After a string of strong performances in MODO Vintage Dailies, I just won the Vintage Power 9 event with a Blue White Red Mentor deck. I call the deck Mentor Silence. I would like to tell you a little bit about this build and how it came together.
The Universe Before Paradoxical Outcome
First, I should catch you up with the recent Vintage metagame. Mentor Silence, like so many of us, is a product of the environment in which it came about. For a long time, the card Gush has been the defining card of Vintage. I won't delve into the Turbo Xerox theory here -- let it be sufficient to say that non-Gush Blue decks really had a hard time taking on Gush decks. Gush decks have more consistency, better threat density, and fewer dead draws than non-Gush Blue decks. And so the metagame adapted to its Mercadian overlord. Workshop decks full of Spheres proliferated, because mana-taxing effects are especially potent against Gush decks and their cantrip-infused mana bases. White Eldrazi decks, likewise, helped to make those cantrip-heavy decks malfunction. Dark Petition Storm figured out that Defense Grid really gave Gush decks a bad time.
The metagame reached its expected equilibrium, based around Gush decks. Gush was the center of the Vintage solar system, and the other decks rotated about its axis. Non-Gush blue decks floated far away in space, with Oath on occasion orbiting in when Workshop decks became too popular. This ordered celestial dance lasted for many long months, until a meteor crashed in. This meteor is Paradoxical Outcome.
Paradoxical Outcome Changes Everything
Paradoxical Outcome has taken a long time to figure out. It was clear that it was a powerful card, but how best to harness its potency was not immediately apparent. I worked on several builds, but nothing quite satisfied. Matt and Vasu both got further than I did. Reid Duke created the most streamlined and popular build of paradoxical Outcome, featuring a single Tendrils as the kill.
The Paradoxical Outcome deck was, at long last, a non-Gush Blue deck that beat Gush decks. Gush is a powerful card, but today's Gush decks eschew tutors and Fastbond, and therefore require a few turns of setup before being able to handle opponents' threats. Paradoxical Outcome decks take advantage of this window and end the game in that short time.
Perhaps you might ask -- does not Dark Petition Storm likewise utilize celerity to defeat Gush decks? The answer is that Paradoxical Outcome decks have three key advantages over Storm decks. First, Paradoxical Outcome decks enjoy using Force of Will, which helps them not only against Force of Will decks but also against Workshop decks. Paradoxical Outcome decks perform much better than traditional Storm decks against Workshop decks, and so are stronger in an open metagame. Second, Paradoxical Outcome decks recover much better than Storm decks from having a key spell countered. A Storm deck uses up its Rituals to cast its spells, often turning a Force of Will into three-for-two for the opponent. Whereas, the Paradoxical Outcome deck mostly plays persistent mana sources (e.g., Moxen), so that if Paradoxical Outcome itself is countered, that Force of Will from the opponent is still card advantage for the Paradoxical Outcome player. And the third advantage of Paradoxical Outcome decks over Dark Petition Storm is that they are much less soft to Mental Misstep. Against a Storm deck, a Misstep can often dismantle an attempt to go off; against a Paradoxical Outcome deck, none of the key combo pieces cost one mana.
The above digression illustrates how Paradoxical Outcome decks have advantages over Dark Petition Storm decks against Mentor. The celerity of Paradoxical Outcome combine with its resiliency to make decks built around that card quite strong against Gush.
Adjusting to the New World
It took me a bit to adjust to the new paradigm. Both in Magic Online dailies and in real-life Magic, I kept taking traditional Blue White Red Mentor. And I kept getting crushed by Paradoxical Outcome decks. Reid Duke's Paradoxical Outcome Storm, in particular, has a very strong Mentor matchup. I decided that, if Mentor were to compete in this Paradoxical New World, something would need to change.
Several observations about Paradoxical Outcome decks will illuminate how I build Mentor Silence. Note that people have been adding Null Rod effects to control decks for some time -- that is not novel. In fact, recently, a player in Japan, Nagashima Makoto, ran Stony Silence in Mentor, though with a much heavier Red component than I used (http://www.hareruyamtg.com/en/k/kD19169S/).
Paradoxical Outcome decks fall over and die in the face of Null Rod. I had been using Null Rod to great success in Workshops against these decks, and it became clear to me that Null Rod effects were the best answer to Outcome itself. Null Rod, or its kid brother Stony Silence, had to be part of the solution for Gush.
Paradoxical Outcome decks win on the first turn. A lot. It got to the point where I was sideboarding Mindbreak Trap against it in my Stax deck. So, for a Blue deck, Flusterstorm is too slow and Red Blast might not get online. Full-strength Mindbreak Trap was needed to combat Paradoxical Outcome.
Every Swords to Plowshares that you draw is really awful against Paradoxical Outcome decks. Extra mana sources are really awful against them, too. See above where I mention that Paradoxical Outcome decks recover more quickly than Storm decks. This means we needed a low-fat deck. Four Swords was a luxury we could not afford. Four-mana Planeswalkers were simply not going to work. And we needed good filtering effects for our draws -- this led to Dack Fayden and Tiny Jace being included over Larger Jace, Narset, Nahiri, and various other rotund Planeswalkers.
Sometimes, Tolarian Academy happens. Tolarian Academy is absurdly broken in Paradoxical Outcome decks. It lets them do powerful things, despite Null Rod's best efforts. So, any Mentor deck hoping to take down Paradoxical Outcome decks should have Strip Mine at the very least, and perhaps Wastelands in addition. Further, Waste effects are quite strong against a lot of the rest of the format.
Here is the decklist that I used to win the December 2016 Magic Online Power 9 Championship.
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
4 Flooded Strand
1 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Strip Mine
2 Volcanic Island
// Really Broken Draw
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Dig Through Time
1 Treasure Cruise
// Good Draw
3 Gitaxian Probe
// Threats and Also Filtering
2 Dack Fayden
3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
4 Force of Will
3 Mental Misstep
2 Mindbreak Trap
2 Stony Silence
3 Swords to Plowshares
// Basically Tinker
3 Monastery Mentor
2 Containment Priest
2 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rest in Peace
1 Stony Silence
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Mindbreak Trap
This deck implements several of the above-described concepts in order to address the growing presence of Paradoxical Outcome in Vintage. I am pleased to report that the Paradoxical Outcome matchup has been extremely favorable. The Mindbreak Traps and Stony Silences really help to slow down the Paradoxical Outcome decks. The heavy cantrip base and three small Jaces help to keep the cards flowing. The lack of expensive Planeswalkers helps keep the entire hand ready to dispatch more quickly.
When I first built this deck, I was expecting the mirror match to suffer. After all, existing Mentor decks have evolved to be strong in the mirror match. To my surprise, I have had a favorable experience in the Mentor mirror. Being low-to-the-ground and filled with Cantrips has helped against other Gush decks, and certainly makes for an interesting, decision-intensive mirror. Likewise, while Workshop decks are natural predators for decks using four Preordains, Stony Silence itself is extremely good against Ravager Workshop decks.
Mentor Silence is a powerful choice to combat the Paradoxical Outcome deck. I am sure that Paradoxical Outcome will continue to be a part of the metagame. Some clever person -- perhaps Reid Duke or perhaps you, oh reader -- will figure out how to make Paradoxical Outcome crush Mentor Silence. And so the arms race continues -- that's part of the fun. In the mean time, you might want to give this deck a try. It's a blast.
Before I close, I want to thank those who have helped bring this deck into being. Special thanks to Brian, Joe, Keith, Lance, and Vasu for helping me brainstorm and think about the list. Thanks to Tom for reading this over before I posted it.