Convoke: Tapping Into Your Potential

Welcome to Non-Goblin Games! Over the weeks and months to follow, a crew of NGA constructed regulars will be pouring over interesting deck lists, examining the history of the format, presenting challenges to the readers, and much, much more. Since this marks the beginning of our series, we’d like to start things off with a bit of our own beginnings.

Relative to some of the more enfranchised players, I’ve been playing NGA constructed a short time. I was given a crash course into what the format is all about and from there headed out to find a deck to call my own. I don’t really enjoy adapting other player’s decks until I’ve tried building from scratch. That left me diving into the great unknown that is NGA constructed. When was the last time you tried to tackle a Magic format filled with over 4000 cards you’d never seen before? It’s daunting. But the possibilities are so endless and unexplored and exciting!

The first deck I latched onto we now simply call Convoke. In WOTC Magic, convoke is mostly found on huge spells, asking you to form a legion that aids in casting your giantic threat. There aren’t many creatures with low casting costs carrying the keyword (only Sprout Swarm, really), which has left it as less of a deck theme overall; Chord of Calling is in one deck, Stoke the Flames in another, but rarely is there any crossover. In NGAC, the deck is a fast aggro assault that feels a lot like Legacy Affinity. When I first built it, the deck was explosive, but the payoff was marginal. With the release of a few new cards and a lot more testing, the deck has become a ferocious contender:

Creatures (36)
4 Advance Forces
4 Fierce Ransomer
4 Terracamel Rider
4 Foulmouthed Kneecapper
4 Streetwise Supplicant
4 Tiller Spawn
4 Gatherer of Companions
4 Skyrider Stallari
4 Oaken Dignitary

Other spells (8)
4 Dance of the Elements
4 Live the Ideal
4 Clan Hunt

Land (12)
4 Fleeting Paradise
4 Illusionary City
4 Sheepfold

Sideboard (15)
3 Frostlight Vigil
3 Guardian of the Path
3 Shepherd of the Honored
3 Curse of Bloom
3 Ephemerize
NGAC is a VERY powerful format. With over 4500 cards at our disposal and with most of them receiving no testing before this, a lot of overpowered combinations are waiting to be broken. So keep in mind, this deck is about average in power level compared to the format at large.

This deck utilizes the abundance of free creatures and cheap token makers to quickly cast convoke spells that severely abuse the presence of such an army. Oaken Dignitary was the first card I saw that made me want to build around these synergies. It’s your best finisher, easily being cast with double-digit power and toughness as early as turn 2. Recently, Gatherer of Companions was added to the format, and has since been the undisputed all-star of the deck. It’s stats are ridiculous for its cost. Your best starts cast this on turn one, chaining into further copies if you’re lucky. (It’s so good, we added Dance of the Elements just to have more copies of it.) But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at how we’re fueling these monsters out so quickly.

NGAC currently has three creatures that can enter the battlefield without the help of another card: Advance Forces, Tiller Spawn, and Ornithopter. The latter was recently cut since it poorly supported Gatherer of Companions, but the other two remain the backbone of your opening turns. Tiller Spawn is so important, in fact, that the manabase has been completely warped in support: the Spawn can be cast for free no matter how many of these lands you have. NGAC also has a strong number of cheap token makers; Fierce Ransomer and Terracamel Rider each create two bodies for one card, allowing you to start your chain of convoke plays early and often. This 16-pack of 0- and 1-mana creatures is what allows the deck to play only 12 lands. When your creatures are effectively all hasty Llanowar Elves, you can cheat on your mana.

Speaking of the mana, the lack of it means you don’t have a ton of leeway in what non-convoke cards you add to the deck. The high creature count really makes this deck roll, giving you more tokens with Gatherer, more counters with Dignitary, and perhaps most importantly, more cards with Clan Hunt. The less creatures, the worse your great draws are. With this in mind, I would argue against adding anything to the deck that costs more than 1 mana to cast… except for Live the Ideal. This is the best and cheapest Glorious Anthem in the format. The deck’s biggest weakness is to cheap toughness oriented sweepers like Choking Ash, and having something that saves half or more of your army is critical.

Rounding out this specific build are the eight 1-mana pester creatures: Foulmouthed Kneecapper and Streetwise Supplicant. This deck is fast, but this format is faster. In a shell that requires so many creatures to work, having a squadron of pests that interact with combo is a huge boon. Landing a pair of these early usually gives you enough time to outpace the spell-heavy decks. With the presence of so much convoke and the ability on Skyrider Stallari, Supplicant is practically as good as Kneecapper. If you’re up against an unknown deck and have a choice between casting a pest or a token maker, I’d side with a pest unless there’s a clear convoke play on the horizon. But even then, most convoke plays can be made whether you cast a pest or tokener first, so the defensive play is often the correct one.

The sideboard is mostly just a display piece to show some of the deck’s weaknesses and some of my early perceptions of the format, but it’s perfectly usable as a starting point. Curse of Bloom is an extra interaction piece against combo and decks that have good hate-cards against you. Frostlight Vigil is your best answer against Beryl, Guardian of Flame and other planeswalkers harmful to aggro assaults, and also shuts down salvage decks. Shepherd of the Honored is a house against mono-red. Guardian of the Path lets you stay aggressive while giving you an answer to heavy artifact decks. (And there IS a good mono-brown deck.) Ephemerize is a solid removal spell if you can end the game quickly, as this deck is wont to do. There aren’t too many creatures you need to bring this in against, but it’s good to have that answer just in case.

Here’s a few tips and tricks before closing out the article:

  • By itself, Fleeting Paradise can produce two mana in a single turn. If you’re in a position where you only have a single Paradise and need to get Live the Ideal onto the battlefield, take a turn off from tapping that Paradise and save it for the double-dip next turn.
  • Illusionary City is awkward. Because of how it works, casting a Tiller Spawn for free will use up the mana reduction. So make sure to cast Spawn after other spells or before playing City. Another awkwardness shows up when multiple Cities are blinking in and out. If you have triggers from, say, two Cities, casting a 1-mana spell will use up both cost reductions. They make it harder to cast multiple spells, but way easier to cast Spawns.
  • If you leyline Advance Forces onto the battlefield, it can actually attack on your first turn!
    Sheepfold ceases to become a land when you tap it, allowing for the Tiller Spawn combination. That also means it provides a counter to Oaken Dignitary, so don’t forget that.

This deck was a blast to play in the early days and is even more fun now that it’s been refined into a competitive machine. The new season of the NGAC Super League is about to start (entries are ALWAYS open) and if you’re looking for a strong deck to jump in with, this is a fine contender.

Until next week, enjoy tapping your creatures.

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