Rise of the Eldrazi – Transcendent Master

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.

  1. Isamaru, Hound of Konda
  2. Hand of Honor and Samurai of the Pale Curtain
  3. Kitsune Blademaster
  4. 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?

Absolutely not!

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.



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?

Transcendent Master


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


facebook comments:


#1 thissatori on 04.08.10 at 3:29 am

Love the article. I laughed and had a good time. Looks like white is getting lots of things in this set that used to be green.

#2 Slov01 on 04.08.10 at 4:28 am

What about Student of Warfare 3/3 first strike for WWW? This is what lightning bolt does to the format.

#3 ProdigalT on 04.08.10 at 3:16 pm

Obviously I hate hate hate Critical Mass. The Master is not really all that good, imo, especially when you stack it next to Student of Warfare, which has to advantage of being searchable with Ranger. I just don’t see this guy getting to the next level without being dealt with via Blot or Path or any number of myraid spells (how bad is Jace to levelers?). Not to mention a certain Wall that is likely to become ubiquitous. Anyway, Gnarled Mass is totally obsoleted by Great Sable Stag, and that doesn’t even see much play anymore. Green has Leatherback Baloth now, one of the few cheap cards that’s going to ignore Wall of Omens.

#4 TattooedOni on 04.08.10 at 7:40 pm

I can’t pretend to be able to wax that philosophical about the “Grand Unified Theory” (the GUT from now on)considering it is unpublished so my ideas could be just wrong but… It seems to me that the GUT would tell me that levelers in general are bad. I haven’t really seen one yet where the body and ability you can get through a massive mana investment can not be profitably removed with dirt cheap removal. Its just too risky. Some of these men can be removed for one red mana with the final level payment on the stack….after you have already pumped 8 mana into it (in the masters case). The GUT tells me that I just got crushed. Hard. Probably I wasn’t doing much more than leveling my master if I have him at level 5, so its not like I have something else going on.

I remember that part of the GUT is that you want to be using as much mana as possible each turn, so levelers give you a mana sink for otherwise fallow mana. That swing of having your leveler destroyed, but only after you have paid a silly amount of money into it, before get to a game warping ability has got to make that mana much more fallow. You have already overpaid for an OK at best creature. In the Masters case you could have paid 7 mana over a few turn and all you got was a Gnarled mass 3/3. If it gets removed by a bolt you didn’t lose card advantage, but the bad guy just went ahead +6 mana.

I am not trying to say master is a bad card, or that levelers will end up being bad overall. The GUT, a theory that I have really bought into with every little scrap of info released, as I understand it tells me that they are at best very very risky. I just can’t imagine them being really good outside of Zendikar Block Constructed. I haven’t really heard any theory better than the GUT that tells me that levelers will actually be good in anything I have read to this point.

#5 MTGBattlefield on 04.08.10 at 10:01 pm

Rise of the Eldrazi – Transcendent Master…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#6 hudnall56 on 04.09.10 at 5:39 pm

@ Tattooed Oni

I think that you have much of the GUT (and it will probably be easier to say one way or the other when there are more articles regarding it) right, but might not have applied it throughout your reasoning. As far as I understand it this New GUT works in terms of not just how much mana you spend in a game, but also how hard that mana works for you. In the case of the levelers you have to look at how much mana you are expecting to put into them and then add to that whatever value you get from having the option to level them up further. For Transcendent Master and Student of Warfare 3 mana is about on par with other constructed playable creatures. There is some added value for being able to use your excess mana or force your opponent to spend a Day of Judgement on a single dude or somesuch, but without their 3/3 for 3ness, they wouldn’t even be in consideration for constructed.

#7 TattooedOni on 04.09.10 at 8:35 pm

Agreed. I do think that for the most part if your using the GUT in card evaluation to compare the effect vs cost of constructed playable cards 9 mana for a 6/6 life link isn’t too hot. Especially when instead of using Day of Judgement on a single dude you use a lightning bolt with the relevant leveling on the stack. Instead of just trying to rephrase different examples lets just use one Transcendent Master at level six on turn 5 and taken out by a Day of Judgment on the next turn. Your still undoing everything the bad guy has done on turns 3-5 and destroying 9 mana worth of development (plus any men he might have played on turn one or two) with four mana. Thats even if you only get one card. If you were playing against MYthic instead of Transcendent Master.dec your turn 6 DOJ might get 3 mana excel guys and a baneslayer. You would be getting a 4 for 1, but still only undoing about 9 or so mana worth of development.

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