Silvestri Says – Polymorphing the Masses

“A Rhombus Is The Kind Of Rectangle A B**** Would Draw.”

Mass Polymorph is one of the most interesting cards to come out of M11, because unlike [card]Polymorph[/card], you can actually end the game with it. Polymorph was a great way to get ahead, and as long as you could protect your threat, you’d usually win the game. Still, it was a very bad deck if it went off too slowly, since it couldn’t win the game on the spot or even defend itself all that well, and as the game went on you would continually draw uncastable creatures. The tokens you were using as fuel for Polymorph also were blown up in response to the spell with some consistency, which made life even more miserable for Poly players, who were often forced to wait until they could keep counter magic open.

Mass Polymorph still has the issue of drawing dead creature cards, but many of the other drawbacks mentioned are now gone for an additional 2 colorless. You can end the game with a combination of Magister Sphinx and 2x Bogardan Hellkite (thanks to Drew for pointing this out) or choose to practically end the game by using Iona, Stormtide Leviathan and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The upside is that you can still win the game if you only resolve a Poly for 2 guys instead of hitting the opp for 10 or 15 and being completely dead to a Baneslayer Angel, Day of Judgment or even a pair of spot removal spells. Of course you could also go with another plan which is just overwhelming them with ‘good’ guys like Terastodon and Stormtide, nuking a bunch of lands and hopefully moating them long enough to win the game.

How to Polymorph

There are two main routes when building a deck around Mass Polymorph. One was is to play so many creatures that you don’t care what you Polymorph into, and just go for a critical mass. Turning a board of Kozilek’s Predator, Lotus Cobra, and tokens into basically the same board plus a random Terastodon or two is pretty good value.

Sure, you might not hit the nuts, but if you Polymorph 4 or 5 guys in a deck with 7-10 fatties and 8-10 ‘normal’ guys odds are very good you’ll hit something of value or possibly multiples. Combined with the manipulation of Ponder and Jace, you can also slide the odds a bit more in your favor. Obvious advantages to this method include better early plays than the creatureless versions and the ability to hardcast creatures without any real qualms in Control matches or if the initial Polymorph fails for whatever reason. It also allows for greater defense since the number of blockers you have out early increases a great deal.

The other way to roll with Mass Polymorph is to set up a combination of cards which either kills the turn the creatures come into play or sets up an inevitable kill that simultaneously disrupts what the opponent is trying to do. Instead of running many creatures and hoping to get lucky, you set up your deck in the traditional way of only having token generators around to power Mass Polymorph. This makes life a lot easier when you can only Polymorph for a few creatures as they tend to be strong enough to still win the game instead of possibly rolling into lousy mana creatures.

Not only does this require less stress on the token generators, it let’s you run fewer ‘dead’ cards for the midgame and generally just gives you more flexibility in your deck construction. Both are valid approaches, but which one is better I believe will be dependent purely on how much Mana Leak and counters in general see play post-M11 compared to spot removal. Mass Polymorph doesn’t have much of a secondary plan except getting there with Planeswalkers or powering out Emrakul, while lacking the amount of disruption of normal Control decks.

Unfortunately that’s going to be an educated guess at best, since for many of us this format is only going to be relevant for this final PTQ weekend. Unless you Q’d for Nats everyone else will have the benefit of additional information not only from the PTQ’s, but from just having additional time and local tournaments to test ideas and optimize at. In a way it makes Standard feel like a waste of time and has a really awkward transition since the PTQ season ends on a note completely different from what came before it, and it sucks since M11 could’ve had a significant impact on the metagame going forward for the PTQ season. Instead, now the very last PTQ is pre-M11 on Magic Online and everyone else has a one week window to break it before having to wait up to a month or more.

So where does that leave us?

Here’s the lists for what I think are legit options.

UWG Poly


UW Poly by Zac Hill


UG Lotus Poly


These are the three I’ve had the most luck with so far, although something tells me it’ll end up between the UW build and just one of the others by the time this article goes up. Also note that Conley Woods wrote about his early takes on Mass Polymorph decks, so check that out for even more decks and thoughts on the strategy.

