Wave Riding & Pro Tour Musings

Mark looks at Pro Tour Dublin and his “called shot” with Master of Waves, and takes a critical look at the event coverage and its ramifications as 20,000 viewers tuned in to watch the event.

Pro Tour: Theros is in the books, and I know exactly what you’re thinking…

“He’s going to brag about shot-calling Master of Waves.”

Well… yeah, man… kinda.

Would you expect any different from me?

I knew a blue-based devotion deck was going to be good, and mono blue was definitely a consideration when I started messaging people about this new deck my buddy had been working on. Another friend, local hair model Brennan DeCandio, shared my interests in this creature and began building decks almost card-for card-what you saw on the Pro Tour stage.

Do we wish people listened to us two weeks ago when we were touting this deck’s laurels? Kind of, but it’s not really fun unless things get broken on the biggest stage out there.

To say that this card wasn’t the breakout creature from the Pro Tour would be a travesty, considering that we all watched this card do more heavy lifting than Wreck-It Ralph. The Mono Blue Devotion decks, affectionately called by my friend Jordon “Hopelessly Addicted To U,” took the deck I had been writing about and gave it a great deal of consistency. Cards like Nightveil Specter are a humongous beating against the midrange decks out there, and outside of Lighting Strike and Firefist Striker, red decks usually have to two-for-one themselves to kill it in game one. Things like that made this deck extremely well-rounded, and gave it huge game against everything.

This isn’t to say that U/W Master of Waves was bad; in fact it’s quite the contrary. Kyle Schreiner, Sergey Demidov, and Alexey Shashov all put up very respectable Standard finishes with the deck.

Shashov’s list was certainly more aggressive than the list I’ve been posting, but I can see a lot of merit to what he’s trying to do. Mono Red Devotion decks were out in full force, and cards like Lavinia of the Tenth and Lyev Skyknight do a great job of putting on the brakes. Master of Waves having protection from red is also a big help, giving this deck a lot of game against the numerous red decks out there. Lavinia is also a massive trump against the mono blue decks if she resolves, basically letting you turn your whole team sideways for an unimpeded alpha strike.

Alexey’s build was the exact same as competitor Sergey Demidov’s, who managed a 53rd place finish.

Kyle Schreiner’s 135th place finish might seem distant, but it was his Standard record that let him finish in that spot piloting something that looked… familiar…

With a maindeck that looks extremely similar to what I’ve been championing, it’s a joy to see that this deck gave Kyle a good amount of Standard success. I’d love to have his commentary on it and what things he would keep/cut, so if you read this Kyle, great job – and please chime in in the comments!

One question that I’ve been getting a lot lately is how to beat this deck. With a Mono Blue Devotion mirror match in the finals, it’s clear that this deck has enough power to run roughshod over the PT, not to mention SCG’s very own Sam Black putting up a Top 4 performance with it. Three out of eight is clearly not just a flash in the pan, so you should start preparing for this deck immediately lest you be murdered by a horde of rampaging Elementals.

Here are some tips to defeating this new menace:

Tip #1 – Removal is Good. Duh.

It’s quite obvious that killing their creatures, such as Master of Waves, is a good thing, but it actually works twofold.

You’re dealing with a deck that is perfectly set up to maximize the power of Thassa, God of the Sea, so keeping that card shut off is one of the best ways to beat them. Killing creatures like Nightveil Specter, Frostburn Weird is just good in general, and shutting down Bident of Thassa is a key to victory.

This makes the U/W variant attractive to me, given that it has cards like Supreme Verdict that can’t be countered and Sphinx’s Revelation to refuel your hand. If Master of Waves isn’t your kind of thing, a deck like Esper Control or the new Orzhov Midrange deck that pack plenty of ways to remove creatures might be right up your alley. I particularly like decks that can play Detention Sphere, since against Mono Blue it can be a permanent answer to Thassa unless they hit their Cyclonic Rift or Disperse.

Tip #2 – Disruption

The threat density in the Mono Blue Devotion deck is quite high, but cards like Thoughtseize and Rakdos’s Return are a great way to make sure they never get online against you. Their draws are quite strong, but when you can pluck the threats right out of their hand and know exactly what to play around their game plan loses a lot of its luster.

A deck like GerryT’s R/B Midrange deck plays a lot of the cards you want against them and gives you additional sweepers like Anger the Gods. If you can force them into battling with near-dead Judge’s Familiars and Tidebinder Mages while keeping them off Master of Waves and Thassa, the game should be a lot easier for you. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Tip #3 – Go Way the Hell Over Them

Makihito Mihara showed off an extremely interesting R/G deck that functions like an aggro, midrange, and combo deck. Dubbed “Colossal Gruul,” this build has the most explosive draws in the format and it isn’t even close. Check here for details.

This deck was unfortunately swept 3-0 by eventual winner Jeremy Dezani, but to say his draws were very subpar would probably be putting it mildly. The potential for this deck to just “go off” is what makes it so appealing. Sometimes you can just not-care about what your opponent is doing and make them as dead as possible in the early turns before they get a chance to set up. Mihara’s feature matches show that this deck has the ability to switch gears as well, playing an abundance of planeswalkers that can slow the game down and grind out an opponent.

