A can-trip that replaces itself is very valuable. Running four copies in a deck essentially means that you are running 56 cards in a 60-card deck, or 36 in a 40-card Limited deck. Having a card replace itself with something you possibly need AND having the ability to fix for mana is especially awesome.
The true power of this card has always lay in the fact that it can help you color-fix in three, four, or five-color decks. Say you were short a black source, or a white source, or any source at all Manamorphose would fix that for you and replace itself. There is nothing worse than being color-screwed and nothing worse than a bad top-deck in a situation where you need action.
Manamorphose is almost never a bad top-deck as long as you have something to immediately play after casting it. Multiple copies of Manamorphose are never dead, either, as they can play into each other. Also, something that is sometimes overlooked is that Manamorphose is playable at instant speed, allowing you to keep open mana to bluff opponents.
Manamorphose in Modern
In 2015, Modern was still a relatively young format. At that point, Manamorphose was typically only played in Storm decks and Pyromancer Ascension decks. Both of these decks often utilize Goblin Electromancer, which makes Manamorphose only cost a single colored mana. This allows you to more easily play multiple spells and build up mana to be able to ”go off” and cast a whole bunch of spells in a row. That makes your Storm cards like Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens potentially lethal. For that reason alone, Manamorphose remained very valuable.
Some Modern players tried playing Manamorphose in traditional Burn decks. While it does essentially draw you a card for free, most Burn players found that they were better off just playing another Burn spell. Manamorphose isn't something you want to top deck into, just to draw into a Mountain. There were some versions that played Goblin Electromancer and Electrolyze that enjoyed some success here and there, but not consistently.
Manamorphose in Pauper
Manamorphose is also very good in Pauper Storm decks for a similar reason. As it was originally printed as a common, its reprinting as an uncommon doesn’t affect its Pauper status. But while Manamorphose is certainly useful in Pauper, it hasn't become a competitive staple in the all-common format.
Manamorphose in Izzet Blitz?
Izzet Blitz is one of the best decks in the Pauper format. It's built around casting a lot of cheap instants and sorceries to power up the creatures Nivix Cyclops and Kiln Fiend. Manamorphose seems like an obvious fit in that deck. But, as players tweaked Izzet Blitz into the top deck it is now, Manamorphose found itself on the outside looking in. It hasn't really found another competitive home in Pauper.
For years, Manamorphose was a somewhat under-utilized card in both the Modern and Pauper formats. It was expected to become more popular as both formats grew and matured. Manamorphose would eventually find more than a few homes, thanks to the release of one of the most powerful sets in the Magic the Gathering history.
Why is Manamorphose So Expensive in 2018?
The price of Manamorpose exploded in 2018 with the release of Guilds of Ravnica. That's because that set released many Modern-playable cards that produced decks that called for a reliable instant speed ramp spell. Not only does Manamorphose help you color fix, but it also draws you a card. This proved invaluable in the decks we're about to look at here.
Because Manamorphose was suddenly in massive demand, its price skyrocketed past $15, with Modern Masters uncommons shooting past $20! What made it suddenly so popular? It helped fuel three brand new competitive Modern decks: Runaway Red, Izzet Phoenix, and Hollow Phoenix, as well as revitalizing Jeskai Ascendancy Combo. With its rediscovery, some players even improved on their builds of the already solid Mardu Pyromancer deck with copies of Manamorphose to help color-fix for black and white!
Manamorphose in an Aggro Deck?
The three new Modern decks spawned by Guilds of Ravnica all share one card in common: Arclight Phoenix. Think of it as a Chandra's Phoenix on steroids. Chandra's Phoenix was a popular card in Standard for years because not only did it have flying and haste for just three mana, but any time you cast a red instant or sorcery spell that dealt damage to an opponent, you could return it from the graveyard to your hand.
But, Arclight Phoenix is far superior to that Standard favorite creature. It's a four-mana mythic rare that can return from the graveyard to the battlefield at the beginning of combat if you've cast at least three instants or sorceries in a turn. What makes this Phoenix particularly ridiculous is that you can easily just discard it with something like Faithless Looting or Tormenting Voice and get it back the same turn for free! A free 3/2 with flying and haste is pretty ridiculous.
