Who Is Your Master? Pyro Or Waves?

Michael looks more deeply into exploring the power of Master of Waves, evolving his early builds from last week’s article to put this powerful Mythic Rare to work!

Before I begin this week, I just wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for the awesome feedback and reception that last week’s article garnered. I was truly excited to see how well it was received and how involved everyone got discussing things in the comments section. I hope this is something I can replicate and help foster weekly from here on out.

In fact, I was so excited by the discussions in last week’s article, I’m bringing them along for this week’s ride as well. I saw some excellent ideas that really got my creative juices flowing, so I wanted to start off this week by giving credit where credit’s due and showing three of the more exciting builds that you all responded with.

If you remember, I’ve been talking about mono colored Nykthos decks and also posed a challenge of sorts to build a deck with Master of Waves as the focal point. So, let’s start with a mono-red Nykthos deck that Joshua Jordan commented about, one that he took to a Top 32 finish at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Cleveland two weekends ago.

I asked Joshua for his updated list, and here’s what he provided:

Joshua claims a great matchup against control decks, something I believe wholeheartedly with his maindeck Ember Swallowers, Stormbreath Dragons, Chandra’s Phoenix, Chandra, Pyromasters, and Hammer of Purphoros. The ability to push Nykthos into overdrive with Ash Zealot, Frostburn Weird, and Boros Reckoner while still stalling out more aggressive strategies gives the pilot time to start pushing out game-ending threats like the Dragon.

Even though Nykthos is legendary, the new legend rule gives you plenty of reason to run four. While the awkward draws with double Mountain and Nykthos (with Reckoner in Hand) are bound to happen, the benefit to running the four are there in this deck. I haven’t played it, but I have to wonder if there’s room for Burning-Tree Emissary, as that card goes so well with Nykthos and Fanatic of Mogis, providing free, surprising devotion out of nowhere.

Something else that’s kind of nice is how Hammer of Purphoros lets you cash in extra copies of Nykthos rather than sacrificing them to the legend rule. I’m not sure how often that’ll happen, but I’m sure it’d feel good when it does.

According to Joshua, the white splash is for the sideboard options. He swears by Glare of Heresy, taking out incredibly difficult-to-answer threats in addition to being a solid catchall against permanents like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Detention Sphere, Helios, God of the Sun, Chained to the Rocks, Voice of Resurgence, Boros Reckoners… the list goes on and on. Wear // Tear is another solid catchall card as well.

The card that is likely to get the most eyebrows is Smite; Joshua says that no one expects the card and it gives you a great out to huge creatures that you otherwise would have no outs to (think Loxodon Smiter with an Unflinching Courage, Kalonian Hydra, etc…). I might include the last Chained to the Rocks before including a Smite, but I like where his head is at (thinking far outside the box).

Master of Waves

Moving on to Master of Waves, I received quite a few lists with this card. While it’s obvious we need some sort of blue board presence to make use of Master, the lists varied vastly from comment to comment. I loved seeing all of these ideas, as I’ve been waiting since the card was spoiled to see how useful it could be. I mean, how can a card with all that text not be good?

As far back as a month ago, I was trying to brew with Master of Waves:

(Even though I apparently didn’t know the name of the card at the time. )

This was my first idea with the card, since it boosts all Elementals and Young Pyromancer shoots out Elementals. Molten Birth even ties the two cards together sort of cleanly, producing more Elementals with a spell that triggers Pyromancers again.

Then I realized that the two cards pull you in vastly different directions; Pyromancer wants as many spells as possibly while Master wants as many blue permanents as possible. I’m sure some sort of middle ground could have been found but I didn’t find it. Moving on…

I tried out various builds over time, knowing that the card was primed to be broken, but never found a build I was super excited about. I then got hooked on Nykthos green decks and took a break from trying to build with Master of Waves.

Until last week.

First, Brian Dolan posted a list that seemed to have more direction than what I came up with. I was trying to jam Claustrophobias and whatnot into lists because of blue devotion counts, but Brian (and his friend) just bypassed the chaff and went straight for the jugular with this list:

While I think I’d move around some of the specific card choices, I like the direction these two went; they went away from “try to make Master as insane as possible” to “let’s build a good blue deck that makes Master of Waves anywhere from decent to amazing, depending on the draw”.

This list aims to abuse Nykthos late-game as well as use counterspells and bounce (in addition to Frostburn Weird) to lock down the early turns. Nykthos allows for regularly overloaded Cyclonic Rifts as well as Opportunities being cast with mana to use on the spells drawn by the Opportunity. If my plan was to use Nykthos to power out a bunch of card drawing, I might consider splashing white for Sphinx’s Revelation, but I’d have to do some testing to see if that’s correct.

The last of the three decks I wanted to mention was a more aggressive take on Master of Waves; this build in particular is what shifted how I thought about a Master of Waves deck completely.

