This is a new / ongoing series where I detail my thought process when building and modifying EDH decks

EDH | Building Polymorph

Building a deck around Polymorph has always appealed to me. When built correctly, it turns a bad removal spell into Tinker.

Tinker Polymorph

The basic idea is this: you run a deck where the only creatures are expensive and powerful. Then, you use cards that generate tokens or “animate” themselves to get a Polymorph target.

Chatter of the Squirrel Guardian Idol Spawning Pool

This way, you guarantee turning a cheap creature into an expensive one! This general strategy has appeared in Standard from time to time.

# name Polymorph - Tim Sussino # info Pro Tour San Diego 2010 1x Arid Mesa 4x Halimar Depths 7x Island 1x Misty Rainforest 7x Mountain 4x Scalding Tarn 2x Iona, Shield of Emeria 1x Chandra Nalaar 4x Dragon Fodder 4x Goblin Assault 4x Into the Roil 3x Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4x Lightning Bolt 4x Negate 3x Polymorph 4x Ponder 3x Treasure Hunt

Bringing it to EDH

When I’m trying to bring a “combo” strategy to EDH, my number one priority is redundancy. You need to line up two effects, in this case a Polymorph spell and a “creature”. This can be difficult in a 100 card, singleton format.

In other decks, I often use the Commander as a reliable and repeatedable combo piece. In my Maro Speaker deck, I need two things: “hand-size matters” creatures + draw spells that check power. Together, they double my hand size! Given the larger number of Maro cards printed vs just a few Soul's Majesty clones, it makes sense to rely on Prime Speaker Zegana.

Prime Speaker Zegana Maro

Okay, so what Commander can give us a reliable Polymorph? Why Jalira of course!

Jalira, Master Polymorphist

Except no, she’s awful. Jalira has a ton of problems:

  1. She restricts you to mono blue
  2. Token options aren’t great in mono blue, so you have to work harder to get “creatures” to Polymorph
  3. She can never cheat in Legendary Creatures, which removes a lot of the best bombs
  4. She’s expensive. Polymorph effects costs between 4-6 mana, but she’s a minimum of 7 (to play and activate), and will only get more expensive
  5. Unlike Zegana’s ETB effect, Jalira is not a guaranteed Polymorph. She needs to survive until the next turn. That or you give her Haste, but there’s only so many ways in mono blue, and now you have to spend 7+ mana all at once

We need to flip our assumption. Rather than using our Commander for a reliable Polymorph, what if instead it was a reliable target?

Polymorph Redundancy

First we need to make sure we can reliable get a Polymorph effect out of the 99. As far as the straightforward “kill a creature, get a bigger creature” card, we have a decent array of Polymorph options just in Blue.

Polymorph Mass Polymorph Synthetic Destiny Reweave Proteus Staff
Fun little note: if you activate Proteus Staff and there are no creatues left in your deck, it will put the target on the bottom, flip the whole deck, and put in back in play. But then, because you "put the rest on the bottom in any order" instead of shuffling, you can stack your entire deck. This can lead to instantly game winning combos with Melek, Izzet Paragon.

If we add Green, we gain access to a few “flip untip you hit a creature” spells, which are basically Polymorph with fewer steps!

Natural Order Oath of Druids Selvala's Stampede
Natural Order - literally Tinker for creatures

Polymorph decks often get a few big guys stuck in their hand, so Selvala's Stampede ends up does double-duty.

Even Red has a few oddballs.

Divergent Transformations Shifting Shadow Indomitable Creativity

Divergent Transformations is really strong, but the others have serious downsides.

Shifting Shadow is hurt by waiting for upkeep, as well as killing your shiny new creature after a turn.

Indomitable Creativity would require building a deck without mana rocks, which is doable with Green, but a constraint nonetheless.

So where do we go from here?

The Traditional Route

My first EDH Polymorph deck (not counting the Melek combo mentioned above) did the most sensible thing: maximize Polymorph spells and maximize cheap targets. My solution?

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
you just have to convince the table you're not running Winter Orb

Derevi gives us the colors for most of the Polymorph spells, as well as some really big threats. He’s gives us a reliable Polymorph target for only 4 mana at instant speed (even less if you untap a land). His passive ability can give our big creatures Vigilance by untapped them after combat. And if our Plan B is to go wide with tokens, he’s great for that too.

