MTG Wiki

MTGA Morph
Keyword Ability
Type Static
Introduced Onslaught
Last used Commander 2019
Reminder Text Morph [cost] (You may cast this face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)
Megamorph [cost] (You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}. Turn it face up at any time for its megamorph cost and put a +1/+1 counter on it.)
Storm Scale 5[1][2]
153 morph cards
{W} 15% {U} 28.8% {B} 15.7% {R} 15.7% {G} 17.6% {G/U} 1.3% {M} 3.3% {artifact symbol} 2% {land symbol} 0.7%
31 megamorph cards
{W} 16.1% {U} 29% {B} 12.9% {R} 16.1% {G} 25.8%
Scryfall Search

Morph is a keyword ability on permanents that allows the player to pay {3} to cast a card with the ability face down as a 2/2 colorless, typeless creature. The player can then turn that creature face-up at any time they could cast an instant by paying a variable Morph cost printed on each card. Many permanents with morph have additional triggered abilities that trigger when they are turned face-up (see Bane of the Living), and some other permanents trigger when a different card is turned face up. Morphing doesn't use the stack.

With the increase of power and a tilt towards proactive games, the base rate of 3 mana for a mere 2/2 with a secondary mana cost is in an awkward spot, so Morph is unlikely to return.[3]

History[ | ]

Morph came about because the rules team was trying to figure out a way to make Illusionary Mask and Camouflage work.[4] The answer was to define face-down cards as creatures with power and toughness. The rules team realized the solution led to a mechanic. Cards could be cast face-down and then, for a cost, could be later turned face-up. As all face-down creatures were the same, it would create a sense of mystery. The rules team pitched the idea to Mark Rosewater, who loved it.[5] The ability first appeared in Onslaught block[6][7][8][9][10] and was revisited in the Time Spiral block.[11][12] Most morph creatures in these sets had a visual cue in their art that represented the mysteriously uniform “morph shell” from which the morph creature emerges. It's that spider-shaped creature shell that is represented in Onslaught’s expansion symbol ().[13] These "clay spiders" can be seen in the art for Dermoplasm and several other cards.[14][15]

Morph returned again in Khans of Tarkir.[16][17] The mechanic was now visually represented as a swirl of draconic magic, used as a disguise.[18][19] Fate Reforged, The second set of the Khans of Tarkir block featured manifest, the proto-morph from Tarkir's past.[20] Morph, megamorph and manifest all reappeared in Commander 2019.[4] The Doctor Who Cyberman mechanic plays in a similar space. When Khans of Tarkir was released on Magic: The Gathering Arena, the swirl of draconic Morph magic was used as the ability's icon.

The Five-Mana Morph Rule[ | ]

In Onslaught, morph's debut set, the development of morphs tended to fall into three camps: a combat-oriented creature that dominated a 2/2, a saboteur that generated some card advantage, or a utility creature smaller than 2/2. Morph costs ranged from one to eight, but there was no rule as to what morph could do what at what mana in any color; Gravel Slinger, for example, was a White common that dominated a 2/2 at a morph cost of {1}{W}. This generally meant that blocking was a poor proposition; even if the saboteur effect happened, at least the defender's morph was still alive - but still, only sometimes (Skirk Commando, another common). As such, facing a morph was a matter of choosing between two bad potential situations with no real information and hoping it worked out.

With Khans of Tarkir a new development policy was put in place: a morphed creature cannot be turned face-up for less than five mana if doing so would allow it to survive combat with a face-down morphed creature.[21][22] In practical terms, creatures with power 2 or greater must have a toughness of 2 or less if their morph cost is less than five mana. This principle means that no morphed creature can unmorph (flip face-up) and "eat" a 2/2 creature in combat without it costing a player five or more mana. This rule applies to all cards, regardless of rarity.

R&D learned from Onslaught that players were naturally inclined to stop attacking when they were unsure if combat would end in their favor and this caused games to continue on for longer. Instead, the five-mana morph rule meant players could continue to attack on turns three and four without any combat surprises and push the game towards a conclusion. The rule also gave other low mana value 2-power creatures more relevance. Setting the limit at five mana meant the defending player had at least one turn of preparation and could untap with a morph creature themselves after an attacking player played a morph.

"Borph", "Smorph" and "Auramorph"[ | ]

For a while, an alternate version of morph was considered for the design of Khans of Tarkir. This new mechanic was very similar but instead of three mana to cast the 2/2 face-down creature it cost two mana. R&D nicknamed that mechanic "borph" as in "bear morph" because Bears are slang for a vanilla 2/2.[23] Other options that were looked at were "Smorph"(4 for a facedown 2/2 with a +1/+1 counter) and "Auramorph" (3 for a facedown 2/2 that's an aura on the backside).[24][25]

Auramorph was realized in Commander 2019 with Gift of Doom.[4] Concealed Weapon is another form, being an "equip-morph".

Spellmorph[ | ]

Spellmorph, that can appear on Instants and Sorceries, first appeared on a test card in the Mystery Booster set (You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}. Cast it any time for its spellmorph cost).[26]

Rules[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

A keyword ability that lets a card be cast face down as a 2/2 creature. See rule 702.37, “Morph,” and rule 708, “Face-Down Spells and Permanents.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 702.37. Morph
    • 702.37a Morph is a static ability that functions in any zone from which you could play the card it’s on, and the morph effect works any time the card is face down. “Morph [cost]” means “You may cast this card as a 2/2 face-down creature with no text, no name, no subtypes, and no mana cost by paying {3} rather than paying its mana cost.” (See rule 708, “Face-Down Spells and Permanents.”)
    • 702.37b Megamorph is a variant of the morph ability. “Megamorph [cost]” means “You may cast this card as a 2/2 face-down creature with no text, no name, no subtypes, and no mana cost by paying {3} rather than paying its mana cost” and “As this permanent is turned face up, put a +1/+1 counter on it if its megamorph cost was paid to turn it face up.” A megamorph cost is a morph cost.
    • 702.37c To cast a card using its morph ability, turn it face down and announce that you’re using a morph ability. It becomes a 2/2 face-down creature card with no text, no name, no subtypes, and no mana cost. Any effects or prohibitions that would apply to casting a card with these characteristics (and not the face-up card’s characteristics) are applied to casting this card. These values are the copiable values of that object’s characteristics. (See rule 613, “Interaction of Continuous Effects,” and rule 707, “Copying Objects.”) Put it onto the stack (as a face-down spell with the same characteristics), and pay {3} rather than pay its mana cost. This follows the rules for paying alternative costs. You can use a morph ability to cast a card from any zone from which you could normally cast it. When the spell resolves, it enters the battlefield with the same characteristics the spell had. The morph effect applies to the face-down object wherever it is, and it ends when the permanent is turned face up.
    • 702.37d You can’t normally cast a card face down. A morph ability allows you to do so.
    • 702.37e Any time you have priority, you may turn a face-down permanent you control with a morph ability face up. This is a special action; it doesn’t use the stack (see rule 116). To do this, show all players what the permanent’s morph cost would be if it were face up, pay that cost, then turn the permanent face up. (If the permanent wouldn’t have a morph cost if it were face up, it can’t be turned face up this way.) The morph effect on it ends, and it regains its normal characteristics. Any abilities relating to the permanent entering the battlefield don’t trigger when it’s turned face up and don’t have any effect, because the permanent has already entered the battlefield.
    • 702.37f If a permanent’s morph cost includes X, other abilities of that permanent may also refer to X. The value of X in those abilities is equal to the value of X chosen as the morph special action was taken.
    • 702.37g See rule 708, “Face-Down Spells and Permanents,” for more information about how to cast cards with a morph ability.

Megamorph[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

A variant of the morph ability that puts a +1/+1 counter on the creature as it turns face up. See rule 702.37, “Morph.”

