Building Mentor based Control



  • I'm fairly new to Vintage and after beating around the bush with other decks I'm dipping my toes into control decks with Mentor as a primary win condition. Since the recent restruction, how has everyone been building it?

    As for individual card choices, are things like Supreme Verdict and Sudden Shock still good? As for Counter choices, Draw spell selection and other Threats (i.e. Chandra, Tendrils etc.), what causes you to play those specific ones?



  • My favorite resource for the answers to your questions is MTGGoldfish, which aggregates WotC's data almost in a way that makes sense and allows you to see trends. Vintage can be found here: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/metagame/vintage

    Beyond that, my advice is don't take deck titles for their word. Just because something is called Nahiri Control or Mystic Mentor doesn't necessarily mean is doesn't or does have Monastery Mentor in the deck, respectively. Data aggregators aren't perfect, especially for a format that doesn't have much data to aggregate.



  • mtgtop8 is vastly superior if you want data about the vintage metagame and decklists. They have more tourneys, a longer history, a better ability to sort, a much better layout in my opinion (absent the pretty pretty pictures), and gives you better ways to cross reference data - giving breakdowns on deck type, and card usage within various formats, as well as how long ago the deck was played.

    Mtggoldfish is much more useful in my opinion, if you are into the trading side of the game. It aggregates a lot of data about card price histories. You can put your entire collection in there and watch the "stocks" rise and fall. They also run strategy articles such as vintage101 by our very own @Islandswamp , so both have their place.


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    Here's my list at the moment:

    I'm still changing a slot or two around each event, but it doesn't deviate much from this.

    There are certainly other approaches to Mentor+Control now, the biggest questions being where you land on the tempo<->controlling scale, and which colors you run.

    I like to keep my curve fairly low, but not to the point of becoming an aggro deck.

    For colors, I wasn't worried about running a 3 color manabase, but wasn't comfortable with four. Between Swords to Plowshares and Fragmentize, Red or Green aren't strictly necessary for the shops matchup in the way they once were.

    Ultimately I value Pyroblast, Dack Fayden, and By Force higher than Demonic Tutor and Painful Truths (and possibly Tasigur + Deathrite Shaman, but that's a stretch).

    For a hot second I considered a Tarmogoyf build but thought better of it before I put it together. I'm just not impressed at all by Sylvan Library, but I'm sure someone in this thread will have an impassioned counterargument to that

    To address your specific questions:

    Are Supreme Verdict and Sudden Shock still good?

    My pre-restriction list had Sudden Shocks, which I no longer run — mostly because Mentor is less popular now.

    I suspect it's also worse in the matchup than it used to be, as the deck is less likely to have (and less reliant on) explosive Mentor draws that force you to kill it immediately or lose.

    I expect Mentor to get more popular over the next few months, so some sort of more dedicated mirror card might become more important soon.

    Counter Choices

    My valuation of Pyroblast has gone up a little. Pyroblast vs Gush and Gitaxian Probe was a little lackluster, but it's strong against a lot of the cards you see replacing it.

    I haven't moved to Mana Drains, which some people predicted would start showing up. I've tried them in a few blue lists and really don't think they're very strong right now.

    Draw spell selection

    So far I've been getting the impression that filtering for your good restricted spells (with Preordain, mostly) seems to outdraw decks trying to capitalize on unrestricted draw engines like Thirst for Knowledge.

    The card that obviously stands out in my list is Compulsive Research. While I think cantrips are, in general, better than unrestricted draw, they hit diminishing returns eventually, and I felt like I could use one more "pull ahead" card to cantrip into.

    After plotting out the deck, I found myself looking for 1 or 2 extra cards that 1) generated actual card advantage, 2) didn't cost 4 or more mana, and 3) didn't require me to change cards I was happy with to support them. Compulsive Research was simply the best card that fit all three of those criteria. It's not an all-star but it has yet to disappoint me

    If you were already running the cards necessary to support Painful Truths or Thirst for Knowledge, those are likely better choices. For me they don't seem worth the cost to the rest of the deck.

    Other Threats

    I've just been sticking to Mentors and Jaces. Personally I think the 5+CMC threats just don't work without supporting them with a bigger manabase, and perhaps some Mana Drains (both of which I think are a mistake in Mentor), and even then they lead to some consistency issues.

    Tendrils just needs too much support from cards I'm not running (mostly Moxes). Obviously the Storm+Mentor decks are an entirely different animal.

    Various utility creatures (Snapcaster Mage; Vendilion Clique; Containment Priest; Kataki, War's Wage) seem okay to me, but I usually end up cutting them.



  • Great write up Andy!

    Some things I have noticed while further developing and testing the deck:

    • Red is the favorite third color mainly for Pyroblast. Its ability to counter/remove Planeswalkers, Leovold, Standstill ... beside countering the whole rest of the blue spells is too unique and needed. No other color offers this with such a flexibility and for such a cheap cost. Dack has lost a lot of its value with the restriction of Gush and Shops playing lots of Ravagers and Ballistas. I play just one. And By Force is nice but not mandatory. Even just with white Shops is a beatable matchup. The strengthened manabase with more basic bands and more lands overall helps a lot.

    • Playing 18 lands and two big Jaces slows the deck down for a good degree. Especially in the faster matchups you often get punished for playing too many non disruptive lands and midgame bricks (for what I support playing three Mentors as well and not four). I still like three little Jaces and just one big one. On that way I can play a little more tempo orientated mana base (full set of Moxen, 17 lands with Strip and one Wasteland, and another Wasteland coming out of the board).

    • I would recommend to play a least one Snapcaster Mage. With all the digging it is not too difficult to find him. And the ability to directly play one card out of your graveyard is a very valuable strategic option.

    • As much as I hate Mystical Tutor in the control matchups: It offers a flexibility non black decks often need. It can be so crucial to get your hand on Time Walk and Balance (beside Ancestral/Treasure Cruise/Dig/Removal). You don't even have to resolve them, it can be enough to have them in the graveyard.

    • Some words on Balance: I play it in the maindeck as well and it has proven its value many times. You find yourself in situations where you want to clear the board or otherwise lose. This is one part of the deck which makes it a real control one. For that reason I play Supreme Verdict in the board as well. It helps especially in the Delver, Mentor and the BUG Fish matchups.

    • Why do you play just one Stony Silence? I have found it the clearly best card you want to see against decks with Paradoxical Outcome (and together with the Wastelands it helps against Shops and other Big Blue variants as well). The nice little Enchantment stops their whole deck. Playing lots of Counters can be enough but it is hard to totally hinder them from playing a game changing Outcome.

    I still really like the deck. It has lost a bit in the blue matchups (which makes these games more interesting), but on the other hand gained something against the rest. I might still be the best blue deck but I don't think it will again dominate as other options (especially the quicker blue combo decks, Oath and Landstill) have become reasonably choices as well.


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    @Tom-Bombadil said in Building Mentor based Control:

    Why do you play just one Stony Silence? I have found it the clearly best card you want to see against decks with Paradoxical Outcome (and together with the Wastelands it helps against Shops and other Big Blue variants as well).

    I agree that the card is very good against Paradoxical Outcome decks, but honestly I'm just not that worried about them. If I was prioritizing the matchup I might want 2, but I'm more concerned with the mirror, Shops, Eldrazi, Oath, Landstill, BUG, and Dredge matchups than I am Outcome. I've considered cutting Stony entirely, but I keep running into random Tezzeret or Painter decks.

    Incidentally I do not like the card against stock Ravager Workshop decks, and I don't board it in there. Obviously that changes my valuation of how many to run.



  • @Brass-Man I have relatively little experience playing Null effects against Ravager Shops. I had been assuming that they were very good against that deck, as well as against Outcome and against 2 Card Monte (Ben Perry), all three of which make up a sizable slice of my metagame pie. Can you walk me through exactly why they aren't strong against Ravager Shops? I'm assuming you favor targeted removal like the By Force, Disenchant, Path, Swords and Fragmentize that I see in your board... true?


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    The short answer is that Stony Silence doesn't stop them from attacking.

    Null Rod does hurt a lot of the cards in their deck, but in my experience (and @ZebraUnicorn's, who built the pre-restriction list I've worked from), the matchup is very tempo-centric, and Stony/Rod can be a giant tempo sink. Since Ballista was printed, as a shops pilot I've won more games against resolved Null Rod/Stony than I've lost ... and I'm not sure how many games I won where they were unable to cast it.

