By: Chris Taylor
Getting past the double take on her new moniker (seriously guys, pyromaster? That one’s gonna take me a while to remember not to mess up), a new Chandra has been previewed for the upcoming core set, and while it’s not the three mana red walker we were all hoping for (in vain), she does indeed look promising:
Chandra, Pyromaster 2RR
Planeswalker – Chandra
+1: Chandra, Pyromaster deals 1 damage to target player and 1 damage to up to one target creature that player controls. That creature can’t block this turn.
0: Exile the top card of your library. You may play it this turn.
-7: Exile the top ten cards of your library. Choose an instant or sorcery card exiled this way and copy it three times. You may cast the copies without paying their mana costs.
Now before I even begin to talk about what she does, let me get something straight for you guys here: the odds of Wizards of the Coast printing another good three-mana planeswalker are very low.
Liliana of the Veil is arguably in the top 5 walkers of all time and is seeing a ton of play in Legacy, Modern, and Standard right now. Jace Beleren has been a solid card in standard since his inception and a solid draw engine everywhere, and the blistering speed of modern (and the presence of his older brother in Legacy) are the things keeping him out of more eternal formats.
Both have been really solid and really powerful additions to the planeswalker stable. But they’re definitely on the higher end of what is acceptable in terms of power level. We’re not gonna get them every day because they’re really hard to get right without being either absolutely insane, or downright horrible.
Also seriously guys, Koth is way better than we give him credit for. In terms of a planeswalker to embody the classic RDW deck, nobody does it better than him. That guy hits the board, he needs to be answered yesterday.
Part of the reason we “haven’t seen a good red planeswalker yet” is that ‘walkers by their nature are meant to press incremental advantage, and red (or at least the kind of red deck you guys are talking about when you discuss this hypothetical ‘walker) is interested in ensuring the game is as short as possible, putting these two goals at odds with each other. This is why Koth goes ultimate so quickly: if it took 4 turns for him to threaten a control player, you’d have lost the game by then, even if his ult did 20 to the face. If you want a ‘walker that fits into the traditional red deck wins mold, it’ll very rarely play like a traditional planeswalker does, and more like a high impact sorcery with rebound. It needs to fit with the aggro plan: damage, dudes and disruption.
Back to Chandra.
Chandra hits the table with 4 starting loyalty is rather beefy, and on top of that she can use her +1 to defend herself on occasion.
Her mana cost is non-prohibitive, requiring only two red mana, and she’s not too expensive at only 4. We’re off to a good start.
Her +1 is an interesting one. I feel like they had a few different abilities planned out for her, and some design notes lost a period at some point and they all got put on the same ability. That being said, this is a strong thing to be doing every turn: Eliminating their strongest blocker to clear the way for your troops is something so worth doing we’ve been known to play goblin freeking war drums, and the incremental damage to your opponent that comes along with it is not to be dismissed. For the uninitiated, think of it this way: Remember in control decks back in the day or in Invasion-Planeshift-Apocalypse draft where you’d have all these “cantrips“, cards which did something and drew a card? they’re great for control decks because they advance your game plan while keeping the cards flowing and letting you hit your land drops.
Incidental damage is the cantrip effect aggro decks love: it lets you do something (Like say, kill a creature or disrupt their lands) while advancing your game plan of getting your opponent to zero life as fast as possible.
And don’t dismiss it because it’s “Just 1 damage”. Squadron Hawk won a lot of tournaments in his day. This stuff adds up.
The meat of her abilities lies in her 0. Some other famous planeswalker was heralded for his card advantage generating neutral ability, and he’s kinda good last time I checked, so it’s easy to see why this weird Uba Mask style card draw has replaced the utterly insane brainstorm. That being said, she does still literally draw you a card per turn, and while Staff of Nin and Deadbridge Chant are slightly more resilient than our fiery beauty here, they are both seeing play at a significant markup on mana cost.
Planeswalker ultimates are usually the marketing department of modern planeswalkers, showing off the cool things you can (but probably won’t) do. That being said, she hits threat levels in not too short order (3 turns from when she hits the board), not blazingly fast but not horribly slow either. In cube Chandra’s ultimate can provide some incredible reach, as revealing even the lowly Searing Spear eats about half a player’s life total.
Chandra does things that little to no other red cards do: she draws cards, she provides a ton of flexibility, and she resists damage quite well. Regardless of her overall power level, she’s a unique card, and certainly merits consideration.
I’m excited to give her a go.
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