Ensnaring Cambridge—UW Master of Waves
It’s a new format and I’m back on blue-white control. Rather than start with the best list available, Max Tietze’s second place deck at SCG Worcester, I opted to try out a more…unconventional list. Yes, I realize how absurd the word “unconventional” is regarding a Standard format that’s two weeks old. Anyway, this week I played a UW Master of Waves deck as discussed in a recent Mark Nestico article on Star City Games Select. I decided to play the deck because, well, it looked terrible. Nestico even admitted that it looked ugly when he wrote, “This deck looks like worse U/W Control”. The clincher here is that, despite how bad it looks on paper, according to Nestico it is supposedly a pretty good deck. I, of course, needed to verify this claim by running the deck in my weekly Wednesday Night Standard tournament at Pandemonium Books and Games. I left the maindeck intact but changed around a few cards in the sideboard. Here is the decklist for reference:
UW Master of Waves
4 Master of Waves
2 Frostburn Weird
3 Thassa, God of the Sea
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Supreme Verdict
3 Detention Sphere
4 Azorius Charm
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
2 Bident of Thassa
1 Spear of Heliod
1 Cyclonic Rift
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Pithing Needle
3 Blind Obedience
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Swan Song
While the deck has conventional control elements (Supreme Verdict, Azorius Charm, and Detention Sphere) it eschews countermagic for a proactive creature suite. Instead of playing draw-go, this deck seeks to build up devotion by casting Omenspeaker, Frostburn Weird, Thassa, and big daddy merfolk—Master of Waves. The beauty of this deck is that is can operate on multiple axes, one turn you’re wrathing the board and the next you’re jamming Master of Waves, making some guys, and drawing cards off Bident of Thassa. While the deck’s strength is its versatility, the two modes of the deck can also be a bit awkward; sometimes you’re playing Bident without any creatures, drawing Supreme Verdicts when you’re ahead on board with Master of Waves, or sitting on non-Opalescenced Thassa when you really need to block against an aggro deck. The question I am hoping to answer at the end of the two-week testing process is whether the deck’s versatility outweighs it’s awkwardness. Before talking about the games I played this week, I want to touch upon some of the card choices in the deck and discuss some internal synergies.
Master of Waves—This guy is the reason a deck like this exists in the first place. Even without any prior devotion to blue, at its worst Master of Waves still mimics Huntmaster of the Fells, and puts an additional two power into play. But wait though, I hear our Theoretical Devil’s Advocate (TDA for short) chiming in, “Master doesn’t gain you life or flip and get bigger and when it dies the token dies too.” Sure, TDA, this is all true, but Huntmaster also didn’t have Protection from Red, couldn’t create more than one token at once, and didn’t give additional pumps to his tokens with another Huntmaster in play. Seriously though, Master of Waves is the real deal; he single handedly colds Mono-Red, provides a solid clock against control, and buys you flowers on the way home from work “just because”.
Omenspeaker—I’m a bit torn on this one. Omenspeaker does a lot of things you want it to do, but doesn’t necessarily do the best job of doing them. Omenspeaker will definitely wash the dishes for you, but she is not going to put them away. Augur of Bolas would have put them away. Anyway, an early Omenspeaker smooths out draws, counts for devotion, and blocks potential idiots swinging away at your life total. However, Omenspeaker is card disadvantage, only counts for one devotion, and isn’t even a great blocker. Ultimately, ensuring early land drops in this deck is really important, and it does a pretty good job at that, better than Augur of Bolas anyway, and thus I can understand its inclusion in the deck. However, I’m not nearly as excited about it as Nestico and I don’t think the full four is the correct number.
Frostburn Weird—This thing, on the other hand, is really impressive. Against aggro, Weird blocks just about everyone and lives to tell about it. Against control, Weird actually pressures players and planeswalkers alike without over-committing to the board. Also, it ups your devotion count. As if that wasn’t good enough, Frostburn Weird takes you home when you’re too drunk to drive, buys you Mexican food from Sombrero, and laughs at your dumb jokes when no one else does.
Thassa, God of the Sea—Despite all the initial buzz over Thassa, the Bident wielding sea god hasn’t found a place in winning 60’s yet. If there is a deck for Lady Poseidon, it could certainly be this one.
Bident of Thassa—While we’re talking about Thassa, we may as well discuss her mythical weapon. In theory, this Coastal Piracy on a stick can help to maintain a steady stream of cards with the help of the decks many elementals and also sticks around for devotional purposes. In practice, this card doesn’t impact the board when it comes down, is kind of expensive, and mostly only good when you are already ahead on the board. I don’t like it and ended up siding it out in most matches.
Spear of Heliod—Though I wasn’t very impressed with the Bident, I found myself always wanting to wield the spear. While the Spear acts simply as a Glorious Anthem in weenie decks, here both abilities are applicable and fit the deck’s different plans of attack. The anthem keeps Master of Waves‘ tokens alive even if the waverider dies, and the other ability keeps opponent’s creatures at bay. The only problem I have with this card is that its devoted to the wrong color entirely.
Mutavault—This is the last card I’m going to discuss here because I think most of the other card choices in the deck are pretty standard in UW control lists. Mutavault provides this deck with additional reach and even gets pumped by Master of Waves. However, I wonder if this deck really wants to play a full set of them because of mana constraints. While the deck is only two colors, I found myself unable to play a crucial Supreme Verdict in a few situations because of Mutavault sitting around and not producing colored mana.
