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:
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.
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.
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.
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.