Master/Swordmaster
Situation
You may now make 3-card Exertions.  You must announce whether the Exertion is
a 3-card or 5-card Exertion before you draw your first card.

Doing some of these older cards in CotW tends to bring back nostalgic
memories.  Never is this clearer than with Master/Swordmaster (or just
"Master").

Upon its introduction, Master was probably one of the better Generic cards in
the game.  At least, it appeared like one of the better Generic cards in the
game.  With the introduction of the Series Edition, everyone could use Master
cards.  However, with a few exceptions (Duncan, Richie, and Amanda), no SE
Immortal _had_ Master cards.  Thus, Master was the only card Slan, Luther,
Xavier, Nefertiri, and Connor _could_ use.  That, and the fact that it was
fairly useful, helped to make it seem more important than perhaps it truly
was.

With the release of the Movie Edition, everyone except Khan got Master cards
and five new Generic Masters were introduced.  Another card titled "Master"
was also released as a promo card.

Watcher's Chronicles seems to have sealed the fate of the original Master,
what with the release of Master Swordsman.  Or has it?  Let's take a look.

Game-mechanics questions first.  There's not a lot.  As the card specifies,
you must state the size of your Exertion before you begin making it.  This
applies to Kastagir and his Q users as well.  You may modify either the 3- or
5-card Exertion (or have it modified) by promos such as Collect and Zocchi
Distributors.

Master does count as a Master card.  Based on title, you cannot have more than
six of both it and the promotional +1 Ability Master in combination.  Of
course, many Personas will be limited to 5 or less of _any_ combination of
Master cards.

Master will only help you with five-card Exertions.  This means you can use it
in conjunction with a Battle Rage, but not a Berserk or Bloodlust.

So that's how works.  What do you use it for?

The primary widespread use of Master is for Power Blows and/or Power Blocks. 
These are the standard Exertions which you wish to make smaller than normal. 
Even if you're Kastagir, you rarely want to make an Exertion for a defense or
attack smaller than five cards.  There are times when this is not the case
(when you use the Nefertiri Q or Dr. Alan Neyman to put a necessary defense on
the top of your Endurance just before having to Exert.

If you anticipate or fear going up against such a tactic, typically if your
opponent is using Taunt/Katana, Master is a card you should consider in your
deck.

As well as playing against Katana, if you are going _to_ play Katana, than
Master is useful for obvious reasons.  Rather than lose five cards to an
Exertion when removing a Situation, Katana only loses three.  Ditto for
Fitzcairn when it comes time to prevent damage.

If you are using cards like pg Joe Dawson (CotW #45) or Angus (CotW #75), or
any future cards that will require Exertions, Master is a good choice.  Does
Collect make it redundant?  No.  In fact, Collect is a good enhancement tool
for Master, or vice versa.  Why use five Collects to make a 0-card Exertion
when you can use a Master and 2 Collects?

Another use for Master is in a forced Exertion deck, typically revolving
around Avery Hoskins and/or Challenge/ME.  If you want to lose less cards than
your opponent, put down a few Masters.

The only real downside of Master, but it's a big one is that, well, it's a
Master.  It counts against the total number of Masters in your deck.  Master
Swordsman (CotW #35) is a good all-around master.  Master's Advance and
Master's Stratagem remain useful cards as well, although the latter is a bit
tarnished in the wake of Methos and his buyable Quickening.

So typically, Master is really only usable in a constructed deck if it suits a
specific strategy, rather than as a general emergency card.  Master Swordsman
tends to supercede it when it comes to making emergency "cheap" Power Blows
and Blocks.  Ancestral Blade is also better for making Power Blocks.

So with that in mind, who should use it?  First of all, who shouldn't?  Its
Power Blow/Block enhancement is unnecessary for Slan, the Block aspect for
Luther, and it duplicates the Kurgan's abilities.  So no help for those
Personas.

Fitzcairn and General Katana obviously stand to gain a great deal from its
use.  Three Masters on top of two Master's Blocks is a good mix of Masters.

I still find some use for Master in forced Exertion decks.  These typically
use Duncan or Connor, and Exert for Power Blows each turn. They can also make
cheap Power Blocks if their Ancestral Blades fail them.  Duncan can use Inner
Strength on those occasions when he only wishes to discard three cards rather
than five.

