Chandra, Flamecaller

It’s not a secret that Anthony Lowry is quite the fan of Chandra and her firestarting. So how does he feel about the latest in the long line of Nalaars? Anthony analyzes the card here!

If someone spoiled the Star Wars plot for you before you went to see it, how would you feel?

You’re free to replace Star Wars with anything.

That’s why these early leaks suck.

Spoiler season is one of the most exciting times for me. Personally, it’s like Christmas, where I get to see things handed to me day by day, week by week. When Wizards spoils small things little by little, I get that “c’mon already!” feeling, where I want to see the cards that resonate with me. When they start off big, featuring the mythics and chase rares, the competitive side in me wants to be at a tournament, jamming with said mythics and chase cards as soon as possible. I don’t know how they do it, but it works. I get hyped. I’m a pretty hype person at heart. I get excited when I see these new toys that I want to play with, just like everyone else. Regardless of what you play–competitive, casual, Commander, Modern, Limited. It doesn’t matter. People get excited, and if the majority didn’t get excited at how Wizards spoiled them, then they wouldn’t continue with the formula that’s been so successful over the years.

As a writer, it’s absolutely backbreaking.

Because of the aforementioned formula, we get to strategically plan out our work. Wizards’ spoiling methods feed directly into how writers all across Magic get their content across to you, the reader. Many of us even receive preview cards to keep under wraps and write a great piece for. I know for me, it’d be not only an honor but a privilege to be able to preview Chandra, Flamecaller if I were given the opportunity. It’s not a secret that Chandra is my favorite character, not only in all of Magic, but all of anything. It’s one of the most exciting things a writer can do, and while I don’t expect anyone that doesn’t write to fully understand it, it’s a perspective that I think not very many people are willing to take in, and for good reason. Most of you read, not write, so why should you care how I, or someone else that writes is affected?

It’s not that someone couldn’t write about their preview cards or their spoilers, as this article will be doing just that. It’s that their work will suffer because of something that’s beyond their control, and that isn’t fair. It isn’t fair to them, it isn’t fair to you, and it isn’t fair to the people that make all of these things happen the way they do. The excitement has been passed, and it’s been talked about and tried already. Many won’t even bother to read or take in what was written because the information was already out there. When the New Phyrexia Godbook was leaked early, it was a bit before my writing time. I know that I didn’t really care to read any of the preview articles or spoiler articles. Granted, Caw-Blade didn’t really help writing either.

With all of this said, it would be unreasonable and ridiculous for me to act like these leaks didn’t happen. It would also be exceptionally unreasonable for me to not talk about them, no matter how I feel. We should be excited! We should be willing to talk about them. Leaks happen because people want to see them. People want to talk about them, people want to be able to have their toys. I know I got excited at first when I saw Chandra, even if I wound up losing that excited feeling just as quickly as I got it. We have access to the cards, and we should use what we have. We should utilize the information that we have to the absolute fullest, and it would be foolish not to.

Now, with this information, it seems that Oath of the Gatewatch is going to bring some incredible uniqueness to Standard. More than we’ve seen in quite some time. Colorless mana and generic mana are now differentiated, meaning that cards with the colorless mana symbol only accept colorless mana. This is unprecedented territory. How many colorless lands are we willing to play in order to maximize use of these cards? It depends on which of the cards with colorless symbols are worth playing. Wastes being a basic land is pretty interesting, as it can work with things like Explosive Vegetation and Evolving Wilds.

Even though all the talk is about colorless cards, colorless lands, how they work, and how good they’ll be, let’s be real: you know exactly what I’m going to talk about.

I am not one to inflate how good Chandra can be. If I think it sucks, I think it sucks. I won’t try and lead you on. It’s super easy to dismiss it as yet another rendition of Chandra Ablaze, mostly because Chandra Ablaze was absolutely, positively awful. This is not the case with Chandra, Flamecaller. First off, get rid of that mindset that every mono-red card has to be directly tied in to being aggressive. This is not an aggro card, and even if it winds up being so, evaluate it where it fits. Red decks in their current state already have big finishers that don’t require a large mana investment, and if they did want to go big, they aren’t short of options. Cards like Thunderbreak Regent are already there for you. The other issue with Chandra is that it’s very much a midrange finisher, but in a color where, by Standard’s terms, doesn’t have much of a midrange presence. Now, when sets are released, formats more than likely change, and because of that, I think that Chandra gets a legitimate shot, because it is way too over the top of a finisher to dismiss. In fact, it’s probably the Stormbreath Dragon we’ve been looking for since it rotated out.

It might even be contextually more powerful.

Of course, the classic rule of “Does this protect itself?” comes into play when you look at most planeswalkers, and for Chandra, this is a resounding yes. Is three damage complete coverage? Absolutely not, but the protection is there. Interestingly enough, it also protects itself heads up against four power, since you can just plus one and get in with hasted Elemental tokens (even if they don’t get through). So if you’re only against a Siege Rhino, Tasigur, or the like, you’re fine. In similar fashion as Chandra, Pyromaster, attacking into it is not free, as you’re effectively being provoked into doing so, since, in ideal cases, you’re opening yourself up to getting cracked back by the 3/1s. In my book, Chandra has this clause covered for the most part.

Another classic, yet often less talked about planeswalker question that pops up is: What is it doing when you, your opponent, or neither of you are doing nothing? Well, you get to straight up draw cards, an absolute absurdity in straight red, and one that should not be taken lightly. The fact that we go plus one on cards and lose no loyalty in the process, is also saying a lot, as it becomes much, much easier to gauge your loyalty accordingly when appropriate. If your hand is great, there’s no need to use it; if it isn’t, get a retry and fuel your delve spells in the process. This automatically makes me want to throw it into a deck with black and/or blue, as playing this with Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise seems great. In fact, is Treasure Cruise just better than Dig Through Time in our Chandra deck? It might be!

Lastly, the cost. It’s expensive, yes, so we want our deck to be sufficiently capable of getting to the point where we can make full use of Chandra. My first inclination to achieving this is having heavy midrange or control elements. Jeskai or Temur Black with a heavy planeswalker theme is an easy route, but I think it’s going to have to be more nuanced than that. It’s a bit too early for a decklist, but I definitely like starting with things like Hangarback Walker, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, or something similar, just to get yourself off the ground. Is the megamorph package good with Chandra? At first glance, it doesn’t seem so since her sweeper nabs them too, but if you already have a megamorph presence, do you need to use her sweeper in the first place? How do Crackling Doom decks line up with Chandra? What about Pia and Kiran Nalaar? Kozilek’s Return seems like an absolutely busted card if you’re looking to support a colorless element to your deck as well, but does Chandra have a place in that type of deck? More importantly, what else in Oath of the Gatewatch will further help this card and everything it has going for it?

Essentially, if the format lines up in such a way that smaller creatures, no matter the durability, become immediately pressured by things coming before Chandra, and if that deck needs a way to turn the corner on a dime, then Chandra will have a place. If Siege Rhino and small midrangey creatures are the focal point of the format, then Chandra will have a place. Lastly, if the format becomes super slow, filled with cards like Dragonlords, Sarkhans, Ob Nixilis, and the like, or if the format becomes super fast with Monastery Swiftspears, then Chandra will get pushed out pretty hard.

Of course, I’m going to try and make her work, but with the rest of Oath of the Gatewatch still upon us, I’m excited to see where she’ll eventually end up.

(A four of in every single deck I play for the rest of my life.)