Masters 23 Preview
Masters 23 features the most competitive field we've ever had:
- Eight of Spellweaver's ten Hall of Famers qualified (we're only missing the Fuzz, who will cast the tournament, and Peacekeepr)
- The most combined Masters points of any Masters field (276 combined Masters points in the qualifying field, vs, 216 in Masters 22)
- Seven former Masters champions
Two Shrining members (Jotto and I) won't be playing because of other commitments, which will make for a slightly less....Canadian?....tournament - but even with 14 contenders, this may be the best Masters ever.
The captain of MemeReactor, Rinriet has won more Masters championships than anyone, and he's done it in just five appearances. Wait a minute - RiRi has won more Masters than he's lost? Yep, you read that right. A recent Hall-of-Fame inductee, Rinriet creates problems in Conquest by ignoring meta decks and confusing his opponent with unexpected heroes. He enters many matchups with a built-in advantage; he has a good sense of what his opponent is playing, and his opponent doesn't know what to expect. His approach can be a double-edged sword, though. The lists Rinriet creates for Masters are often unexpected, but his decks aren't always as flexible or consistent. So far this strategy has worked for him, and now he has a team backing him up.
Lorenthiel makes a return to Spellweaver after a hiatus playing competitive Gwent. When he left Lorenthiel was tied for the most titles of any player in history, having won back-to-back Masters. A clear first ballot hall-of-fame inductee, tied for the most votes ever, now he's back in the top 3 of the Ranked Ladder and ready to challenge Rinriet's claim for most titles. An expert Hatebears player, will he bring some version of an Advanced Neeva Reverence list? If he does, players would be smart to ban it. Lorenthiel's return reinvigorates Hyperion Team, the longest-standing competitive team in Spellweaver.
Oh captain my captain. HallYall leads up The Shrining, which may be the most accomplished team in Spellweaver history. A mainstay on the Masters scene, he's 4th all-time in Masters points and one of the most disciplined players in the game. Behind the scenes, Hall has helped set up Spellweaver's new breakout moment, organizing the community to ensure a strong mobile release. Hall has won a number of Saturday conquests with his mainstay lineup, but hasn't broken through yet in a Masters. Will he change it going into Masters 23, or will he stick to what he knows works? I'll put my money on one thing - he'll consider every option carefully in his games, and we'll get to see him on the stream - hopefully playing for his first title.
Perhaps quietly (although not in my opinion), Duall has amassed the second-most Masters points of all time. The winner of Masters 19, no one intimidates an opponent when on Advanced Zash like Duall. A skilled control player, he brought W/R Zash back to the meta and won his previous championship with an unexpected anti-aggro lineup. Duall has skill across the spectrum, though, and can pilot aggro just as well as control. He hasn't been on the ranked ladder much this month, which may prove an advantage.
The legendary Cruel_Tek. Like an over-salted chocolate almond, beneath his extremely briny exterior there's something hardened and intriguing about Cruel. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Cruel has the most Masters points of all time but doesn't yet have a title. Don't let that fool you though - he's a heck of a player. It takes skill to amass as many points as Cruel_Tek has. Now he needs a bit of luck - and maybe a willingness to go off-meta and try something new in his lineup. I'd expect to see some version of Valor Rage, Zombies/Mono C, and W/D from Cruel. If he surprises everyone and backs away from the typical lineup, this could be the Masters where he breaks the curse.
Here's a player who doesn't know the phrase "typical lineup." Dobrycy can (and will) run anything under the sun in Masters. Triple aggro? Triple Mill? All meme decks? Faeries? I wouldn't put anything off limits for Dobrycy. If he's on Basic Neeva, you have no idea what's in there. In a meta where the top decks haven't yet emerged, Dobrycy's willingness to go off script - and his new team - could be just what he needs to capture his first title.
MemeReactor stays on brand with Tauric - another player who shuns the traditional meta in favor of creativity and basic principle. He'd rather lose Masters than play New Horizons. He recently introduced Corruption/Dominion Implants to the meta, and I'm expecting some interesting things from him tomorrow. I wouldn't be shocked to see Elgaron/Antriel combos, Path of Transcendence, or his old standby Elrike White.
Lirysse played in Masters #1 and then didn't play again until Masters #19. Now on his fourth tournament in a row, he's coming off back-to-back three point finishes, including a loss in the finals to Rinriet last month. One of the few players to play Rage Rush successfully on ladder in the last several months, Lirysse brought triple-aggro to the last masters; in my opinion the correct call, given the meta at the time, and he was frankly unlucky to lose to Snakes with it. Will triple-aggro be the correct choice this time? I'm not as sure. An uncertain meta leads lots of players to gravitate towards midrange, and triple-aggro might run into problems.
Representing Hyperion Team and returning after a long hiatus, Sveiks brings technical skill and and expertise with decks that were really good about a year ago. Metas shift constantly, and I expect Sveiks to re-introduce some of the deckbuilding ideas that kept him at the top of the Ranked ladder this time last year. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hatebears, something with Amalric, or One-Turn Heal.
I still haven't forgiven komsiant for his victory in Masters #20, when he made one of the best Spellweaver plays I've seen. Now, he leaves his Russian team to join MemeReactor. Will the other players lead him to vacillate from his favored setup, which usually includes Coronis Burning Rage (an underrated conquest list), Healmelion, and Polar Bears? Or will he stick with the setup that helped get him his first title and a hall-of-fame induction?
Heading into his third Masters in a row, Andreola has seemed most comfortable on wisdom/dominion control. He came within one play of upending Rinriet's quest for a third title last month. Andreola is an up-and-coming player with lots of potential. I expect to see him on "Team Fuzzy" this tournament.
Spellweaver games can be won off the board, and in a tournament full of skilled players, Hyperion's PewQ brings something unique: intimidation. He simply won't make a mistake. If there's a win to be found, PewQ will find it. Favoring control because it allows him more time to force his opponent into an error, hall-of-famer PewQ has captured two Masters and boasts an absurd winrate on ladder. He may be the most technically proficient player in Spellweaver, and if you're a new player and want to see flawless on-board play, spectate PewQ's games. His Achilles heal, if he has one: I'm not sure how well he knows the meta right now, or how tuned his lineup will be.
Delmar's been on and off the competitive scene for the last year or so. When he plays Masters he does well, finishing in the money every time. I'm not sure what to expect, other than a good chance he plays Blue Soldiers, which he's taken high on the ladder and tends to be a mainstay for him in Conquest.
OrelMoral enters his second Masters with the lowest rank in the field, having qualified through the Golden Ticket tournaments. He's no slouch, and opponents would be mistaken to sleep on him. Making a name for himself in the tournament scene more recently, I've found OrelMoral to be a careful, calculated player who isn't afraid to try his own thing. He's no Leck (but who among us is) - but like everyone else, he's got the skill to get to Masters, and now all he needs is a good run to take home his first title.
What to Expect
We've got new players and new cards, which creates an unsettled meta. Will the three competitive teams (Hyperion, The Shrining, and MemeReactor) stick to what they know or try something entirely new? Will uncertainty lead players to the safety of midrange lists, or will folks get a too creative and leave themselves vulnerable to triple aggro?
The title will go to a player who anticipates the overall direction, plays well on the board, and gets favorable matchups. All 14 players have the skill to win. It will be a great tournament.