Modern Horizons is barely out of the oven, but the Magic preview season marches onward. Wizards has shown us the first few cards out of Magic 2020, and they are hot fire. Scorching, you might even say. We get not one, not two, but THREE entirely new Chandra planeswalkers, split across three different rarities.
Coming on the heels of War of the Spark‘s planeswalker-palooza, it’s clear that we’re living in a very new era of planeswalker design. Wizards has already announced that Chandra will be the only planeswalker getting this three-stage treatment, so with that in mind, let’s look at these three new cards and evaluate their potential.
There are a few characteristics that unite this trio. For starters, all three care about the Elemental creature type. Chandra, Novice Pyromancer (the uncommon) gives your Elementals a nice power boost. Chandra, Acolyte of Flame (rare) gives you a pair of hasty 1/1 Elementals that last until the end of the turn. Finally, Chandra, Awakened Inferno (mythic) can deal three damage to all non-Elemental creatures. My eyes are already swimming with visions of having all three of these Chandras on the battlefield.
The other shared trait between all three is that they can activate any of their planeswalker abilities the same turn they come into play. This is a marked departure from the standard “build toward the ultimate” design of most other planeswalker cards. These three Chandras appear to be more like toolboxes, offering a selection of useful effects that you can tailor to the board state at hand. Of course, this means you also can’t build loyalty towards a single, game-defining effect.
Let’s take a closer look at each card in this series.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the uncommon Chandra isn’t an overwhelming powerhouse. Probably her most useful ability is being able to deal a flat two damage to any target. After so many Chandra cards that could only deal one damage, it’s quite fun to see her Shock some stuff.
Her middle ability of creating two red mana is reminiscent of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and will be defined by how much value you can get out of playing a follow-up spell after you cast her. Ticking down on loyalty to create mana certainly doesn’t feel exciting unless you’re doing something very powerful.
Finally, her ability to give Elementals +2/+0 feels situational at best. A glance through the cards in Standard that either are Elementals, or create Elemental tokens, doesn’t turn up much. Runaway Steam-Kin is by far the most interesting. A special shout out goes to Tilonalli’s Summoner, though. If you can snag the city’s blessing with all those tokens, you can set up a hilariously damaging next turn.
Rare Chandra gives us a bit more to work with. Three mana is a much more enticing cost for competitive play, and she enters with a surprisingly high amount of loyalty. The endless stream of attackers she can create offers some potential against control decks, making her seem like a plausible sideboard card for contemporary red deck builds.
Her -2 ability also synergizes very nicely with the number of playable burn spells in Standard. Getting extra mileage out of your Lightning Strikes and even Light Up the Stages could give this card a real niche.
Her other 0 loyalty ability encourages some more outside-the-box thinking. Distributing loyalty to herself and other red planeswalkers encourages an unorthodox Red Superfriends style of deck. Thankfully, Sarkhan the Masterless provides another massive payoff for just such a strategy. I will be very happy if I can take to the skies with a flotilla of dragon/planeswalker hybrids in the new Standard format.
It only takes five little words, “this spell can’t be countered,” for this card to get my heart a-flutterin’. For six mana, a mono-red planeswalker really has to deliver, since red lacks the tools to control the game long enough for such a massive investment of resources to take over the game. However, Awakened Inferno feels like the real deal, offering us the first planeswalker ever that your opponents can’t shut down with a simple Negate. Her +2 loyalty ability will irritate control players everywhere, as the inevitability of defeat gets faster and faster with each activation. Going up to a massive 8 loyalty the turn you play her also protects her from many counter attacks.
Mythic Chandra also offers you a way to get back in the game when you’re on the back foot, in the form of a flat three-damage sweeper. Her final ability takes me back all the way to the original Chandra Nalaar, who could bop a Baneslayer Angel right off the battlefield with impunity. Being able to target planeswalkers will absolutely prove relevant in our more modern era of Standard play, and the exile clause is a cherry on top.
The 20 Mountain red decks we see these days may not be the right home for Chandra, Awakened Inferno, but don’t sleep on this card. She’s an incredible late game play, and will send ripples through Core Set 2020 Standard. If you put enough time and training into a Charmander, you’re eventually rewarded with a Charizard. Chandra-zard? Definitely Chandra-zard!
Simon is a Retail Sales Specialist at Mox Boarding House Seattle. He started playing Magic during Odyssey block, finding success on the Junior Super Series circuit and eventually playing at the 2004 US Nationals. After a multi-year break from the game, he was brought back with the reprinting of his favorite card, Lightning Bolt, in the 2010 Core Set. Simon is a loyal Red Deck Wins player and is always doing his best to win with Mountains in every Constructed format. He has a deep affection for the Magic storyline and will happily discuss the peculiarities of the Kamigawa block with you upon request.