The breakout card of this weekend was Mastery of the Unseen. Two copies of GW Devotion met in the finals of GP Miami and several other Mastery decks placed well in the tournament. I knew going into the tournament that I definitely wanted four copies of the card in my deck, and I spent the week leading up to the GP testing five different builds to try and come up with the best Mastery of the Unseen deck. I'll leave it up to you to decide which is best (or at least best for you, given your local metagame) by outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each build relative to the other builds. Mastery of the Unseen is perhaps the most powerful thing you can do in Standard right now and I would highly recommend playing one of these decks until the metagame shifts (which likely won't happen again until Dragons of Tarkir is legal). Warning: you might lose friends at FNM because Mastery of the Unseen is extremely annoying to play against.GW Devotion
Dan Cecchetti won GP Miami with GW Devotion built around Mastery of the Unseen, defeating Corey Baumeister in the mirror match for the championship. Adam Yurchick went 9-0 on Day 1 and narrowly missed Top 8 with the same deck, which he wrote about here.
Green Devotion has typically been Monogreen or Green splashing red for Crater's Claws and sometimes Xenagos, the Reveler. This weekend the white splash was the clear favorite and Mastery of the Unseen was the reason why.
Mastery adds a ton of power and synergy to the deck. It provides a reliable card advantage and life gain engine that combines with Courser of Kruphix to keep you drawing action every turn while flooding the board with manifest creatures. These manifest creatures can then be turned face up to add to your devotion count for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which then allows you to pump out even more manifest creatures each turn with the Mastery. Things can get out of hand very quickly.
Mastery helps find Whisperwood Elemental which doubles your productivity and protects your board development from End Hostilities or Crux of Fate. The manifested creatures are colorless, so you already have built-in protection from Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Genesis Hydra can also help you find Mastery or Whisperwood Elemental.
As a side note: GW Devotion with Mastery of the Unseen is currently the deck to beat after GP Miami. Given that Abzan Control, Sultai Control, and GW Devotion are the most powerful (and slowest) decks in the format, avoiding the draw bracket at all costs might be the best advice I can give someone right now for Standard.
Another deck that sprang up this weekend that utilizes Mastery of the Unseen is BW Constellation.BW Constellation
Seth Manfield wrote about Chris Fennell's BW Constellation deck here that Forrest Mead played to a 9-3 record at GP Miami.
This deck plays out like an aggressive creature deck in the early turns. Seeker of the Way, Ajani's Pridemate, and Underworld Coinsmith provide some strong early game pressure. Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Lightform are the follow-up plays, followed by a bunch of removal spells and Mastery of the Unseen. The deck can "go off" with Citadel Siege or with Mastery of the Unseen and has Doomwake Giant to keep token strategies in check, especially deathtouch tokens from Hornet Queen. It also has Athreos, God of Passage to counteract an opposing plan of killing all our guys with removal spells or with one big removal spell such as End Hostilities or Crux of Fate. The colorless manifest creatures from Mastery of the Unseen provide natural protection against Ugin, the Spirit Dragon's –X ability.
Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Citadel Siege provide ways for your creatures to gain power and keep attacking into opposing blockers while Underworld Coinsmith provides a non-combat way to inflict life loss on the opponent. Ajani's Pridemate doesn't see a lot of play, but in this deck there are 19 ways to gain life, 15 of which allow you to continue gaining life more than just one time (all but four Scoured Barrens).
The deck also has a lot of interaction to contain opposing problem cards. Banishing Light can exile any non-land, non-Stormbreath Dragon permanent. Citadel Siege can tap a creature down each turn if you're behind. Hero's Downfall can kill just about any creature or planeswalker. Doomwake Giant takes out opposing tokens and makes blocking generally awkward for opponents. Finally, Thoughtseize can be an all-purpose proactive answer to whatever the opponent is doing.
The sideboard offers even more answers. End Hostilities is great against green devotion, Erase handles Outpost Siege and whatever other enchantment is problematic. Glare of Heresy hits Chained to the Rocks, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, any white heroic creature, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, or Siege Rhino. Read the Bones draws cards against slower decks. Thoughtseize is excellent against control decks by taking their wrath effect the turn before they can cast it. Finally, Bloodsoaked Champion adds a fast threat that is hard to permanently get rid of against control decks.
Overall the deck is strong and I briefly considered playing it in Miami after seeing it in action the two days leading up to the event. I had been having success with my own brews though and didn't feel compelled to switch to a deck I had less experience with. One such brew was a monowhite weenie (devotion) deck with four Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and four Mastery of the Unseen.Monowhite Devotion
I played Monowhite Devotion at a GPT at The Uncommons Tuesday before the Grand Prix. I went 2-2 in the event, but my list was not configured correctly. After the tournament I made some changes and this is where I'm currently at with it:
Monowhite Devotion is less interactive than BW Constellation but is also much faster. With four Mardu Woe-Reaper and four Soldier of the Pantheon, the deck starts on turn one instead of turn two. Earlier versions of the deck had Elspeth, Sun's Champion but it wasn't worth it to make the curve that high. Wingmate Roc and sometimes Dictate of Heliod were the only cards at 5+ mana that I ever wanted to cast in this deck. Most of the time I would rather just activate Mastery of the Unseen as often as possible after turn four.
The deck has some powerful lifegain combinations. Unlike the BW version which gains one or two points at a time, this decks gains life in large chunks. Seeker of the Way and Lightform combine with Eidolon of Countless Battles or Citadel Siege to stay ahead in just about any early race. Many of the spells are double white, which provide devotion to fuel Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx which in turn fuels Mastery of the Unseen. Mastery then finds more creatures to flip up and even further increase the devotion count, which then adds more mana to activate Mastery of the Unseen even more times, ad infinitum. It's a cycle that can get out of hand in just a few turns.
It's also worth pointing out that Eidolon of Countless Battles is an excellent creature to manifest with Mastery of the Unseen. The deck produces a lot of creatures and having a giant creature to flip up at opportune times gives the deck a lot more play. Although not very interactive, the deck curves out nicely and produces powerful threats that are often hard to deal with. The sideboard has more interactive cards for specific matchups.
Elspeth, Sun's Champion is great in long grindy games where the opponent uses lots of removal spells to clear our board. Spear of Heliod and Dictate of Heliod combine nicely with Elspeth while also getting some of our creatures out of range of small sweepers (Anger of the Gods, Arc Lightning, and Drown in Sorrow). Valorous Stance is mostly a card against green devotion, UW Heroic, and Abzan decks. Banishing Light is a slightly more versatile answer but also comes with risk, so I usually hold off using that one until late in the game. While Valorous Stance slows the green devotion decks down in the early game, Mass Calcify drastically swings the late game in our favor once they start to recover. Glare of Heresy, Elspeth (-3 ability), and Banishing Light are also great against UW Heroic.
Although Monowhite Devotion and BW Constellation each performed well in testing, neither fully took advantage of the power of Mastery of the Unseen the way the green decks can. Mastery helps to mitigate the flood problem inherent in ramp strategies and gives the deck late game inevitability even against control decks – a matchup traditionally tough for green decks. It also offers Whisperwood Elemental, another one of the best cards in Standard.Naya Mastery
The Naya Tokens deck I had been playing in tournaments for the past couple months underwent some major changes in order to become a more dedicated Mastery of the Unseen deck. Here is the list I was testing with good results and almost played at GP Miami:
I shared the deck with Sam Black and he made a video article with it but decided to stick with the GW version of the deck instead.
The major differences between Naya Mastery and GW Devotion are that Naya has more interaction (Lightning Strike, SB Arc Lightning, SB Sarkhan, etc) while GW Devotion has more acceleration (Voyaging Satyr, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx). This makes Naya naturally better against aggressive creature decks like RW, Jeskai, and Abzan Aggro, especially against the card Goblin Rabblemaster or Mantis Rider. Naya is worse against all the decks that don't care about a Lightning Strike though.
Naya Mastery contains most of the same synergies present in GW Devotion, including that between Mastery of the Unseen and Courser of Kruphix or Whisperwood Elemental. It can also use the +1 ability of Xenagos, the Reveler to do its own Nykthos impression to fuel Mastery of the Unseen each turn. In the board it has Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker to handle Stormbreath Dragon and also just as another threat against control decks. It also has red removal for other creature decks, including Arc Lightning to handle Goblin Rabblemaster, Hordeling Outburst, or a Voyaging Satyr + Elvish Mystic. Everything else basically carries the same explanations from the GW Devotion list.
Ultimately I was happy with this list but wanted to experiment with one last build before registering for the GP, so I sleeved up Abzan Mastery and rode with Ben Stark to Cool Stuff Hollywood for FNM the night before the GP.Abzan Mastery
I ended up going 5-1-1 at FNM before splitting the Top 4 with Ben (who was on RW splashing Crackling Doom) and going home because it was already 1am. I made some final changes and decided I liked the Abzan version slightly more than the Naya version.
I played the following list to an 8-1 record Day One, but only went 2-4 on Day Two to barely finish inside the money.
Coverage did a video deck tech with me where I discussed the deck here:
The maindeck differences are Siege Rhino and Thoughtseize over Xenagos, the Reveler, Lightning Strike, and Valorous Stance. This makes us worse against Goblin Rabblemaster and Mantis Rider but much better against control decks. Given that Control decks dominated GP Memphis, I expected to have to face more of those in the later rounds than Goblin Rabblemasters so I opted for black over red.
The sideboard also gains more versatile removal spells. Murderous Cut kills Stormbreath Dragon more efficiently than Sarkhan does (i.e. for less mana and at instant speed so you don't have to take a hit from it first). Utter End is a more versatile card than Destructive Revelry because it can also hit creatures and planeswalkers. Last Breath is a downgrade from Lightning Strike but still kills a Goblin Rabblemaster for two mana at instant speed.
Replacing eight non-creature spells with four Thoughtseize and four Siege Rhino also makes Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental better because you have more creatures you can flip up with either. The extra damage we take from Goblin Rabblemaster and Mantis Rider by not having Lightning Strike is somewhat mitigate by having more life gain spells (Rhinos) in the deck. We have 16 total: four Courser of Kruphix, four Siege Rhino, four Wingmate Roc, and four Mastery of the Unseen. It gives us time to find blockers or removal spells. Thoughtseize is also a reasonable proactive answer to any of these cards, albeit you have to sometimes cast it earlier than you would like to and without gaining the tempo advantage you would gain by trading a removal spell for their threat (i.e. they didn't spend their turn casting the threat when you instead make them discard it).Conclusion
I had a lot of good options this weekend to choose from for GP Miami. The one common thread was that I definitely wanted to play four copies of Mastery of the Unseen in my deck. That card is unreal good right now. It's exceptionally good against control decks, provides inevitability against pretty much any deck, and is the perfect mana sink for any of the green ramp decks of the format. It gains life, it generates card advantage, and if given enough time it will also do your laundry, wash the dishes, and clean your room! Well, maybe not that last part, but it's quite possibly the best card in Standard right now. If you haven't played with it yet, I would highly recommend doing so. I would also recommend playing quickly because mirror matches can last forever with both players reaching 400+ life.
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter