A white creature with an ability that affects creatures with power two or less?!?
Though a very strange part of card text to keep a look out for those two pieces together on a new card tend to catch my eye. The last time we saw this text on a white creature that card quickly became a Standard staple. As an aggressively-costed flier with stapled-on card advantage and potential to fuel a combo finish it found its way into beatdown control and combo decks alike.
That card was of course Reveillark.
Reveillark is a card near and dear to many players' hearts. As you read this players converging on Philadelphia for the Pro Tour are working the white elemental into Modern decks while casual players are simultaneously shuffling it up in Commander decks. It's fun to play powerful and you can do all kinds of crazy things with it! What's not to love?
On one hand I love the raw card advantage Reveillark provides. Your opponent is forced to gnash their teeth knowing that no matter what they do they're going to end up in a card advantage black hole.
On the other I adore the build-around-me nature of the card. It inspires its own little theme: you want to play a deck with a lot of creatures in a very specific range of power. Every time a strong creature with power two or less is printed deckbuilders around the world begin to slot it and the elemental side by side. With the exception of tribal or linear mechanics it's not often you see such one-card deckbuilding themes make the leap to competitive constructed play.
I can't help put look back to this preview card and see shades of my beloved white elemental.
A creature that has potential in beatdown control and combo? Check. Inspiring a deckbuilding theme for casual and competitive players alike? Check. Providing white decks with insane amounts of card advantage? A very enthusiastic check!
Innistrad is a dangerous place. In a world of werewolves vampires and zombies somebody has to step up and train the humans to give them a fighting chance. Or at the very least build up their horde enough to help overwhelm the monsters. That somebody is Mentor of the Meek.
Properly used every creature you cast cantrips. Wow!
Mentor of the Meek is going to dominate a lot of games if left unchecked. If you let this guy live there's no way you're going to be able to effectively play the one-for-one removal game. Can you imagine trying to overcome this effect in a beatdown mirror?
Mentor of the Meek gives card advantage to decks that don't normally have access to it. You see unlike Reveillark Mentor of the Meek is actually best in beatdown decks! While I certainly can't lie about my dreams of evoking a Mulldrifter with a Mentor in play where I want to play this particular soldier the most is in beatdown decks. It gives decks that don't traditionally have card advantage access to an endless grip of cards.
While it's hard to know what Standard is going to look like post-Innistrad fortunately for us beatdown decks don't care about the metagame nearly as much. Even with just the handful of cards we already have there's plenty of deckbuilding we can do!
One white based beatdown deck to come to mind is Tempered Steel but the Mentor really isn't that stellar there. The pupils in that deck are a little too impatient to learn from this Mentor leaving your hand so quickly that there won't be anybody left to teach by the time this teacher enters the classroom.
Another place you could try is Puresteel Paladin since its germ tokens and the Paladin alike are all 2 power or less. However that deck really doesn't run enough creatures. Instead I think there's another quick beatdown deck out there that is aided by the Mentor's presence. Take a look at this version of White Weenie for post-Innistrad Standard:
Simple and bare bones yes but surprisingly fast. Honor of the Pure is an interesting choice to exclude but a single one turns off all your Mentors. You can really only play one or the other and I'd rather try out the new card.
Cards like Porcelain Legionnaire and Accorder Paladin have also been excluded due to their lack of synergy though it's certainly reasonable to play them anyway and just have them not combo with Mentor. However I do foresee a lot of midgame situations with Mentor after they cast a lot of removal (or Day of Judgment) and it becoming critical that every creature cantrips. I would see how often that situation comes up and then consider cutting Exarch for Legionnaire.
There are plenty of good evasive two-drops out there in Standard. Whether or not you want Spectral Rider over Stormfront Pegasus depends on the metagame so keep that consideration in mind. I think Mirran Crusader and various artifact creatures will be fairly popular in the new Standard so I'd rather have the flier but the Rider is certainly an option.
Gideon's Lawkeeper serves a very underappreciated role in this deck allowing you creatures to hit turn after turn while simultaneously disabling opposing Sword of Feast and Famines. I wouldn't cut him even though he may look weak. However I would expect there to be a good white one-drop creature in Innistrad and after it is previewed I would play that over one of the two-drops. This deck is really missing another good one-drop and I would play as many as you can.
While White Weenie is certainly one place this card can go the first place my mind actually went to was G/W. First of all it means you can speed your deck up and have access to plenty of mana for the Mentor thanks to Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise. Better yet it means running 8 one drop accelerators is less of an issue in the late game because they all cantrip.
Take a look at this decklist:
There are a few different ways you can take this deck. You can go bigger and play cards like Garruk Primal Hunter. Alternatively you can go even smaller and cut some spells for Lead the Stampede. Lead alongside Mentor is incredibly powerful making sure you don't run out of cards.
However in the end I opted for this list. Sword of War and Peace is probably going to be a big player in the upcoming format and it seems very strong. It turns any of your creatures into a threat and sneaks past Mirran Crusaders plus it can just kill them with your own Mirran Crusaders.
Jade Mage might look a little cute but it actually has a lot of value in a deck like this. If you stall out and mana-flood it gives you something to do; it's a great topdeck; it trumps green beatdown mirrors; and plus it's fantastic with Mentor out. There will certainly be games where he's just a 2/1 for two but those are the games where you are likely winning because you didn't need his ability.
Of course there's another way you can take the G/W deck as well. There's one more element of Mentor of the Meek that we haven't discussed: he's a human! Innistrad is likely to introduce a lot of great new humans and human support cards into the mix and there's certainly the potential to take advantage of the tribe. I would start with a base that looks something like this:
Now this deck is a little ambitious mostly because the majority of human enablers in Innistrad have yet to be revealed. For example the fact that you have to play Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves for your accelerators is certainly not optimal and if there is some kind of human druid accelerator in Innistrad I would definitely play four of those.
I don't think Gatstaf Shepherd or any of the other werewolves fit here because ideally you're going to be casting a lot of spells thanks to Mentor and Lead the Stampede– but as more cards come out there could definitely be a very strong human-werewolf tribal deck. Regardless Mayor of Avabruck is still solid in this deck. He's a lord that can create late-game inevitability when he's transformed sign me up!
The tribal synergies are too powerful to ignore (plus they're the reason to go for a mostly human strategy in the first place) and alongside Lead the Stampede they have the potential to unleash a huge cascade of creatures. You're still going to draw plenty of cards off your Mentors overall which will make it worthwhile. After all if they let either of your lords live you're probably in a pretty good spot anyway.
But of course that's just Standard. The format everybody has their eyes on right now is Modern. Can the Mentor compete there? In the right deck absolutely! You just have to find where he fits.
There are various strategies you can try the Mentor in. You could certainly try him in some Reveillark control deck. However while I think there may be a creature-heavy control deck that can use him in Standard there are far too many good cards you can bring back in Modern to really consider the Mentor over Reveillark's other common targets.
As far as Modern beatdown decks you could play him in some kind of Naya or Boros deck. However I think I want to try going Selesnya yet again. There are some really neat green and white cards you can play the Mentor with. Take a look at this:
- 4 Mentor of the Meek
- 3 Nest Invader
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Selesnya Guildmage
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 1 Gaddock Teeg
- 2 Dryad Arbor
A green/white deck without Tarmogoyf or Knight of the Reliquary? Indeed! When you're going on a theme I'm not convinced you need them though you may want one of each to Zenith for. Then again I would probably end up playing at least four copies of the Tarmogoyf after I tested the deck a little bit and figured out what to cut.
This deck is mostly a fun deck in this iteration as there's no way it can beat Twelvepost but that's not to say it couldn't turn into something competitive with some tuning. The deck has a lot of one-ofs right now but I would play some games and see what is working and what isn't. My hunch is that Promise is more of a sideboard card and Militia's Pride is too cute but you can try them out and go from there.
There are some really cool interactions in this deck. Sacrifice a fetchland find Dryad Arbor draw a card off of Mentor of the Meek? Very neat! Play Nest Invader use the Eldrazi Spawn to pay for drawing a card? Not too bad! When most of your creatures cantrip there are plenty of nice ways to get ahead. If any of you guys try out this deck let me know how it performs for you!
Finally earlier I mentioned this guy has combo potential. Some of you may have lifted your eyebrow at that claim. Well take a look at this deck!
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 2 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 2 Essence Warden
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Mentor of the Meek
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 2 Ranger of Eos
- 2 Regal Force
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 1 Dryad Arbor
With Glimpse of Nature gone Mentor of the Meek helps fuel some insane Elves draws. While it's certainly no Glimpse since it requires a mana each time there are certainly some ways it can help you explode. Once you reach infinite mana off of Curio with Heritage Druid Nettle Sentinel and any other elf Mentor lets you draw your deck.
Tangleroot is kind of a goofy card I was trying out but it has some potential. With Mentor out it essentially lets your elves cantrip for free since each one gives you a bonus mana to spend at your leisure. There might also be a strange but fun Tangleroot combo deck out there that uses a lot of free creatures Mentor Tangleroot and Cloudstone Curio but I couldn't get it to work. Perhaps that's something for you to try out on your own!
And of course that's just the tip of this card's potential. With only a handful of cards in Innistrad spoiled there's plenty of room for this card to become even better! I'm excited to see if any synergies have been included as well as what other cheap humans there are to really exploit a tribal deck. This set is looking great!
If you have any comments or deck ideas around the Mentor feel free to post below shoot me a tweet or send me an e-mail at gavintriesagain at gmail dot com. I'm excited to see what you guys come up with and I'll no doubt be revisiting this card once the whole spoiler is out.
In the past I looked at every creature with power two or less through the lens of if it went well with Reveillark. I predict that the future will have me looking at every creature with power two or less through the lens of if it goes well with Mentor of the Meek. Hopefully you'll join me - I can't wait to see this card in action!
Rabon on Magic online @GavinVerhey on Twitter