1st at Top Deck Games Vintage 1k w/ Jeskai Mentor

A couple weeks leading to the event I played Jeskai Mentor using Oliver Tiu’s maindeck from the Vintage Super League. I played the mirror online with Steve Nowakowski and a couple matches in the tournament practice room. These went well enough that I was locked in with a list for the event. The restrictions on 4/24 changed this and it was time to find another deck or options to fill the slots left by 2 Gush and 3 Gitaxian Probe. Steve and I discussed Sylvan Mentor as an option as that would help with an alternative draw engine but he was seeing some inconsistencies while goldfishing.

We heard that Menendian 4-0d a daily with Jeskai Mentor and I was sold on sticking with the archetype. I reviewed his list and liked adding the 4th Mox and 4th Mentor but wasn’t a fan of the 2 Flusterstorms. I still wanted to respect the Shops matchup and thought my matchup against blue decks should be reasonable.

Jeskai Mentor
4 Flooded Strand
3 Scalding Tarn
3 Tundra
2 Volcanic Island
2 Island
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Strip Mine
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Jet

1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Jace Vryn's Prodigy
4 Monastery Mentor

2 Dack Fayden

4 Force of Will
4 Mental Misstep
1 Gush
1 Gitaxian Probe
1 Brainstorm
1 Ponder
4 Preordain
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Mystical Tutor
2 Pyroblast
1 Spell Pierce
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Stony Silence
1 Time Walk
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Dig Through Time

2 Pyroblast
2 Disenchant
2 Fragmentize
1 Balance
1 Plains
1 Stony Silence
1 Rest in Peace
3 Grafdiggers Cage
2 Containment Priest

Round 1 - Jeskai Landstill
My opponent led with Tundra and Volcanic but no cantrips so I thought I was in for a mirror or potentially Landstill/Control. A turn 3 Standstill landed but my opponent missed a couple land drops while I was still making mine. On his turn 4 he attacked with a Factory and on EOT I killed it with a Swords drawing him to 9 cards. This was nice as I was able to get value out a mediocre card and mitigate some value from the Standstill. On my turn 4 I played a Dack Fayden fully expecting it to get countered by Force of Will but when it did it would give me the 7th card in the graveyard for a Treasure Cruise in hand. Surprisingly it resolved then was joined by Treasure Cruise. He did manage to find another Standstill but with my card selection and card advantage from Cruise I was able to grind out a long game eventually with Mentor and friends.

-1 Stony Silence -3 Swords -1 Mystical Tutor
+2 Pyroblast +2 Disenchant +1 Plains

I was a bit unsure how my Pyroblast to bring in as with only 2 Volcanics he could cut me off red entirely via Wasteland but thought the upside of stopping Landstills was enough. The Disenchant was primarily for Moat and Crucible if he had them. Game 2 went very long with me almost decking via an unanswered Dack. I knew my opponent had a Swords to Plowshares and 2 Supreme Verdict so I needed to pace my threats with this removal in mind. The first Verdict was expended killing 3 tokens made from Mentor #1 and Verdict #2 killed Mentor #2. The 3rd Mentor did the trick after a Time Walk and a flurry of spells.

Round 2 – Paradoxical Outcome
I have hand which is high in disruption but light on cantrips. A turn 2/3 Mentor came down and I got to see his hand of 2 Paradoxical Outcome and some Thoughtcasts via Probe. I counter the first Thoguthcast with Spell Pierce to start applying more pressure and because he was getting closer to 6 mana to pay for it on the Outcomes. The 2nd Thoughtcast I let resolve saving counters for the real battle ahead. On turn 4 he goes to cast the first Outcome which I REB he Force of Wills back pitching Mind’s Desire leaving the last card as Outcome. I can Force pitching either Force or Ponder. If my Ponder + draw step draw 2 spells (need 3 spells total) then I can kill him but otherwise I’m in a bad spot with Outcome bouncing around 5 targets. I decided to keep the FoW because I had 4 mana already so any mana source or blue card would have the Force be active. I drew a Pryoblast which is neither a land or blue but did the trick to seal game 1.

