Too-Specific Top 10 - Mighty Morphin Time!

(Polymorph | Art by Robert Bliss)

Presto Change-O?

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Reweave is the only Arcane Polymorph effect?)

Originally printed in Mirage, Polymorph was iconic enough both as an image and a flavorful effect that it immediately caught on as a casual staple. It has since been color-shifted over to red, for the most part, with fewer effects like Mass Polymorph being printed and being replaced with cards like Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, Shifting Shadow, and Dreamshaper Shaman, ultimately resulting in Magic 2021's almost identical Transmogrify. This nearly identical color-shift seems like the final decision when it comes to Polymorph effects being the mainstay of red.

As Commander players, however, we don't really have to care about the current state of the color pie as much. Being able to draw from all of Magic's history allows us to do all sorts of things that colors shouldn't be able to do, from Sylvan Library to Psionic Blast. Which raises the question: what are the most popular Polymorph effects?

Top 10 Polymorph Effects

Flavorfully, it's very easy to determine what a polymorph is: a thing is made into another thing. But mechanically, that can be done in any number of ways. Are the famous staples of Beast Within and Generous Gift examples of a polymorph effect? Flavorfully they are, without a doubt. You're taking a permanent and making it into a token. Given that the end goal is clearly known, however, these Pongify effects don't seem to have the same intent as the famous initial example of Polymorph. Rolling the dice and seeing what you end up with seems to be much more the intent of the original card and of the Polymorph Decks that have stemmed from that idea.

So, with that in mind, let's craft our criteria this week around the initial example, rather than the larger flavor of simple transformation.

Criteria: Cards that remove one or more other permanents from the battlefield, then replace it with another card somehow extracted from the top of the library. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Polymorph

(1005 Inclusions, 0% of 227314 Decks)

Speaking of the original card, Polymorph still sees a lot of play in the decks named after it. 91% of those playing blue, to be exact. While four mana is still quite pricey for this effect, Polymorph's "destroy" wording is mechanically unique and therefore can be desirable for decks looking to both Polymorph and play with the graveyard. Combine that with the nostalgia and ubiquity of the original card, and it's not exactly surprising that this horrifying somewhat-rabbit is still seeing a lot of play despite better and newer options being available.

9. Fireflux Squad

(1007 Inclusions, 0% of 209007 Decks)

If you're looking for some of that evolution and power creep all wrapped into one, for the same four mana you would pay for old-school Polymorph, you can now get a repeatable Polymorph strapped to a 4/3 body. While it is possible that it will get removed on the way to your combat step, the fact that Fireflux Squad has haste makes this much rarer, taking away much of the disadvantage of using a creature instead of a sorcery. It can't target your opponents' creatures, which makes it a tad less flexible, but the repeatable nature seems to more than make up for that given a deck playing this will by definition be built around turning small creatures into big ones. Indeed, for those of us looking to make tokens into 10/10s, the best part of this squad is the fact that the Polymorphed creature comes in attacking. Turning a Servo into a Apex Altisaur in the middle of a combat step can swing a game wide open, if not just end it.

8. Indomitable Creativity

(1084 Inclusions, 0% of 209007 Decks)

If you're looking to really stay flexible with your threats and answers, though, then look no further than Indomitable Creativity. It can act as a simple Transmogrify for the same amount of mana, albeit being a bit more choosy on how many of them have to be red and a little less certain that you'll hit a Worldspine Wurm instead of a mana rock. That said, it can also remove that there Aetherflux Reservoir or Linvala, Keeper of Silence across the way, often while still netting you a huge creature or three at the same time.

7. Jalira, Master Polymorphist

(Helms 286 Decks, Rank #372; 836 Inclusions, 0% of 227314 Decks)

Polymorph may have started it all, but Jalira, Master Polymorphist is what really brought the Polymorph theme to Commander. Originally printed in Magic 2015, Jalira let you have the iconic spell printed straight onto your commander at only three mana! While you can't pull the trick you can with Polymorph itself by "destroying" an indestructible creature, Jalira allows for all of the shenanigans of sacrificing a token to end up with a Pathrazer of Ulamog or a Stormtide Leviathan, turn after turn.

Being in mono-blue, tokens can be a bit harder to come by if you have Jalira at the helm, but there are still some pretty great options out there if you look hard enough, especially if you're leaning a bit harder into artifacts.

6. Reality Scramble

(1362 Inclusions, 1% of 209007 Decks)

While not the first nod toward the hilarity and popularity of Transmogrify effects in Commander, Reality Scramble might be the friendliest when it comes to wanting to cast spells over and over again. Being able to discard a land to Retrace a Polymorph from the graveyard every turn is bound to get ridiculous fast if no one does anything about it, and at a lot of tables folks still aren't packing graveyard removal despite having every reason to do so. If that's your table (or even if it isn't), here's one more reason you can give them that they should be packing those Scavenger Grounds! Just keep in mind that this only targets your permanents, while also keeping in mind that it can target any permanent (including lands!), not just your creatures.

5. Divergent Transformations

(1417 Inclusions, 1% of 209007 Decks)

In a full four-player game, Divergent Transformations costs the same as a simple Transmogrify, but can hit two creatures instead of just one! Out of almost all of the varoius Polymorph effects in the game, this is one of the most common to see in a deck that isn't necessarily planning around Polymorph, just because it can be an instant response to one of your creatures being removed, or a panic removal spell for the problematic creature across the way, or both at the same time! While the removal part of that equation can be a bit risky, I don't really subscribe to "the devil you know" mentality myself, plus there are all sorts of decks which synergize with this type of replacement removal:

Even with the various Group Slug and Stax strategies aside, however, there is something to be said for the entertainment value of rolling the dice, or, barring that, the sheer efficiency of getting two for the price of one!

4. Proteus Staff

(1718 Inclusions, 1% of 227314 Decks)

This oft-forgotten creepy hand-staff got a bit of limelight last year with the printing of Fblthp, the Lost.

Proteus Staff allows you to target everyone's favorite little lost Homunculus in a deck in which he is the only creature, putting him on the bottom of the library to then reveal your entire library and put him into play. Crucially, Proteus Staff doesn't tell you to put the cards back on the bottom of your library in a random order, and, as such, you can then stack your entire deck any way you want before drawing your two cards from Fblthp. While Fblthp would also be an okay inclusion in any Polymorph deck, the "oops, never do that again" nature of Proteus Staff's non-random order also tends to pay off well in any deck that doesn't play a whole lot of creatures and will be using the effect often. Having entire sections of your deck stacked to your liking can be powerful and yet still fun and unique, as opposed to the boredom that many have felt after tutoring up a Fblthp, the Lost into the same Laboratory Maniac combo for the umpteenth time. However you plan around it, however, the worst case scenario is a reusable Polymorph, which is good enough for Jalira, Master Polymorphist.

3. Warp World

(1839 Inclusions, 1% of 209007 Decks)

Most people don't think of Polymorph or Transmogrify when they think of Warp World. Instead, there are usually two lines of thought for the average Commander player:

"Oh, sweet! Think of how crazy the board state will end up being for everyone! What a chaotic delight!"


"Oh great, this is going to take forever, and will probably put three copies of Omen Machine into play somehow so this game can take another three hours. Yay."

Both responses are fine points of view, although I would encourage brewers to consider the other viewpoint when building around this card. As for you Polymorph players, keep in mind that while this will probably net you quite a few big threats, all of your instant, sorcery, and planeswalker effects will flip over as dead cards, while the creature/artifact/enchantment deck across the way will be likely to get 20+ permanents of all gas.

Speaking of which, is anyone else really disappointed that Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast didn't make this list? That card is an absolute blast (but not quite enough of one to make the top 10, he's currently pulling a Javert at number 11). Let's pump those numbers up for next time, people!

2. Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

(Helms 808 Decks, Rank #159; 1896 Inclusions, 4% of 53529 Decks)

Speaking of decks that absolutely want to play Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire is, as of yet, the only Jund commander for a Transmogrify strategy. In similar fashion to Reality Scramble, he allows you to sacrifice one of your own permanents and replace it with (hopefully) another permanent off the top of your library. In addition to doing this on your own side of the board, you also get to do it with each opponent for their most problematic permanent (in a deck that isn't built around playing mostly permanents, most likely). While not a true Polymorph in that you can get stiffed if you end up revealing an instant or sorcery off of the top of the library, Vaevictis Asmadi decks don't mind much as they tend to operate less off of the instant and sorcery versions of this effect and more on Vaevictis himself. The real strategy is to just play as many permanents as possible and acquire endless value with both your commander and any number of enter-the-battlefield, top-of-the-library, and "cares about permanents" cards. Indeed, it's not uncommon at all for a Vaevictis Asmadie, the Dire deck to win outright with a single Primal Surge, owing to the fact that it's the only non-permanent in their deck.

1. Chaos Warp

(55790 Inclusions, 27% of 209007 Decks)

For those of us that aren't looking to plan a whole deck around a crazy strategy, however, there's always Chaos Warp. Widely regarded as the best red removal spell available in Commander, Chaos Warp is the least risky version of Polymorph available when used as removal, often resulting in your opponent getting nothing at all. At the same time, in a pinch it can be used on your own permanent in the hopes of flipping over a game-winning threat, especially in a deck mostly made up of permanents. Mostly, however, Chaos Warp has transcended any kind of strategy, being a staple for just about any deck that can play it, but especially for mono-red and Rakdos decks which are desperate for enchantment removal. That said, it's not like Transmogrify decks won't be playing it.

Honorable Mentions

Aside from my obvious love of Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast and the fact that he routinely turns my Guttersnipe into a Deepglow Skate in my Will Kenrith and Rowan Kenrith deck, there are a few other Polymorph cards worth discussing. First off, there was a unique corner case that I eliminated from this week's criteria that would have ended up with a slightly different Top Ten:

Top 10 Polymorph Effects (That Don't Necessarily Remove the Permanent)

  1. Chaos Warp
  2. Atla Palani, Nest Tender
  3. Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire
  4. Aid from the Cowl
  5. Warp World
  6. Proteus Staff
  7. Divergent Transformations
  8. Reality Scramble
  9. Jalira, Master Polymorphist
  10. Indomitable Creativity

There are a couple cards that would have made this list if we had not included the "removes the permanent" portion of our criteria, as Atla Palani, Nest Tender and Aid from the Cowl do utilize a Polymorph like effect that triggers on a permanent leaving the battlefield, rather than removing it, itself. This was a nitpick, but I felt that it went against the nature of what Polymorph or Transmogrify effects were, feeling much more like a sort of reincarnation or hatching kind of flavor.

As for the things that didn't make either version of the Top Ten, there are a few fan favorites that I'd love to see get a bit more love if we ever come back to this list.

#13: Shifting Shadow

This card is a personal favorite of mine, being just the right kind of chaos I love to see on the battlefield, whether it's on my side of the board or not. While in typical Transmogrify builds it's a bit lackluster, as you typically want your big creatures to stick around, in more general creature builds this is a value machine, allowing you to abuse enter-the-battlefield and death triggers every single turn, along with attacking with each version of the creature so long as you're fairly sure that it won't die from doing so (you don't get the replacement creature unless you get Shifting Shadow's upkeep trigger). It's exactly the kind of hilarity and randomness that's a blast to see take place, while also being a great effect for Aristocrats-type decks, indestructible creatures, and any deck that cares about creatures in the graveyard. I've even seen it do some work in artifact decks, getting a Junkyard Diver or Palladium Myr every turn while keeping the graveyard full of the same.

#14/#15: Synthetic Destiny & Mass Polymorph

Being able to Polymorph a single creature is so last week. Instead, why not do it for every creature you control? Now, if only they would print this effect for everyone's creatures in red....

#18: Shape Anew

It's Polymorph, but for artifacts! ...Why isn't anyone playing it?

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion…), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

Being an old fogey, it's hard for me to wrap my head around Polymorph now being red, in a flavor sense. Which got me wondering if I'm the only one?

And finally, have you ever played a Polymorph deck? Played against one? Is it a strategy that intrigues you, or does it seem more like it's going to just take a lot of time?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the little corner table that can transform into a giant gaming table!

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.