Onslaught is really exciting me! It looks like creatures are coming back to the forefront of Magic, and leading them is the pitfighter-turned-Druid Kamahl. I’m seven chapters into Onslaught by J. Robert King and am very pleased with what I’ve seen so far (both Kamahl and the First are becoming "developed characters"), and I’m also happy with the morph mechanic.
But as I haven’t seen a spoiler to see how many creatures there are in the set or finished the book, the only thing in the list above I can discuss is the morph mechanic.
Personally, I think that morphing is going to be a staple in decks of the new Standard environment, and that will only proceed to make morphing better. If there were only one good morph creature in each color, there would hardly be any surprise in it. But, since Wizards seems to have developed this mechanic as thoroughly as they did madness, I think it’s going to go over very well. I also maintain that off-color morph creatures just might sneak their way into mono-colored decks for fake-out value, raising existing Jedi Mind Trick magnitude by a factor of ten. Of course, in casual play, morph could make a huge storm into the Five field, though I’m certainly no Five expert.
So, if you’re reading this and you don’t know what morph is, I have two suggestions for you. Leave your rock behind – you don’t need to live under it anymore. Then, head over to the official rules that premiered on www.magicthegathering.com.
Basically, it works like this: You pay three generic mana to play the morph creature facedown on the table. It’s as vanilla as it can get, being a 2/2 with no color, no casting cost, no rules text, and even no expansion symbol (take that, ilk of City in a Bottle!). Then, at any time, you can flip the creature over for its morph cost, bringing it immediately into play as the printed creature without ever sending it to the stack (after, of course, the initial morphed creature has gone through the stack process.).
The effects of this are breathtaking. Echo was an amazing mechanic, allowing you to play cheap, strong creatures with the stipend of paying their mana costs twice. Morph is kinda like that in the way that the casting cost of, say, Blistering Firecat is 1RRR, with its morph being RR. So, to morph it and then flip it, it costs 3RR, though you can get it out a turn earlier as a 2/2 before turning it into its bad self. So morph has a sort of echo effect in getting creatures out earlier for a more expensive long-term investment.
But what’s more enticing to me are the Jedi Mind Trick avenues. You put a facedown morphed creature on the stack. I, a control player, have no idea if it’s a stupid 1/1 or an amazing beatstick. Do I counter or do I let it resolve? If I’m familiar with your deck, I’ll have some idea of what to do – but in a tournament where many decks play morph creatures, I think that they’ll be a huge hindrance to control players’ strategies. Although this personally upsets me, I think that the expansion of one of my favorite aspects of Magic is definitely a good thing (though I may be singing a different tune when I actually have to play against the annoying buggers). If Wizards was looking for a way to make blue less powerful, I think they’ve done a good job of it.
Of course, there’s always a cloud to go with every silver lining – and the bad side of this awesome mechanic is the possibility of cheating. Since you have no idea whether your opponent is truly playing a morph card, you can’t be sure that he’s not faking you out with a land that he’ll later pick up to "examine" and switch it with a later-drawn morph card. Also, a newly played morph creature could be activated and played off to be an unsick, older creature. This unfortunate truth must instill great caution in all players: Mark both your and your opponent’s morph creatures (if he doesn’t) with some sort of indication of order they came into play, and make sure he doesn’t try anything fishy. Although most Magic players have hearts of gold (or maybe it’s carbon, but that’s only a dirty diamond!), there are some who might take advantage of that. Don’t let a good idea be abused by cheaters!
So there’s my two cents about morph: I think it’ll be a fantastic mechanic, and it really reaffirms my faith in R&D to consistently come out with exciting and innovative ideas. Keep up the good work, chiefs!