Undervalued Karlov Manor Case Takes Transmogrify Deck to New Heights!

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At this point, players have had a decent amount of time to learn how to maximize Murders at Karlov Manor cards. From Leyline of the Guildpact in Modern to Vein Ripper in Pioneer, this set has been extremely impactful at the top level. Interestingly, though, players are still finding new ways to utilize undervalued Karlov Manor cards.

In a recent Pioneer Last Chance event on Magic Online, an intriguing Rakdos Transmogrify list managed to go undefeated. While this archetype isn’t necessarily new, it’s been a while since it has made any noise in the format. However, the printing of a Karlov Manor Case helped solve some of the issues the deck has had in the past.

Maximizing Transmogrify

The goal of this deck is to find a window to cast Transmogrify targeting one of your Creatures. Notably, every card that is capable of providing a Creature for Transmogrify to target is not actually a Creature itself. Instead, this deck utilizes Enchantments, Artifacts, and Lands that produce Creature tokens. The only Creature in the deck is Atraxa, Grand Unifier. This way, when you resolve Transmogrify, you are guaranteed to get an Atraxa into play from your library.

In this sense, the deck operates closely to Indomitable Creativity decks in Pioneer, making use of midrange and control elements with a combo finish. Some of the cards, like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, unsurprisingly overlap. Transmogrify decks do have some perks, however, that separate themselves from Creativity shells.

First and foremost, Transmogrify only interacts with Creatures and can only put Creatures from your library into play. This means that you have free reign to run all the Artifacts you want. Getting to sideboard in Damping Sphere, for instance, can be hugely important against Lotus Field combo.

The downside, of course, is that if you cast Transmogrify and your opponent has Instant-speed Creature removal at the ready, you can get blown out. Whether you are making tokens off of Fable, Mirrex, Barbed Batterfist, or any other source, it’s imperative that you clear the path for Transmogrify. Fortunately, this is where your black midrange elements come into play.

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Rakdos Midrange Overlap

Thoughtseize

The main reason this deck utilizes black as a secondary color rather than going a Jeskai route like most Creativity lists is because of the wide range of efficient disruptive elements available in black. From Fatal Push to Sheoldred’s Edict, the removal spells you have access to are top notch. You even have Path of Peril available in the sideboard to help against go-wide decks, such as Abzan Amalia.

However, there are two black cards in particular that shine in this archetype more than any others. First and foremost, Thoughtseize is a premier piece of interaction. Obviously, getting to pick your opponent’s hand apart on the cheap is incredibly strong against a wide variety of strategies in Pioneer. As a combo deck, though, it also helps make sure the coast is clear to resolve Transmogrify.

It’s often worth finding a window to resolve Thoughtseize before attempting to cast Transmogrify, especially if your opponent consistently leaves open mana on your turn. In matchups where this is a concern, boarding in Duress for games two and three can help add some redundancy. Now that we’ve covered the role of discard spells, it’s time to get to the big Karlov Manor upgrade that this deck received.

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Case of the Stashed Skeleton

Case of the Stashed Skeleton

The Case in question is none other than Case of the Stashed Skeleton. Case of the Stashed Skeleton helps in every aspect of this deck, and the importance of its role cannot be overstated. Right off the bat, you get a Creature token for Transmogrify. This alone makes it a reasonable inclusion. Where things get interesting, though, is when you Solve the case.

See, the opponent will often feel pressured to remove your Skeleton token for fear of you converting it into an Atraxa. Once they do that, though, the Case can let you tutor up any card from your deck. This could be a token-maker like Fable, a removal spell, a discard spell to clear the way for Transmogrify, or whatever else your heart desires.

Part of the reason Case of the Stashed Skeleton hasn’t seen much Pioneer play yet, despite being a powerful card, is that it needs a specific home. Because the Skeleton can’t block, many decks can simply ignore the token for a long time. The fact that Transmogrify is so threatening changes this whole dynamic. For example, if your Rakdos Transmogrify opponent follows up Case with Thoughtseize and you only have one removal spell, you get put into a situation where you may feel obligated to cast it on the Skeleton token.

The problem is, now you have exhausted your removal and opened up the door for the opponent to tutor for a combo piece. As a result, the Case often puts you in a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” scenario. Even if you’re forced to cast Transmogrify blindly on your Skeleton and it gets removed, you can now tutor up another copy of Transmogrify on your next turn. Sometimes it’ll be correct to Fatal Push your own token to tutor up something special, so make sure to use all options at your disposal.

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An Interesting Comparison

Vein Ripper

This deck is certainly the new hotness but given the fact that it functions as a midrange deck with a potential combo finish, it’s hard not to compare it to Rakdos Vampires. Both decks make use of Fable, one-mana interaction, and a neat combo. The difference is that Rakdos Vampires has an easier time setting up its combo.

Unlike Transmogrify, it’s not difficult to set up a window where Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord will flourish. Even if you don’t have Vein Ripper in hand, getting to repeatedly pump Bloodtithe Harvester or fling Dusk Legion Zealot is strong. Not to mention, casting Vein Ripper is quite realistic, while casting Atraxa isn’t. So, what’s the benefit to playing Rakdos Transmogrify?

First, Rakdos Vampires needs access to both Sorin and Vein Ripper to execute its “combo.” On the flip side, this deck only needs Transmogrify and any Creature token will suffice. Second, Atraxa is a bit stronger of a game-ending bomb given the massive amount of card advantage it provides. Between Edict, discard spells, and even Heartless Act or Molten Collapse if you have a Creature token in play, you have a decent number of ways to break up your Vampires opponent’s combo.

Whereas if you get Atraxa into play, even if your opponent answers it, you’ve pulled far ahead in the card advantage battle. As a result, you’re favored against Rakdos Vampires head-to-head. This deck also plays more removal, so Creature-based matchups such as Abzan Amalia or Boros Heroic are stronger. Clearly, Rakdos Vampires is still an elite choice in the current metagame, and this deck will likely play second fiddle at best in the near future. Still, don’t sleep on this strategy, as it has a lot going for it.

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