August 04, 2015

Lighting a Spark with Chandra

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Welcome to Chandra Week! This is the week where I convince you that Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh is worth playing in your decks. I'm going to show you that flipping Chandra, while nowhere near as easy as Liliana, Heretical Healer, is still pretty straightforward. Then I'm going to show you the true multiplayer power of Chandra, Roaring Flame. Let's get to it!

When I first looked at Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, I thought, "This is pretty straightforward. Attack with Chandra, deal 2 points of damage, cast a burn spell that untaps her, then tap her to deal the third point of damage for the turn, letting her flip. Easy." Not so easy. Chandra enters the battlefield on turn two (with acceleration) or turn three (without acceleration), at the earliest. Red isn't the best at acceleration, and with Chandra costing two red mana, even pairing red with another color better at acceleration probably isn't going to speed things up to before turn three. At this point, you play her and wait, then attack the next turn. The problem lies with Chandra surviving the attack. In many multiplayer games, this won't be a problem. Every game seems to have at least one person who is slow out of the gates. But what happens when you don't cast her on turn three? With bigger creatures around, Chandra would die in combat before she could tap to do a point of damage and flip into her planeswalker form.

Use this handy tool to practice flipping Chandra now!

At first, I figured the way around this was vigilance. If the creature is untapped, then you don't need a red spell to untap it, so it can do its tap ability and flip. A card like Eternal Warrior (a true throwback card that found its way into many of my decks "in the day") or Ajani Steadfast would work. While this avoided the need to cast a red spell, the issue of surviving combat remained. We're still dealing with a 2/2 creature trying to survive in a game where 2/2s quickly become chump blockers or creatures you use as sacrificial lambs to get something bigger and better. I needed a way to deal the damage and not suffer the kickback.

First strike! This just solves everything! Chandra can charge in at anyone who doesn't have a creature with first strike or double strike. The opponent uses any creature to block. Before damage is declared, play an instant that gives Chandra first strike. Kindled Fury, or even better, Coordinated Assault will work. Now that you've played a red spell, Chandra untaps. Deal your first strike damage. Before going to regular damage, tap Chandra to do the third point of damage (or in this case, the fourth point of damage), and flip her into her planeswalker form, which removes her from combat. Doing it this way ensures she never takes damage in combat! Straightforward and not as difficult as it appears at first glance.

You want it even easier? Picture this board situation for a minute: One of your opponents has several 1/1 token creatures on their turn, and you have Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh sitting there, untapped. If they attack you, Chandra can block then tap to do a point of damage, which would allow her to flip. This would mean that as long as Chandra is sitting on the battlefield untapped, opponents cannot attack you with a creature that has only 1 power, since they would be making it so easy to flip Chandra. And if they don't attack you, you can always just tap her to deal 1 damage to a target player. Flipping her this way involves the risk of combat tricks, but it doesn't require a second card to untap Chandra. I prefer the first strike option, since you get to control the situation a little better, but this can work in a pinch too.

Chandra, Roaring Flame is just another cute planeswalker—until you read her ultimate ability. Doing 2 damage to a player or creature just isn't worth the effort of flipping Chandra. But the ultimate ability, for -7 loyalty, is a multiplayer dream! Every opponent takes 6 damage, and 3 more on their upkeep? And 3 more on their next upkeep?! Emblems are practically impossible to get rid of, so once you hit it, your opponents are on a steep clock. After their first upkeep, they'll have taken 9 damage already, and more will be coming!


As a public service announcement, I do want to note a couple of things about Chandra's ultimate. The first 6 damage comes from her. If one of your opponents has a way to avoid taking the 6 damage (i.e. protection from red), they don't get an emblem. This can really sour your plans, so take care. The second thing is that it is the emblem doing the damage on upkeep, and that is a colorless source. All that protection does your opponents no good if you can give them the emblem.

Thanks.


For those of you who read my articles regularly, you know the short shrift I generally give to a planeswalker's ultimate. When you are determining how good a planeswalker will be in your multiplayer games, you need to understand that only rarely will your planeswalker survive past two or three turns. While my group is getting better about reflexively attacking planeswalkers, everyone still understands that they are a free spell every turn as long as they are alive. Even a simple ability like doing 2 damage to a player can get very annoying if it just keeps happening—especially if it doesn't cost anything to the controller.

