Discussing Gush Mentor (beating it, restriction discussion, anything)

With the results of the April 2016 P9 Challenge posted, we can see that people's fears of a possible Gush-dominated format in the wake of Lodestone Golem's restriction appear to be very well founded. Of the 60 players in the event, 27 of them played Gush decks (not counting combo variants of Gush), which is 45.8% of the field. Of these 27 Gush players, 25 of them were Mentor variants. This level of dominance rivals Thirst for Knowledge decks in 2009.

It will take time to see whether Gush will keep up these results, but I find it prudent to focus the community's attention on what exactly should be done in this world of Mentor. This thread is the place to discuss how to metagame against Gush Mentor, what decks to play, what decks to avoid, whether restriction is warranted, and restriction discussions relevant to the deck.

I'll kick things off with my view on Mentor. I would like to see Mentor itself restricted. I see Monastery Mentor as the most problematic card in the deck, and it's far too powerful for an unrestricted card. The problem with Mentor is that it's a moderately cheap threat that simultaneously destroys the opponent very quickly when it gets going, while also generating card advantage. The main kicker is that it's so incredibly difficult to answer the card efficiently.

Vintage is a format full of broken cards, but thanks to Magic's wide card pool, there are efficient ways to answer the most broken finishers. Historic dominant cards such as Tinker and Yawgmoth's Will will win a game, but they each have answers that can completely and utterly shut them down. Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus getting Plowed is a hugely punishing play for the Tinker player, as he lost two mana and -1 card in the exchange. These powerful cards require finesse to use correctly because you will be heavily punished if things don't quite work out.

On the other hand, Monastery Mentor has almost no efficient answers whatsoever. First of all, we're in a world where the most commonly played Counters aside from Force of Will are Mental Misstep and Flusterstorm, both of which do not hit Mentor. Single target removal such as Plow will usually leave behind 1 or more Monk tokens, which means that Mentor is a game-ending threat that beats single target removal. Sweepers are required to clean up the Mentor completely, but are only capable of 1-for-1 against Mentor, in general, no matter how many Monks are cleaned up.

Sweepers inherently cost a lot of mana. The cheapest sweeper that can guarantee an answer to Mentor is Toxic Deluge, but it costs as much as the Mentor itself. Let's consider what this means: a Mentor player can casually throw out his game-ending threat into an opponent who has the 'perfect answer', and he doesn't get punished whatsoever. Both players remain at card parity and mana parity. This is in stark contrast to a card like Tinker that requires careful maneuvering to finish a game while avoiding heavy, heavy punishment for failure. Balance is the only card that I can think of that really well and truly destroys the mentor AND generates mana advantage, but it's restricted, and also a lot more conditional in that it can be very poor in many board states.

Cards like Dread of Night are proactive ways to slow down a Mentor, but using them is incredibly risky, as they don't do anything by themselves. Keep in mind that a Mentor deck is not one-dimensional. Mentor isn't the only card in the deck. They still have the Gush engine and Blue cards. You're playing an enchantment that doesn't do anything against a player who can easily outdraw you and win through attrition.

Given how powerful Mentor is as a game-finisher and the lack of real answers to it, I believe that it is far too powerful for an unrestricted card, and the dominance of Gush Mentor in the Lodestone restricted world proves to me that restriction is probably a necessary action. I understand that there are many people who generally disapprove of restricting creatures because "come on, it's Vintage, creatures are a joke in Vintage," but if you believe that, then I would encourage you to take a second look at the world we live in. Creatures aren't the joke that they used to be.

last edited by DeaTh-ShiNoBi

Very good write up and discussion. I also think Mentor is to powerful to not be restricted. The answers to Mentor have minimal impact as where vs Shops (when Lodestone was not restricted) 1 Pulverize could destroy the entire Shops gameplan. Where Dread of Night/Illness in the Ranks can be answered by Misstep, bounced with Repeal and have no impact on the rest of Mentors gameplan. I dont think Gush should be the target of the restriction, it should be Mentor.

Also, lets say we restrict Mentor, does this just open the door for Pyromancer to be too powerful? I actually dont think so. The card relys ONLY on Instants and Sorcery spells. Mentor gains value off of every spell in the deck besides lands with pumping itself and generating other creatures so the card advantage is not equivalent from Pyromancer to Mentor.

What I could see happening with Mentor restriction would be a solid meta of...

Shops (making a comeback)
Pyromancer/Delver (Delver could be playable again)
Big U decks

All of these decks play very well off of each other. It has diversity and your SBs can be evened out in a great way to strategize against the field.

