On Sunday, 8 May 2016, 65 plucky Vintage players gathered at BoM Annecy to battle in the gentleman’s format.
For myself, myriad other commitments mean that I seldom attend big European tournaments, however friends on this occasion strongly urged me to attend one of the BoM tournaments this year. With BoM returning to its spiritual home (and therefore arguably the spiritual home of Vintage) – this was an opportunity that was too great to miss.
Vintage itself is in a very interesting place at present. The restriction of Lodestone Golem has positioned Gush Mentor as the new deck to beat – in part a de facto positioning as it was the second most prominent deck (to MUD) in the 4x Lodestone Golem era. However Gush Mentor is by no means the definitive article – as an archetype itself it is still emerging and being refined. Furthermore going in BoM the current iteration of the Vintage metagame has yet to take shape, with perhaps the best ‘innovation’ thus far being the inclusion of Sulfur Elemental in UR(x) builds to help combat Mentor.
My analysis of the Vintage metagame – or at least likely decks to expect at BoM – can be found here. Having played versions of aggro control and control for basically my entire Vintage ‘career’ – sleeving up Gush Mentor was an easy decision. Here is my 75 – in fact the same 75 Rich Shay had recently used to take down a premier MTGO event, which I understand had originally been created by Brian Kelly.
|4 Flooded Strand||1 Erayo, Soratami Ascendant||1 Supreme Verdict|
|1 Island||4 Monastery Mentor||1 Swords to Plowshares|
|1 Library of Alexandria||1 Snapcaster Mage||1 Time Walk|
|1 Misty Rainforest||2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor||1 Treasure Cruise|
|3 Polluted Delta||2 Dack Fayden|
|2 Tropical Island||2 Sylvan Library||Side|
|3 Tundra||1 Dig Through Time||2 Ancient Grudge|
|2 Volcanic Island||1 Flusterstorm||4 Containment Priest|
|1 Black Lotus||4 Force of Will||1 Ethersworn Canonist|
|5 Moxen||2 Gitaxian Probe||2 Nature’s Claim|
|1 Sol Ring||4 Gush||1 Supreme Verdict|
|1 Ancestral Recall||4 Mental Misstep||1 Swords to Plowshares|
|1 Ancient Grudge||1 Ponder||4 Tormod’s Crypt|
|1 Brainstorm||1 Pyroblast||1 Dragondlord Dromoka|
In simple terms it is an incredibly versatile aggro control deck. Its suite of counterspells and potential for an explosive victory help give it game against combo, meanwhile the same potential of an early ground game helps solidify match-ups against aggro decks. Against control it can essentially attempt to overload an opponents countermeasures to stick an early Mentor and ride it to victory, or can utilise powerful trumps like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Sylvan Library to gain an unassailable board position.
Despite having Jace’s ultimate as an out, the end invariably comes through an onslaught of Monk tokens and their eponymous Monastery captain.
The Sideboard primarily gives protection to troublesome match-ups – Oath of Druids, Dredge and MUD. The remaining slots give a flexible answer to creature decks in the form of another Supreme Verdict and Swords to Plowshares, and what proved to be an almost unbeatable trump in the control mirror – Dragonlord Dromoka.
Match 1 vs BUG Fish 2-0
Game 1 saw my opponent on the play, however I emerged victorious over an early counter-war over an Ancestral Recall, expending most of his resources.
I was then able to resolve a Snapcaster Mage which beat down for several turns, before handing over to a Monastery Mentor which did the rest.
Game 2 followed in a similar vain with an early pair of Mentors overwhelming my opponents defences.
Match 2 vs Remora Mentor/Tinker 2-1
Game 1 – after a drawn out fight, I was able to break through with Mentors, having waited out Remoras. My opponent himself was somewhat unfortunate to not draw into more competitive plays, resolving a Dig Through Time and being able to utilise Remora to draw several extra cards, as I developed a superior board state.
Game 2 – perhaps the fortune of Game 1 for my opponent was that I saw neither his Vault Key combo nor any of his Mentors. Thus I had to be somewhat conservative in my sideboarding. This proved costly as, after tapping out to represent lethal with Mentors, he was able to combo off with Vault Key into Mentor!
Game 3 – we had around 5 minutes left for Game 3. However demonstrating the potency of the deck, I was able to secure a fast start with Jace and a Mentor, and won on my final turn of extra turns.
Match 3 vs Grixis Control 1-1-1
A feature match – I was paired against a very skilled Grixis opponent who had excellent technical ability with the deck.
Game 1 saw me develop a strong Monastery Mentor + Sylvan Library board position, before making two key errors.
Error one: I floated mana and Gushed, with my opponent responding to the prowess trigger with a Kolaghan’s Command to kill my Mentor. With no counter-magic online, this killed Mentor, however despite announcing the Mentor triggers, I did not immediately represent the Monk token on the board. As such, this was forgotten by both players in the ensuing discussion over the fate of Mentor (I.e. Mutual confirmation that it was dead) and the turn has been passed before I noticed my Monk trigger had gone onto the stack, but then been forgotten, with the judge ruling going against the creation of a Monk. As such, my advice to players is to immediately place a Monk on the notional stack, so that these instances are not missed.
Error two was slightly more comedic – as I failed to spot my opponent passing with ‘Notion Thief mana’ available and promptly triggered Sylvan Library, allowing my opponent to flash in Notion Thief!
Suffice to say Game 1 did not go my way…
Game 2 however was better – with a Sylvan Library in play my opponent telegraphed having a Notion Thief, passing the turn with four mana untapped. However this time i was better prepared and able to induce him tapping out by playing the Thief into my Library draw trigger, enabling me to win a counter war with Force of Will and Flusterstorm. A quick dispatch with Monastery Mentor, also including also some nice sequencing to cast Erayo and immediately flip her (?), followed.
Game 3, a turn one Jace placed my opponent on the defensive, however time was not on my side. We went into extra turns, and I was able to set up a Mentor kill for my final turn, however my opponent was able to find Sulfur Elemental to wipe away my Monk tokens and condemn us both to a draw. For style points I cast Dragonlord Dromoka (on camera!) before extra turns elapsed.
My opponent, the ultimate competitor, asked at this point if I wished to concede to him (which he is within his rights to do). I declined this offer (!) and a 1-1-1 draw was in the books.
Match 4 vs Oath 2-0
Game 1 was quite simple, my opponent lost a counter war over Oath of Druids and was promptly dispatched by a Mentor (whilst they were not able to find anything relevant).
Game 2 my opponent was able to resolve an Oath of Druids, however had no answer to my 2x Containment Priest which then commenced to beat him down. Before suitable removal for the Priests could be found, Dragonlord Dromoka then made her first meaningful appearance of the tournament to confirm my opponent’s demise.
Match 5 vs Blue Moon (UR Control) 0-2
This match was against my good friend Peter White, who was riding a hot streak, having top 8’d Legacy going X-0 in the Swiss, he was currently, like me, at X-0-1 in the Vintage Swiss. Peter and I were also staying in the same flat for the weekend and this was a match we had tested ‘extensively’.
One thing our testing showed, which probably I could have predicted beforehand, is that an early Blood Moon is fairly devastating for me. And indeed, this is what transpired! In each game a Blood Moon came down, through any of my countermeasures, and before I could find a Mox Pearl or Black Lotus, I was then put away…
Match 6 vs Ravager Shops/Frobots 2-0
Having two rounds go to time had enabled me little time to watch other games. However my round 6 opponent I had been watching (briefly) on Shops in the previous round. This afforded me a small advantage (although he may well have seen me playing earlier or seen my feature match) although my hand of Black Lotus, Mentor, Land, Mox, Ponder, 2x Mental Misstep is likely always a keep.
I actually decided to hold off wasting my two Missteps (in part fearing a Sol Ring) which was probably a mistake, however I had an aggressive start nonetheless which ultimately proved too much. My opponent set up an early Phyrexian Revoker with Sword of Fire and Ice, however I was able to draw a Sol Ring (this time burning my Missteps and another Moxen) to sequence sufficient Prowess and Monks to win whilst chomping the Revoker.
Game 2 was somewhat anomalous as I ended up drawing three Mentors – this and enough removal for my opponent’s threats made the game uncompetitive, with a win coming through a crazy number of Monk tokens.
Match 7 vs Jeskai Mentor 2-0
My second Mentor mirror – this time against a more ‘low to the ground’ deck featuring Baby Jace and Sudden Shock.
Game 1 was unremarkable – the maxim of ‘whoever resolves Mentor first, wins’ held true as I duly resolved one and squashed my opponent.
Game 2 saw my opponent and myself play an early Mentor and have a Swords to Plowshares for each other’s Mentor. When this dust settled, I had a ‘Monk token superiority’ of one, however was on 4 life!
The game turned as I was able to resolve Dragonlord Dromoka, which then enabled me to resolve Dack Fayden and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, in the following turn. My opponent also was able to play a recent printing during his intervening turn, Narset Transcendent, however it proved no match for the Dragonlord and her superfriends, and I was in the top 8.
Quarter Final vs MUD (Ravager/Trike) 2-0
Game one was a brutal lesson in how MUD is now weakened with Lodestone’s restriction.
My opponent led with a Sphere of Resistance, which I Forced (pitching Flusterstorm).
I then followed on my turn with Land, Mox, Time Walk. Then next turn Land, another Mox, and Jace!
From there my opponent was buried in card advantage as I reeled off Ancestral Recall, Brainstorm, a Mentor and then Snapcaster into Time Walk, over subsequent turns, to put the game away.
Game 2 was similarly devastating, however this time the roles reversed as a ‘classic’ MUD opening of sphere effects and Lodestone Golem meant that I died, always one turn behind casting anything meaningful.
Game 3 saw me keep a strong hateful hand consisting of 2x Ancient Grudge, Swords to Plowshares and Dack Fayden. This proved too much for my opponent’s opening of Archbound Ravager and Triskelion, and there was no coming back from an established Dack Fayden on the battlefield.
Semi Final vs 5c Humans 0-2
Going into this match-up I was aware my opponent was on a ‘hate bears deck’ however exactly what he had was unclear to me. The answer to this – Skab Clan Berserker- was something I was ultimately unprepared for (and moreover, something I was unaware of)!
A pair of Berserkers proved deadly in game 1, as I was unable to find my Black Lotus to fire off the game-stabilising Supreme Verdict I had been holding since my opening hand.
Game 2 saw me keep a turn one Mentor with Force backup. However my opponent’s Cavern of Souls, twinned with an Abrupt Decay for my Mentor soon left me helpless and defeated.
I was delighted that my opponent, Michael Ruppen, went on to win the Finals. He seemed like a really nice guy and I have a lot of respect for someone who brings a fairly untested deck into a tournament of this size.
For myself, I like to think that this shows that with a degree of preparation and determination, anyone with a good grasp of the metagame and the interactions of the format can place well in a tournament if the matchups and variance fall their way.
I owe thanks to Brian Kelly for creating this list, and to Rich Shay for popularising it via his Twitch channel. Both individuals are leaders of the Vintage community and I would thoroughly recommend Rich’s Twitch channel to anyone interested in getting into Vintage.