Last updated on December 28, 2023

Chord of Calling - Illustration by Karl Kopinski

Chord of Calling | Illustration by Karl Kopinski

Almost every Magic player can agree that Ravnica has consistently been a clear display of successful design. Some aspects of the several returns to the plane have been hit or miss, but everyone agrees it’s a good plane with great designs.

And we all obviously know the ten guilds of Ravnica. Well today I’ll be talking about a mechanic that saw its origin as a guild mechanic for the Selesnya Conclave: convoke.

Let’s talk about that.

How Does Convoke Work?

Obelisk of Urd - Illustration by John Severin Brassel

Obelisk of Urd | Illustration by John Severin Brassel

Convoke is an ability that allows you to tap creatures to pay for a card’s mana cost. Every creature you tap counts as either one generic mana or one mana of one of that creature’s colors. This ability basically allows you to use your creatures as mana sources for the convoke spell, which greatly helps reduce costs if played right.

The History of Convoke in MTG

Convoke first appeared in Ravnica: City of Guilds, the first set in the original Ravnica block back in 2005. It was strictly associated with the Selesnya () Conclave which always had a strong theme of community, large armies, and collaboration between its members. It was printed on 15 cards from this set with seven of them being green, six white, and the other two multicolored.

The mechanic was later printed again in Future Sight and Guilds of Ravnica where it kept its focus on green and white. It was then expanded on in Magic 2015 and Modern Horizons, bringing the ability to artifacts while rounding out the colors to black, blue, and red. Convoke has now had a big resurgence in March of the Machine and its Commander precons, adding some powerful cards to the Jeskai colors.

Beside the change in colors, the ability also went through a subtle rule change. The original ruling said that tapping creatures allowed you to reduce the cost of the spell you were casting. With Magic 2015 the effect was changed to having the creatures you tap work as a way to pay for its regular cost.

Is Convoke an Activated Ability?

Convoke isn’t an activated ability, but a static ability. While it’s related to “paying costs” because of the effect, there is no cost to activate itself.

Is Convoke an Additional Cost? An Alternate Cost?

Convoke doesn’t alter the cost of the card you’re playing with the current rules, it just allows you to pay for it in a more unconventional way. The original wording for the ability was an alternate cost since the tapped creature reduced the mana from the total cost instead of actually paying it.

If a card with convoke has an additional or alternate cost you can actually use convoke to pay for those costs.

What’s the Mana Value of a Spell Cast with Convoke?

The mana value for a convoke spell is its regular mana value. Since the tapped creatures pays for its cost the mana value of the card isn’t changed.

Can You Convoke with a Creature that Has Summoning Sickness?

You can use any untapped creatures that you control to convoke, even ones with summoning sickness. The creatures that you’re tapping are being tapped as an effect of the ability, not as a cost. So it’s not the creature tapping itself, which it would be unable to do while affected by summoning sickness, but being tapped by the convoke ability.

Can You Convoke Twice with the Same Creature?

You can’t use a single creature to convoke twice since convoke checks for tapped creatures when paying for the card's mana cost, not when generating that mana. Any untap effect you could use on a creature to make it pay for convoke twice can’t be activated since abilities like that need to be activated either before or after paying a spell’s mana cost.

This also means you can’t use a creature to convoke and then sacrifice it to activate another mana ability for the same reasons.

What if a Spell Somehow Has Double Convoke?

Multiple instances of convoke, at least considering how the ability works now, are redundant and pointless. You only get to pay for one mana for each creature you tap and that’s it.

Having two or more Chief Engineers on the field won’t make convoke on your artifacts stack. The effect of the ability only applies once.

Convoke vs Improvise

There aren’t all that many differences between convoke and improvise. Convoke lets you tap creatures while improvise lets you tap artifacts. What puts convoke in a higher position is that it allows you to pay for colored mana as well.

Improvise lets you use artifacts to pay for generic mana while convoke lets you pay for colored and colorless mana. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if improvise was exclusive to artifacts or colorless cards, but it’s actually on plenty of colored cards.

I think the two abilities can coexist pretty well. They’re flavorful in the way they work and how they’re applied, and having cards with both improvise and convoke can make paying for some costs almost absurdly easy.

Best Convoke Cards

Honorable Mention: Instants with Convoke

I’d like to call out pretty much every instant that can be paid with convoke because they make for great traps and battle tricks. I won’t deny that there are some that aren’t that great.

Meditation Puzzle wouldn’t be a very solid addition in most decks. But then there are things like Sundering Vitae, Devouring Light, and Ephemeral Shields that can all help you turn a combat around, and you can trick your opponent into lowering their guard if you don’t have any untapped lands when you play them.

#8. Stoke the Flames

Stoke the Flames

Stoke the Flames is a nice addition to the Standard rotation right now. The four damage to any target can remove most early threats, or be the killing blow you need. Paying the cost by convoking creatures with summoning sickness will help you maximize your early turns for aggressive red decks.

#7. Conclave Tribunal

Conclave Tribunal

I think it’s fairly straightforward why Conclave Tribunal is good. We all love (and hate) cards like Banishing Light, Borrowed Time, and Hieromancer's Cage. Now imagine that, but you can use your creatures to cast it if you’re out of lands.

I think it’s self-explanatory what makes this a great card.

#6. March of the Multitudes

March of the Multitudes

March of the Multitudes has a focus very much like that of Hour of Reckoning. You can play it in almost any deck that plays white and green, or you can use tokens to make it shine its brightest if you’re playing a strategy that puts a ton of them onto the battlefield.

Just tap every single creature and land you have and create a massive army of Soldiers with lifelink. But you better be sure you’re not gonna get board wiped right after.

#5. Chief Engineer

Chief Engineer

I mentioned before how a combination of improvise and convoke would be pretty amazing. Chief Engineer is essentially the only card that can really make that happen. This is also the only blue card that even mentions convoke.

Everyone loves artifact decks, right? Right? If you do, this is a good support card to throw in there.

#4. Lethal Scheme

Lethal Scheme

Instants with convoke can work as huge traps for opponents, as mentioned above. Lethal Scheme is a wonderful convoke trap for your opponent. You can lure them into attacking and destroy target creature or planeswalker with tapped mana while also drawing cards and boasting creatures with the connive ability.

#3. Obelisk of Urd

Obelisk of Urd

Obelisk of Urd is an amazing card for any tribal deck. Most tribal lists tend to play a reasonably big number of creatures and most of them have ways to create, so paying for this card isn’t that hard. And giving +2/+2 to all the creatures in said tribe is always a massive advantage.

#2. Hour of Reckoning

Hour of Reckoning

Keeping in line with its original Selesnya theme, convoke is an ability that works best in a token-heavy deck. Using an absurd amount of almost useless creatures like Saprolings to cast spells without having to use lands can give you a huge advantage.

Hour of Reckoning is very clearly designed with that in mind. This card knows you’re gonna use tokens to cast it. So build a huge token army and use it to clear the board of any other creatures. Your opponents will have to rebuild their field while you still have a lot of creatures to swing with.

#1. Chord of Calling

Chord of Calling

Chord of Calling is easily the best convoke card out there. Getting a bunch of creatures on the field in a green deck isn’t hard at all. And once you have them you can use this card to cheat essentially anything you want into the field. That can be absolutely devastating in a format like Commander.

Wrap Up

March of the Multitudes - Illustration by Zack Stella

March of the Multitudes | Illustration by Zack Stella

I personally like convoke. I think it plays right into Selesnya’s strengths by allowing you to use the myriad of tokens you can create in innovative ways. I think the cards are well designed for the most part and they have a very flavorful feel to them.

I hope when we return to Ravnica we get to see more of this mechanic, that the new abilities are so flavorful and consistent with what they represent and how they play.

But enough about me. What do you think? Do you think this is a fun mechanic, or are the cards way too costly for it to be worth it? Do you hope we’ll get more of it when Ravnica returns? Feel free to leave a comment below.

That’s all from me for now. I’ll see you next time, have a good one!

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