I’m sure people noticed that the UW Control build that Zac Hill had and the UWG one I posted are pretty similar with the exception of Awakening Zone in my deck. While I had an OK UWG build, it got a lot tighter with 4-ofs once I saw Hill’s deck on the Mothership and felt a lot better about going all-in on Planeswalkers and utilizing more spot removal. Mana Leak was quite nice to have as an option to interact and to stop cards like Jace and Sovereigns of Lost Alara. It was also made far easier to leave mana open for the Leak thanks to Everflowing Chalice and spawn tokens from Awakening Zone over the Green land accelerants. The reason I still cling to Awakening Zone is because of the Forcefield effect is has early, especially when you can power up to Martial Coup and clear the board and Polymorph the following turn. Otherwise it’s yet another token generator while is valuable in a deck with only a small few.

If you take a good look at the ‘controlling’ builds it’s also that they’re built in such a way to win even if the Polymorph plan partially fails. Even if you don’t get your full value and all three creatures out, netting one or two backed by removal and the Planeswalker core still has a good chance of getting there against many decks. That is even more true if you run Mana Leak or Deprive to help out and keep your investments alive, but I realize that may be asking for too much when the deck is already very tight to begin with. Of course it opens up sideboarding options and you can remove the Polymorph plan for Baneslayer or Sphinx of Jwar Isle and additional control elements. Realistically this completely flips around your deck and you still have a legitimate strategy, however removal and counters in general become far weaker since you aren’t all-in on a centralized strategy.

While the UG build can’t be considered aggro, I tend to classify it mentally under that type of moniker to differ it from other builds when playing and optimizing. Lotus Cobra and Kozilek’s Predator both allow for earlier Mass Polymorph attempts and Predator in particular provides enough creatures by itself to negate the drawback of running more guys. Predator providing three creatures will almost always keep one around to get rid of with Polymorph and often will +2 your count with a token being a blocker or sacrificed to pay for Poly. As you can’t pick and choose your creatures, my choice was to go with Terastodon and Stormtide Leviathan which provide a nice tag-team. Not only does a Terastodon or two take high-end spells off the opponent’s plate, but Leviathan means that none of those Elephants can attack while you set up a victory. The best part is even if you hit a Cobra or Predator and one of these guys, you at least have a shot at victory. Making 18 power worth of guys plus whatever else you got off Polymorph isn’t to be underestimated and the same with creating a Moat effect with Stormtide.

These builds do drift a bit from the traditional Polymorph lists which usually ran a decent combo of countermagic to protect their combo and Jaces in the early game. However since protecting your Mass Polymorph is a less feasible option than the original Polymorph, they really weren’t doing any version of the deck any favors. Mana Leak and Deprive were the only counters I felt were even worthy of making the maindeck and even from those, Mana Leak was the only all-purpose one that wouldn’t set you back notably. If you wanted a sideboard counter purely for protective purposes, what’s wrong with Dispel or Autumn’s Veil? Seven in these decks is a heck of a lot easier to hit than eight in a reasonable time frame if you really want to go out of your way to protect your spell. In many matches, spot removal is superior to counters and is a lot easier on your curve since you aren’t forced to skip drops in order to keep more than a single White open.

As far as matches and sideboard go, I can’t tell you in any sort of detail, since it was only recently that I was comfortable with the Mass Polymorph maindecks. I honestly couldn’t tell you how viable they are in the grand scheme, just that they’ve held up well enough to at least hang out with other tier two decks. Matches which I thought would be obvious blowouts like the Mono-red match ended up being far closer than I suspected and Control decks were more difficult than the original Polymorph builds since fewer counters were in the deck. That said, it didn’t just get rolled by anything I played it against, with UW Control being the hardest for the UG build and Jund being most difficult for UWG.

I realize that may come off as a bit of a cop-out, but I would rather give you that than make up some percentages on 15-25 games from a fluctuating decklist. Sadly this also means I probably won’t be able to make a version worth running before the PTQ season is over, but maybe someone else can take the ball and run with it. At the moment I think if I’m going to play a non-Jund or RDW deck then it really has to be some Fauna Shaman brew rather than anything with Mass Polymorph. There is just not enough time to get an optimized list together while Fauna Shaman not only is great from the first time you play her, but gets better as you adapt the deck around her more in subtle ways.

Still I want to leave my final Fauna Shaman build for the week before I go.


Good luck to all those playing this weekend! Also thanks to all those who took time and wrote me about the designs in last week’s article.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

37 thoughts on “Silvestri Says – Polymorphing the Masses”

  1. i’ve been preaching that white is possible with polymorph. thanks for backing my thoughts. i would love to hear if you think that shaman can have a place in bant too.

  2. Two ideas for the decks: Madrush Cyclops and Conqueror’s Pledge (if you have 5 guys you want to hit).

  3. I feel Fauna Shaman is great and all but she has an enormous target on her head and not entirely consistent. As soon as she is dropped she is killed, then you just sit there with your thumb up your ass

  4. So you mentioned the idea of doing a poly deck where the plan is to just hit whatever. Kind of a zoo deck where you “turn your creatures into other creatures” which feels a lot more like warp worlds when you thing of it. Kozilek’s predator + nest invader feel bad to polymorph into but they enable the next morph to be easier and when they are already in play the are 2-1’s.

    I’m not saying nest invader is really worth an inclusion, just kinda throwing it out there. But with that IDEA in mind, playing summoning trap definitely seems like it could be an option as well. Maybe not a viable one, but at least one worth building and testing.

    I gotta agree with you, they should have just let the standard season keep rolling because the format has so much room right now. I’m definitely a little excited to see that summoning trap is seeing some side board play against control with a lot of the decks that placed highly in recent ptq’s.

  5. @Hurrp

    Fauna shaman is just another must kill creature, no deck should completely rely on it. If they kill it, so what? They killed your two drop, big deal. Now you can untap and play a KotR or some other threat. But if it does survive or a few turns you can dominate the board with it——– anyway great article, these lists look super fun and u want to try them out

  6. 4 Jace
    2 Elspeth

    2 Bogardan Hellkite
    1 Magister Sphinx

    4 Everflowing Chalice
    3 Martial Coup
    4 Conquerer's Pledge
    4 Path to Exile
    4 Mana Leak
    3 See Beyond
    3 Mass Polymorph
    1 Mind spring

  7. Have you considered something like mass polymorphing into 3x Hagra Diabolist and 27ing them? I mean, a deck with 4 diabolist and 2 clone would seem like any time you have 3-4 creatures you’re polymorphing, it’d be pretty good. The other alternative is halimar excavator, but with all of the random eldrazi going around, that seems kind of risky.

  8. As many other people have said before about the fauna shaman. Yes its a big target to get hit but they just used removel on a two drop. Hopefully you won’t loose to much tempo just by loosing the shaman.

  9. @Kevin
    Any time you would want any combo of allies you would rather just have 2x hellkite + sphinx; and as Josh mentioned, even that isn’t really all that dependable.

    Having a “good stuff” package offers much more reliability + flexibility.

  10. @drew
    The Allies combo works in a slightly different way than a deck with hellkite and sphinx because you can afford to play other creatures. A Hellkite Sphinx deck must rely on token generators as Mass Polymorph enablers.

    Not that either one is better or worse than the other, it’s just that the deck builds completely differently either way.

  11. 4 hagras work better than magister + hellkite since you can rely on it when u draw one of them.

  12. @ Kevin H

    The 3x Hagra Diabolist kill requires the same number of slots as the Sphinx/Hellite kill but is limited in damage, so that seems worse. Good creative thinking though, totally missed that!

    Also, I do believe that Mass Polymorphing into Diabolist and Clone doesn’t work the way you want it to (see Scapeshift and Vesuva interaction).


  13. More counter-magic, more-filtering, more 2-drop acceleration, more-counter magic = better. here’s the list:

    * 2 Terastodon
    * 2 Stormtide Leviathan
    * 1 Emrakul
    * 3 Kozileks Predator
    * 4 Lotus Cobra
    * 4 Mana Leak
    * 4 Nest Invader
    * 2 Unified Will
    * 1 Crystal Ball
    * 4 Mass Polymorph
    * 4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    * 2 Garruk Wildspeaker
    * 2 Ponder
    * 1 Everflowing Chalice
    * 2 Awakening Zone
    * 3 Island
    * 4 Forest
    * 2 Verdant Catacombs
    * 3 Scalding Tarn
    * 4 Misty Rainforest
    * 4 Halimar Depths
    * 4 Khalni Garden

    SB: Sphinx (steel wind variety–suck it, jund), Baloth, Pelakka-lakka, clone? (that guys suggestions was baller), iona, more counters, into the roil?)… P.S. I wanna add eldrazi monument to this deck. think about it; all your dudes are indestructible, flying, AND can get a free upgrade randomly whenever.. ure already playing tokens and garruk..

  14. SpoonSpoonSpoon

    I guess if you draw the only sphinx it’s all screwed, but if you run multiple sphinges, you might polymorph into two sphinx+1 hellkite, which isn’t a kill. I guess that’s why it’s deemed inconsistant.

    4 Diabolists should always work assuming you only draw one, but even that’s a bit dependent, also, completely countered by volcanic fallout, I think!

  15. I’ve found the 1-of Obstinate Baloth to be useless in Fauna Shaman builds. You will never have a chance to tutor for it against MonoRed or Jund, they are packing such a high density of removal that the plan cannot work.

  16. RoamingRonin is right, if you mass polymorph into a clone, you’ll only be able to clone what is on your opponent’s side of the table because your team isn’t in play as the clone comes in.

  17. Emrakul + Iona + Madrush Cyclops is usually GG…
    Hasted anihilator 6 15/15 fliere + 7/7 Flier + no path to exile etc is usually enought to end a game-
    If you have to polymorph for 2:
    iona+cyclop = nice (like 1 iona but hasted)
    iona+emrakul= preatty good
    Emrakul+cyclop = GG if opponent has not istant spot removal (and it shuoldn’t since it shoud have used it on a minor creature to avoid iona) + mass removal (or O-ring)

  18. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  19. What does that lead quote have to do with anything? Is it like the facebook status of the article?

  20. Hey pupils
    here is my List i think it has more exceleration
    1 x emrakul
    1 x madrush cyclops
    1 x stormtide leviathan
    1 x iona
    4 x jace the mind sculptor
    2 x Garruk

    4 x everflowing chalice
    4 x growth spasm
    4 x Awakening Zone
    4 x Mana Leak
    3 x Deprive
    4 x Ponder
    4 x Mass polymorph

    5 x Forest
    5 x Islands
    4 x halimar dephts
    4 x khalni garden
    4 x misty rainforest
    1 x scalding Tarn

    Please give me comments about the List !

  21. Fallout is only a concern if people start boarding against this deck, which doesn’t even really exist yet.

    If/when they do, both Koz’s predator and meddling mage offer some potential mitigation.

  22. The major problem I see with this deck is that it relies on resolving a 6-mana sorcery. Mana Leak helps with this issue, but UW control is shifting to a more counter-based version, and I think it’s only a matter of time before draw-go control makes a resurgence. Plus, every bant deck is going to run 4x mana leak and be able to board in negate against you. Something about this strategy feels like a “win more” approach.

  23. Yikes to a Naya deck without KotR. Playing white for two cards seems a bit sketchy. You might be better off dropping to a RG build to make a better mana base or to fully expand into white and make a better ‘Naya’ build. I think Brad Nelson had it right when he posted about the fact that if your opponent doesn’t have spot removal, the best card you can play is Baneslayer. Which is a safe card to tutor up, because if they had it, they would kill the Shaman.

  24. Seems as if telemin performance is going to be a backbreaker for those polymorph lists that hope to get 1-3 big threats into play without any other creature cards in the deck.. 🙂

  25. 2/3 Terrastadon + Caldera Hellion Package?
    Kills all their lands, the guys the lands turn into, and any other small creatures.
    And you can feed the hellion with the random token stuff you flip into.
    Just stack carefully.

  26. @BrentC
    Magma Phoenix might be a better card than Caldera Hellion, since Magma Phoenix can come back again later on to “firespout” the board again. Plus, Magma Phoenix can help to take down Planeswalkers in play as well.

    I like your plan of Terastadon + Magma Phoenix.

    Seems good

  27. Just my few cents here. I’ve had reasonable success with Dispel and Spell Pierce, as opposing creatures are hardly important and Spell Pierce hits a lot of stuff pretty well anyway. This allows the entire strategy to be more consistent, as unlike regular polymorph, your opponent has to answer the morph or the threats with instant speed stuff.

    Has anyone thought of putting regular polymorph in the same deck? If you have leviathan + iona + emrakul, then the regular polymorph will still work quite well. Obviously, this is when m10 is still in and obviously would have to be used in the token variant of the deck.

    Unified Will seems really good, as if you have no creatures anyway, then you are LOSING no matter what. Unless you have to guys against control, but after DoJ, they shouldn’t have any guys either.

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