Commander Spotlight: Chandra, Pyromaster

Our hobbies encompass some of our most passionate attributes. Beyond the larger aspects of life – family, friends, societal concerns, or the annual return of the Shamrock Shake (so I’m told) – what we choose to do with our free time often comes with a level of personal importance. Whether that’s hiking in the mountains, reading the latest bestseller, or quilting up a storm, we place special significance to our leisure-time activities for a variety of reasons.

There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about a hobby. Most of the time, it’s a rewarding experience for both you and the respective community you’re sharing that hobby with. Sometimes, though, passion slips into obsession. When that happens, what is normally a form of unwinding and fun gets flipped on its head. Suddenly it’s not just a pursuit of entertainment but a consuming enterprise. If you become too invested in a hobby, it’s no longer good enough to be a participant among like-minded fans – it has to come with status. You have to be one of the “best” among the community, be it the most skilled, best connected, most knowledgeable, or most popular.

Among the board game world, for example, this manifests in needing to be someone who is always at the forefront of the newest AAA game or popular import. These folks don’t just desire to be the first to play it, to acquire, to talk about it, to show off that they’re amazing enough to have it. No, they need to be the first to do those things.

In the Magic world, this is nearly always reflected by the decks we build and the cards we put into them. Hence why there’s never a shortage of people wanting to show their tricked-out decks full of foreign-language prints, full art lands, the most potent cards and combos the format will allow, and enough foils to act as a solar panel. While this drive to be the best is endemic to pretty much every Constructed format, casual formats – even Commander – aren’t immune to the allure of wanting your deck to be better. After all, in Magic games, there can be only one winner.

EDH is particularly tricky about this because its very existence is a constant balancing act between building decks that’ll give you a decent chance at winning against being a format that’s supposed to be entertaining and affordable. For every deck designed to be creative and original, there exists three designed with the most abusable cards and more than a few infinite combos. You know, the kind of decks you get to play a couple times before everyone just starts gunning for you the moment the game starts.

Since this column’s very beginning, the focus has always been on the side of entertaining and affordable. It’s easy to suggest broken and overpowered cards, but if they lead to prohibitive gameplay, or will cost you a pretty penny to acquire, then that isn’t the best use of a weekly highlight slot. Everyone should be able to participate in EDH without feeling they’re priced out of a chance at winning or that they have to chase supposedly must-have cards.

Plus, suggesting such cards isn’t really all that creative.

As a result, longtime readers will notice that it’s pretty uncommon to see many mythic rares on display here, mostly because mythics tend to be over the desired price ceiling. It’s also why we’ve never featured a planeswalker. Well…until now.

Today we have: Chandra, Pyromaster


Name: Chandra, Pyromaster

Edition: Magic 2014-2015

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Focus: Damage Dealing / Board Control / Card Draw / Spell Duplication

Highlights: Do you know what you call the person who graduated last in their medical school? Doctor. The same logic holds true for planeswalkers. The more planeswalkers created, eventually there had to be some that reached an easily-attainable price level. From there, it’s also amatter of finding one that’s useful in a multiplayer setting. When you put those two factors together, you get this iteration of Chandra.

Although it doesn’t showcase her damage-dealing capabilities, the Pyromaster version provides a decent spectrum of strategic utility-based abilities, all for an advantageous four mana. Planeswalkers do need to be protected to be kept alive, but in a pinch they also serve a useful purpose of soaking up damage. Loyal to the last they are…

Her +1 ability is easily dismissed and overlooked because it only does 1 damage to a player and 1 damage to a creature they control. However, at worst this means you’re dishing out a single damage a turn. More useful though is the rider on the creature damage, preventing it from being able to block. So while this Chandra isn’t likely to kill most creatures, it can still be useful to remove a particular blocker from the equation when attacking.

Her second ability is a 0 cost, which is her primary focus and usefulness comes in. This reflects Red’s new “impulse draw” ability, providing a now-or-never form of card draw. For a color that traditionally has difficulty doing so, this ability has the potential to speed up the pace of card access. So long as you’re willing to buy into the idea that is. At best this lets you play lands without spending your normal draws on them, and sure, you may not be able to cast expensive spells early on – thus losing them forever – in later stages of the game this can be very useful indeed, potentially providing you two cards to cast a turn.

This planeswalker’s ultimate is, admittedly, her weakest attribute. While the Pyromaster starts off at 4 loyalty, it takes time with her +1 to build it up to the needed 7 loyalty. Even then the ability is situational on having a worthwhile instant or sorcery worth copying multiple times in the next ten cards. Therefore, although most EDH decks are likely to have something to cast, if you’re considering her for the ultimate, it’s clear that she’s best in spell-heavy decks.

Or, you know, a Red deck.

All in all, there’s quite a bit offered with this planeswalker, especially with card acceleration. And best of all: even budget-minded Commander players can benefit from it.

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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