Well, spoilers are in, and it looks like the existing Morph mechanic is back on the menu, but with a twist! Murders at Karlov Manor now has new abilities called “Disguise” and “Cloak.” Disguise allows you to cast a creature face down for three generic mana as a 2/2 creature with Ward two. You can then turn the creature face up for its Disguise cost. Cloak is essentially Manifest generally pulling a card face down from somewhere as a 2/2 creature with Ward two. So while Disguise, Cloak, Morph, and Manifest are not completely the same, they are not so different. What this means is that all existing cards that reference face down or face up are about to get quite a bit more useful! Let’s take a look at some of the best current cards that deal with face up and face down cards no matter which mechanic is being used.
The Problem of Being too Specific
While it’s definitely exciting to see old mechanics revitalized and revamped for new Magic sets, there is sometimes a rush to incorporate anything old just because it’s somewhat relevant. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with zany cards, but some of them simply do too little to ever be worth it. Break Open is a good example of such a card. It’s conditional to the extreme in terms of simply putting the card on the stack, but beyond that, you are giving an opponent a bonus a lot of the time. Sure there are some niche cases where you can use a face up effect from an opponent to further your ends, but it simply won’t happen enough to legitimize the inclusion.
Top two in Blue
There’s very little doubt that Willbender is one of the most playable, most powerful face down creatures ever. Not only do you get a redirect effect for spells or abilities, but it has one of the most unique interactions in the game. Because turning a creature face up does not use the stack, you can respond to cards with Split Second, but no one else can. Yes, that’s right, normally you cannot interact with Split Second cards at all, but Willbender does not care. Neither does Voidmage Apprentice for that matter, and any deck that plays one will likely play both.
Don’t forget that these effects ignore Rule of Law, Silence and other stax effects, so they are extremely useful in any situation. These are definitely auto-includes for any deck that cares about face up, face down status in blue and they are not circumstantial. Luckily, both cards have been reprinted a few times and have not spiked in price, so if you don’t have them, it’s quite easy to pick up.
Blue also has one of the best removal cards ever printed in the form of Ixidron. This defeats basically every creature ever printed. Furthermore, changing Commanders into 2/2 creatures with no text is extremely powerful, and is much more difficult for opponents to deal with than sending them back to the Command Zone. Now, they are stuck in play and are as good as a Grizzly Bears.
A further bonus is that Ixidron resets your own Willbender and Apprentice, so you can use them, and any other face up, face down creatures, again. The fact that Ixidron can also get gigantic is merely a nice side effect.
These are just some of the absolute standouts in blue. The color as a whole has more and better options than most of the other colors and is getting a lot of additional support in Murders at Karlov Manor. It’s extremely likely you will be playing blue plus other colors if you’re trying to get the most out of face up, face down mechanics. That being said, blue has a lot of cards like Voidmage Prodigy and Primordial Mist that can go into any deck but also work well with face up, face down mechanics and does not rely on the mechanic to be powerful.
White Brings an Engine
Sometimes when you’re experimenting with a new deck full of weird mechanics, you run out of said mechanic. Luckily, Master of the Unseen gives you a low cost option to get more cards into play while also gaining you life. If you’re really going all-in on a face up, face down-style deck then the inclusion of this card is simply more value. Furthermore, you can simply keep your mana open for interaction and play the entire game at instant speed. This makes it tough on your opponents to figure out what you are doing because your side of the table is face down. Of course, once you hit the right card, things will turn face up and you will get a huge advantage. Mastery looks like it may end up seeing a lot of play in these style decks and should not be overlooked.
According to EDHREC Exalted Angel is the most registered white card with Morph and it’s because this creature has the Angel subtype, not really because of Morph. Lightform, the most played white Manifest card, is a very decent aura in an Enchantress or Voltron deck but, again, is only there because it’s an aura, not really for the Manifest property.
While white does have some very decent mechanics here in the form of Daru Mender and Master of Pearls, it remains to be seen if Murders at Karlov Manor can make these cards see play. Luckily because blue is so good, can manipulate the top of the deck, and loves to play at instant speed on everyone else’s turn, Mastery of the Unseen pairs very well with that plan.
Almost too much Green
Green has options, almost as many as blue. Nantuko Vigilante is one of the most played cards in green with a face up, face down mechanic. A living Naturalize is pretty decent and you can play multiple copies if you include Ainok Survivalist. There’s also the Morph, or in this case Megamorph, version of Eternal Witness in Den Protector. Of course, Den Protector seeing play as a second copy of Eternal Witness, but now it has extra purpose when included.
Elves in particular have a few standouts that see play in Elf decks, but might end up with some interesting combo potential. Birchlore Rangers is a mana solution which allows your random Elf tokens to generate mana if they could not already, plus gives them pseudo Haste for that effect. Thelonite Hermit can give you an engine by generating Saproling tokens each time it is turned face up. This will easily combo with new effects coming out of Murders. Finally, Tribal Forcemage gives you a face up pump effect to the creature type of your choice. The more easy ways there are to turn a creature face up and down again, the more times you can stack these abilities.
But Wait, There’s More!
Really going all in on this idea? Well then, you need Trail of Mystery! It generates automatic value every time you Morph, Manifest, Cloak or Disguise. Getting a free basic land every time you do the thing is decent enough to include. Then it also gives you a nice little boost if you do turn your creatures face up. One of the best green creatures to turn face up? Rattleclaw Mystic, while Temur color identity, is one of the best as it ramps for two extra mana once Morph costs are included if you tap it for mana. If there are cheap ways to turn Rattleclaw Mystic face up and face down, you could easily get into an infinite mana situation. Then, you would want cards like Pinewalker to make it even easier.
Speaking of doing the thing, how about a free fight effect when you turn something face up? Temur War Shaman has you covered. Root Elemental lets you pay seven to cheat a creature into play. But here’s the thing, if you simply use a new card like Kaust, Eyes of the Glade from the new Deadly Disguise pre-con, you can tap and attack to put something into play – for free! It’s a huge play and possible turn three with acceleration or Haste, but very easily threatens turn four every game!
Seems like green has it all, and it sort of does! For additional value, look at Deathmist Raptor that can be sacrificed or discarded or killed but will simply keep coming back for free. Salt Road Ambushers is an interesting way to weave +1/+1 counters into your deck while still being on theme, so it may end up seeing play. Finally, if you want even more value, Whisperwood Elemental gives you a free Manifest each turn, but also protects you from board wipes – it will absolutely see play.
All This and Still the Best is yet to Come
Yup, this is busted! Any creature with Morph or Disguise that dies will come back as a Forest. The thing is, you can do it again! Want a funky, one sided, pseudo board wipe? Yedora with Temur War Shaman and Proteus Machine will get there as long as you keep throwing the Proteus Machine into larger creatures, Deathtouch creatures, or if you can sacrifice the Proteus Machine to make it die. If you’re in Temur with a sacrifice outlet, Rattleclaw Mystic generates infinite mana. Throw in some triggered effects and you can make a lot of three card combos do work. Green certainly offers a lot and is the next best color after blue for these decks.
Red Needs Help
There are far fewer cards in general for red. Unfortunately, that means there are less standouts than the other colors. According to EDHREC Ashcloud Phoenix sees the most play but obviously because it’s in Phoenix decks, not because it has Morph.
Next up is Jeering Instigator which offers an excellent Act of Treason effect on a body. From there, the pickings are slim.
Certainly Skirk Alarmist will see additional play with more face down offerings, and Haste enablers are always good! You will likely be playing red in addition to two other colors that simply have more to offer in terms of older cards. Hopefully Murders at Karlov Manor increases red’s potential.
Black has Sweet Cards
One of the most well known black cards with Morph, Bane of the Living is one heck of a board wipe. As an Insect, it also has a little bit of extra synergy. Black has multiple Morph removal creatures though, so you do have some additional options like Silumgar Assassin, Skinthinner and Aphetto Exterminator.
By far the most played card with Morph, Grim Haruspex is an easy draw engine and appears in piles of decks. This will be an auto include in every black deck that cares about face up, face down.
There’s also interesting utility cards as well. Infernal Caretaker refills your hand with Zombies, Soul Collector can steal creatures and Gift of Doom can be a sacrifice outlet and protection effect all at once.
You also have access to big Manifesting effects. Thieving Amalgam is better known for working with theft effects and is at home with other cards like Mind Flayer, The Shadow, but it’s equally at home in a face up, face down deck.Ghastly Conscription looks like an absolute game ender on multiple levels. First, an army of 2/2s might be enough to knock out one or more players if you Manifest enough. Next, since you are choosing the graveyard to Manifest, you know the creatures you are going to acquire. Take your pick of game ending abilities, huge mana ramp, or other effects that will accelerate your victory. Particularly after a board wipe, you might be able to assemble someone else’s combo for an easy win.
The Doctor Who card Death in Heaven is yet another graveyard clearing ability with good interaction for these kinds of decks, which leads us to our next section.
Multicolored SuperstarsMissy was just short of being completely busted. Now, with even more support for face up and down mechanics, she is going to be a lot more playable. blue and black, in particular, is seeing a large number of new effects that will work very well with Missy. Furthermore, she can play cards like Cryptic Pursuit because of the split nature of her deck composition.
You see, it was always a weird design choice to have Missy’s triggered ability only work on non-artifact creatures while her Villainous Choice references artifact creatures for damage. That meant filling your deck with artifact creatures was a poor option overall because not every creature was as good as The Cyber-Controller. Plus you had spells that generated Cyberman and Dalek tokens.
Now, you won’t care because any card is going to be either an extra spell, an artifact creature token, or a creature that you can turn face up, die, and then come back on your side again. There are a lot of great options for Missy as a result of Murders at Karlov Manor, and that’s just out of what we’ve seen already. Etrata, Deadly Assassin is so good here it’s wild.
We will know pretty quickly if Secret Plans is an automatic include or does not do enough. On the surface it seems like a relatively low mana way to draw a free card every turn.
Available to any color deck, Ugin’s Mastery is free value for your Morph and Disguise spells, and even just plain colorless creatures. This lets you “cheat” more while you’re already cheating! The same can be said of Scroll of Fate which is trying to do its best impression of a three mana Aether Vial. With enough support it may be pretty close!Omarthis, Ghostfire Initiate offers a late game effect that can also be modulated into the early game and has +1/+1 counter synergy as well. This card could find itself in many decks as it’s good enough to take up a slot while having synergy.
Wait There’s Lands That do This?
A very, very cool card, Zoetric Cavern is one of the best blockers in the game. As a colorless, typeless 2/2, it does not care about protection as just one example. Meanwhile, so long as the attacker does not have Trample, you can block and then Morph. End result? Creature blocked and you lose nothing. In fact, now you have a land that you can tap for one mana. It’s removal resistant for the same reason as any spell or wipe is almost certainly not going to ultimately affect a land. This card will be a free include in any decks where Morphing matters and it has enough upside to be useful every game.
Face Up, Face Down, Cheat Code Enabled
Both Etrata, Deadly Assassin and Kaust, Eyes of the Glade look like excellent Commanders for the new EDH precons. The thing is, there are entire decks of still unspoiled cards that will help them do their thing. There are plenty of decent, existing effects that are ready to see play and Murders at Karlov Manor looks like the spark that will ignite play for many of these niche cards.