By: Dom Harvey
Now that we’ve had time to digest the set, the consensus seems to be that Theros was a very disappointing set for Cube. To a degree this was inevitable – our second trip to Ravnica spoiled us as much as the first, so Theros was bound to be weak by comparison – but the more fundamental problem is that the set’s mechanics are inherently poorly suited to a Limited format that isn’t designed with them in mind. Heroic requires a density of targeted non-removal instants/sorceries that’s wildly unrealistic and gives you very little in return – how much needs to go right for Fabled Hero to be better than Silverblade Paladin or Mirran Crusader? On the other side, Monstrosity stands on its own but amounts to flavour text in a fast format with plentiful cheap removal where the other threats have much better base stats. Devotion awkwardly straddles this line: its effectiveness scales with the support you give it, but you can’t justify doing so if you’re trying to power-max. However, devotion does enable interesting mini-archetypes in Cubes looking for cards to build around, and today’s card is a great example:
Master of Waves is a fascinating design, pushing not only devotion but tribal and token subthemes; it’s rare that we see crossover between these, let alone all of them brought together so neatly in one card. Some of the most fun ways to exploit it will involve touching on more than one of these; for now, the more obvious applications:
Fans of the little fish that could have received some sweet gifts recently. If the card plays a role in Constructed, this is probably it. Outside of tribal or other exotic Cubes this won’t come up, though Coralhelm Commander is a fine man by himself.
An obvious worry about devotion (and ‘Swamps matter’ and the like) is that it promotes committing to a plan early and never deviating: drafting becomes an algorithm to sort by mana symbols. Hybrid improves a Cube’s overall colour balance as part of a gold section and lets you take a risk on devotion without wasting a pick if it falls through. These three are the best of bunch, turning Master into 10 power for 4 mana as well as being fine cards in their own right.
Master’s biggest weakness is that it’s swept away by a thin breeze but leaves you without mana to save it. Kira, Drakeling, and Clique are preemptive safeguards that make finding and resolving an answer more necessary and yet more difficult.
Master cares about Tribal in more ways than one! Conveniently, cards that care about Wizards tend to be very colour-intensive; Patron Wizard seems almost custom-built to team with Master. If your deck is set up to enable Master you want to see it every game, so Wizardcycling is at its most valuable here.
Let’s not forget Elementals either (well, not yet)! The P/T bonus on one creature may be marginal, but blinking or copying a Master isn’t. Speaking of which:
While they don’t contribute to the initial devotion count, Clones chaining Masters will bury the opponent very quickly. They also provide valuable insurance, with each Master keeping the other’s spawn alive after it’s gone.
No wider theme here, just solid proactive plays that halt the opponent’s start and give Master what he wants.
Leading off a T3 Jace, Master lends a good board presence for defending him or applying pressure. If Master isn’t answered immediately, Jace cements your lock on the game while the opponent struggles to stay alive.
Surprise! Adding 10 power to the board at your convenience is brutal when they don’t see it coming; and the beauty of Teferi is that they can’t do anything about it even if they do.
Barrin and Master were born to be together: Barrin boosts the devotion count on-curve, with Master giving him fuel to hose down the opponent’s board. If the game goes long, you can cash in a token to return Master and start the whole show again.
I don’t think this counts as saving the best for last, which says a lot about this card’s potential. Opposition into Master locks down four permanents a turn by itself, even before you account for any earlier plays. It’s nice that this is virtually immune to sorcery-speed removal as well.
Beyond this you have the usual interactions with Goblin Bombardment, Crystal Shard, Overrun effects, and so on. Competition among blue 4-drops, let alone blue cards in general, is very fierce, but if you’re willing to devote the effort to make it work the rewards are massive.