Dragons of Tarkir introduced megamorph, as an alternate evolution of Manifest. Megamorph creatures are basically morph creatures with one extra bonus. Turning them face-up by paying their megamorph cost puts a +1/+1 counter on the creature.[27] Often the cards have an additional beneficial effect that is only activated when the megamorph cost has been paid.

Megamorph was also used in Commander 2019.[4]

Manifest[ | ]

Fate Reforged introduced Manifest, a keyword action that allowed for cards without a morph cost to be put in play face-down. This includes lands, instants or sorceries. However, any creature could be turned face up for its mana cost, or its morph cost if it has one.

Disguise and Cloak[ | ]

Because Morph was considered to be a bit weak as a mechanic, Murders at Karlov Manor introduced an upgraded variant of Morph, called Disguise.[28][29] Similarly, Cloak is an upgraded variant of Manifest.

Rulings[ | ]

  • Morph lets you cast a card face down by paying {3} and lets you turn the face-down permanent face up any time you have priority by paying its morph cost.
  • The face-down spell has no mana cost and has 0 mana value. When you cast a face-down spell, put it on the stack face down so no other player knows what it is and pay 3. This is an alternative cost.
  • When the spell resolves, it enters the battlefield as a 2/2 creature with no name, mana cost, creature types, or abilities. It's colorless and has 0 mana value. Other effects that apply to the creature can still grant it any of these characteristics.
  • Any time you have priority, you may turn the face-down creature face up by revealing what its morph cost is and paying that cost. This is a special action. It doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to. Only a face-down permanent can be turned face up this way; a face-down spell cannot.
  • If a face-down creature loses its abilities, it can't be turned face up by paying its morph cost because it no longer has morph or a morph cost.
  • Because the permanent is on the battlefield both before and after it's turned face up, turning a permanent face up doesn't cause any enters-the-battlefield abilities to trigger.
  • Because face-down creatures don't have a name, they can't have the same name as any other creature, even another face-down creature.
  • A permanent that turns face up or face down changes characteristics but is otherwise the same permanent. Spells and abilities that were targeting that permanent, as well as Auras and Equipment that were attached to the permanent, aren't affected.
  • Turning a permanent face up or face down doesn't change whether that permanent is tapped or untapped.
  • At any time, you can look at a face-down spell or permanent you control. You can't look at face-down spells or permanents you don't control unless an effect instructs you to do so.
  • If a face-down spell leaves the stack and goes to any zone other than the battlefield (if it was countered, for example), you must reveal it. Each graveyard is kept in a single face-up pile.
  • If a face-down permanent leaves the battlefield, you must reveal it. You must also reveal all face-down spells and permanents you control if you leave the game or if the game ends.
  • You must ensure that your face-down spells and permanents can easily be differentiated from each other. You're not allowed to mix up the cards that represent them on the battlefield in order to confuse other players. The order they entered the battlefield should remain clear. Common methods for doing this include using markers or dice, or simply placing them in order on the battlefield.

Megamorph rulings[ | ]

  • Turning a face-down creature with megamorph face-up and putting a +1/+1 counter on it is a special action. It doesn't use the stack and can't be responded to.
  • If a face-down creature with megamorph is turned face up some other way (for example, if you manifest a card with megamorph and then pay its mana cost to turn it face up), you won't put a +1/+1 counter on it.
  • With the exception of putting a +1/+1 counter on the creature as it turns face up, megamorph functions the same way morph does.

Examples[ | ]

Morph Overlay card

Khans of Tarkir morph overlay card.

Example 1

Aphetto Alchemist {1}{U}
Creature — Human Wizard
{T}: Untap target artifact or creature.
Morph {U} (You may cast this face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)

Example 2

Gathan Raiders {3}{R}{R}
Creature — Human Warrior
Hellbent — Gathan Raiders gets +2/+2 if you have no cards in your hand.
Morph — Discard a card. (You may cast this face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)

Example 3

Shieldhide Dragon {5}{W}
Creature — Dragon
Flying, lifelink
Megamorph {5}{W}{W} (You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}. Turn it face up at any time for its megamorph cost and put a +1/+1 counter on it.) When Shieldhide Dragon is turned face up, put a +1/+1 counter on each other Dragon creature you control.

Overlay card[ | ]

Khans of Tarkir introduced the Morph-overlay card which was available in booster packs as an extra card with an advertisement on the back side. The overlay card may be used on face-down Morph cards to remind players of their power and toughness and that it can be turned face-up for its Morph or Megamorph cost.[18][30]

Cards that interact with morph[ | ]

Non-creature cards with morph[ | ]

  • The first non-creature cards with morph were all in Future Sight: Lumithread Field (an enchantment), Whetwheel (an artifact) and Zoetic Cavern (a land). Commander 2019 would later add a aura in the form of Gift of Doom.
  • As soon as a non-creature card with morph is turned face up, it stops being a creature. Any Equipment attached to it falls off. Any Auras that can't be attached to it fall off. Any counters that are on it will remain, though they might not have any effect.
  • If such a permanent is in combat when it's turned face up, it's removed from combat. Combat damage that is assigned will not be dealt. Combat damage assigned to it will not be dealt. This is because the permanent is removed from combat when it stops being a creature. As such, it is removed from all damage assignment orders. Blockers do not assign any damage if no attackers are assigned to them.
  • Three Onslaught block cards (Aphetto Runecaster, Aven Farseer, and Bonethorn Valesk) are printed with abilities that trigger whenever a creature is turned face up. These have errata so they trigger whenever a permanent is turned face up.

Cards referring to morph[ | ]

Four older cards once referred to a creature or a creature card "with morph." After the introduction of Megamorph this became "with a morph ability".

See also[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (2023-01-05). "Where does Morph land on the storm scale?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  2. Mark Rosewater (February 29, 2016). "Storm Scale: Khans of Tarkir Block". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (February 8, 2024). "Is Disguise likely to replace morph for future face down sets?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  4. a b c d Mark Rosewater (August 5, 2019). "Need I Say Morph". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mark Rosewater (November 24, 2014). "Top 8 and a Half Tales". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Rosewater (September 9, 2002). "Wait, There's Morph". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Paul Barclay (September 6, 2002). "Morph: Onslaught’s New Ability". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Mark Rosewater (January 6, 2003). "Trigger Happy". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Aaron Forsythe (January 8, 2003). "Morph Trigger Rules Primer". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar (February 13, 2003). "Decks That Morph". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Magic Arcana (March 5, 2007). "Shaper Parasite". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Magic Arcana (June 11, 2007). "Remnant of a Morph Shell". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Magic Arcana (October 24, 2006). "Hidden “Morph Spiders”". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Wizards of the Coast (January, 2003). "Ask Wizards - January 2003". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Wizards of the Coast (March, 2006). "Ask Wizards - March, 2006". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Mark Rosewater (July 26, 2014). "All The Goods From The Panel, Part 1". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  17. Sam Stoddard (October 24, 2014). "Hidden Information". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. a b Matt Tabak (August 31, 2014). "Mechanics of Khans of Tarkir". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Blake Rasmussen (November 6, 2014). "Morphs on Tarkir". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Mark Rosewater (February 9, 2015). "Manifest Destiny". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Mark Rosewater (January 18, 2024). "The fun of a morph is not knowing which creature is face down.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  22. Mark Rosewater (March 18, 2024). "Looking Back, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Mark Rosewater (May 11, 2015). "Phooey". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Mark Rosewater (August 05, 2016). "Were any other mechanics attempted in place of megamorph?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  25. Mark Rosewater (April 12, 2018). "Could i get trivia on Morph, Megamorph or Manifest?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  26. Eli Shiffrin (November 11, 2019). "Mystery Booster Release Notes". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Mark Rosewater (March 2, 2015). "Imagine Dragons, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  28. Mark Rosewater (January 16, 2024). "Getting Away with Murders at Karlov Manor, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  29. Mark Rosewater (February 8, 2024). "What was the reason to not use morph and manifest anyway?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  30. Blake Rasmussen (September 10, 2014). "Tokens of Tarkir". Wizards of the Coast.