Mentor Control

aka: Mentor, Jeskai, Pyromancer Control, Xerox


Monastery Mentor is one of the most versatile threats in vintage history. It's removal resistant, it can build up a team of Monks to act as blockers or get around your opponent's defenses. The same cards that synergize with the restricted Monastery Mentor can support a variety of other vintage-quality threats, making the deck tough and consistent, with or without a Mentor in play.

Mentor Control decks focus on efficiency, with cheap spells that make the most of your mana. They run a mix of the most cost-effective threats, draw spells, counters, and removal that their manabase has to offer.

Why play Mentor Control?

A Mentor Control deck effortlessly switch roles in a matchup. An early threat could let you play a tempo game, countering or removing one card a turn while your clock gets faster and faster. A cantrip and removal-heavy hand could let you build up resources into the late game, and play them in one big Mentor-growing flurry.

With a high cantrip count and low mana curve, Mentor Control is one of the most consistent decks in the format.

Why WOULDN'T you play Mentor Control?

Mentor is capable of some strong starts, but on average it has a much less threatening turn one than combo or Mishra's Workshop-based decks. There's just less raw power.

Most threats in a Mentor Control deck are creature-based, with summoning sickness. Without a Time Walk, a Monastery Mentor deck can't win in a one turn window. Usually that's not a huge problem, but in some matchups (Outcome, Dredge, Oath) that one turn delay can be problematic.

Notable Cards

Draw Spells

Almost all Mentor Control lists start with:

Cheap card filtering and draw spells are the backbone of the deck. Preordains don't inherently net card advantage, but they help you find your powerful, cheap draw spells and resolve them before your opponent resolves theirs. Combined with cheap counters and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or Snapcaster Mage to replay a restricted draw spell or two, a Mentor Control deck can often outdraw lists that run more raw card advantage spells, like Thirst for Knowledge.

Jeskai Mentor lists get to run Dack Fayen, which not only filters cards, it rapidly enables Dig through Time and Treasure Cruise. Using a Gush to return lands to your hand and discard them to Dack can take a player from behind on cards to ahead, very quickly.

In other builds, you might see Night's Whisper or Sylvan Library used to pull ahead. A Jace, the Mind Sculpter or two is not an uncommon site, either.


In addition to the restricted Monastery Mentor, some Mentor Control decks will run some number of Young Pyromancer to act as smaller, redundant versions of the namesake card. If a list runs more kill cards beyond that, they're usually something with some additional utility. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Snapcaster Mage are all common sights in Mentor lists, which can operate as backup win conditions if Monastery Mentor is somehow disabled.


Force of Will and Mental Misstep are must-haves. Not only are they generally strong cards, the ability to counter a spell the turn you tap out for a Monastery Mentor or Young Pyromancer is a powerful tempo swing.

From there, Mentor Control lists include a mix of the most efficient counters and removal they can support. Cheap answers like Pyroblast, Flusterstorm, Swords to Plowshares and Fragmentize are common. The exact mix of these cards tends to be metagame dependent, each shines against different decks.

Some lists opt to run specialized hate cards like Stony Silence, which a Mentor Control deck can play around more easily than their opponent.


Mentor Control decks run 20-23 mana sources. Black Lotus and any on-color Moxes are always used. From there, some lists will run Sol Ring and/or Mana Crypt, some will run the remaining off-color Moxes, some will run more lands. These are small tradeoffs in consistency and the ability to play Monastery Mentor or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy as soon as possible.

The lands are a mix of dual lands, fetchlands, and Basics, the exact count varying by the color makeup of the list. Often Mentor Control will run 2 or 3 lands that don't tap for blue mana, often some combination of Library of Alexandria, Strip Mine and Wasteland, or a non-Island basic or two.

Most Mentor Control decks are three colors, but two and four color variants aren't unheard of.


Jeskai Mentor: The most common list at this time. Leverages Young Pyromancer, Dack Fayden, Pyroblast, and red anti-artifact spells.
Esper Mentor: Similar in makeup to Jeskai Mentor, takes advantage of Night's Whisper and Demonic Tutor to churn through its deck more easily.
Sylvan Mentor: Splashes green, and sometimes a forth color. Runs Sylvan Library and often plays more expensive, endgame-focused spells.
RUG Pyromancer: Related deck that skips the Mentor altogether and takes advantage of red and green cards like Ancient Grudge

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last edited by Brass Man

Posting here to get the conversation started. Note that in the top-level post I tried to keep things as un-opinionated as possible - sticking to the well known information about the deck and matchups, and avoiding making any subjective claims that a subset of experienced players might object to.

For this post, on the other hand, I'm just laying out what I've seen in my own games

Here's the list I'm playing now.

