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Esper Mentor in Vintage

I spent the first half of last week wishing for death with one of the most miserable flus I’ve ever experienced, but all’s well that ends well because I got to play paper Vintage on Sunday afternoon. Start the week with the flu and end it with some IRL Vintage: par for the course.

It’s even better when I run the table and go undefeated with a sweet new brew!

Back to Blue/Black

Over the past few years I’ve spent the lion’s share of my time playing other formats but I have always been, and still remain, a Vintage fanatic at heart. When I got a Facebook update that my LGS was holding an unlimited proxy Vintage event, I knew it was time to shake off the rust and put the reps in.

I haven’t actually gotten a chance to play a Vintage tournament since I ended 9th (daggers) at The Vintage Championship at Eternal Weekend last year, but I do follow along with online trends, VSL, and chat regularly about the format with my old Meandeck pal Paul Mastriano.

Luckily for me, Paul had a brew that he was ready to put into action. He actually got a chance to play the Esper Mentor list on Saturday and made Top 8 of a tournament out east. I made a few small tweaks to the list based on the feedback that he gave me about his event and decided to give it a go.

When Paul sent me the initial list, I was very excited to play the deck because it had all of the hallmarks of exactly the type of deck that the two of us gravitate toward: busted UB Yawgmoth’s Will decks!

Esper Mentor

1st RIW Hobbies Vintage Tournament

Not only did I get to “get my Vintage on” but I got to do it with all the sweet cards that I love to play!

For a small local tournament I played some pretty stiff competition. I had to battle through Ben Perry and Kevin Cron, both of whom are very well known players in the Vintage community.

UB Aggressive, UB, UB Aggressive

The thing I love about the list is that it is not only full of powerful cards but also full of lots of proactive cards that get you ahead and absolutely sink your opponent’s battleship.

Monastery Mentor is the premier victory condition in Vintage right now. The card is as if Psychatog and Tendrils of Agony had a love child and the result was some bizarre mutant Quirion Dryad that makes more Quirion Dryads.

The absurd thing about the card is that it if it lives for any amount of time longer than a split second (Sudden Shock) the things that you would typically be doing anyway like drawing cards, countering spells, and playing Moxen all just kill your opponent in a turn and a half.

Just one Top and a Mentor kill your opponent very quickly. One mistake I see people make is that they don’t put their Top on top of their deck every upkeep when it is relatively safe. You get to re-draw Sensei’s Top during your draw step and when you recast it during your first main phase it provides you, 1: get a 1/1 prowess and +1/+1 to all your creatures until end of turn. Easily worth one mana every turn.

The deck also packs the take-all-the-turns combo.

And plenty of card selection and tutors to find it in a pinch. I don’t think you need too much explanation as to why this is good, although I will note that lots of people had tons of Bolts and Swords to Plowshares to fight my Mentors but had a hard time interacting with my Key + Vault.

Tinker is a great card. It can find the “other half” of the Time Vault combo but is also amazing at finding a gigantic robot to cheat into play. I decided to play Sphinx of the Steel Wind at Paul’s suggestion. Blightsteel Colossus, Memory Jar, or Inkwell Leviathan are also worth considering. Each one has an upside against specific sets of cards.

Another underrated Vintage card that really stood out for me were the 3 copies of Mystic Remora. Most Vintage decks are more than 50% noncreature spells (including lands!) and so punishing people for trying to cast spells is pretty great. Moxen make up a considerable portion of most mana bases—in some cases, the opponent won’t even be able to play their mana sources!

I’ve played with Remora many times before and so I’m not blown away by how insane the card is, but I will say that it seemed extremely well positioned in a world where people are trying to “out-Mentor” each other, Storm off, etc.

The rest of the deck is rounded out with 1-mana or free countermagic that is great at disrupting the opponent’s spells but most importantly protecting our threats.

And, all the best card drawing available.

A Final Tune-Up

I’m not 100% sold on whether the Tinker and Key + Vault stuff is 100% necessary. The only real way to find out would be to play tons of games against lots of different decks to determine whether those four spots were worth it.

I think there is also a case to be made for going heavier on the Mentor angle (which is by far the deck’s most effective one).

Here’s a version that drops the Key + Vault combo.

Esper Mentor

Whether you choose to go with the more restricted “fun” cards version or the more streamlined “Mentor-centric” one, the deck looks pretty great.

It was great to get a chance to sling some Vintage and the experience was doubly awesome because I had a pretty sweet deck to play! I’m already looking forward to some of the bigger spring and summer Vintage events on the horizon. Regardless of when or where I get a chance to play Vintage next, one thing is for certain: there is a very good chance that I’ll be playing Mentor.

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