Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017



  • @Winterstar Rather than VSL commentators complaining about cards/decks and whining for restrictions, it would be nice if they would lobby for answer cards instead. There have been some really great answer cards printed (such as Cage and Containment Priest) that see plenty of play in Vintage; I don't see why Wizard's couldn't print some things that would enable a player to reasonably interact with the shops decks without completely killing it.

    I agree that the shops decks are very powerful, but I disagree with those that assert that some form of blue-backed deck must always necessarily be the best deck in the format.



  • @themonadnomad Would be nice to have some cards that actually beat Mentor too. R&D is extremely unreliable for improving eternal formats though.

    I hear Serenity is pretty insane against Shops.



  • Honestly not buying into shops needing any restrictions. To be honest shops have been better positioned in the meta ever since golem was restricted and the reason is simple enough: before you had to play 7-8 anti shops hate in your sideboard if you even wanted to compete, and almost immediately after golem getting the hammer people drastically cut on sideboard hate. So basically people kept the same shops matchups except they could get away with running a lot less hate...
    When people start respecting the deck again and go back to real sideboard plans I doubt this will be an issue. Remember there is no insane golem tempo or cutting you off of efficient answers with chalice anymore, so the deck will no longer be able to maintain dtb status if it's being gunned for.



  • @vaughnbros said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @themonadnomad Would be nice to have some cards that actually beat Mentor too. R&D is extremely unreliable for improving eternal formats though.

    I hear Serenity is pretty insane against Shops.

    Can you clarify what you mean by "beat[ing] Mentor?" There's tons of cards that handle the masses of tokens.

    • White: Wrath effects, Moat
    • Blue: Mass bounce eg Echoing Truth
    • Red: Direct damage the mentor, damage based sweepers like Pyroclasm and Elecktrickery
    • Black: */-x effects, both Permanent (eg Night of Soul's Betrayal) and stack-based (eg Toxic Deluge)
    • Green: Okay, I actually can't think of one here
    • Colorless: Tabernacle

    I've been playing Illness in the Ranks in my BUG deck with some success. It's primarily for Mentor and Pyromancer but it also splash-hates Oath and Dredge (especially if you can get two out!)

    Illness' primary weakness is that it gets hit by Mental Misstep, which Mentor and Pyromancer decks are likely to run 3+ of. To combat this, I upped my sideboard Illness count to 3, cutting a piece of Dredge hate since Illness splash-hates it.



  • @thecravenone

    the simple fact it that there are barely any cards capable of handling the mentor and his monks that are tempo efficient (IE where you dont spend more ressources answering the mentor than your opponent did deploying it).
    There basically only is Virtue's Ruin, a card so niche that people play Toxic deluge instead which has serious shortcomings against prowess.

    Illness in the ranks type effects are extremely unreliable against mentor, as wasting a card to make your opponents mentor into a Monastery swiftspear is not a winning strategy and will only buy you a turn or two if you dont have some other removal. (all the while getting hit by misstep and fragmentize).



  • @thecravenone

    Those are all extremely inefficient. When even the best answer costs more mana / resources than the threat itself there is an imbalance.

    Echoing Truth, Pyroclasm, ect. don't actually kill the Mentor just the tokens. That's not really an answer. You are playing a tailored specific hate piece, and all it does is reduce its power level.



  • [Hereafter, "Workshops" and "Mentor" refer to those decks rather then those cards. When referring to those cards, I use the full name of the card]

    I continually find that I must not understand Vintage or Magic as a whole, at least as others do.

    @vaughnbros said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @thecravenone

    Those are all extremely inefficient. When even the best answer costs more mana / resources than the threat itself there is an imbalance.

    Echoing Truth, Pyroclasm, ect. don't actually kill the Mentor just the tokens. That's not really an answer. You are playing a tailored specific hate piece, and all it does is reduce its power level.

    @Macdeath said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Illness in the ranks type effects are extremely unreliable against mentor, as wasting a card to make your opponents mentor into a Monastery swiftspear is not a winning strategy and will only buy you a turn or two if you dont have some other removal. (all the while getting hit by misstep and fragmentize).

    Perhaps someone can clarify. My initial thought upon reading these posts was, "If your deck cannot answer a glorified Monastery Swiftspear, it is unfit for Legacy, much less Vintage." Hell, I played 4 Monastery Swiftspear in her best Legacy deck tonight and went 2-2, very thoroughly missing prizes.

    What, exactly, does it mean for a card to be an answer? I don't want example. I don't want emotions. I would like an academic answer for how one answers a problem in Vintage, or Magic as a whole.

    This seems a fitting answer:

    @Macdeath said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    where you dont spend more ressources answering the mentor than your opponent did deploying it

    While I think this is a good definition, I don't think that it's ultimately practical. Instead of an arms race of problems we now have an arms race of solutions. Perhaps that is what people prefer?

    Serenity was given as an example above. While I agree that it is an excellent answer to Workshops, it does not truly fit the given rubric. To Workshops, any artifact with mana cost <= 3 has a "cost" of one mana producer. Barring Lotus, Serenity, and similar cards such as Energy Flux, which I love, cost at least two mana producers, and frequently more if Workshops went first. Serenity certainly gets better and better as Workshops puts more artifacts on the Battlefield, especially if they are non-taxing artifacts, but until Serenity triggers and Workshops doesn't have, well just about anything useful in hand, it's still pretty slow.

    Additionally, what of partial "answers?" I suggested Illness in the Ranks above. A resolved Illness in the Ranks turns a Monastery Mentor into a 3-mana 2/2 with Prowess. This, in my opinion, should be enough to beat the deck. They have spent, at minimum 2 colorless and a colored. I have spent one colored. If, with my two mana virtual advantage, I cannot at least begin to overcome the Mentor player, I'm curious to ask, what better can I do? Does Monastery Mentor need to be answered for less than one mana? (Also, I've provided at least one Mentor answer for <1 mana above)

    Maybe I'm playing against bad players but I frequently find that playing UR Delver against Mentor, I'm able to beat them with a seven-times-reprinted [not including special sets and precons] common; Lightning Bolt. Too frequently, my opponent taps out on turn one or two for a Mentor and I hit it with a Bolt. Any singular response other than a counter is insufficient to stop me from killing the Mentor. At best, they are left with one or two 1/1 prowess creatures. Again, I ask, if I cannot deal with a Taylor Monastery Swiftspear in my Vintage deck, what the hell am I doing?



  • @thecravenone said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Additionally, what of partial "answers?" I suggested Illness in the Ranks above. A resolved Illness in the Ranks turns a Monastery Mentor into a 3-mana 2/2 with Prowess. This, in my opinion, should be enough to beat the deck. They have spent, at minimum 2 colorless and a colored. I have spent one colored. If, with my two mana virtual advantage, I cannot at least begin to overcome the Mentor player, I'm curious to ask, what better can I do? Does Monastery Mentor need to be answered for less than one mana? (Also, I've provided at least one Mentor answer for <1 mana above)

    I think it's possible that the difference between the way others see the problem and the way you do is that most don't think Illness in the Ranks (or Dread of Night) actually answers Monastery Mentor. Illness in the Ranks or Dread of Night both answer Monastery Mentor's tokens - things that the Mentor deck gets for free. If you spend a card and a coloured mana to deal with the things the opponent got for free you are certainly still quite far behind. Sure, you could spend and additional mana and an additional card to kill the Monastery Mentor, but in that situation you have effectively traded down because the opponent got a 2 for 1.

    An answer like Supreme Verdict means that one trades down on mana (spending 4 to deal with a 3 mana threat whilst still trading 1 for 1). Virtue's Ruin is significantly better, but it can be countered and is pretty awful against the rest of the format.

    With respect to considering a good definition, I think something to the effect of "a favourable trade can be thought of as expending fewer resources answering a threat than the opponent invested in the threat" would be a good starting point.

    In this example, the opponent didn't spend any resources on the Monastery Mentor tokens, which you have now spent one mana and one card answering.