Round 1—Flez with Naya (2-1)
I got to play my good friend Jamie Flez in round one. Some fun facts about Jamie:
– Jamie has a green mana symbol tattooed on his forearm
– Jamie plays Naya in every format
– Jamie will automatically scoop if the card Capsize is cast against him.
Game one, Flez had a reasonable curve of Elvish Mystic, into Boon Satyr, into Advent of the Wurm. I had two Supreme Verdicts in hand but only had one white mana in play. Awkward. I didn’t help matters when I made a series of boneheaded plays including attacking with Omenspeaker when Flez was clearly representing Boon Satyr. Flez ended up playing Chandra, Pyromaster and I packed em up.
I am not entirely sure why the deck runs three Thassa in the first place, since you never want to see more than one in the course of a game. I ended up cutting one Thassa in nearly every match along with her Bident which fundamentally seemed a bit win-more in most games. I assumed that Flez had Stormbreath Dragon somewhere in his 60, so I brought in Claustrophobia which is a reasonable follow up to the Thundermaw wannabe. While Claustrophobia isn’t the most efficient piece of removal, it does contribute quite a bit of blue devotion to the deck and deals with problematic pro-white creatures like the aforementioned dragon and Blood Baron of Vizkopa.
I was able to close out the next two games, despite several glaring misplays, mostly due to the fact that Master of Waves is a boss. Seriously though, against creature-based midrange decks like Naya, Master doesn’t die removal and creates an army to trade with even their biggest creatures.
Round 2—Shawn with Big Boros (0-2)
Shawn is a cool guy. I’m not just just saying this because we have the same name, and spell it the same sensibly phonetic way, but also because he’s also a fellow pro-wrestling fan. Smart people who like wrestling are pretty awesome in my book.
Shawn’s deck played stuff like Boros Reckoner, Chandra, Pyromaster, Chandra’s Phoenix, and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Game one, I got stuck on three lands on a double mulligan and when I got my fourth land, it was not white, and the Supreme Verdict in my hand was rendered useless.
Game two, Shawn played a second turn Frostburn Weird that managed to hit me for eight damage before I killed it with Spear of Heliod. From this point, Shawn was able to send in back to back Stormbreath Dragons, which despite being claustrophobic after swinging just once, were able to get me down to burn range where I was finished off with a Warleader’s Helix.
Round 3—Nick with UG Ramp (2-0)
Before rotation, Nick was dominating Wednesday Night Standard with a UG Elves list that generated insane mana with Elvish Archdruid, pumped creatures with Master Biomancer, and ended games with giant Craterhoof Behemoths. This week Nick was playing a port of the deck into new Standard with all of the mana dorks available,paired with Nykthos, and Prophet of Kruphix to make giant Mistcutter Hydras or overrun with Nylea, God of the Hunt.
In both our games, I was able to wrath away Nick’s mana producers and basically just do whatever I wanted. Here are the board states at the end of our games:
Round 4—Clark with GB Aggro (1-2)
It feels like I’m always playing Clark in the last round of these tournaments. This week, Clark, who is typically a control mage, decided to put aside his islands and counterspells in favor of Kalonian Tuskers, Lotleth Trolls, and Dreg manglers in this GB Aggro deck.
Games two and three, could not have been any different than the first. In game two, Clark was able to keep up the regeneration mana on Lotleth Troll, scavenge the carcass of a Dreg Mangler on it, and trample over my creatures. In game three, I was stuck on mana, could once again not cast Supreme Verdict and ended up losing when Golgari Charm destroyed my Detention Sphere and freed two Kalonian Tuskers. It is worth noting that Golgari Charm is just bonkers against this deck; it kills Master and his tokens, blows up Detention Sphere, and saves his creatures from Supreme Verdict.
At the end of the night I finished 2-2 and felt unsatisfied with the deck as a whole. While I can appreciate the deck’s versatility, it just seemed a bit too disjointed. The tempo elements didn’t always mesh with the control elements and a lot of games I found myself just drawing a card that wasn’t good in that particular situation. It’s not the end of the world to draw Supreme Verdict when you’re winning with creatures, but it feels really bad when you need to stem the bleeding from an aggro deck and you draw Bident of Thassa. This deck…kind of does feel like a bad UW control list. Furthermore, since the deck doesn’t have any counterspells in the main, there are a lot of situations where your opponent will cast Stormbreath Dragon, Miscutter Hydra, Obzedat, or Blood Baron of Vizkopa and you basically just lose.
After thinking about potential changes for the deck, I believe that a complete overhaul of the deck is in order. While I am convinced that Master of Waves is awesome, the UW control/tempo shell doesn’t seem to be the best place for him so next week, I will be trying out this:
UR Master of Waves
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Master of Waves
2 Prognostic Sphinx
2 Thassa, God of the Sea
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Essence Scatter
2 Izzet Charm
2 Magma Jet
1 Mizzium Mortars
3 Turn / Burn
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
4 Izzet Guildgate
4 Steam Vents
1 Anger of the Gods
2 Burning Earth
2 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Swan Song
1 Turn / Burn
Much of this list came from a Jeff Hoogland brew he 0-2 dropped with last weekend at SCG Cleveland. Despite his lackluster results, I liked the core of the deck and think that it provides a better shell for Master of Waves. The mana is better than the UW version, the removal suite is more efficient at dealing with problematic creatures, and it runs countermagic, which is important for a blue mage like me. I will discuss individual card choices in my article for next week and let you know whether this change was an improvement or a downgrade.
At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 10 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro-wrestling.