One of the reasons I hate spoiler season is that it seems like everyone speaks in hyperbole about every new card. Either it’s the best thing ever printed, or it’s trash and you’re dumb for liking it. The proper way to evaluate new cards is to think about how this card CAN be used, how likely it is to be used NOW, and how likely it’ll see play in the FUTURE, since there is a rotation coming up reasonably soon. Here are nine things to think about.
1. Double the fun
In Commander, with a Doubling Season in play, Chandra, Pyromaster ultimates immediately when she comes down. This combination of cards almost feels like casting a Maelstrom Wanderer. You have to hit something good, but if you do it’s a bunch of free stuff.
2. Everyone loves lands
The 0 ability also lets you play lands. This may either be super obvious or not obvious at all, depending on the reader. Activate this BEFORE you play your land for the turn, please, if possible.
3. Immediate implications
Chandra’s +1 ability is reasonable against a fair number of cards that are currently seeing play in Standard. It seems good against Falkenrath Aristocrat, Lingering Souls, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, mana dorks like Avacyn’s Pilgrim and essentially any one-toughness creature. The falter ability is underrated in decks that want to attack with creatures, especially since it’s repeatable. Making it so a Voice of Resurgence, Boros Reckoner, Augur of Bolas, et al., can’t block can actually be quite strong, since those are cards designed to slow the tempo of the game down.
Targeting a Cartel Aristocrat will force the sacrifice before blockers, which means one fewer blocker! Combine that with Firefist Striker, and that’s two fewer blockers! As someone who is usually on the side playing the Cartel Aristocrat, let me tell you, it’s annoying. If you do have the removal spell and you’re itching to kill that Aristocrat, this is a way to force the sacrifice so you can kill it on the stack with your Searing Spear or whatnot.
4. My planeswalker is better than yours
The +1 ability allows you to harry planeswalkers, which is also probably obvious, but think about what that really means in terms of gameplay: Planeswalkers trying to tick up slowly will find it impossible. In particular, Chandra hits both sides of Sorin, killing the token and reducing Sorin’s loyalty by 1, all while threatening to ultimate. Chandra can force Garruk Relentless to flip, which is probably favorable in some situations. Liliana normally ticks up by one, but not anymore!
5. An ultimate challenge
Chandra’s ultimate ability requires careful deck construction to utilize optimally. Three Searing Spears is probably fine, since that’s probably a kill-shot in any aggressive red deck, but for my money you probably want something a little better. I’m not sure what that is, maybe Sign in Blood? A triple Mark of Mutiny is probably a kill in a creature mirror. Triple Warleader’s Helix sounds nice. No matter what your choice is, though, you need to hit one instant or sorcery in 10 cards, so I’d want to be playing eight minimum, and probably at least 10 in a 60-card deck, which (probably) means no Domri Rade in the same deck. It also means keeping the X spells to a minimum, since both the 0 ability and the ultimate are pretty bad on X spells.
6. The art of bluffing
The +1 could be fine to play during your second main phase. If your opponent wants to block your 2/2 with his 3/3 (and it isn’t Boros Reckoner, since if you play the ability first you don’t ever want to see him on defense) then you can make it a trade by playing the ability in the second main phase. This functionality will allow you to make good use of Chandra. If you’re on four mana, and you’re playing with Ghor-Clan Rampagers, that attack is still good since you’re bluffing the Rampager. This bluff will probably be successful since your opponent will think you’re baiting him into a block, when really you just don’t have it. Then if he doesn’t block, you can play Chandra’s 0 ability and get a free card.
7. The magic number
Four is powerful when it comes to mana cost for planeswalkers: Ajani Vengeant, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Garruk Relentless, Garruk Wildspeaker, Jace, Architect of Thought, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Koth of the Hammer, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. (Maybe Ral Zarek? I’m still unimpressed.) The old Magic philosophy goes as such: Any spell that costs four should win you the game. Any higher than that, and it should win you the game even more. Current aggro decks are topping out around four CMC (with Hellrider or Falkenrath Aristocrat or Sorin, Lord of Innistrad), which means four is fine as a finisher. It also means Chandra doesn’t get hit by Abrupt Decay, which is sweet.
8. New M14 rules
Chandra might unwittingly be the biggest beneficiary of the new M14 rules change. If you have a low-loyalty Chandra, and you have a second one in your hand, you are sitting pretty. If there are two creatures you don’t want in combat, all of a sudden neither can block. If there isn’t a good +1 target, you’re getting a free spell (or land), followed by another activation when you play the new one and lose the old one! She has no losing loyalty ability, so if your opponent hopes to leave you with a 1 loyalty Chandra, you can let them know how foolish that was. You can even chain them together if there is a Chandra on top! Play the new one, and activate again if you need a better effect that turn.
9. Back to the future
“He knows changes aren’t permanent. But change is.” This quote from Tom Sawyer by Rush was really just a smarmy way of saying things change. Even if Chandra isn’t good right now, she has potential if there are a whole bunch of X/1s seeing play, or if one big creature is typically threatening to block your guys (Aetherling, maybe?) or if there are giant haymakers that will win you the game and you try to use the 0 ability to cast them or ramp your lands. Cards don’t disappear until rotation, and having a good, solid understanding of what a card does and where it fits into decks will help you more in the long run than any stupid, arbitrary numerical assignment I could give.
OK, fine! Maybe seven out of 10 if used properly? She doesn’t go in every red deck. But if any top-of-the-library manipulation cards get printed, she becomes a blue card, so watch out.
Thanks for reading!
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