I'm not running anything too atypical, but I don't know that I would consider this the stock list. I run a few more lands and fewer Moxes than what I usually see, as well as a bit more removal. I suspect this is why I'm happy with my Workshop matchup, despite hearing a lot of other players say they think the Workshop deck is supposed to win.

The Mystical Tutor is a late addition that I'm playing with, but haven't decided on yet. It's been alright so far.

Supreme Verdict is primarily for Mentor mirrors and nothing else. I don't love it but I haven't found anything I like more.

The Stony Silence are there for Outcome decks and Outcome decks alone. It's been solid, but I'd like to look into less specialized options. I'm curious about an Engineered Explosives plan, but that has pretty deep repercussions to the way I build the rest of the deck, and I haven't explored that yet.

last edited by Brass Man

I like that you can get away with building that list with almost 5 proxies if your really tried.
One question, why is Force of Will in with the mana?

For those looking for more variants, there are Planeswalker heavy builds a la Joe Brennan's version from 2016 NA Champs, which verges on Superfriends in terms of play style:

And there's Remora Mentor a la Kevin Cron (Cronestary Mentor):

As well as Paradoxical Mentor builds like this one:

I've been wondering about a Mentor variant that utilizes Baral to help position itself better within the metagame. Some Paradoxical Mentor lists have already adopted the tech, but is there a place for Baral in a more tempo oriented (Dack/Delve) build?

last edited by Guest

@john-cox said in Mentor Control:

One question, why is Force of Will in with the mana?

Oh, it's free and it counters spells they payed mana for so it's a tempo swing ....

(my mistake ... I fixed it 😄 )

@desolutionist said in Mentor Control:

I've been wondering about a Mentor variant that utilizes Baral to help position itself better within the metagame. Some Paradoxical Mentor lists have already adopted the tech, but is there a place for Baral in a more tempo oriented (Dack/Delve) build?

So I'm definitely not sure, I haven't tried it. My suspicion is that I don't want it. I have VERY few spells (4 total? 2 of which don't really count because they have Delve?) that have colorless in the cost, so it's not a cost reducer as much as it is a counter to Sphere of Resistance. Given that, I'd actually rather just have a removal spell ... another Fragmentize could kill Sphere, or kill a threat, and largely against shops lately I've been attacking their threats over their spheres. Baral is very cool, but I think the value proposition is different for this deck. .... not sure though!

@brass-man How have you been liking By Force in the board? I feel like it's a bit too costly with spheres out, and I didn't see many copies in the top 8 at NYSE (just two total IIRC).

By Force has been great for me. I don't know yet whether I prefer 2 or 3 copies in the sideboard, but I'm very happy with the card ... but my approach to Shops seems to be a little different than some.

I wouldn't want to run By Force unless I was totally sure I had:

  • a rock-solid manabase
  • enough cheap removal to survive long enough to develop my manabase

Postboard I'm running 19 lands (+5 artifacts) and 7 one-drop removal spells, which has been good for me. Typically I'm able to play a one-for-one By Force early, and get bigger value out of it in the late game.

I think if I were not already in a position to do that, I would run more lands or more 1-drop removal instead of By Force.

last edited by Brass Man

Monastary Mentor was restricted today, obviously requiring some pending edits to this topic. Removing from Decks-to-Beat for now.


Discussion about how this archetype will adapt given the changes is completely welcome.

To me the big question is, if you can't run enough mentors to be able to reliably find one quickly with velocity/ cantrips do you go with an inferior mentor (like pyromancer) or do you move away from velocity into an actual draw engine?

I think that's likely the big metagame defining question for blue.

Leading candidates for draw engine are paradox or gifts both of which have proven shells that have put up results. Remora is a slightly outside the box option that's allready been used some. As is standstill. And maybe something retro like intuition AK or FoF will come back, though I doubt it.

last edited by walking.dude

I wonder whether this will cause a fork from URW to URW and UBW. Red will continue to lean on the greatest thief in the multiverse, together with pyro. Black will move towards tutors and tendrils. Tinker is likely to re-emerge too.

Maybe it is not correct to still call it Mentor Control, but Jeskai or 4c builds that are based on cantrips, Delve-spells and Planeswalkers are still pretty strong, so I place my questions here.

Why do people not play the full set of moxen? The deck is loaded with spells which can profit from the extra mana (Vryn Prodigy, Snapcaster, all the Planeswalkers, the win conditions, the multi artifact removal you bring out of the board, the two mana Dredge hate ...). While watching streams with these kind of decks I noticed that people often draw many cards but are forced to discard at the end of turn instead of just casting the spells because they are missing the extra mana and tempo boost of extra Moxen. In my eyes, cutting the the off color Moxen only helps in the Xerox mirror (being either Delver or Control). With all Moxen you play 22 mana sources overall before boarding. That still leaves you in a favored position against other blue control decks like Grixis Thiefs or Oath that play two or three more mana sources. And against the rest of the relevant field (Shops, Dredge, Paradoxical, BUG) you even want to have the extra mana and tempo boost.

Why do people play four colors, in most cases UWRG? G is usually added to add Sylvan Library and Ancient Grudge. But this weakens the mana base a lot and Strip Mine (a nice tactical option) gets cut. Even though, both cards are great, I don't see the reason to add them as you have plenty alternatives in the Jeskai colors. For Sylvan Library you can play additional Vryns/Snapcaster/Merchant Scroll if you want. And it's not that this deck isn't already drawing lots of cards. And By Force is a powerful tool against Shops too. Even though Ancient Grudge is an Instant I am not sure if it is even better (you have to play twice for Sphere effects, you have to fetch for serval different Duals, you can't remove more than two artifacts). With just UWR you can play three different types of basics and give Shops a hard fight on that route.

Thanks in advance for some more information on these points!

last edited by Tom Bombadil

@tom-bombadil Pyroblasts are common and Sylvan Library is one of the best non-blue sources of card advantage. It's a very powerful card but you are right about how it taxes the manabase.

In UWR or UWRg mentor decks post restriction, many play a slower game now and use maindeck Stony Silence/Null Rod to protect Pyro/Mentor from Ballista as well as hose PO decks/Ravager, so they try to minimize artifact mana

Off colour moxen use to help power out a turn 1/2 mentor more often and could still trigger mentor&tokens later in the game. Now it is just a dead draw lategame even with Pyro in play

By Force is indeed great against shops, but drawing multiples can be awkward, and in decks with multiple Dack/JVP, Ancient Grudge is also a source of card advantage

@tom-bombadil said in Mentor Control:

Maybe it is not correct to still call it Mentor Control, but Jeskai or 4c builds that are based on cantrips, Delve-spells and Planeswalkers are still pretty strong, so I place my questions here.

Why do people not play the full set of moxen?

My Gush book answers this in far more detail 🙂 , but...

In general, the "Xerox" decks that preceded Mentor rarely played full complements of Moxen, and usually stuck to on-color Moxen, and often omitted even tertiary on-color Moxen. The main reason is that these decks gain virtual card advantage by having a much lighter relative mana base than their competitors in the field. So, they prune mana for spell density. They compensate for this by having a much lower overall mana curve, which bends low or flat in the upper end, and rarely include cards that cost more than 3 mana.

Take a look, for example, at the UR Delver decks that were doing well in the summer of 2014. Those decks, even if they splashed green, often just ran Sapphire & Ruby. But, even if you go back further, and look at GroAtog decks from 2003 or 2007-8, they rarely ran full sets of Moxen.

The reason that I started playing full Moxen (and my list from the NYSE V this past summer is a case in point) was specifically because of Mentor. It turns out that Moxen were valuable to helping accelerate out a more expensive growing threat like Mentor (most "Grow" or "Xerox" threats in the history of the format were no more than 2 mana - Delver, Pyromancer, Dryad, etc. are all 1-2 mana (I have a whole table of such cards in my Gush book)). Mentor, being 3 mana, is challenge to the Xerox/Grow archetype, because it often means you need/want more colorless acceleration to both play your threat and then have a mana up to protect it with Spell Pierce/Flusterstorm/Pyroblast. Secondarily, but no less important, the virtual card advantage downside of drawing dead Moxen was mitigated by the fact that a Mox pumped Mentor and generated new tokens.

Very few of the Pyromancer/Delver decks from 2013 on generally played JTMS, either, which would also incentivize you to play full Moxen. Without full Moxen, it's hard to reliable Gush into JTMS on turn 3. So, the exception to playing full Moxen or more artifact acceleration in Gush decks that used lots of cantrips were decks like East Coast Wins from the summer of 2011, which were essentially just big mana blue decks with Gush. But, historically, most Vintage Gush decks in the Xerox mold do not run off color Moxen. There are exceptions, of course, but that's not the norm.

Another, third related reason, is that, at least since 2003, alot of "Xerox" decks will play Null Rod or Null Rod variants. Thus, running more Moxen makes Null Rod less asymmetrical. Contemporary Delver, for example, often has 2-3 Null Rods in the 75 somewhere.

last edited by Smmenen

In the actual meta (see the last vintage challenge) it could make sense to maindeck Containment Priests. Dredge and Oath are stronger than ever and the Ambush Viper mode of the Priests make them even usefull in almost any matchup but Storm and Paradoxical.

last edited by Tom Bombadil
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