I had been playing Sky Sentinel exclusively for a few months. ICNY released and I was jumping with joy upon seeing G1 Strike Fighters. For days Steven would complain about how dumb it was that they gave G.U.A.R.D. that unit. I simply laughed and pounded his Planet Eaters into the ground match after match.

A few months later we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first shipment of All Your Base. We had previewed Zor-Macros on our newly released community site and I was amped to see what the GUARD monster would bring to the table. We bust open the boxes and I start drooling over the abilities of all the Morphers… particularly Legionnaire.

Marker. Radar. Overload. Crunch… all on the alpha! Then you have Toss, Multi-shot, and Blue Radar on the Ultra. But wait… Is that 4 defense I see there? Why yes, that is a 4 defense alpha Morpher. Even worse, they have flight. That means no cover… the agony!

It wasn’t even a month later and I was on the ‘morphers are squishy’ bandwagon… and it seemed as though the rest of the community was too. That was, of course, just a few months before Josh Gremillion would teach us all that this game is about so much more than power attacks.

Today and the next six challenges are about knowing your opponent. Up until now, we have focused introspectively and on what we can do to be better at Monsterpocalypse. Once you get comfortable with your monster and your army, the next step is to prepare for whatever comes your way at the next event. I felt there no better place to start this discussion than with morphers.

Being a GUARD player in the beginning probably didn’t help my view of morphers. At the time, I was used to a high speed, flying, high defense monster who provided some major boosts to my units. I only needed a few power dice each turn, so my unit turns were generally spent dishing out damage to Steven’s PE flavor of the month.

In February, 2010 we hosted the first ever Monday Night Monster. It was a 16 man, single elimination event. In the second round I ran in to Marcus Utley using Tyrranix. He steam rolled me. It was after this event that I started reconsidering how I approached this game.

Looking back, Legionnaire actually has quite a bit of potential (even the Ultra!). I started taking note of quite a few monsters I had previously written off (Mega Legionnaire, Nova ESR, Tyrranix, to name a few). This is when I really started coming to grips with the fact that although morphers trade out the ability to power attack, they offer options to do things that were previously impossible.

Unit or Monster?

The first rule of Morphers is that they are treated, for most purposes, like units. This includes movement, securing buildings and objective zones, gaining cover, and making combined attacks. However, when making a combined attack with Morphers, you can only roll 2 power dice per Morpher participating in the attack.

Whereas the Alpha form of a standard Monster must start in a Monster start zone, Morphers can be placed on or adjacent to any spawn zone and anywhere in either Monster start zone. For the first time ever, it is possible to secure buildings before you even begin (or your opponent begins) the first turn of a game.

This is the very beginning of the difference between a Morpher and the typical Alpha form. For full disclosure on the rules for Morphers, you can go here. On Day 13, I wrote about Board Control pretty extensively. Morphers offer board control like you have never seen.

Suppose your opponent is going first and wants to run the Insurance Scam as their opening (discussed on Day 8). You can place your Morphers so that you are securing an Insurance HQ. Meaning for them to run the scam, they are also giving you power dice.

Two other pretty common placements include securing a Newspaper Office or something with discount. Getting a unit or two for free or moving one or two units for free can create a pretty big advantage. What this does for board control cannot be over-stated. It’s big.

From the start, you are able to do things that were previously impossible. It suddenly becomes possible to not just remove some of their units and disrupt, but also to have a pretty big power base going into your first monster turn. It is at this point where Morphers, wielded correctly, can create advantages nearly impossible to match.

Board Control

A Morpher’s ability to make your opening more effective and leave you with a pretty hardy power base is only the beginning of the Board Control advantage you can have with Morphers. If you soft disrupt with a unit, the enemy can fairly easily remove the unit. However, soft disruption with a Morpher makes it more difficult for your opponent to deal with.

Several Morphers also feature abilities like Multi-Shot, Chain Reaction, or Explosion. Even without a great trigger, you can take a Morpher and go one on one with a unit for some pretty hefty disruption. If you do have a trigger (like Multi-shot on Gypsy Sunbeam), often times you can roll 1*1 + 2 on a 2 or 3 defense unit. Assuming a hit, this gets you 3 p-die in return and removes 3 units from the table.

Although it seems obvious, you can also secure buildings that were previously unsecured. Generally, if you have one unit next to a building your opponent won’t pre-soft disrupt. You can move two Morphers next to a building (like a Defense Contractor) and all of the sudden you have energy drain. You are also securing another building if you decide to go back to back.

The possibilities are actually pretty crazy. All of these options not available whatsoever to the typical Alpha form of a monster.

Damage+

Recently, I have been using Tyrranix quite a bit in an attempt to understand Morphers better. One thing that continues to impress me (and seems to be lacking at times from my gameplay), is when I watch a truly experienced Morpher player and their ability to accomplish so many things on each turn.

