Monastery Mentor has been a confusing card to me. It's been among the most hyped cards from the beginning, and StarCityGames is sold out of them at the time of this writing, which indicates to me that people clearly have big plans for the card, but it's been hard for me to figure out what to do with it. Three mana is a lot for Modern and Legacy--not that it's out of the question--and Standard is a little low on cheap cantrips. It's definitely powerful, but I just couldn't figure out what deck might take advantage of it. Then I realized there's already a white deck that casts a lot of spells per turn that, unlike Jeskai Tokens, doesn't have a huge glut at three mana: W/U Heroic.
W/U Heroic is already in the market to protect its creatures and to cast a lot of cheap non-creature spells, and Monastery Mentor offers something it didn't have but is happy to take advantage of: the ability to go wide.
In addition to Monastery Mentor, Fate Reforged offers a few other potential upgrades for the deck. Refocus and Pressure Point are like more expensive Defiant Strikes. Pressure Point is certainly too expensive and offers too little, but Refocus is interesting. Other creature decks are definitely forced to race W/U Heroic, and this will often kill their creature, put a counter on yours, and draw a card. The problem, as always, is finding room for such a thing, but the more you can add cheap cantrips to the deck, the better Monastery Mentor becomes and the more Treasure Cruises you get to play.
The other exciting new addition is Valorous Stance. The protection mode is substantially worse than several cards we already have access to: Ajani's Presence, Ephemeral Shields, and Feat of Resistance, but getting to play a card that's basically on plan that gives the deck another new dimension in removal is certainly not to be overlooked.
At this point, I think there are a few different directions W/U Heroic can go.
First, I want to try to maximize Monastery Mentor. The unfortunate consequence of adding a three-mana creature to a deck with this tight a curve is that my favorite card in the deck, Heliod's Pilgrim, has to go. This makes us worse at Ordeal of Thassa, which makes us worse at Monastery Mentor, but I don't really see a way around it. We'll have to make it up in other places.
I think it's pretty clear that we want the twelve good heroes: 4 Favored Hoplite, 4 Battlewise Hoplite, 4 Hero of Iroas. Monastery Mentor brings us to sixteen creatures, and I think we want to land in the 16-20 creature range. The other options are Lagonna-Band Trailblazer and Seeker of the Way. Historically, I've generally preferred Seeker of the Way because it does something by itself and it helps a lot at winning races, but curve has to be taken into account. The more Ephemeral Shields, Ordeal of Heliods, and Refocuses we play, the more I want Lagonna-Band Trailblazer. The more Valorous Stances, the more I want Seeker of the Way.
Ordeal of Heliod is the big question. Without Heliod's Pilgrim, we can't just play one or two to tutor for. The way that W/U Heroic races, lifegain is pretty important, so I think we either have to play 3-4 Ordeal of Heliod or 4 Seeker of the Way. I also likely want access to the other in the sideboard. From here, it likely becomes a question of space and what else we're doing with the deck.
Treasure Cruise seems like the next pivot point. I know that I want at least three, and likely four Treasure Cruise after sideboarding. I'd like to play enough main that I can justify off color fetches to get the Cruise going, so I'd like 2-3 main. This will give me a plan against decks with a lot of removal to play as a normal W/U Heroic deck, but then in the lategame when I have plenty of lands, I can Cruise into Monastery Mentor with mana up to immediately cast spells and make prowess creatures.
Toward this end, I think I want to go the more fair/grindy route rather than the more combo route, so I'm going to go with Seeker of the Way over Lagonna-Band Trailblazer and Ordeal of Heliod. I'd start with a list like:
I'm not sure about the creature mix. I think I like eighteen creatures more than twenty, but I'm not sure I trimmed the right ones. I know I can imagine getting Monastery Mentor flooded and losing because of it.
I think three Treasure Cruise is on the high end, but I'd rather try to make the high end work. I'm a little concerned about not having access to Aqueous Form, but I think going wide with Monastery Mentor should offer a reasonable alternate victory condition when Gods Willing isn't enough.
The most unexpected card in the list might be Force Away. I considered Reality Shift, but giving my opponent a colorless blocker sounds pretty terrible, and Force Away should usually accomplish what I need out of that. Also, I'm likely to trigger ferocious, and Force Away will functionally draw a card, plus it's great with Treasure Cruise. The reasons I wanted one of these cards was primarily as a way to deal with Stormbreath Dragon and as a good instant-speed answer in the mirror, and I think Force Away will be great at doing both of those things. I know that every time I've played Vapor Snag, it exceeded my expectations, even though I know how good it is, and I think that might just be how bounce spells usually work. It's possible this is an effect I should want more of.
Treasure Cruise and Valorous Stance make this deck better against more controlling decks with more removal that are looking to play to the board or purely to win with card advantage. This skews away from beating decks that are looking to play tempo games or to attack your life total. W/U Heroic can easily be built to play that game instead, and that version would look more like:
- 4 Battlewise Hoplite
- 4 Favored Hoplite
- 4 Hero of Iroas
- 2 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
- 3 Monastery Mentor
- 2 Seeker of the Way
I'm not sure about the Heliod's Prilgrim in the sideboard, but I think this deck might want to be able to move away from Monastery Mentor and just focus on being a normal streamlined W/U Heroic deck. This would be most true against decks with a lot of cheap red removal that won't necessarily lead to long games and will be good at killing Monastery Mentor. Given that the reason I'd want to play this build instead of the other is because I expect a format where there's more red, and I think I'd want to be able to sideboard to the best version against that.
The other direction I'd want to take Monastery Mentor in is another aggressive shell that doesn't need to play that many creatures--Burn. I'm not sure if this deck wants to be straight R/W or three color, but I'll consider both. The creatures I'm looking at for R/W are Monastery Swiftspear, Seeker of the Way, Soulfire Grand Master, Monastery Mentor, Flamewake Phoenix, and Goblin Rabblemaster.
The burn spells are Wild Slash, Lightning Strike, Magma Jet, Searing Blood, Arc Lightning, and Stoke the Flames. I don't think this deck has any reason to want Raise the Alarm or Hordeling Outburst. They're good with prowess and Stoke the Flames, but I don't think this deck does enough to take advantage of the tokens, and I think it just gets more mileage out of burn spells.
Chained to the Rocks seems almost mandatory in R/W with a lot of Mountains, and if I'm playing cards like Searing Blood and Flamewake Phoenix, I'll want my lands to go that way anyway. If I have Chained to the Rocks and a lot of burn spells, I can't really imagine not playing Chandra, Pyromaster. It's great in this format, as it lets you attack through Siege Rhino with your smaller creatures, win attrition games, and kill off tokens you might otherwise have to use spells on. Gods Willing would be the most obvious other spell, but there's always a small temptation for me to play Crowd's Favor every time I play Goblin Rabblemaster, and it's pretty good with the other creatures here as well. Unfortunately, I doubt I'd actually be able to justify it. I've listed way too many cards to actually fit in a deck, so there are still some questions to resolve.
First, Flamewake Phoenix: is this actually a reasonable card in a deck like this? All my creatures have one or two power. It almost works with Goblin Rabblemaster but not quite, because the timing is wrong. This means the only way we'd be able to return it is if we triggered prowess twice on Seeker of the Way or Monastery Mentor, or three times on Monastery Swiftspear. Not out of the question, but probably not worth it.
The next question for me is Goblin Rabblemaster. I always try to cut this card, but even I have to admit that it gets better the more burn you have. Since burn lets you clear blockers to get it through, there's a good chance this deck wants it. On the other hand, curve is definitely a consideration, and the other creatures all want more spells. I think Monastery Mentor is better here, so I may still be able to justify leaving it out of the deck.
My first pass would look like:
I didn't want to play the burn spells that were only good against creatures in the maindeck when I already have Chained to the Rocks, since I didn't want too many dead cards. Goblin Rabblemaster and Chandra, Pyromaster let me take out Chained to the Rocks against decks where I don't want dedicated creature removal, and the rest of the sideboard lets me tune my removal as appropriate. I'm not sure if Goblin Rabblemaster is a better fit here than Ashcloud Phoenix, but my land count is pretty low, so I don't really want another four-drop.
I think this deck does a great job of taking advantage of Monastery Mentor, and it also happens to be great against opposing Monastery Mentor decks. Siege Rhino is good against burn, but the white removal spells are great against it, and Monastery Mentor helps me go big enough to work around the lifegain.
I mentioned that blue was also an option. I don't want to rebuild Jeskai Tokens, and while Mantis Rider is good with burn, I'm not looking to add creatures to the deck. Mantis Rider really wants early blue, and I'd like to be able to keep hands that don't have blue mana. The blue cards I'm most interested in are Treasure Cruise and Jeskai Charm.
Jeskai Charm offers substantially more burn, and the +1/+1 mode is great with Monastery Mentor. Treasure Cruise should be a great fit in this deck, especially with nine fetchlands and two Tormenting Voice. Tormenting Voice isn't a card that's seen a lot of play, but I think it might not get enough respect. It's a great way to trigger prowess and power delve, and I really wouldn't be surprised if this deck wants more of them.
After looking at the decks and realizing how many cheap spells this decks can play, as well as how well suited they are to potentially playing longer games, I'm starting to understand the hype around Monastery Mentor. I think these decks could easily have what it takes.