Imagine a pre-con deck that can take several extra turns in a row, extra combats, draw fistfuls of cards, generate absurd amounts of mana and also kill people with Clue tokens? This is Paradox Power. However, there are a few issues like a lack of mass removal, a recovery plan after a board wipe and most of all the weakness of the default commander pairing. Luckily the deck includes way better options!
Don’t use the Thirteenth Doctor
Casting a spell from anywhere but your hand is now keyword Paradox and the combination of The Thirteenth Doctor with Yasmin Khan looks like it sets you up for a successful value engine. You exile a card with Yasmin, use that card, then put the +1/+1 counter from The Thirteenth Doctor on Yasmin who will untap at end of turn.
On the surface, this looks like this pairing is going to do a lot for the deck. The reality? Far, far from it. If you exile a land, you can play that land. But you won’t get the Paradox trigger or the +1/+1 counter unless you hit a land. Hit a spell that is too much mana on your first activation? Wow, now you’re really far behind because you didn’t get another spell, didn’t get a +1/+1 counter and didn’t get to activate Yasmin an extra time.
The deck has some very powerful cards that you really want to sequence correctly to get absurd value, and if you happen to exile one with Yasmin at the wrong time, you are going to not only feel bad but see the deck perform far worse. Timey-Wimey has this same problem.
At the end of the day, this Commander combination is a 2/2 for three and a 3/3 for four, that’s Gray Ogre and Hill Giant territory. Let’s look at some better choices.
Better than Crimson Vow
Remember that set that was all about a wedding? Remember how the main characters of the story did not have a printing that featured a partner with mechanic? That was a huge flavor fail in my opinion. Doctor Who, however, is completely on-point with Jenny Flint and Madame Vastra. First, the artwork is perfect as you can see them standing back to back fighting together. Then, you look at their abilities and it’s exactly what you see on the card. They attack in together, Jenny gets trained up by Vastra, Vastra makes tokens, Vastra must be blocked and kills something. If you use your tokens, Jenny puts a +1/+1 counter on Vastra and the cycle works again. They completely sync with one another and fight and grow together. This is an excellent execution of the characters into cards and I do not even need to know anything about Doctor Who to see that. Good job Wizards!
One thing that the deck can struggle with is a win condition, and it does typically come down to making one large monster and taking extra turns or combats to seal the deal. With Jenny and Vastra, you make two credible attackers. I found them to offer more to the stock deck than The Thirteenth Doctor and Yasmin, but I think there are still better options.
Literally Unkillable, Your Best Choice
So Arya Stark is in Magic: The Gathering now? Again, I’m no Whovian, but I certainly did watch Game of Thrones. Fandom aside, Me, the Immortal can quite easily become one extremely credible wincon that will retain both +1/+1 counters and keyword ability counters if you put her into the graveyard or command zone when she leaves play. On top of that, she has a cast from graveyard option so you do not have to pay commander tax unless you want to. If you let Paradox Power simply cast big spells, Me automatically accrues value so you have inevitability on your side. Dealing 21 points of commander damage is not the most efficient win condition but it’s easily doable in multiple attacks. In an unmodified deck Me is just the best overall choice because it simply works with no additional help whereas all the other options require getting a bit lucky in drawing the best cards with synergy to your plan. Meanwhile, if she dies, you can easily recast her and she loses no counters so you don’t have to rebuild unlike the other commanders.
The Best Companion Bar None
Meet Clara Oswald the most useful Doctor’s companion to exist. First and foremost, she allows you to simply pick another color for your deck. This will let a lot of people play The War Doctor as either a Jeskai or Naya deck and kill people with double triggers, but hey, Mardu also becomes an option that could include Isshin, Two Heavens as One for triple Doctor attack triggers! In this deck, it allows you to play The Twelfth Doctor who certainly is strong with a variety of demonstrated cards and get another spell off the demonstrate trigger. Her flexibility allows for a myriad of choices and she is sure to see a lot of play, in the command zone at least. Six mana is a bit steep but she enables so much.
