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Breaking Through – Morphing Standard

 

Believe it or not kids, I was not always good at Magic. Or, at least, not as good as I am now (which I will allow some variance on). But while my success has been a recent occurrence, my love for the home brews is anything but. I unfortunately only started playing with the release of Mirrodin, and only competitively since Lorwyn, so I never got to explore the craziness of the older sets like Urza’s block when they were at the height of their power. Luckily for me though, reprints do exist, meaning some of the crazier cards of yesteryear were given a new birth and I could actually experiment.

At my second States tournament, Ravinca-Time Spiral Standard, I employed one of these wacky cards to good effect; Polymorph. At the time, the best creature on the block was Akroma, Angel of Wrath, or Simic Sky Swallower for the safer return, but a turn 4 Akroma is still a scary thing. At the time, Solar Flare decks were looking to cheat fatties out of the yard, but I was content on losing a Call of the Herd or Vhitu-Ghazi token to do the same thing. Ultimately, that deck landed me a 9th place finish on tie-breakers and despite it being a deck that probably was not in tip-top shape, it did form a love between me and Polymorph.

In case you were unaware, Polymorph is back again! There was some buzz of the card when Khalni Garden was spoiled, but nothing really came of that except for murmurs or Progenitus and Iona. Well, it turns out that turn 3 Ionas and Progenitus (Progeniti?) are pretty good, even better than a turn four Akroma. Because of this, I looked back at Polymorph for a while, but couldn’t find a configuration I was happy with. Every version I was trying out had some corner of the triangle missing. Either its aggro matchup was bad, or its control matchup was etc.

Polymorph combo

While at work the other day however, for some reason or another, the idea of a Polymorph deck sprang back into the forefront of my mind and the following deck came as a result.

So the concept here is to abuse the powerful cards that Blue/White Control has at its disposal, like Jace the Mind Sculptor, Everflowing Chalice, and Day of Judgment, while presenting a faster clock and a series of threats that come from all angles. Rather than rely purely on the Polymorph kill, Thopter Foundry, Jace, Elspeth, or a hard cast Iona are all very capable of taking a game by themselves.

So let’s break down the components by category:

The Combo

 

 

I knew I wanted 2 targets for Polymorph in the maindeck as if I drew one, I did not want to have to rely on Jace to save my butt, but deciding on a split here came about after the fact. Originally, I had 2 Progenitus, which quickly became 2 Iona once I realized I would easily be able to hard cast her with all of the acceleration I had. In the (limited) testing I have done however, I have Polymorphed on back-to-back turns a few times now, which is only possible with two different (legendary) targets. Both Progenitus and Iona are solid, so hitting either one should be good in game 1. For game 2, you can take one out if the other is just strictly superior, or swap one for the Sphinx which we will talk about later. The ability to hard cast at least one of your targets remains in tact and the best of both worlds is had.

The Token Makers

 

 

Eleven of the 12 token producers all require a minimal payment of 1 or no mana the turn prior, or during, when you cast Polymorph, This means even if you wanted to set up a sequence of a token the same turn as your Polymorph, plus some protection in the form of Silence or Dispel, you are looking at 6 total mana, which is not too bad.

Generally you will be able to set the token up ahead of time, as the opponent rarely aims removal at a 0/1 right away, even if they know you are Polymorphing. It is ingrained into our heads that wasting a Maelstrom Pulse on a free 0/1 is bad, so most players will stick to that logic despite the token clearly holding a different value here.

Martial Coup is good on both ends of the deck, so it made it in as a one-of. I tried a 2/2 split between Day of Judgment and Martial Coup, but the Everflowing Chalices favored the Day of Judgments so much more that they ended up winning out. Don’t be afraid to turn your token generation into your win condition even without a Polymorph. Thopter Foundry and Elspeth can both hold the fort down or go offensive pretty easily.

The Protection

 

Jace isn’t exactly in the same category as the 1 mana instants here, but it is without a home so it decided to bunk up with them. While on the subject though, Jace allows you to recycle your bombs when you draw them which allows you to get away with only running 2 total copies of Polymorph targets. Without Jace, you would likely need to run 3ish targets to be certain to always have a target in your deck or else mulligan every hand with one in it. Jace obviously runs the full gambit here though as well, filling all the same roles that he does in U/W control.

