Aggressive mechanics tend to warp Limited environments. In recent years, we’ve had Battalion in Gatecrash, Vehicles in Kaladesh, and Exert in Amonkhet. Will Mentor affect Guilds of Ravnica Limited in a similar fashion?
My initial inclination is that there are enough playable cards at common to counteract the strategy, which will keep aggression at bay (I’m looking at you, Dimir Infiltrator). That said, Mentor looks to have a good amount of potential, so let’s take a look at how to maximize the mechanic!
Mentor requires three things in order to have an impact on the game:
1. A creature with Mentor
2. A creature with lower power than the creature with Mentor
3. An opportunity to attack with both of those creatures
Any removal spell can stop this plan, and even good blockers can make your life quite difficult. Now, creatures are plentiful in Limited, so I imagine that removal will be less problematic than solid blockers based on the density of those types of cards in your opponent’s deck.
This means that, in order to draft a solid Mentor deck, you’ll need a good chunk of cards with the purpose of pushing through blockers. Luckily, this is already something you need to keep in mind when building any aggro deck. We’ll have to wait and see if Mentor incentivizes playing more of these types of cards than normal (and I have a feeling it will).
Roc Charger will be the best of the bunch for enabling Mentor. Pegasus Courser is a card we’ve played with quite a bit and is often a top white common, so moving it up to uncommon says something.
Pegasus Courser bumped to uncommon is probably a window into WotC's development around the mentor mechanic. If mentor decks always had access to Pegasus Courser, would they be too good? Just a thing to think about pic.twitter.com/6GB9GbT85X
— Ryan Saxe (@rcsaxe) September 17, 2018
Imagine Pegasus Courser as a 2/4. That card would be one of the best cards in the set for Limited, and all it takes is one creature with Mentor to achieve that upgrade. But there are plenty of other ways in the set to force through blockers. Combat tricks and other effects that increase creature statlines will play nicely with Mentor because they gain an additional line of play.
Rather than simply trying to surprise an opponent, it’s possible that enabling the Mentor trigger to target a larger creature facilitates a very profitable attack. In cases like this, you can cast Sure Strike pre-combat. And tricks aren’t the only cards that get a subtle boost from the mechanic.
Falter effects like Cosmotronic Wave are always interesting cards for Limited. The question of whether to include such an effect isn’t often trivial. The reason not to include a card like Falter in your deck is that, unless you win the game when you cast it, it’s often just bad, as it has no effect on the battlefield.
With Mentor, these types of cards can leave around a couple of +1/+1 counters, making an attack on the following turn profitable. The difference that makes on combat is night and day, so I expect to always play a copy of Cosmotronic Wave in my Mentor decks and could see playing multiple. Especially if one-toughness-creatures are somewhat common.
Furthermore, cards that don’t push through damage but do enable attacks will be better than they usually are. Slash of Talons was the last card I wanted to play in my aggro decks, as it was a conditional removal spell that didn’t push through damage. But if the card facilitates putting a +1/+1 counter on one of my creatures? That could be well worth the investment.
Creatures with Mentor tend to have low toughness (just look at Barging Sergeant). This means that my opponent is incentivized to block with their smaller creatures in order to trade up. With this the case, Righteous Blow will save creatures with Mentor more than you would think, and it’s also very good against creatures with Mentor.
Those two facts together lead me to believe that this format will lend itself to the card being better than it ever has been before. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be fantastic, but I would be surprised if it’s an end-of-the-pack sort of card, as one mana-interaction isn’t common in Limited.
Don’t forget that the existence of Mentor increases the potency of one-drops in Boros decks. One-drops aren’t often good enough to include in your Limited decks because of how poorly they scale with the game. However, if you put just one +1/+1 counter on one, the body becomes more respectable, or even impressive in the case of Healer’s Hawk.
Lastly, Mentor combined with haste can be a complete beating. When an opponent leaves back blockers, all it might take is one +1/+1 counter to make their planned block go from reasonable to abysmal. Torch Courier and Maximize Velocity don’t seem like great cards to me, but I think they will have a role to play.
Maximize Velocity combines the potency of haste along with the increased value of stat-boosting with the Mentor mechanic and it can even do that two turns in a row. Torch Courier combines the potency of haste with the importance of one-drop creatures for your Boros aggro deck.
In fact, the existence of Torch Courier may say something, as we’ve had both Goblin Motivator and Bloodlust Inciter at common before and neither creature was problematic. Was a card like that tested and the body gaining counters was just too good? It’s impossible to tell, but interesting food for thought.
Taking all the above synergies into account, here’s what I expect a good Mentor deck in Guilds of Ravnica Draft to look like.
- 1 Skyknight Legionnaire
- 1 Boros Challenger
- 1 Blade Instructor
- 2 Healer's Hawk
- 1 Fresh-Faced Recruit
- 1 Sunhome Stalwart
- 1 Goblin Banneret
- 1 Legion Guildmage
- 2 Wojek Bodyguard
- 1 Roc Charger
- 1 Skyline Scout
- 1 Rubblebelt Boar
- 2 Ornery Goblin