While I was away for the week, the internet decided Chord of Calling was in fact a Good Card™ and multiple articles have been written on the subject. As a result, instead of a full piece on the subject, this will simply be a spotlight review of two particular places I think the card can immediately make an impact.
Obviously the first place to try Chord of Calling is in the devotion decks, which not only have a mana engine and lots of creatures, but also have the most room for potential splashes without hamstringing your early mana. There are three main questions I have when building a deck to take advantage of Chord:
2) Do I want to include enchantment creatures and Eidolon of Blossoms?
3) Do I want to splash a color?
To the first question, clearly the most explosive build is going to involve Nykthos, simply because of the sheer amount of mana you can make. Of the best decks though, at least half of them are focused on killing your creatures, making it an unreliable engine. So from that perspective, I’m not too interested in jamming a card that makes it even softer to mass removal or infinite spot removal. If you have no such fear though, it does make for some interesting opportunities.
Burning-Tree Emissary was not the best attacker to play, but it does help with the 2-drop issue the deck has. While Sylvan Caryatid is my favorite of the 2-drops, you definitely want another one powers up devotion. While I prefer Scavenging Ooze in slower builds, if we want to be explosive we may as well go all the way.
As for the enchantment creature sets, there aren’t a ton of options. Eidolon of Blossoms and Courser of Kruphix are the only two slams available to green, with Boon Satyr a distant 3rd place. Mana Bloom has been used to limited success, but I still find it hard to believe that’s good enough. So Eidolon of Blossoms isn’t some free roll, in much the same way you don’t slam four BTE into the deck. If you can Chord into one with another in play, you basically get to draw your deck though. So there’s some sweet chains to set up that don’t really work in other versions of the deck. if you add a color it gets even more interesting.
Here’s a sample build to show you what I’m working with.
As Reid Duke pointed out, playing GU gives you access to a few sweet gold cards and access to Kiora’s Follower, which is one of the better 2-drops available. Being able to untap Nykthos or a creature in the appropriate matchup is a nice bonus from your 2-drop. My take is a little less tutor-heavy and instead tries to take advantage of Nissa, a card I love with Chord of Calling.
I’m a big fan of adding a color to these decks, especially now that enemy pain lands are available so you don’t rely heavily on Mana Confluence. One of the other options that people love is going Golgari, which gives you access to some fun options like Doomwake Giant and Shadowborn Demon, though I haven’t seen nearly enough Golgari Charms in those decks.
Really it’s a choose-your-own adventure as far as splashes go, everything brings something to the table and all of them are likely better than sticking with mono-green unless you want to have Nykthos and Mutavault. I tend to prefer the black and blue splashes if only because they tend to perform better against Verdict. Although blue’s solution is simply drawing more big monsters to throw at the problem while black can essentially negate a wrath effect entirely.
By far the biggest issue is that none of these takes can solve the wrong-half disease the deck has. If you only draw one early game accelerator in a decent opener and it dies, you’ll be two to three turns behind the opponent unless you get lucky and hit your first five land drops. Flooding isn’t quite as bad now thanks to Nissa and Chord, however the alternative is just soul crushing and a reasonable excuse not to touch this type of deck.
Still none of these really use Chord of Calling as a centerpiece, instead it’s just a nice thing to throw in. Let’s look at a deck that tries to make Chord a key piece, like the classic Arcanis deck from 1975.
This is a throwback to the Bant Flash deck that was popular for about 5 minutes when Restoration Angel was legal. Being able to do a lot of obnoxious things at instant speed is fun, though I’m sure this build needs a bit more removal to be viable. For a test build, it’s just a reminder that slapping the Caryatid/Courser combo gives you some viability against anything with creatures. Oh, and you haven’t lived until you’ve Chorded up a Hornet Nest before blockers. Not the bees… THE BEEEEEES! Plus it let’s you do something with all of those sweet Voice of Resurgences you haven’t been able to use outside of Modern.
Against other green decks you can simply go bigger between planeswalkers, Revelation, Verdict out of the board, and even the Trostani token engine. For black decks while you lack efficiency, you do have a lot of power cards to throw at the problem and post-board have a billion answers to Pack Rat. Mono-U is probably unbeatable game one and I can’t imagine anything changing that, so there’s a dagger, at least Tidebinder Mage and Lifebane Zombie will be leaving in three months.
Really the biggest problem I’ve had with Chord of Calling is that every fresh deck lacks the polish of the already-existing archetypes. All of them have power out the wazoo and then just end up too clunky. This deck feels perfect for a raw format built around smashing things into one another instead one where MBC picks your resources apart and Mono-U ignores your creatures with Thassa.
Maybe this just isn’t a world where Chord of Calling is strong enough to help shape the green decks of the format. Maybe toolbox plans are just too slow compared to their Modern and Legacy counterparts. I really don’t want to live in that world, so I’ll keep bashing my head at it.
Or maybe I’ll just play four Nissa and attack everyone to death. Could go either way!
Green Devotion decks made themselves known at the first SCG Open following Magic 2015. Charley Murdock’s GDC ended up finishing highest at 9th, so let’s start there.
This deck does not mess around and just wants to make a million mana to power out a massive Genesis Hydra or a Hornet Queen. Against Verdict decks it’s still likely a dog, but it has enough giant guys that just throwing them out turn after turn has a real shot of overwhelming them. Mono-Black fares a bit better since they can take out the early mana producers and the lack of Caryatid means everything is fair game. There will also be times where you just get your relevant threat Thoughtseized and lose to Pack Rat or Lifebane Zombie beatdown.
But as far as baselines go this looks like a solid start and takes advantage of every major gain from Magic 2015. After watching Nissa do all kinds of work this weekend I’d want a 3rd one in the main deck and potentially the 4th in the board, but I’m open to just jamming some Scuttling Doom Engine alongside Mistcutter Hydra. The singleton Phyrexian Revoker strikes me as cute rather than effective, but that’s true of most Chord of Calling targets.
I’d step back and ask if just goldfishing is what we want to be doing as every time I see the deck, it’s either absolutely crushing or floundering around wishing it could cast spells. I feel like a happy medium may be to focus more heavily on the 4s and 5s a la Jund Monsters and then keep a pair of Genesis Hydra and a Hornet Queen for some heavy lifting off Nykthos draws. GW may also be a more interesting direction if the deck wants to become more threat dense as Andrew Boswell showcased how powerful just jamming a bunch of cheap 3/3 and 4/4 critters could be.
We’ll see at Pro Tour Magic 2015 in a scant few weeks whether or not it’ll have a lasting impact on the metagame, because right now it’s looking like we’ll end with the same trifecta we’ve had for months on end. Hopefully someone makes a refined enough build to settle up with the big boys.