Last updated on August 3, 2022
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.
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.
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 where it kept its focus on green and white. It was then expanded on in Magic 2015 where it brought the ability to artifacts while rounding out the colors to black, blue, and red. It finally showed up again on the original plane in Guilds of Ravnica where it only appeared in Selesnya-related cards, and again in Modern Horizons where it had a small focus on black cards with some splash into green and white.
While convoke was printed in a few sets over the years and it’s very likely to show up again on new cards or reprints, it’s not considered an evergreen mechanic.
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.
Chief Engineer | Illustration by Steven Belledin
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.
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.
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.
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.
Conclave Tribunal | Illustration by Seb McKinnon
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.
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.
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.
There are a total of 52 cards with convoke throughout Magic’s history. The ability has been printed in various sets and precon decks, both on new cards and reprints.
Ravnica: City of Guilds
- Autochthon Wurm
- Chant of Vitu-Ghazi
- Chord of Calling
- Conclave Equenaut
- Conclave Phalanx
- Conclave’s Blessing
- Devouring Light
- Gather Courage
- Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi
- Hour of Reckoning
- Root-Kin Ally
- Scatter the Seeds
- Siege Wurm
- Sundering Vitae
Magic 2015 Core Set
- Chief Engineer
- Chord of Calling
- Covenant of Blood
- Crowd’s Favor
- Devouring Light
- Endless Obedience
- Ephemeral Shields
- Feral Incarnation
- Gather Courage
- Living Totem
- Meditation Puzzle
- Nissa’s Expedition
- Obelisk of Urd
- Return to the Ranks
- Seraph of the Masses
- Siege Wurm
- Stain the Mind
- Stoke the Flames
- Triplicate Spirits
- Unmake the Graves
- Will-Forged Golem
Guilds of Ravnica
- Arboretum Elemental
- Conclave Tribunal
- Flight of Equenauts
- Impervious Greatwurm
- Ledev Guardian
- Loxodon Restorer
- March of the Multitudes
- Pack’s Favor
- Pause for Reflection
- Rosemane Centaur
- Siege Wurm
- Sprouting Renewal
- Venerated Loxodon
- Worldsoul Colossus
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: