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Mega Shapeshifter

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In this experiment, we morph our shapeshifter into various mega forms.

One of my favorite cards is Vesuvan Shapeshifter. I love Shapeshifters in general, but what I tend to not like about them is that they usually only copy a single thing. For example, Phyrexian Metamorph is great and super-versatile, but once it drops, it’s stuck. Sure, you can return it to your hand or Flicker it later to make a new choice, but without synergies, the Clone-style cards pick one thing and then may as well not be Shapeshifters anymore.

The likes of Vesuvan Shapeshifter and its predecessor Vesuvan Doppelganger, however, can keep things interesting—they copy something and then change around later. Unstable Shapeshifter and Volrath's Shapeshifter are hard to manage, but the Vesuvan creatures find nice middle ground between chaotic and reliable while still shifting shapes.

Megamorph

Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Sweet! I thought. If Vesuvan Shapeshifter turns face up as a copy of a megamorph creature, it’ll gain a +1/+1 counter!

That was the inspiration for this week’s deck. Unfortunately, further scrutiny realized my initial analysis was not correct, but many of the other synergies pulled the deck together into an interesting list nonetheless.

If megamorph had been template such that turning face up caused a triggered ability to trigger, Vesuvan Shapeshifter may have been new best friends with Gudul Lurker—drop the unblockable creature early, morph the Shapeshifter, copy the mega Salamander for a +1/+1 counter, and repeat each turn while sneaking in without fear of blockers. But since the gain of the +1/+1 counter is actually part of the megamorph power—which Vesuvan Shapeshifter doesn’t have—our Shapeshifter buddy can’t benefit from the power.

Speaking of triggers from turning face up, however, Dragons of Tarkir does offer Vesuva some new, interesting options. Most notably, a couple creatures emulate megamorph’s granting of power-and-toughness counters: Guardian Shield-Bearer and Salt Road Ambushers.

Guardian Shield-Bearer
Salt Road Ambushers

Like Gudul Lurker, Guardian Shield-Bearer costs less than 3 and can therefore enter the battlefield before we morph Vesuvan Shapeshifter. Then, when we turn the Shapeshifter face up for 2 mana as a copy of the Shield-Bearer, we can send a +1/+1 counter to another creature. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help out the Shapeshifter directly. In this case, it’ll be playing more of a support role for the team.

Salt Road Ambushers, on the other hand, doubles up the mega. Our Shapeshifter can turn up as a copy of it or of something else and gain a beefy pair of +1/+1 counters. And if we have a pair of Shapeshifters and a Salt Road Ambushers, the second Shapeshifter to turn face up will gain four +1/+1 counters.

This wasn’t mentioned above, but Hooded Hydra actually has the potential to give our Vesuvan Shapeshifter the most counters. If we turn it face up as a copy, it’ll gain five big ones for only 1u. When we turn it face down next turn from its free trigger, and then morph it up again—as a copy of Hooded Hydra again—we’ll end up with a 10/10. And that’s the source of Vesuvan Shapeshifter’s power with morph triggers: Every turn, we can do it again.

More Morph Triggers

Repeating morph triggers has been Vesuvan Shapeshifter’s forte since its debut in Time Spiral, doing Mischievous Quanar’s job better than it could do it for itself. Here are a few options we’ll have with this deck.

Mischievous Quanar Just mentioned above, this Quanar can turn face down for only 5 mana. Okay, yeah, that’s pretty steep. What it’s best for is paying 1uu to copy a spell, but repeating this loop for 8 is tough. With the Shapeshifter, we can let a face-up Quanar sit on the battlefield and repeat the spell-copying trigger for only 1u instead of 8, as long as we’re willing to limit ourselves to one Fork per turn.

Den Protector Even if the Shapeshifter can’t gain the benefit of the Protector’s megamorph, it can gain the benefit of Maternal Witness’s Eternal Witness impersonation—turn after turn.

Mischievous Quanar
Den Protector
Sagu Mauler

Sagu Mauler Sagu Mauler is big and beefy, making it a great standalone creature or baseline once we’ve accrued a few +1/+1 counters. Being able to copy a creature with hexproof also makes for a great surprise. It would cost us 4guu to do so as a full surprise, but if an opponent tries to shoot down the creature he or she knows is a face-down, scary Vesuvan Shapeshifter, we can morph up the Mauler and then copy the hexproof base with the Shapeshifter for protection.

Thelonite Hermit This one is for the fun-and-cute factor, but it’s a pretty powerful card, and gaining four 1/1 Saproling every turn can definitely take over a game—especially when they’re actually 3/3s because we have a Hermit and a Shapeshifter copying that Hermit.

Icefeather Aven Somewhat less splashy than making Saproling armies or picking back up cards from our graveyard, this Aven simulates an Unsummon. This can be super-frustrating for our opponents and super-useful for us. In addition, the Aven’s flying superpower can help us push through a bunch of damage with a beefed-up Shapeshifter.

Thelonite Hermit
Icefeather Aven
Thousand Winds

Thousand Winds Speaking of frustrating, this Mahamoti Djinn lookalike can let a Vesuvan Shapeshifter lock opponents out of attacking while we swing turn after turn with a 5-power wind Elemental.

Deathmist Raptor The deck could use more of these, but they have pretty big price tags, so feel free to swap these in or out as necessary. They’re like Den Protectors in reverse—rather than gaining another card by copying the Protector, we gain a 3/3 (or a 2/2 that can become a 4/4) directly to the battlefield just for morphing up anything. And with Vesuvan Shapeshifter, we gain the consistent ability to be able to return Raptors repeatedly.

That was a lot of different morph creatures, but that’s because one of the most interesting things about a morph-themed deck is opponents’ inability to predict what’s currently face down on our battlefield. If we’re only playing one four-of of creatures with morph, there’s never actually a surprise. Thus, I like to turn my morph-themed decks into virtual Highlander lists by playing a lot of singletons.

Counter Them Out

Here are a few more cards that synergize in various ways with what we’ve set up so far.

Secret Plans Here’s a morph trigger that’s not on a creature. With so many morphs in our deck, and with the ability to reuse the morph trigger of our Shapeshifters for only 1u, we can just keep drawing cards. Plus, this turns all our Gray Ogres into Hurloon Minotaurs.

Deathmist Raptor
Secret Plans
Vorel of the Hull Clade

Vorel of the Hull Clade With all the counters we’re hoping to have, this singleton legendary creature will keep our opponents on their toes—especially when we start doubling Hooded Hydras and Hooded Hydra lookalikes.

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor Speaking of singleton legendary creatures, it’s hard to compile a morph-themed list without at least considering the progenitor of all things face down. This turns our Gray Ogres into Nessian Coursers and gives us a discount on our more expensive morph creatures, such as Thousand Winds and Deathmist Raptor.

Temur War Shaman The War Shaman adds the other face-down-permanent mechanic to our deck with a little bit of manifest, but that’s not really what we’re looking for. Rather, the fighting can give us an out for when we can make big ol’ Vesuvan Shapeshifters but can’t remove our opponent’s Platinum Angel or Magus of the Moat.

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor
Temur War Shaman
Tezzeret's Gambit

Tezzeret's Gambit Finally, I love it when I can find room for this card (or its little buddy Steady Progress). We’ll be able to dig a little bit deeper into our library while pumping up our creatures, and that’s a lot for 4, or even 3, mana.

If you miss Vesuvan Shapeshifter, if you want to see what it’s like to repeatedly trigger Den Protector while pumping up dudes with Salt Road Ambushers, or if you just love Secret Plans, give this deck a try.

Andrew Wilson

@Silent7Seven

fissionessence at hotmail dot com


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