How Do We Use Chandra, Awakened Inferno in Core Set 2020 Standard?

Sam Black has his eye on Chandra, Awakened Inferno and is looking for the best shell to put her in. Can he find a suitable home that will dominate the upcoming Standard format?

Chandra, Awakened Inferno is an unmistakably powerful card, but it’s not a natural fit into the existing Red decks in Standard since it’s so expensive. Chandra doesn’t offer a brutally-fast kill or really support a strategy that’s looking to end the game quickly. Chandra is a control card that offers inevitability and removal.

A card like that is going to require building a control deck, which means knowing what we need to be able to answer while we build up mana and wait for Chandra to end the game. While we now know all of the cards in Core Set 2020, we don’t necessarily know what the metagame will look like. We do know that in current Standard the main threats are Esper Control, Esper Hero, Simic Nexus, Izzet Phoenix, Sultai Dreadhorde, Gruul Midrange, Bant Ramp, Mono-Red Aggro, and White-based Aggro.

At a glance, Core Set 2020 looks to be pushing Tribal decks and offering more tools to Mono-Blue Aggro again. My inclination in building a control deck at this stage is to think about the old format, with possibly a few more creature-based strategies. If that’s correct, Red Control decks could be fairly well-positioned as they can pack a lot of answers to creatures and their planeswalkers let them compete with Esper decks.

This deck has a good variety of planeswalkers to take advantage of Chandra, Acolyte of Flame and Sarkhan the Masterless, plus tokens with burn spells allow it to threaten opposing planeswalkers.

Previously Lava Coil was my go-to removal spell in decks like this, but I think that with the format having moved more toward planeswalkers it’s important to play removal that can target them as well. For that removal that can’t, I think Fight with Fire is important to keep in mind as a lot of people have shifted towards that key fifth toughness on their creatures specifically to punish Lava Coil.

The focus in this deck on Planeswalkers and Treasure Map should leave it well-positioned against Esper strategies, and the small removal should be good against any new Tribal decks that show up. Chandra, Awakened Inferno does an interesting thing against Nexus decks that would usually be very hard for this sort of deck to beat; the emblem forces them to apply pressure quickly while taking extra turns, which they might not be set up to accomplish. Unfortunately, I think this is fairly trivial for them to address in sideboarding.

Notably absent from this deck is Goblin Chainwhirler. While the card is very powerful, I just don’t think this deck is particularly interested in the 3/3 creature and it would rather just play a planeswalker. I used a couple in the sideboard, but even there I think it might be worse than Flame Sweep most of the time.

I suspect this deck’s biggest weakness in the format would be opposing Experimental Frenzies, which this deck really has no defense against, and Izzet Phoenix, whose recurring threats that attack planeswalkers well would be pretty unrealistic to stop. I suspect this means sticking to Mono-Red won’t be optimal.

Another way to approach Red Control is to change the card advantage engine – Bag of Holding offers a strange new alternative to Treasure Map that we can really lean into:

This deck is kind of wild. The goal is to get a Bag of Holding down as soon as possible and then loot your hand to fill it up. Ideally you cast a Heartwarming Redemption with a reasonably full hand then use Bag of Holding to give yourself a giant hand and play Glint-Horn Buccaneer and a huge Heartwarming Redemption.

Alternatively, if you can connect with Neheb and then use Bag of Holding to get a huge hand you can discard it to draw into a new hand and make a lot of mana. Bag of Holding is the most important card, but there are a lot of synergies with Glint-Horn Buccaneer and cards that discard and draw lots of cards.

This deck’s curve is kind of a giant mess, but with this much card selection it’s not clear that this is really an obstacle. This is more of a weird combo deck than a deck that’s really trying to smoothly curve out, and if there are a few too many four-mana spells well that shouldn’t really be that big of a problem.

Chandra is more of an afterthought here, a generically good thing to do with a lot of mana but not essential to the primary operation of the deck. The white addition offers lifegain with Heartwarming Redemption, a better sweeper in Deafening Clarion and an answer to Experimental Frenzy in Disenchant, all at an extremely minimal cost, so I think there’s no real reason to look to be mono-color here.

I’m less than confident in how this deck matches up against other decks, because I’m honestly not sure how strong its core plan is. It seems sweet, but it’s playing some unusual cards for sure and I just don’t know whether or not the deck even fundamentally works yet.

Another angle that I’m interested in is the interaction between Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Powerstone Shard as a way to generate a lot of mana:

This deck looks to function similarly to the Nissa, Who Shakes The World-powered Mono-Green Ramp decks we’ve seen in War of the Spark Standard that use Karn and Ugin, just using Saheeli and Powerstone Shard to generate mana instead of Nissa. I don’t want to put down a powerful planeswalker, but this means the deck gets to play more removal and make very good use of Saheeli. Compared to the green deck, this deck gains cheap removal and sweepers that should help against creature decks and Chandra, Awakened Inferno against any slow decks. This makes it a good option if the Tribal decks pushed in Core Set 2020 succeed, but likely worse against opposing midrange decks.

My biggest concern with this deck is actually that it might have too much mana and not enough to do with it. The best solution might just be to play some copies of Fight with Fire and use Powerstone Shards to kick it, or the deck might want some other big mana sink like Finale of Glory. It seems that, in general, people aren’t playing a lot of removal for artifacts at the moment and that definitely helps this kind of deck.

This deck has completely the opposite approach to Bag of Holding than the previous deck – rather than working to turn it into something explosive this deck uses the card “straight up,” which is a good test of its floor. Two mana is a lot to loot, but this deck doesn’t really have enough Mountains or Red spells to take full advantage of Chandra’s Regulator and Powerstone Shards can certainly help with having extra mana around to activate Bag of Holding. Still, there’s a good chance we’d be better off with Pirate’s Pillage in this slot.

Another classic approach to casting big Red spells is to pair them with Green cards to get extra mana:

Marauding Raptor into Ranging Raptors is a pretty sweet way to ramp, and Marauding Raptor offers some much-needed cohesion to the Dinosaur deck’s Enrage cards.

Chandra will also trigger Enrage when you use the -3 ability, but outside of that loose synergy Chandra’s mostly just providing some reach and extra removal to this deck. It’s not the cleanest fit, but Dinosaurs historically struggle with the kinds of control decks that Chandra can beat up on very well so it might actually be worth including despite being an expensive card you can’t find off Commune with Dinosaurs. It might be best in the sideboard, but that will depend on how the format shakes out.

Ultimately, I have my doubts about Chandra, Awakened Inferno in this format. My concern is that there are a lot of midrange decks that turn the corner and end the game quickly, and the -3 not hitting Nissa’s Elementals can be a fairly big liability in those matchups.

I think the Red planeswalkers work together well, and I’m pretty into Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. I think there’s a lot of potential with Bag of Holding and Heartwarming Redemption, but this just might not be the best format for Chandra, Awakened Inferno as a maindeck card.