Becoming the Master

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Every time a new set is released to the eagerly awaiting Magic players all across the globe, the brewers excitedly analyze the spoiler for interactions that stick out. The ultimate goal is to find some strategy that no one else thought of in order to crush the initial events once the set is legal.

This singular goal is why I find Standard so intriguing and why each set motivates me to play Standard again and again. The players who say they hate Standard confuse me because if you don’t enjoy the current Standard format, all you have to do is wait until a new set is released and the metagame will be shaken up like an ant farm in the hands of a small child.

Not everyone is a brewer though. If we were all brewers, no metagame would ever be formed. The brewers of the world need other players to play the decks we create. Most players look to Block Constructed as well as the previous Standard metagame for inspiration about what they should play in a new format. But that is just the starting point.

Sure everyone knew that the initial metagame this Theros time around would be Mono-Red, G/W, and U/W-based control, but where do we go from there? Last week, I discussed adding red to the G/W Aggro deck in order to build around Purphoros, God of the Forge. Taking new Theros cards and using them to update or shift the already known decks is the next step but it doesn’t stop there. We need to investigate the new strategies created from the cards in Theros.

A New Build-Around-Me

The upcoming Pro Tour should shake up the metagame considerably with new and perfected deck lists. The card I am most hoping to see is one that has gotten a little attention, but it is so new and unique that many players don’t really know how to use it. There are many options available, but I will focus on one of them today.

Here’s the inspirational card in question:

Master of Waves resembles cards we have seen in the past. In fact, every color except blue has been given cards that fit this model. In red we ramp into Siege-Gang Commander, green has granted us Deranged Hermit, while white whips out Cloudgoat Ranger, and even black busts out Skeletal Vampire.

All four of the non-blue colors have had multiple creatures printed that produce tokens when they enter the battlefield. Blue did get exactly one…Benthicore. Hover over that one if you didn’t already because I know you didn’t remember its existence. I certainly had to do a gatherer search to remind myself.

Master of Waves is the first playable blue creature with this effect so it comes as no surprise that it is hard to build around. Blue has used similar creatures like Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Talrand, Sky Summoner as a successful way to close out games, but Master brings something different to the table.

The strategy I want to discuss utilizes Master of Waves in a blue-white shell. We all know that the blue and white cards available right now are powerful. Some of them, the permanents, would be a great addition to a deck looking for as much devotion to blue as possible.

Detention Sphere and Jace, Architect of Thought stick out as cards we would use from the U/W control shell. They are both powerful ways to interact with your opponent while also building your blue devotion.

Take a look at the deck and we’ll continue the discussion below.

U/W Master
by Mike Lanigan

This deck is a blast to play. You can play the same game as U/W Control in some games, but you also have a midrange strategy as well. Other games you can clog the board with creatures, making it too difficult for your opponent to attack. Every creature in the deck has impressed me. The spells can be customized to your metagame a little bit, but I wouldn’t cut any of the creatures.

Inclusions of Note

Let’s take a look at some individual cards and what makes them so good in this particular deck.

Frostburn Weird

Frostburn Weird is a huge hurdle that your opponents must jump over before they can make progress on your life total. The best part is for one mana, it kills all the 2/2’s running around. His four toughness makes him much harder to deal with than he would be otherwise. It’s a shame that he does not have the creature type elemental, but as is, he’s a solid defensive guy.

The difference between this weird guy and most normal defensive creatures, like Wall of Omens for example, is that he can attack. Forcing you to use your mana each turn is not always the best way to win a game, but for a two-cost blue red guy, he pressures the control opponents enough that they need to search for an answer. And if you need your mana you can always just attack for one damage.

These aspects of Frostburn are great but there's really only one reason he earned a spot in the deck, which is his casting cost. The devotion mechanic has done something truly unique in Standard. It has pushed players to play the most difficult-to-cast permanents available in order to improve an aspect of the game that has never mattered before.

Frostburn Weird being a double-blue-cost card in this deck is no big deal because there are only five lands in the whole deck that won’t cast him, but that mana cost would stop him from seeing play in other decks. In this case though, his awkward casting cost is a boon and synergizes well with the deck.

Nightveil Specter

When I saw the new specter on the spoiler a while back I thought his ability was unique and powerful. Unfortunately, with the dominance of Jund, Specter was unable to compete in the previous Standard metagame.

Quite the opposite is true these days. Many times your opponent will have no spells to remove this threat from the board. If he stays active he allows you to hit land drops with your opponent’s resources and then start casting them. The longer Nightveil stays active the more incremental advantage you accumulate.

I’ve seen games where this guy gets in a ton of damage because flying is underutilized right now. Just like Frostburn Weird, he has the benefit of killing all the 2/2’s that the format is full of. With two plains and three Mutavaults sometimes you are delayed in casting him on turn three, but usually things go according to plan.

This stealthy flying monster is also your ticket to blue devotion paradise. Adding three devotion to the board is exactly what you want to be doing in this deck. With Lightning Strike in the format, specter does have a tendency to take one for the team, but if you are in the midgame, you can protect him with one of your counterspells. Any game Specter stays on the board is a game you should be winning.

Azorius Charm

You might not know it from looking at the decklist, but this is one of the most important cards in the deck. Charm functions as a powerful way to interact with your opponent in a variety of ways.

You can still cycle it for a card against control and you can still use it as a huge tempo boost or Doom Blade effect against big green monsters. But the real reason white was added was because this is one of the only decks I’ve seen that will take advantage of the underused and often forgotten third mode.

All of your creatures gain lifelink until end of turn. If you curve out with creatures and then cast the lifelink mode, all of the hyper-aggressive decks will stumble to stay in the game.

All three modes are excellent in this deck and that makes Azorius Charm a potent and powerful tool to have at your disposal. Deciding between bouncing a creature and lifelink can be challenging to manage against aggro. Disect your hand and board before you choose the mode and you should be fine.


So far I have been happy with the split between Syncopate, Essence Scatter, Dispel and Negate. All of the legal counterspells are situational and because of that I don’t think you want four of any. They all are extremely good, but need to match up with your opponent's current line, which can be tricky.

The one-ofs might seem strange but they have targets in every deck. You can counter everything from Brave the Elements to Lightning Strike to Selesnya Charm, and even Sphinx's Revelation.

In addition to disrupting your opponent’s game plan, they also help you protect your game plan. If you are attacking with creatures, you can protect them from removal but you can also counter a counter to force through an important spell. Some of these cards do get sided out in each match, but for game one situations I have been happy with all eight slots.

Weapons of the Gods

Spear of Heliod is one of the most criticized cards in this list. While you do have ten white mana sources, that is not enough to make sure you can cast Spear on turn three every time. I do not see this as a problem because I rarely want to cast it that early.

The spear provides something that no other card can. Not only does it boost your creatures, it also acts as a repeatable source of removal. I would not suggest playing more than one copy, but the one-of has been working out well for me.

Bident of Thassa on the other hand, has outperformed and really proved it deserves a spot in the deck. If you follow up a couple creatures with this weapon, you will outdraw your opponent on a massive scale. I’ve never used the forcing creatures to attack mode, but I could see it coming up.

Even though I have loved the Bident, it’s possible that Sphinx's Revelation is still better. Only more testing will determine which is correct. I do like that Bident only costs four mana though. That is a huge benefit.

Master of Waves

Finally we come to the core of the deck. This new creature is the whole reason we are jumping through the devotion hoops. The payoff is worth the cost on this one mainly because you are rewarded for playing the other cards in your deck. It is not uncommon for you to generate six 2/1’s. If you are getting this rate regularly, Master is the best card of its kind.

The problem is that some games you are only generating one or two 2/1’s, but if that’s the case then you have countered all of your opponents relevant cards so you should be fine. The best part about meeting the devotion is that you have some harder-to-deal-with permanents that will almost always generate you some devotion like Detention Sphere and Jace.

Master of Waves is the most flavorful card I’ve seen in some time. It’s so cool that if he dies all the waves he turned into guys all turn back into water. In addition to his amazing flavor, he is a strong threat for Standard and he will only get better as more cards become legal for Standard.

