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Vintage 101: Gushstravaganza!

It's Mentor's World, We Just Live in it

The Magic Online Power Nine Challenge tournament happened again this past weekend. Each of these Vintage events have done relatively well, although this last one had by far the lowest attendance with only sixty participants. I'm not sure exactly why this event had a smaller number of players than past events, but nobody can blame it on Mishra's Workshop or Lodestone Golem this time around.

Out of the top sixteen decks, there was one MUD deck that took ninth place. The rest of the decks making up the top of the field were Gush decks, a Doomsday deck, one Omni-Oath deck, and a small variety of combo decks. Seven of the top sixteen decks were based on Monastery Mentor and Gush. In fact, of all the Gush aggro decks in the event, only a couple of them weren't running any Mentors. 

Gush decks were very popular in this event, and their influence went beyond just the top sixteen finishers. A couple of Vintage players, Ryan Eberhart and Matthew Murray have been doing some fantastic work analyzing the Power Nine Challenge tournaments over the last few months. Their results (posted here on TMD) indicate that this most recent event was 45.8% Gush-based decks. 

The pie chart above is a breakdown of all the decks played in the event, As you can see, Mishra's Workshop decks were extremely scarce compared to their presence prior to this month. Dredge was also not played by many players either. Other than Gush decks, only Blue Control and "Combo" decks had a decent showing. I'm fairly certain that this event was an overreaction to the restriction of Lodestone Golem, much like the initial surge of Thirst for Knowledge decks that occurred when Thirst was unrestricted. Still, if the results don't begin to shift away from such a Gush-centric metagame, it may be time to reevaluate whether or not Gush needs to be restricted again (as it has been multiple times before). 

With Gush being the draw-engine of choice for nearly half of the participants in the Power Nine Challenge, it only makes sense that a Gush deck would take down the event. Here's your tournament winning "Sylvan Mentor" list from The Atog Lord. 

Sylvan Mentor was secretly the best deck in Vintage for a long time prior to the restriction of Lodestone Golem. The one thing that held this four-color "good stuff" Gush Mentor deck in check was that the Workshop matchup was tricky at best. Without the constant threat of a Workshop deck pressuring people's mana bases, it looks like the temptation of splashing a fourth color is simply too difficult to resist. Several of the Mentor decks in the top sixteen were running a fourth color, and there was more than one player who opted to go without even a single basic land in their main deck.

Of all the Mentor decks in Vintage, Sylvan Mentor is my favorite. Each card choice was made meticulously by The Atog Lord and the deck's originator, 2015 Vintage Champion Brian Kelly. Unlike many of the Mentor lists I have seen recently, The Atog Lord's list still contains a few concessions to the Workshop matchup (like Ancient Grudge), which is indicative of a player who respects the power of the Workshop pillar. There's a fantastic write-up of this deck on TMD, and I think all Vintage players should check it out. The Atog Lord does a great job of explaining the rationale for each and every card choice in the 75, and he talks briefly about winning the event with the list. 

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Some of the more unique inclusions found in Sylvan Mentor

No More MUD? I Thought Knot . . .

The one MUD deck that finished in ninth place was very much like the Ravager Shops lists of the past season. The big difference is that in place of the missing Lodestone Golems, this list has a set of my latest pet card in Vintage, Thought-Knot Seer.
In order to reliably cast all four copies of Thoughtseize-on-a-body, this list has a playset of Eldrazi Temple where the Mishra's Factory would normally be. While having four creaturelands is great, much of the time Mishra's Factory was just providing one colorless mana. In this regard, Eldrazi Temple can do all of the work that a factory can do, but in the games where an Eldrazi is drawn it suddenly acts as an additional Sol-land. Losing the ability to attack for two isn't completely negligible, but the upside makes it worth including. 
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I think that Workshop decks are criminally underplayed at the moment. Losing three copies of Lodestone Golem certainly has a tangible and negative effect on the MUD archetype, but Mishra's Workshop is too powerful to be held down for long. Thought Knot Seer isn't quite as brutal as Lodestone was, but that has more to do with the fact that it can't be played with Workshop mana. The 4/4 body with disruption is just fantastic. 
If people continue to skimp on anti-Shops sideboard cards. They could be in for a bad time when they get paired against one of the new Workshop or Eldrazi decks. Packing a few Ancient Grudges and Lightning Bolts might not be enough to stop them either, because those cards do nothing to stop a Thought-Knot Seer

Turbo Time Vault 

Since so many of the top decks were based on Monastery Mentor, I figured I would highlight one of the top finishers that fell into the "combo" category. This deck looks like the offspring of Steel City Vault and Control Slaver, with a little bit of Tezzcast DNA as well. 

