Woo Brews – Polymorphing Standard and Modern

Polymorph is one of the coolest and most popular build-around spells in the history of the game.

Polymorph my puny rabbit into a giant world-eating alien, Wurm, or Dragon?

That’s one way to feel powerful.

What makes the card so interesting is how you have to design around it. In a normal deck there’s an element of chance in Polymorph. What’s coming out of the hat? Rabbit, or Demon? Flip, flip, flip.

What really makes Magic fun for me is solving problems of in-game variance in theoretical deckbuilding. It’s something to obsess over.

With Polymorph there are rules. The rabbit must be an animated manland or a token. The only creatures in our deck must be our giant monsters. That way we always know what comes out of the hat.

The second biggest tension of building with Polymorph is the question of what happens if you draw the giant in your hand? Is it castable, or just a wasted draw? Can we get it back in the deck? Can we even Polymorph now??

The first competitive Polymorph deck I ever saw with my own eyes was a blue/green Polymorph deck my buddy Charles Wong was running. It seemed like he was winning every local tournament and the deck has really stuck with me over time.

His Polymorph deck used Khalni Garden and Awakening Zone to make rabbits. His monster was obviously Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

This deck was very good when drawing Emrakul. You wouldn’t necessarily wince like topdecking a Living End because the deck had 4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor to get them back in the deck.

What was really cool though was how often Charles made 15 mana off Awakening Zone to cast Emrakul in longer games. In fact, his strategy in many matchups was to take out Polymorph and control/ramp to Emrakul.

I take lessons from this deck when building any Polymorph deck.

 Polymorph always hits our monster.
 Drawing our monster is good.

If we stick to these rules when building a Polymorph deck there are a million ways to build a noob-terrorizing competitive deck.

Modern Polymorph

Before we get to Standard, let’s talk about Modern Polymorph.

I think the key to consistency and surprise with the deck is all about having Misty Rainforest and Verdant Catacombs to find Dryad Arbor as our rabbit.

We have 9 draws that are Dryad Arbors and Polymorphing Dryad Arbor will always hit Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

Maybe more importantly we don’t play a token-maker as a dead give away. We can pretend to be any kind of U/R or RUG deck. If they tap out, we can end-of-turn fetch for a Dryad Arbor and Polymorph as a surprise.

The question in Modern is how to take advantage of drawing Emrakul. We don’t have Jace, the Mind Sculptor and See Beyond is not a powerful Magic card that I want to play. I want to be actively happy to draw Emrakul.

If we have 4 Through the Breach in our deck, we will be very happy to draw Emrakul. Problem solved.

This Through the Breach Emrakul combination has been the highlight of various competitive decks, from current Goryo’s Vengeance Reanimator decks to past Primeval Titan ramp decks.

The last thing we are missing is the ability to ramp to Emrakul to cast as a lat- game buster versus control decks. The easiest way to copy this Awakening Zone effect is through storage lands.

I’m always singing the praises of the storage lands  in Modern. I think these lands are broken in the right kind of decks and highly underplayed in general.

The storage lands are clutch here, as any kind of waiting game against control leads to casting Emrakul.

Between blue for Polymorph, red for Through the Breach, and green fetchlands, we are looking at straight blue/red or RUG.

Here is my current list:


Serum Visions is the best search.

Lightning Bolt is the best removal.

Pentad Prism is the best fast mana (since Simian Spirit Guide is not an option).

Remand and Condescend are the best counters that dig.

Pyroclasm is the best sweeper when we consider that on most third turns we are using our third mana to fetch for a summoning sick Dryad Arbor. This skews our curve toward being stacked at 2 mana and away from quality 3-drops like Anger of the Gods.

I’m also interested in having back-up creatures to Dryad Arbor, although they aren’t necessary. Rather than token-makers which are dead giveaways I like Mutavault here, although it does create tension with Dreadship Reef as a colorless land.

The deck has 24 lands in total which is a lot, but we need to hit land drops. We also get to play Temple of Epiphany with only eight 1-drops, and I have been loving Temples in Modern.

I definitely recommend a main deck like this for Modern Polymorph. I played a similar deck with great results before Seething Song was banned, and I haven’t given the idea any attention since then.

Alternatively you could try going without the Through the Breach combo. That could give you options for black disruption like Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay but my experience is that that creates a reliance on Polymorph and a vulnerability to spot removal I don’t want.

As for the sideboard, I don’t have anything that I’m really comfortable with right now. I’m interested in Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite for small creature decks and beyond that I’m just running hosers right now.

Stay tuned for more content on Polymorph in Modern coming in the future, but until then I recommend diving in head first. It’s a really fun and competitive strategy that people don’t play just because no else plays it. It’s good.

Standard Polymorph

Everybody give Jalira, Master Polymorphist a warm welcome. She is a Polymorph on a stick, and that effect is too fun to not build around.

Jalira seems to be much weaker than actual Polymorphshe gives them a turn to see it coming and takes 7 total mana. This sounds bad.

But Jalira does have some nice strengthsbeyond being reusable, her ability lets us run legendary creatures like Brimaz in our deck while always hitting a giant monster like Worldspine Wurm.

That’d be an option. But what I don’t see with that deck is a way to take advantage of drawing Worldspine Wurm. I want to be excited to draw that card. Which draws me to another card.

Hell man, we’re doing it.

And if we’re doing it.

We’re going all in!

Epic Polymorph for Standard

This is what I’m thinking: Jalira is a lightning rod and will probably die every time. But if she does’t, she can use a Mutavault to dump a Worldspine Wurm. And the next turn we crack one Worldspine Wurm for another. It might not happen all that often, but it will happen, and when it does happen, it will feel VERY GOOD.

Our main game plan though is control and burn to the face. Shock this. Lightning Strike that. Anger of the Gods those. Divination to reload.

Riddle of Lightning that, Blast of Genius you.

In the end it’s all about Epic Experiment. Is it the best possible thing to be doing? Absolutely not. But it’s something that needs to be done.

Ramp with Ral Zarek, Epic Experiment for 6.

Flip Blast of Genius, Riddle of Lightning, and Lightning Strike. BANG BANG.

This is the way I would do it, but I acknowledge that not everybody’s preferences are the same so let’s look at some other options.

For instance, instead of Ral Zarek we could run Jace, Architect of Thought, Chandra, Pyromaster, or this guy:

My thinking here is that first of all I don’t want to have a deck clogged with 4-drops. With Jalira a must-play, we really can’t play that many more. Out of those remaining spots I think Ral Zarek is the best for two reasons:

The first is just burn to the face. Blast of Genius you for 15 is good, but it takes 20 to make a kill. Ral Zarek does 3 of the remaining 5, and none of the other planeswalkers can really compete with this.

The real reason I want Ral Zarek is as the best ramp card in straight blue/red. Yes, Ral Zarek is a ramp card. And why do we want a ramp card? To cast Epic Experiment, obviously.

This is my preference.

If your preference was even more skewed toward casting an absurd Epic Experiment I would steer you toward Urban Evolution:

Ramp, draw, draw, ramp. Feels good man. You could play 4 and I wouldn’t be mad at you.

When we take a look at sideboarding I’m not sure right now. I’m interested in having some kind of transformational sideboard into more meaty creatures potentially, and I’ll have to think more on that.

I do know I would like to align my creature removal better against certain decks, which means more Anger of the Gods, more Mizzium Mortars, and so on.

Seems like a solid Polymorph deck to me. Always find Worldspine Wurm. Be happy to draw Worldspine Wurm. Sounds like a world I want to live in.


Modern or Standard, we have options. Options to dump 15-drops into play. This seems like something that I need to do, and if it sounds like something you need to do as well, I hope this helps you get started.

If you’re looking to build your own version remember:

1.) Always turn your rabbit into a giant monster.
2.) Be happy to draw your giant monster.

Follow these rules and you will build a competitive deck.

Good luck.



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