-3 Swords
+2 Pyroblast +1 Stony Silence

I mulligan to 6 this game and keep a risky but powerful hand of Strip Mine, Misstep, Ponder, Pyroblast, Mentor, Force of Will. I scry bottom after the mulligan and he leads with Underground Sea -> Voltaic Key which I decline to counter. My draw fails to yield a land and things are looking grim, I use the Strip Mine hoping to buy time. On turn 2 he went for a Preordain off of Tolarian Academy which I decided to counter. I took him playing Academy as a sign of weakness as I think he would want to slowplay it to hide a sneaky Outcome so I put him on no other lands incentivizing countering the cantrip. I topdeck a fetch->Volcanic and fire off the Ponder seeing Black Lotus, Misstep, and something bad. I draw the Lotus and play Mentor. After another turn cycle he plays a Mystic Remora but the only land is still Academy, if he doesn’t have any fast mana then I don’t want to counter but each Mox counts as 2 mana sources so I make the safe play and counter it with Misstep. I don’t remember the exact end game sequence but I drew into a Mox to make a 2nd token and attack for some damage. On 8 life facing down Mentor and 3 tokens he plays Time Vault with a blue floating. I Force the Time Vault and he Flusterstorms back so my Pyroblast is not good enough. Luckily for me and doesn’t have another mana source and I can attack for lethal next turn, was planning to Pyroblast but Scroll->Gush was on top.

Round 3 – Dredge
I have what is a solid hand against most decks in the format but Turn 1 Bazaar of Baghdad informs me otherwise. A turn 2 Bazaar also shows up, my hand is stripped shortly after and then dead on turn 3. Would rather lose to a nut draw game 1 where I’m 5-10% to win.

-2 Pyroblast -3 Swords -1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage +2 Containment Priest +1 Rest in Peace

I have a nice hand with Lotus, Snapcaster Mage, Jace Vryn’s, Probe, and Grafdigger’s Cage. It was funny drawing my two graveyard centric cards but luckily I could get value from Snap before the Cage came down. I played Probe -> Snap Probe drawing a Mox along the way to get Jace and Grafdigger’s Cage down. I haven’t played much Vintage and thought I was safe with Cage protected with a couple Missteps to stop Therpay/Nature’s Claim but the Cage was answered a few turns later by Abrupt Decay. Luckily for me my opponents’ dredges weren’t superb and the planewalker half of Jace Vryn’s combined with Snap managed the board of Bloodghast and a few tokens while Containment Priest handled the yard. I don’t remember much after this point but believe Dig Through Time into sweet cards was involved.

Before Game 3 I sided in a Fragmentize due to seeing 2 Serenity. This game I have a hand without any hate but it has Mox Sapphire, Brainstorm, Fetch, Ponder, Preordain, Force of Will to dig into hate. Ancestral Recall was the draw step which drew into Lotus and other good cards but no hate cards. I then crack the Lotus for blue casting Brainstorm but still no hate found, I crack the fetch and cast Preordain bottoming both, finally the Ponder yields a Grafdigger’s Cage. With drawing so many cards on turn 2 I Mystical -> Treasure Cruise and can easily cast it hoping to draw more hate. Another cantrip finds a Containment Priest but it will need to wait a turn. Eventually Mentor and a surplus of other hate cards got there.

With only having 30 players I was able to draw rounds 4/5 into 5th place. I could have tried to play round 5 for seeding but it was against Mentor expert Joe Brennan and I didn’t want to take the small risk of missing on 3-1-1 if I loss.

Quarter Finals – Smokestack Shops
I was in 5th place after the final Swiss standings and would be on the draw against Shops. I knew he was on Workshops but didn’t know the exact version. He kept on 7 while I mulliganed to an unexciting 6 which had Library. He played a Mox and then Workshop->Trinisphere and I can Force it pitching a Gitaxian probe leaving a hand with a Mox and 3 lands or let it resolve to get Library active. Due to having Library and many lands I thought I had a better chance win by fading a Waste/Strip and getting Library online. The library was quickly Wastelanded and then Smokestack showed up. I declined to play a land after the Smokestack hoping he would not draw Crucible but the deck is all permanents so can easily feed a Smokestack @1 until Crucible arrives.