Fourteen lands was far too many, so this archetype has evolved into an eleven-land card-drawing machine. This list is essentially the embodiment of the stereotypical Vintage deck. The entire deck consists of card draw, fast mana, and broken cards. 

The end game is either the old standard Time Vault and Voltaic key combo, or in some cases the deck can go the aggro route with Myr Battlesphere. Goblin Welder can bring back an important artifact when needed, or it can be used to recycle the Battlesphere again and again, flooding the board with tokens. 

Since the goal in this deck is to be as proactive and aggressive as possible, there aren't any counterspells in the main deck! Force of Will can come in out of the sideboard when it's absolutely needed, but other than that there are few defensive plays that this deck can make. 

One of the neat things about a big-mana Blue deck like this one is that it can make use of a card that is normally the bane of combo decks. Trinisphere is usually the last card a combo player wants to see, but this deck can easily pay the extra mana for its spells! Against a deck like Storm, you can simply Tinker for Trinisphere and take your time finding the Time Vault combo. 

Tolarian Academy is a central part of the deck, and there are four copies of Expedition Map to find it. Academy generates an obscene amount of mana when used in conjunction with the Time Spiral and Minamo, School at Water's Edge. With all that mana, paying the Trinisphere tax becomes trivial and hard-casting the larger threats in the deck is not a challenge. 


GushBond 007

The last deck I have for this week wasn't taken from the Power Nine Challenge, but it also is built around the format's best unrestricted draw engine. 

I love the look of this deck. It combines a few of my favorite deck types. There's the Dark Petition/Dark Ritual Storm engine from the DPS decks, but the deck is also hybridized with a GushBond Storm deck.
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Combining the power of Storm with the card drawing of Gush, along with the protection that Force of Will and Mental Misstep offer, makes for a uniquely potent deck. Petition Tendrils decks are usually powerless to stop their opponents from playing a top-decked bomb, but this is not so with this deck. 
Another interesting aspect to this list is that it includes more than just a single Tendrils of Agony as a win condition. This deck can win using Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus, or it can just Tinker for a Memory Jar at the beginning of a big combo turn. The Fastbond plan adds yet another angle with which to create a lethal Storm count. This deck is definitely not a one-trick pony. 
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The tradeoff when playing a deck like this is speed. In my experience the Storm decks without Force of Will tend to be a little faster as they are more all-in on the Ritual Storm plan. Gush ends up giving these decks a better midgame and the ability to draw out of a poor early game. With the DPS decks, if you manage to deplete your hand without either winning the game or finding a draw seven, you can lose the game in a hurry. This deck has all of those cards, plus four copies of Gush to get back into the game with. 
All in all I'm not sure if this deck is better than DPS or not, but I think it's close enough in power level to be a decent choice in the current metagame. If Workshop decks start to pick back up, this deck could still be a contender as long as the list is adjusted accordingly. 

It's a Wrap...

It's still to early to say if the most recent tournament results are an anomaly or the beginning of a larger trend. The Power Nine Challenge is something that all Vintage players should pay attention to though, because when one deck becomes nearly half of the metagame it is not a good sign. Gush decks are almost half of the format these days, and the vast majority of those are Monastery Mentor decks. This lack of diversity is a bit troubling to say the least. 

The NYSE Tournament is rapidly approaching, and you're almost out of time to preregister if you're interested in attending. By all accounts this is a fantastic event, and it allows fifteen proxies per player so it is much more accessible than you might think. 

The newest season of the Vintage Super League started this past Tuesday evening. You can watch it live on Twitch.TV, and more information can be found on the official website

Special thanks to Ryan and Matthew for doing their metagame analysis; I can't thank you enough. Thanks to all of the people who've reached out to me in the past week as well. This truly is the greatest community I've ever been involved in. 

That's a wrap for this week. If you have any burning questions or Burning Wishes, let me know in the comments! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on MTGO

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