I present Mono-Blue Fish, by Andrew Volz:

Even pasting this list now, it’s amazing how close to the list I’m running this really is. Andrew took this to the Top Eight of a Magic-League Master tournament, going undefeated in the swiss portion. I was hesitant on some of the spells, but after playing with them a bit more I see why he chose the numbers that he did.

I’ll admit, after reading the comments, I got excited and just started brewing with the new ideas I picked up. I started with a list that included Vaporkin, which shows how deep I was willing to go to try to abuse Master of Waves (Vaporkin being an Elemental and all). I ended up cutting those down, but I realized how much I liked the other Elemental that I included to work with Master of Waves:

Since I was already playing Hands of Binding, I liked having the ability to eat the Cipher copy with Nivmagus Elemental in addition to Nivmagus being able to gain the bonus from Master of Waves and adding to blue devotion. Another awesome interaction is how Nivmagus allows you to evolve Cloudfin Raptor, which ends up being relevant since you want to save your Frostburn Weirds to gain the third +1/+1 counter on the Raptor.

I posted my progress on Twitter as I worked:

After some more testing, here’s where I’m currently at with Master of Waves:

I love how this list plays out in Game One before transforming out of the sideboard depending on the matchup. Against non-red aggressive decks, Blustersquall allows you to gum up the battlefield with cards like Frostburn Weird and Master of Waves then alpha strike into an opponent’s tapped–down board. Against red-based aggression, we gain access to Sensory Deprivation to slow them back down to our speed. In both matchups, we get arguably one of the best cards in Standard, Jace, Architect of Thought.

Rapid Hybridization comes in against the green decks that play out giant monsters like Polukranos, World Eater and Kalonian Hydra (extra points for being able to Rapid Hybridization a Thassa, God of the Sea. Think about it…). Jace, Memory Adept gives you another angle to attack control decks as well.

The Clone comes in against green decks to copy Master of Waves; since Mutavault and Nivmagus Elemental get the bonus from Master and having more than one Master of Waves makes it so one removal spell doesn’t kill all of your Elemental tokens, being able to push out a ton of 2/1 Elementals against a deck that has few ways to interact is often enough to mitigate the damage that Mistcutter Hydra does post-board. Be careful, though, as Polukranos is the Achilles’ Heel of Master of Waves. Being able to respond to the monstrous ability with Rapid Hybridization or Voyage’s End can help win a race, though.

The cards that I’ve been most impressed with, other than Master of Waves, have been Thassa, God of the Sea and her weapon, Bident of Thassa. Thassa hits for huge chunks and gives you control of not only your draw step but also control of the combat step. The blue god mitigates mana flood as well, which is something that you need in almost every deck.

Bident of Thassa is just insane. I wrote months ago about trying to play Bred for the Hunt because I knew that an effect like this would be nuts. While Bred for the Hunt was a bit optimistic, having a card that does the same thing with no requirement to have a +1/+1 counter is exactly what I want to do. The turn you drop Bident, you usually draw 2+ cards because your opponent wasn’t ready; on subsequent turns you’re going to have to work for that benefit, though.

That’s where Thassa’s unblockable ability and your cheap creatures’ flying come into play.

Even though it’s legendary, you don’t mind playing three since having one in play more than makes up for the fact that you have a dead copy in hand.

The card that might look funny is Faerie Impostor; I wanted another cheap creature but I wanted something that upped the power level of the deck. I actually wanted to play Clone, but I didn’t want to have another four-drop; Faerie Impostor gives you the ability to reset Master of Waves after your tokens have kamakazi’d into your opponent’s board time after time and allows you to power up Cloudfin Raptor by returning a Frostburn Weird to jump Raptor to 3/4. It’s an open slot but that’s what I’m currently messing around with.

Update: It’s currently Friday morning and I’m working on editing this article; I’ve got the coverage of Pro Tour Theros playing at work and I can see that TeamSCG is playing Mono Blue Master of Waves. I see that they came to much of the same conclusions that we have, so that’s nice to see the confirmation that our work last week was something that was good enough to be played on the Pro Tour. While I’ll be submitting this article long before the Top Eight is decided or a winner is declared, I’m hoping that Mono Blue Master takes it down so we can all say that we helped build it before it was big.

Hipster Magic at its finest!

Since this is going to go up on Monday after the Pro Tour is decided, if you saw a deck you wanted to explore a bit more or if you’ve got a rogue deck that you’ve been working on, please post it in the comments below. The coverage in Dublin so far has shown that Standard is still wide open, which is awesome. I want to see if you folks have some sweet ideas that haven’t seen much air time.

Next week I’m going to try to move to something other than Master of Waves or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, so if you have something you want to explore, please let me know in the comments below.

Michael Martin

@mikemartinlfs on Twitter

Mikemartinlfs (at) gmail (dot) com