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By: Splendid Belt, Splendid Belt
Oct 08 2009 12:18am
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Hello and welcome back to Out of the Blue.  I’m back after a week’s holiday, and can report that there’s very little Magic being played on the Italian island of Sardinia.  But the weather and beaches are amazing, perhaps there’s a link there?



Anyone familiar with Greek mythology will be aware of the Sphinx’s riddle: “What walks on four legs, then two legs, then three?”  In the original story the Sphinx sat outside Thebes and asked this question of passing travellers, killing those who failed to arrive at the correct answer.  A fairly harsh marking system admittedly, but if adopted by our schools would I think see a dramatic improvement in pupil attentiveness.


In the story, Oedipus solved the riddle and the Sphinx destroyed itself.  Which is a shame for Thebes, because a talking Sphinx these days would prove a real tourist draw.  You’d have to find a way to cover up the murders though, that’s never popular with travelers.

Anyway, the answer to the riddle is ‘man’, who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, then uses a stick when old and decrepit.

Recently someone held a little online competition giving away free cards for being the first to solve his riddle.  It went along these lines: Which is the safest of these rooms to enter?  Room one which contains a raging fire.  Room two which contains several assassins with loaded guns.  Or room three containing several lions who haven’t eaten in three years.

Got it?  It’s very easy.  It’s one of those questions which gets harder the more you think about it.  If you don’t see the (very obvious) answer in the first couple of seconds, you’re probably not going to get it.  At school I was described as someone who very often ‘couldn’t see the wood for the trees’.  Meaning I was searching for deep and complex solutions, ignoring the answer right in front of me.  So predictably, I didn’t get it.



The answer is of course room three.  The lions are all dead, because they haven’t eaten for three years.  Like, duh.  I was very annoyed at myself.  I rushed downstairs to test the riddle out on my wife.  She gave me that look she reserves for when I've been doing something on the computer instead of helping her in the kitchen, and then immediately gave the correct answer.  Naturally.


So if I’d been a visitor to ancient Thebes, I think I’d have quickly become Sphinx bait.  Although perhaps not.  Because ‘man’ isn’t the only correct response to the riddle.  There’s also this card (though I suspect this isn’t what the original author had in mind).


What walks on four legs?  How about Woolly Thoctar.  Polymorph!  Bam!  Now it’s Master of the Wild Hunt!  Bam!  Now it’s Wizened Cenn (the walking stick is the third leg).    Not expecting that, eh Miss Sphinx?


Card Choices

So we want cheap creatures as Poly bait, and heavyweight finishers to search out and cheat into play.  As a further layer of complexity, we don't want the cheap creatures actually to be creatures, otherwise we'd risk Polymorph finding them instead.  So the cheap guys better comes from 'other' spells. 


I'm a big fan of Goblin Assault, which fits the bill nicely.  Dragon Fodder performs similar duties and is in the same colour.  Round this off with a couple of Springjack Pastures and you've got your token producers.  As long as they come down before Polymorph mana is up, we're in business.


Now what about our finishers?  Since it's this week's theme, I'm going to run with Sphinxes (something you should never do at home, it's like running with scissors but heavier).  I'm going to try Sphinx Sovereign, Magister Sphinx and Sphinx Ambassador.  Three fun cards, especially the Ambassador.  I've never used it before, and am keeping my fingers crossed that it shows up in my testing.  I'm also going to cheat and throw in a Darksteel Colossus because the possibility of cheating it into play on turn four is just too good to pass up.


Sphinx Sovereign Sphinx Ambassador Magister Sphinx


I'm going to construct the mana base so that if a game goes long it's possible to hard cast these creatures, but ideally we want to be drawing Polymorph.  To increase our chances I'll use a playset of Ponder, since it has the added advantage of being able to shuffle away the fat should you see it early.  In too will go a couple of Mind Springs.  Most people cock the proverbial snook at this card but I like it.  It's decent by turn five, and gets ever more broken thereafter.  Less debatable is the inclusion of a brace of Jace.


Now we need some control to ensure we live long enough to enjoy the fruits of our Polymorphing.  A playset of Lightning Bolt is a no brainer, but I'm also going with four Curse of Chains.  It's not removal, but it's very easy to cast and does shut a lot of painful creatures down.  Also in are a couple of Fireballs. 


I did try a version of this deck with counters instead of burn / chains, and found it to be slower and less versatile.




60 Card Deck Riddled with Sphinxes by Splendid Belt
2 Sphinx Sovereign
2 Sphinx Ambassador
1 Darksteel Colossus
1 Magister Sphinx
6 cards

Other Spells
4 Curse of Chains
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Goblin Assault
4 Polymorph
4 Ponder
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Fireball
2 Jace Beleren
2 Mind Spring
30 cards
10 Island
6 Mountain
4 Crumbling Necropolis
2 Arcane Sanctum
2 Springjack Pasture
24 cards

Darksteel Colossus




Game Reports



Game 1 vs. Sunzoltar G/R Aggro


Garruk Wildspeaker Hellspark Elemental Deus of Calamity Act of Treason


I keep my hand, on the draw.  He starts quickly with Llanowar Elves, followed by a turn two Rampant Growth.  I respond with a second turn Dragon Fodder.  I feel like I’ve stabilized until I see his turn three Garruk Wildspeaker.  Garruk untaps two lands allowed an Elvish Visionary to join the fray.  He allows my two tokens through to hit Garruk, which I gratefully finish off with a Lightning Bolt.


He gets more acceleration next turn with Farhaven Elf and another Rampant Growth.  I’m basically goldfishing until I find a Poly.  On turn five he attacks with his three 1/1s.  I throw a goblin token in front of the Llanowar Elves.  He attempts a Giant Growth to save it, but I Bolt it in response.  On my turn I attack through his tapped board with a token, since I definitely don’t want to block with both – I want to be able to cast my key spell should I actually manage to draw it.


I take three again on turn six, then cast Ponder on my turn.  I don’t see anything good, so I shuffle.  Next turn he attacks with his team and a freshly cast Hellspark Elemental.  I use my untapped token to take out a 1/1.  On turn eight I’m attacked by his two remaining 1/1s, which are subsequently joined by Deus of Calamity.  I’m quick to cast Curse of Chains on it on my turn, and keep my token back on defence.  Next turn he casts another Farhaven, followed by another Visionary.  I take two damage from the other two elves.


I clear the board but for the chained Deus with Pyroclasm next turn (at this stage in testing I was running two Pyroclasm and two Curse of Chains.  After this game it became a full playset of Chains, as per the above decklist).  Now I’ll need another way of making creatures for Polymorph to be useful, if I can even draw it.  Goblin Assault on turn ten is a great rip for me, and I begin to see light at the end of the tunnel.


Obviously not seeing any better targets, sunzoltar casts Act of Treason on a goblin token on turn twelve, and unearths his Hellspark.  Sitting at four life as I am, this is lethal.  Much as I’m usually reluctant to waste removal on a card which is shortly to remove itself, I Bolt the Elemental.  He Bolts me in response, which together with the incoming one from the token is game.


So, a disappointing opener.  I couldn’t draw a Polymorph, or any card draw to help dig for it (besides the solitary Ponder).  Getting to turn twelve meant I had the land to hardcast all my fat, but I didn’t even see any.  I’m putting this down to bad luck and pressing on.




Game 2 vs. Ertu (Mono White Soldiers)


Elite Vanguard Sigiled Paladin Armored Ascension Akrasan Squire


Ertu casts a first turn Elite Vanguard, which immediately tells me I’d better draw Polymorph early in this game.  Once again I get a turn two Dragon Fodder.  Next he plays Sigiled Paladin, and attacks with the now exalted Vanguard.  I kill it with both tokens, then cast Goblin Assault on my turn.  On turn three he resolves an Akrasan Squire, then hits me with a double exalted Paladin, ouch.


Turn four and I attack with my free hasty token, which he unsurprisingly lets through.  Then I play my masterstroke, and destroy it with the first Polymorph of my testing.  I’m delighted to see my puny goblin swell into the hefty form of Inkwell Leviathan.  Now it’s on.  On his turn he responds by enchanting his Paladin with Armored Ascension.  Now he has some beef of his own.  It flies over my Leviathan to beat my face for seven (double exalted, three plains out).



Next turn I attack with another new goblin and Inkwell.  He blocks the Leviathan with his Squire, presumably not noticing that it tramples.  I then Mind Spring for three.  On his turn, Ertu casts another Armored Ascension on his Paladin, and another Squire.  I’m beaten down to three.  I need to more swings to finish him.


On turn six I rip my answer in Curse of Chains.  It goes on the Paladin, effectively giving me a three for one.  I send my entire team into the red zone, and take him down to one life.  Can you see my mistake?  He only has a 1/1.  He also has double exalted on the table.  By swinging with my Leviathan instead of keeping it back to block, I just handed him the match.  Another wood / trees moment?


Still, I’m liking Polymorph.  A less idiotic pilot could have won this game.



Game 3 vs. thorws (Jund Iguanars)


Sprouting Thrinax Hissing Iguanar Toxic Iguanar Terminate


I mull a no land hand on the play into Fireball, Sphinx Sovereign, Polymorph, Lightning Bolt, Island, Mountain.  Not great, but it has potential.


We lay lands until my opponent’s turn three Sprouting Thrinax.  I respond with a freshly ripped turn four Goblin Assault.  The Thrinax beats me for three and is joined by two Toxic Iguanars.  On turn five I Polymorph my new goblin token.  It becomes Sphinx Sovereign.  Yum.  It gains me three life at the end of turn, putting me back to an unblemished twenty.


Turn five begins unhappily for me as thorws Terminates my Sphinx.  He then beats me for five with his team.  Let’s see if turn six is any better.  I create a new goblin token, hit him for one then cast another Polymorph (fast becoming one of my all time favourite cards).  I get Inkwell Leviathan.  Shroud means I needn’t worry about targeted removal.  On his turn he casts Hissing Iguanar.  This could ping me for a fair amount of life in this game, but I’m more concerned by the other Iguanars.  I Fireball the two Toxics, take two from the Hissing one in response, and attack with my team.  He takes seven from the Leviathan, and blocks the token with the Thrinax.  I take another one from the remaining Iguanar.


On his turn, I’m attacked by his team and take four.  He casts another Toxic Iguanar as fairly decent defence.  We reach turn eight.  I could attack with my Leviathan and put six damage over the Iguanar, but I’d lose it in the process, and it’s not enough to kill him.  Instead I offer up my latest goblin token as a trade, which of course he doesn’t take, preferring to suffer the one damage.  That’s fine by me, since I’m holding another Polymorph.  It gives the token an identity crisis which resolves into the beautiful bulk of Darksteel Colossus.


I win next turn thanks to my two huge tramplers.  Polymorph was unequivocally the MVP there.  If I can draw it, I’ve got game.





Game 4 vs. Klavion (Five Colour Cascade)


Captured Sunlight Kathari Remnant Enlisted Wurm Mind Funeral


I mulligan to six on the draw.  We take turns to lay lands (whiffing once each) until Klavion plays a turn six Captured Sunlight.  It cascades into Mind Funeral, which dumps eighteen cards into my graveyard.  He’s amused to see my tech, now visible in the bin.  That’s the thing about this deck, even if you’re playing against it, it makes you smile.  I cast Mind Spring for three on my turn.  At this point I’ve got six lands out and no red source.  Klavion tells me he’s colour screwed too, so at least it’s even.


I finally get a mountain on turn seven.  This enables a large sigh of relief, and also Goblin Assault.  Still screwed, my opponent discards Enlisted Wurm.  I’m glad to see that go in the bin, and not on the battlefield.  Next turn I attack with my new goblin token and am able to hard-cast Sphinx Ambassador.  Now this should be fun.  On turn nine I attack with two tokens and the Sphinx.  It triggers, and gives me the choice of Bloodbraid Elf, Enlisted Wurm or Kathari Remnant.  Now for the game of wits.  In yet another wood / trees moment I don’t see the Wurm, so I choose the Remnant, figuring that he’ll choose the Elf.  He does, presumably though because he figures I’ll ignore the Wurm out of tactical nous rather than a simple lack of observation skills.  Either way, I get the Remnant (which doesn’t cascade because I didn’t ‘cast’ it.  In the second Main phase I cast another Goblin Assault, and Polymorph a token (whilst I’m sure he’s not holding removal) to get an Inkwell.


On turn ten I attack with my team, successfully choose and cast his final remaining Enlisted Wurm (yes I actually managed to see it on the second time of asking), then finish him off with Fireball.


Sad for my opponent that he never quite managed to find his correct colours, but several layers of fun for me with Polymorph and Sphinx Ambassador in action.



Game 5 vs. Giovanni8412 (Mono Green Spiders)


Deadly Recluse Giant Spider Naturalize Imperious Perfect


I keep my opening hand on the play.  He gets a second turn Deadly Recluse.  Most of my creatures are hard to remove, but this simple creature kills all of them but Darksteel.  For that reason I immediately treat it to a Bolt.  I follow this up with a third turn Goblin Assault.  On turn four I let the token beat for one, then Poly it for Inkwell.  It’s more satisfying than I can describe.  Which is shame, because describing it is my job.  On his turn my opponent casts Giant Spider.  A creature which can reasonably expect to stop a lot of early creatures.  But not finishers which have been cheated into play.


On turn five I Poly another token, this time for Sphinx Sovereign.  Being capable of immense concentration and in total command of my game as I have proven in previous games, I forget to attack with my Leviathan.  If any of you would like me to donate my entire card collection to you, so you can actually use it properly, just let me know.  On his turn, he Naturalizes my Assault, but I have Springjack Pasture out by now, so tokens are fairly easy to come by.  In any case, my fatties steamroller him by turn seven.





Well I faced some interesting and original decks this week.  I’ve never seen an Iguanar or Spider theme before, and it’s great to see diversity in the casual room.  From writing these games reports, I’ve noticed that some weeks I’m facing five variants of the same deck each week, with Soldiers and Battlegrace Angel showing up more often than not.  So this week is a welcome change.  Perhaps I wasn’t tested against the most powerful decks ever to grace the game, but that’s casual for you.  One game Faeries, next game Spiders.  I know which I’d rather see casually anyway.


But the real purpose here was to see how my Polymorph deck fared, and the answer was ‘very well thanks’.  It went 3-2, which would possibly have been 4-1 if my brain hadn’t dried and shriveled like a dead wasp some time in the early nineties.


The deck was lots of fun to play, but I'd make some changes now in hindsight.  Unless you can make it through to the late game and hardcast the big threats, it's absolutely fatal to see removal hit your Polymorphed creature.  For this reason, I would take out the Sphinxes (with the possible exception of the Ambassador, he just makes me smile).  They were hugely fun, but that one Terminate on the Sovereign convinced me.  Protection and indestructibility is the way to go.  Progenitus and Darksteel Colossus look like the best candidates, although good luck hardcasting the former should Polymorph be hiding at the bottom of your pile.


Negate could be a useful inclusion too.  It didn't happen to me, but if my opponent wasn't tapped out, it was always a clenched buttock moment when I cast Polymorph.  Any instant removal on my targeteed token and my spell would fizzle.  Have a counter in hand and you needn't worry.  And if you turn out not to need it, well I hear it works against Cruel Ultimatum too.


And that wraps it up for this week.  I go to an Italian island and come back thinking of Greek legends.  Next year I'll go to Rhodes and come back writing about Michelangelo.  Now I'm off to brush up on children's riddles so I don't get embarrassed again next time.

Splendid Belt



I was thinking you could call by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 02:10
Paul Leicht's picture

I was thinking you could call the deck "All Rhodes lead to..." but then realized it was a very bad joke. Nice job with the Polymorphs though I have to say Id not be happy to see that resolve unless it's on my side of the table. Id probably go with more counters and draw and maybe switch out red entirely for green to run things like Woodfall Primus etc. But I suspect that would take it out of standard entirely. (Which it will be soon anyway.)

i dont know i would replace by ShardFenix at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 10:00
ShardFenix's picture

i dont know i would replace curse of chains with journey to nowhere and just redo the lands when springjack pastures leave, this would be standard for a while then.

Polymorph by Katastrophe at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 06:11
Katastrophe's picture

^ riffing off the colossus thing, I originally misread your first sentence. I thought you vacationed in Sardia!

I heard that "the pros" (you know, those guys) were testing Polymorph-Progenitus when it was spoiled late for M10. Then I never heard of it again until now. This deck does make me smile.

Most of your sphinxes, the leviathan, and the DSC are artifacts. Master Transmuter is no good for you but there's gotta be some way to take advantage of their artifact-ness. Maybe not in Standard.

Cut the Sphinx Ambassador and by Anonymous (not verified) at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:43
Anonymous's picture

Cut the Sphinx Ambassador and replace them with Sharuum the Hegemon.

Another deck, same idea by rfeltrin (not verified) at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 07:42
rfeltrin's picture

I've been playing around Polymorph + big guy for a while and its belong to the casual room only.
I have to to say that its really fun to cheat a progenitus into play and get a concession.
Just to share with everybody that likes it, here is another decklist:

Polymorph targets:
2 Call of the Herd
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
4 Goblin Assault
4 Garruk Wildspeaker
2 Wurmcalling

Mana Ramp to a Polymorph on T3 or to thin the deck:
3 Armillary Sphere
4 Fertile Ground
4 Rampant Growth

1 Beseech the Queen
4 Polymorph

Big guy:
2 Progenitus

Mana base:
9 Forest
1 Pendelhaven
5 Mountain
1 Island
2 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
4 Treetop Village

Nice article man!
Have Fun
Good Game

When I need a by pierrebai (not verified) at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 08:53
pierrebai's picture

When I need a hard-remove-fatty, I also go for empyrial archangel. Shroud + absorb damage is nice (unless your opp has more than 8 power in play, that is).

Token question for anybody... by mysticknight232 (not verified) at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:12
mysticknight232's picture

Fun article. I like ways of cheating cards into play such as cascade decks. Free cards FTW! Anyway, just a question about tokens...which i think was answered but still wanted clarification on. Does a token go to the graveyard for purpose of cards like the new black quest that adds a counter when a creatures hits the bin? i think the answer is yes especially since you alluded to taking 2 dmg from the hissing iquanar in game 3 when your 2 goblin tokens died, but i just wanted to be sure about this.


Yes. Tokens that are by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 17:42
Paul Leicht's picture

Yes. Tokens that are destroyed go to the graveyard for the purposes of triggers. But obviously they disappear immediately so any trigger that depends on cards being in the graveyard will not go off from a token.

A very well written article. by laughinman at Thu, 10/08/2009 - 13:55
laughinman's picture

A very well written article. And some parts were almost funny too! (watch out, internet, this is called sarcasm)

Yes, token hit the yard (usually) and then immediately get removed entirely from the game.

I'd take that card donation, no worries.

if your gonna go green you by Anonymous (not verified) at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 01:31
Anonymous's picture

if your gonna go green you might wanna try summoning trap as polymorph 5-8? although it does not actually morph creatures, it still cheat big guys down the field. just an idea.

Replies by Splendid Belt at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 03:14
Splendid Belt's picture

Many thanks for all the comments guys!

@Paul - I tried counters first and found it inferior, but since I only played 5-6 games with that list it could be down to poor match-ups / luck. I like your deck title suggestion!

@Shardfenix - Yes, Journey to Nowhere > Curse of Chains, good call.

@Katastrophe - I considered the Transmuter but couldn't find room, and then there's the danger of Polymorphing into him. I think that's a different deck really. Sensei's Top could help a lot with Polymorphing if you go Extended.

@Anon - but I really like the Ambassador. And he was great when I actually managed to draw him.

@rfeltrin - Nice Extended list. I especially like Call of the Herd and Wurmcalling. Might dig out my old deck with those beauts in.

@pierrebai - Yes I considered Empyrial, but I wanted creatures I could hardcast if necessary, and that would have been too much of a mana stretch.

@Mysticknight232 - Yes, like Paul said.

@laughinman - Thanks! And I've decided to renege on my offer to donate my collection, sorry :p

@Anon - Haven't looked at Summoning Trap closely, will do so. Although if going greed I might ditch Polymorph and try Elvish Piper for something completely different.

Unfortunately unless a by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 03:40
Paul Leicht's picture

Unfortunately unless a miracle happens at WotC Sensei's Divining Top will never be extended legal. :( So classic it is.

Ah, I wondered about that - by Splendid Belt at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 05:07
Splendid Belt's picture

Ah, I wondered about that - couldn't remember if it was Extended or something else it's banned in. Oh well.

I remember when I heard about by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 05:36
Paul Leicht's picture

I remember when I heard about the bannings I wasn't playing at the time because V3 didn't work on my old pc. I was still pissed off about it. Top maybe broken in classic but no one cares... it certainly was never broken in extended.

Top by laughinman at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 07:32
laughinman's picture

If i remember right, the top got axed not because of power level ramifications, but because it consumes so much match time.

Right click, select auto by Splendid Belt at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 08:43
Splendid Belt's picture

Right click, select auto yield, done.

I once tried Polymorph as by Lord Erman at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 09:59
Lord Erman's picture

I once tried Polymorph as well but found out that relying on a single card is always problematic. Yes it's fun when you Polymorph a Progenitus but most of the time that doesn't happen.

But I must say that the new Sphinxes in ZEN are great creatures. One has shroud and that means a lot and the other can be used in two ways: Either you pay the kicker cost and draw some cards or you don't pay the kicker cost and send that Sphinx Sovereign to the graveyard only to resurrect it the next turn with Sharuum the Hegemon.

By the way: Sensei's Divining Top is banned because it was creating time problems in tournaments. And no, unfortunately you can't right click and auto yield in real paper Magic !! :)). So it was banned and as a result it is also banned on MTGO.


Exactly why it pisses me off. by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 10:16
Paul Leicht's picture

Exactly why it pisses me off. How dare they make us suffer because of the inadequacies of Paper magic?? :(

Top by laughinman at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 10:57
laughinman's picture

Even auto yield doesn't stop the divining player from taking up time to look at the 3 cards, decide their order and put them back.

Right but online its only by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/09/2009 - 11:04
Paul Leicht's picture

Right but online its only their own clock they burn. (Assuming they can't figure out how to do it efficiently.)

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