I think my general un-skill at this stems from an extended use of Tectomoc and King Kondo. Both of these monsters tend to take lots of monster turns. That means that when they do take a unit turn, it’s about getting units on the table that will stick around. Even with Sky Sentinel who takes the general Monster -> Unit turn structure, his unit turns are pretty straight forward.

Now, you get a player like Kevin or Steven behind a Morpher and something truly magical happens. Steven has recently been trying out Mega Legionnaire. With a Morpher he is now getting to take back to back unit turns (Morpher -> Unit) for nearly half of the game. If you see him playing, take note of how often turn structure and board control are in his favor).

The concept is damage plus. Good Morpher players tend to be able to deal damage and at the same time accomplish so much more. They suppres your units, get one or two Morphers next to the right buildings for units to swoop in next turn to secure and attack, and somehow avoid lethal power attacks.

Another thing a good Morpher player tends to get right is balancing the ability to accomplish several things with accomplishing the things that are necessary with high accuracy. So instead of attempting say 4 things at 80%+, they will instead decide to only do three but at 87%+. This is true even of normal monsters, but even more critical when using a Morpher.

The Magic of Morphers

You might be thinking… alright, so if I’m playing a Morpher they will probably have Board Control. They will also probably be disrupting me. This seems fair though, because of their low defense and the likelihood that I can get base to base for a power attack is increased… but let’s talk about what really makes a Morpher a Morpher. The magic of Morphers really happens with their ability to Hyper Up and Hyper Down… strategically.

Hyper Up

The first thing you have to understand is that when a Morpher hypers up, it puts one square of it’s hyper form on any space where one of it’s Morphers resides. This gives the Morpher play so many options.

By putting one of the Morphers next to an enemy power base, you can suddenly hyper up on top of their units and buildings. You can also hyper up onto buildings and units that are screening the enemy monster. This ability to break screens can be huge. I cannot stress enough the fact that it is not that a Morpher will ever actually do this in a game, but rather that with the right placement they can threaten the hyper up. This can severely limit the options of the enemy.

Move to Flex

Another important tool for the Morphers is their ability to be in their hyper form, move, and then hyper down. A prime example of this is Ancient Osheroth. With so many juicy red abilities and Reach on all of the tentacles, it can prove to be a pretty mean turn. Let me just walk through a turn to show it’s potency.

The Osheroth player spends 3 to hyper up onto an enemy unit and building. He then moves, steps if necessary, and then hypers down. Now, all four of the Morphers have:

- Penetrator (-1 defense to enemy target on a brawl)
- Siphon (brawl) – gain 1 p-die, enemy loses 1
- Hit and Run (brawl)

Osheroth can also summon an Elite Corruptor, offering Flank (-1 defense on brawl) and even Red Overload (super damage if they have 6 p-die or more). Even conservatively talking two attacks, you are looking at 2*2 + 4 on a -2 defense enemy monster, with one of those attacks resulting in a Beat Back.

What makes that extremely nasty is that you are also looking at 2 Siphon triggers, two Hit and Run triggers (resulting in positioning so that you cannot Smash the Morphers into one another), and one Vampirism trigger.

Considering you only need the Morpher to be within 2 spaces of the enemy Monster, this is really nasty. Even more terrifying is the consistency with which a turn for Osheroth like this happens. If the player is already in their hype form, it becomes very cheap to perform a move like this.

Dispersal

Another nasty trick along the same lines as the Move to Flex is Morpher Dispersal. Now, this only works for Morphers without a movement ability allowing them to stop on impassable terrain, but used appropriately it can cause some serious havoc. The absolute best monster at this is Mega Zor-Macros. Because all of his Alpha Morphers have Jump as their movement ability and his Mega has Sprint, he has a pretty consistent maneuver on maps featuring water.

Essentially it goes like this. When in Mega Zor-Macros, the player makes some type of power attack. The obvious attacks are a throw, smash, or body-slam. But even if you are screened he can generally get a two damage Swat. After dealing the two damage and removing one of your units, he can use Sprint. Moving three spaces onto all or mostly water, he can then Hyper down.

Because they are treated like units at this point, the Morphers with Jump cannot be placed on the water. The current rule is that they can now be moved back to any place in which they would have started the game. This is referred to as Morpher Dispersal. All of the sudden all four of the Morphers are safe and sound… and also providing a really nice power base. It’s even worse because one of Macros’ Alpha Morphers has red Cloak!

You Can Place Him Where?

One of the most absurd uses of the Morpher hyper up involves the Privateer Press Building. Even some of the most astute Monsterpocalypse players can (and have) been had by this quirky trick. Because the Privateer Press Building is Indestructible, it is possible to hyper up with Morphers and have no where to legally place them. If this occurs, the current ruling states that you can place the Hyper form of the Morpher on any edge of the map. There is no other way of illustrating just how ludicrous this is than to explain it.

The map most associated with this trick is Ramming Speed. If you look in either the bottom left or top right corners, imagine the Privateer Press building there. Now, knowing you can place a Morpher on or next to any Spawn Zone, picture the four Morphers being next to an on the spawn zone on the bottom left.

Assuming you pay to hyper up, what happens?

If it were any other building, the building would be destroyed and we don’t have any problems. However, because the building is Indestructible you cannot legally place your Hyper form anywhere. This is where the current ruling kicks in and all of the sudden you can place your Hyper on any edge of the map. This alone, the ability to move across the map like that, is pretty crazy.

But imagine if that player is going first. Assuming the enemy didn’t beacon or move their monster on their opening turn, they are in one of the two starting monster zones. There are two spots you can go to automatically be in alignment with the enemy Monster. This makes a 3-5 damage opening monster turn pretty easy.

Again, I cannot stress enough the fact that it doesn’t truly matter if you ever do this or not, but rather that you only need to threaten it. Whether it means making your opponent use Beacon or Refuel on their opening turn, it is you imposing your will on them before the game even begins.

The Pentamorphs

Another consideration about Morphers are the Pentamorphs. This currently includes on the monsters from the Voltron Box Set, Voltron and Lo-tron.

Both monsters feature 5 Alpha Morphers. Other than having an extra figure on the board, they also hyper down differently. Essentially when they hyper down, they place one Morpher in any of the four spaces the Hyper form occupied. From here, they can place the other four in any spot next to the initial placement (meaning they can choose from 8 other spaces).

This subtle difference is important to note. Against all other Morphers, if they hyper down or if you Head Butt or hit them with the Disrupt trigger it provides a smash attack for at least 3 damage. This is not necessarily the case against these two Morphers.

This also makes the Move to Flex a bit more powerful. You can move, hyper down, and have 3 Morphers next to the enemy Monster for a combined brawl attack.

On Beating Morphers

At the end of it all, the best word to summarize Morphers is versatility. The way they work in this game, from being able to secure buildings and use speed zones to their ability to hyper up and down strategically gives them a number of options that the standard monster just doesn’t have. And although it may seem as though they have every advantage possible, this simple isn’t true. There is a reason 3 of the 4 monsters in the Top 4 at MonCon 2011 were not Morphers.

Part of it is that Morphers are genuinely more difficult to use (for most players). There are also two other primary reasons: effiency and defense.

While the Morphers definitely have more options, often times they can be very a-die intensive. Because they all move and attack independently, it becomes more difficult to take back to back monster turns. This, in turn, makes it easy to earn superior turn position against Morphers. On top of that, if you spread the board appropriately you can often times hedge against the Morphers. They can only do so many things each turn.

Thus far, Morphers also suffer from decently low defense values. A 5 defense Morpher makes going back to back and beyond even easier, almost guaranteeing superior turn position. It also means that your units should have an easier time dealing damage to the enemy monster.

There could be books written on conquering Morphers, but I think having a good understanding of them is the right place to start. Each monster has a different way they probably ought to approach Morphers… and it’s your job to figure out exactly what that is for your monster.

The Challenge

Previous challenges were relatively clear because they were introspective. These might seem a little less intuitive, but they should make sense. The end goal is to make it so that if you do run in to a Morpher you at least have an idea of how to approach the game. Today’s challenge is to write a blog that discusses the following:

- If you win map choice (and are going second), what advantages and disadvantages does a Morpher opponent have? This might include ability to place one Morpher next to several buildings, impassable terrain, Teleporters, Speed Zones, etc.
- How does your turn structure and unit play differ when you are facing Morphers?
- How is your Macro level strategy affected by playing against a Morpher?
- What Morpher poses the greatest threat to your monster and why?
- What Morpher do you think your Monster and Army are best able to handle? Why?
- Anything else worth mentioning involving playing against Morphers?

Ending Notes

Morphers are certainly one of the tougher areas of Monsterpocalypse to Master. Just when you thought you had everything under control, these guys come in and change everything. I think the best piece of advice I can offer concerning Morphers is just to not fear them and get your hands dirty. Play some games against a Morpher, get your butt handed to you, and learn. There are few tools so effective at teaching as losing.

To those of you who have yet to start, I highly recommend heading over to the Mastering Monsterpocalypse page and hopping on the train. For those who are well on there way, a few of you have been asking about whether or not my initial promise to reward those who finish all 31 challenge will get some kind of reward. I will say to those who finish within a few weeks of day 31 going up, there will be some significant rewards.

I look forward to seeing how each of you approaches Morphers…

Zach