Card of the Week: Chandra Ablaze

Once again, the CotW feature was moved to Tuesday.  Might have to make this a permanent thing!

Today’s card is our first red card featured, and it’s a hot little Planeswalker number that I’ve put into every deck I own with Mountains.  That card is Chandra Ablaze.

Chandra AblazeWhat does it do?

As you might expect from a Planeswalker, Chandra has several abilities.  (This kind of in-depth analysis is why you keep coming back to Nerd Alert, I know.)  She’s 6 mana for 5 loyalty, which is high on the curve but a decent proportion.  Her +1 ability allows you to discard a card; if it’s red, it acts as spot removal for creatures with less than a 4-body.  Her -2 ability forces all players to discard their hands and draw 3 cards.  Her ultimate, costing 7 loyalty, allows you to replay any and all red instants and sorceries in your graveyard.  There you have it.

What’s good about that?

First, the +1 ability.  Spot-removal for creatures is underrated in Commander.  It’s often very important to knock off utility dudes and annoying creatures.  If you discard a red card, you can bump off cards like Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Seedborn Muse, Lodestone Golem, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Karn, Silver Golem, and a litany of smaller, annoying dudes like Gaddock Teeg.  That’s one upside to this ability.  You can burn out players too, but that doesn’t come up very often.  In addition, you can dump cards into your yard for the purposes of madness, threshold, flashback, reanimation, and what-have-you.  And, of course, dumping red instants and sorceries also hooks into Chandra 2.0’s ultimate ability, as discussed below.

Her -2 ability is the main reason I include her in my red decks, however.  Red seriously lacks card drawing in the first place, and the ability to draw 3 new cards probably twice for 6 mana is among the most efficient and powerful card draw spells red has.  Furthermore, you force everyone else to discard their hands as well!  By the time your average red deck is running out of gas and looking to draw new cards, control and combo decks have been sculpting their hands for some time, and forcing them all to dump their hands can be a huge swing in your favor.  Lastly, if you dump some red instants and sorceries in the process of discarding your hand, you can potentially replay them later for free with Chandra’s ultimate.  (Of course, -2 loyalty puts you a long way away from 7, but still.)  At six mana, this is right around the time red decks are seriously looking for more cards, too, so she fits nicely into the curve and gameplan.

Lastly, Chandra 2.0’s ultimate can be a big swing.  Red has numerous powerful spells like Insurrection, Warp World, Hellion Eruption, Blasphemous Act, Relentless Assault, Cleaver Riot, and so on, and you can play them all over again!  Like all ultimates, it’s very powerful, but the nice thing about this one is it can sneak under the radar a little bit.  It’s not as obviously game-breaking as Venser, the Sojourner or Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, and people tend to underestimate the power of red decks anyway, so you might be able to sneak this one in under the radar.  The +1 ability is really insignificant to most players at the table, and you can ultimate two turns after playing her if she’s left alone.  That’s certainly do-able.

What’s bad about that?

First of all, six-mana can seem like a lot.  It’s certainly bad if you look at the card like 4RR and two cards to deal 4 damage to target creature or player.  (At the same time, sometimes you just have to kill that Windborn Muse.)  Some people won’t like having their opponents drawing 3 cards each, and it’s true that sometimes that will allow people to dig into some good cards.  And one can never really evaluate a planeswalker for how good their ultimate is because of how infrequently they actually go off.

If you play her and use her mini-Wheel of Fortune effect. don’t expect her to last another turn sitting around with 3 loyalty unless you have some solid defense going on.  At least somebody at the table is going to view her dumping their hand as too annoying to leave alive.

Budget

Chandra 2.0 is as about as cheap as it comes for planeswalkers.  A regular version can be had for $4-$5, with a foil version coming in at around $12-$15.  That said, it’s becoming more difficult to find a copy than it used to — she was much maligned when released but I think the casual crowd is starting to see her, ahem, hotness.

What kind of decks run this card?

The answer to this question is very simple — decks with Mountains.  More specifically, decks with Mountains that don’t also have Islands or Swamps.  Blue and Black can find more efficient draw spells out there, so unless your deck is specifically looking for another Wheel of Fortune-like effect, you probably won’t play her.  That said, I use her in my Wort, Boggart Auntie deck because dumping goblins in my graveyard and drawing cards is awesome.  It’s great to have a draw cards effect that also does some other stuff, too.

But if you’re mono-R, R/W, R/G, or Naya, Chandra is an exceptionally good card to re-fill your hand with gas.  Beyond the simple matter that these color combinations struggle to draw cards, they also tend to be very aggressive and tend to want to play their cards as fast as they draw them, so the six-mana cost is right around the time where you’re probably running light on cards and could use a boost.

She looks clunky until you put her on the board.  One or two times playing her and you’ll fall in love with her has I have.

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