hehe, great minds think alike they say! I brewed the deck on Friday 9th 11pm Australia time ready for my 7am flight. It seems that you created this thread on 10th June 4:09am! Looking back through my Internet history, it seems that I was mostly looking at these 2 lists for some inspiration:
With this in mind, the week leading to our Eternal WE, I was brewing many janky brews running things like: 4 PO + 4 Trinket Mage + 4 Drain + 4 Devastation Tides... VClique, Snappies, Remoras, Ballistas, Hangarback...
Ballista was definitely tested in most of my brews. I only played a few tiny sample size games against my mate and it was not working greatly for me. Too often Ballista felt no good on its own. Sure, Mana Drain + Ballista play felt great but most of the time, the card was stuck in my hand and I was never fetching it with Trinket Mage: Lotus, Sensei or Sapphire were always the first targets.
Don't get me wrong, I feel like Ballista serve the same role than Pyrite Spellbomb but with some extra flexibility as Mana Drain sink which seems fantastic. I still favoured Spellbomb instead as I wanted to be able to get rid of an early Mentor. Remember, on the night, I was only able to find space for 2 Swords so I think this really pushed me toward Spellbomb instead of Ballista.
Sure Spellbomb can also draw your whole deck as well and Ballista doesn't but you can do the same with Sensei + EE anyways (or just PO). So I don't think this was really a consideration. Killing an early Mentor was the main reason.
Clearly, I think that the 2nd Auriok can easily be the 4th Mentor. I'm struggling against aggro and let's be honest, Salvager is often one of the first card (or two) to get sided out. I'm counting on my opponent to side in Stony Silence & Rod effects so I'm generally thinning down on the combo pieces. Last, against the PO decks or Aggro/Sphere, Bomberman combo feels way too slow.
I can remember 2 games where I won out of nowhere with Bomberman combo. One was on stream here: my opp had an early Mentor + Tokens on the board. The 2nd time was game1 against PO deck. I was dead on board and I Dug Through Time into my combo! So the combo is there, I feel it is as important as Esper Mentor running Tendrils of Agony + Yawg's Will. It gives you some easy games, you need some amount of plan B. I believe some call it "Oops I win", it is very important in Vintage.
I think you are bang on about Pithing Needle. I simply love the card myself and always run one in Vintage. (I'm infamous for simply naming random fetch T1!).
Skullclamp shoud go, we all agree. I just don't get to play often Vintage so when I do, I make sure I play cool cards & random techs.
About the 3 Trinket Mages, again I brewed some stuff with 4, then 3, then 2. 2 ran very ok for me on the day. I think it was competing too much with the Mentors curve and I just thought 3 Mentors would be more relevant more often.
I'm really not sure 4 POs is correct in that deck and meta. Thirst was so smooth that I rediscovered a new love playing it again last week-end. PO was great each time I drew it (again see stream here), so I could probably see myself pushing up to 3Thirst + 3POs but then I have to cut something and note that I'm already not running Brainstorm, Ponder or Cruise... Saying that, I think 2nd Dack would be my first preference over the 3rd PO.
Flusterstorm, I had so many good experiences across a wide variety of match-ups with Trap that I really wanted to swing 2 in that deck. I wanted to limit my dead cards against MUD & Eldrazi without compromising PO so Trap had to stay (over Flusterstorm). It could be a one-off no doubt but if I do, I think I would first put another Sword instead of a one-off Fluster. After side, thanks to the 2 Remora, I think that it was completely justified to jam in a lone Fluster in my SB.
Regarding By Force or Grudge, I lost Game2 against Ballista MUD with an opening hand Hurkyl's that I was never able to cast. That's why at the moment, I believe that 1 more STP needs to be moved into the main and probably replaced with 1 Fragmentize (or 2) in the SB.
The real problem in fact is Eldrazi. By Force or Grudge (or Fragmentize) are excellent (I'll just have to boost my red mana, currently only 1 Volcanic) BUT the key problem is that they don't solve Eldrazi at all. You want something that deals with both, I think that Snuff Out, Dismember, Swords are where you want to be until a Mentor can chump for the rest of the day.