Monday, March 21, 2016

Witch-Maw Mentor, aka Soggy Junk

Let's talk about my greedy-ass four-color Mentor deck. Which I totally did not steal from Rich Shay (though I did a little bit). Here's the version I sleeved up for Knight-Ware last Sunday:

- Creatures 4x Monastery Mentor 3x Deathrite Shaman 1x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy - Enchantments 2x Sylvan Library - Instants 1x Ancestral Recall 1x Brainstorm 1x Dig Through Time 1x Disenchant 1x Echoing Truth 1x Flusterstorm 4x Force of Will 2x Gush 3x Mental Misstep 1x Mindbreak Trap 1x Swords to Plowshares - Sorceries 4x Cabal Therapy 1x Demonic Tutor 1x Ponder 1x Preordain 1x Time Walk 1x Treasure Cruise - Artifacts 1x Black Lotus 1x Mox Emerald 1x Mox Jet 1x Mox Pearl 1x Mox Ruby 1x Mox Sapphire 2x Sensei's Divining Top - Lands 4x Flooded Strand 1x Island 1x Library of Alexandria 2x Misty Rainforest 2x Polluted Delta 2x Tropical Island 2x Tundra 2x Underground Sea
1x City in a Bottle 2x Containment Priest 1x Disenchant 1x Ethersworn Canonist 2x Grafdigger's Cage 1x Innocent Blood 3x Leyline of the Void 1x Mystic Remora 1x Plains 1x Rest in Peace 1x Toxic Deluge

Long story short, I started from Shay's VSL Sylvan Mentor list. I cut the red (losing Dack Fayden and Ancient Grudge along with a few sideboard cards) to add black, primarily for Cabal Therapy and Demonic Tutor. I also wanted to play the full set of Mentors, and since I was now in BG, figured I could shore up the iffy manabase with Deathrites. To make room, I cut Seeker of the Way and Dragonlord Ojutai, one copy of Gush, and all three Gitaxian Probe, reasoning that especially without the Seeker, the life loss to Probe was too much in addition to taking hits off Sylvan Library, aka the green Necropotence

Then I tweaked some one-ofs, assembled a sideboard from basically the first fifteen cards I saw on the nearest flat surface, and went off to jam some Magic.

Disclaimer: Yes, this 75 has a shops matchup charitable described as "dubious". I mean, come on: a four color manabase and the only artifact hate two copies of Disenchant? I had a cheaty advantage though: I already knew Knight-Ware's most reliable Shops player was on Oath for the day, and it's otherwise usually a room full of blue decks and Storm. So I just went for it. Your mileage may vary.

The very short tournament report: beat Landstill round 1 because Sylvan Library; beat Storm round 2 because Cabal Therapy and countermagic; lost to a different build of Esper Mentor because I didn't have enough removal; lost to Big Blue because Tinker; lost to BUG Fish because I didn't have enough removal.

So already we've learned the big lesson fo the day which is: play more removal. It's been a long time since "1 STP and #yolo" did enough work in Vintage, and if you ever want to feel a sense of crushing disappointment like no other in Magic, try drawing Innocent Blood in the Mentor mirror. Yeah. It bad. (In my defense, I picked Blood for removal-resilient Oath/Tinker targets and the occasional Ojutai or other nonsense, while still remotely castable against Sphere, Sphere, Lodestone openings. I still think the card is good and somewhat underplayed. But it should be like the fifth or sixth removal card, not the third.)

I had two other significant notes. First, 4 Cabal Therapy is definitely too many. Drawing one is good. Drawing two is great. Drawing the third is… less great, especially when you really need to be getting business. Second, Jace VP is not good in this list. There are Mentor decks he's OK in, but his major advantage is just being a viable turn 1 play in a deck that's otherwise short on them, and this build isn't: Therapy and Deathrite Shaman fill that hole nicely. Jace, Vice-President under-performed every time I cast him, and by the end of the day every time I drew the card I wished it were a Snapcaster or even Regrowth instead.

