Painter > metagamed for Shops, Storm, Mentor


URB, built for a Shops > Storm > Mentor metagame

Painter is one of my favorite vintage archetypes of all time, it's what I've been playing lately and I felt like it deserved a writeup on TMD.

I'm sort of interested in making an "advanced deckbuilding guide" where I talk about how to build the deck in different metagames, but for now I'm going to focus on one specific build.

It wasn't long ago that people were claiming that no deck could beat Shops and Storm, while still being able to handle blue decks, but personally I found it kind of easy to do. I don't think Shops > Storm > Mentor is reflective of my local metagame or magic online, at the moment. It might match your metagame though, and I think it's good to show an approach to the problem that a lot of players were interested in. I think I'm around 6-1 or 7-0 ish against Shops in tournament play with this list, and something around 3-1 against Storm. I don't think this means I have an 80% matchup against those decks, but objectively this list has done well for me in metas where I expected Shops and Storm.

This particular list has some issues with Oath and Null Rod aggro (both of which are more popular now than they were two months ago). I haven't lost many games to Dredge, but I suspect I've gotten a run of lucky draws, so I don't want to say the matchup is good.

If you're unfamiliar with Painter decks, there's nothing too tricky going on here. With a Painter's Servant in play, a Grindstone activation will mill your entire opponent's graveyard, making a 2 card kill. It costs 2 more mana than Time Vault + Voltaic Key, but it's unrestricted.

If you play a Painter's Servant and name blue (which is often, but not always the right play), you can use Pyroblast to destroy any permanent. This may seem like a cute edge-case, but it actually comes up a lot. It means you have 4 maindeck answers to problem cards like Null Rod, without needing to dip into conditional removal like many combo-control decks.

If you had a knee-jerk reaction to me saying this is an anti-shops deck with 9 one-drop conditional counters - that's probably a good instinct ... but Painter has a built-in way of mitigating that issue.

Against Workshops:

my default sideboard plan is:

+1 Mountain, +2 Shattering Spree, +3 Ingot Chewer, +1 Dack Fayden
-2 Duress, -1 Nihil Spellbomb, -1 Grindstone, -3 Mental Misstep

Boarding out Duress, Spellbomb, Misstep is pretty straightforward. Against shops I'm more likely to win with Ingot Chewers or Tinker, so cutting to 1 Grindstone isn't a terrible loss, but there are other candidates.

Note that I leave in the Pyroblasts for the interaction with Painter. Duress isn't terrible against Shops on the play, but I have better options postboard. I suspect that Thoughtseize is marginially better maindeck, but I haven't tried it yet. There's a chance that Thoughtseize on the play is better than Pyroblast 3 and 4.

As always, what I find most effective is:

  • lots of mana (25 postboard here, including 4 basics and a strip effect)

  • Force of Will

  • some number of lock-resistant removal spells, things that cost 0-2 mana with lock pieces out (3 Ingot Chewer, 2 Shattering Spree, sometimes 4 Pyroblast)

  • some number of mid/late game plays that can generate advantage/answer multiple threats (2 Dack Fayedn, 2 Shattering Spree + Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, 3 hardcast Ingot Chewer)

  • optionally: inexpensive cards that can steal you free wins if you get a good draw (Tinker, Painter/Stone)

Those are roles I try to cover with any blue deck against shops, but note that Painter has cards doing double-duty. The Sprees and Chewers are basically split cards against shops, with early game and midgame modes. The Pyroblasts are not super consistant, but having access to them gives me a higher volume of removal spells.

A non-obvious synergy in the shops matchup is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy + Shattering Spree. The combination of both lets you burn a Spree in the early game to keep your head above water, and then recast it in the mid-to-late game to generate a big advantage - two of the key parts of winning the matchup I mentioned earlier. With only 2 and 2 it doesn't happen every game, but the possibility improves the value of both cards. I wouldn't be running Shattering Spree against Shops without JVP, and I wouldn't be running JVP against Shops without Shattering Spree.

Against Combo

my sideboard plan here is less set in stone:

+1 Duress, +1 Nihil Spellbomb
-1 Island, -1 Grindstone

It could be correct to board in Leyline of the Voids, and I'm not clear on the best cards to take out, I waffle between different mana sources, Pyroblast, and later-game draw spells like Thirst, Dack, Cruise. Pyroblast is by no means dead against Storm, but it's the weakest of the one-mana counters.

It's not at all uncommon for people to run an extra land in their sideboard for Shops, but I want to call out that here I've run an extra land in the maindeck, too. I wanted 2 more lands against Shops than I did against decks that didn't attack my mana, but instead of putting them both sideboard, I added one to the maindeck, and take it out when I don't need it. When people are looking for cards that are good against shops, but not dead in non-shops matchups, I think maindecking extra lands is something that gets overlooked a lot.

Duress is very important against storm combo decks now, particularly the popular list that drops blue spells for discard and defense grids. Those decks can easily handle Flusterstorm or Mindbreak Trap strategies but can't do anything about Duress or Spellbomb.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is, in a vacuum, not super exciting here. However, just like in the Shops matchup, the interaction with another card (here Duress) changes everything. Duress off of JVP has won me more games than I would have expected.

The keys to the blue vs storm matchup are, as I see it

  • Free counters (here Force, Misstep) [but could be MBT]

  • Grave hate - this wasn't always necessary, but I think it is now (Nihil Spellbomb)

  • Disruption that can't be stopped by discard (here Duress, Spellbomb) [but could be spheres or other lock pieces]

  • Some mid-game or late game plan if things go long - combo is really good at crafting hands that beat control decks, so you need a way to close out the game at the midway point, or a way to make sure you're generating more value-over-time than they are (here JVP, Tinker, and the combo kill)

I think that last point is where a lot of controlling players lose some ground. Traditionally, control decks are supposed to have a better chance of winning the longer the game goes on, but that doesn't happen unless you put specific cards in your deck to do it. Outdrawing the Storm player only goes so far, because a 7 card combo hand can often punch through a hand of 7 counters. If you make it to 7 cards in hand but you can't close out the game, the Storm player can just casually wait until they naturally draw what they need - and your card advantage spells are suddenly dead.

That's another reason why that "Disruption that can't be stopped by discard" line is so important, even if they don't have discard. If all of your disruption is countermagic, it tends to bottleneck, either by having to use all of your mana in one turn, or having to discard down to 7, or having too many of the same conditional effect (Mental Misstep against a 1-drop-free draw). Duress, Nihil Spellbomb, Sphere of Resistance, etc, don't have this problem.

Note that this specific plan is weaker against non-storm combo decks. Graveyard hate is weaker against Doomsday and Belcher, Pyroblast is better or worse, depending on the builds. Generally though, the tools that beat Dark Petition Storm are still good against most other combo decks.

Against Gush-Mentor

my default sideboard plan is:

+3 Sulfur Elemental
-1 Grindstone, -1 Island, -1 Nihil Spellbomb

Duress and Dack Faydens are nice-to-haves, but I haven't found anything I'm happy to cut for them. Grindstone goes here because I'm boarding in other win conditions, and the Grindstone kill is tough to resolve through Missteps. You may have noticed that I'm boarding out Grindstone in all three key matchups, but I still think the 2nd is correct in the main. Against Shops and Mentor you're bringing in extra threats which you don't have maindeck, Storm is really the only matchup where you're comfortable dropping low on kill cards.

Blue vs Blue matchups are less driven by rules of thumb. You're both trying to outdraw each other, but both decks have potential tempo draws that punish grindy hands. Of course "whose the beatdown" is important in every matchup, but the closer you are to a mirror, the harder it is to identify your role in the match - and the more likely your role is going to change based on your opening hand. A turn 1 or turn 2 mentor can be real trouble, but anything slower than that and Painter will usually be able to race it.

Sulfur Elementals may look like overmetagaming, but I've been very happy with them. They're not just good at taking out Mentors, they're very effective Planeswalker snipers (I've had some luck bringing them in against decks with no white creatures). I prefer the Elementals to options like Illness in the Ranks, because it gives the card an extra "mode", kind of like a split card (noticing a pattern here?). I've won plenty of matches by attacking with an early Elemental, which lets you play a tempo game if your opponent has a draw that's weak to that. If you're running Illness you have to play the control role, and you don't know how much space your opponent has dedicated to the late game.

Against everything else

I won't list out exact plans for other matchups. Dredge should be very straightforward and I haven't found an Oath plan I'm thrilled with yet. Against non-Workshop Null Rod decks I might board out some artifact mana for the Mountain, and both Sulfur Elemental and Dack Fayden can sometimes be strong against decks other than Mentor and Shops.

last edited by Brass Man

I have played this deck for awhile also, and I found it to be quite strong, it is amazing what having a bunch of red blasts and Painters will do. It really made me feel like I still had game against everything, and in every situation. It also was very much a deck that played like old school vintage blue, big mana, a lot of value wills, tinker >bot being a thing. I was running a a different bot and slightly different numbers, as well as, not being in on the JVP + DUresses main plan, though I think that is reasonable I just didn't have new Jace yet.

My biggest problems with this deck were definitely against UWR Delver w/Stony Silence, deck is just super hard to beat, but it isn't a huge part of the global meta. OAth seemed ok, unless it was super fast, but I didn't test the matchup a ton.

Overall, I think this deck represents one of the strongest options against both Shops and Blue decks in the format, I don't know that I lost a match to Mentor or Shops the whole time I played the deck.

Thank you for writing this up - you've certainly put up impressive results with it.

@garbageaggro I don't know if the Oath matchup is particularly bad, I guess I just don't have as good a handle on the dynamics add I do with other matchups. It's not clear to me which cards are important, though I suspect Duress is strong.

I found that most of the time it came to resolving Painter and then blasting oath if they resolved it. It felt more like just playing old school blue combo control to me. Long game, finally decided by will into the win that turn.

I guess I never felt comfortable with old school blue combo control v oath, either. Sometimes you do your combo-control thing and you both move into the midgame where your draw spells and bombs crush them, and sometimes they just have a turn 1 or 2 oath with disruption backup and your deck can't do anything.

It always felt to me like the cards that are good in one of those kinds of games are not good in the other.

I have played variants of this deck in two tournaments now making the finals in one and making "top 8" in the other.

The deck is very fun and I really enjoy the blend of the old school Undreground Sea based decks and the new age Volcanic island based decks.

I have made many more comments on this archetype on my blog and even a two full tournament reports available here:

I have found the Oath match up to be quite good. I did play with some extra Grafdigger's Cages in one tournament specifically for Oath but I found that the permission base is often enough to find your way into the mid-game where you become completely dominant.

I have not played the Sulphur Elemental but it does look spicy.

I don't think "Painter, the deck" is necessarily something that can't beat Oath, just that, with this particular list, Oath was a low consideration - There aren't any cards in the deck specifically for that matchup. If I were anticipating more Oath in the meta, I could make cuts accordingly

Have you given any thought to Goblin Welder? It has amazing synergy with Thirst, and it also provides plays against Shops. Whenever I'm running a Rx build (in most cases, UR) I usually include some number of Goblin Welder. It's usually fantastic.

I've never really liked welder in this sort of deck - that said I honestly haven't played much with it. In my list, there's no weldable Tinker target, so there aren't too many exciting plays with the card.

I also feel like Welder isn't as exciting against shops as it used to be. Against a modern Shops deck with Ravager, Revoker, Hangarback, Triskelion, Wurmcoil - Welder is going to be completely dead a lot of the time in that matchup. If your opponent is running Metamorphs, Welder could even be a liability. In a shops-heavy meta I'd really rather have Chewers and Dacks than Goblin Welders.

@Brass-Man said:

I've never really liked welder in this sort of deck - that said I honestly haven't played much with it. In my list, there's no weldable Tinker target, so there aren't too many exciting plays with the card.

Activate Grindstone holding priority, weld in painter's servant... That's an exciting play right?

Anyone have ideas on what cards are good against Oath in this sort of shell? It's a fair portion of my local meta.

Blasting an Oath with a Painter out is fine, but I've gotten blown out multiple times with Abrupt Decay your Painter in response... then again I guess the JVP & Duress plan helps fight that, which is a change I need to make to my list.

You can have 7 or 8 fetchlands in your maindeck, and then a Tundra and the good white cards in the sideboard.

This has been done in URB decks before, and I think it's reasonable.

last edited by wappla

@wappla said:

You can have 7 or 8 fetchlands in your maindeck, and then a Tundra and the good white cards in the sideboard.

This has been done in URB decks before, and I think it's reasonable.

Another option is to play annul/spell snare if the problem is oath itself. Cage is of course a recurrent option. Playing Trinket Mage would mean 1 cage main is an option, and it fetches grindstone too. But trinket modifies the maindeck too much.

Sorry for adding to an old topic. My apologies if I shouldn't have.

Brassman, you mentioned you like having two grindstones in the main board even though you take them out in the sideboarded games. Is there any particular reason why you do this? I understand some of this may be inaccurate since Vintage is shifting lately with the Eldrazi and everything.

It sure does seem appropriate to discuss this archetype if we think Eldrazi are a serious metagame concern. I mean, Painter itself screws over Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin.

Going back to the original post and card list Brassman:
Considering all the mentor, the rise of the eldrazi and some recent success of various fish type decks would you swap out duress for thoughtseize? Seems a much better meta-game call to me.

  • 17
  • 13812