The first few weeks of the new Standard format have come and gone, and it is obvious that decks like Jeskai Midrange and Green/White Aggro are very strong and resilient. These decks have some synergy of course but the reason the decks are so good is that each individual card is powerful on its own. Personally, while I agree that these strategies are valid, I think there are other viable routes to take that play cards which we don't normally see, and one of those is the morph deck. Playing a deck which revolves around morph creatures is something I have been working on in preparation for Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar.

So what cards are in a morph deck? There is a lot of unexplored territory here, mostly from the Khans of Tarkir Block. Many of the morphs saw only a little bit of play, but the power level of the format isn't as high now that Theros Block has rotated out. However, there are some morphs that have proven to be powerful on their own, whether or not they are in a deck filled with other morphs. The most obvious ones that come to mind are Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector. Deathmist Raptor in particular works well when played in a deck with other morphs in it, unless your opponent can exile it, Deathmist Raptor is a very legitimate win condition.

There are a number of enchantments in the format which synergize with playing face down creatures, but besides Mastery of the Unseen most of them haven't seen play. The other enchantments are Secret Plans, Obscuring Aether, and Trail of Mystery. Upon first impression these cards may not seem like much, but in fact these cards are capable of creating tons of card advantage, and in some cases can help you accelerate your game plan. Obscuring Aether is what I am calling the new Elvish Mystic, just because there are essentially not any one-mana accelerators besides Honored Hierarch in the format. The great thing about Obscuring Aether is that it can't be dealt with by any sort of creature removal, and all of your morphs costing one less is just a huge deal.

The main reason to build a deck full of morphs is that you can abuse Obscuring Aether. The reason why this is the time a morph deck can be good is that the format isn't super-fast which means most games there will be enough time to get your engine running. In addition, the new lands allow you to play Obscuring Aether on turn one and play a bunch of colors. There are only so many morphs you have access to when limiting a deck to only two or even three colors. Here is where I am at right now with the deck, though I am still unsure of what the sideboard should look like, so I won't be including it.

DECKID=1251441

This list is playing only enchantments and creatures. There are no actual removal spells in the deck, though that hasn't been a big issue. Hidden Dragonslayer is a form of both life gain and removal. It is very hard to attack this deck on the ground. We even have Stratus Dancer which can unmorph and block a Mantis Rider. Clearly this deck revolves around synergy. We aren't scared of green/white decks that are attacking on the ground or even Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Remember that whenever we unmorph a creature with Trail of Mystery in play it gets pumped. This is especially relevant with Den Protector since it can become unblockable more easily. All of the decks best draws do include a turn one Obscuring Aether, but it's okay if you don't have one.

If turn two is simply playing a Trail of Mystery this will ensure that there will be no missed land drops for the entire game after playing the first morph, which is pretty nice. Green/Red Devotion previously had Trail of Mystery in the sideboard because of how good the card is versus control. Even card draw spells aren't as strong as thinning actually every single basic land out of your deck. There is a reason why there are so many actual basic lands in the deck. The reason why there aren't four copies of Trail of Mystery is you don't really want to draw two, and sometimes there isn't time to play all of your enchantments before starting the morph train. Secret Plans is also a good turn two play and is yet another way of gaining a lot of card advantage.

Secret Plans essentially means that there will be things to do with your mana each turn, since your hand will almost always contain gas. The other thing about both Trail of Mystery and Secret Plans is they can mess up combat math for your opponent. Being able to get a bump in the toughness of face down creatures or the bonus for flipping a creature up is something that the opponent may not factor in when attacking and blocking. For instance with a morphed Hidden Dragonslayer one typical turn involves unmorphing it and getting a Trail of Mystery trigger which creates a five power lifelink creature, which can swing the game in a hurry. The creatures in this deck all have different effects when flipping up, and it is essentially impossible to predict the morphs in the deck as there are so many different ones.

There are a number of creatures that gain a bonus when you flip them up, which give you an immediate advantage, even if your opponent has a removal spell. This is part of the reason why one-for-one removal is quite bad against this version of the morph deck. A lot of the time there isn't time to manifest with Mastery of the Unseen, but when you do manifest an actual morph creature it is nuts. Even without the manifest effect from Mastery of the Unseen just being able to gain life from unmorphing creatures is very important. Most of the games tend to involve racing against their clock, and once your engine gets going the game can be locked up quite quickly. Almost every nonland card has the ability to create some sort of card advantage which means that lifegain is super relevant to help you survive. This deck reminds me of Green/White Devotion because once it turns the corner the game is over, and you can start to do a bunch of stuff in a single turn. Another way to help the deck get to the big turn is mana acceleration, and in its current state there is a lack of mana accelerators in Standard.

The best form of creature acceleration in the format is likely Rattleclaw Mystic; remember that, while a lot of the time Rattleclaw Mystic is played face up, it is in fact a morph. The best draw the deck has is turn one Obscuring Aether, turn two morphed Rattleclaw Mystic, and then you can play two morphs on the third turn of the game! Rattleclaw Mystic is one of the most explosive cards and the fact that you actually gain mana when unmorphing it is what makes it so special. The combination of Rattleclaw Mystic, Deathmist Raptor, and Den Protector has already proven to be worthy of Constructed play. Hidden Dragonslayer and Stratus Dancer tend to take the opponent by surprise. Opponents normally might expect Stratus Dancer out of a Jeskai or Green/White strategy, but not out of this deck. Being able to counter any instant or sorcery spell is another way to protect against opposing removal, and stop opposing card advantage like Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise from resolving on the opposing side of the table.

Both Stratus Dancer and Hidden Dragonslayer are insane in specific matchups but are reasonable in any matchup. For example, Hidden Dragonslayer is best against Abzan Aggro where it can kill a number of four-toughness creatures, like Anafenza, the Foremost or Siege Rhino. Normally if your opponent doesn't have a four-toughness creature you are ahead in the game anyway, and then the lifelink body is nice to have. In a similar way having a flying morph is nice but against a deck like Jeskai, Stratus Dancer counters about half the spells. Den Protector often brings back a Hidden Dragonslayer or Stratus Dancer depending on the matchup as they die a lot of the time. There is also another morph in the deck that has been particularly impressive and is not very well known. That morph is Ire Shaman. Playing red in the deck is not hard, as the splash is almost free, especially since Rattleclaw Mystic produces red mana. Worst case scenario when missing a color is you can still run out the morph and hope to find that color later in the game.

Ire Shaman may not seem like anything special but it is the definition of card advantage. In order to unmorph Ire Shaman it is only a single mana which is great, and reminds me a lot of a card like Abbot of Keral Keep. Having a low unmorph cost is important to be able to trigger Secret Plans, Trail of Mystery, and Mastery of the Unseen for as cheaply as possible. This is essentially why Temur Charger is in the deck. The unmorph cost is usually nothing as there is normally a green card that can be revealed. Even playing Temur Charger on turn two is not the worst, though there are plenty of other two-mana cards in the deck. In fact the majority of the spells are two mana, but don't let that fool you: while the cards are cheap, that allows you to play multiple spells in the same turn, and have mana to unmorph things.

Overall the morph deck has been good for me and I am working on sideboard plans. For combo decks it is usually tough to come up with good sideboard options. There will be some interactive spells like Rending Volley and Surge of Righteousness which are obviously great in specific matchups. Still you don't want to board out too many of the cards since there needs to be a critical mass of morphs to make the enchantments good. There are of course other morphs that could be sideboarded or swapped to make room for in the maindeck. Hidden Dragonslayer and Stratus Dancer can be boarded out, and when they come out should be apparent.

I have heard criticism that this deck can't effectively compete with Tier 1 decks but that really isn't the case. The deck has perhaps the best late game I have seen in this Standard format, while not actually needing to be a control deck. Even versus mass removal the deck has the Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector package, plus the enchantments. It is true that getting combo'd out by Atarka Red is tough to beat game one, as sometimes it takes a few turns to set up. Still, there is plenty of room for tinkering with the sideboard and even with the maindeck. The new manabases allow you to play a number of colors pretty easily, which is why this deck is now good. In addition, while the deck doesn't have too many cards from Battle for Zendikar, that can be attributed to this strategy going under the radar even in Khans Block. I won't be surprised to see morph decks starting to pop up as there is a lot of potential here.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield