Paradox Haze, All In My Brain

Posted in Feature on September 13, 2006

By Chris Millar

It's that time of year again, folks. The leaves are changing colour, a man from Switzerland is winning the U.S. Open, and this here site here is doing card previews for the latest large expansion, in this case, Time Spiral. No doubt, many of you are also heading back to school, whether it's college or university, high school, or, judging by some of the mail I've received, reform school.

I remember my college days quite fondly. Somehow, between sixteen-hour Diablo sessions and illegally downloading eighty bajillion mp3 files, I managed to get all (most) of my assignments completed within four or five days of the deadline. I'm happy to report that things have changed, I've matured, stopped slacking, become a man, and procrastination is no longer a problem for me. Still, couldn't we all use a little extra time?

Time Spiral has just the ticket. Originally, I wasn't supposed to be previewing a card this week. Luckily for me, there was a bit of a rift in the space-time continuum last week, and it turns out that I'll be previewing one after all. It's a bit of a rule-bender. Just in case that assignment you had was due at the beginning of your upkeep, you just got an extension:

Perceptive readers might recognize this as a variation on the world-famous “Mechanic H” from You Make the Card 2, the contest that eventually produced 10th Edition inductee, Crucible of Worlds. There are two key differences. One, Paradox Haze is an enchantment, not an artifact. And two, it's targeted so it will only affect one person at a time (i.e. it's not symmetrical). To me, this makes the card much more interesting. Aaron Forsythe advised me that this was, in fact, the first “real” Enchant Player. Volrath's Motion Sensor and Charm School live in Silver-Border land with a number of barnyard animals, while Dissension's Psychic Possession was, and continues to be, an Aura with Enchant Opponent.

The fact that it's an Aura means that, besides the usual suspects (Enlightened Tutor, Sterling Grove, and, uh, Golden Wish), you can fetch it with Three Dreams. Since it's a three-mana enchantment, you can also find it with Zur the Enchanter. Since it's an enchantment period, you can suck it out of your library with Enduring Ideal. (More on that in a second.)

Upkeeping with the Joneses

Enduring Ideal
I know what you're thinking. Don't worry, though, I won't tell anyone about that. The other thing you're probably thinking is this: “Chris, I already have a perfectly good Upkeep Phase, why would I possibly want another one?” Well, it just so happens that there's a mechanic in Time Spiral that plays very well with this card. Suspend is supposed to allow you to trade future turns for a significant mana discount, but with Paradox Haze, you cut the number of future turns in half. Instead of having to wait four turns for Ith, High Arcanist to show up, you'd only have to wait two. It's great for the impatient.

The other mechanic that works extremely well with Paradox Haze is Epic. The cycle of five cards from Saviors of Kamigawa (Enduring Ideal, Eternal Dominion, Undying Flames, Neverending Torment, and Endless Swarm) each trigger at the beginning of your upkeep step. Normally, this will only happen once per turn, which limits the power of the spells. With two copies per turn, however, things will quickly get out of control. Enduring Ideal is probably the best of the bunch, if only because it's already been proven to be very powerful and it can fetch Paradox Haze itself.

If you flash back to last week, you'll notice that when I previewed the illustrious Mishra, Artificer Prodigy, I mentioned that the Factory owner worked very well with a number of artifacts such as Ebony Owl Netsuke, Viseling, and Ivory Tower. Many of those artifacts, coincidentally, have upkeep triggers. Is there a Mishra-based Paradox Haze deck in our Standard future? Only time (spiral) will tell.

On the other side of the coin (don't worry, it's a very large coin), we have some cards that don't function quite so well under a Paradox Haze. If you have an all-Fading deck, I wouldn't recommend adding Haze to the mix. If, however, your friend has an all-Fading deck, then the Haze is the “perfect” foil to those crusty old Blastoderms. Similarly, you'll probably want to avoid cards with Cumulative Upkeep, or upkeep costs in general. You'll end up having to pay double the cost for the same product and/or service. Of course, there are always exceptions. Tangle Wire, for example, might be worth playing in a Paradox Haze deck, but in that case, you'd want to be enchanting your opponent with it. Likewise, some of the Cumulative Upkeep cards with strange and wonderful upkeep costs (Herald of Leshrac, Braid of Fire, Psychic Vortex) might be worth trying.

What's Black and White and triggers during your upkeep?

Braids_Cabal_MinionPairing Paradox Haze with Black presents you with a number of nasty possibilities. If you decide that you would like to give your opponent a second upkeep, you could do worse than the bespectacled Braids, Cabal Minion. Losing two permanents a turn to your one, your opponent will find himself behind very quickly. There are a number of cards with upkeep triggers that wreck the opponent's hand. Bottomless Pit and Necrogen Mists, for example. While we're laying waste to their grip, kung-fu or otherwise, we might as well add salt to the wound with a flipped Nezumi Shortfang, i.e. the best-named creature in all of Magic, Stabwhisker the Odious. Skullcage, Viseling, and even Lavaborn Muse could also come in to kick your opponent while he's down. A flipped Kuon, Ogre Ascendant, Call to the Grave, or The Abyss can rid the board of creatures in short order, but they can do it in even shorter order with the help of Paradox Haze.

If you'd prefer to hoard all of the extra upkeeps, Phyrexian Arena or Gravestorm might be worth looking at, doubling up on your card drawing. Dawn of the Dead is another possibility. Unlike Bottomless Pit and Necrogen Mists, Honden of Night's Reach (as well as the other Hondens), forces the discard on your upkeep, not on your opponent's. Another class of spells to consider is the “Verse Counter” enchantments from Saga Block. Your Vile Requiems will be Wrath of Gods in no time. Finally, who could forget multiplayer favourite, Subversion? Not an elephant, that's for sure.

The answer to the question posed by the subheading is, of course, Debtors' Knell (The judges would also have accepted Pillory of the Sleepless or Purgatory). Reya Dawnbringer is another option, as is Bringer of the White Dawn (or any of the other Bringers for that matter). Life gain enthusiasts can turn to Gerrard Capashen, dubbed Gerrard-o by a friend of mine (perhaps because he neither drinks nor smokes and he ain't no dope). Perhaps the most interesting White card to pair with Paradox Haze is Dimensional Breach. Why not disrupt both space and time? If you played the Breach with a Haze on the table, you could choose the Haze as your first permanent to return to play. The following turn, you'd get two permanents back, while your hapless opponent would only get one.

Time Waits for No Fungus

Thorn Thallid
Just in case you've been living under a rock for the last couple weeks, I'm here to tell you that that must have been very uncomfortable. Also, Time Spiral has a bit of a nostalgia theme. Ah, nostalgia! I remember the days when nostalgia actually meant something. Back before 6th Edition rules and the new card-face. Back then, Green had a number of cards that loved the upkeep. Some of them almost married it. Rushwood Elemental and Chlorophant will get double the +1/+1 counters as long as you have double the upkeeps. Or maybe, like me, you prefer another kind of upkeep-based counter-generation. I'm talking about those Spore-counter-loving Green meanies, the Thallids!

To be perfectly honest, I didn't like Thallids very much at first. So, you're saying that they're Fungi? Oh no! Hide the cheese! How intimidating can a Fungus be? Seriously, I scraped some off a loaf of bread this morning without a second thought and not much of a struggle. The other downside was that, as a group, they seemed extraordinarily slow. One counter a turn? Yawn. Wake me when you get a Saproling token.

Then something strange happened: they kinda started to grow on me. I think it was the Paradox Haze. As for the deck, Ravnica's Doubling Season already gave Fungus-enthusiasts a real boost. Your Thallid will not only generate twice the normal amount of counters, but when it comes time to remove them, you'll get double the Saproling tokens. Add Paradox Haze to the mix, and the counters accumulate even faster. Followed Footsteps, meanwhile, works well with both Doubling Season and Paradox Haze, creating twice as many copies twice as many times.

