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Shapeshifter Showdown

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"It's a battle of wits. The players change themselves into different things in an attempt to destroy one another."

Merlin: N-now, Mim, no dragons, remember?!
Madam Mim: Did I say no purple dragons? DID I?

There's nothing quite like the awesome brought to bear when a hero goes into battle with — or as — a Shapeshifter, as they change forms and faces, grow weapons and limbs, turn into various animals or monsters, or use camouflage to hide and strike.

Know what's better? A fight between two Shapeshifters!

When two shapeshifters fight the only thing holding them back is their imagination and the versatility of their shape shifting abilities. Two similarly gifted shape shifters can play a deadly escalating game of Cat and Mouse and Dog and Cougar and Manticore and Phoenix until one is finally outwitted and defeated by a form they just can't counter. Indeed, this is pretty much the only way for a shapeshifter duel to end. When compared with a normal fight, and even ignoring the Healing Factor issue, using blunt force trauma to win seems passé and overly prosaic. The winner is not necessarily the one who manages to get the biggest form; wits are more useful than brute force.

Alternately, the combatants will turn each other into undesirable forms to try to get the upper hand. This is usually Played for Laughs.

This is a recurring theme in myths and folklore, and is at least Older Than Print; folklorists call it a "transformation chase". There are a number of Celtic ballads, in particular, where a suitor pursues his chosen bride through a series of forms before she consents to marry.

Transforming Mecha can often do a variant of this, but as they only have a set number of modes, they're allowed to pair up versatility with firepower.

Almost guaranteed to involve Shapeshifter Swan Song, One-Winged Angel, Shapeshifter Weapons, Shapeshifter Mashups and very often a variant of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors. Compare Battle in the Center of the Mind. Contrast Tricking the Shapeshifter.


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  • One LEGO advert features this with a Lego cat and mouse rebuilding themselves into advantageous forms.
  • This commercial for Tiger beer has two guys about to engage in an arm-wrestling match over the last can of the beer in question. But both guys change into different forms in an attempt to outmatch the other before the match can even start.
  • A Cartoon Network bumper featured a sequence of Beast Boy from Teen Titans (2003) dueling with the eponymous Ben 10; despite Ben having the advantage most of the fight, Beast Boy wins with a come-from-behind knockout—the sequence ends with the reveal that the duel is a video game match between Gwen (Beast Boy) and Raven (Ben).

  • Season 7 episode 35 of Happy Heroes has a battle between Kalo and Bael, the latter of which has taken over the former's spotlight. This is a sort of variant since both characters only morph their arms into other things during the fight.
  • Lamput: In "Shape Shift", the docs give themselves the ability to shapeshift and do their best to outmatch Lamput in his transformations. A downplayed example as no physical combat is involved.

    Anime & Manga 
  • A variation of this trope is played out in the Getter Robo series. In the Shin Getter manga and the Armageddon OVA, the Getter Team fights enemies with Getter Robo of their own, and win by luring their foes into rapidly switching between the Getter's forms, gaining advantage due to their skill and speed in completing their combinations faster.
  • The manga Parasyte averts this by having its shapeshifting Parasytes almost always using utilitarian bladelike shapes rather than imaginative ones, and simply aiming to kill the other Parasyte's host before exhausting its own.
  • Parodied in Yaiba when the titular hero fights the sorcerer Shiro Amakusa and uses the power of the Gold Orb to change form to match Amakusa's transformation: aside from turning in a (rather unimpressive) Dragon humanoid to fight the latter's tiger form, the duel soon degenerates to parodic levels (like, UFO vs Space Shuttle transformations).

    Comic Books 
  • A particularly dark chapter of Captain Britain: A Crooked World climaxes with a duel between villains Mad Jim Jaspers and the Fury: since Jaspers has the power to alter reality at will and the Fury is a robot that can adapt to virtually any situation, it's pretty extreme to say the least. In the end the Fury wins by shifting into a dimension where matter and reality don't exist, leaving Jaspers completely defenseless.
  • Another one of these involving Impossible Man takes place in Exiles, when they visit an Alternate Universe in which he can not only transform himself but also other things and went Ax-Crazy after an attempt of a supervillain to take control over him had Gone Horribly Wrong. It ends with shapeshifter Morph dueling Impy and winning by making him laugh so much the brainwashing breaks.
    • Morph gets into another one in mini-series X-Men: Die By The Sword, with Mad Jim Jaspers. Sadly, we don't see too much of it.
  • Fables has a couple of magical duels involving Frau Totenkinder (the witch from Hansel and Gretel) and other powerful opponents, and shapeshifting is one of the techniques the combatants employ.
  • In Green Lantern 80 Page Giant #2, Plas and Kyle amuse themselves while on monitor duty by pitting Plas's shapes against ring-conjurations. The winner is Martian Manhunter, who sneaks onto the Watchtower, and convinces them they're being attacked by two separate alien monsters.
  • JLA #88-89: Plastic Man v. Fernus (Martian Manhunter's Enemy Within).
  • The New Mutants became helpless bystanders when the Impossible Man dueled their member Warlock. As both characters are largely pacifistic, the bulk of the battle involved a "beefcake contest". Impy was ultimately undone by his one weakness: he can't change color.
  • In The Sandman (1989), Morpheus fought the demon Choronzon in a poetry battle of sorts, where each sought to become something capable of defeating the opponent's previous form. Choronzon tried to trump Morpheus by turning into entropy, the end of all things. Morpheus won by turning into hope.
  • Silverblade #5 features an epic shape-shifting duel between Blackfeather and Jonathan Lord. Blackfeather keeps changing animal forms in an effort to kill Lord, and Lord keeps turning into different film characters to counter him.
  • A shapeshifting duel took place between Impy and Mr Mxyztplk in the Intercontinuity Crossover Silver Surfer/Superman, in which they both took on the forms of heroes from their respective universes.
  • In Geoff Johns's Teen Titans issue "Beast Boys and Girls", a Mad Scientist type is revealed to have experimented on children and animals to discern the link between human and beast. These experiments changed him into a shapeshifter along the same lines as Beast Boy, calling himself the Zookeeper (his skin and animal forms are purple). Cue epic throwdown in the middle of downtown San Francisco.
    • In another issue, Beast Boy had to fight Madame Rouge's shapeshifting daughter. After a long string of transformations, during which she mocked him for being unable to choose a form she couldn't mimic, he settled for an old-fashioned knockout in his human form.
  • An erotic variation occurs in the XXXenophile story "Things That Go Bump in the Night".

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes, kinda — in the first test of the transmogrifier gun, Calvin asks Hobbes to turn him into a giant pterodactyl so he can terrorize the neighborhood, so Hobbes zaps him into a (scientifically accurate) 2-foot Pterodactylus. Calvin, having thought that Pterodactylus was one of the larger pterosaur species, is none too pleased with this outcome, so he spitefully zaps Hobbes into a duck. In due course, Hobbes zaps Calvin into a pig, so Calvin zaps Hobbes into a chimpanzee, so Hobbes zaps Calvin into a flower, so Calvin zaps Hobbes into a crocodile, so Hobbes zaps Calvin into an armadillo... cut to "much later", where an owl and a hobgoblin are sulking and wondering who is which. (This is one of the very few Sunday Strips to take place in the middle of an ongoing Story Arc.)
    Owl: Great. Just great. Which of us is Calvin and which is Hobbes now?
    Hobgoblin: Well, I hope Calvin is you, because his mom's going to have a fit when she sees this.
  • Zits, combines the above with Volleying Insults due to its love for illustrating metaphors: "Who are you calling a chicken? You pig!"

    Fan Works 
  • This fan comic for The Sandman (2022) parodies the Oldest Game. After Lucifer plays a boulder, Dream counters with paper, so Lucifer responds with scissors. The game turns into an endless loop of rock paper scissors; three hours in, Dream 'wins' by playing a bottomless pit instead of paper, and Lucifer automatically responds with scissors. While Lucifer protests that Dream cheated, Dream throws sand in their eyes and runs.
  • Aurora "Fauna" Andersen versus Black Lantern Garfield "Menagerie" Logan in DC Nation's version of Blackest Night.
  • The Pony POV Series has an example during the Final Battle of the Wedding Arc in the duel between Cadence and Queen Cadenza (Alicorn!Chrysalis), with both constantly shifting species to try and gain an advantage over the other.
  • Universe Falls: "Into the Bunker" naturally has a showdown between Amethyst and Experiment 210, but Amethyst's brute-force tactics prove to be no match for the more cunning Shapeshifter, especially when he resorts to more psychological tactics.

