Polymorph – The tranformation of an item or creature into something different by magic.
This term has been popular in countless fantasy environments. Dungeons & Dragons players have been using this spell for countless years, changing enemies into whatever same level creatures their heart desired. As a World of Warcraft player, using my Mage to control mobs by turning threats into sheep was always a blast.
But in Magic, while the flavour of the 4 mana sorcery is super on point, ever since Rise of the Eldrazi released, there has only been one target for it.
This is a classic combo, so where better to start this edition of Participation Award Magic?
THE MAIN DECK
Yes ladies and gentlemen, this week we’re looking to cheat everyone’s favorite Eldrazi into play against our unexpecting opponents. Well…. sortof.
This combo slots into our deck, first off because lets face it, it’s awesome, it can come out of nowhere to often end games on the spot, and honestly it works really well with our actual foolish game plan. So lets take a look at THAT now and it will all make sense.
I saw Divine Visitation spoiled and immediately knew I needed to find a way to build around it in Modern. The effect of the card is obvious from a quick read, but how to make it fit into a deck is more difficult to determine for a few reasons.
As a finisher in Modern, it’s slow. It costs 5 mana, and doesn’t do anything when it enters the battlefield. Because of that, you can’t build your deck completely around it or you risk being far too slow, easy to hate out with effects like Surgical Extraction, Meddling Mage, etc, and most importantly, you will almost certainly end up with a list that is trying to do something at a speed more suited for an environment like Commander.
Considering those limitations, I tried to determine how we would leverage Visitations desire to have tokens created, and conversely allow our deck to do the type of broken things required for a deck to compete in Modern. This brought me to the Polymorph / Emrakul combo. That particular strategy forces you to avoid creature spells in your deck building by its nature. This means we need to rely completely on spells, and in many cases, most importantly, spells that create creature tokens to use with our polymorph effects. This makes these two effects work very well in the same deck. Giving the Polymorph lists a great alternative win condition that is difficult to hate out with the same tools one might use against a dedicated Polymorph combo list.
In Modern there are a wide array of token creating spells, while many of these are very efficient and would make great additions to the deck, I really wanted to find a consistent plan that allowed me to not just tap out to create 1/1 tokens and leave the door open for my opponents to resolve clearly more powerful effects unanswered. This helped in narrowing down what I felt would work best for my game plan, I decided that I wanted to try and build the deck as a mostly control list, with lots of early game permission to ensure I could interact with my opponent early on. This meant for my needs, instant speed token creatures was going to be important. Like the Splinter Twin combo, I wanted to be able to create creatures on my opponents end step, then polymorph one of them immediately on my turn.
If we end up not getting to the polymorph game plan, the spells above do incredible work with Divine Visitation on the field. Raise the Alarm making 2 4/4 Flying, Vigilant Angels for 2 mana is a great rate, and Secure the Wastes scales incredibly well both early and late in the game. After a Divine Visitation hits the field, we could be creating as many angels as 5 Angels next turn if we keep hitting land drops.
I tossed around a number of options for the next slot, but decided that in the end, Legion’s Landing was a good option for my flex slots because it is able to come down early and give us a potential polymorph target, but if we are able to flip it, becomes a very difficult to interact with token generator for the late game.
Speaking of difficult to interact with token generators, I knew it was important to ensure that I had a reasonable number of recurring token generators that wouldn’t require constant use of mana to hold up interaction. However, I didn’t want to weaken the deck with bad role playing cards just for the sake of functionality. Gideon has multiple modes that could be relevant to our game plan. His +1 turns him into a creature, meaning we could actually polymorph off him without losing anything in the process if we needed to. This is a slow method of going about it, but it is a line we may be able to take advantage of in the right game state. Naturally his 0 creates tokens for polymorphing, but in the late game could also be an incredible 4/4 angel generator. Finally his -4 gives us a virtual Intangible Virtue for all of our small tokens. These give him amazing flexibility for both our game plans, while also being a win condition himself in the right match ups.
All of this sounds great, but if we can’t survive the early game, it’s all for not. In order to get to the mid/late game, we need to be able to stall and interact with our opponent. Because of my decision to avoid a tap out game plan, the deck can lean hard into the blue side of our deck and run some of the best early game counters in Modern.
Remand is an incredible tool for forcing our opponent to slow down and play magic on our level, while also continuing to dig through our deck, replacing itself early on and hopefully assisting us in hitting our land drops each turn.
Mana Leak is a complete stop to most spells early in the game. This is especially powerful in a deck like ours that is simply trying to slow things down enough to slog into a late game that is nearly unbeatable. Leak gets significantly worse as the game goes on, but still offers us enough early game permission to justify its inclusion in the deck.
Lastly we’re running Negate as a catch all for powerful non-creature spells. This gives us more play against combo decks mostly.
While we have a reasonable amount of permission in the early game, there are going to potientially be games where a big threat manages to hit the board, so we would be remiss to not include the best removal spell in Modern with Path to Exile. So we’re running a full set of these to ensure we have an answer when we need it. The downside of course to Path in our deck is that it is a terrible removal spell in combination with Mana Leak because it helps our opponent pay the costs of our counter. However, we are also able to use Path as a pseudo ramp card on our end by eating one of our many tokens to help us speed up into our late game. This decision will of course be made based on our draw and what deck we’re playing against.
Speaking of our draws, digging through our deck to find our answers or our end game options is important. So we’ve carefully chosen our two primary draw spells.
Serum Visions is a great draw spell for our deck, being able to scry 2 cards is very important in a deck where we want to do everything we can to avoid drawing our Emrakul. Normally in a deck like this I would lean towards Opt because of its instant speed, but I’m valuing the scry 2 over the speed of Opt.
However, because of the variance gods, there will no doubt be situations where we draw our Emrakul at some point, especially in a deck running a playset of Remand.
The second draw spell of choice for the list is Chart a Course. This draw spell basically has two modes in the deck. There will be many situations where we have an extra token we can throw away into an attack if needed, which will make Chart a super efficient draw 2. However, in situations where we’ve drawn Emrakul, or too many Divine Visitation, it lets us draw up 2 possibly relevant cards, and throw away an unwanted finisher.
The discard clause on Chart is extra powerful with Emrakul, because he allows us to shuffle our graveyard back into our library meaning we can possibly refuel on counters, removal, or token generators as we draw through our deck.
After game one, we need to be able to answer troublesome artifacts or enchantments, one that quickly comes to mind is Ensnaring Bridge. Our main way of ending the game is through combat. If our opponent can turn off our ability to turn our creatures sideways, then we’re going to be out of luck. Fragmentize will handle any artifacts or enchantments we are likely to need to deal with.
We need to also answer other permanents like Planeswalkers that may sneak through our permission. So we’re running a few Detention Sphere’s to help us clean up the board if needed.
Teferi based Blue / White Control has been picking up steam in modern with the release of Teferi in Dominaria, so we’re running a few additional efficient permission spells to help us fight through their counter spells. All in all, our deck is reasonably positioned to fight this battle with our opponents, but the extra help won’t be bad.
Some decks are going to try and go wide quickly, or in the case of burn, get under our game plan with fast creatures and direct damage. While our counterspells will help with the bleeding, Timely Reinforcements can do an amazing job of putting chump blockers down, gaining us a nice chunk of life, and still assist in both of our major game plans. It can possibly make 3 4/4 angels, or give us a creature to polymorph.
Supreme Verdict will help us keep the board clean against decks who keep putting on pressure that our counters and tokens can’t take care of. It’s a main stay in any respectable control deck in modern.
Because we’re running white, and don’t actually require our graveyard to function, the best graveyard hate in Modern, Rest in Peace is absolutely the best answer for shutting down our graveyard abusing opponents. Because there is a chance of us drawing our Emrakul after Rest in Peace resolves, there is a good chance we board out our Spaghetti Monster, and replace her with one of the options below that are more easily cast in a pinch.
While neither of these are going to be an easy cast without the help of Polymorph, in certain matchups, these cards are unbeatable. Elesh Norn will completely shut down token strategies or go wide with creature plans if she resolves. She plays double duty pumping all our tokens making her a genuinely scary creature to see on the battlefield.
Iona against mono coloured decks is a complete shut down. Magic isn’t much of a game when one player can’t cast spells. Against multi-coloured decks, she can often shut off their removal colour making her basically unkillable. Either situation, not ideal. Plus, she’s an angel, so the flavour in our deck is through the roof!
Divine Control – Jeff Roberts
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Path to Exile
3 Secure the Wastes
4 Serum Visions
3 Chart a Course
3 Mana Leak
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Legion’s Landing
3 Divine Visitation
2 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Seachrome Coast
2 Detention Sphere
2 Rest in Peace
2 Timely Reinforcements
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria