“It's going to be a long tournament,” said Craig Wescoe, as he shuffled his copies of Mastery of the Unseen into his deck after the conclusion of Round 6.
“I'm not really used to this—I usually play much faster decks,” said the master of aggressive white creature strategies. For Miami, Wescoe had left his copies of Soldier of the Pantheon at home, choosing instead to sleeve up Mastery of the Unseen, a card that has been a workhorse for many players across the Day 1 tables.
With the green-white take on the Mastery of the Unseen archetype leading to lengthy, drown-out slogs thanks to the deck's ample life gain—and mirror matches ending in inconclusive Game 1 draws—Wescoe had turned to an Abzan build to give himself an edge. What are black's main attractions? “Thoughtseize helps a lot in the control match-up and Siege Rhino provides the four-mana threat I was looking for,” he said.
In a recurring activity throughout Day 1, Wescoe adds to his life total courtesy of Mastery of the Unseen.
Adding Swamps to his deck also provided Wescoe a more flexible sideboard, with the removal spells Murderous Cut and Utter End often coming in for Games 2 and 3 to answer problematic creatures and assorted permanents (such as opposing copies of Mastery of the Unseen).
The deck has been doing well, but the exhausting games courtesy of Mastery do take their toll and risk tiring players over the course of a two-day tournament, Wescoe acknowledged. “Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental do not make for short matches.” He hoped to, at least in part, address these issues with cards like Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc—each potent attackers capable of ending games quickly—or by taking advantage of manifest to flip up a cheap Hooded Hydra, giving him an undercosted horde of Snakes.
After starting the tournament with three byes, the Pro Tour Dragon's Maze champion sat at 5-0 heading into Round 6, having just won a protracted match in a 1-0 decision round prior. He was paired up against Jeskai specialist Kevin Jones. Even with Jones's decisively more aggressive approach, featuring burn spells such as Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames, the players were only just barely able to complete their match in extra turns.
After both players mulliganed to six cards to start the first game, Wescoe sought to take the role of the aggressor with Jones stuck on two lands in the early going. He played out a Siege Rhino, which met a Valorous Stance, and a lonesome Wingmate Roc, which met the same fate. After a Thoughtseize took Jones lone threat, a Goblin Rabblemaster, Wescoe settled in for the long game, and looked to play around the fistful of burn spells he had left in his opponent's possession.
After Jones laid Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Wescoe tried to get his manifest engine going with a Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental. However Jones was able to apply just enough pressure with Sarkhan to take Wescoe to zero, ending the game in a flurry of burn.
In the second game, the Fate Reforged enchantment showed what it was capable of for Wescoe. As each of his four copies hit the board at one point over the course of a long Game 2. The first met a Glare of Hersey from Jones. But the second copy stuck and was soon joined by the third and then the fourth, padding Wescoe's life total and providing a seemingly unending stream of colorless 2/2s.
An army of manifest tokens for Wescoe face off against Elspeth Sun's Champion for Jones.
Those manifest tokens had their work cut out for them, however, as Jones was able to resolve Elspeth, Sun's Champion on his sixth turn, a card which is ordinarily more than capable of holding off a ground assault, through the Planeswalker's ability to spit out three Soldiers a turn.
“I had to make him block with his tokens,” even if it meant losing the odd manifest in combat, Wescoe said after the match. “In the long run I'm advantage against Elspeth because I'm manifesting.”
Sure enough, Mastery proved up to the challenge as a few turns of cranking out 2/2s and forcing chump blocks from Elspeth's Soldiers prevented her from going ultimate, and then got right back to work churning out creatures after Jones wiped the board with End Hostilities.
As tends to happen—and has already been a recurring sight here in Miami on Day 1—Mastery led to a board state where the players ended up in something of a stalemate. Wescoe had three copies of Mastery of the Unseen, and a bloated life total, while Jones tried to chip away with two Mantis Riders. With a quick glance over his shoulder, Jones saw that they had under five minutes left in the round. He tapped Wescoe's copies of Mastery with his finger, weighed his options and scooped up his cards in the hopes of leaving time for a third game.
Unfortunately for Wescoe, Mastery of the Unseen remained, well, unseen in Game 3, as an early Rabblemaster for Jones put him on the backfoot quickly. After Wescoe's turn-four Murderous Cut met a Disdainful Stroke he was unable to fend off the assault from the army of Goblins and on the fourth turn of extra time, died of a self-inflicted Thoughtseize.
“Mastery is quietly one of the most absurd cards I've ever played against,” Jones said after their match has concluded. “It's kind of like Pack Rat.”
“It's like a Pack Rat that doesn't force you to discard a card,” Wescoe said. “Though it does require more mana.”