Starter MasterPages from 3rd party sites are not a great starting point when beginning to brand your SharePoint site. You may be wondering why I don’t think they are, well read on.
Based on my experience of using other people’s starter MasterPages they always seem good from a high level but when you start to use them on a variety of sites you realise they are missing controls which reduces the overall functionality of SharePoint.
A good test to see if your starter MasterPage has one of the common controls missing is to activate the Meta Navigation and see if it appears. Another common fault can be found on my colleagues blog post https://sharepointbrandingteam.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/sharepoint-2010-ribbon-functionality-in-a-custom-site/
The best starter MasterPage is one that you create yourself, this way you know what controls you have to work with and if you remove any you know which ones they are if you need to add that functionality later. A good starting point for a team site is the v4.master and for a publishing site the nightandday.master.