There’s some simple math that happens when a player is facing down an opponent’s army: how many of them can they stop? In games where players are looking to strike early and often, the idea of trading one creature for another in order to do damage is deemed perfectly acceptable.
Of course, it’s even better if your creatures live while theirs return to the ethereal planes from whence they came.
When playing the numbers game in Commander, people approach army size from a few angles. Presuming that you are determined to meet on the battlefield, as opposed to other trickery, the two most common approaches tend to either be large and dangerous avatars – massive Double Striking / Flying / Tramping / Etc. creatures – or the insect-like swarm approach, burying your opponents in sheer supremacy.
The benefit to the first approach is that powerful creatures attack, block, and bestow their abilities to their controller, whether it’s in a sizable frame or in potent tricks. Powerful creatures can tip the tide of battle in a player’s favor and expedite an opponent’s exit from the game.
As dangerous as this guy or this guy or this guy may be, however, they all fundamentally fall victim to the same thing: they make good targets. Having a few big creatures on the field can be game-ending if there is nothing stopping them, but most can easily be destroyed, bounced, incinerated, exiled, or otherwise incapacitated. With so few targets to be concerned with, armies centered around just a few tools can (and usually have to) be focus-fired upon.
Token armies utilize the opposite approach. With them, each creature is a nameless, faceless unit. Mere pawns in the greater numbers game, tokens are gained and lost with a casually dismissive attitude. What is 31 Saprolings when you already have 30, after all? Properly buffed, tokens can connect for impressive amounts of damage rather easily, and they can be thrown against an enemy’s few blockers like the tide on a coastal fortress. Sure you’re bound to lose a few, but that’s inconsequential if the rest do their job and crack some skulls.
However, tokens also have their own inherent flaws. The most glaring of which is that the vast majority of them are vanilla creatures. Be they Zombie, Squirrel, Goblin, or Soldier, most tokens inherently have no abilities. Moreover, if an opponent is looking to strike at you with anything beyond a simple ground-based offensive, those token armies usually don’t leave much in the way of protection. They also have a habit of being regularly wiped out from small damage spells: losing 50 Elves to a Volcanic Fallout is always a sad day.
Another aspect, especially in Commander, is that lots of 1/1 creatures may not get the job done, especially in later stages of games. Generating five o/1 Plants may be too little too late to stop someone’s onslaught. Without a lot of help from other cards, most token generating cards simply wont’ do much good if you’re already outmatched.
Luckily, there are ways to “trade up” your creatures. And here’s one of them.
Today we have: Devout Invocation
Name: Devout Invocation
Edition: Magic 2014
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Focus: Token Generation
Highlights: At first glance, Devout Invocation can appear as a simple “Win More” card. That is, some see this card as only useful if the player is already in an advantageous position. The logic is that if you are sitting on a bunch of creatures and have good board position, all such a card does is speed up your inevitable win. Conversely, if you have no army, then it does nothing for you.
The logic isn’t inherently misplaced; without any creatures to utilize with it, Devout Invocation actually is an expensive card that gains you nothing. And, yes this card will indeed help you make even more creatures than what you currently have.
Which, if math serves correctly, is a good thing.
Indeed, the part that gets overlooked is that Devout Invocation can actually help turn things in a player’s favor without needing many creatures. In fact, to get comparable success out of this card, a player only needs to tap two creatures. Two. Entreat the Angels (sans Miracle) gives you two Angels for seven mana, and Decree of Justice actually requires eight. After that, the mana costs swing heavily in favor of Devout Invocation so long as a player has a couple creatures they can tap. Players don’t want to spend 13-14 mana on five Angel tokens, but seven and a fistful of worthless tokens you weren’t going to attack with anyway? That’re more than a fair deal.
Devout Invocation isn’t a true “Win More” card. Instead, it’s a cost effective way to move a player from a “Win Unlikely” to a “Win Possibly” column. Expendable Squirrels are one thing, but an army of Angel tokens are much more likely to get the last laugh.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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