Transcendent Master: an affront to everything that is good and true.
Once upon a time there was a superb Constructed format. Some gripers complained that it was overly dominated by Umezawa’s Jitte, but it wasn’t. Teddy Card Game actually wrote an article claiming that Gifts Ungiven variants were more dominating in this format than Affinity decks had been [in Mirrodin Block Constructed] a year prior. Inconceivable!
Anyway… a superb Constructed format, trust me.
There was a controlling combo deck in Gifts Ungiven… all positional advantage and card drawing that could lock the game with infinite defense or ending the game with a stack of Kokushos.
There was a control deck. Mono-Blue control with All-Star threats like Meloku and Keiga. This deck could draw up with Jushi Apprentice and hold off the Gifts Ungiven deck, essentially forever.
And there were beatdown decks. Mono-Black. Mono-White. Some even tried for Mono-Red.
The format had diversity in spades, but it was laced together by Umezawa’s Jitte. Jitte was a glue that made White Weenie playable… saw little play in Blue, and was irrelevant to Gifts.
As you most likely know if you are a longtime reader, I was able to solve that format with two weeks to go. The Critical Mass deck, playing a “critical” set of Gnarled Masses was the ultimate solution to the format. It had the counterspells of Mono-Blue, but vastly superior tempo; Sakura-Tribe Elder in game one, and a “surprise!” set of Jushi Apprentices and Threads of Disloyalty (for their Jushi Apprentices) after boards.
Its counterspells allowed Critical Mass to dominate Gifts Ungiven. When the Apprentices came in after sideboarding… Honestly, I don’t think I ever lost a single sideboarded game in testing the matchup was so strong.
The “critical”-ness of the Gnarled Masses was mostly for White Weenie. White Weenie had 2/2 creatures at every drop.
- Isamaru, Hound of Konda
- Hand of Honor and Samurai of the Pale Curtain
- Kitsune Blademaster
- Hokori, Dust Drinker
The Critical Mass deck had by far the superior late game. Umezawa’s Jittes were a wash; U/G arguably had the advantage because Kodama’s Reach and Sakura-Tribe Elder could help thin the deck and increase the instances of their appearing. The end game was a murder of Legendary creatures… Kodama of the North Tree in addition to the Blue beaters.
The problem was getting there.
If the White Weenie deck had a tempo advantage going into turn four, ka-pow! Hokori, Dust Drinker!
U/G’s spells were very expensive, so the Winter Orb-like Hokori could turn the deck to molasses. The 2/2s would hammer in until it was over.
Critical Mass’s solution took away the tempo advantage going into turn four.
Was Gnarled Mass better than the White Weenie equivalents?
But once they were both in play, the cards could be more-or-less the same (with the Green one just costing more). A board at parity would not necessarily be a good place for White Weenie to tap out four with a walking Winter Orb.
Time TIME TIME.
That was what U/G needed — even just a couple of turns — to get its Legends online.
At the end of the day, Gnarled Mass — a mere 3/3 for three mana — got the job done. I won the last PTQ in NYC, and a week later Gerard Fabiano made Top 8 of the last Grand Prix with Critical Mass.
So why is Transcendent Master the enemy of all that is good?
I just don’t want to see White Weenie with a 3/3 for three 🙂
How un-special is that? How un-special does that make Gnarled Mass?
The fact of the matter is that Transcendent Master is not just a 3/3 for three mana.
At Level 6, it is a medium-gigantic 6/6 with Lifelink.
Is that a good deal?
We are talking about nine mana for a 6/6 Lifelink… You would basically never play that at retail, but the 3/3 for three-ness of the card at the baseline softens the impact of the absolute cost. A great deal? No. But serviceable due to the fact that you can tap out on turn three, cross your fingers, and sometimes have an impressive 6/6 on turn five.
How about the final version?
Fifteen mana for a 9/9 indestructible Lifelink? Unlike on Figure of Destiny update Kargan Dragonlord, the math does not become more favorable as time progresses. Again, not a tremendous deal… But the core-3/3 for three pat makes Transcendent Master good enough to ruin without help. The biggest mode — and it is pretty big let’s be honest — might not be the selling point, but it is still a useful feature that will come up sometimes.
You know, to help bury all memory of truth, goodness, and light.
Snap Judgment Rating – Role Player