  • @Jeb-Springfield said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @thecravenone said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    Additionally, what of partial "answers?" I suggested Illness in the Ranks above. A resolved Illness in the Ranks turns a Monastery Mentor into a 3-mana 2/2 with Prowess. This, in my opinion, should be enough to beat the deck. They have spent, at minimum 2 colorless and a colored. I have spent one colored. If, with my two mana virtual advantage, I cannot at least begin to overcome the Mentor player, I'm curious to ask, what better can I do? Does Monastery Mentor need to be answered for less than one mana? (Also, I've provided at least one Mentor answer for <1 mana above)

    I think it's possible that the difference between the way others see the problem and the way you do is that most don't think Illness in the Ranks (or Dread of Night) actually answers Monastery Mentor. Illness in the Ranks or Dread of Night both answer Monastery Mentor's tokens - things that the Mentor deck gets for free. If you spend a card and a coloured mana to deal with the things the opponent got for free you are certainly still quite far behind. Sure, you could spend and additional mana and an additional card to kill the Monastery Mentor, but in that situation you have effectively traded down because the opponent got a 2 for 1.

    An answer like Supreme Verdict means that one trades down on mana (spending 4 to deal with a 3 mana threat whilst still trading 1 for 1). Virtue's Ruin is significantly better, but it can be countered and is pretty awful against the rest of the format.

    With respect to considering a good definition, I think something to the effect of "a favourable trade can be thought of as expending fewer resources answering a threat than the opponent invested in the threat" would be a good starting point.

    In this example, the opponent didn't spend any resources on the Monastery Mentor tokens, which you have now spent one mana and one card answering.

    I don't agree entirely with the bolded part. The "free" part is mostly what makes Mentor good. If you take that part away, the card isn't that good. Imagine if Mentor was a 3 CMC enchantment with the token generation trigger on it and nothing else. Would you still think that playing Dread of Night would put you "quite far behind"?

    That said, I do agree that these answers aren't optimal.



  • @Griselbrother Except Mentor isn't an enchantment, he's a 2/2 with Prowess himself. So if you answer the tokens, the Mentor player can still punch through with a 5/5 or something every turn.

    Also, @thecravenone , you probably are playing against bad players since even if you kill Mentor with a Bolt, if he produces 1 or 2 tokens in response, you're in big trouble playing with Pyromancer.



  • @fsecco said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @Griselbrother Except Mentor isn't an enchantment, he's a 2/2 with Prowess himself. So if you answer the tokens, the Mentor player can still punch through with a 5/5 or something every turn.

    Also, @thecravenone , you probably are playing against bad players since even if you kill Mentor with a Bolt, if he produces 1 or 2 tokens in response, you're in big trouble playing with Pyromancer.

    As I said, these answers aren't optimal. I was responding to the theoretical part of the statement.



  • @thecravenone

    You are highlighting the crux of the problem with "answers" for Mentor. Dread of night is played almost specifically as an answer to Mentor, yet all it does is turns him into another playable card.

    Compare this to Tinker->Blightsteel that costs 2 cards, 3 mana and has 1 card, 1 mana answers like Steel Sabotage or Swords. Theres also Dack that just turns it into a straight loss. The difference between answers is not really even comparable.



  • Maybe we should all start playing Remove Soul...


  • TMD Supporter

    It seems attempting to counter Monastery Mentor the card isn't the approach to take, as poignantly demonstrated by Brassman's initial play-in for this season's VSL: playing anti-mentor.dec against a gauntlet of THREE mentor decks and going 1-2. I'm sure there are arguments to be made for variance and other factors, but it was tough for me to swallow a deck running maindeck Sulfur Elementals and massive amounts of removal to have so little of an effect.

    Right now, the most efficient answer to Monastery Mentor the card seems to be attacking Monastery Mentor the deck. That is, if you're comboing or using mana denial to marginalize their strategy, you can stay ahead of the card's raw efficiency. Currently "silver bullets" don't work.



  • @cutlex Hum... removal isn't countering though, unless you're using the word "counter" with another meaning. The best way to deal with Mentor is countering it. It's the only one that guarantees a 1 for 1 trade. Maybe Mana Drain or stuff like Spell Queller are good answers to it. Maybe even the Remove Soul I joked about.



  • I think the best answers for Mentor depend on the strategy. If you are trying to combo out and you are using black then Dread of Night is one of the better answers because of the low casting cost. This in an Oath deck though, so it is a benefit to keep the Mentor in play. Toxic Deluge is good if you are playing storm or something with Death's Shadow, but shadow is not the best with all of the Swords to Plowshares being played right now. If you are on red, Lightning Bolt Is good if you use it as a response to the prowess trigger, or when they are low on cards, or a combination of Engineered Explosives and Sudden Shock. Swords to plowshares is definitely effective, but if you are worried about the tokens then it is best to not let it resolve in the first place if it can be avoided. I don't think many Gush decks use Mana Drain, so very efficient play and sequencing would be required to win. However, that is not a very predictable strategy because of the complexity of playing Gush optimally. Tinker and Sphinx of the Steel Wind are one of the best options, but Gush Decks are normally light on artifacts. Taking these things into consideration Balance and Supreme Verdict seem effective for controlling the board state. Balance seems more enticing using Young Pyromancer because it doesn't require as many lands to operate.

    Considering all of these factors I think that most decks effective answers for Mentor except the Mentor deck itself. This presents me with an interesting opportunity to test some of these theories. Young Pyromancer strategies are not going to be simple to play considering the prevalence of Oath of Druids decks at the moment. It looks like I've found my task for theday!



  • @fsecco
    Yeah, I think what cutlex meant to say is that trying to deal with mentor the card isn't the best way to go, but rather to attack the deck's inherent strategic weaknesses by either going over the top early or applying pressure on the gush mana base (which is largely backed up by metagame reactions) .

    The card itself is extremely hard to answer and the worst part is that even after all that hardwork, the mentor deck will hardly care that it lost one of its mentors (in most matchups), it will just draw more cards and control the game until it finds the next one.

    Countering still isn't really efficient as most lists only have force as a hardcounter(which is still a 1 for 2 albeit with a tempo upside). Mana drain is probably the best counter to answer mentor the card except for the part where mana drain decks usually crumble to the gush draw engine, and mana drain is only borderline playable at the moment with all the zero and one mana counters flying around.



  • Yes, the only real answer to Mentor is countering it. That means it surpasses a large number of cards on the restricted list in terms of power level.


  • TMD Supporter

    @vaughnbros said in Notes on the State of Vintage, Jan 2017:

    @themonadnomad Would be nice to have some cards that actually beat Mentor too. R&D is extremely unreliable for improving eternal formats though.

    I'm puzzled by your comment. One of the key points made in the article, and reiterated multiple times in this thread and elsewhere is that Walking Ballista is a card that is particularly good at combating Mentor, and it's something that R&D only just created and printed for us.

    More broadly, the suggestion that R&D hasn't provided tools for combating popular Vintage strategies is just not true. Fragmentize was just printed a few months ago.



  • The real answer to Monastery Mentor is winning the game. I think other people have already expressed a similar thought using different words.

    Is Mentor a great card? Yes. Is it insurmountable? No. I am sympathetic to arguments that Mentor reduces deck diversity because it is such an efficient win condition, but some people take it's "awesome powers" too far.

    Gush and cheap cantrips are what matters. One reason why Shops is so strong is in part because it is effective against Gush decks while the rest of the meta has to contend with Gush and Shops and then save a few slots for Dredge.

    The fact of the matter is that unless a deck becomes one full third of the meta, I don't think we can even begin to claim that it is overpowered. Monastery Mentor doesn't fit.

    What DOES fit (arguably) is Preordain, Gitaxian Probe and Gush. Three unrestricted nonland cards that are in more than 1/3 of the decks in the meta (not named Force, Misstep or Flusterstorm). They are a common "engine" across many blue decks, particularly Preordain and Gush.

    If Gush was restricted again, my perspective is that Shops would be a little less impressive because blue decks would start playing more lands again and rollover to tax effects less frequently. Some decks would go for heavy artifact draw spells (Thoughtcast, Thirst, PO), which would just make main-deck artifact hate MORE effective against two Tier 1 matchups.


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