So last week I kinda teased you all with three different Chandra the Firebrand-decks for my friend Rick, as a part of his birthday present. This could only mean one thing for today: three different Chandra decks (I would build if it were up to me)! I even get to tease you throughout the article about what the birthday boy thought of them! Woohoow!
When I sat down to build decks, I tried a varying range of different decks. I wouldn’t want to have three decks that do kind of the same thing, or three decks that had clear paths of what they were supposed to do. I wanted variation, not just between the decks, but within the decks as well. Like the previous time I showed Rick decklists, the main plan wasn’t to shove a ready-to-go Chandra-deck down his throat. Instead, I wanted lots of cool ideas and interactions to spark his deckbuilding flame. With the introduction out of the way, let’s get to deck number one.
Aside: why, for the love of God, why did Chandra have to look like Amy Winehouse? I mean seriously, just look at that face. Once you see Amy in there, you can’t unsee her. She’s there forever. And here I am, thinking I don’t have to hear her music ever again. End aside.
Oh noes! Chandra Comboes!
1 Chandra Ablaze
4 Chandra, the Firebrand
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Past in Flames
2 Rift Bolt
4 Seething Song
4 Tezzeret’s Gambit
I won’t lie to you – this deck borrows heavily from Neale Talbots (@wrongwaygoback on Twitter) deck which he talked about on his blog. Also, this deck is untested. And you know what type of decks is most likely to fail with no testing? That’s right – combo decks. Still, it’s the idea that counts, and not the exact list itself.
The deck tries to use mana rituals and cheap burn spells to generate both mana and damage. Chandra and Reverberate can copy crucial spells, either to force them through countermagic or to go big – really big. Imagine casting Chandra on turn three thanks to Desperate Ritual, then casting and copying Seething Song next turn. You now have ten mana to work with – should be enough to do some damage! The worst thing about Chandra is that she’s a once-per-turn effect that prevents future Chandra’s. That’s why I added some Reverberates for additional copying.
Besides borrowing from Neale, this deck also takes a few chapters out of my deck Se7en (read about that one here, here, and here). The main chapter it’s borrowing is Chapter 2: How To Make Your Lands Work Overtime. Spinerock Knoll is one of the most powerful cards in Se7en, and here it shouldn’t be much different (although I expect it’s slightly less valuable). Knoll is a land that has random value: random, in that it’s a gamble for yourself, and a guessing game for your opponent. If the opponent cares too much about it, your other cards can win the game. If they don’t care at all, they could randomly get blown out completely. Lemme tell ya, two damage from Goblins followed up by Goblin Grenade can get that Inferno Titan into play juuuuust fine. In Oh Noes, the deck is more like a supporting card than a finisher like in Se7en. Still the deck should have enough cheap burn to trigger it.
The deck is filled out with some card drawing and one randomly added Chandra Ablaze. Rick has a weak spot for Chandra’s second form and no decks with it, and I thought she would be a good precedent to a Past in Flames.
4 Fungal Reaches
This next deck is a bit like the combo-list. Where combo decks are hard to come up with without testing because of inner workings, control decks need practice to see what cards and decks they should be controlling. Playing lots of creature removal is good in a creature-filled environment, but not in a world full of combo.
Luckily, this deck has a pretty proactive plan for a control deck: planeswalkers and burn spells! If left unchecked, any one of these four different planeswalkers can take over the game. Chandra II can discard Phoenixes (Phoenices?) that pop right back into play, while her second ability can wreck other control decks. Chandra III – well, this deck was made for her, so she is super-duper awesome in here. Karn is expensive but very dangerous. Chalices and Reaches can help you ramp up to seven mana. Finally, Koth completes the quartet of plane-hoppers with an ultimate that is easily reached via proliferate. With eight of those, that shouldn’t be too hard.
If nothing else works, the deck can close games with a wide array of burn spells, which work as good on creatures as they do on players. Comet Storm, for example, used to be Starstorm. What makes Comet Storm better is that it can hit your opponent, getting back any fallen Phoenixes you might have. Because I liked the Phoenix idea, I added a single Skarrgan one. (Oops – while proofreading my article, I saw that this Firebird jumps back to your hand instead of onto the battlefield. Now I remember why this card was bad.) I toyed around with adding any number of Obliterate/Wildfire/Destructive Force, possibly going into Conley Woods’ direction. There’s a couple of reasons I didn’t do this: for one, Rick had said before he didn’t like that deck, and two, I already have a deck built around capitalizing on Obliterate with planeswalkers (read: Jace, the Mind Sculptor).
When thinking about this deck after I showed it to Rick, I came to think about Chandra’s Phoenix. Isn’t there some way to abuse it? I came up with the nonbo with Stormbind. It’s a nonbo because it’s neither creature nor planeswalker. Still I’m pretty sure there’s some cool deck out there that has four Chandra’s Phoenix and Squee, Goblin Nabob.
A second idea that popped up thanks to this deck was that of bloodthirst. The cool thing is that Chandra, the Firebrand enables bloodthirst, plus she can really amp their size by copying proliferation. The deck would end up much more aggressive, but perhaps better as well.
Finally – a deck I really like and kinda want to build for myself. This deck features three distinct engines: Mages of the Treasure and Trinket variety, and Chandra (again). The beauty of it is that Chandra interacts with both Mages through proliferate (me, liking proliferate? Where’d you get that idea?), by forking either Tezzeret’s Gambit or Volt Charge. A lot of their respective targets use counters and therefore like proliferation. Trinket Mage’s Chalices also help ramp up to Treasure Mage’s big bombs.
This deck feels like the most complete and ready-to-go. That is because every card has a specific function and wasn’t thrown in haphazardly. Myr Battlesphere is an immediate dead end for aggressive decks and a great finisher. The Mages build their metallic shell around Chandra. Triskelavus and Triskelion are a tag-team of big proliferate-happy finishers that can either ping around or through stalled board states. Wurmcoil Engine is another aggro roadblock, but one less mana.
Blade of the Bloodchief is there so Trinket Mage can get a counter, which Chandra likes later on. Brittle Effigy is removal in trinket form. Chandra is, well, Chandra. Everflowing Chalice is another card I don’t need to explain. Expedition Map isn’t for mana-fixing via Trinket Mage – you have a Seat and a Furnace for that. Expedition Map’s sole use is to find Academy Ruins, which can put the Mindslaver-lock in place. Mindslaver, ofcourse, is in the crosshairs of Treasure Mage. Lightning Bolt is a necessary removal spell, but very powerful with Chandra (and without). We round out the deck with a quartet each of Tezzeret’s Gambit and Volt Charge, the deck’s two proliferate cards.
Rick was initially surprised to see three Chandra decklists, but seeing no Blightnings, he had to dismiss my ideas. Also, while I tried to maximize on Chandra synergy, I did so in my way, and not his. We are both different deckbuilders, with Rick leaning towards aggression and myself towards control. If I don’t actively intervene with my thought process, I’m gonna end up with a controlling deck. I didn’t actively intervene – except for the combo deck ofcourse – so the decks ended up not being very aggressive.
Rick continued his search for the perfect Chandra deck. Earlier this week, he texted me that he had founded. Being a master of the tease, he didn’t tell me anything else. I reckon it’s gonna start with four each of Chandra, Blightning, and Tezzeret’s Gambit, and probably Volt Charge too. But if I see even one card in the deck that I suggested to him a week ago, I know my work was a success. See you next week!