I have heard a rumour that this deck might be up for some serious revisions once all of Time Spiral has been revealed. A little birdie told me that. The Orb of Insight corroborated the little birdie's story.

The Double-Upkeep Blues

As I mentioned above, cards that require an upkeep payment, or worse, a cumulative upkeep payment, are generally not something you'll want to be playing and you can punish your opponent for playing with such cards. If they aren't playing any cards with upkeep costs, you can always ensure that they have upkeep payments to make by using Pendrell Flux, Mana Chains, Slow Motion, or Pendrell Mists. The latter seems particularly devastating. You can go a step further and punish creatures even more with Sunken Hope. Maybe you'd rather lock your opponent out of playing the game entirely, and Mana Vortex, perhaps aided by a Smokestack or two, can help you do this.

Dreamborn_MuseDuring my long and arduous search through the dusty, cob-webbed tomes of Gatherer, I stumbled upon an interesting trend. There were a few Blue creatures that dump a bunch of cards into your graveyard every turn. There's the symmetrical Dreamborn Muse, which mills a number of cards equal to the player's hand size during each of his or her upkeeps. Then there's Cephalid Vandal. I don't know what he vandalizes, but the fact that he accumulates Shred counters suggests to me that it's either sensitive documents or a killer half-pipe. Either way, he'll start taking down your library in ever-increasing chunks. Last, but certainly not least, is Weatherlight's Tolarian Serpent. A 7/7 for seven mana, the Serpent coincidentally deposits seven cards into your graveyard each turn. He's great for enabling that elusive turn 8 Threshold.

Hmm. My first thought was to pair this trio of millers with Debtors' Knell and Reya Dawnbringer. If you could somehow prevent yourself from running out of cards, you'd have a pretty sweet reanimation engine going. As my French Impressionist friends might say, this would be “der gas.” But I wanted something gassier.

All of a sudden, I had a flashback to Cephalid Week. It seems that Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar had some more spectacular plans for Cephalid Vandal. As fun as Shredding your own library can be, it can't be as fun as Shredding your opponent's library. That's why Jay decided to Donate the Vandal. Besides Vandal-Donate, our decks are not very similar at all. Jay used Oath of Druids in a near-creatureless control deck. I'm going to use a ton of creatures, including the Monty Hall of Ravnica, Spawnbroker. Let's make a deal! How about I trade my Tolarian Serpent for your Azorius Guildmage? Seems fair to me. How about I trade my Woolly Razorback for your Keiga, the Tide Star? Are we square? How about I send you a Cephalid Vandal for that colourless Spirit token I just gave you with Forbidden Orchard? Even steven?

Now, giving your opponent a 7/7 Serpent, like my moped, has the potential to backfire. Hopefully, the combination of Fog Bank, Propaganda, Maze of Ith, and Crystal Shard-enhanced chump-blocking (block, then before damage is dealt, return your own creature to your hand) will keep the Serpent at bay while at the same time prevent you from being swarmed while you set up your combo. Drift of Phantasms provides some early defense, as usual, but it can also be transmuted for several key cards, including Propaganda, Spawnbroker, and Paradox Haze.

Walking Archive
Walking Archive could also fit in this deck. Unlike similar cards such as Howling Mine and Kami of the Crescent Moon, Walking Archive allows each player to draw extra cards during his or her upkeep step, and not during his or her draw step.

Maybe you'd prefer a U/W control deck, with Ith, High Arcanist, the Blue and White Hondens, some other life-gaining cards like Ivory Crane Netsuke, and perhaps you could win by speeding up the process of removing Omen counters from Celestial Convergence. Darksteel Reactor might be a fine win condition in such a deck as well.

Phew! It took me a while to count them all, but there are literally millions of other things you can do with this card. I didn't even look at 3+ colour combinations. I know a guy, a friend of a friend of a friend, who's probably going to be adding Paradox Haze to his five-colour Sanctuary/Honden deck. In the future, I expect to be annoyed by the number of times he goes through his upkeep step.

Until next time, until next time, have fun during your upkeep!

Chris Millar

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