How to Change a 0/1 Plant into a 15/15 Flying Eldrazi or a PTQ Winner Tournament Report – Part 1

Hi everyone. I’m Vincent Thibeault and this is my first Magic the Gathering tournament report on a website. I played UG Polymorph at the Montreal PTQ for Amsterdam and managed to get the blue envelope. This was one of the first PTQs with Rise of Eldrazi and I was wondering if the reign of Jund would finally be over. Two weeks earlier I wanted to play UW control but after the deck won 3 times at the online PTQ (pre-ROE), it was quickly becoming the most popular deck and the one to beat.  Wall of Omens and Gideon would only make the deck better.  However, I did not want to play something that everyone would be prepared to face, so I needed a deck that could do well against UW Control and Jund.

Another deck that managed to perform against Jund pre-ROE was Mythic, quite expensive but a rather sick deck if it got going. A week before the PTQ I saw a new version of it, Mythic Conscription, that won a national qualifier in Germany, and I knew this deck would be popular at the PTQ. After reading a lot of articles online, (mostly at channelfireball.com, brainburst.com, blackborder.com and starcitygames.com), I came across the UG polymorph deck. Conley Woods, Patrick Chapin and Adam West all wrote articles about it, offering different deck lists. A version of the deck even won a UK national qualifier pre-ROE, so the deck seemed like it was a contender. Obviously I had to playtest a lot with it to see if it was the real deal or just a nice gimmick that could only win against unprepared opponents. The deck had a lot of new cards from ROE, Awakening Zone, Deprive, See Beyond and especially Emrakul, and I wanted to try it. Moreover, there was something in it akin to my first feelings that I experienced when I started to play Magic for the first time; it was the excitement of playing a humongous fatty that could dominate the board on its own, something which Emrakul does quite well.

So I started to playtest on Magic Workstation UG Polymorph quite a lot. I just finished my winter semester so I had some time to prepare. ROE wasn’t on MTGO yet, so MWS was the only way to practice online. Anyway, you are able to play so many more games on MWS than in real life that it became my main way to practice. People can be quite rude on it at times as there are no moderators like on MTGO, but you can play against quite talented players sometimes and you’ll learn to play your deck really fast. When you will get into a real tournament situation, you will have been in a similar situation countless times before on MWS and you will know through trial and error what to do. If it’s a new situation, then, you are going to be used to trying to find solutions in a limited time because if you don’t on MWS your opponent may well disconnect and find somebody else faster to play against. Also, when you play on this program, you have to do everything yourself, all the trigger abilities are done manually and if you forget something only your opponent can remind you, often calling you a «noob» in the process. So you learn rather fast, and even if the process is not always enjoyable, it can be quite effective.

So I practiced quite a lot of games against the stock netdecks but as well against a lot of weird, «what’s going on» kind of decks, like Warp World or WG Aura-enchantress. I realized during playtests that UG Polymorph has weak match-ups, like fast aggro decks, but I also noticed that the deck could be very effective vs. UW Control, Jund and Mythic Conscription; the three decks that I expected to see the most. As I matter of fact, during the tournament, I played almost all my match-ups against Mythic Conscription and UW Control, so I was quite happy with my deck choice. Another advantage of choosing UG Polymorph was that at the time the deck was still under the radar so most people were not playing it and, more importantly, most opponents would not have much experience against it. If you play Jund or UW control, you would be hard pressed to surprise your opponents; however, if you play a deck that may be a tier 1.5 but that most opponents are not used to playing against, you slightly increase your win-percentage and you may well perform better than the crowd playing the most popular deck and having to win the mirror match all day. Is Polymorph a tier 1.5 deck? I’m not sure about that anymore, now that deck made the top 8 at the Atlanta Open and Kenji Tsumura managed to win a PTQ with it. Craig Wescoe managed to be in the top 4 with it at a PTQ too, so it shows that the deck is a serious contender in the current metagame. And the deck is a blast to play. So without further ado, this is the deck I sleeved:

UG POLYMORPH

4 Forest

5 Island

4 Halimar Depths

4 Khalni Garden

1 Tectonic Edge

4 Misty Rainforest

1 Scalding Tarn

1 Verdant Catacombs

1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

2 Garruk Wildspeaker

4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

3 Awakening Zone

3 Spreading Seas

4 Ponder

4 Polymorph

2 See Beyond

4 Explore

3 Deprive

3 Into the Roil

2 Vines of Vastwood

Sideboard:

2 Fog

1 Unsummon

1 Flashfreeze

2 Telemin Performance

2 Ice Cage

2 Mind Control

1 Negate

1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

2 Spell Pierce

The deck takes some time to get used to, and you learn not to rush the Polymorph unless you do not have a choice. Ideally you need to have a counter or a Vines to back it up. Early on you may play Garruk or Jace to test the water and see if they have a Negate. Vines of Vastwood has been a great card all day; you just need to get to 7 mana with Backup Vines and Deprive and you are pretty sure you will manage to play Polymorph. When I sided, I expected my opponents to bring counters and instant removals, so I usually brought in two Spell Pierce and the Negate, going from 5 to 8 answers to what they could side in to deal with Polymorph. Of these, I had 4 answers with a casting cost of 2 and 4 answers with a casting cost of one, so I could usually cast Polymorph as soon as I got to 7 mana.

One of the important debates about the Polymorph deck is about the primary kill condition. Sam Black in a recent premium article in SCG said that the player considering UG polymorph should consider the metagame and choose the right kill condition, Iona or Emrakul, and keep the other for the sideboard. I beg to differ and even if it seems a bit random, not knowing for sure what you will get, it often does not make a difference and one or the other usually wins the match. Moreover, you will often draw one or the other, and so with Jace in play you can in fact choose which one to play, keeping the one you draw in your hand if you prefer to play the other one, or putting it back on top of the library with the Jace brainstorm ability before playing Polymorph. Another reason why it is a good idea to keep both in the maindeck and choose the right one to have in the deck after sideboard is that, right now, the metagame is split almost equally between the two. If you play against Jund or Mythic Conscription, you usually prefer Emrakul, if you play against UW Control or mono-color decks like RDW, you prefer Iona. So if you are paired against UW control and have Emrakul maindeck, you have 0 chance to draw Iona, which is a lot worse than the 50% chance to get it if you play both.

Another choice I had to make was between Awakening Zone and Growth Spasm. A lot of writers, like Patrick Chapin, advised playing Spasm, allowing the deck to polymorph a turn faster. This is true but Awakening Zone is a much stronger card and can serve to block a creature a turn, accumulate mana in the long run or even win with Garruk overrun ability. Surprisingly enough, versus UW I managed quite a few times to hardcast Emrakul because of the Zone, and then it’s pretty much game. I ended up playing only 3 in the deck because I didn’t know where to cut, but every time I drew them I was very satisfied. I forgot once or twice to put an Eldrazi Spawn during my upkeep and got quite unimpressed with myself so I decided to put a dice on top of my library just to make sure I would not forget again in the following rounds.

The worst enemy of your Emrakul or Iona is the opponent’s Jace. Against UW you play Iona and name white, so Jace is their only out. If you have your own Jace in play you are pretty much safe. Kenji’s deck list has 2 Jace Beleren in the side, assuring him to win the Jace war. Some UW Controls also include Jace Beleren in their side so it may be a good tech in Polymorph sideboard too. Jace is the reason why, if in the first game against Mythic you flip Iona, you often name blue. It depends if they play Path, O-ring or Gideon maindeck.

Another card that I fitted in the day before the tournament is Spreading Seas. At first I thought it was good only against Jund, but that card is in fact golden against most match-ups. You can change a colonnade into an island, screw your opponent’s mana or sometimes fix your own mana so you can cast Jace. I sided only one out against UW control and was not disappointed every time I drew them. It’s not a surprise for anybody who has played standard a bit to know that Spreading Seas is one of the strongest cards of the format right now.

That is all for now. In the second part I am going to write about sideboard strategies and how to modify the deck to adapt it to different metagames. I will as well talk about the way I prepare for an important tournament and things I keep in mind while playing in it. Thanks for reading and may you polymorph into what you need at your PTQs.

Vincent Thibeault

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KyleMcDonald

Is part two coming this week? I currently play polymorph and I'm leaning towards playing this for national qualifiers and I would like to get as much insight as I can before Saturday.

Great first article!

KYT

Vincent, I got many questions for you. Are you ready?

In the replies to Craig Wescoe's last article, there is mention of Reality Spasm being a tech card against decks such as Mono Red. Do you see yourself employing this tactic? Gigadrowse was a key card for the Heartbeat of Spring deck a few years ago. Maybe Reality Spasm could be just as useful?

Kenji mentions that he is 5-2 against Jund with his version of UG Polymorph. With only one Into the Roil in his main, do you think he is exaggerating? I think our readers would like to know if you believe 3x Into the Roil is an absolute MUST.

KYT

With enough demand, I am sure we can expect some more material from Vincent this week. Unlike the other sites, we are not sticking to a schedule where a particular writer only writes once a week.

At worst, UG Polymorph is one of the main decks I am testing for my teammates this weekend, so if needs be, I will try to provide you with as much insight as I can to get you ready for Saturday.

FrançoisB

Been testing with a similar version of the deck, its doing great so far. I must admit though that a part of my success with the deck is due to people not knowing what the deck can actually do. Comon mistakes like people taping out or letting the game go on to long because they want answers vs polymorph and you hand up hardcasting Emrakul isnt uncomon. Oh and you would be amaze how many people dont know Emrakul can fly!

The games I had the most diffculty winning were agaisnt some kind of mono white control I faced on the workstation. Mainly because of scepter of dominance, but thats because I was playing a 2 Emrakul no Iona maindeck. So I think having one of both maindeck might indeed be the way to go.

This deck does very well agaisnt most of the metagame and can win vs fast decks like mono red. Countering a devastating summon is indeed, devastating.

Geoff Bell

very good introductory article…im looking forward to a matchup/sideboarding follow up where im sure a lot of my questions will be answered. Also if u could throw in a section on the best ways to beat this deck (or the strategy(s) that are most worrisome for you as the deck pilot) that would be really helpful

keep up the good work!

Vincent Thibeault

All your questions are extremely interesting and are going to be answered hopefully in the next part of this article, that I plan to deliver before the next weekend. Until then, if you have any other comments or questions, do not hesitate as I appreciate your insights and feel its very helpful for my thinking process.

Banana boy

Great article, a shout out to KYT for this awesome site and a congrats to Vincent for winning the PTQ… do you mind giving out your Mws name, as i am always looking for good players to test with, i am not a superb player, but am eager to learn, and would like to test with better players, thx 🙂

BottsThoughts

I would consider Reality Spasm as well. I played Heartbeat_Combo until it rotated. I had my fair share of successes and failures, but I was never (fervently stating) – NEVER – disappointed when I drew into a Gigadrowse. It often times shut the Mirror down in my favor, and I have been guilty of leaving my pants down against it plenty when it was replicating itself in Standard at the time.

I would also consider Aether Tradewinds. Albeit I know this is a high end spell (mana cost-wise) comparatively to the already existing 3-4 slots that need to be tightened and played effeciently. And Into the Roils says, and I quote, "For 1 more mana I make AE Winds look pretty lame, oh … and I also draw a card."

A friend of mine currently runs this deck at my local shop. He has been running playtest after playtest until he is either exhausted, or needs a moment to wind down. And he would also agree that running the 1/1 split of "Must Answer now" creatures is the best route. Because I have watched him flip a turn 3, unprotected Polymorph and squeeze out the win partly because his opponent was still sitting on his thumbs trying to figure out the purpose of said deck.

Yet he has also found variant ways to win; which should be obvious to those who have sleeved the deck up or have already been twiddling with it via MODO.

Time Sieve is able to what? Tezzeret amongst many other things.

Polymorph is also able to do what? Tokens ala Awakening Zone + Garruk's ultimate.

Not always a permanent answer, nor consistent. But if you play these types of decks you need to be prepared to know it inside, and out … like the underwear collection of your first lover.

Yes … I said that.

Moving along.

Just like with hearbeat_combo you need to know what will win the game, and what involves the "Dangers of Cool Things" (Flores featured a link to this article … very insightful, and a must-read for those wanting to play "ubermeinsch" style before checking their wallet for a rubber.)

I have probably bored you to tears.

v/r

la'chaim

BenjaminDavid
WWMFD?