Doesn't that look more healthy than MENTOR.FORMAT? I dont know, maybe its just me.

Lost in the Monastery

1W Enchantment.
Whenever a token creature enters the battlefield, you may exile target creature an opponent controls, then return it to the battlefield

Flavor text: Take this you little bald bastards.

(They just printed Mentor, they should just print something that shuts it down. It's really just a new way to make geometricly increasing damage over multiple turns... just print an answer for that sort of damage... my opinion)

Well, I do agree is is quite a hard card to deal with, but I'm not sure that it (or Golem) should have been restricted. It's no Ali from Cairo after all.

It is entirely possible to take out a Mentor with Sudden Shock, but most of the time the problem is that answering a Mentor often leaves behind value. I don't know about any of you, but I have won several games with just a single Monk token, Prowess is no joke. Still, I don't like restricting the card as I feel it sets (continues) a bad precedent.

It's not Mentor.format, it's that Mentor is far and away the best blue deck since Mentor is everything Tinker ever wanted to be and more. That's not the sky falling, though.

Mentor isn't even the best deck right now, it's just popular and easy to play well. Vintage is historically tilted because of card accessibility issues. Not everyone has the ability to build every deck that might reasonably top 8. How many people have 4 Chains of Mephistopheles for example? The card isn't even trivial to track down at a reasonable price.

Even if Grixis Goblins were quietly the best deck in the format (and I'm not saying it is), that doesn't mean anybody would know or play it because card availability issues create a lot of archetype momentum that slows the format's evolution.

@AmbivalentDuck If mentor is not the best deck, what exactly is?

You know... another thing we might be seeing here, is the result not of Lodestone's restriction, but of that of the Chalice. These Mentor lists run huge amount of zero, and one casting cost spells. A format where Chalice was unrestricted would make many of these uber-fast cantriping decks extremely dangerous to play, and force them to carry more removal. As it is, one sees that many of these decks just skimp on removal, knowing that with the unchecked cantripping, they'll run into what they need eventually.

@AmbivalentDuck not Mentor.format?... have you seen recent results?
I am clearly exaggerating, but this is a pretty big issue. This is not the first convo about Mentor being a huge problem. This shouldnt be a surprise

last edited by i_b_TRUE

@AmbivalentDuck I don't think tracking down copies of Chains of Mephistopheles has much bearing when we are talking about MODO. People could have played that card in the P9 challenge if they wanted to. You are wrongly attributing card availability problems of a non-proxy paper environment to MODO where this does not exist.

Mentor is insane, but let's not forget the engine behind this deck, Gush. It's very easy to look at the power of a deck's finisher, but often it's the engine that makes this finisher possible.

I have often said that the best way to beat Mentor is to ignore the battlefield and go above it, which is to say, play combo. However, the Gush engine being what it is makes it possible to construct a deck that is favoured against these combo decks. Defense Grid is certainly an all-star, but what other tools do we have?

last edited by Hrishi

You know, there were only 4 Shop players in this event. Shops could have been more of a force if people actually wanted to play the deck. I never play Shops -- even when it was the "best" deck. I also didn't play in the tournament, like a number of other people. So I just wouldn't read too deep into these results.

@Hrishi Chains of Mephistopheles. The card is an absolutely house.

Has anyone else even tested the Grixis Goblins vs Mentor matchup? I want to stress that I'm NOT saying that Grixis Goblins is the new best deck. What I'm saying is that there's probably a Grixis, Sultai, or 5C deck that shreds the meta by using Chains and not needing the card draw itself. Is it 5C Shops? I wouldn't be surprised. The only thing I'm sure of is that people are too caught up on how "good" drawing cards has become and they aren't paying attention to all the options for punishing decks that commit heavily to card draw.

@AmbivalentDuck You actually picked the wrong person to talk about Chains! My friends make fun of me because I have a specific fascination for Legends and I've tried to put all the world enchantments into one of my decks at any given point. I've tried to use Chains in many shells and if anybody's tried to make the card work, I have.

Yes, Chains is good. But you are underplaying how good drawing cards is and it's necessary to give up that ability to utilize Chains effectively.

Drawing cards isn't unambiguously better than tutoring. The Goblins example comes from running Demonic Tutor, Consultation, Vampiric, and 4 Matrons. There are other tutoring based strategies such as Lands, Tez, and Humans. What sets Mentor apart is that it absolutely has to chain draw spells. There's no practical alternative. Taxing that or aiming at Mentor itself don't work. Take away the engine, though...

@Hrishi I used to believe this same thing... and in fact I think this is true, or at least it used to be. Drawing cards is better than stopping your opponent from drawing cards... but do you really have to give it up? (There are some new cards that synergize very well with Chains, and some old ones... Dack, Dark Confidant, Prophetic Flamespeaker... and the black tutors)

This is what I've been working on today... It beats Sylvan Mentor pretty good, if anyone's interested.

(A deck that beats Gush/Mentor, by Bill Trenary)
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
2 Bayou
2 Badlands
1 Underground Sea
1 Island
1 Swamp
3 Cavern of Souls
3 Wasteland
1 Stripmine
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Emerald
1 Black Lotus

4 Abrupt Decay
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Magus of the Moon
3 Chains of Mephistopheles
4 Dark Confidant
3 Gitaxian Probe
1 Dack Fayden
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Duress
3 Cabal Therapy
2 Extirpate
1 Pyroblast
3 Young Pyromancer
2 Snapcaster Mage
2 Prophetic Flamespeaker

4 Leyline of the Void
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Ingot Chewer
1 Nature's Claim
1 Null Rod
4 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Sphere of Resistance

last edited by Topical_Island

@Islandswamp I find that the best answer for Mentor is often just Abrupt Decay. They can spit off some tokens with Decay in the air. But its a reliable, cheap bullet, and seems to slow them down several turns. If you have anything else going for you, dealing with one or two tokens is usually doable. I'm becoming convinced that Decays and a few things to cut their card drawing are the way to go.

Hey guys! let's try to keep discussion about banned/restriction stuff in Community. Posts specifically about how to beat Mentor with cards/strategies can stay in Strategy. I know it's a little annoying to split this stuff up but it really helps keep things clean.

(I moved this thread to community, but feel free to start something new about just-the-strategy in the strategy forum, or add to the existing thread on this subject)

last edited by Brass Man

I strongly believe that Mentor is the real problem, not Gush. Gush is a powerful Magic card, but it still requires powerful cards to utilize its engine. There were a number of times in history where Gush was unrestricted, but didn't have quite the right support to be a tier 1 deck.

Before the printing of Mentor and Treasure Cruise, Pyromancer Gush was a fine deck, but not dominant. Delve spells transformed the power level of Pyromancer Gush into something ridiculous, Mentor was printed, the Delve spells were restricted, Lodestone was restricted, and now it's the world of Mentor. If Mentor were restricted, the power level of Gush decks, I think, would be a lot more reasonable because Young Pyromancer is beatable in ways that Monastery Mentor is not. If it turns out that Young Pyromancer is also too strong in a Gush engine, then maybe in the future we can look at further restrictions, but I strongly believe that the right call is restricting Mentor, for now.

@DeaTh-ShiNoBi I agree with everything you say there to a point. And that point is, how to attack Gush/Mentor... I actually do think that it would be good if something is done about Mentor. I personally hope that thing is just the printing of something to deal with token spitting creatures, not restriction. (see my above card suggestion) There is a hole in the sideboard options against this one card.

I still think the way to attack the deck right now is to try to bust up the cantrip/draw engine. I largely believe that because Mentor sees basically no play in any other format. The thing that makes it so good here is the crazy draw engine. If a guy plays their last card out of their hand, and it's Mentor... meh. It's really not that dangerous. But with a full grip of preordains and moxen its a nightmare. If we're just talking the way to attack the deck, I think discard effects and Abrupt Decays on Mentors, and as I've said many times Chains can be pretty brutal against that sort of deck. Send those Mentors back to Modern, when the Vintage deck can no longer chain spells.

@Islandswamp said:

Well, I do agree is is quite a hard card to deal with, but I'm not sure that it (or Golem) should have been restricted. It's no Ali from Cairo after all.

It is entirely possible to take out a Mentor with Sudden Shock, but most of the time the problem is that answering a Mentor often leaves behind value. I don't know about any of you, but I have won several games with just a single Monk token, Prowess is no joke. Still, I don't like restricting the card as I feel it sets (continues) a bad precedent.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "bad precedent"? Do you mean because it's a creature? I think we need to move beyond the bias that restricting creatures is taboo. Tinker is one of the most powerful Magic cards in history, but Monastery Mentor is just straight up more powerful right now. It's a creature that's a better finisher, and much more resilient, than one of the very best restricted cards. The fact that it's even a creature just doesn't seem very important to me.

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