This deck doesn’t screw around, and if you’re looking for a way to beat Master of Waves, this might be one of your best shots.

Tip #4 – Master the Waves Yourself

There is always the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mantra that I subscribe to from time to time, and this might be one of them.

You’re going to face this deck a lot in the coming weeks. You must accept that.

In past formats, when a deck shows this level of dominance tons of players flock to it, but this is something you can use to your advantage.

I can’t tell you the number of mirror matches I’ve been able to win in all formats because I took the best deck, learned the in and out of it, and put it to work in a metagame filled with it. Sometimes this is a science, and you need to learn the answer for what to do in each and every scenario.

Picking up this deck and mastering it will give you a massive edge if you expect a room filled with copies of Mono Blue Devotion, and that is going to be a great way to beat it.

Alright. I’m done talking about Master of Waves

…for now…

Now I’d like to talk about some of the things I had my ear to the ground on this weekend in a segment I call: The Good, The Great, and the Ugly. I spent my weekend off watching coverage, talking to friends about the tournament and decks, and what we’d love to see worked on.

The Good: The Innovation

One thing I was very happy to see was the sheer variety of decks in the room during the Pro Tour. While the keyword “Devotion” seemed to be everywhere, it was awesome to see what some of the best super-teams in the world were able to come up with.

Every single color except for white was represented at the top tables, with Team CFB battling with Mono Red, Team SCG on Mono Blue, several of the best Japanese players in the world were packing mostly green Nylea, God of the Hunt decks, and Kentarou Yamamoto even brought Pack Rat to the Top 8 with Mono Black Devotion. How sweet is it to see the impact the Gods have had?

Aside from that, Esper, U/W/R Control, Mono Red Aggro, G/B Rock, R/G Monsters, G/W Aggro, and plenty of others put up a good showing. This is the kind of innovation that I love seeing, and the best players didn’t disappoint.

The Ugly: The Coverage

I’m going to take some heat for this, but I feel like it’s a necessary step in the right direction to making Magic coverage as good as it can be.

One of the things that I take from watching World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Street Fighter, and other popularly-streamed games is that their delivery is potent and exciting. Like I said in last week’s article, a person watching Evo for the first time can pick up on what’s happening on their screen in just minutes and they can get drawn in even quicker. When 20,000 people tune in to watch Magic: The Gathering, they need to be entertained regardless of what is happening.

This game can’t be exclusionary.

I found the commentary to be great… for someone like me that understands Magic. For the casual player or new person trying to get into it, it’s extremely alienating.

Coverage is getting bigger and bigger, and one of the most common complaints I read about on Facebook and Twitter was that they felt the commentating was sorely lacking in the charisma department. When I watch League of Legends on Twitch, I barely have any freaking clue what the hell is happening on the screen, but the way it is presented makes it feel exciting and refreshing. I learn by watching, and the announcers aren’t just knowledgeable, they’re also full of the kind of passion that sucks you right in.

This isn’t a slight against guys like BDM or Zac Hill, because their love of Magic obliterates mine, but I can’t say, in my heart of hearts, that they’re generating viewers. Any article Zac Hill writes, I will read and absorb every word he says. Seeing the humanistic pieces that BDM does stirs my feelings for how much I love this game, but as a coverage duo I can’t get behind them.

Aside from that, the transitions were awkward and often left between ten and fifteen seconds of dead air. The interviews felt forced and it became incredibly irritating to have the person who was being interviewed interrupted by their interviewer several times per session. To me if felt unpolished and not nearly as good as it could have been.

I’m not here to complain about this; all I want is better coverage.

It’s easy for me to make these critiques when I’m not the man in front of the camera, but after reading about it on social media for three days straight I felt I saw more negative than good. I hope they had the opposite experience.

Take it for what it’s worth. Probably not much.

The Great: The Things to Come

As I said earlier, over 20,000 people tuned in to watch coverage. This gives me the hope that Magic is on the eve of transcending the barrier that keeps it on the outside looking in when it comes to the more popular games to view.

Not only that, but Theros has proved to not only be a great Standard set but also a very intricate draft format with plenty of different archtypes to work with. The level at which sets just keep getting better and better is staggering.

Remember when people didn’t think it could get any better when Innistrad came out? Then there was Return to Ravnica, and all expectations were shattered. Now we have Theros which literally broke the flavor department while also adding a ton of important cards to Standard. This is an unmeasurable success for Magic, and I hope when Journey into Nyx comes out that it continues the trend of amazing sets.

Such a busy week in the world of Magic, huh?

I’m sure the best is yet to come in the next few months. Despite creating polarizing new decks, the surface of the format hasn’t even been scratched yet, and that is something excites me like you wouldn’t believe.

Tell me in the comments what you think about the new decks that emerged, and give your input on The Good, The Great, and the Ugly. I want your opinions, too. Maybe I’m crazy and way out of line? Maybe I’m dead on? The only way I’ll know is if you tell me.

We are living in a Master of Waves world, and I am a Master of Waves girl.

Catch ya on the flip-


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