    Stony Silence turn 1 on the play can be a huge blowout, but a lot of the time you're spending 3 or 4 mana, (which amounts to your whole turn) and not getting ahead on board against whatever threats they have.

    Even if you have Wastelands, they're mana denial deck and you aren't. They're just better at that game than you are (this is one of the reasons I've been backing down from 3 strip effects to 1). I've seen a lot of games where the Null Rod player will shut off one of their own moxes, and two moxes and a Ravager on the other side of the board .... and STILL end up way behind, because that mana and that turn was way more important for them than the moxes on the other side of the table, and the ability for the now 3/3 Ravager.

    On it's own, Stony Silence doesn't solve any problems - it's only really exciting when you combine it with something like a now-Ravager-proof Dack Fayden ... but Swords to Plowshares also makes your Dack Fayden Ravager-Proof ... and it also protects Jaces and doesn't turn off your own artifacts and costs one less.

    It's not the worst card in the list - I'd rather have a Stony Silence against shops than a Mental Misstep ... but I dislike it enough to run an extra dedicated shops-hate card in the sideboard instead of boarding it in. If other matchups became more important, I might consider boarding it in to free up the sideboard space


  • TMD Supporter

    @Topical_Island said in Building Mentor based Control:

    @Brass-Man I have relatively little experience playing Null effects against Ravager Shops. I had been assuming that they were very good against that deck, as well as against Outcome and against 2 Card Monte (Ben Perry), all three of which make up a sizable slice of my metagame pie. Can you walk me through exactly why they aren't strong against Ravager Shops? I'm assuming you favor targeted removal like the By Force, Disenchant, Path, Swords and Fragmentize that I see in your board... true?

    As a shops player, the Stony Silence definitely makes it more annoying for me to do Ravager tricks and Ballista hits, but it still doesn't stop me from attacking. You might also be stunting your own development (moxes, lotus, Sensei, etc) while I'll keep rolling along and unless you deal with the creatures, you'll still die, albeit a turn or two later.



  • Obviously each game is unique, but in general what sort of game plan do you choose when playing against Shops? I've been trying to prioritize killing Threats, and destroying lock pieces less frequently, the idea being that they run out of threats while I have more card selection. This has not been working out for me in my limited sample, so I'm wondering how other people approach the matchup.



  • @WashableWater said in Building Mentor based Control:

    Obviously each game is unique, but in general what sort of game plan do you choose when playing against Shops? I've been trying to prioritize killing Threats, and destroying lock pieces less frequently, the idea being that they run out of threats while I have more card selection. This has not been working out for me in my limited sample, so I'm wondering how other people approach the matchup.

    The thing is, they don't run out of threats. Either they draw a threat or they draw another lock piece while you spend your whole turn casting a Preordain. I think the opposite approach, going after their lock pieces, is usually a more strategically sound strategy because you'll have a few turns to chain your cantrips together and land a Mentor which will usually win you the game. That said, I don't think it's that black and white and a lot depends on the board state and what you have in hand.



  • How has By Force been for people in the Shop's matchup? I've really liked its flexibility, but I'm often casting it as a Shatter. I'm starting to try out Serenity as another mass artifact destruction spell at a cheaper cost. Has anyone run this, or am I missing some reason why its bad? Im frequently finding myself getting trapped under multiple Sphere effects and looking for a way to get rid of them all, but under those conditions By Force is rarely getting more than one sphere.



  • @WashableWater My wife plays a ton of Jeskai Mentor and loves By Force.

    People don't play so much Serenity for fear of killing their own moxen.

    Engineered Explosives against sphere effects... oh man... delicious.


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    @WashableWater said in Building Mentor based Control:

    in general what sort of game plan do you choose when playing against Shops?

    In contrast to your/ @Griselbrother's experience, targeting threats over lock pieces (and trying to run them out) is exactly how I've been approaching the matchup.

    Lock pieces have sort of a reverse bell curve value, the first lock pieces slows you down a lot, but the second doesn't do much (you go from casting one spell a turn to ... casting one spell a turn). The third/fourth lock piece suddenly gets good again if it cuts you off of any spell entirely, and if they hit five or six lock pieces they stop doing anything useful. (So not a reverse-bell-curve ... a cosine wave?)

    In other words, if you can cut them off of all spheres, that's great, but realistically they're going to keep coming. If you can just keep them in that sweet spot of lock pieces where some of them are kind of dead (which is naturally how most of their draws end up), then killing threats buys you time to draw lands and find your midgame/lategame plays.

    Of course this only works if you have enough mana and a low enough curve to still operate with a sphere in play - and only if you're using your draw spells and mulligans to stabilize your manabase - and even then some of their draws would be better handled by a different strategy.

    I'm sure the other cards you run make a real difference here. If your anti-shops plan revolved around high-cost/high-impact spells, then keeping spheres off the table might be a necessity. I prefer to focus on efficient cards that still operate under a sphere or two. You can do one or the other, but you can't really do both. (Though By Force is an example of a card that works in both roles ...)


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    @WashableWater said in Building Mentor based Control:

    How has By Force been for people in the Shop's matchup?

    I've really been loving By Force against shops, I expected it to be good in the matchup and it's been exceeding my expectations. I wouldn't be to concerned about usually casting it as a Shatter - to me that's why the card is good. In the shops matchup you want a critical mass of cheap removal spells. By Force helps with that in the early game, and every once and a while acts like a late-game bomb. I consider Shatter to be the primary mode of the card, and the late-game sweep-up doesn't have to happen very often to be worth it.

    Serenity is a card I keep trying and keep being disappointed by. I've run the card in a LOT of different decks, and it never quite does what I want. Basically it has a lot of small downsides - kills your own mana, gives them a turn before destroying anything, costs 2, sorcery speed. None of these things on their own are completely damning, but they seem to add up and happen in different sorts of games, meaning you'll always get some downside. (i.e. the games where they have lock-heavy hands you can't cast it ... but the games where they have threat-heavy hands, the extra turn you give them ends up being really important).

    It's surprising how often the wait-a-turn matters. Savvy players can sometimes use that turn to get into a position where the Serenity won't hit them too hard. Sacrificing a Ravager to put modular counters on a Factory during your own turn, which then survives the Serenity as a land, is pretty devastating when they land it.

    When I was testing Serenity in Eldrazi vs Shops, I think I had a series of 4 games in a row where a vanilla Disenchant would have won me the game, but I lost with a Serenity. Even when they had multiple artifacts in play that I wanted to destroy, Instant speed + "right now" was just better. The cards Arcbound Ravager, Fleetwheel Cruiser, and Sword/Jitte all do important things on the shop-players turn that Serenity can't do anything about. (By Force can't do anything about them, either, but it has other advantages)

    It's a very powerful effect and I'm sure I'll test it again sometime, but every time I've run it in the past I've wished it was something else.



  • Thanks for the replies, that all makes sense. I certainly lose a lot of games to being greedy with By Force, so thats good to keep in mind! I have some questions about individual cards if anyone has advice or experience regarding them.

    1. Engineered Explosives
      As Topical Island pointed out, EE is a good answer to Spheres. Looking through decklists however, I see that very few people are running EE in Mentor. I find myself losing a lot of games to multiple spheres, or Chalice on 1. EE also has application against Outcome, and is almost never a dead draw. Is there a reason why people aren't running EE

    2. Strip Mine
      Almost every Mentor list I look at runs the Strip Mine, but far fewer run Wasteland. Why is this? Obviously Strip Mine is a more powerful card, but why is exactly one Strip effect really popular? Is it crazy to cut the Strip Mine?

    3. Draw Spells
      After running Brass Man's Mentor list, I've really like having an extra draw spell to propel me through games which have stalled out. Is Compulsive the best card for this slot? I've been messing around with Fact or Fiction and having some success with it, and I'm considering trying a Gifts as just a value "draw 2 relevant spells" type effect. Has anyone messed around with this, or is 4 mana vs 3 mana a big deal?

    4. Chandra, Torch of Defiance
      I've seen a couple people playing with a Chandra in Mentor and have been testing it out a little bit. I really like that in the games where the extra draw spells are powerful, having another threat that's immune to REB might have some merit. I'm wondering if anyone has experience playing with it, specifically how it performed for them or what number of red sources you needed to support her.



  • @WashableWater Let me preface this by making clear that, I am not good, and don't know what I am talking about. But I do play a lot of games, and I can at least comment on my experience with regards to two of your questions.

    Strip Mine // Wasteland: I'm very much in favor of waste effects in tempo decks. I'm actually a bit surprised to read that you think people don't play Wasteland much. Before the Gush restriction, Wasteland seemed like it was seeing more and more play in Gush//Mentor, to me at least. The crux of your question seems to be... how come always Strip and never Wasteland, can exactly 1 Strip effect be right? I think it can, but I'd estimate the "proper" number is probably 1 point something. I think Strip plus Wasteland is more often right these days. I think it gives you a lot more game against the whole field, including anyone running Library of Alexandria, Cavern of Souls, Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra's Factory... etc. Of course the right question to ask is, what can I cut it for that might be better... If you find something better, by all means cut Wasteland. I just haven't found that card. The folks who do seem to be cutting it for a 4th Misstep, or another basic land or some such thing...IMO

    Draw Spells: Holy crap, Dack is awesome. Have you guys heard of this guy, he is phenomenal. In practice around the ole' homestead, we are trying out the full 4 of Dack. In deference to the drunken master and his various compulsions, Dack is great in that same slot. When is the last time someone drew too many Dacks?... In all seriousness, I can see two reasons not to run 3x or 4x of this dude. The first is mana curve. If you are running some Menendianesque, ultra turbo xerox, really low land count deck, then sure, having 4x of the same 3 mana planeswalker could screw up your curve. But land counts have been up in blue-tempo for years now, (See the above discussion on the inclusion of Wasteland) so the three level seems quite reachable, after all, aren't we already running Mentors in this deck anyways?
    The second reason is exactly Phyrexian Revoker. If Revoker names Dack, then other Dacks become stranded and useless... I mention this by way of pointing out that, assuming that Dack is good against the deck you happen to be playing, having multipl Dacks in hand is probably better than having multiples of any other planeswalker because of his loot ability. (Baby Jace you say?... ok) So you could run 8 of these things with next to no redundancy downside. (Compare this to other powerful cards like, Null Rod, Oath... or even restricted stuff like Time Vault or Necropotence. All those cards are very powerful, conceivably a second copy is some sort of insurance, but a second copy doesn't really get you anything that you didn't have before. A hand with exactly 2 Null Rods that resolves 1, is the same as a hand with 1 Null Rod that resolves 1 (You see my point). SO... Phyrexian Revoker is a threat to Dack's wonderful Dackness... but aren't we already running a ton of mainboard Swords as well as Fragmentize in the board with some number of By Force? The metagame already demands that we are running cards that can get rid of Revokers and free a Dack.

    So how about the assumption that Dack is good against the deck we are playing... He's good against Tempo Blue, he's good against Shops (maybe not what he once was, but still ripping off a Mox is great against mana denial. Also, targeting for pilfer on a Ravager is at least a Fragmentize, as is targeting a Ballista. Not to mention that if you have some Stony Silences floating around, the combination of those two together is nigh unbeatable if they hit the table together against Shops, since any big creature will get robbed....) He's good against Eldrazi for similar reasons. He's good against Paradoxical. (How about stealing the Defense Grid?... feels good man.) If you're looking for more draw, I might just try out an extra copy of Dack... heck, go to 5x... why not?

    (Bonus pontification: EE is awesome!)

    Good luck to you man, lemme know what you try and how it works out for you.



  • @Topical_Island Sorry to be picky, but the idea of stealing Defense Grid made me chuckle. :)



  • @BazaarOfBaghdad Hey, If you can't laugh, what's the point in being alive right?

    (To be more specific, the corner case I happened to be imagining, was the one where Storm plays Grid and says go, with the implication that they are going off if they untap... only to see Dack hit the table and pilfer the Grid... a corner case I grant you... and perhaps hilariously bad...)



  • @Topical_Island said in Building Mentor based Control:

    @BazaarOfBaghdad Hey, If you can't laugh, what's the point in being alive right?

    (To be more specific, the corner case I happened to be imagining, was the one where Storm plays Grid and says go, with the implication that they are going off if they untap... only to see Dack hit the table and pilfer the Grid... a corner case I grant you... and perhaps hilariously bad...)

    What does that do?


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