My Take On Chord Of Calling In Standard

Sam has a lot of experience playing Chord of Calling in Standard, and he thinks the amount of attention it’s gotten has barely scratched the surface of what it makes possible now even in a firmly-entrenched Standard metagame.

I’ve read a suggestion that Chord of Calling won’t be that big of a deal in Standard… that it’s good in Modern, but maybe that’s because of specific combos that exist, and that it wasn’t that good in Standard the first time around. Oh, really? What do you know about Chord of Calling in Standard, unnamed critic? Let me tell you about Chord of Calling in Standard.

That Standard format was before I’d really made a name for myself, but not before I was playing competitively. My first Pro Tour was Honolulu when Guildpact came out, and shortly after that Pro Tour, I went undefeated in Regionals (a huge tournament that used to exist that qualified for Nationals) with a GWB Chord of Calling deck and played the same deck at US Nationals in 2006. I only played two copies of Chord of Calling because I could find it pretty effectively with Sensei’s Diving Top and other ways to shuffle my deck, and the card was weak against counterspells (especially Remand in particular), which I think was the main thing keeping the card in check in Standard… but that doesn’t really exist now.

I think there’s a good chance that Chord of Calling will be great in Standard. The fact that there’s nothing remotely like Remand this time is huge, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The decks that were best against my Chord of Calling deck were a U/R land destruction deck (Magnivore) and a different U/R land destruction deck, U/R Tron with Wildfire. These kinds of things don’t exist in Standard. The game is about creatures even more now than it was then, and the creatures are a lot better. The toolboxes we can build with the creatures in Standard now are far greater than they were then. But I can only get so far purely on general theory and broad statements, let’s look at some ways we might be able to use Chord of Calling in Standard once M15 comes out.

First, Chord of Calling is great in green decks that can make a ton of mana (like Mono-Green Devotion). It’s a great mana sink because it can still do something when you don’t draw Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and thus can’t just go huge, and better yet it’s an instant. I think it would be best suited to the green devotion decks that use Eidolon of Blossoms. Eidolon of Blossoms can be such a central part of a powerful engine that you want to play as many copies as possible, and Chord of Calling is way to have access to it more often. Moreover, it’s much easier to draw two cards off playing one if you can do something like play an Eidolon of Blossoms and respond to them killing it by Chording for another one – obviously more of a late-game play. We can also wait until the opponent taps out, Chord for Eidolon of Blossoms at the end of their turn, and then “go off” on our next turn.

Better still, Constellation offers us something of a toolbox. I’m imagining a black splash for Doomwake Giant, but there will be times when we’d want Nylea, God of the Hunt, or Pharika, God of Afflicition. We could realistically focus on constellation more than on devotion to green, and then we could take advantage of Brain Maggot, which is really the perfect card to use with convoke – it comes down early, disrupts the opponent, and then you want it to stay in play, but it doesn’t have much better to do than cast spells with Convoke. Satyr Wayfinder, incidentally, is another creature like that, but it’s a little harder to imagine wanting that and Chord of Calling in the same deck because Satyr Wayfinder decks are often concerned with their creature density.

More Constellation focus:

Of course, Eidolon of Blossoms isn’t the only creature I’m interested in finding with Chord of Calling. In fact, truth be told, I’m a little worried about walking into Reclamation Sage like that. What about Prime Speaker Zegana? We haven’t seen that card around much lately. One of the great things about Chord of Calling is that it means you don’t actually have to have the mana to cast the creature you’re finding. As long as we have nine total permanents spread across both creatures and lands, we don’t need six lands. Prime Speaker Zegana is best when we have a board full of creatures anyway.

There are a lot of different ways to build Prime Speaker Zegana + Chord of Calling decks. I’m going to start with the most fun one. I want to go big with Evolve.

The basic plan with this deck is to lead with some little creatures that evolve, and use them while they’re small to cast Chord of Calling, making them bigger – or just keep playing creatures you’ve drawn naturally until Gyre Sage allows you to cast a big Chord of Calling for a big Prime Speaker Zegana, then overload Cyclonic Rift and attack for the win.

Courser of Kruphix isn’t just a great card, it’s also very good at evolving our creatures. Chord of Calling for Hornet’s Nest in combat is cute, but it’s definitely at its cutest with Master Biomancer in play. Vorel has an incredibly powerful ability that we never see used because it’s kind of slow for Constructed and requires things to go right, but having the ability to find him any time the board is stalled against a deck without a lot of removal allows you to punch through the stall pretty reliably.

Another deck that’s absolutely perfect for Chord of Calling is Slivers. When you can instantly grant a new ability to all of your creatures, that’s seriously hard to play around.

The negative interaction between Mutavault and Sliver Hivelord is frustrating. Sliver Hivelord is incredible, and one of the bigger payoffs for being Slivers, but Mutavault is amazing with Slivers as well. My solution was to play one Mutavault in the maindeck, because I think the upside of being able to animate a Sliver-land is worth potentially playing Sliver Hivelord a turn later, but drawing more than one seems like it could be a real problem. I have the others in the sideboard for places where manlands are important, like against control. Figuring out the actual lands for the deck is really tricky. I erred toward painlands because I think I don’t want to play my lands tapped often. Striking Sliver is awkward because I want to be able to play it on turn one but don’t really want to play Mana Confluence as my first land, and I don’t have that many ways to use red mana. I could play a lot of Breeding Pools, the best shockland, but I figured it would be better to just make all of my lands tap for either blue or green so that I wouldn’t draw any useless lands that don’t really cast anything except Sliver Hivelord, especially since I don’t want to have three U/G duals in play.

As for the actual Sliver mix, I prioritized cheap Slivers and figured I’d rely on Chord of Calling and Sliver Hivelord to take it from there, with maximum Diffusion Slivers over other early Slivers because I think the most important thing is just keeping my guys in play. It’s pretty hard to fault wanting any random one-of Sliver in here, and I might have missed a nice one.

Another approach is to focus on the Convoke element and build a token deck that’s trying to get as many creatures into play as quickly as possible to cast spells with Convoke. It’s nice that Chord of Calling doesn’t really care about the creature density of your deck as long as it has a few good targets. Unfortunately, Spirit Bonds, a great token maker, isn’t the same way – and it needs you to have a significant number of creatures in your deck. If there were more creatures that made tokens in Standard, that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but as it is, it can be hard to use Spirit Bonds in a dedicated token deck.

This deck’s plan is to use Dictate of Heliod and Sunblade Elf to make its creatures huge after making a lot of tokens. I’m not sure how good Triplicate Spirits or Nissa’s Expedition are in practice. There was some temptation to build the deck around turn-two Raise the Alarm (or turn-one creature, turn-two creature), turn three Nissa’s Expedition, turn four Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, but I’m not even sure that that curve is all that great.

Chord of Calling is honestly one of the most versatile cards in Magic’s history. It’s an instant with a variable cost that can be paid in variable ways and that generates a variable effect. Once you’ve found a shell that can use Chord of Calling well, the nature of Chord of Calling makes the decklist itself more fluid and opens up options by rewarding you for playing more narrow cards. I believe I’ve only scratched the surface of what Chord of Calling can do in Standard, and my purpose has been to get you thinking about how broad its applications are and where you might want to use it for rather than to provide the best possible Chord of Calling deck, which I can’t possibly know yet.

This isn’t just a card to watch. It’s a card to explore.