    Fairy Tales 
  • Frequently appearing motif in fairy tales, often as either between the magician and his pupil/servant (Aarne-Thompson type 325) or with a young man and woman (the magicians daughter) trying to hide from an enemy (Aarne-Thompson type 313). "Och" (Ukrainan folk tale) is an example of first type. "Jean the soldier and Eulalie, the Devil's daughter" a.k.a. "Belle Eulalie" (French) are an example of the second.
  • In the Fairy Tale Farmer Weathersky, after the father has reclaimed his son, Farmer Weathersky tries to reclaim him, but the boy runs off, shifting his shape to avoid being caught. Similarly in The Thief and His Master, Master And Pupil, The Magic Book and Maestro Lattantio and His Apprentice Dionigi.
  • At least one version of Puss in Boots also features a limited version of this trope. Via a spell, rather than an inborn ability, Puss defeats the ogre and wins his castle in a shapeshifting challenge rather than an outright fight. He does this by reverting to normal as the ogre changes into a mouse.

    Films — Animation 
  • Justice League: Doom has Martian Manhunter and Ma'alefa'ak have a fight near the end of the film with the two transforming into various alien animals.
  • In The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the sorceror and the witch have one of these for about a minute before resorting to fireballs.
  • Toward the end of The Emperor's New Groove, both Kuzco and Yzma have been unwillingly shape-shifted into animal form, and they fight over the potion which can turn one of them back to normal.
  • The Sword in the Stone, as the page quote and image indicate. Madame Mim and Merlin engage in a Wizard Duel that involves this. Merlin beats Mim's purple dragon form by turning into a germ and infecting her.
  • Wizards: After the death of their mother, Delia, her two sons fight a duel for supremacy. Both Avatar and Blackwolf are powerful wizards, and they reshape themselves a few times during the fight. Ultimately, Avatar triumphs, and he allows Blackwolf to slink away. Avatar would grow to oversee the fairy kingdom of Montagar, while Blackwolf broods in the wastelands of Scortch, building an army of mutants to conquer the elven territories.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Arabian Nights, the story of Aladdin involves a battle between the Genie of the Lamp and the Genie of the Ring: It starts with Mouse vs. Cat vs. Dog and goes from there. There was a part where the Genie of the Lamp turns into a fire-breathing dragon. To counter, the Genie of the Ring turns into a camel and spits in the dragon's mouth. In the end, Aladdin cheats and steals his opponent's lamp, gaining control of the Genie of the Lamp and winning by default.
  • The final battle in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation has Liu Kang and Shao Kahn engaging in one of these. Though they only use one form.
  • An early version of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors featured one of these between Freddy and Will.

