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Odyssey Preview: Call of the Herd

Alex Shvartsman

Odyssey allows players to utilize a variety of creatures and spells that generate Elephant and Squirrel tokens (Personally, I blame Rosewater). They range in power from very casual to tournament-worthy. Possibly the best of these cards is Call of the Herd. It is not often that a green sorcery sees play, but this is one such case.

For 2 ManaGreen Mana, Call of the Herd allows you to put a 3/3 Elephant token into play. You can then pay 3 ManaGreen Mana to play it again out of the discard pile. Let us review these abilities and what they mean to you, the tournament player. A 3/3 creature for three mana is pretty good already. A number of such creatures have seen play in recent years, balanced by various disabilities. Chimeric Idol may be the best of them (by virtue of being an artifact and surviving global creature removal like Wrath of God). Silt Crawler is a closer example and it too has seen some tournament play - most recently in Satoshi Nakamura's U-G deck at APAC Championship.

Although the Elephant token generated by Call of the Herd is a vanilla creature (it has no rules text), it does indeed have as much of a disability as the creatures mentioned above by virtue of being a token. Any bounce spell an opponent might be using becomes a removal spell instead. Repulse and Recoil are especially devastating as they net the caster card advantage in addition to getting rid of the token. Cards like Parallax Wave that are capable of phasing out a creature are also a potent weapon against the Elephant. These considerations are relevant, but not debilitating for Call of the Herd as there is little enough bounce seen in the current Standard format and that is unlikely to change after Odyssey becomes legal.

All that said, Call of the Herd is looking like a solid, if unspectacular, tournament card. Enter the flashback. This is one of the two new abilities introduced in the new set. Cards with flashback may be played twice. Once for its original casting cost, and once out of the graveyard for the cost specified by the flashback ability. Flashback is very similar to kicker in that its impact on the card's power varies greatly. In some cases, flashback is too expensive and never becomes a consideration when you are playing or drafting a card (similar to Kavu Aggressor - although you might pay Kicker on occasion, you never plan on it). In others, Flashback is what makes the card attractive in the first place. Firebolt, discussed by Dave Price in his recent review here on the Sideboard pales in comparison with Shock or Seal of Fire, if not for its Flashback ability.

In case of Call of the Herd, flashback takes a solid card and makes it excellent. For four mana, you can re-cast the Call out of the graveyard to generate yet another 3/3 token. Flashback cost is perfect here, as you will often be able to cast the Call out of the graveyard one turn after casting it out of your hand. Earlier in this article I mentioned that a mage summoning a token creature is forced to live in constant fear of bounce spells like Repulse and Recoil. In this case, even if a single token gets Repulsed, you make up the card economy by casting the second. The card advantage inherent in this spell is good against virtually any opponent. Control decks will be forced to counter or destroy your token twice. Creature decks that might rely on spells like Urza's Rage, Terminate and Vindicate to remove your threats will suddenly find themselves facing an extra permanent to deal with. Even against global removal-based decks that sport cards such as Wrath of God you will gain a bit of an advantage by possibly saving a threat card in your hand and spending the turn to summon a token out of the graveyard instead.

With the metagame about to change entirely with Masques block leaving Standard and being replaced by Odyssey, it is difficult to predict what kind of decks we will be seeing Call of the Herd played in. Perhaps some version of Stompy will make a comeback, fuelled by several of the better green Odyssey cards. One thing is for certain - this rare sorcery will be seeing tournament play more than once during its two year life span in Standard environment.

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