Runaway Red runs not only 4 copies of Arclight Phoenix and 4 copies of Manamorphose, but also 4 copies of a creature called Runaway Steam-Kin, hence the deck's name. The namesake creature is a 2 mana 1/1 with a couple of neat effects. Whenever you cast a Red spell, it the Steam-Kin has fewer than three +1/+1 counters on it, you put a +1/+1 counter on it. If that wasn't good enough, you can remove three +1/+1 counters to add three Red mana to your mana pool.
Manamorphose in an Izzet Burn Deck?
While Metamorphose has never found a permanent home in most Burn decks, there is one that it does work into. Izzet Phoenix is actually a pretty cool Red/Blue Burn deck that not only features Arclight Phoenix, but also the powerful Thing in the Ice.
The Thing is a 0/4 Defender for two mana, but once it loses all 4 of its ice counters, it transforms into a 7/8 that returns all non-Horror creatures on the field to their owner's hands. It's important to note that the Thing costs only two mana to cast, meaning it can be cast directly off of a Manamorphose. So, Izzet Phoenix is sort of a combination between an aggro deck and burn deck, and Manamorphose is a key part of the deck's ability to remain consistent.
Hollow One Meets Manamorphose & Arclight Phoenix
Hollow Phoenix takes an already solid deck with Hollow One and adds four copies of Arclight Phoenix to provide an additional threat that you're happy to discard. Four copies of Manamorphose give you enough spells to cast in a turn to bring back the Phoenix. It also helps set up Bedlam Reveler, which is a key creature in pretty much every Modern Phoenix deck.
Manamorphose in Traverse Shadow
One popular variant of the competitive Death's Shadow decks has occasionally used Manamorphose. Traverse Shadow is a deck that uses Traverse the Ulvenward as a sort of tutor for the Shadow. While Manamorphose isn't played in most builds of Traverse Shadow, Andrew Baeckstrom did enjoy success with his 8-2 Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Traverse Shadow deck, running three copies of Manamorphose.
Manamorphose does help with fixing the mana in the deck, as it's a red/green/black (Jund) deck. So, Andrew's choice to run three copies makes sense. However, Manamorphose isn't absolutely necessary for the deck to win and is more of a personal choice.
Cards Like Manamorphose
With the exploding price of Manamorphose, players have been looking for Manamorphose alternatives. Unfortunately outside of mana rituals like Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, and Seething Song (which is banned in Modern), there isn't anything quite like it. Drawing a card essentially for free is a pretty big deal, especially one that can help you color fix outside of Red mana.
Why Isn't Manamorphose in Every Deck?
Manamorphose does two pretty awesome things. It essentially replaces itself in both mana cost and a card draw. So, why not play it in every deck that plays red mana, green mana, or both in Modern, Pauper, and where ever else it's legal?
The answer is both simple and not simple. In many respects, Manamorphose is a "do-nothing" card. Really, it doesn't do much other than replace itself on its own. However, what makes it valuable in decks like Storm and the Phoenix decks is that it actually sets up other plays.
In Runaway Red, for example, Manamorphose not only sets up the ability to replay the Arclight Phoenix, but it also plays directly into the deck's two mana spells like Runaway Steam-Kin and Tormenting Voice. In Izzet Phoenix, it does much the same thing for Thing in the Ice. In Hollow Phoenix, it can even help cast the colorless Hollow One. Not to mention, Manamorphose can fuel Bedlam Reveler, a key creature in several Modern decks, and Enigma Drake, which sees some play in the Modern version of Izzet Blitz: Izzet Fiend.
In any case, Manamorphose is an extremely valuable card in decks that it can directly set up bigger plays. While it would seem like Manamorphose essentially turns any 60-card deck into a 56-card deck, it's not that simple. While what it does is pretty unique, Manamorphose needs the right card to set up in order to be worth playing four copies of it. Fortunately, Arclight Phoenix gave Manamorphose new life by being an important free spell to make the Phoenix decks more consistent.
How would you play Manamorphose?