Transmogrify in Standard and Modern
- Marin Magda
Polymorph is back in a Standard-legal set, but in a new form. It's now red and exiles a creature rather than destroying it with no possibility of regeneration. That's it. The rest is completely the same. So, what does this mean for the whackier end of deck design in Standard and Modern?
The metagame is constantly shifting and adapting between bans, which currently seem to happen every month or so. Thanks to this, as well as the nature of the last several sets, this is a solid time to brew some decks and have some fun. After all, there are no bigger paper tournaments at the moment, so we might as well cook something up that's perfect for FNM. In this regard, M21 is the core set we've all been looking for, bringing both powerful and fun cards to the table. When it comes to the latter, one of the most interesting and unexpected additions has to be Transmogrify.
Even though we're facing a somewhat weaker card pool in Standard, at least for a deck revolving around this card, fans of such tactics shall rejoice. Being red is huge, since we can finally play just a single color. Plus, the similarity of Lukka's minus effect to Polymorph and Transmogrify makes for some additional faux copies of the deck's titular card.
The game plan remains entirely the same as with previous incarnations: get a chance to untap with some tokens on the board, get rid of one to find a (big) creature, and, ideally, win the game with it. Unfortunately, we don't have access to game-winning baddies such as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn anymore, so an alternative is needed. Admittedly, it's significantly tougher to come up with a Standard build of this deck than it is for Modern, but again, Transmogrify being red opens some new doors.
In the past, Polymorph was able to get Emrakul, Darksteel Colossus, Progenitus, or Iona, Shield of Emeria. Because there are now much fewer Transmogrify hits, it is first necessary to take a look at the most desirable candidates. A few months ago, we had Agent of Treachery, which led Jeskai Lukka all the way to tier one. This was in good part due to Lukka, but Fires of Invention should not be underestimated either. With the Agent gone, however, blue is not the ideal color for this strategy and, thanks to Transmogrify itself, not necessary anymore.
Right now, the best options look to be Boros and Monored, with only two creatures worth mentioning: End-Raze Forerunners and Yidaro, Wandering Monster. The great part about this deck is that it just does not care about the former being green. You'll usually be transmogrifying before seeing it in your hand, or just put it back into the library with another card such as Fire Prophecy.
First up, let's look at a monocolored version. On top of Transmogrify and Lukka, red also has everything else we need: sufficient token generation, some card draw, solid removal, and even a monster to cheat into play. This is why monored builds can (and do) work, the most popular commonly labeled Turbo Yidaro:
|TheWanderingBard's Turbo Yidaro|
I'm not entirely sold on board wipes in best-of-one builds, but then again, they are worth giving a shot if you're facing lots of aggro decks. This further leads to the possibly greatest point about this archetype: it has so many different options that might work well that testing builds can take as long as you want. Yidaro is great because you can always ramp into it via Irencrag Feat, cycle it if you have any copies in your hand, and of course fetch it with Transmogrify. Its biggest downside is that it doesn't finish the game on the spot as easily as its main contender, but if you're thinking about going monored, this is quite possibly the best starting point.
Arguably the most popular Transmogrify variant, Boros further improves on both token generation and removal. Most notably, the amount of white cards that make multiple tokens is nothing short of incredible. Raise the Alarm, Rally for the Throne, and Omen of the Sun are all great additions to the deck, much better than red's brand-new Goblin Wizardry. However, with End-Raze Forerunners, you may want them all so that the Boar can provide a lethal first attack. Spot removal such as Banishing Light might be a good addition. It is also worth noting that The Birth of Meletis adds a token which sticks on the board longer than all the 1/1s.
Although we're losing Dwarven Mine here, we at least have reason to run scrylands and even Castle Ardenvale. Of course, Lukka can and should still be here, but for this variant, I'd rather showcase a budget list. It is a deck for casual play and lower ranks, after all:
|TheSkarTV's Boros Transmogrify|
Angelic Ascension is another card I'm quite surprised doesn't see more play in such decks. It might not be very good as a removal spell, but it can buff one of your tokens with ease, increasing the chance of the first Transmogrify being lethal.
|Asepth's Naya Tokens|
With Polymorph being legal since Modern's inception, Transmogrify was never going to revolutionize the format. Monored Prison managed to reach a tier status for a short while in 2019, so I think that a monocolored build is the major news here:
|Meryn MTG's Transmogrify Prison|
Keep in mind that Ensnaring Bridge and Grafdigger's Cage are nonbos for the strategy, as it needs to strike for lethal with Emrakul and dig it up from the library before that. For this specific build, Indomitable Creativity is also anti-synergistic because it also looks for artifacts, so Chalice of the Void can get in the way and spoil all the fun.
Save for Leyline of the Void, Cage is the best card against Dredge, which is very prominent right now. Without it, the deck is probably very inefficient against it, something to keep in mind for an open (and sometimes closed) meta. The problem of playing Anger of the Gods alongside token production further exacerbates the issue. If you're facing a lot of Dredge, or can't seem to do anything against midrange decks, this one might serve you better:
This Gruul brew is great for all Through the Breach fans. It looks to cheat either a Primeval Titan or an Emrakul onto the battlefield as early as possible. You can do this either with Breach, or by targeting your Dwarven Mine tokens with Transmogrify and Indomitable Creativity. Better yet, you can make two tokens, destroy them with Creativity and find two big boys.
If you end up with Emrakul, annihilation is a foregone conclusion, but the Titan is where things get even more interesting. It's a great backup plan, especially with the deck being as all-in as it is. According to its creator, it doesn't have a single basic Forest because that would disrupt the plan, both weakening Dwarven Mine and an early Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. If you Breach a Titan into play, the number of Mountains on the field at the time will greatly matter. It's important to make sure that Valakut triggers as soon as possible.
As much as the deck is fun, though, the thing I like about it the most is the inventive sideboard. Because of Indomitable Creativity, it can't run any artifacts in the 75, but this list still aces it. The most interesting part is how Wheel of Sun and Moon, a niche sideboard card, seems to make up for the lack of nonartifact graveyard hate. Other than that, it stil has it all: some removal, Boil for Dryad of the Ilysian Grove decks, Force of Vigor for Blood Moon, and Veil of Summer for nearly everything else.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, Standard and Modern Transmogrify decks differ, but the conclusion does not. If you enjoy strategies that revolve around cheating a big creature into play in the first several turns, you have come to the right place. One should be prepared to lose quite a bit with these lists as well, but fun is still almost certainly guaranteed.
Additionally, this is a deck that can easily become a budget or at least semibudget Standard option. Speaking of budget, there are so many cards that could work here that I wasn't able to mention them all. Therefore, there is always room for improvement, exploration, and the possibility to find some janky tool no one has considered before. Happy brewing!
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