A martini glass in black and white

A Primer on Faxes & Summons

2024-01-01 // Strategy Helpers

There are a ton of ways in KoL to summon monsters. Like, a ton. With italicized entries for standard items, a non-exhaustive list of the most common methods to pick a fight with a specifically desireable monster includes:

  • Pocket Wishes (via the Book of Facts & the genie bottle; 3/day)
  • Mimic Eggs (via the Chest Mimic; 11/day)
  • Reminiscing on your Locket (via the Combat Lover's Locket; 3/day)
  • Receiving a fax (via the Clan VIP lounge; 1/day)
  • Time-Spinning a prior enemy (via the Time-Spinner; 3/day)
  • Rain Man (via the Heavy Rains challenge path; limited only by rain production)

Along with all these, there are some ways that are a bit more limited; Calculate the Universe can generate a handful of monsters, including a useful frat orc. Map the Monsters can get you three hits of a specific monster in-zone. Copy sources like the Backup Camera, 4d-camera, pulled green taffy, Digitize, and Recall Habitats can keep encounter chains going without requiring another summon, so long as you were able to summon the monster in the first place.

Why are Summons Important?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let's explain why faxes, summons, and copies are super important parts of speedrunning. When you're trying to aggressively cut turns, you want to spend as few turns as possible generating the monsters you need to generate. Banishes, macrometeorite-likes, and free runs are good ways to accomplish this. But simply summoning the monster into existence saves the use of every single one of those, which is a massive boon to anyone with a need for speed. It also, amusingly, makes copies pretty hard to value.

As a thought experiment -- let's say you're in a random Unrestricted path. You have 7 banish sources (Snokebomb, Feel Hatred, KGB Tranquilizer Dart, Bowl a Curveball, Louder than Bomb, Throw Latte on Opponent, and Spring-Loaded Front Bumper). In this case, you can banish up to 7 monsters in any zone -- with the singular exception of Level 12's battlefield, this makes it pretty trivial to full-banish any zone and get exactly the monster you need at virtually any time. So you could argue that a fax saves you 0 turns; you are spending 1 turn to fight and kill your desired monster, but the alternative was... you know... "spend a few banishes and macros and get the monster in 1 turn all the same". So the value is in trading off a few of those banishes, macros, and other things in order to have the monster right there for you.

But there's an extra wrinkle to this, too; monsters you fax aren't burning any delay in any zone that has it. This can make certain copies value-destructive! In the case of a Quiet Healer, it is markedly worse to summon a Quiet Healer over just encountering it in the airship, as you have 25 turns of delay to chomp through before you can wrap the zone up in the first place. Fighting your healer in-zone takes that to 24, but fighting the healer through a fax/summon source doesn't impact that delay at all. This makes certain summons a bit worse (in a vacuum) than others. You may still do them, because there are situations where the routing benefit of shoving something outside a delay zone is actually superior to just finding it in the zone itself (or, in some cases, you rolled terribly and never found the monster you needed in the first place).

In this resource rundown, I'm going to take a stab at creating a very rough tier list of desirable in-run summons. You'll note above that even in a fully-decked-out unrestricted ascension, you're really only going to have 21 summons a day, and that's if you go as hard as humanly possible; there are far more than 21 monsters here, which means that many of these will not be doable in an ascension. Even in unrestricted! There are many monsters you'll need to encounter in their native zones; a big part of speedrunning is analyzing the available resources and using them as effectively as possible. This should help aspiring runners benchmark some of the best options, but as always, be sure to do your own math and think through what's best for your ascension before making a choice!

Tier 0: Tip-Top Quality Summons

These are the cream of the crop. Most of these are inherently valuable, allowing players to progress or bypass quests through tricky means. These are summons that improve routing and save serious resources for the crafty ascender.

MonsterNative ZoneReasoning & Number Needed
ninja snowman assassinLair of the Ninja SnowmenIt's really annoying to get NSAs. There is a "pity" NSA in the lair, but it only comes up after 11 turns; given the slow increase in the % chance of generating a NSA, you generally only encounter one naturally within the 4-5 turns of Shen Snake delay every 2-3 runs. That makes the NSA a summon that saves the difference between that delay and anywhere from 1-6 more turns, which is a considerable amount of savings in most paths. You need three assassins, so have some copies prepped!
forest spiritOutskirts of Camp Logging CampThis one is pretty neat -- if you can craft a machete, you can completely bypass the Hidden Park in the Hidden City. That's pretty great! The only issue (and it is admittedly a decently large one) is that generating machetes is somewhat difficult. The only real way in modern standard is to get forest tears and use them to generate a muculent machete; the craft will take one turn (if you freecraft the first two stages via a knoll moonsign), and fighting a forest spirit will take 1, but 2 turns to save 7 is a pretty good tradeoff. Only important note -- monkey's paw is probably a better option if you happen to be in a Canadia moonsign, but if you are, you may need to use an additional wish to get a freecraft effect to save the crafting turns to make this really work. You only need one of this guy.
white lion / whitesnakeWhitey's GroveThese are a little annoying. In my experience, Whitey's is often one of the very last things you do in a run, and as a 4 monster zone with a ton of really crappy noncombats, searching for monsters in Whitey's can be a huge pain. My usual strategy here is to fish for one in-zone, then summon the other one. (You can also spend monkey paw charges here, in modern standard; it's a good place for them!) You need one of each. (Small note: the Knight in White Satin can also work, if you do it right; a YR + an item copy means it gives you two white pages, which are individual summons that only work on Whitey's Grove monsters. This is rarely better than just doing the strategy I wrote out before, but it is very slightly better in a handful of low-summon Avatar paths.)
swarm of ghuol whelpsThe Defiled CrannyWhelps are fun, but somewhat annoying to get; usually, if you want to max out your noncombat rate, you have to trade off equipment that could boost your monster level to clear the zone even quicker. And every turn until you hit the NC is essentially wasted. Summoning them avoids that entirely, which is great! Ghuol swarms clear evil at a rate of sqrt(+Monster Level). As you need to clear 37 evil to get past the Cranny, intrepid adventurers usually can get this done in two to three swarms; for a two-swarm Cranny, you need >345 ML. For a three-swarm Cranny, you need just >155 ML.
Camel's Toe / SkinfluteThe Hole in the SkyThese two monsters are notable for giving you 2 stars and 2 lines. Skinflute appears in odd ascensions, Camel's Toe appears in even ascensions. This is mostly irrelevant to you, if you're summoning them, but if you intend to use an Extrovermectin or a Recall Habitat, you should only summon the one that is native to your ascension type; otherwise, they'll never show up in the copy. Realistically, clever ascenders can usually get by with just one summon and nix the copies; with 7 Grey Goose drones and one charge of the McTwist skill from the pro skateboard, you can get all 8 stars and 7 lines you need for the star key. (Or you can just spit one, in unrestricted.) This can save you a lot of heartache from searching in the Hole in the Sky, and save you the trouble of wasting a noncombat forcer to unlock the zone in the first place.
astronomerThe Hole in the SkySame notes above regarding unlocking HITS apply for the astronomer, but the difficulty finding him applies 10 fold; it is devilishly hard to find this guy in a 10 monster zone, and using a summon to generate him is considerably better for almost every use case. The only time you don't need to: in softcore, where you can pull a star chart, or if you luck into the HITS-unlock NC in the top floor of the castle, at which point you can just use a monkey's paw wish and wipe your hands of it.
beanbatThe Beanbat ChamberIf you told an ascender from 5 years ago that this was a top quality wish, they would think you're crazy. But we're in a different meta now, and the Beanbat chamber isn't a 1-monster zone anymore. Routing matters, and summoning a beanbat allows you to get access to the Penultimate Fantasy Airship without doing your Shen Snakes first. There's also the fun fact that you always need one sonar to unlock the Ratbat Burrow anyway, so shooting off a yellow ray on this summon replaces the turn you would've spent in Guano Junction on a useless-to-you bat. It's generally a good use of resources, and a pretty common one nowadays.
Green Ops SoldierThe Battlefield (Frat Outfit)After the 2024 nerf day, Green Ops Soldiers (GROPs) aren't as centralizing as they used to be. But they're still pretty damn good; with post-nerf green smoke bombs (GSBs) giving 25 turns of Everything Looks Green, they're better bang for your buck than any other GSB-granting freerun in the standard meta, and swapping from tatters to GSBs saves you a turn or two through an extra few freeruns over someone relying on tatters and other freerun options. Summoning a Green Ops, olfacting them, and spending a few Spooky VHS Tapes on them -- when combined with a few goose drones -- should help save turns in the back half of a modern speedrun. You don't strictly -need- any of them, but provided the war is still on, every summoned GROP is equivalent to a turn on the Battlefield. So, that's fun.