-2 Pyroblast -4 Mental Misstep -1 Stony Silence
+2 Fragmentize +2 Disenchant +1 Plains +2 Containment Priest

Boarding in Containment Priest as an Ambush Viper is funny but correct. Against a more traditional Shop Aggro deck you get to bring in Balance and 2nd Stony Silence but here both are bad as Stax plays Null Rod and only 5 creatures.

In game 2 I’m able to get down an early Mentor but it was then met by a Tabernacle and Tangle Wire which slowed down my development. Eventually I was able to start fighting through his denial by poking with just Mentor then Mentor and token until he finally ran out of steam. Between Resistors and Tabernacle I was constantly constrained to playing 0-1 spell a turn and deciding how many creatures to keep. He went for a desperation Ensaring Bridge but I had a Force of Will and we were on to game 3.

For game 3 he has a turn 1 Resistor while I have a couple of Moxes and Force of Will. Early on he plays a Crucible which I decline to counter saving it for something more impactful. This works out as he has another Crucibles. I’m developing my game with some expensive cantrips while leaving up 1 mana for Force. I get a Mentor in play off a Tundra which doesn’t last long but can’t attack profitably into his Factory. He casts a Trinisphere but with already having 1 Resistor in play I decline to counter, I’m not sure about this choice but I generally err on the side of not countering resistors but maybe should treat 3sphere differently. Next comes a Revoker which is a big play, my only mana is 2 Moxes and an Island so if I let it resolve then I can’t cast any spells. I don’t want to burn Force on it though as my hand has a Swords and his deck has very few targets. This was flawed logic for multiple reasons, 1 I want to use Swords on the Factory which is stopping me from attacking and with having a Disenchant in hand I can still answer any problem permanent he plays.

I keep finding Scalding Tarns and natural Tundras but they are just Lotus Petals in face of Crucible/Waste. Eventually I draw a Treasure Cruise which you can cast for just U against Trinisphere which I found surprising. This let me find a Flooded Strand into a glorious Plains and from there I had too many cards and solid mana which translated into a win.

Semi-Finals - Dredge (same opponent as R3)
Game 1 was very reminiscent of our round 3 match including 2x Bazaars on his side.

-2 Pyroblast -3 Swords -1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy -1 Mental Misstep
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage +2 Containment Priest +1 Rest in Peace +1 Fragmentize

It’s possible you also want to board in Balance against Dredge but I didn’t like the idea of needing to lose a large chunk of my hand in order to kill some creatures made through hate pieces.

Game 2 we both mulligan and my hand is very mediocre but has a Grafdigger’s Cage. I play a Mox and the cage with 3 lands and a Swords in hand. A turn 2 Unmask reveals my unexciting hand but he has Bazaard twice and is low on cards. Due to most answers costing 2 mana I felt a little safer. We both draw go for a few turns with me not drawing anything but mana and finally seeing a Dig Through Time but nothing graveyard except 1 Fetch and the Swords. An Abrupt Decay hits my Cage and he has a turn to do some work but only manages a few tokens, he decides to Evoke Ignot Chewer targeting a Mox stacking the kill artifact then die part and using Bazaar after my Mox has died but only has 1 Bridge. My Dig Through Time finds a Containment Priest and Jace Vryn’s Prodigy which are enough to stabilize and win.

I don’t remember game 3 as all these post-board Dredge matches start to blend together.