  • In Animorphs, both the Animorphs and Visser Three have shapeshifting powers, so these are common enough. The most extreme example is probably in The Return, where Crayak pits Rachel and Visser Three against each other in a gladiatorial battle and they both strategically change forms constantly throughout the fight.
  • Piers Anthony used a variant in his Apprentice Adept series, in which two shapeshifters compete in a race rather than a head-on battle. The participants have a limited number of specified forms they can change into; it's how cleverly they can use these forms to circumvent obstacles along the course that determines which one wins.
  • Arabian Nights: Such a battle takes place between a princess and a jinni in "The Story of the Second Dervish."
  • Lloyd Alexander's The Arkadians features one of these in an in-story folktale. It's quite convincing.
  • Shapeshifting demons are common in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, being summoned by magicians to do their bidding. While they're rarely set against one another directly (the last time someone tried to order a demon to kill another one, it turned out they were friends, and the demon refused the order... destroying himself and quite a bit of his surroundings as a side effect), fights are still fairly common as a side effect of whatever magician's bidding they're all trying to do, during which plenty of shapeshifting goes on. Bartimaeus notes that unintelligent spirits will habitually stick to one particular form (typically one that's centuries out of date) which can be detrimental in battle, whereas a smart one will change form frequently to adapt to their situation. He demonstrates this in his final fight with the djinni Jabor - Jabor prefers the form of a large jackal headed man, and when he strays too close to an interdimensional rift and is sucked in he doesn't think to change his shape, while Bartimaeus inwardly observes that any spirit with half a brain could have shrunk into something with less mass like a gnat in order to fight free and save himself.
  • In Joe Haldeman's novel Camouflage, the showdown between the only two aliens on earth comes into fruition when Jack a.k.a. the chameleon decides to follow his natural killing impulse and faces Rae/ Sharon / Jimmy a.k.a. the changeling. Rae's ruses include transforming her severed arm in a monster with metal nails, knuckles as eyes, and centipede-like legs; while Jack transformed in a more brute figure: a neanderthal. Since both of them are pretty much immortal the confrontation gets unabashedly gory, it finishes rather unexpectedly though when the artifact (Rae's partner in action a.k.a her flying sauce) lunges over the chameleon, jailing and freezing him for further examination in their home planet.
  • Cleric Quintet has one of these, though it's more a Battle in the Center of the Mind. A cursed object used to possess people, is fighting Cadderly's efforts to destroy it. Good thing he's strong-willed.
  • Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny has a duel between shapechanging gods Horus and Thoth. Instead of expected shapeshifting Thoth keeps teleporting them, effectively changing the environment to keep Horus neutralized but mostly unharmed. Horus tries to grow extra arms faster than they get disabled/get burned/eat themselves.
    • The climactic battle between Set (better known as Wakim) and The Thing That Cries In The Night is essentially a superwarrior with a Morph Weapon against a planet-sized shapeshifter. No matter what The Thing becomes, Set finds the form that can wound it some more.
  • Discworld:
  • In The Doomspell By Cliff McNish, shifting forms rapidly in an attempt to outwit each other is a part of the epic battle between Rachel and Dragwena.
  • In the climax of Dora Wilk Series' second book, Loki and Badb fight this way, each trying to outwit another. One of them only manages to gain an edge over another only when Faoilinara, goddess of those who turn into wolves, forces wolf form — in which Badb is much more proficient than Loki — on both of them.
  • The Dresden Files. Near the end of Turn Coat, Injun Joe and the Skinwalker have one of these. And it is awesome.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series:
    • It is mentioned in a backstory conversation in Reserved for the Catthe Cat of the title is actually the heroine's father, trapped in cat shape as a result of this duel.
    • Between the heroine and villain of The Gates of Sleep. The Gates, the heroine makes a mental note of studying 'The Twa Magicians' (see the Music section below for details).
  • In Fengshen Yanyi, near the end of the novel the heroes are confronted by the seven evil monsters of Baishan, a gang of animals turned monster. To defeat three of them, Yang Jian (a young Erlang Shen) uses his power of transformation to turn himself into an animal suitable for subduing the opponent: he turns into a winged, sharp-pinced centipede to kill Chang Hao (a snake monster), then into a large rooster to kill Wu Long (a centipede monster) and finally into a tiger to maul Yang Xian (an ibex monster).
  • A "friendly" version of this crops up early in the Hagwood series, when Terser Gibble and Finnen Lufkin agree to a demonstration of their wergling powers just to prove which of them is better, the first contestant to falter being the loser. However, as Finnen starts winning, Gibble becomes increasingly less friendly - to the point that he actually transforms into a snake and almost appears ready to kill his opponent. In the end, though, Finnen wins.
  • In the short story "Hardshell" by Dean Koontz (published in Strange Highways), the climax reveals to the reader that the titular detective and the killer that he's tracking down are both alien shapeshifters. They engage in a shapeshifting duel, and it turns out that the criminal is younger and less experienced. Hardshell simply envelops it in an impervious shell and suffocates it, since they still need oxygen.
  • Howl and the Witch of the Waste have one in Howl's Moving Castle.
  • Ran and Eln get into this in Doris Egan's Ivory trilogy. The fight finishes when Theodora hops off the sidelines and just flat out stabs Eln.
  • One ending in the Gamebook King's Quest (1984) has two wizards doing this by turning themselves into Dungeons & Dragons monsters.
  • Jane Yellowrock fights an evil Skin Walker who devoured the liver of its prey and was capable of taking on a vampire form along with the form of anything else it ate.
  • Journey to the West:
    • Early in the story, Sun Wukong the Monkey King engages in such with the god Erlang. However, Erlang's magical third eye gives him an advantage, as no matter what form Wukong takes, Erlang can see through the disguise and transform into an appropriate predator. Wukong tries to make a last escape by disguising himself as a temple, but Erlang catches him and ultimately brings the Monkey King to Heaven for trial.
    • During the journey itself, Sun Wukong engages in another such battle against the Bull Demon King. It climaxes with the Bull Demon King turning into his true form, a colossal white bull, and Wukong making himself gigantic in turn. The ensuing Behemoth Battle proves so intense that the gods have to intervene and help Sun Wukong subdue the Bull Demon King for good.
  • In Krabat, in a dream. Krabat as a bird is hunted by the evil master (also polymorphed). Krabat sees a well, turns into a fish — but now he's caught in the well. Fortunately, the Kantorka is there to take him out. He shapechanges into a golden ring on her finger. Then suddenly a one-eyed nobleman appears. Krabat turns into one grain, which Kantorka throws on the ground. The master turns into a rooster — but Krabat is faster, turns into a fox and bites him dead. The dream sequence is a reference to the original tale Preussler's novel is based on; the shapeshifter duel there is how Krabat kills the Master off for real.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor has a Mind Screw-y sort of mind battle at the end in which the villain cuts straight to the ultimate form, a supermassive black hole. He swallows Luke without an effort... and Luke becomes a white fountain, which frees the Big Bad's minions, which has the side effect of killing the villain.
    • During Galaxy of Fear, the Big Bad of the first six books and Hoole, the protagonists' uncle, are both shapeshifting Shi'ido. Regrettably, they never actually fight; Hoole takes on different forms for combat, but Gog is more inclined to infiltration. But in Clones, well, there is an evil Hoole clone.
      The two Hooles surged toward one another, but they moved so quickly that Tash could hardly follow. Her uncle shifted into the shape of a many-horned lizard, while the other Hoole transformed into some sort of giant snake. But by the time they clashed, each of them had morphed two or three more times, until the two combatants were a quivering mass of shrieking, shape-changing flesh.
      Tash was awestruck. She had never seen her uncle so enraged, nor had she ever seen two Shi'ido fight. No wonder Hoole always remains so calm, she thought.
  • The Magicians climaxes with a magical battle between Alice and the Beast, which eventually diverges into this trope: as the classically-trained Weak, but Skilled Brakebills graduate, Alice transforms into a lion, an anaconda, a bear, a giant scorpion and a dragon while fighting him; the Beast, being an Unskilled, but Strong Psychopathic Manchild, just uses his magic to make himself progressively bigger and stronger until he's at eye-level with Alice's dragon form. Alice wins by going full-blown One-Winged Angel and fatally transforming herself into a Niffin.
  • A duel between the heads of the Feuding Families in The Magicians of Caprona takes this form.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: This is how Villain Protagonist Catherine fights against the drow goddess Sve Noc for the control over Night. By pitting her will against Sve Noc's, she first turns herself into a needle when Sve Noc attempts to bury her in a sea of her might, then into a pebble. As the goddess changes her will to a chisel, Catherine turns into wind, and when Sve Noc counters by becoming a storm, she turns into smoke. The pattern repeats itself until Catherine manages to draw blood.
  • The Ursula K Leguin short story The Rule of Names climaxes in a shape-shifting duel between two wizards, one of which turns out to be a dragon in disguise.
  • A Polish national epic Sir Thaddeus says common folk attributes this kind of powers to Napoléon Bonaparte and Aleksandr Suvorov, who were supposed to fight in a duel like that in the middle of a battle.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's novel Star Shadow, the main character has a symbiotic alien creature in him that grants him limited shapeshifting abilities. During a fight with a Human Alien, one of his hands turns into a claw. Seeing this, his opponent reveals that he is a "metamorph" and turns into a "scaly, alien creature." The protagonist wins by allowing the enemy to bite him, after turning his blood into poison.
  • As quoted above, Merlin and Madam Mim in The Sword in the Stone, both the book and the Disney version. In both versions, Merlin wins by becoming an infectious bacterium, though in the Disney version Mim is merely bedridden instead of killed. It's strongly implied that this is the standard format for a "Wizard's Duel".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 1998 TVB live-action adaptation of Journey to the West (1996), titled Journey to the West 2, have the battle between Sun Wukong the Monkey King against his direct Evil Counterpart, the Long Armed-Ape Monkey, both of them dueling with a myriad of shapeshifting abilities (thanks to some 90s' CG-effects), firstly turning into animals, and then sentient flying weapons, and culminating with the Long Armed-Ape turning into a dragon to swallow Wukong, which Wukong retaliates by turning into a fly and buzzing out his opponent's nostrils.
  • The Sandman (2022), "A Hope in Hell": The Oldest Game, which Morpheus plays against Lucifer to get his helm of office back, is a semi-metaphorical version of this. They themselves don't actually transform, but they physically affect each other as if they had. It also allows for more abstract 'shapes': they start small and concrete, with various kinds of animals, then escalate to the point where Morpheus trumps Lucifer's supernova with an entire universe, capable of encompassing any threat, and Lucifer retaliates with entropy itself, which will eventually defeat even an entire universe. Morpheus still wins:
    Morpheus: I am Hope. Well, Lightbringer...? What is it that kills Hope?
  • Star Trek:
    • Subverted in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where Odo and another changeling fight conventionally at first and then basically start merging into each other and trying to take control over the other's body. The fight involves no forms other than the humanoid ones they start as and their natural liquid-states.
    • Played straight in Peter David's Expanded Universe novel, The Siege. David even mentions this in the introduction, noting that he wasn't restrained by a live-action TV show's budget.

  • From the middle to the end, Tori Amos's "The Chase" is a transformation chase between Tori trying not to be killed by Anabelle (representing the spirit of the Hunter). It doesn't take long, and it doesn't really end well...
    Anabelle: Use your head or you'll be dead.
  • ASPs Verwandlungen I — III is about a Shape Shifting Battle between Literature/{Krabat}} and his master. It ends when the master kills Krabats Loved One.
  • Child Ballad #44 ("The Two Magicians") is all about this, but with "duel" replaced by "attempted rape". Best performed by British folk-rockers Steeleye Span on their Now We Are Six album. Some interpret the ballad as being about persistent courtship rather than rape, so it may be a case of Best Her to Bed Her. Love and courtship represented as some kind of hunt/ contest/ Battle of the Sexes is actually not an uncommon motif in old works.
  • The French variant of "The Two Magicians" is the folk song "Chanson Des Métamorphoses", except its not explicitly about "gaining the maidenhead" but rather about "gaining the lady's favor", making the shape-shifting duel a metaphor for courtship. In at least one version the lady eventually tells the suitor he's gained her heart. [1],[2]
  • The Magnetic Fields' tribute song to Robert Burns, "Wi Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget," from 69 Love Songs, features one of these between a woman and her prospective suitor. It ends with him turning into God, and her winning by not believing in him.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Korean Mythology, Haemosu the sun god and Habaek the river god fights in this way until the latter admits defeat.. and acknowledges him as his son-in-law. This seems to be standard fighting method for gods and demigods, since King Kim-suro and Seok-talhae also fought this way.
  • In the Welsh myth of Taliesin's legendary origin, Ceridwen creates a magical potion to bestow the gift of awen (poetic inspiration and wisdom) upon her unlucky son, Morfran. However, the mixture spills on the boy-servant Gwion Bach while he is maintaining the cauldron, granting him the gifts instead. He repeatedly shapeshifts into different forms (a hare, fish and wren) to escape Ceridwen's wrath, but she counters each with her own transformations (greyhound, otter, hawk). He eventually becomes a grain of wheat, which she eats as a hen. This makes her pregnant, but he is too beautiful at birth to kill, so she instead abandons him to the sea in either a bag or a coracle. He is renamed Taliesin by the man who rescues and raises him, and becomes a great bard from this gift.
  • Older Than Print Arabian Nights examples:
    • This happens in a crazy sequence during the second "Tale of the Kalandar Prince."
    • Another one is in "A Tale of Porter and Girls" — princess duels with Irfrit, resulting in both of them turning into fire and dying.
  • A Kenyan story found in this book involves a boy who uses shapeshifting to con people by turning himself into a bull and letting himself be sold, then running away. Eventually he tries it on someone who turns out to be a more experienced shapeshifter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A Dragon article from the days of 1st Edition AD&D described how druids would fight duels for the chance to advance to their class's upper levels. It recommended that attaining the highest level should mean winning a Shapeshifter Showdown against the incumbent Grand Druid.
  • Exalted: When you play a Lunar and your nemesis of the day is someone from the Wyld, this is bound to happen. And the Lunars do fight The Fair Folk on regular basis.
  • GURPS: Both GURPS Arabian Nights and GURPS Celtic Myth have discussions of the trope in relation to the respective mythologies, and how to handle it in games. The GURPS-based Discworld Roleplaying Game has rules for "Flashy Duelling in Magic" with the duels appearing to be shapeshifter showdowns.
  • Shadowrun. An article in Shadowland magazine #5 on shapechanging mentions the "Shapshifter's Duel", where two wizards with shapechanging spells would do this.
  • Fat Messiah Games's Shape Shifters: The Game of Transforming Wizards is entirely about this trope, with a large "tree of life" diagram showing the available shapes and the transitions between them, as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses.

    Video Games 
  • The "Lost In Dreams" quest of Dragon Age: Origins ends with a battle against the sloth demon that's trapped you in the Fade; over the course of the boss fight, the demon takes no less than four different shapes; however, as you've acquired the ability to shapeshift in dreams over the course of this quest, it's entirely possible for you to use your own hard-won forms to counter his advantages - though not an absolutely necessary method of play in this case.
  • In King's Quest V, King Graham and Mordack have a shapeshifting duel in which Graham has to counter each of Mordack's forms with a shape of his own that can effectively counter his opponent's strengths. Eventually Mordack turns into a Ring of Fire, and Graham summons a raincloud, extinguishing him. Not that Graham is a shapeshifter, mind you. He just conveniently learns the four required spells (and only those four) just before recharging his wand with a slice of rotten cheese.
  • Mortal Kombat: Shang Tsung vs. Shang Tsung kombats quickly degenerate into the two kombatants shapeshifting into other characters and beating the living daylights out of each other with copied moves.
  • While you aren't physically transforming, this is actually a major part of the newer Persona games. Each Persona has specific strengths and weaknesses, and the main character can shift through Personae to exploit his enemy's weaknesses while protecting his own. Certain boss fights (most obviously the Nyx Avatar fight from Persona 3, but also the Superboss from each game) involve shifting between Personae (in some cases on a turn by turn basis) to counter your opponent's attacks. Through clever manipulation of Personae strengths and weaknesses, you can take very little damage during a fight. (Except of course, when fighting a Superboss, as attempting to use a Persona with a "Null" or "Absorb" effect will result in a One-Hit Kill).
  • In Pokémon, battles between two Ditto are tiresome. A Ditto is a blob-like Pokémon whose only attack is Transform. This allows it to shift into any opponent's form and use their attacks and stats for the duration of a battle. Catch is, it can only change into a copy of whatever opponent it is currently facing. One can fill in the rest.
    • In fact, if the battle is between two trainers who only have Dittos, the battle will never end (unless one Ditto is holding a harmful item). Normally, if two Pokemon are incapable of damaging each other, all you have to do is wait for them to run out of Power Points (using a move uses up 1 PP for that move, and can be replenished for free at a Pokemon Center), and then they will start using Struggle (which damages both Pokemon). But when Transform is used, the PP of all the copied moves is set to 5. Thus, using Transform on a Ditto will replenish your Ditto's PP, preventing either Ditto from using Struggle. And since you can't run from Trainer battles, you have to reset the game. (Thankfully, this was fixed in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, as it is now impossible to transform into a transformed Pokémon.)
  • There are 3 of these in Altered Beast (2005), first is a flashback sequence showing a fight between Luke and Brad shown upon getting the Minotaur form, the second is an actual playable fight against Brad and the third is against Anastasia
  • In the first Simon the Sorcerer game, once you learn some actual spells, you can challenge the Witch to one, complete with a Shout-Out to The Sword in the Stone. It functions as a game of Rock–Paper–Scissors: snake beats cat, cat beats mongoose, and mongoose beats snake. And mouse enables you to escape through a hole in the wall when the Witch turns herself into a dragon.
  • Skullgirls: Double vs Double battles ultimately feature this in spades, as the shapeshifter naturally changes to mimic one of the other characters with every single attack.
  • This can sometimes happen during Changeling mode on Space Station 13. As demonstrated masterfully during this episode of Razage's LP.
  • In World of Warcraft, druids of the opposing factions can do this in PVP. Since they can turn into bears with high defense, speedy cheetahs and seals (for water travel), damage-over-time-based big cats, and the occasional spellcasting moonkin, and they can all go back to caster form to heal themselves, you can occasionally have a spat with a single other druid that goes on for a very long time. These eventually turn into simply trying to chase the other one down and root them or making them exhaust their mana supply.
  • In one scene in Ween: The Prophecy the hero has to get past a shapeshifting dragon. The hero knows several forms, but the dragon always takes a form stronger than the hero's. The solution is: become a worm to make him a wasp, catch him with a wasp trap, use outside help to dispose of the trap.

    Web Animation 
  • Animator vs. Animation: In Episode 21 of the AvM Shorts, Both Blue and the witch comes to a head with a one-on-one battle between each other constantly using potions to shapeshift into various mobs.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of The Batman, "Clayfaces", invokes this trope when the original, reformed Clayface (Ethan Bennett) tries to help Batman stop the new homicidal Clayface (Basil Karlo).
  • One episode of Ben 10: Alien Force has Ben go up against Albedo, a former apprentice of Azmuth who had made a copy of the Omnitrix. Their fight involved just about all of Ben's forms between them. (Except Alien X, naturally).
  • The original pilot for Dexter's Laboratory (also known as "Changes") had Dexter and Dee Dee zapping each other into various improbable animal forms with a remote Dexter had invented, ending with Dexter and Dee Dee stuck in each other's forms.
    Dee Dee: [in Dexter's body] Last one downstairs is an ugly, stinky, slimy spider!
    Dexter: [in Dee Dee's body] Why not? I've been everything else today...
  • A variation appears in DuckTales (1987) where Magica DeSpell had a bag of powder that turns whatever the powder is sprinkled on to whatever the person (well, Funny Animal, but we digress) wants. The climax is Huey and the Beagle Boys fighting over the powder and transforming themselves and each other with it. It was awesome.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: The episode "Apartnership" has Cosmo and Wanda's marriage on the rocks, and they have a "magic fight" at one point in which involves turning each other into undesirable forms. The end result has Timmy transformed into a toilet.
  • In Il était une fois... l'Espace (Once Upon a Time... Space), Psi is prisoner of the Humanoids, and they try to interrogate her for information. To this end, they bring a Cassiopeian telepath who tries to read her mind, but Psi's own Psychic Powers proves to be a match. The ensuing Battle in the Center of the Mind takes the form of a Shape-Shifter Showdown, the telepath first taking the shape of a giant rat in her mind, which she counters by turning into a cat. The caught rat then turn into a snake, and Psi counters with a coyote, etc. This quickly escalates to a battle between Kaiju-like monsters and dinosaurs.
  • Justice League:
    • The Martian Manhunter vs. Clayface. Eventually, the Martian wins through cleverness, shifting into Clayface's natural form, tricking Killer Frost into freezing the real Clayface (in the form of Martian Manhunter) solid before he could protest, and waiting until a critical moment to reveal the trick.
    • Justice League members faced off against their evil counterparts — both Martians turned into long, serpenty things and... wrestled.
    • Justice League members faced off against their robotic duplicates of their evil counterparts. It's even more minimalist than last time, just a couple of seconds of grappling hand-to-hand in their regular forms.
    • Martian Manhunter finally gets a much better one in Justice League: Doom in his fight with Ma'alefa'ak.
  • In the "Whimzee Come Home" episode of the My Little Pony 'n Friends side-series "Moondreamers", Whimzee has one similar to the "Sword in the Stone" example against the Queen of Imagination, but with magic amulets.
  • A few episodes of Sabrina: The Animated Series had Hilda and Zelda fighting by turning one another into undesirable forms, with one fight ending with Hilda as a gingerbread cookie and Zelda as a fat child (presumably Hansel). Yeah...
  • A shifting wrestling match occurred in Static Shock between Rubberband Man and Ebon.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), Beast Boy is pitted against an evil version of himself in the fourth season finale. Granted, a fair bit of it is offscreen, but the bits that they do show are really cool, especially when Evil!Beast Boy turns into an elephant, so Beast Boy turns into a mouse to frighten him. Played with in that neither Beast Boy is able to overcome the other, leaving this Shapeshifter Showdown a draw. However, none of the Titans are able to beat their own Enemy Without, so they switch who they're fighting, and it's Cyborg who defeats Evil!Beast Boy via No-Sell. Cyborg always knew he could beat Beast Boy (but of course, Starfire can beat Cyborg, and Beast Boy can beat Starfire).
    • Also done in Teen Titans Go! between Beast Boy and... well, Beast Boy through the use of the Worlogog. They first start mimicking each other before 2013 Beast Boy changes into a kitten to invoke Cuteness Overload on 2003 Beast Boy and then knocks him out of the arena.
  • Most fights between Transformers involve multiple shifts in and out of robot form. Justified, since their robot forms are better for fighting, but their disguise forms are more suited for transportation. Most fights were had while one side was running away from the other, or while they were vying for control of some MacGuffin.
  • In Walter Melon, when Melon and Bitterbug are filling in for Lancelot and Arthur respectively, Merlin uses them to do this.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Transformation Chase


Blue vs. The Witch

Being masters of alchemy, both Blue and the witch battle each other with their potions, using them to shapeshift into various animals and monsters.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShapeshifterShowdown

Media sources: