This week I was planning to write (brag) about how good I am at limited (not very) until tonight. I took the new deck I built into the Modern Queues to record this week’s video, and something special happened.
I concentrated very hard and made a lot of mistakes. But I won all of the matches. Some of the games ended on turn 5, and one 30-minute game came down to a hardcast Emrakul—in a deck that I didn’t know could hardcast Emrakul.
[draft]Emrakul, the aeons torn[/draft]
Obviously, I am too excited to write my original article comparing and contrasting [card]Predatory Sliver[/card] and [card]Groundshaker Sliver[/card] in extreme detail. Instead I am going to write about the [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] deck I have been working on since 2007.
The Only True Man Land
I have been fascinated with [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] since I first saw it when I was a junior in high school. It was a creature! And it was a land! I had never seen anything like it—because there had never been anything like it. And there still isn’t.
Cast [card]Through the Breach[/card].
Put [card]Protean Hulk[/card] into play.
Sacrifice Protean Hulk.
Search for a [card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card]. Search for 4 [card]Hedron Crab[/card]s.
That’s 6, yeah?
Search for 4 Dryad Arbor.
Mill you for 48. Sacrifice Sakura-Tribe Elder. Mill you for 12.
No, this isn’t the deck that I have put together. Although one day I might. But over the years I have thought about Dryad Arbor and all the surprises it has in store. It’s a land for [card]Bloodghast[/card]. And it is a creature for [card]Nether Shadow[/card] and [card]Bridge from Below[/card]. Can I really call this deck manaless dredge? I have 4 Forests!
I remember Pro Tour Amsterdam in 2010. My opponent attacked his [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] into my [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] before getting mana out of the Cobra. It was like the Cobra was on skis and ran into a tree that was there all along.
I remember Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011, Dryad Arbor showing up out of [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] on turn 1. Dryad Arbor powered [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] [card]Through the Breach[/card] on turn 3. And Dryad Arbor would slowly march across, point after point, until the opponent was dead.
And I remember Grand Prix Portland this year, Dryad Arbor appearing time after time to nerf lethal attacks and kill the opponent out of nowhere. “He has an empty hand! I have enough creatures to kill him! Attack with everything! OH MY GOD THERE IS A MAN INSIDE THAT TREE. NO WAIT. IT IS A TREE. AND A MAN.”
I have never played more than 1 Dryad Arbor in a deck, and I like to imagine it’s been the exact same one. How many notches does my Dryad Arbor have? Probably less than a hundred. Probably.
Origins of Modern Polymorph
I started building this deck in my head while working as minimum wage, yellow-shirt event staff way back in 2010. We were working at a Meatloaf concert at Snoqualmie Casino, and my job was something like “stand there and have a menacing presence.” I began to think about Magic cards.
What if I used [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] and [card]Misty Rainforest[/card] to find a [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] that I could [card]Polymorph[/card] into a giant creature?
Traditionally, Polymorph decks had to play cards that made tokens, Polymorph, cards to find Polymorph and cards that made tokens, and cards to interact. Since I was going to be playing [card]Misty Rainforest[/card] and [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] anyways, I could bypass the whole token-making thing. My deck could be entirely cards that interact with the opponent and Polymorph, making a very nice control deck that could surprise the opponent by dumping an Emrakul if they tap out.
Most of my opponents wouldn’t know that an untapped fetchland on the third turn represented a fourth turn Emrakul, so for most game 1s I wouldn’t even have to worry about the fragility of the combo.
For the savvy opponents that were reluctant to tap out, I could use cards like [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] and [card]Disrupting Shoal[/card] to protect.
I would play cards like [card]Condescend[/card] and [card]Remand[/card] to slow the opponent down while digging through my deck.
WE HAVE A DECK!
Or, we could have. For whatever reason I never put the deck together. I was too busy trying to get [card]Living End[/card] banned (still hasn’t happened). But, the deck as I originally envisioned it finally popped back into my head last week, and I put it together—to exciting results!
This deck has produced some of the most epic games I’ve ever played, and I’ve still barely played with it. Some games end early but many games involve posturing for position, turn after turn after turn—sometimes ending in a hardcast Emrakul.
It’s hard for me to evaluate how good the deck is because of how difficult it is to play. I’ve found myself making more mistakes than with any deck in recent memory, aside from maybe Complex Dredge. Games are won and lost by a hair’s margin, and every time I lose I feel like it’s because I’ve done something boneheaded.
So I think the power of the deck is in the player’s hands. It’s as good as you are with it. Which I think makes it a pretty amazing deck. When you play this deck you feel POWERFUL. And humble.
4 Serum Visions
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Mana Leak
3 Disrupting Shoal
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Cryptic Command
2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
3 Darkslick Shores
3 Watery Grave
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Breeding Pool
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforeset
3 Dreadship Reef
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Khalni Garden
1 Dreadship Reef
1 Abrupt Decay
4 Spreading Seas
2 Creeping Corrosion
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Grave Titan
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria[/deck]
Modern Polymorph Card Choices
[draft]Emrakul, the aeons torn[/draft]
Emrakul is the baddest guy on the planet. Or, in the universe rather. There isn’t anything bigger and scarier to [card]Polymorph[/card] into.
[draft]Thirst for Knowledge[/draft]
If we draw both Emrakuls we have nothing in our deck to Polymorph into. I’d like to have at least one way to shuffle back Emrakuls beyond drawing up to 8 and discarding. Thirst for Knowledge is excellent as an instant—it plays well with our 14 counterspells, unlike [card]See Beyond[/card] or [card]Compulsive Research[/card].
Alternatively, [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] could be replaced by exchanging an [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] or two for self-[card]Thoughtseize[/card], but I like the Thirst. Games go long and having the filtering effect is nice.
We need things to do that aren’t creatures. Counterspells seem like the way to go. They can deal with any kind of threat, giving us game against anything. They can slow the opponent down in the first three turns of the game while we set up our combo, or if the game goes long they can help keep us alive and eventually protect a Polymorph from removal.
[card]Remand[/card] and [card]Condescend[/card] are especially nice as they allow us to dig through our deck while not falling behind the opponent. It’s possible the deck could use more Condescends. That card is really, really good.
I really like [card]Disrupting Shoal[/card]. We tend to be mana tight the turn we want to Polymorph, and it can all be foiled by a single [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] or [card]Remand[/card]. A surprise Disrupting Shoal can be game-ending, and we have plenty of costs to help counter 1- and 2-mana spells. We also have 3- and 4-mana spells to counter random other threats.
[card]Disrupting Shoal[/card] is also a great hard counter when games go super long. There will be games that become a race to charge [card]Dreadship Reef[/card], and in these games Disrupting Shoal can hold off their next topdeck.
Cryptic Command does so many things. Obviously it is a great counterspell, but I put it in this deck for a particular reason.
Polymorph into Emrakul is not a kill this turn. It isn’t even necessarily a kill next turn. There will be games where our life total is under threat from many creatures, and a non-lethal Emrakul swing can leave us wide open. I like having a [card]Cryptic Command[/card] in the deck for situations like these. Maybe we can dig for it, tap down their team an extra turn and get a victory. And if not, Cryptic Command is rarely bad.
Abrupt Decay is great at killing random permanents that slip through the counter web. It’s pretty easy to cast, as we’re going to play [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] and [card]Misty Rainforest[/card] regardless of whether we’re casting actual green spells or not.
I am only playing 3 right now because I noticed that there are some popular decks the card is a total blank against. Most of the time the card is great, but I’d rather not draw 2 in the dark, so the 4th is in the board.
Inquisition of Kozilek[/draft]
Knowing the opponent’s hand is extremely valuable in this deck. Does the opponent have a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] or [card]Path to Exile[/card]? Knowing the answer to this question can be the difference between confidently winning and death by gambling. We play the full 8.
[card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] is great because it gives us vision of their hand while letting us dig. The mana savings also comes up quite a bit as it allows us to save the card until the very last turn to protect from an otherwise brutal topdeck.
[card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] is a great offensive and defensive card that can work wonders at slowing down the opponent’s win or exposing a hole for us to shove an Emrakul through. I like the card much more than [card]Thoughtseize[/card] in Modern, as 2 life is often relevant and most cards we care about cost less than 4.
[card]Serum Visions[/card] is strictly for the dig, obviously. It’s cheap and can dig for lands which makes me prefer it to clunkier options like [card]Peer Through Depths[/card].
Sometimes things go wrong and [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] dies. We need a plan B. [card]Khalni Garden[/card] is nice as it is a solid land that lets us smoothly [card]Polymorph[/card] on 4. [card]Mutavault[/card] is nice because it comes into play untapped, although it is a bit slower than Khalni Garden.
I like the mix, because each may be better in different situations.
Plan C is hardcast Emrakul. This comes up surprisingly often. Dreadship Reef can get there over a dozen turn game of counters and stalls.
Even when we aren’t hardcasting Emrakul, the extra mana can be instrumental in setting up a Polymorph with protection or fueling late game Condescends and Disrupting Shoals.
This is one of the most powerful cards in the deck and couldn’t be replaced by something like [card boseiju, who shelters all]Boseiju[/card]. I would like to play 4, but I am uncomfortable playing more colorless lands with [card]Mutavault[/card] and [card]Khalni Garden[/card] in the deck. It’s possible we should have the full set though.
Modern Polymorph Sideboard
The sideboard (like the main) is a work in progress. There are a few directions to go based on play style and meta, but there are some cards I think should always be included.
1 [card]Dreadship Reef[/card]
1 [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]
4 [card]Spreading Seas[/card]
2 [card]Creeping Corrosion[/card]
1 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
1 [card]Grave Titan[/card]
1 [card]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/card]
First, the basic forest. I hate having another colorless land in the main deck, but [card]Blood Moon[/card] is common out of sideboards. Not only does it shut down our mana, but it can shut down our ability to Polymorph.
Having a basic Forest gives us a lot of ways to find our colors of mana to fight through Blood Moon. We can counter it or we can kill it with Abrupt Decay.
This card is a must against other counterspell decks. You could try a Boseiju instead, but Boseiju doesn’t protect from spot removal on the Arbor. Dreadship Reef is nice because given enough time it will do what Boseiju does AND cast Emrakul as well.
[card]Spreading Seas[/card] seems like a good option against Tron decks. It’s cheap, draws a card, and can really set them back. Alternatively you could try [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]/[card]Tectonic Edge[/card] with [card]Life from the Loam[/card], but that isn’t quite as consistent.
[card]Creeping Corrosion[/card] seems like a nice one to completely demolish Robots.
[card]Grave Titan[/card] and [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] are actually the cards that drove me to physically put the deck together last week. I had the realization that Polymorphing into these could be pretty good in certain matchups—and they would also be great, game-ending 6-drops to top out our control deck.
Certain decks will fixate on killing our [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] and stopping our Polymorph. This gives us another angle of attack—giant, robust creatures that are easy to cast and only particularly vulnerable to [card]Path to Exile[/card].
[draft]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/draft]
Iona is a strong solution to decks like Storm combo that don’t necessarily care about Emrakul the turn you play it. I’m not sure this card is actually worth it, as even if you cut an Emrakul for her you still only have a 50% chance of revealing her off of a Polymorph.
Playing Modern Polymorph
I am still pretty new to playing the deck and I can tell you it’s incredibly difficult to play. I could try to sit here and write a book on various situations with the deck but that’s not a good use of my time and would deprive you of learning yourself, which is the joy of playing a deck like this.
If you want to see the deck in action first yourself, I will be playing the deck on stream at various points this week, and I will also have a video going up on Thursday night on this here site.
Hope you are as excited as I am!
<3 Travis Facebook.com/TravisDWoo Twitter.com/travisdwoo Twitchtv.com/traviswoo Questions!! Comments!! Think there’s something I forgot?!