As Standard season heads into summer, we have a surprisingly long lull until Magic Origins hits shelves. Despite the wait, what are sure to be the standout cards from the set have already been spoiled via San Diego Comic Con. All of the dual-sided planeswalkers are now known, and it all started with a random image of Chandra.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
For those who are out of the loop, let’s quickly go over what these planeswalkers actually are. First and foremost all of them are creatures with average on-curve stats and one relevant ability along with a trigger condition. Meet the condition and the planeswalker flips over to reveal their true power! Some of these are easier to meet than others and what you get on the other end may not exactly match up to expectations.
In Chandra’s case, the trigger condition is around medium in terms of difficulty. You have three ways to get her to do what you want:
- Attack with her and pump her to survive combat, ping afterward.
- Clear the board to attack successfully, then play a spell and ping using her ability.
- Ping, spell, ping, spell, ping.
Note that her ability doesn’t care if you’ve dealt 3 or more damage to a player, all it cares about is that you’ve activated her ping and she’s dealt 3 or more damage that turn. All three ways to flip her are doable in the average red deck and don’t require much in the deckbuilding department. Atarka’s Command makes it all too easy to run a pump spell game one, Titan’s Strength is viable, and casting two spells in a turn with Stoke the Flames isn’t too tough either.
What’s the upside though? Playing Chandra means running a low impact 3-drop that dies to all sorts of removal and is pretty bad in a topdeck war. Well, let’s look.
Chandra, Roaring Flame
The big key to me is she can immediately go to 5 loyalty and deal 2 more damage to the opponent that same turn. Every turn she stays alive after that, the opponent is eating another Shock to the face and she keeps becoming harder to kill. This is not an insignificant clock in your average red deck and it gives you another damage option that doesn’t care about your board.
Of course, it couldn’t all be upside, there’s a reason we’ve had precious few playable Chandras over the years. Instead of a reasonable board control ability, it’s -2 to Shock a creature. I get that they didn’t want her to become a cheap board control ‘walker, but at least a Flame Slash or only subtracting 1 loyalty would’ve been nice. It feels a bit like overkill to make sure she’s safe. As for her ultimate, it should end the game when you fire it off, because the opponent has probably taken 15+ damage by the time it’s realistic to activate. In games involving life gain it keeps the damage ticking away.
Since her abilities aren’t powerful enough for Modern, instead we’ll focus on what she can do for Standard and post-rotation. Clearly you want a card like Chandra in one of two places: a midrange red deck that doesn’t currently exist, or an aggressive red deck once the metagame becomes less hostile. On the other hand, if we see a lot of GR decks and megamorph shells she makes a lot of sense. Instead of competing with those decks on the ground, we have a constant source of damage on the cheap.
Instead of Goblin Rabblemaster, we have Chandra in the role of a constant damage source that doesn’t rely on attacking. Even without flipping her, she’s very likely to deal 2 damage a turn with such a high density of spells, and this deck really can flip her without a ton of problems.
Looking at the next Standard format, red doesn’t have a slam-dunk 3-drop waiting in the wings to replace Goblin Rabblemaster. While Hordeling Outburst will still be around, the question becomes how effective it is without the support of Stoke the Flames and the synergy with Foundry Street Denizen. Chandra may not look like the traditional red 3, but she may fill a crucial gap in the future. The core shell of the red deck already exists for a post-rotation world even without knowing the full contents of Origins, let alone Battle for Zendikar. So she’s an intriguing future prospect, especially after Hero’s Downfall rotates.
With the dual-sided planeswalkers coming out toward the end of an established Standard format and having no historical reference for how these will play, it’ll be interesting to see where Chandra and gang end up in the hierarchy. Development made their costs cheap enough to try, that’s for sure. I imagine opinions will be quite divided for some time.