*I think Morph has lots of potential, but I feel it’s currently bogged down with something similar to a problem Simic decks have. Is there a solution?
I’m so down to write about Throne of Eldraine. I want to write about new mana rocks, and Once Upon a Time, and some of the legendaries, and so on, but we’re still a few cards short of the whole set being spoiled. I know there’s something waiting at the end, even if it is just more fancy basics. So I have to be patient and write about something else if I want to write.
I’ve been thinking about Morph decks. Morph to me, post Kadena, is like a lot of Simic decks I’ve seen in action. Simic is blue and green. It tends to draw a ton of cards. Simic is too efficient at this for its own good. This creates what I think of as ‘The Simic Problem’ where a deck creates too many resources for itself too quickly, and runs into natural game pinch points, such as one combat step per turn (cycle). If Simic could attack as often as it draws cards, or reliably make the mana to cast all the cards it draws, then we’d all be in trouble. But it usually can’t.
Mining the best blue/green cards from Magic’s history for sweet card draw is easy. Simic can draw the whole deck, but then has to shoehorn a kill in there to avoid decking itself or discarding 40 cards at end of turn because it struggles to push through things like a group of miscellaneous chumps and a Maze of Ith. Simic then needs to run cards like Laboratory Maniac, Psychosis Crawler, Chasm Skulker, Toothy, Craterhoof Behemoth, and such to try and pull off one shot kills. Since their ‘midrange grinder’ creatures (Mulldrifter, Eternal Witness, Consecrated Sphinx, etc…) all draw cards, midrange really just accelerates to the finishers. It all pushes Simic decks into the same corner, where they’re essentially playing a handful of finishers alongside a massive pile of cantrips.
Part of the Simic Problem is that drawing cards tends to be enjoyable to most. But less so to the people you play with when you draw 40 such cards and have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to do with them. Especially once you realize that the best thing you can do is play one of those finishers to win the game. When you draw 40, do you spend your mana putting down durdly enablers? No. They’re there to help you get to situations where you can draw 40. Playing with Simic decks can sometimes feel like listening to a long, drawn out story where you already know what the ending is going to be. I’m not sure I’d want to play with one, either. I don’t feel like ripping through a deck, sticking a lab man, and then drawing out is an experience I’d want all the time. Once would be enough.
I don’t know if there is a solution to the Simic Problem. The finishers are just too good at what they do. Lab Man particularly. Especially with WAR Jace as a backup. I’m also afraid the Simic Problem might be have to be renamed the Chulane Problem soon enough.
I’m not saying don’t play Simic. There are plenty of people who would argue that there’s no Problem at all. The decks are simply strong and competitive and consistent. But if you are feeling dissatisfied with your Simic deck, you probably have the Simic Problem. If you find yourself up against the Simic Problem in your games, narrow your crosshairs to the few cards they have that can actually kill you. Kill Lab Man on sight. Pack exile. Expect that they have an answer to you bouncing their enormous Toothy, like Bioshift or Galloping Lizrog.
Enter Morph! Morph, like I said, is like Simic, except that Morph has a go-to obnoxious lock as their endgame. Pickles Lock! Brine Elemental plus a way to turn it face down. What a great feeling it is to be unable to play magic, turn after turn, while the Morph player tries to figure out if anything in their deck presents lethal. There aren’t many endgame alternatives in the Morph suite, unfortunately.
I didn’t play Magic any of the times Morph was in standard. I’m glad, as it looks super clunky. Morph also messes with some of Magic’s fundamental timing rules, which exacerbates the problem, especially at kitchen tables with no Judge present. I think the initial intent was a camouflage effect. Like the cards Camouflage and Illusionary Mask.
But it ends up being complicated with questionable payoffs.
What creature could this be? Is it Llanowar Elves or Shivan Dragon? If my big payoff is invalidating your Lightning Bolt, or creating an unprofitable blocking situation for you, I’m just going to skip the face-down stuff and play the Dragon. Skip the middle man.
I want to help Morph. I think Morph could be cool, but stuff like Pickles Lock, and the confusing boardstates Morph creates aren’t doing anything for it. How does Morph avoid getting gummed up, or bogged down, or just jumping straight to the thing that wins the game for them? Let’s look at where Morph is. We currently have 2 ‘established’ Morph commanders, Kadena and Animar.
Both of them are there because they help you cheat on mana. Kadena gives you card-draw, Animar an enormous protected threat. Those are great things, but they don’t really reflect what Morph is. We need to look at things that kill the opponents that are more unique to Morph. Ideally we provide some endgame options that also allow for some durdling and control. Not too much.
*Weaver of Lies is really important to Morph, as it allows you to turn your Morph guys face down again. Crystal Shard or Erratic Portal work well in a pinch, especially with flash. Portal of Sanctuary is an okay option, too.*
Morph Idea #1 – Get those Morphs into the Red Zone!
You want to win with Morph? Win with Morphs. Use the fact that they’re 2/2s to make them unblockable with Break Through the Line or Crafty Pathmage, or shut down bigger things with stuff like Meekstone. If your Morphs are ruling combat, suddenly the camouflage aspect becomes a thing. Ebonblade Reaper and Soul Collector might even get to be real cards in a build like this. Morphs make some of the best use of Intimidate. Inkfathom Witch is a fun payoff for getting in there.
You can also use the fact that Morphs are colourless and have no abilities, and buff them with things like Ruins of Oran-Rief, Ruination Guide, and Muraganda Petroglyphs. Lords/anthems that name creature types, like Vanquisher’s Banner don’t work, as Morphs are typeless.
Using stuff like All is Dust, Ugin the Spirit Dragon, and colour hosers can be powerful, but also get you a lot of hate. Be careful. On the other hand, playing Gruesome Slaughter might get you a few laughs. Summoner’s Egg and Clone Shell are good support ‘camouflage’ type cards, and would be cheaper to cast with either Kadena or Animar.
Morph Idea #2 – Ping Em!
Combine Morph-based removal with incremental damage/damage over time. Damage over time strategies are completely underrated. Adding this sort of payoff to Morph is one way to durdle while actually winning the game. If you’re killing opposing dorks with Bane of the Living or Aphetto Exterminator, or bouncing them with Echo Tracer or Icefeather Aven, why not make the opposition pay while you do it? Cards like Dingus Staff make opponents pay for losing creatures, Black Vise and friends make them pay when you bounce their stuff, or if they do nothing, God Pharaoh’s Statue slows them and burns them at the same time. You can add Lockdown/Stax effects if you want, but there’s enough of that in the Morph suite.
Morph Idea #3 – Steal For Profit!
This is a strategy covered by at least one MTG content creator. Chromeshell Crab and Riptide Entrancer are your top guns, supported by things like Bribery and Control Magic. I feel like taking their stuff is just the start, however, and you should try and think about how you’re going to use it best. Something like Assault Suit is a good start. Profitable sacrifice outlets are a must as well. Surestrike Trident turns their lethal weapon into yours. Even something like Miren, the Moaning Well gives you something to do with a stolen creature. If you can get into red, Hazoret’s Favor is great fun. Don’t rely on the thing you steal to win the game for you. Plan to steal, use it up, then steal again!
Morph Idea #4 – Make it Manifest!
Morph steals the spotlight because of the synergy with Kadena and Animar, but Manifest is a really cool ability on its own. Morph has to be on the card itself, but Manifest can turn anything facedown. Sometimes you can even take your opponents’ cards and/or turn them over. While you need Primordial Mist to cast anything that’s not a creature, and the options overall are pretty slim, cards like Thieving Amalgam and Scroll of Fate are exciting all on their own. Manifest, like Morph, is also in all five colours.
Try having fun with other ‘Face down’ cards too, like Fortune’s Favor, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Ignorant Bliss, Shared Fate, Ixidron, and the insane third ability of Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist.
Morph Idea #5 – Mill!
Thought Harvester, Raven Guild Master and Whetwheel give you a place to start. Use your morphs as X/2s with Phenax, God of Deception, or as combat dorks with Trepanation Blade. You can probably just take a Phenax deck and sub out the usual creature package for a morph package, keeping things like Bonehoard and Nighthowler.
Morph Idea #6 – Other Commander Options!
Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa, Ezuri, Claw of Progress, and the upcoming Chulane, Teller of Tales all suit Morph well. Tip of the iceberg.
Looking at tribal options, there are several Dragon creatures with Morph abilities. All you need is a Crouching Tiger. A large percentage of Morphs are Humans and/or Wizards, though Morph is sort of a nonbo with Inalla, Archmage Ritualist.
Other fun stuff to try with Morph:
Conspiracy/Arcane Adaptation + Eye of Ugin – All Morphs are Eldrazi! Eldrazi Temple works too. Great for when your commander isn’t Kadena or Animar.
Minor colourless enablers – Shrine of Forsaken Gods, Tomb of the Spirit Dragon, Tide Drifter, Forerunner of Slaughter, Herald of Kozilek
Minor colourless payoffs – Flayer Drone, Molten Nursery, Nettle Drone, Vile Aggregate, Barrage Tyrant.
Reasons to try Morph with Red – Akroma, Angel of Vengeance, Ashcloud Phoenix, Bloodstoke Howler (Beast Morphs!), Dwarven Blastminer, Fortune Thief, Ire Shaman, Jeering Instigator, Kolaghan Stormsinger, Shaleskin Plower, Skirk Marauder, Skirk Volcanist, Warbreak Trumpeter.
Reasons to try Morph with White – Bygone Bishop, Aven Liberator, Mentor of the Meek, Daru Sanctifier, Dawning Purist, Frontline Strategist, Hidden Dragonslayer, Ironfist Crusher, Karona’s Zealot, Lumithread Field, Weathered Bodyguards.
Wants to be Siege-Gang Commander – Ponyback Brigade.
Kadena wishes it didn’t have that little red prawn in the text box – Rattleclaw Mystic.
Most Hilarious Morph card – Unstable Hulk.
If you’re paying 3 for most of your stuff anyway… – Trinisphere
I hope something in this post inspires you to play Morph, and not just play it to get Pickles Lock in play as fast as possible. I hope you also consider Morph and Manifest as tools for other decks, where they are not the main focus. Playing a single, random Morph in an otherwise Morph-less game is going to raise some eyebrows, and keep opponents guessing. Which is what Morph was intended for in the first place.