Commander Spotlight: Shared Summons

Welcome back to week fifty-one of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 394 days since my last summoning. It’s weird even to write those numbers out in that way. Naturally I, being the individual affected, am able to fully process the weight of what those numbers signify, but doesn’t mean they don’t hold merit otherwise. I have felt the social stagnation and isolation being away from my gaming cohorts. I’ve lived through the full breadth of that elapsed time as one day stretched endlessly into the next. The maddening maw that was 2020 wasn’t just an event horizon that I glimpsed haphazardly; it was a fixture of daily life. I look at the impending impact with next week’s overlapping dual milestones of nearly 400 days of inactivity as one not just from playing a card game but a social life heavily based around tabletop gaming with others – not to mention an entire year of publishing a modified weekly article series around that same game. On the positive side it’s a weight that, has slowly begun to lift on the very eve of these dates, which is almost too fitting, but it doesn’t excise everything that came before.

To most people saying something has been on hold for a year doesn’t necessarily generate the same resonance as having lived through it. It’s like in history class when the teacher recaps the major milestones of some long fallen civilization that spanned several centuries. It’s easy to grasp those important handful of events painted with a broad stroke. It’s harder to conceptualize that in that same timeframe more than a dozen generations of people lived out their entire lives. We rattle off the number of soldiers who died in a particular war of the past, easily forgetting that each digit in that number count was very much a living, breathing person.

Humans are particularly bad at processing both the passage of time and the ramifications of numbers once they reach a certain level, and the fallout of the pandemic on the US in particular is all too emblematic of that fact. When we (or others) look back years from now, they will see an 18-24 month period of chaos, confusion, hardship…and raw statistical data. They’ll see numbers about the millions infected and the more than 550,000 people who died. But how much will the impact of that sink in? We are especially adept at processing the grief of losing a loved one, or two, or five. But we as a society became dumbfounded on how to react when that number was over half a million. When 3,000 people died in the events of 9/11 they were immortalized in a day of remembrance spanning nearly 20 years. When we were losing that many people a day at the height of the COVID blight, most took it the same way you hear how the stock market did – and now on to Chet with the weather.

You don’t even need to leave the present to see the dehumanizing ‘statistification’ of recent events. One would think that such a grim number of lost and hurting citizens would engender widescale increases in empathy, compassion, understanding, or even just self-reflection. Instead, an entire swath of the population swung in the opposite direction, not only dismissing the human element of such raw numbers but going so far as to rail against various efforts by scientists, public health experts, and government agencies doing what they can to keep even more people from becoming a mere historical footnote. That dismissive attitude is annoying not only for its sheer callousness towards the human tragedy befalling others but also because for many there will be no lessons learned,  no insight gained. Which is an affront in and of itself.

The underlying point here is that trite though they are in the grand scheme of things, spending 400 days – roughly 13 months – apart from friends and family for even the most mundane of social activities does still bring forth its own relative significance. Even if to everyone else it just ends up being an arbitrary number on a page.

Until that number finally resets to zero (as has become the standard for our COVID-driven interlude series), rather than discuss Magic-related topics or a specific discussion point around the card being showcased, this week we’re carrying on per usual by looking at Magic cards I’ve wanted to put into an EDH deck for some time but haven’t for one reason or another. Though, perhaps coincidentally, this week’s card pick is also driven by numbers. In this case, however, we’re talking about card price.

Today we have: Shared Summons

Name: Shared Summons

Edition: Core Set 2020

Rarity:  Rare

Focus: Creature Tutoring

Highlights: Green is known for doing a few things exceptionally well compared to other colors. It is the undisputed master of land fetch and mana ramp. It is one of the best colors for token generation. And its extensive array of giant, stompy creatures can be both impressive and intimidating. Green is really, really good at doing the creature thing, as evidenced by just how much of the color’s entire identity is wrapped up in creature-based card mechanics and effects and the efforts of the natural world over artifice and the arcane.

Though there is a tendency to focus on its ability to make creatures out of thin air with token generation, Green also dabbles in searching for specific creatures as well. Every color has a limited capability of tutoring for specific cards (or in Black’s strength any c ard), and for Green that means tutoring for creatures. Like most tutors such cards aren’t super frequent due to their relative power, but there are enough to provide decent variety of choice even in the Commander format.

Typically, Green creature tutors can be broken down in three ways. The first is by destination: those which tutor the creature into your hand, such as Shared Summons here, or those which tutor the card directly into play (i.e. Green Sun’s Zenith), with each providing different advantages based on the card’s mana cost and tactical choices. The second method of delineation is whether they are at instant or sorcery speed, with you again weighing the typical contrasts of card speed, card power, and again, mana cost.

In theory, either methodology you use to parse such tutors out gameplay wise is fine for determining which cards you’d prefer to use. However, as it is slowly becoming more and more of a factor, for many budget-minded EDH players the most realistic way to break Green creature tutors down is by affordable versus not.

As the format has exploded in popularity in recent years, so too has the demand and price for specific subsets of cards. This, unsurprisingly, includes powerful tutors. On the more costly side of the river you’ll find the likes of Finale of Devastation, Natural Order, Tooth and Nail, Worldly Tutor, or the aforementioned Green Zenith. All incredibly good cards. None of which come cheaply these days.

On the other side of the riverbank resides more economical tutors such as Primal Command, Uncage the Menagerie, and, Chord of Calling (with the only reason it’s still within that friendly $5 range – barely – because it’s been reprinted twice). And of course Shared Summons itself. At least for now.

So what makes Shared Summons so useful? Well, did we mention the tutoring? Now how about doing it twice?

Yes, for five mana, Shared Summons lets you search for not one but two creatures and put them in your hand. Though they aren’t dropped magically onto the battlefield, being able to search your entire deck for a pair of cards to later cast is anything but a negative. This usefulness is doubled when taking into account that you’re able to tutor for your future dynamic duo at any point in the round, such as right before your turn. This is especially key to its efficacy as it means you don’t have to lock up 5 mana on your turn just to fetch a pair of creatures, thereby allowing you to leave your mana open for other possible responses in the meantime. Being able to cast it on someone else’s turn not only allows you to more quickly grab specific creature responses to an opponent’s actions but it also eliminates the card’s one real hurdle, being its 5-mana cost. People kind of like reasonably costed tutors for obvious reasons.

And in perfect Commander-friendly fashion, the card’s other potential drawback is completely nullified here: Shared Summons does have a stipulation that you can’t search for two copies of the same creature. In Standard or other Constructed formats, that can be a potentially big drawback – enough so to pass over this in favor other options. Yet in Commander that’s already a baked-in restriction and therefore makes it an ideal option in a creature-heavy EDH deck.

Shared Summons is one of those cards that I knew I would appreciate if I ever used it in the deck and went out of my way to get several when M20 first game out. And while none of those copies have made it into one of my decks just yet, the odds are high that the next deck I finish building will probably include one. It has a high degree of versatility and strategic application – as all good tutors do – while still being on the accessible side of the spectrum.

To some Magic players cost is just a number. To many without deep pockets, however, being able to get a potent card without spending heavily has meaning beyond its market value.

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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