Today I present to you the newest series of the Nerdlab. The Nerdlab Card Award. An award to express my admiration for extraordinarily well-developed gaming cards.

Award Criteria

For a card to be considered for the world-renowned Nerdlab Card Award, it must meet some of the following criteria.

  • Originality:  The idea for the card is original, unique and novel.
  • Flavor: The card helps to deliver a specific theme and tells a story not only by its artwork but also with plausible mechanics.
  • Applicability: The card can be used for a variety of different strategies, decks or situations.
  • Extensibility: The card breaks or extends the existing rules in an interesting way to create new game situations
  • Combinability: The card has a strong impact on other cards of the game and changes the way how these cards are typically evaluated

Nerdlab Card Award #1 – Chord of Calling – Magic the Gathering

Chord of Calling Game Design Review

How could I start this series with something else than a Magic card? I couldn’t. Not just because Magic is probably the best game ever invented. But also because I have a very long relationship with this specific card. Chord of Calling is a Master Piece of Card Game Design. Follow me through the next chapters to learn why:

Reason 1: It creates deck building restrictions

One of the most interesting aspects of Magic is deck construction. And the card Chord of Calling creates some very nice deck building restrictions on its own. You cannot play that card in each and every magic deck. First, you need to be heavily committed to the color green (because the card requires 3 green mana to be played). Then you need creatures in your deck. The more, the better. Because creatures can help you to cast the card (because of “convoke”) and they can be the target of the card.

Actually you want to have creatures with an enter the battlefield effect at best. Why? Because Chord of Calling’s card type is “instant”. That means you can play it at any time. If you have creatures with a lot of enter the battlefield effects in your deck you can react on many many situations with instant speed.

But why are deck building restrictions a good thing? Don’t they just reduce the options a player has? Yes they do and that is exactly why I love those kind of cards. They give you a direction. A strategy to go for. They can be the baseline for your entire deck. And this is exactly the characteristic that distinguishes the special and unique card designs from the standard cards.

Reason 2: It increases consistency

In Magic you can have the same card only 4 times in the deck. With “chord of calling” you can search for the creature in your deck. That means you have 8 copies of the same creature in your deck (4x chords + 4x creature). This doubles the chance to find the respective creature. Even if 4 of the options are slightly more expensive than the others. This consistency makes decks playable that depend on a specific creature.

Reason 3: It increases variety and flexibility

In addition to consistency, the card can also increase variety. Because you can search for any creature, you always have 5 ways to find the creature when you play Chord of Calling. Instead of playing the same creature 4 times, you can now play different creatures and have only one copy in the deck at a time. The increased number of different creatures you can play in the deck not only increases the variety, but also the flexibility during play. It allows you to have creatures in the deck that are answers to many different enemy strategies.

Reason 4: It requires skill to show the full potential

You always need to know what options you have as a target for Chord of Calling and what their converted mana cost is. This increases the learning curve you have with your deck and gives good players a way to create an edge over weaker players.  

Reason 5: It adds interesting decisions to other game elements

The alternative payment cost of the card (convoke) gives all creatures on the field a new ability. Namely to produce a resource to make the spell stronger. The player has to make a new decision whether to attack with a creature, use an existing ability or pick up the creature to use it for convoke.

Reason 6: It adds mind games and tactic to the game

If you play as an opponent against a deck that you know plays Chord of Calling, you always have to fear that your opponent can bring a creature from his deck into play with instant speed. So if your opponent has missed an obviously profitable attack, it might be the right decision this turn not to attack in order to not run into a trap. Or was it just a bluff? Do you see the new tactical layer that has been added by that card?


Chord of Calling does a lot for a single card. And that’s why I love the card. It messes with the rules by giving creatures abilities they normally don’t have (convoke and instant speed). It creates mind games and tactical depth. And it can be your main focus of deck building. This card is a masterpiece!

Card Rating:

  • Originality: 4/5
  • Flavor: 3/5
  • Applicability: 5/5
  • Extensibility: 5/5
  • Combinability: 5/5