Silence is the most proactive of answers, allowing you to maneuver through multiple removal spells in a single turn, or simply setting the opponent back a turn if they happen to be running some hyperaggressive deck that is looking to kill you faster than the reverse. Dispel on the other hand, is a reactive card but is better in the circumstances where you want a token the turn before. With Silence, assuming you could only produce 1 token and it was already in play, they can respond to the Silence by killing your token. Dispel prevents that.

The Removal

 

 

These require little explanation as they are fairly well explored by this point. Path can go offensive in this deck, turning a turn 1 Khalni Garden into a turn 2 Rampant Growth, which I have done a few times in testing. The most feared creature for this deck is Cunning Sparkmage, as it neuters your tokens while dodging both Dispel and Silence, so Path definitely wants to have a talk with that guy.

Day of Judgment can come down on turn 3 when need be, although often turn 4 will grab you more card advantage. You have enough token producers that being afraid to Wrath one of them in the process should be avoided. Play to win the game, not to preserve the combo, unless that directly leads to the first point.

The Mana

 

 

There is a slight lean towards white mana here as your double white spells are more abundant than the double blue which only comes in the form of Jace. The Borderposts are obviously perfect with Thopter Foundry as well as sufficient mana accelerators if you see yourself on the hard cast Iona route. Fetchlands are for abuse with Jace, and Misty Rainforest grabs the lone forest out of the board. Overall, there’s not much to talk about here.

The Sideboard

 

 

Dispel and Negate are primarily here to fight the control decks in the room. Basically, between Silence, Negate, and Dispel, you should be able to push the game long enough to be able to successfully resolve an Elspeth, Polymorph, or Jace, which should all present serious issues for the U/W Control player sitting across from you. One issue I have theorized on, although haven’t actually seen, is Celestial Colonnade. With the board plan, you are only leaving in 1 Path (or subbing it out for a Baloth Cage Trap if you see fit) meaning your answers to the 4/4 flier are limited. Thopter Foundry is good here, as it can turn the race in your favor, but this could be an issue that needs addressing in the future. Martial Coup stays in as a Token generator that gives you a white out to Iona (Polymorph and Jace are blue outs) while also mopping up their own Martial Coup if it comes to that.

Baloth Cage Trap is an interesting one that I haven’t gotten to use yet, but I think it could be spicy. Basically, against the Koros or Open the Vaults decks, the trap cost is almost always met, meaning a 4/4 flasher for 2 that can be Polymorphed as well. I think it is a fine addition here as he buys you time against aggro, sometimes even killing a dude, and provides a clock against Open the Vaults, which is key. I would test this one out to make sure it works as planned, but I have a feeling it is pretty spicy. Obviously bring in the Forest here too, to give you 5 more green sources.

Vapor Snare is intended to combat the big creature decks like Mythic, Vampires, or other Green/White strategies, as stealing their guy and either winning with it, or Polymorphing it, are both satisfactory. With Khalni Garden in the deck, the Snare is almost always going to be better than Mind Control, especially considering that it costs 4U instead of 3UU which could come up at times. I messed around with 3 of these, but with Day of Judgment and Path still in the deck, I don’t think 3 are needed.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind is another option for the Polymorph package that can impact the board against aggro. Against Jund for example, The Sphinx will often be better than Progenitus as it is just as untargetable, but offers lifegain against their burn and plays defense just as well as offense. Against decks like Mono-Red, the Sphinx offers the same package. Sometimes Iona will be enough, as they may not have any board presence and you simply need to keep them from casting spells. Other times however, with unearth guys in the yard and a Goblin Guide or 2 in play, Iona can’t carry the load on her own and has to wait for some help if she can even buy that much time. Because of this, the Sphinx comes in for Progenitus to just cushion your life a little bit.

Overall, I have gotten in a quite a few games with this, but nothing as extensive as if I were preparing for a Grand Prix or Pro Tour, so I would recommend a little extra testing by any prospective players. The biggest thing to note are the Traps in the sideboard. Still, the idea of a Polymorph deck has been floating around for a while now, and the tools exist to make it work, so there is no reason someone should not be willing to try to do just that. Good luck to anyone who sleeves this up, and shoot me some feedback in the comments section to let me know how it goes. Innovation should thrive in the times of stagnation, so capitalize on that. See ya guys next week!

Conley Woods

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