Picking Up The Pieces: Chord of Calling

[c]Demonic Tutor[/c]. [c]Tinker[/c]. These two effects, searching for a card from your library and putting it into your hand, and placing a permanent directly into the battlefield, are two of the most powerful effects in the game. These cards are archetypal of the effects, and any card with a similar ability is held to their standard. “To tutor” is Magic jargon for finding a card in your library, and all cards such as [c]Natural Order[/c] and [c]Polymorph[/c] are measured against [c]Tinker[/c] and ultimately to be found wanting.

Recently we saw Modern’s world get rocked (if you dig rather deeply, this is a pun). In my humble opinion, the most notable change we saw was the banning of [c]Birthing Pod[/c]. After its longstanding reign over Modern, a number of its cohorts saw gradual price increases, and Wizards admitted upon the abuse of [c]Archangel of Thune[/c] that their design space was limited because of the artifact that tutored and tinkered. As a result of this ban, the price increases have gone in the opposite direction while players sell off their collections.

Still, just as so many are ready to shelve the cards and go bananas with things like [c]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/c], I can’t help but cast a second glance at [c]Chord of Calling[/c]. After all, this card tutors. It tinkers. Conley Woods even suggested here that the 4:3 split of [c]Birthing Pod[/c]: [c]Chord of Calling[/c] should be reversed. Since we never saw the card in any other Modern decks, we have to ask ourselves where to put it.

Here are my offerings.

Defender Ramp

[d title=”Drinkard Defender (Modern)”]
Land
1 Eye of Ugin
12 Forest
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

Creatures
1 Avenger of Zendikar
4 Axebane Guardian
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
3 Obstinate Baloth
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Primeval Titan
2 Steel Wall
3 Thragtusk
1 Ulamog the Infinite Gyre
2 Wall of Tanglecord

Other Spells
4 Chord of Calling
4 Summoning Trap [/d]

There are some times where you may be mistaken for Tron. Some games may play out similarly. On the one hand, you will certainly be less consistent with turn three Tron into something big. On the other, you aren’t as helpless leading up to turn three, and you aren’t as dependent on [c]Ghost Quarter[/c]’s activated ability and [c]Sowing Salt[/c] not resolving.

Hopefully you are able to play a fatty on turns three and four. Against Zoo and Burn, we have a lot of life gain and blockers to try and minimize the inherent risk of inactivity to that point. Against blue control, [c]Summoning Trap[/c] and some good-old Eldrazi-inevitability are on our side. I haven’t finished running the numbers in my head against a deck like Junk, but having solid threats that can’t be targeted by [c]Abrupt Decay[/c] has to be a good thing.

Here, [c]Chord of Calling[/c] simply keeps the car running, as it were, and functions as a toolbox win condition by playing the right creature we need at that time. Let’s try and build a deck where it serves a more critical role.

Elves

(*Note – I had crafted a theory around [c]Summoner’s Pact[/c] and [c]Chord of Calling[/c] for use here, but then I found the below deck on mtggoldfish.com. John Ostrem piloted it to a 9th place finish as the SCG Modern Premier IQ in Indianapolis on February 1. I’ll show the list I had come up with below, but I want to highlight this one because it is quite clever and much better than my own.)

[d title=”Ostrem Elves (Modern)”]
Land
14 Forest
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nix

Creatures
4 Arbor Elf
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Devoted Druid
4 Elvish Archdruid
3 Elvish Mystic
4 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
4 Heritage Druid
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Nettle Sentinel
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Regal Force

Other Spells
4 Chord of Calling [/d]

Here are the interactions I’ve found to be rather sweet:

[c]Devoted Druid[/c] functions as a new copy of [c]Nettle Sentinel[/c] when [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c] comes out to play. He can generate mana to play the [c]Chord of Calling[/c] or [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c] and untap himself (a lot of times, as needed) to attack. Additionally, lord effects allow him to function as extra ramp.

[c]Ezuri, Renegade Leader[/c] protects against sweepers, [c]Abrupt Decay[/c], and other pieces of spot removal that aren’t [c]Path to Exile[/c] or [c]Dismember[/c]. Just remember that the [c]Chord of Calling[/c] in your hand can act as this blowout.

Together, the above two read “2: Creatures you control other than [c]Devoted Druid[/c] get +3/+3 until end of turn.” So for every two mana, you get an [c]Overrun[/c]. And if you get two of the Druids together with Ezuri, well, GG. I will say that although this is a win, the online version of the game makes this quite labor-intensive.

Other than Affinity, I don’t think any deck is like Elves in that by turn 2, the cards in your hand are on the table, and your actual hand is accepting the concession handshake by your opponent. Well, ok, that may be a bit of a stretch in Modern, but it is certainly true in other formats. Here, certainly by turn 3, our threats are on the board, allowing one another to attack with more power and generate more mana. The [c]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/c] is a nice pseudo-[c]Gaea’s Cradle[/c] to close the game once you get ahead.

For posterity’s sake, here is my Elves deck. Please don’t misread this: I would not make any changes to the above deck. I just had this article in mind and built this deck below, inspired primarily by the [c]Temur Ascendancy[/c] combo decks of Standard.

[d title=”Drinkard Elves (Modern)”]
Land
1 Breeding Pool
3 Cavern of Souls
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Forest
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills

Creatures
1 Ant Queen
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Mystic
1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
4 Heritage Druid
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Nettle Sentinel
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Regal Force
3 Temur Sabertooth
2 Voyaging Satyr

Other Spells
3 Intruder Alarm
3 Chord of Calling
2 Lightning Greaves
4 Summoner’s Pact
1 Thousand-Year Elixir[/d]

So, what all can this deck do for infinite?

[c]Ant Queen[/c] + [c]Intruder Alarm[/c] + anything that creates 2 mana ([c]Voyaging Satyr[/c] or [c]Elvish Archdruid[/c]).

[c]Temur Sabertooth[/c] + [c]Thousand-Year Elixir[/c]/[c]Lightning Greaves[/c] + Anything that generates more mana than it takes to cast it and activate Sabertooth.

There really are a lot of ways that come up to do it. [c]Chord of Calling[/c] acts as extra copies of whatever combo element you are missing.

Conclusion

[c]Chord of Calling[/c] can find its home in any number of combo decks or stay exactly where it was in [c]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/c] combo.

Whether you’re going to need [c]Harmonic Sliver[/c] or [c]Darkheart Sliver[/c] depending on the matchup, a good old-fashioned [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] to block, or an [c]Essence Warden[/c] to counter your opponent’s infinite number of [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c]s, it will always be useful.

Does it have what it takes to measure up to [c]Demonic Tutor[/c] or [c]Tinker[/c]? Absolutely not. But can it still be competitive in Modern? Without a doubt. In fact, I predict that within the next year, more decks than just one will regularly receive packs in exchange for winning events using [c]Chord of Calling[/c]. In that regard, the [c]Birthing Pod[/c] ban will have resulted in more format diversity.

-drinkard