A little over a month ago I wrote an article on the possibility of Polymorph in Standard. Some liked my take while others liked the premise but went a different direction. Polymorph decks had a decent share of success before Rise of the Eldrazi, but now there are a bunch of new tools to experiment with. Today I would like to take another look at the deck’s direction and examine each new piece and how it can make its way into Polymorph. Because at the end of the day, who doesn’t like 15/15 crazies in play?
So before, I was a big advocate of playing U/W control with Polymorph, as I thought green did not add enough, but with Rise of the Eldrazi, that may change. In that shift, Summoning Trap potentially becomes a playable addition as well, to be a little more consistent. Let’s look at potential add-ons from Rise.
This is a card that I want to mess with in a bunch of different decks, but it seems at its best here. Whether you need a steady stream of chump blockers, mana to cast your fatty, or guys to Polymorph away, this provides it all. There aren’t a ton of things that see play that can seal with this either. Maelstrom Pulse and Oblivion Ring are the best options, but both of those are bad at hitting your Polymorph target in response to the spell, so it’s a bit of a give and take.
This is a huge help for the deck as it provides a counterspell that takes out everything, and actually has a bonus most of the time. Resetting a Khalni Garden or the occasional Halimar Depths if you are running it is much better than having counterspells that only deal with noncreatures or instants, etc. This again seems like a natural home for this counterspell and I am excited that it was printed.
Not my favorite Control Magic of all time, but any Control Magic needs to be looked at when examining Polymorph. The 1 mana cheaper part of the card is a pretty big deal but I still think I would prefer Vapor Snare for its interactions with lands just like Deprive has. Still, it’s not out of the question to mess around with for sideboards.
This is basically just better than Progenitus was if you opted to use him. While Iona is still the queen of the castle, many decks have built with her in mind and usually have at least 2 different colored outs to her. There are exceptions of course, like Vampires and Mono-Red, but against those decks you have different issues.
I like Emrakul as a one-of because he is another guy that you can eventually hardcast and he wins the game with a single attack basically. Progenitus could attack once and still be beaten, whereas the card advantage presented by Emrakul is insane. There are a few things that can deal with Emrakul that couldn’t handle Progenitus, like Oblivion Ring, or a Cunning Sparkmage with a Basilisk Collar on it, but I still prefer him.
A touch of mana fixing with a touch of token making, if you are looking to ramp up naturally while still having the option of Polymorph, Growth Spasm is not a bad choice. I think it loses in a fight to Awakening Zone though, as both net you a guy for turn 4, but one continues to do so for the rest of the game at a no mana investment. Still, another option and options are always good.
Much like a control deck, the lifegain is basically irrelevant when playing this deck, so this card just gives you time. Path to Exile is an awesome card, but used early, it can ramp your opponent’s into an answer that we definitely don’t want happening. Oust on the other hand, actually takes away a potential answer from the opponent as it clogs up a draw step. If you are going white, I think you want to max out on Oust and cut back on the Paths a little bit to maximize synergy with your deck. The rare occurrence can also come up where you want to reset Iona so you Oust it away and then Polymorph it back into play on a different color. Probably won’t happen often, but still.
This is a big one. See Beyond gives us more Jace-type effects to get rid of our fat that we have drawn while also just being a nice and cheap draw spell. Opening hands with a monster in them were almost always a mulligan as only Jace could right the wrong. Now however, I think See Beyond in those opening hands makes them not only keepable, but good! This should likely be a 3- to 4-of in most builds.
Now that the new guys have been given their due, let’s examine the various builds or directions that a Polymorph deck can go.
This is the more controllish of the decks and can often play out just like U/W control although with a combo finish. My last article on the topic touched on this type of deck which, at the time, I favored for that particular metagame. This is hardly the only real direction to go of course though, and I actually think it is probably no longer the best, as the tools in green are just so important for the future of the deck. I wouldn’t ignore white altogether though.
This version plays out a lot more like a combo/tempo deck that U/W does as you do not have the control elements needed to push the game longer. That said, you have many more token generators and additional ways to dig for your Polymorph that make the deck fairly consistent in the early game. Often you can end up with a turn 4-6 Polymorph with protection back up pretty easily. I think the tools from Rise of the Eldrazi have us moving in this direction, but there is also a hybrid route.
This direction uses the removal and momentum swingers that White has at its arsenal combined with the token generation and mana stability of green to find a middle ground. The mana is not as good of course, but you do have more options on how to play out a game, allowing you to stay fluid based on the opponent’s decisions. In essence, this is the midrange Polymorph deck. There is one last option as well though that breaks from the traditional Polymorph mold a bit.
This deck allows you to use the combined powers of Summoning Trap and Polymorph to have 6 to 8 ways of finding a fatty in time to take over a game. This does not end up like other Summoning Trap decks though, as you still can’t use other creatures as you can end up blanking your Polymorphs, but the Trap is still an OK card even with only a few targets in the deck. Usually, based on math alone though, you have to increase your threat density a bit to insure seeing a target.
Lets examine what a new U/G Polymorph deck without Summoning Trap might look like.
While there aren’t a ton of token generators in this list, there is enough library manipulation to find one when needed. The hole for this sort of deck is in dealing with the hyper-aggressive decks like Boros Bushwhacker as you have no removal. Awakening Zone and Into the Roil should help that front, but I don’t know if they can be enough to withstand a full-on attack. The sideboard can be used to patch some holes here though, granting you an additional Into the Roil and Fog. Both of these can come in handy and Fog is almost a perfect fit here as it allows you to generate an additional token off of your zone and effectively Time Walks the aggro player. A quick mock up of a potential sideboard for the deck might look like the following:
It is worth noting that while your secondary win conditions are limited, Garruk plus Awakening Zone can do some nasty things to an opponent. Jace is another option, but he usually takes a little too long to ramp up so unless you have multiple Awakening Zones going, you can almost count him out. Gargoyle Castle is a nice addition that gives a little support later on and can of course be Polymorphed if need be.
Lets take a quick look at what U/w/g gives us.
As you can clearly see, the mana is going to be worse no matter what steps you take to avoid just that. For our efforts though, we get some removal spells, Silence, and Elspeth. As we all know, Elspeth can just win games on her own, and is going to be better than Garruk most of the time in this style of deck. You still have access to things like Fog in the sideboard if you wish, but can also turn to more Path to Exiles or Day of Judgment. There are not a ton of white sources in the deck, so that needs to be taken into account when looking into spells with WW in the mana cost. The draw spells help you find your white mana but that is hardly a perfect solution. One hidden gem to adding white is that we now have the ability to hard cast both of our win conditions. With Garruk and Awakening Zone in the deck, that becomes a real possibility, even for something that costs 15 mana.
If you begin to move away from the pure Polymorph deck and into a Summoning Trap hybrid, you can easily reach the conclusion that 2 monsters are just not enough. For example, with one target left in your deck and 45 cards remaining, which is about how many should be left when casting your first Summoning Trap, you’re left with like a 15% chance at actually hitting your target. Obviously you can figure out how that scales up with more guys to hit. With that in mind, you probably need something like 5 guys to give yourself a reliable chance to hit a target.
This just seems like it dilutes your deck too much to be worth it. I understand the allure of just the Summoning Trap deck, as you get other creatures like Wall of Omens to protect you en route to bringing out a big guy, but a hybrid between the two decks just seems greedy and loose. If you are willing to have 5 or 6 monsters in your deck, by all means, give this a shot, but I would advise against it.
With Rise of the Eldrazi, it seems that Polymorph has a real chance at moving into the realms of a competitive deck and away from fringe rogue strategy. Figuring out exactly what direction you want to take with the deck is something you will have to determine during playtesting and deck building, but it ultimately comes down to your discretion. Regardless of whether this deck interests you or not, be prepared for it and likewise if you do play it, be prepared against those that are you. At our local shop, someone Telemin Performanced out an opponent’s Iona, which of course, did not end well for the Polymorph player. Good luck building for the upcoming PTQs!