very now and then, a mechanic comes along that causes you to fundamentally reevaluate how you look at cards. With evolve, suddenly you cared a lot about the specific power and toughness of your creatures. With proliferate, suddenly every counter in the history of Magic could be ticked up over and over again.
does this yet again, turning how you traditionally look at Magic completely on its head.
Pop quiz: Which of these two cards is better?
Ignoring creature types, all common conventional wisdom would point toward the Centaur Courser. Why? The Courser only costs one green mana as opposed to Trained Armodon's two, making it a little easier to cast.
Theros's devotion mechanic changes all of that. Suddenly, colored mana symbols matter more than ever before. In the past year of playtesting Theros, I have played more seemingly unexciting cards—vanillas, fringe-playables, and more—just because I needed to get my devotion up. Hidden inside that extra colored mana symbol is a secret ability that goes a long way.
In Theros development, we had to alter our traditional train of thought when changing cards because adding colored mana symbols to cards actually made them stronger! We ended up making several cards "worse" by changing them from being double-colored to single-colored.
Now maybe you're thinking, "Well, chroma existed in Shadowmoor block and could do the same thing and that never impactedmy decisions." You're certainly right there. The chroma mechanic was a miss, seeing little to no Constructed play. But this time, things are different. We built the set so devotion would not only be interesting, but also so that it would hit in Constructed. Devotion is here, and I would expect to see a lot of it on Standard tables.
Like what kind of cards? You've already seen what the gods look like, and those are certainly no slouches. But what else does devotion have in store for you?
Well, let me introduce you to my good friend Master of Waves.
You're probably pretty interested in how to use this mechanic and how Master of Waves translates into you becoming a master of wins. So let's move into some discussion about just that: Master of Waves in decks!
Master of Devotion
Devotion causes you to reevaluate massive swaths of cards. But, in some ways, you can treat it kind of like a "linear" mechanic. (Linear meaning a mechanic that asks you to find a lot of one thing and put it into your deck.)
In the same way that tribal decks play a lot of cards of one tribe to make the core deck stronger—and forces you to reevaluate huge swaths of old cards based on their creature type—devotion can be built around in the same way. Find the cards that are going to give you the best blue-mana symbol count, and use them to pump up your devotion cards to their maximum potential.
Let's take a look at this deck:
Gavin Verhey's Mono-Blue Mastery
Let's take a look at what makes this deck work. A lot of the cards aren't exciting on their own. Judge's Familiar? Okay I suppose, but certainly nothing exciting. Main-deck Tidebinder Mage? Sure, that's great against green or red, but it's a Grizzly Bears otherwise! Frostburn Weird? Not really playable, but if you want to be generous you could count it as the fringiest of fringe—a Block Constructed card, perhaps. It's quite the ragtag crew.
But what is it that turns this ragtag crew into The Avengers? Well, the deck is certainly far more than the sum of its parts! The immense synergistic power of Thassa, God of the Seas and Master of Waves makes all of those cards have a "secret ability"—the ability to add devotion—that is well worth it.
What does Thassa, God of the Seas do? You'll find out soon enough. But the two things I can tell you is that (1) she's awesome and (2) like the gods you've seen before, she becomes a creature once your devotion to blue is five.
Imagine this draw:
Turn one, Judge's Familiar.
Turn two, Tidebinder Mage
Turn three, Nightveil Specter
Turn four, Master of Waves. Make seven tokens.
Now maybe that sounds incredulous—but it's actually not that uncommon at all! There's so much "symbol redundancy" that you can pull off something like this in most games you draw Master of Waves. If you think your opponent has a removal spell, you can even wait until turn six so you have countermagic loaded and ready to go!
It's also worth noting that Master of Waves has a few side bonuses. First of all, Master pumps Mutavault! Easy to forget, but it can be quite relevant. Second of all, a deck like this is already pre-boarded for red-green decks—a kind of deck which can often take down mono-blue creature strategies—thanks to Tidebinder Mage and Master of Waves. Variations on this archetype is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Master of Tokens
Focusing on devotion is certainly one way to go. But the other element to not forget is you're putting an entire krakenload of tokens onto the battlefield at one time.
There are certainly ways you can take advantage of that. And, fortunately, some of them are even blue to help out with the devotion! Take a look at this version of Simic featuring Master of Waves:
Gavin Verhey's Biomastery
This deck takes advantage of some major synergies between the Simic cards and Master of Waves. The most powerful—and also the one I find the most fun—is the interaction between Master Biomancer and Master of Waves.
Turn four (or perhaps three!), you cast Master Biomancer. Follow that up with a Master of Waves, and suddenly all of your tokens get a pair of +1/+1 counters! Not only will they now stick around even if the Master goes away, but they're hitting really hard.
The other combination that is quite good is Zameck Guildmage and Master of Waves. The Guildmage says each creature you control that enters the battlefield this turn gets an extra counter, so in conjunction with the Master of Waves you end up pumping up all of your tokens. Thanks to some Simic experiments, your Elementals will be in better shape than ever!
Even though this deck doesn't maximize its devotion as well as the previous deck, Master of Waves is still a plenty dangerous threat. On its own it still generates a formidable force—and with a way to add +1/+1 counters, you can really start putting your opponent on the back foot quickly.
Master of Modern
Okay, so those are some Standard examples. But what about Modern?
Well, there's one part of Master of Waves I haven't even mentioned yet. Take another look. Notice anything?
He's a Merfolk!
This means that everyone's favorite gilled tribe has yet another entry into the deck. Merfolk was a bit soft to creature decks in Modern before—could its ability to dodge premier removal like Lightning Bolt and create an army on its own help propel Merfolk to the top?
Let's take a look at a sample decklist:
Gavin Verhey's Modern (Merfolk) Masters
Something great about Merfolk is that the deck already naturally features a ton of double-blue cards to bring its devotion count up. The eight-pack of Master of the Pearl Trident and Lord of Atlantis means that Master of Waves will be fueled to start with. Plus, since the Merfolk deck likes to flood the board, it means your opponent will quickly hear the sound of drums beating down their door after Master resolves.
Clone effects are strong with Master of Waves—and a two-mana Clone in Phantasmal Image is particularly notable. For only two mana, you can double up on a Master and flood the board with tokens. Attacking into a situation like that becomes quite tricky for any sort of creature-based deck!
And this is just Modern—who knows? Master of Waves may even have some applications in Legacy Merfolk as well!
Master of Theros
And there you have it—a first look at the devotion mechanic in Constructed and some of the ways you can take it. Each color has cards that showcase a pretty strong take on devotion—not to mention a god, which puts devotion front and center! I can't wait to see what cards get played thanks to the twist devotion puts on the format.
How far will you go for devotion? Pack Rat? (The copies have a black mana symbol!) Frostburn Weird? Deathcult Rogue?!? Those are all cards I've cast in Theros Constructed at least once.
Now it's time to put what we've talked about today into action! Two weeks from now, let's see a devotion deck. Here are the submission guidelines:
Format: Post-Theros Standard.
Restrictions: Build a deck around gathering devotion for at least one non-blue color.
Deadline: Tuesday, September 10, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
I excluded blue because this article already covered those builds pretty thoroughly—but every other devotion is fair game! Which will it be? What kind of deck will you build? As we venture into a brand-new Standard format, I can't wait to see what you all come up with!
It's also worth noting that I gave you a slightly longer deadline than usual—you have until next Tuesday—so feel free to wait a little bit so more cards can be previewed if that would help guide your deck building.
If you have any pieces of feedback, I'd love to hear from you—feel free to post in the forums or send me a tweet. A new block dawning is always one of the most exciting moments of the Magic year for me, and I'd love to hear what you think about devotion and Master of Waves.
I'll be back next week with another Theros card preview. Talk to you then, and I hope you are enjoying Theros so far!
When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards R&D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.