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This time we shall talk about a very curious mechanic in terms of rules, which was first introduced in the old Ravnica and was related to Selesnya Conclave. Convoke allows casting spells for lesser amount of mana, sometimes without using mana at all. We shall review Chord of Calling as example, which has returned to us in Magic 2015.

Translated by Witas Spasovski

Chord of Calling

First of all, it is necessary to review the rule changes that occured when Magic2014 was released.


702.50a. Convoke is a static ability that functions while the spell with convoke is on the stack. “Convoke” means “For each colored mana in this spell's total cost, you may tap an untapped creature of that color you control rather than pay that mana. For each generic mana in this spell's total cost, you may tap an untapped creature you control rather than pay that mana.” The convoke ability isn't an additional or alternative cost and applies only after the total cost of the spell with convoke is determined.

Example: Heartless Summoning says, in part, “Creature spells you cast cost 2 less to cast.” You control Heartless Summoning and cast Siege Wurm, a spell with convoke that costs 5GG. The total cost to cast Siege Wurm is 3GG. After activating mana abilities, you pay that total cost. You may tap up to two green creatures and up to three creatures of any color to pay that cost, and the remainder is paid with mana.

702.50b. Multiple instances of convoke on the same spell are redundant.

Chord of CallingIt is important to realize that when using Convoke, we are paying the total cost. When putting the spell on the stack, we do not announce what mana abilities we are going to activate and what creatures we are going to tap.

  • You do not get mana by tapping creatures for Convoke, you do so rather than spending mana from your mana pool! You cannot tap more creatures than are required to pay the total cost of a spell. This is the main difference of the new Convoke from the one before the rule change, it is the main reason for this change.
  • You may only tap untapped creatures you control to use Convoke.
  • It doesn’t matter for how long you have controlled creatures you tap for Convoke. “Summoning sickness" doesn’t prevent you from tapping the creature.
  • If you tap a multicolored creature for convoke, you may only pay either one mana of any one color of that creature, or one generic mana. You must choose, for which type of mana you tap the creature when you do.
  • Convoke doesn’t change the mana cost nor the CMC of the spell. Chalice for zero cannot counter Chord of Calling even if you haven’t actually paid mana for it. The CMC of Chord of Calling is determined as the announced value of X plus three.
  • You may use Convoke if you are casting a spell with an alternative cost, because Convoke applies to the total cost. Total cost is mana cost or alternative cost, plus all additional costs, plus cost increases, minus cost reductions.
Snapcaster Mage Fist of Suns Delay

Through Snapcaster Mage’s ability, Chord of Calling may receive Flashback with a cost equal to its mana cost, which is {X}{G}{G}{G}. The value of {X} is chosen when the spell is cast.

With the effect of Fist of Suns, you may pay {W}{U}{B}{R}{G} rather than paying the mana cost of Chord of Calling. This cost may be payed with Convoke. {X} is equal to zero in that case.

If the cunning opponent counters your Chord of Calling with Delay, then it can be cast through Suspend “without paying its mana cost” with {X}=0.

Angel of Salvation

Let us review in detail the proess of casting Angel of Salvation with the alternative cost of Fist of Suns when we control Silverblade Paladin, Bloodbraid Elf and Nivmagus Elemental.

601.2a. We put Angel of Salvation onto the stack.

601.2e. The mana cost of Angel of Salvation is {6}{W}{W}, but we choose the alternative cost of {W}{U}{B}{R}{G}. Since there are no effects increasing or reducing the cost, the total cost is {W}{U}{B}{R}{G}, it becomes set. After this, it cannot be changed. Note that the CMC of Angel of Salvation is still 8, and the spell is still white!

601.2f. We get to activate mana abilities.

601.2g Angel of Salvation is paid: we tap Silverblade Paladin rather than paying {W}, tap Bloodbraid Elf rather than paying either {G} or {R}, then tap Nivmagus Elemental rather than paying {U} or {R}; the remainder of the cost must be paid with mana from the mana pool.

601.2h  Angel of Salvation is considered cast.

Unfortunately, casting Chord of Calling this way with X>0 is not possible, because the value of {X} is not determined in the text of the card, and the alternative cost of Fist of Suns' effect doesn’t contain {X}, which, according to rule 107.3b, means that the only legal choice of {X} is zero. Would be awesome otherwise, wouldn’t it?..

Now, I believe, you will comprehend the following examples:

Llanowar Elves Wild Cantor Wall of Roots

When casting a spell with Convoke you may either gain mana from Llanowar Elves’ ability (601.2f), or tap it rather than paying green or colorless mana (601.2g). You cannot do both.

The cost of Wild Cantor’s ability includes “sacking” it. So if you gain mana at the point (601.2f) where you can activate mana abilities, you will no longer be able to tap the Cantor for Convoke (601.2g) - she is not on the battlefield any more!

If you activate the mana ability of Wall of Roots with four 0/-1 counters on it when casting a spell with Convoke (601.2f), you may also tap the wall for Convoke (601.2g). SBA are checked after the spell with Convoke is cast. That’s when the wall will hit the graveyard.

Priority is given to your opponent only after the spell is cast and you have passed. So if you have started casting a spell with Convoke, the opponent cannot interfere in any way. Many players forget this for some reason and attempt to tap enemy creatures to prevent them from being used for Convoke. This needs to be done before the opponents gets priority and begins casting the spell!

Nettle Sentinel

As you probably already know, triggered abilities like “When you cast...” trigger after the spell related to the trigger has already been paid (601.2h).

Thus, Nettle Sentinel may be tapped to pay {1} or {G} for a green spell with Convoke, and then become untapped when its own trigger resolves.

Note that the triger of Nettle Sentinel will be put onto the stack after you finish casting the spell, so you cannot tap the Nettle Sentinel multiple times to pay for the same spell with Convoke.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Trinisphere Centaur Omenreader

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben*’s effect increases the total cost of Chord of Calling by {1}. The extra mana may be paid with Convoke because the total cost will be set after all cost reducing effects are taken to account.

Since, according to the new rules Convoke is neither an additional nor an alternative cost, Trinisphere is harmless here. After determining the mana part of the total cost and applying the effect of Trinisphere to it, you may pay the cost of this spell entirely by tapping creatures of corresponding colors.

Should you cast a creature spell with Convoke and tap Centaur Omenreader to pay for it, the creature’s cost will not be reduced by {2}, because the Centaur becomes tapped at the stage of paying the cost (601.2h), when the total cost has already been determined and set (601.2e), and may not change.

When Chord of Calling resolves you may find a creature card with CMC less or equal to the value of X announced when it was cast. Two things are important to remember here:

  1. you search in a hidden zone;
  2. you search a card with certain characteristics.

This means that you may “fail to find” one even if there is one. Even if you do not phsyically search for the card, i.e. opt not to find one, you still have to shuffle your deck.

A few examples for Chord of Calling with X=0:

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Birchlore Rangers' back face Dryad Arbor

You cannot find a creature with Morph with X=0. A Morph’s CMC is indeed equal to zero, but only on the stack and on the battlefield while the creature is face down. When we find it in the library we see the face of the card.

The CMC of the back face of a double-faced card is zero. But a card in the library doesn’t have a back face. In any zone except the battlefield, we only have the front face of the card, so you cannot find a double-faced card with X=0 either.

However, Dryad Arbor is exactly what you need, a creature with CMC=0. It may be found when casting Chord of Calling with X=0 and/or “without paying its mana cost”.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben* Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is quite a tricky lady, especially when rules are broken. Let us suppose two situations in an event run at Competitive REL where you control Thalia and your opponent casts Chord of Calling without realizing that the spell costs {1} more.

1. The player taps a number of creatures to pay for Chord of Calling. When he is done and expects your reaction, you reasonably point at Thalia and suggest him to find a creature with CMC one less than he was intending to. The opponent disagrees and claims his right to pay up for Thalia. You call a judge.
2. The player puts Chord of Calling on the stack, announces X, then everything mentioned above happens.

Odd as it might seem, despite the situations being almost identical, the judge will issue totally different rulings.

1. The player did not announce the value of X. According to an official shortcut, the judge determines the value of X as the maximum of available mana and creatures tapped. The spell is considered cast legally. Your opponent will search for a cheaper creature, no pay-ups, no nuthin'!

2. The player announced the value of X. He payed the wrong total cost of the spell, which is game play error - game rule violation. The spell is cat illegally, the game is rewound to the point just before the spell was cast, the player receives a Warning and a chance to replay the spell legally.

Irina Samonova © 1999-2017

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