else you’ll really clunk up your hand. Post-board it can grab some tutor targets like Merchant’s Dockhand or Ghirapur Orrery versus slower decks.
Pretty much UU draw 3—this is one of the best cards in the deck.
During much of my testing I was trying to figure out if this card belonged. It’s certainly powerful and is usually live on turn 2—sometimes turn 1 if you don’t want to save your equipment for a Sram. The downside is that with every interactive spell you play, the less likely you are to combo your opponent. In the end, I think a couple copies main keeps your opponent guessing on when to tap out for a huge threat, but doesn’t contribute as much to non-functional combo hands.
The main game plan is to chain enough cheap spells together to kill with Aetherflux Reservoir. Sram helps that plan because he turns all your useless zeros into an actual early game plan, which happens to turbo charge any improvise cards you are working with. More importantly, Sram is there to help ensure you don’t fizzle once you start to combo with Paradoxical Outcome. Before Aether Revolt, it was common that the first Paradoxical Outcome wouldn’t be enough after bouncing four 0-mana equipment, but that’s almost always good enough now thanks to the lower curve and the fact that Sram will help those zeros chain into even more. Worst-case you end up finding another Paradoxical Outcome and just plan to try again the following turn.
Sideboarding can be a little tricky since every piece of interaction you board in is a combo piece you have to board out. This usually means boarding a few cards and trading interactivity for speed. Cards that aren’t crucial like Baral’s Expertise get trimmed, especially in matchups where it's obviously bad like control, and get upgraded to more specific forms of interaction. If you end up cutting too many pieces to the deck, though, you’ll end up with a non-functioning pile, so definitely be careful. You also have more time to combo versus slower opponents, which means you can cut more in those matchups. That’s partly why there are more anti-control cards than anti-aggro ones in the board.
For a while I tinkered around with different shells, one of which was mono-blue, to see if departing from the core set-up cards could lead to a better version of the deck. Crush of Tentacles is particularly interesting because it is very easy to surge on turn 5, and sometimes is even castable turn 4 thanks to an Inspiring Statuary. But the downsides are that it sets you back on any combo pieces you managed to get in play and doesn’t help you on your combo turn like Baral’s Expertise, which allows you to pick up and recast a bunch of your artifacts. What it does do is help you get back into games you’re falling behind in and happens to work very well with the Sram portion of the deck, functioning as a catch-up mechanic but also a pseudo-Paradoxical-Outcome in that you pick up all your 0-mana spells, which you can redeploy for value with Sram.
Ultimately, this deck functions best under an extremely focused plan and Crush ends up detracting from as fast a kill as possible. As a result, Baral’s Expertise ended up in my final version and is much better positioned in a sea of B/G because it can often reset your opponent’s entire board on turn 5 (though this depends on which version of B/G), whereas it’s much worse against the lower-to-the-ground Mardu Vehicles.
I also tried two other variations of U/W. The first was a deck trying to push the equipment sub-theme of Sram. The key was Stitcher’s Graft, which could tap for improvise, but also help your Cranes fight through big creatures like Heart of Kiran. The version I tried also played Sigarda’s Aid to really go off, but that ended poorly. The main problem was that the deck just didn’t function when it didn’t draw Sram, and the early white spells meant Whir was much harder to cast and got cut (though getting rid of Sigarda’s Aid means you can go back to a white splash):
U/W Equipment Paradox
I also thought a midrange version with Trophy Mage and Cloudblazers could just try to combo later but interact more throughout the games. This was actually my least favorite version because it was mediocre at everything. Sometimes mashing plans together works because A is good when B is bad and vice versa, but here plan B just detracted from plan A without being powerful enough:
U/W Paradoxical Outcome with Trophy Mage
Going mono-blue has its own benefits, and most importantly allows you to play Engulf the Shore. The main thing you have to remember when going that direction is to keep your game plan in sight. Often you can play incredibly powerful interactive spells in combo decks, but they usually don’t see much play because they end up hurting the speed of the deck. As long as you know you are leaning toward a different archetype, in this case combo control, then that isn’t a huge problem and can lead to successful deckbuilding.
When I tried Engulf the Shore, it really didn’t help my problems. I wasn’t controlling enough to leverage the time the card gave me, and ultimately it ran into the same problems Crush of Tentacles had, while also being more restrictive in the cards I could cast. Losing Sram is a pretty big deal, though Whir of Invention in a mono-blue deck is nice, I have to say. In the end I liked the idea of some of these other options, but ended up going back to my baseline deck. It just had the most focused game plan, while still having a little interaction too. This deck is a ton of fun to play and gives you the real feeling of storming off in Standard, which is unusual but particularly awesome. If combo is your thing, I recommend giving this a go.