Since your planeswalker will not survive long, I generally discount the ultimate ability when looking at the quality of a planeswalker. That makes Chandra a pretty poor-quality planeswalker. You'll likely get a chance to do 2 damage to a creature and 2 damage to a player before it dies. Using a card to give Chandra (the creature) first strike just to flip it seems like a steep price to pay for a total of 4 damage. I can get that and much more from one card, let alone two.

But that ultimate is amazing! It sends out 9, 12, 15 damage! You just need to get there and the damage keeps coming! You can do other things, while the emblem keeps giving! All we have to do is figure out how to get there.

My first thought was Doubling Season. I initially thought that Doubling Season doubled the counters added to a planeswalker whenever you used a "plus" ability, but I was set straight on that a long time ago. Those are costs, and Doubling Season doesn't double costs, just results. Which means if Doubling Season is out when a planeswalker enters the battlefield, the loyalty counters that would normally be put on it are doubled. This is pretty bonkers with almost any planeswalker, and it would certainly serve the purpose with Chandra, Roaring Flame. She would enter with 8 loyalty counters, letting you use her ability as soon as she appears.[1]

Doubling Season solves the problem, but it is a green card. I like red-green decks as much as anyone, but this is a seriously limiting factor for Chandra—and any other non-green planeswalker, for that matter. Doubling Season is also a difficult card to find now. Wizards doesn't make cards that double loyalty counters any more, since those cards can essentially break planeswalkers. Start looking at planeswalkers and doubling their initial loyalty, and tell me I'm wrong.

Given those limiting factors, I wanted to find another way to help things along. Chandra, Roaring Flame starts at 4 loyalty and needs 7 to go ultimate. Consider this:

  • Play Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh.
  • Attack with Chandra, using our Coordinated Assault tech, flipping to Chandra, Roaring Flame. Activate her +1 ability, bringing her to 5 loyalty counters.
  • Activate her +1 ability, bringing her to 6 loyalty counters.
  • Activate her +1 ability, bringing her to 7 loyalty counters.
  • Activate her -7 ability, bringing her to 0 loyalty counters, but getting all kinds of awesome.

Chandra, in one form or another, needs to be on the battlefield, untouched, for five turns! This is asking too much. We are going to need some help. Thankfully, there is a card out there that can come to our aid: The Chain Veil. I never really paid any attention to it until I heard Jason Alt talk about it on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast, and mention it in his Commander series on Gathering Magic about 75% Commander decks. The Chain Veil lets us activate a loyalty ability on every planeswalker we control. For Chandra, this means that we can activate her +1 ability twice every turn. This brings our clock down a turn, and leaves Chandra alive to try again.

So what does a Chandra deck look like?

Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh

I figured that if I was going to use The Chain Veil, then I should get something out of it. I'm also hoping that Koth and Daretti can take some of the pressure off Chandra. My opponents will have to choose which planeswalker to go after if I have two or more out at once. I included Pia and Kiran Nalaar for the Thopter tokens. They can block early flyers and be sacrificed for damage, or to Daretti if you need to get another artifact from your graveyard. I included Nevinyrral's Disk, as it clears the board of everything but planeswalkers and land. The Fire Diamond, Pyromancer's Goggles, and Sandstone Needle help to speed things along. Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep gives first strike to legendary creatures, which is nice, but don't think it will fill in for Coordinated Assault to help you flip Chandra. It isn't the spell you need to untap her. It's a land that taps for red and offers a bonus ability at no real cost, so I included it. I like more options. I expect the rest of the cards are pretty self-explanatory.

Take special note that if you get Chandra's emblem on your opponents, you will be under attack. They can't easily get rid of the emblem, and most opponents are likely to be a bit miffed that you gave it to them. Once you've got the clock on countdown, expect the Disk and Anger of the Gods to have to work overtime for you. I included Spawn of Thraxes to speed up the most threatening player's clock.

The deck needs testing and will benefit from some fine-tuning. I hope it's enough to light a fire under your creative juices! Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh is a fun package that, with just a little help, can make some waves around your kitchen table!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

mtgseriousfun@gmail.com


[1]Unless of course you managed to flip her on an opponent's turn, perhaps by blocking then tapping Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh.



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