Metamorphic Alteration Combo: Pioneer's New Threat - What It Is & How It Works

Genoslugcs June 11, 2023 6 min
Metamorphic Alteration Combo: Pioneer's New Threat - What It Is & How It Works


There's a new kid on the block in Pioneer, and it looks a lot like a skeleton of the formats past. It's a brand-new combo spawned by an innocuous M19 bulk rare and a Phyrexia: All Will Be One card. I speak, of course, of Metamorphic Alterationimage and how it works with Archfiend of the Drossimage. Today, I'll cover the Metamorphic Alteration combo, how it works, and how to beat it. Let's jump right in.


What Is Metamorphic Alteration Combo In Pioneer?

image image

The cards above are the backbone of the Pioneer Metamorphic Alteration combo. Metamorphic Alterationimage needs to be in your hand, and Archfiend of the Drossimage needs to be on the battlefield, under your control. Other than these, the only thing you'll need is for your opponent to have a creature in play that's capable of being enchanted. Once you've met these requisites, the combo is a go. So, how's it work?

At heart, it revolves around the oil counters on Archfiend of the Drossimage. If you have an Archfiend in play and cast Metamorphic Alterationimage to enchant your opponent's creature, you can choose to turn it into an Archfiend of the Drossimage. The catch is that Archfiend gets its oil counters as it enters the battlefield. Considering the opponent's copy of the card didn't enter the battlefield, it doesn't get any oil counters. This means they will lose the game on their upkeep due to the Archfiend trigger.

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For an investment of six mana, you put your opponent in a situation that demands an immediate answer. If they don't have that answer (or a means to acquire one) before the upkeep following your combo turn, that's a wrap. As mentioned above, this may remind players who have been around Pioneer for a while of the Thassa's Oracleimage + Inverter of Truthimage combo that once plagued the format and eventually led to Inverter being banned.

image+ image

I see the similarities; both use the downside of a four mana 6/6 flyer to win the game alongside a two-CMC blue spell. Here's how it worked if you don't know. When Inverter of Truthimage enters the battlefield, your entire library is exiled, and your graveyard becomes your deck. So, if you had no cards in your graveyard your library would be empty, and you'd win the game on the Thassa's Oracleimage ETB trigger. However, a few key factors make the Metamorphic Alteration Combo much healthier for the Pioneer.

Overall, it boils down to the Metamorphic Alteration Combo being much easier to interact with. There are more moving pieces and more ways to disrupt it. In the case of the Thassa/Inverter combo, that wasn't the case. Winning was possible, even if your opponent had an answer for either card. In other words, it could win through instant speed removal. This isn't the case for this new combo. So, let's move into how to beat the Metamorphic Alteration Combo should you come up against it.

How To Beat Metamorphic Alteration Combo

a set of hands try and fit two mismatched puzzle pieces that say "win" together

It's essential to realize that the deck is not all in on the combo. It plays an excellent midrange strategy too. So, don't expect an easy W for playing around the combo cards. You'll still have to deal with powerful interaction, resilient threats, and the ever-present Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jikiimage, which can copy Archfied of the Dross, who is a threat even outside of the combo.

In my experience with decks like this (Modern Underworld Breachimage combo, for example), you can't give too much respect to the combo. Focus on the game as a whole, and don't take your eye off the ball, which is "win the game." Try not to get sucked into making less-than-optimal plays you wouldn't usually make. Alteration decks don't go all in on winning with the combo, and you usually shouldn't go all in on stopping it, either, because the deck can, and often will, win without ever using it.

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And that's part of what makes the deck strong - It's a like a fighter throwing feints, constantly testing the waters, and not committing entirely where they shouldn't. Don't be lulled into this dance. The combo allows easy wins against decks like Mono-Green that it usually wouldn't be able to overtake via combat alone, can take unsuspecting opponents off-guard, and forces players to play around it. However, it's still plan B, and plan A is that oh-so-familiar Rakdos midrange shell.

But for addressing the combo: Again, it works by turning an opposing creature into an Archfied of the Dross with Metamorphic Alterationimage. So, as an opponent, you can stop this in a few ways. Here are your options.

1. Destroy Archfiend Of The Dross


An Archfiend in play is a must to combo off. So, creature removal can get the job done. However, it will have to be something that can deal with a 6/6 demon. For example, Power Word Killimage misses the mark here. Many damage-based removal spells like Abradeimage, Stompimage, or Kolaghan's Commandimage will too. Fatal Pushimage can do the job, but you'll have to have revolt.

Many of the top Pioneer decks have at least a few options for dealing with it, though - Liliana of the Veilimage, Dreadboreimage, Assassin's Trophyimage, Ossificationimage, and Chop Downimage are all great answers. And for that matter, any deck playing Thoughtseizeimage can address this portion (or Metamorphic Alterationimage) before they ever hit the battlefield.

Any counterspell that your deck has access to capable of countering a four-mana creature would also do the trick. Absorbimage is the best option but a well-timed Censorimage is just as effective. It's worth mentioning that many of the cards in control decks won't bring this down. Many can answer the enchantment portion though, leading me to my next point.

2. Handle Metamorphic Alteration


If you don't have an answer for the creature portion, destroying the aura will work just as well. Being a non-creature spell turns on more of the meta's counterspells, with Dovin's Vetoimage being the big one, as it pays around Drown in the Lochimage. It also means that more hand disruption, like Duressimage, will have a target too.

If it does make it to the battlefield, cards like Haywire Miteimage, Knight of Autumnimage, Assassin's Trophyimage, Witherbloom Commandimage, Hopeful Initiateimage, Destroy Evilimage and Portable Holeimage all do an excellent job of removing it.

3. Remove Your Creature


As an opponent, your creature will be a necessary part of a combo win. With Metamorphic Alterationimage on the stack removing your creature can be a nice ace in the hole if your removal hits your creature but won't kill an Archfiend of the Dross. It's not an ideal option, but sometimes it may be the only option. If you're playing an aristocrats deck capable of sacrificing creatures, leaving your outlets open to sac in response to an Alteration can at least generate some value along the way.

4. Devoted Combo Hate


If you want to try and hate out the combo ahead of time, there are cards at your disposal. Necromentiaimage is an excellent option if you're in black, and I recommend The Stone Brainimage if you aren't. Both do essentially the same thing - You name a card and search your opponent's hand, graveyard, and library for up to four copies of the card you named and exile them.

For our intended purpose, you'll want to name Archfiend of the Drossimage with these, as it's a threat all by itself. Choosing it will simultaneously stop the combo and reduce the overall winning power of the deck. Whereas picking Alteration will stop the combo, you'll still have a 6/6 flyer to contend with. And if you happen to draw multiple copies, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jikiimage or Dig Through Timeimage are good backup options since Alteration is pretty useless by itself.

Full Decklist

Archfiend Alteration Combo

Main 60 cards (25 distinct)
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (26)
Creature (9)
Land (25)
Side 15 cards (10 distinct)

Deck By IzzetABCannon


It's always cool to see new archetypes emerge and older, previously unused cards find homes. That was certainly the case for Metamorphic Alterationimage, which went from not seeing play anywhere to the hot new thing overnight. Oh, and it went from around $0.20 to $5 (and $18 for foil), so be sure to dig through any M19 you have.

I like this deck quite a bit. Considering it isn't fragile and over-reliant on the combo, but the combo is quite powerful, I think it may really pick up steam in Pioneer. It's already had a decent showing in an event, but only time will tell. Until next time, I hope you've come away from today's article with a better idea of the deck, how it works, and how to stop it.


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