Speaking of The Twelfth Doctor
This card is fairly busted. Quantum Misalignment can make a massive number of copies that can demonstrate and make further copies. After that massive wind up you’re going to be able to copy a bunch of spells and get counters on each of your copies. This is absurdly strong, particularly with extra turns from Twice Upon a Time. The problem? Demonstrating can be very double edged. Sure, sometimes you will give them a Quantum Misalignment and they get nothing or just a token. But other times, like if the game is down to a one versus one, it could be game losing to let them copy something. Giving an opponent extra turns, if you cannot win the game after you take yours, is a huge mistake.
Additionally, The Twelfth Doctor just a 4/4. Sure, it will get a lot of +1/+1 counters, that’s virtually inevitable. But there is a price for those counters. On top of that, as a commander, this Doctor should be kill on sight and it’s five mana. Compared to Me, if you do finally get The Twelfth Doctor big and it gets removed, you have to start building all over again. The best way to use this Doctor is to go off with a card like Last Night Together. However that is a lot of mana and requires you to have your powered up attacker ready to go when you do hit the combo. Unless no one has removal, The Twelfth Doctor will have a tough time filling both of those roles and would be a better commander for a different deck. As a supporting card, though, it’s excellent!
How Does Paradox Power Play?
No matter what commanders you use, Paradox Power seeks to establish at least one creature that gets out of control and wins the game. For only two mana, a Sisterhood of Karn can quite easily double into a one-shot sized attacker out of nowhere. The deck includes Rogue’s Passage to ensure you can deliver that damage. Flaming Tyrannosaurus also fits the bill as a win condition creature but at seven mana but it’s going off quite a bit later.
Cards like Throes of Chaos and Into the Time Vortex give you easy access to paradox triggers and Decaying Time Loop and Danny Pink can give you easy card draw to guarantee you get to the cards you want to see. The draw power from these cards is generous, especially for a pre-con, and it allows you to really dig to the cards you want to see every game.
Phase one of the deck is essentially figuring out what you are going to use as a win condition to set up the turn you’re going to go off. The deck doesn’t have the sequencing complications that Timey-Wimey has, but order and mana matter.
Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to win, you figure out your mana situation. The deck loves to make plays that use ten or more mana to cast two huge spells in sequence. Without a ton of extra mana, you may find yourself limited to one play per turn which won’t be able to keep up with many tables and makes winning a lot harder.
Go for the win
There is a substantial restriction on Twice Upon a Time in that you need to control at least two Doctors to even cast it. Luckily, it can tutor for one of those two Doctors. So, as long as you have mana, it’s completely reasonable to go from zero Doctors on table to casting Unlikely Meeting, getting one Doctor down, and then also cast another Doctor from your hand, all on the same turn. However, it’s a bit of an ask to do all that while also casting Twice Upon a Time in the same turn.
That’s why I highlighted the ramp effects above. If you are getting six extra mana from The Flux you can sequence to do all of these things in the same turn. Compared to most pre-cons, this is a complex sequencing of events that requires a bit more foresight than average to pull off. The deck certainly can do this a surprising amount of times as well because of all the draw power available. But what if you don’t get Twice?
As mentioned above Last Night Together is another way to kill one or more players in a double combat step or more with help from The Twelfth Doctor. Dan Lewis can take all the random Clue tokens that cards like Osgood, Operation Double generates and turn them into equipment to buff up your attackers. The deck is excellent at turning mana into damage.
In an age where most new pre-cons have multiple board wipes, one sided wipes and also some anti-wipe tech, Paradox Power stands out for lacking in these areas. The Lupari Shield option on Karvanista, Loyal Lupari can protect all your Humans and it does persist until your next turn which is interesting, but the deck has a lot of non-Human cards and it’s a Sorcery, not an Instant. If you are using Me as your commander, this is a good protection effect for your commander but, for every other combination, you’re only half as effective and might be capable of only saving a single target, far from something that could be considered board wipe protection.Impending Flux is far from a board wipe. Sure it’s one sided and it deals damage to your opponents as well but it’s going to be hard-pressed to realistically deal more than four or five damage most of the time. Flatline is also a flexible pseudo-removal, pseudo wipe but it’s not a reliable wipe. The deck does include some solid single target removal effects in both Beast Within and Chaos Warp but it is very light in this area as well.
There’s also River Song. First, this is a very cool card and any card that combos hard with an old school card like Soldevi Digger is amazing. Furthermore, the deck includes Preordain and Sonic Screwdriver so you can manipulate the top and bottom of the deck with scrying.
The intention behind River is obvious. She lets you control your impulse effects and cascades by keeping something good on top and not drawing it so you can cascade or impulse it instead when you need it. The problem is there is very little to support this theme in the deck as is. Ponder and Preordain are good cards in any deck and they are in here with River. But there’s just a limited amount of support for this concept and, to me, it’s a more interesting one than the paradox mechanic that the deck starts with. Obviously many players will build River Song decks but this feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Read More: MTG Masters of Evil Review, Upgrade Guide
Upgrading Paradox Power
Unlike the other Doctor Who Commander decks, MTG Paradox Power is a bit of a challenge for modification. It has an exile, cascade, paradox side, but it also has the power side with +1/+1 counters to make your creatures huge as well. Ryan Sinclair is another example of a card that goes with this very general broad theme. My goal would be to keep that identity in the deck and my upgrades would reflect that.
For commanders. I’d probably opt for The Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald. When you hit enough mana your board state just explodes. The best part about cascade and the Twelfth Doctor is that you do not have to cast a spell you cascade into and therefore you don’t waste the potential demonstrate trigger. You can choose to simply not cast something and, on cards that cascade multiple times, you can simply wait until you hit a game ender instead of a ramp spell or mana rock.
First up is Questing Druid which does exactly what the deck is trying to do. It gives you paradox triggers, virtual card draw and finally a body that can become massive because of that fact.
Right alongside the Devastator has got to be Maelstrom Wanderer as, effectively, another similar style effect.
When you see cards like this in the deck it’s hard to not start thinking about adding in Craterhoof Behemoth.
Would I play smaller guys like Bloodbraid Elf or Shardless Agent? I don’t think so because we’d rather cascade into a different card entirely that generates way more value.
On the non-creature side, both Venture Forth and Terramorph are good ramp spells for this concept. Warstorm Surge is a classic finisher as well. Rhythm of the Wild is always worthwhile for creature based decks.
These suggestions will certainly make the deck perform better but it will be at the expense of reducing the Doctor Who identity it starts with. Sure Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan are going to stay in a modified version of the deck but Dan Lewis and Bill Potts most certainly get cut. Once you start modifying a deck from a new set, it tends to start looking like decks in the meta at large.
Verdict, Is MTG Paradox Power Worth it?
For a new pre-con, MTG Paradox Power can feel absurdly powerful at times. I did manage to set up a sequence where I had The Twelfth Doctor in play, Unlikely Meeting on an adventure, and Quantum Misalignment in hand. After making a copy of the Twelfth Doctor I cast Twice Upon a Time with two demonstrate effects so I was ready to take some extra turns, and so would my opponent if they lived after my turns. Of course Quantum Misalignment triggered in my upkeep and I cast and demonstrated it three times to make even more copies of The Doctor. They got many +1/+1 counters and ended the game in the next turn when I cast Last Night Together and had an extra attack step. This is the single most ridiculous play line I’ve ever experienced coming out of a pre-con deck.
However, that’s the highest of the highs. On average, especially with the regular commanders, the deck tends to sit there for a long time just cascading and exiling cards until you hit your big spells. Much like Timey-Wimey it is a bit all over the place and a bit random. Thanks to the superior card draw and ramp, though, it can maneuver into a line of play that is impossibly powerful just so long as the rest of the table isn’t stopping you. A bit of disruption makes the overall game plan a lot more difficult to execute and there’s very little to get you back into the game.
Still, the deck was fun, especially when it kept doing absurd thing after absurd thing. At points, I think my opponents were more entertained by what I was managing to pull off than I was. The deck is surprisingly powerful as-is and, at the very least, contains great themes and cards to build a more streamlined version.
In terms of deck identity, this felt more like a Magic deck than the other Doctor Who commander decks which may have accounted for why it had so much power. Certainly, if you enjoy Doctor Who, Magic, or Commander you will not regret picking up Paradox Power.