Finals – Aggro Shops
Once again I’m on the draw against Shops but this time the aggro variety. Not sure which build is harder for me but at least my Swords will be live and a more relevant sideboard. I mulligan game 1 but my 6 card hand is great with 2 lands, Mox Sapphire, Ancestral Recall, and Mentor. When deciding to keep his opening 7 he deliberated for a long time and I can understand why. He began with Lotus->Ravager then Wasteland->Sphere. This is a powerful start but if he doesn’t have any double mana lands then it could spell trouble. I played the Sapphire and passed, on his turn he played Ancient Tomb into Thorn. Seeing the Ancient Tomb was rough as I was hoping to get a reprieve on threats. I played a land a passed the turn. I kept getting poked by the Ravager while he played a Factory and Ballista @ 1.

An EOT Recall now gave me a wealth of options including more lands, Time Walk and Gush. I could tap out and play Mentor into his 3 mana but if he drew any non-Workshop land he could just kill the Mentor with Ballista. Additionally I have a Force of Will in hand that I would like to keep up. I play the Time Walk and then cast Mentor with an Island up. I make a comment about hoping he doesn’t draw a land because I want him to try and kill my Mentor as I will Gush in response. He draws a Workshop and then casts Skysovereign which I didn’t expect to see in Vintage. I counter it with Force of Will and then my opponent sacs his Mox and Thorn to Ravager shifting the counters to Ballista to make it a 4/4 and removed 3 counters to kill Mentor. I don’t think he realized that he could respond to the Prowess trigger and kill it when it was still a 2/2. This is extremely relevant as operating through a single resistor is nothing. From here my opponent is out of resources and I’m able to eventually win.

-2 Pyroblast -4 Mental Misstep -1 Mystical Tutor
+2 Fragmentize +2 Disenchant +1 Plains +1 Balance +1 Stony Silence

Game 2 is one of those games where every turn you feel like you’re about the turn the corner and stabilize but they keep having the Sphere or Tangle Wire to maintain the advantage. I have a Mentor in hand but only a single white source. If I can topdeck a white mana source then I can play Mentor -> Swords on Ravager while he is tapped out but my life is very low from 2 Factories and the Ravager. I brick on white mana and instead have Mentor -> Ponder but I’m dead on board from modular shift onto the unblocked Factory. He plays Skysovereign killing Mentor and swinging with 1 Factory + Ravager but I was dead regardless.

For game 3 I keep a 7 which has two Moxes, Library, Land, Mentor, Swords, and Preordain. I’m feeling golden as aside from a turn 1 Ballista@2 I have most my bases covered with removal, cantrip and Moxes to blank resistors. Instead he plays Ancient Tomb -> Dismember and a Mox for a Resistor. I tap out for a Dack Fayden and can either steal the Mox to shut down his mana development and build mine or maintain a higher loyalty. I decide to steal the Mox but this backfires as he has Wasteland -> Ratchet Bomb and blows it up immediately. Now I lost my 2 Moxes and the stolen one and down to a single loyalty on Dack. The upside of this is I have a Dig Through Time in hand so whether my Moxes are in play or in the graveyard they are still generating mana. I loot with the Dack up to 2 loyalty while my opponent taps out for Ravager. I Dig EOT and find a Jace Vryn’s and Disenchant. I decide to kill my Dack taking Ravager as he had nowhere to shift the counters. The game goes on for a while and I’m able to whittle away my opponent’s threats with combination Disenchant, Fragmentize and Swords. During this time he was able to get a Chalice @ 1 in play but luckily I have 2 Disenchant in my sideboard and drew one so was able to flash it back with Jace. The game went on much longer but I had control with active Library vs him drawing off the top.

From the list I played I liked running 4 Moxes and 4 Mentor but some of the supporting cast could use work. Merchant Scroll was great but Stony Silence and Mystical Tutor were both poor. The Spell Pierce was serviceable but nothing more. If I was to play the deck again I would experiment with the 5th Mox or Sol Ring and try to get a Jace, the Mind Sculptor back in the deck. I was afraid by adding the 4th Mentor the deck could not support too many expensive spells but adding an additional mana source should make it work.

Great report, just like old times! Thanks!

Nice work Jeff! Glad to see you back in action!

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