Tier 1: Quite Good Summons

These are pretty good, though not quite as good as the bangers in Tier 0. Most of these allow you to access things that are gated less harshly than the monsters enumerated above, or ease up on certain routing burdens.

MonsterNative ZoneReasoning & Number Needed
modern zmobiesThe Defiled AlcoveModern zmobies are guaranteed at +850% initiative, which is (startlingly) pretty straightforward to get in most paths nowadays. But why not summon one up and avoid the hassle entirely? As moderns clear 5 evil apiece, you can oust the Alcove's 37 evil with eight copies of the zmobies.
dirty old lihcThe Defiled NicheThe niche is one of the longest zones; with no speedups (as we have right now in standard), it takes twelve whole dirty ol' lihcs to clear the zone. This makes it slightly less compelling than the other Cyrpt speedups as a summon, because you need to devote a whole host of copiers if you want to solve the Niche by copying DOLs. But it IS possible; two habitats and two mimic eggs does the trick. Still, it's a little below the other cyrpt speedups, as it exists in a 4-monster zone where a few banishes and a macro can generate it anyway, and you need to fight so many of them that it does start to become a big resource drain to do the Niche via summons and copiers.
Baa'baa'bu'ranThe Hidden TempleThis is a great summon; it's rare that an ascender will -not- want to summon Baa'baa, as 3 stone wool allows you to do silly effect extension with Shadow Affinity while also getting you the requisite 4-turn unlock of the Hidden City you need to accomplish in any run. The only reason I put this in Tier 1 instead of Tier 0 is that you can replicate it with a clover, and in modern standard we have more clovers than we know what to do with, so you probably would prefer to use the clover. Still -- if you're in a no-clover path and lack access to the Deck of Every Card, Baa'baa is almost certainly on the menu, one way or another.
The "tool" gremlins from the Yossarian war questThe JunkyardUsually, you spend about 2-3 banishes and a few macros on the Yossarian quest. You can avoid this entirely by simply summoning the tool gremlins, once you've acquired the molybdenum magnet. You need one of all four; that's a big gob of summons, but in our summon-heavy meta that's a tiny bit light on free banishes, this may actually become the meta answer for the Yossarian quest.
Bram the StokerThe Haunted Boiler RoomIf you have the boiler room unlocked, you'd never summon Bram. But early in run? It isn't terrible! Assuming you are hitting the 25% softcap for +noncombat rate, the +5% NC accessory only gets you +1% towards each NC you have left to hunt. But over a large enough number of manually-searched NCs, you'd be shocked how many turns you're saving in expectation. In my attempts to simulate this, I found that an extra +1% NC applied across 30 noncombats is worth about 2-3 turns. That would make this, surprisingly, a 1-2 turnsave early-run summon. Not bad at all. (One small note -- there is a 50 Myst requirement for the Choker. So keep that in mind for routing, as you really want to be wearing this for all NCs you aren't sneaking!)
red butlerThe Red ZeppelinThis one would be a banger if it gave you quest progress towards Ron Copperhead. It doesn't, though; you are entirely summoning it for the benefit of 1 guaranteed glark cable (2 with goose), pre-olfacting the butler before you step into the zone, and... well, that's it. Highly recommend a map the monsters charge here instead in unrestricted. You don't strictly need this summon, but again, it can generate glarks at scale and pre-olfacting the guy you need is always a fun solve. You also get a very small chance at a red shoe, which (as you can see in Bram's entry above) is surprisingly meaningful to you.
pygmy accountantThe Hidden Apartment & The Hidden Office BuildingUnlike butlers, accountants will give you the pages regardless, which makes them a nice summon that gets you quest progress; you need to fight five accountants per run to get your binder clip, and it doesn't particularly matter where you fight them, so it's pretty much fine to just throw them in a delay zone. The main reason you may not want to copy them: with 10 delay turns in the Hidden Office and 9 in the Hidden Apartment, you probably can encounter them naturally. But, the counter: in a NC-force heavy meta, there's a pretty strong case for just double forcing the Hidden Office NC and single forcing the Apartment NC, making the prospect of summoning and copying accountants into delay zones significantly more palatable.

