Commander Spotlight: Signal The Clans

As the lead designer for Magic: the Gathering, veteran Mark Rosewater is routinely pelted with questions about the inner workings of his job. This has always been the case when he met fans in person, but when he started a Q&A style tumblr specifically for that purpose a couple years ago, the rate at which people lob Magic-related quandaries at him has risen extensively.

Of the extensive list of questions posed, one of the more revelatory answers comes when he’s asked what he considers the single most important thing Richard Garfield did that led to the game’s continued success. That response almost always involves the idea of the game’s color pie: the philosophy that each of the five colors are fundamentally different in what they can do but strength-wise are all considered equals. Every color has distinct advantages over its competitors and inherent weaknesses to what they can achieve, all of which is done on purpose. Through this the color pie ensures that every color isn’t merely five identical factions with varying flavor trappings.

As has been mentioned several times before, however, this ingenious aspect – one so central to the core function of the game that it informs nearly every decision made by one of the heads of R&D – is routinely chided by players who want their favorite color to do something it currently can’t. Why can’t red destroy enchantments? Why can’t other colors besides blue counter spells? And so on.

I don’t inherently disagree with most of the color pie based decisions, as there is logic and merit to them being used to keep the game stable. I don’t want to see every color capable of handling the same things. I personally have gripes about colors having abilities taken away from them that they once hand (such as blue ‘pinging’ to do damage), but that’s a separate issue. Generally speaking, I agree with many others that a color’s limitations also bring out some best facets of the game.

Of course, there are also plenty of occasions where people assume a color is incapable of doing something simply because it’s less commonly seen – assuming it’s made an appearance in that color in the last decade or so. Tutoring is one of those misconceptions, wherein most players assume that it’s limited to land fetch in Green and unrestricted options in Black. In reality, every color has access to tutoring in some shape or form. It just depends on the type of card being sought after. And while Green’s favorite tutor target is indeed usually land, Green has had a long history of looking for creatures as well. Which is what we’re celebrating…now.

Today we have: Signal The Clans

Signal The Clans

Name: Signal The Clans

Edition: Gatecrash

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Card Tutoring

Highlights: Signal the Clans is a decent example of a multicolored tutor card, though Red’s influence is somewhat tacked on since its only contribution is the randomization part. Yet it’s a particularly effective card when used right. Signal the Clans lets you go grab any three creatures from the deck and keep one to cast. However, when the card originally came out, it wasn’t seen as particularly useful in typical Constructed decks because the card forbids the optimal tactic of grabbing three copies of the same creature to guarantee you get what you want – and thereby skirting the randomness part.

In 60-card deck formats, going and grabbing three different creatures isn’t necessarily ideal, as those decks are usually much more focused and less varied in their selection options. That is, those decks are likely are looking for one creature in particular for the given situation, and a 33% chance of success wasn’t good enough. As such, it didn’t see a huge spike in usage.

That is, except in EDH.

Commander games are inherently much more fluid than other formats because of the constantly-shifting multiplayer aspects and having to deal with multiple opponents. The decks themselves are, of course, also larger and more unpredictable in behavior. With 100-card decks where it’s already ensured you’re picking three different creatures, Signal the Clans gives you plenty of flexibility. Chances are that in most situations you can find three creatures which can help you.

For a mere two mana, Signal the Clans is also remarkably efficient for Green tutoring, as several of the others either cost more mana to cast or otherwise have some sort of restriction of their own (think Chord of Calling or Green Sun Zenith). Enlightened Tutor may be cheaper, but it too comes with its own limitations as well since it puts it on the top of your deck. This Gruul-happy card puts the creature in your hand to be used immediately – something often overlooked. Ergo, if you’re looking for a tutor to let you select multiple answers to a problem at minimal cost without worrying about the creature’s color or CMC, this one can help you out.

Speaking of cost, Signal the Clans also boasts easily being the cheapest and easiest to acquire Green creature tutor around, as most of them can be prohibitively expensive for casual Commander players on a budget.

There you have it. Signal the Clans is low-cost, efficient, and often highly beneficial in creature-friendly EDH decks. You may not always get the creature you want the most, but with a larger and more varied library to choose from, more often than not you’ll end up with a creature that you won’t be disappointed with.

And it does all that without going anywhere near Black’s side of the color pie. Fancy that.

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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