# name Bant Polymorph Overrun # info May 2018 # link TappedOut 1x Derevi, Empyrial Tactician *CMDR* Sorcery (30) 1x AEther Mutation 1x Akroma's Vengeance 1x Bring to Light 1x Cultivate 1x Cultural Exchange 1x Ezuri's Predation 1x Grow from the Ashes 1x Growth Spasm 1x Hallowed Burial 1x Hymn of Rebirth 1x Legerdemain 1x Martial Coup 1x Mass Polymorph 1x Natural Order 1x Polymorph 1x Rampant Growth 1x Recross the Paths 1x Recurring Insight 1x Regrowth 1x Rite of Replication 1x Saheeli's Artistry 1x Seeds of Renewal 1x Selvala's Stampede 1x Shifting Loyalties 1x Spelltwine 1x Stolen Identity 1x Switcheroo 1x Terminus 1x Tidings 1x Wildest Dreams Planeswalker (1) 1x Jace, the Mind Sculptor Land (38) 1x Arcane Lighthouse 1x Azorius Chancery 1x Blighted Woodland 1x Command Tower 1x Endless Sands 1x Evolving Wilds 1x Exotic Orchard 1x Flooded Grove 5x Forest 1x Homeward Path 5x Island 1x Khalni Garden 1x Krosan Verge 1x Myriad Landscape 1x Mystic Gate 4x Plains 1x Rogue's Passage 1x Seaside Citadel 1x Selesnya Sanctuary 1x Simic Growth Chamber 1x Spawning Bed 1x Sunpetal Grove 1x Temple of Mystery 1x Terramorphic Expanse 1x Vivid Creek 1x Vivid Grove 1x Wooded Bastion Artifact (6) 1x Conjurer's Bauble 1x Lightning Greaves 1x Proteus Staff 1x Skullclamp 1x Swiftfoot Boots 1x Trading Post Instant (9) 1x Aura Mutation 1x Entrapment Maneuver 1x Fact or Fiction 1x Frantic Search 1x Harrow 1x Mercy Killing 1x Reweave 1x Supplant Form 1x Synthetic Destiny Creature (9) 1x Avacyn, Angel of Hope 1x Blazing Archon 1x Emrakul, the Promised End 1x Kozilek, the Great Distortion 1x Serra Avatar 1x Terastodon 1x Trench Gorger 1x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 1x Worldspine Wurm Enchantment (6) 1x Aura Shards 1x Awakening Zone 1x Finest Hour 1x From Beyond 1x Greater Good 1x Oath of Druids

You can see the Polymorph cards mentioned above, as well draw, removal, tokens generators, and a few ways to get the big guys out of my hand.

The Single Target Route

What else is left to say? Well, last year, Polymorph was showing up in online competetive EDH with the commander Baral. The basic idea is that you play control, and then after you’ve cycled enough of your deck, end the game by Polymorphing your commander into the only creature in your deck: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

Baral, Chief of Compliance Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
old Emrakul has long been banned in Paper, but was legal at the time on MTGO

Baral is cheap, synergizes with the spell-heavy control strategy, and helps cycles your deck. You can read more about it on MTGGoldfish. Slimming your deck down to one creature makes the strategy very consistent, and serves as an interesting twist to the Combo/Control archetype by turning a 4 mana sorcery into a solid “combo” win condition.

Enter Teferi

I wanted to do a similar spin, but a bit more open ended. No grabbing a giant weapon like Emrakul. No, I want a card that will put me far enough ahead to win, but feel different everytime.

Also, the problem with Baral in multiplayer is that he becomes a huge target. If everyone knows they just have to kill Baral to keep me off my win-con, I can’t counterspell 3 kill spells in one turn. I needed a Commander my opponents couldn’t snipe.

Thus, a match made in heaven:

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur

If you flash out Teferi during the end step before your turn, then untap and immediately Polymorph, your opponents will be unable to prevent it. The only possible answers are activated abilities like Avatar of Woe and Crystal Shard, but you see those coming a mile away.

Thus, if you are patient and wait until you have a Polymorph in hand and a safe board, you can guarantee cheating out a Jin-Gitaxias and refilling your hand with as little as 5 lands.

Added bonus for the competetive player: Teferi has a built in “one-card combo” with Knowledge Pool. With both of those cards out, your opponents will be unable to play spells from their hand (more details here). Teferi has the same effect with Possiblity Storm, but it’s out of our colors.

Knowledge Pool Possibility Storm

Granted, your opponents can still cast their Commanders, and you can still lose to whatever’s on the table (note: this happened the first game I resolved the combo). But it’s a pretty strong lock, and a convenient “win-con” for a deck pre-disposed to draw a lot of cards.

# name Tef-Gitaxias # info May 2018 # link TappedOut 1x Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir *CMDR* Instant (26) 1x AEtherize 1x AEtherspouts 1x Arcane Denial 1x Commit / Memory 1x Counterspell 1x Cyclonic Rift 1x Disdainful Stroke 1x Engulf the Shore 1x Evacuation 1x Fact or Fiction 1x Foil 1x Frantic Search 1x High Tide 1x Keep Watch 1x Misdirection 1x Opportunity 1x Pongify 1x Quicken 1x Rapid Hybridization 1x Reality Shift 1x Reweave 1x Snap 1x Snapback 1x Swan Song 1x Synthetic Destiny 1x Whir of Invention Sorcery (15) 1x Aether Gale 1x Coastal Breach 1x Crush of Tentacles 1x Devastation Tide 1x Displacement Wave 1x Energy Tap 1x Fabricate 1x Mass Polymorph 1x Merchant Scroll 1x Polymorph 1x Spelltwine 1x Temporal Cascade 1x Time Reversal 1x Whelming Wave 1x Windfall Enchantment (6) 1x Frozen AEther 1x Imprisoned in the Moon 1x Omniscience 1x Overburden 1x Pendrell Mists 1x Propaganda Planeswalker (1) 1x Tezzeret the Seeker Creature (1) 1x Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur Artifact (10) 1x Caged Sun 1x Elixir of Immortality 1x Extraplanar Lens 1x Gauntlet of Power 1x Knowledge Pool 1x Nevinyrral's Disk 1x Perilous Vault 1x Proteus Staff 1x Strata Scythe 1x Torpor Orb Land (40) 1x Coral Atoll 35x Island 1x Magosi, the Waterveil 1x Reliquary Tower 1x Rogue's Passage 1x Temple of the False God

In Conclusion

My point to all this is that even if you have a simple strategy, like “Polymorph plus little guy equals big guy”, there are a lot of ways to approach it when building an EDH deck.

Until next time, happy brewing!

Written on May 5, 2018