Now, the manabase: it's a little dodgy, but it's not actually as bad as it looks. I had a couple rough patches where I could only get two of my non-blue colors, usually because I'd fetched like an idiot some previous turn. It's critical to resist the urge to add more green cards though (like the aforementioned Regrowth, which I'm really tempted to try anyway) because G is the color I least want to fetch. It's for getting Sylvan out and nothing else, and if Sylvan can be cast off a DRS, even better. That's also why I eschewed Abrupt Decay (it's uncastable) and Nature's Claim in favor of Disenchant; W is the color I'm going to want almost every game. However, WW is never, ever going to happen, which is why I'm giving cards like Supreme Verdict a miss.

Here's what went right: Monastery Mentor is the white Tendrils of Agony and wins games. Maindeck Disenchant is still a totally reasonable choice. Sylvan Library is as good as advertised and two is the correct number. Maindeck Mindbreak Trap is a very meta-dependent choice but I was happy with it on Sunday. Echoing Truth is a card I always want to have in the 75, but it can probably go to the board for now.

I'm not going to defend almost anything about that sideboard except the basic Plains, which did yeoman's work against BUG fish. Let's just move on.

I think the deck has a lot of potential though. Here's the revised version I'm thinking of that addresses a few of its shortcomings.

- Creatures 4x Monastery Mentor 3x Deathrite Shaman 1x Snapcaster Mage - Planeswalkers 1x Jace, the Mind Sculptor - Enchantments 2x Sylvan Library - Instants 1x Ancestral Recall 1x Brainstorm 1x Dig Through Time 1x Disenchant 1x Flusterstorm 4x Force of Will 2x Gush 3x Mental Misstep 1x Murderous Cut 2x Swords to Plowshares - Sorceries 3x Cabal Therapy 1x Demonic Tutor 1x Ponder 1x Preordain 1x Time Walk - Artifacts 1x Black Lotus 1x Engineered Explosives 1x Mox Emerald 1x Mox Jet 1x Mox Pearl 1x Mox Ruby 1x Mox Sapphire 2x Sensei's Divining Top - Lands 4x Flooded Strand 1x Island 1x Library of Alexandria 2x Misty Rainforest 2x Polluted Delta 2x Tropical Island 2x Tundra 2x Underground Sea
4x Containment Priest 3x Grafdigger's Cage 2x Toxic Deluge 1x City in a Bottle 1x Echoing Truth 1x Ethersworn Canonist 1x Disenchant 1x Serenity 1x Plains

The changes:

Jace VP out, Jace TMS in
Yep, we're done with Fetal Jace and going back to Jace, Better Than All. I want a card that legitimately takes over a game, not Suspend {1}{U]: Ponder.
-1 Cabal Therapy, +1 Swords to Plowshares
Phase 1 of Operation Play More Removal
-1 Treasure Cruise, +1 Murderous Cut
Phase 2; Don't get me wrong: Treasure Cruise is a house and a half in this list. In fact it might be correct to cut the Dig instead if I'm going to cut either one. The deck can only realistically play two Delve spells though, and I wanted (a) a third instant removal spell in the maindeck that (b) was castable without W mana. There are a lot of cards this could be: one of my Mentors got hit by Snuff Out on Sunday too, which is totally a reasonable option. Cut seems like a card worth testing though.
-1 Mindbreak Trap, +1 Snapcaster Mage
Phase 3; this deck has a lot of cards I'm perfectly happy to Snapcast, especially now that Jace VP isn't around for freebie Time Walk rebuys. One card that does not play especially well with Ol' Snappy is the Mindbreak Trap though.
-1 Echoing Truth, +1 Engineered Explosives
Phase 4; I moved Echoing Truth to the board (never cut Echoing Truth) in favor of EE. EE is a super-flexible card in a four-color deck, and plays very well against Sphere/Thorn openings.
Unfucking the Sideboard
Look, I'm not cutting City in a Bottle. Don't even ask. But this is the board I should have brought on Sunday. Obviously sideboard is the part that's most likely to shift around as the metagame drifts, but I think this is a solid place to start. Other cards to I'd consider for the sideboard besides the usual range of narrow hate options: Strip Mine for beating LoA and animated lands, Devout Witness as repeatable Shop removal, Seeker of the Way for fueling Sylvan and winning creature races, and Silumgar, the Drifting Death for Mentor mirrors. Yes, I'm serious. Come on, how sweet would that be? (Spoiler: So sweet.) Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

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