Oh Boy I Can't Wait For VSL Season 7!

There were some interesting decks this week!

I thought it would be worth saying a few words about one of my decks. In my second match against Rich, I played a deck I call "Woke Mentor." The name refers to Thing in the Ice, which transforms into "Awoken Horror."

Thing in the Ice has not received much love of late, but it has a few crucial advantages over Young Pyromancer in addition to the obvious fact of being blue, and thus pitchable to Force of Will:

  1. It is much more resilient against Walking Ballista. Pyromancer dies to the smallest possible Ballista, while Ballista has a difficult time killing off a Thing in the Ice. Since Ballista was printed this year, Young Pyromancer has proven to be a much weaker substitute to Monastery Mentor than otherwise would have been the case.

  2. Lightning Bolt. In many of the Xerox decks of late, players have starting running more Bolts and fewer Swords. Thing in the Ice survives Bolt, whereas Pyromancer does not.

The first two are the most obvious advantages. But there are a few other ways that Thing in the Ice has tactical and strategic advantages.

  1. Kelly Oath creatures.
    One of the great advantages of Thing in the Ice over Kelly Oath is that the opponent can actually Oath without you losing the game. Because Thing in the Ice triggers are difficult to stop and can be timed with precision, you can use Thing in the Ice to bounce Oathed up creatures, like Inferno Titan, stranding them in hand, while you attack in. I have had this happen. I have even bounced Griselbrand just prior to a lethal attack.

  2. The Low-To-The-Ground, Hyper Aggro Shop Deck

Pyromancer ostensibly gains it's advantage from horizontal growth, but this growth now does little to impede Shops aggressive game plan. This is where Thing In the Ice Shines.

Thing in the Ice is a 0/4 wall against a fast Foundry Inspector, but then undoes all of the work of Steel Overseer, Hangarback generation, etc. when it flips. The only creature it won't Unsummon is usually a Phyrexian Revoker.

There are, of course, disadvantages of Thing in the Ice vis-a-vis Pyromancer. In particular, Pyroblast and Swords are stronger against it than Pyromancer.

But, to look at Thing in the Ice as better or worse than Pyromancer misses the point. Tempo threats for Xerox/Gush decks don't lie on a simplistic continuum of better or worse or high/medium/low. The question is always contextual: which threats are better in different shells, conditions, and contexts?

In a field of Xerox mirrors, Pyromancer probably has the edge. It's distributed power is better against Plow and certainly better against Pyroblast. But in a metagame that looks like the Top 8 of the Vintage Championship - of Aggro Shops and Kelly Oath (with little to zero Pyroblast) - Woke Mentor is, I believe, a better choice. Thing in the Ice is better than Pyromancer against Oath sans Pyroblast and much better against Aggro Shop, in my testing.

And, if you run a deck like Soly's from Champs, Thing in the Ice gets even more value, since Soly ran 4 Snapcaster. Thing in the Ice's transforms returns Snapcasters, and allows you to replay them for value.

In Conclusion, Thing in the Ice is an overlooked Xerox finisher that is worth of special consideration in metagames with a higher density of Oath and Aggro Shop, and especially strong in metagames with few Pyroblasts like Vintage Champs Top 8. Young Pyromancer is often underwhelming in those matchups, and it here that Thing in the Ice can shine. Thing in the Ice may also be decent in Xerox metagames that have more Bolts and fewer Plows.

last edited by Smmenen

@smmenen I feel like this argument is familiar...


@chubbyrain said in Discussing Gush Mentor (beating it, restriction discussion, anything):

My opinion has been that the actual win conditions in Gush decks are interchangeable and should be based on what you feel the metagame will be like. Mentor is arguably the most powerful in a vacuum, but people start running Sudden Shocks, Sulfur Elementals, Dread of Nights, etc. Thing in the Ice is a very powerful alternative. Shops becomes very popular...look to Delver/Young Pyromancer. Shops becomes nonexistent...look to Doomsday. People start cutting Dack Faydens and loading up on Supreme Verdicts...Tinker becomes viable. The format is actually very dynamic and open...so long as you are willing to run 3-4 Gush in your Blue decks. That's the one card I feel is metagame proof.

last edited by ChubbyRain

Except you wrote that when Mentor was unrestricted, which makes your statement obviously false. Mentor is not "Interchangeable" with other Xerox finishers, and never was.

Everyone knows, or now should know, that Mentor is miles better than any of the alternative Xerox-based Tempo finishers. in my post, I am comparing distant 2nd place and far inferior replacement options, Young Pyromancer to Thing in the Ice.

@smmenen Yes, Xerox win percentages are way down as a result of the Mentor restriction...

The only obvious thing is that neither Mentor or Gush were integral to the function of the deck. That was my argument. I said Mentor was the best in a vacuum but no one plays Magic in a vacuum. But then again, you focus on the word "interchangeable" since it makes you right, ignoring the rest of what I said...

last edited by ChubbyRain

@chubbyrain said in Oh Boy I Can't Wait For VSL Season 7!:

@smmenen Yes, Xerox win percentages are way down as a result of the Mentor restriction...

I"m not sure what you mean by "way" down, but yes, Xerox has had a significant reduction in metagame % since the restriction of Mentor. It's been roughly a 20-33% metagame penetration decline since the restriction. Yes, that's a pretty significant reduction.

Anyone even half paying attention knows that Mentor was a huge blow to Xerox decks.

Give it a rest, Steve.

If you don't want me presenting facts and obvious axioms, then don't bait me into doing so by responding to my posts.

last edited by Smmenen

@smmenen The "give it a rest" was you attempting to lawyer every argument in such a way that it makes you right. My intent was clearly to state that other win cons could be successful in the Gush - Delve engine. And that focusing on the win con ignored the rest of the deck. It was hyperbole to a degree, but I believe the point is apparent.

Edit: I edited it out, as it was clearly a flame. Sorry.

last edited by ChubbyRain

This season of VSL has been a blast to watch. Congratz to Kevin on the amazing run since his 0-3 start.
The decks have been pretty fun to see as well. Lot of different decks and angles that I don't remember see in recent VSL's. The coverage has been very entertaining as well. Thanks @Smmenen and the rest of you for putting on a good show.
Can't wait to see how it end's up on Tuesday between Kevin and Reid.

Tune into the finals in just a few minutes!


All of the decklists have finally been posted:


Really proud of the decks I played this season.

last edited by Smmenen

Great season - thanks to everyone involved. The finals were a blast to watch, especially when @Smmenen was commentating. His enthusiasm was ridiculously contagious.

Congratulations on making the finals, Kevin!

Is there any chance you and Steve will do a So Many Insane Plays that analyzes some of the decisions and scenarios that arose during the season? I for one would quite enjoy that.

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