Tier 1.5: Free Fight Summons

Free fights get their own section; there are a host of reasons you might summon a free fight. These are (generally) the top quality free fight options, with the reasons you may summon them.

MonsterNative ZoneReasoning
black crayon frat orcN/AThese are seed-dependent, and dependent on users owning the Book of Facts (and, of course, having access to BoFa in the path you're playing). In about a tenth of our challenge paths, there's one class combination where black crayon frat orcs produce tattered scraps of paper. This isn't as crazy as it used to be, but it's pretty bonkers; it allows you to use Recall Habitat or other copiers to generate 11 tatters, ensuring you'll have Everything Looks Green on the entire run and are always ready to freerun when time permits.
black crayon "anything but a frat orc"N/AWhile orcs deserve special casing due to their ability to give tatters with the Book of Facts, other black crayon phylums can be quite valuable too. Black Crayon Shambling Monstrosities can give you +1 freekill if you summon/copy enough of them with your red-nosed snapper. A summoned black crayon phylum monster can be a no-hassle way to phylum-banish something you don't want to see with your Patriotic Eagle. Black Crayon Plants and Penguins can give valuable Robortender drinks. The possibilities are endless! (OK, no, they aren't endless. But there are at least a handful of them.)
sausage goblinsN/AEven in standard, sausage goblins can be a cute summon; they have inherent meat drop, unlike the black crayon monsters, and they drop items that can be autosold for a bit more. As with black crayon monsters, goblins are high-power scaling fights, which can also help with powerleveling (although that won't be particularly important until the Model Train Set cycles out of standard).
Witchess Pieces (Knight, Bishop, Queen, King, Witch)Your Witchess SetIf you don't have Witchess (read: are not a thousand years old), you probably don't naturally have access to these in unrestricted paths. That's a shame -- these monsters kick ass! They produce high-turngen food and booze with powerful buffs, alongside neat equipment items that remain among the best-in-slot options. These are useless in standard, generally, but may be a solid option in some paths; if +100% meat drop saves you a turn on your Nuns quest, summoning a Witchess Knight could -absolutely- be better than summoning a quest monster.
Any free fight that happens to give a pocket wish with BOFAN/AThis is sort of a funny one. Sometimes, you just want to wish a free fight because their Book of Facts postcombat effect is powerful; in Shrunken Adventurer, top runners used the Neverending Party's "burnout" to achieve earlier pocket wishes than were otherwise possible. This can really help with routing, although you do have to weigh the value of the summon.

In addition to the black crayon monsters, witchess pieces, and sausage goblins, here is a (non-exhaustive, but mostly full) list of inherently free fights that can be summoned:

  • eldritch tentacles
  • Box of Crafty Dinner
  • Frozen Bag of Tortellini
  • Possessed Can of Creepy Pasta
  • Possessed Can of Linguine-Os
  • Possessed Jar of Alphredo ™
  • Mini-Hipster monsters (angry bassist, blue-haired girl, evil ex-girlfriend, peeved roommate, random scenester)
  • Halloween monsters (kid who is too old to be Trick-or-Treating, suburban security civilian, vandal kid)
  • Neverending Party monsters (burnout, biker, party girl, jock, "plain" girl; only 10 are free per day, and these are only free if you own the Neverending Party. Yes, even in standard. This one is weird.)
  • Cursed Magnifying Glass monsters (void guy, void slab, void spider; only 5 are free per day, do not summon if CMG is in standard and owned)

In addition to these, summoned drunk pygmies will be free if you own a bowl of scorpions. Also, summoned dense lianas will be free if you are wielding a machete.

Tier 2: Great Summons (for those missing certain shinies)

These are in some cases vastly superior to summons in the higher tiers, but are largely unnecessary in the modern standard meta due to other easier solutions for the problems they solve. Still, if you lack the shinies that are behind the alternate solutions, or are in a path where those shinies don't work, you can't go wrong with these guys.

MonsterNative ZoneReasoning & Number Needed
any Frat War Equipment monstersThe Battlefield (Hippy Outfit)One of the neatest speedups offered by summons is the ability to skip finding your war outfit; summoning and yellow-raying a single monster in order to avoid the 10-15 turns of finding the hippy outfit and finding the frat outfit is a great benefit. Most people will not need to summon this through a more general-purpose means, however, as you have access to the War Frat 151st Infantryman if you have a Manual of Numberology, an IOTM-adjacent PVP reward from Number seasons. Other frat orcs that can be summoned for yellow raying your war outfit include: the War Frat 151st Captain, the War Frat Mobile Grill Unit, the Beer Bongadier (& elite version), the Sorority Operator, the War Frat 110th Infantryman (& elite captain), the War Frat Wartender (& elite version), and the War Frat Kegrider. If you have to summon one, don't have Numberology available, and have BoFa, you should perhaps check if any drop tattered scraps of paper. You only want one summmon for this, so make sure you have a yellow ray ready to go!
mountain manN/A; only accessible in Avatar of BorisThis one isn't really needed by most people in modern standard. But if you're lacking the Model Trainset, which turnlessly generates your 3 ores for the trapper, this is one of the best summons you'll ever find. Actually doing mining in the intended fashion (finding the outfit, mining into the mountain, etc) takes upwards of 20 turns; the alternative of using three clovers and three turns is also kind of a pain and a large burn of resources you'd prefer not to do. Mountain Man drops 2 of each ore with a yellow ray; you probably want one to two mountain men, to ensure you get all 3 ore.
lobsterfrogmanSonofa BeachSonofa Beach sucks. It's a terrible zone that takes upwards of 20-30 turns with moderate +combat. Luckily, in modern standard, we can just ignore it entirely and send the Autumn-aton to generate all 5 of the barrels of gunpowder we need. If you aren't so lucky, you're absolutely going to want to summon a lobsterfrogman -- you will need five LFMs to finish the gunpowder quest.
screambatAll bat hole zones, on a 7 delay timerIn modern standard, you generally prefer to just get your sonars some other way; we have wildly high item drop compared to most standard suites right now, which means actually generating 3 within the Batrat Burrow's shen snake delay should be extremely straightforward. Still, if you are lacking some of the chunky +item% vectors, wishing a screambat can greatly simplify the process of unlocking the Boss Bat's Chambers. You'll need three of this guy, minus however many sonars you happened to pick up along the way.
blurThe OasisThere are very few paths where you actually want to step into the Oasis. It's a 4 monster zone that requires you burn turns of ultrahydrated to go there, which sort of sucks, and the stone rose requires enough delay that it's rarely an optimal play. However, many desert routes want to get a drum machine, for the juicy 30% desert exploration you can get with Gnasir's worm-riding manual. So you have two options: summon the blur, or snipe the drum machine with a Monkey's Paw. Most choose the paw, but some may prefer the summon. It's up to you! (You just need one, but be sure you're capping the 234% item drop!)
fantasy banditFantasyRealmGiven that we now have the Candy Cane Sword Cane's extra fat loot token, we can trivially generate 3 fat loot tokens in a run, and don't really need to worry about this in a 2-day run. But if you're missing the CCSC, this is an excellent summon/copy target -- you need five bandits to get an extra token, but that is considerably better than doing the entirety of 8-bit realm over again for the evergreen 8-bit fat loot token.
shadow slabShadow RiftsIf you own the closed-circuit payphone, you really don't need to summon this; in the 11+ turns you get inside the shadow rifts, you can virtually always get at least one shadow slab you can turn around and copy. But the combat item dropped by the shadow slab, the shadow brick, is flat out one of the best items in the game for a speedrunner; being able to freekill quest-relevant monsters is a flat 1 turnsave every single time. One important note -- we wouldn't recommend copying slabs unless you're able to generate more than 1 freekill per slab on average. This (probably!) involves the use of Goose drones and obscenely high item drop to make it really sing. It's a mildly complicated strategy, and if you don't have the payphone, you probably don't have the item drop needed to make it a sensible probablistic play (as you need >450% item drop and enough goose drones to exude 1/fight to make shadow slab copies give you >1 slab on average). But if you lack rift access, have summon access, and have copier access? Think about it!

Tier 3: Decent summons, in a pinch

These summons are largely "fine, not great" -- mostly, the issue is that these are monsters that are either relatively easy to find (existing in 1-3 monster zones) or represent higher-TC ways of solving problems than alternate solutions (looking at you, Skinner.) Still, these aren't terrible, and are in fact useful enough to be worth a quick examination.

MonsterNative ZoneReasoning & Number Needed
oil cartelOil PeakYou could probably argue this one isn't very good, and I can't -totally- deny it -- you can generate a cartel very easily by simply stepping into Oil Peak with 100+ ML. But there is something slightly fun about summoning the cartel and placing them into delay, and due to the turnless bridge completion we're getting from the model train set, there's enough small value there that it's worth mentioning as a very low-tier summon option.
Knob Goblin Harem GirlKnob Goblin HaremThe Harem Girl is something you generally will need every ascension now that the Fire Extinguisher is gone again. But I have trouble recommending it; a three monster zone is just one banish and one waffle at worst, and a 33% chance of hitting the girl on the first turn at best. On average this is a little less than one turn saved as a summon, which is fine, but nothing to write home about.
dairy goatThe GoatletExact same math as I noted with the harem girl applies for the dairy goat; 33% chance of a dairy goat on your first turn, and 50% chance on the second, assuming you roll in with a banish ready to go. And as with the Harem Girl, you (generally) only need one, as you can goose drone + trainset-food-dupe your goat cheese to solve the 3 you need. The only thing that might nudge it slightly below the harem girl is that the Goatlet is a half-decent autumn-aton zone to get one of the arm attachments, while the Harem just straight up isn't, so the banish may do double duty by enabling you to do an early send and see how much cheese you luck into.
pygmy bowlerThe Hidden Bowling AlleyStop me if you're sensing a theme -- once again, the Bowler is in a 3 monster zone (4 if you used a summon to bypass the park). And one of those monsters, with a book of matches in your possession, is inherently free! Still, a summon can be a decent choice if you have some Grey Goose drones burning a hole in your pocket, I suppose.
pygmy janitorThe Hidden City, generallyIf you bypass the Hidden Park, this is a pretty bad summon. If you do the Hidden Park and encounter a Janitor, this is (probably) a bad summon. If you do the Hidden Park and somehow never encounter a Janitor, though? This summon isn't too bad -- a book of matches will essentially -always- save you at least one turn. Very limited universe where this summon makes sense, but when it makes sense it makes sense!
lynyrd skinnerA Mob of Zeppelin ProtestorsWhile the Camel was in standard, this was a fun-ish spit, as you'd generate: 4 free lynyrds (3 today, 1 tomorrow), a nice stench damage potion for the tower test, and (via those lynyrds) all the lynyrd skin you needed to generate the full outfit for the 20 progress option from the lynyrd NC. The problem with this is that in the post-camel meta this isn't really as useful as it used to be; you can use your goose to get enough skins from two lynyrds to make the full outfit, but with Monkey's Paw and Genie Wishes in standard, alongside the Candy Sword Cane's sleaze doubler, 4 turns and a wish for a freecraft effect to make it happen is wildly worse than the 2-3 turns you take with just one wish to solve Zeppelin through the Sleaze route. There may someday be a path where skinner strats come back with a vengeance, but that's quite unlikely for at least a few years after the Candy Sword Cane's sleaze speedup.
Article contributed by Captain Scotch