Top 8 Chandra's throughout MTG History
This week, we learned that Core Set 2020 will be Chandra-centric. This was announced alongside not one, not two, but THREE new Chandra planeswalkers that will be printed in the new core set. To get everyone’s brain in the right mode for spoiler season, here are my top 8 Chandras!
The OG. One of the first wave of planeswalkers that players ever saw, Chandra Nalaar was… fine. She’s on this list mostly because she’s the original and deserves a shout-out. The card’s design is simple and effective, though today seems uninteresting. Chandra’s central powerset originally consisted of the ability to deal damage to players and creatures. As Wizards experimented, her cards have dabbled with “instants and sorceries matter” and Elementals as well, before moving to the current temporary Red card draw as well. This is a walker that will either come down and kill a creature or threaten a win in the next two turns if unanswered. A perfect introduction to the standard design of both planeswalkers (plus, minus, ultimate) and also Chandra (burn player, burn creature, burn REALLY HARD).
The cycle of Magic: Origins planeswalkers was one of the most memorable takes on planeswalkers that we’ve seen, probably second only to War of the Spark. Though the rest of the cycle was overshadowed by the absurd power of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, the rest of the cycle was incredibly flavorful, and Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh saw some (very) fringe play during her time in Standard. While the requirement of casting two red spells is not awful, casting a three-mana 2/2 that doesn’t do anything the turn it comes down is. Even upon achieving the flip condition, the flipside of the card is little more than a variant of the original Chandra Nalaar. Only hitting creatures for 2 damage is a painful restriction that limits how strong and the card can be. Overall, a power-level miss, but a flavorful hit.
Like many of the novel War of the Spark planeswalkers, Chandra, Fire Artisan flew under the radar initially. After a decklist Top 8’ed an SCG Open with four of them in the mainboard, the card blew up, becoming overhyped for a time. Fire Artisan is a great top-end for aggressive red decks that want or need to have some play to them in the midgame. Her plus provides card advantage, her ultimate wins the game, and her static punishes your opponent for attacking her. Chandra forces your opponent to make multiple decisions that, depending on the game state, can be difficult. If they decide wrong, Chandra will light them up.
This Chandra also gets the comedy note for the now-established interaction of attacking her with a Gruul Spellbreaker or Shalai, Voice of Plenty on-board. Flavorfully, Chandra just lights herself on fire if she can’t shoot fire at something else. Hey, at least she’s dedicated.
Chandra, Pyromaster was one of the first instances of “impulsive draw” in Red, a color pie breakthrough that breathed fresh air into Red’s power set. Back in the day, Chandra’s card advantage, ability to remove blockers, and ability to pick off Noble Hierarchs and Dark Confidants made her a staple one-of in Modern Jund. While the deck has since found better alternatives, Pyromaster is a potent mix of abilities that showed that Wizards was willing to experiment a bit with Chandra, which had arguably been one of the more boring designs, with most of the abilities just being about dealing damage. In this card, you see the groundwork being laid for later evolutions, such as Fire Artisan and Torch of Defiance.
4. Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
I just couldn’t do a Top 8 article in honor of M20 without including some of the new M20 Chandras! The Chandra cycle in M20 leans into her apparent fondness of Elementals, something we’ve seen before on Chandra, Flamecaller. As War of the Spark has reminded us all, three-mana planeswalkers are always worth keeping an eye on. While the first ability of this Chandra is a tad unexciting, and mostly looks to keep her alive if you need to, the other two abilities are more interesting. Generating a free two tokens each turn is sweet and synergizes with ETB effects, sacrifice effects, and is generally in line with what aggressive red decks like to do. Her final ability is the strongest, as Chandra can flashback a spell from your graveyard twice, something which is well-established to be powerful. We’ll see if she makes a splash in Standard or Modern, but she definitely looks promising!
3. Chandra, Awakened Inferno
This card looks real good; it’s reminiscent of Chandra, Flamecaller and looks to be a perfect finisher for Red control decks. Obviously, uncounterability makes her insane in control mirrors, and her +2 of “light you on fire” means that the opponent is on a very real clock, especially if they’re durdling and trying to cast counterspells. She’s also incredibly versatile, able to sweep the board of small creatures or pick off one large creature or planeswalker. She comes down with a huge loyalty count as well, making her difficult to pressure. I believe that Awakened Inferno will be a Standard staple in much the same way that Flamecaller was.
2. Chandra, Flamecaller
Chandra, Flamecaller was awesome for the same reasons that Awakened Inferno looks to be, though Inferno’s higher loyalty, uncounterability, and increased flexibility in killing stuff makes a compelling argument for her to be above Flamecaller on this list. Flamecaller checks all the boxes of being good when you’re ahead, at parity, or behind. When ahead, she closes games in a couple of turns with her elementals. If you’re grinding, you can hold lands and then wheel them away, netting a card every time. If you’re behind, Chandra sweeps the board to catch you up. This card is everything you want out of a late-game finisher, and I look forward to playing with her again in the slightly altered form of Awakened Inferno.
Jokingly referred to as Chandra, the Mind Sculptor because of her four strong abilities, Torch of Defiance was an absolute powerhouse in Standard for its lifetime. In Modern, it’s earned slots in Jund and Monored Prison. Card advantage, removal, mana ramp, and “you-win-the-game” meant that no matter what situation you were in, the Torch of Defiance could do something for you. Killing Glorybringers or ticking up to not die to Glorybringers was Chandra’s bread and butter, and RB players everywhere mourned her rotation. On a side note, one of my favorite things about this card is the art. Most depictions of Chandra have her hands and hair on fire and her doing some action-y leap or something. Magali Villaneuve’s portrayal of the pyromancer depicts much more realistic fire, a much more gentle, beautiful pink color palette, and a Chandra standing still, something which we hardly ever see. Overall, I think Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a masterpiece of a card from a design, development, and art standpoint.
Which Chandra is your favorite?
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.
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