Thassa, God of the Sea

Since we are looking for as much blue devotion as possible, adding Thassa is a logical next step. The goal was to create the best Master of Waves deck; including Thassa is just a bonus. The two blue devotion cards work well together and I actually have been more impressed with Thassa than I anticipated.

The sea goddess’s ability to scry every turn becomes a source of virtual card advantage. You will not always be able to get exactly what you want, she is no Sensei's Divining Top, but having some control over your draw step is a powerful interaction. The fact that she costs three, one less than all four other gods for some reason, is extremely relevant. The earlier you can start to scry, the better your long game.

The way the deck is set up, she is often a big creature as well. Finally, making creatures unblockable does come up from time to time as well. Thassa might have been an afterthought in the decks creation, but she turned out to be an integral part of the decks success.

Other Versions

U/W Master has many powerful tools and interactions. The deck not only has a lot of ways to generate card advantage, but also ways to close games quickly. The best part of the deck is its ability to switch gears back and forth between controlling and aggressive as needed. To top it off, it’s a ton of fun to play!

If you are looking for another more controlling version of this deck, some other deck designers have been working on this deck too. One way you know you are onto something is if multiple people come up with the same concept. This week over at I spotted another version of this deck. Apparently it has done well at one of the state tournaments. Here is the other list.

U/W Master
by Davey Cadaver
1st place at a tournament in Portland, Oregon

As you can see, my deck and this one are similar in many ways. The main difference is the inclusion here of Supreme Verdict maindeck as opposed to sideboard. It seems to me there are too many creatures for us to be playing Supreme Verdict maindeck but I could understand trying to play U/W Control for the first four turns and then turning into a Master of Waves deck after that.

If that was the plan though, as it seems from this other list, it would make more sense to use the normal win conditions like Aetherling that fit in the time frame we are trying to play them. Supreme Verdict may be a necessary evil against some decks, but including it maindeck seems like miss-assigning the role you need to take with this deck. If our goal is to cast a Wrath of God and clear the board, we should not be committing so many slots in the deck for creatures.

I do like the line of counter something on turn two, play Thassa turn three and then Supreme Verdict on turn four though. If you play your games like that, following up with other blue permanents to turn on Thassa seems like a strong sequence. Obviously the wrath plan has been working for one player, so maybe it is necessary but I don’t believe so.

I keep seeing these control decks getting run over by aggro decks because they are relying to heavily on sweeping the board on turn four. The fast decks can beat you by casting the couple other cards in their hand once you tap all four of your lands to deal with what they have on the board. In this format, it is important to be committing resources to the board early in the game. Standard right now seems similar to Modern in that way, except with much less powerful spells.

Originally, I had intended to include another Master of Waves deck or two, but I had more to say about the blue-white version than I realized. If you guys would like to hear more about the blue-red version or the blue-black version (I don’t think there is a blue-green version), let me know in the comments. Master is a very powerful card that can be used in a couple different shells effectively. Will you become the Master of Waves at your shop?

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Force of the Waves!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

7 thoughts on “Becoming the Master

  1. I think you’d want slightly more permanents in a Master of Waves deck, otherwise he can often make only one token. Tidebinder Mage and Wall of Frost are both strong against most creature decks. Claustrophobia is removal that gives you two devotion. If you can be even more focused on permanents and get your devotion count high, you could fire a huge Sphinx’s Revelation with Nykthos.

    Also, I would play Godless Shrine for the Plains because of Nightveil Specter.

  2. I’m hoping to see Mr Waves putting in a decent shift at PT Dublin. Him and Swan Song were my two blue spec predictions but I’ve had to pull the trigger early on Master of the Waves with all the pre-PT attention on him (reddit, cfb, scg, QS forums, tweets from PT Dublin and this brew – he’s hot right now.

    1. Yep…if people had read/agreed with him they could have made a LOT of money. I do think the list isn’t very good…the lack of blue mana symbols hurts it..I’m running a U/g list with Master Biomancer which is really promising.

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