If you're pursuing a Battle Rage-based strategy, Master can prove useful,
causing you to lose less cards.  A Duncan Inner Strength/Battle Rage/Master
strategy can actually be somewhat formidable if you load up on extra healing
(Reporter, Lost Love) to make up for the Ability loss from Battle rage.

Other Personas should look at Master carefully and see if it fits in with a
particular strategy.  It probably won't, but there are a few out there.

Amanda is probably the only Persona who doesn't need Master.  She is already
somewhat Master-heavy anyway if she chooses to use Steal/Master Thief.  And in
this day of Lunge attacks, she's be better off using Master Swordsman. 
Ancestral Blade or her own Continuity are better bets for Power Blocking, and
Master Swordsman for making Seduce/Power Blows.

So overall, Steve gives Master/Swordmaster a _4_.  It's a so-so emergency card
that really only seems to help a small number of Personas and a then-smaller-
still set of strategies for those Personas.  Perhaps, when Tower decks
possibly make a comeback with the release of A&T, it's usefulness may increase
a bit.  But until then, it will have to remain a relatively low-rated Master
(although not as low as Master's Domain).

What Our Other Raters Say:

Jeff - Not a bad card to use as a Master.  Works best, of course, with someone
like Katana or Fitz, who need to make smaller exertions.  Doesn't work in
every deck, but there are some where it might still fit in.

Hank - Master/Swordmaster is a nice, balanced card.  It's a Master card, it's
useful without being overbearing.  I put it in some decks, not in others, and
it definitely has uses when I put it in.  I like cards like that, that promote
or support strategies without being "must put
in every deck" cards.   Not essential, but useful.

Alan - Abstain

Prodipto - While there are many Master cards out, this is one of the first,
and still one of the best.  Several Personas have abilities or cards that rely
on Exerting.  By reducing the size of their Exertions, a player can reduce the
time to Exhaustion, as well as minimizing the number of valuable cards they
throw away.  This is particularly useful for Katana or Fitzcairn, although
anybody using Scotland the Brave or Avery Hoskins can benefit from this card. 
This card is especially useful in conjunction with Collect.

Allen - If you plan to do a lot of exerting then Master/Swordmaster is a card
you should take a strong look at.  Katana and Fitz can get good use out of it,
both for their respective powers and Katana's Taunt/Thrust/Power Blow. 
Collect becomes even more useful with a Master on the table.  

Bruce - You are limited on the number of Master cards in your deck, and many
of them are very good. If you are planning on stacking your Exertions or
Exerting without searching, this is obviously one that you will include. For
any of the other deck types, this one just doesn't make the cut.

Stealth Dave - A very powerful card when used well, the ability to make small
Exertions can make or break a game.  Swordmaster can even be useful when
searching for attacks and defenses when using Dr. Alan Neyman.  Doubly useful
for Personas whose ability is tied to making Exertions, i.e. Katana,
Fitzcairn.  Mix well with Avery Hoskins and Collect/Zocchi for a fun time with
your opponent's Endurance.

Jonathan - Master\ Swordmaster has a place in several different deck types.
Previous to the release of the Zocchi promo, it was spotted mostly with Katana
or Katana Q decks, yet retains a wider variety of uses for Power Blow, and
Exertion-related strategies today. This said, M\SM takes up a Master slot that
can almost always be used for more powerful cards. It is also easily removed,
and probably not very reliable. Most decks that constantly rely on Exertion
effects (Persona powers) will find a way to get the job done for little or no
cost without M\SM. An okay card in general, but one of my least favorite
Master cards.

Charles - This card works well as a splash card if using Katana or Hugh, but
it is difficult to fit this card into a tightly constructed deck without
sacrificing either speed or damage.  This card fits well into many Avery
Hoskins/Endurance burn decks since these decks rarely rely on damage or speed.

Ratings Overall:

Steve                   4
Jeff                    6
Hank                    8
Alan                  N/A
Prodipto                7
Allen                   8
Bruce                   5
Sdave                   8
Jonathan                4
Charles                 3

Average:                5.89