I’ve been having a lot of success on MTG Arena this week using a Temur Elementals deck. Whilst it was easy to acquire digitally, the deck still needs another £220 or so from me if I want to replicate it in paper. Fortunately I was able to burn £16.51 off of that cost when I found this card in today’s booster:

Chandra, Awakened Inferno

Chandra, Awakened Inferno is a 4 Generic ManaRedRed mythic rare planeswalker with 6 loyalty and several abilities:

  • Static: This spell can’t be countered
  • +2: Opponent receives an emblem that deals them 1 damage at the start of their upkeep1
  • -3: Deal 3 damage to each non-Elemental creature
  • -X: Deal X damage to creature or planeswalker and then exile it if it dies this turn

There’s a large amount to unpack here but I want to begin with a brief overview of the stack mechanics behind this card. Usually, there are three ways of dealing with planeswalkers; counter them, bounce them, or destroy them. Planeswalkers operate at sorcery speed so they can only be cast in your main phase and similarly their loyalty abilities can only be cast within your main phase. As a planeswalker can use it’s loyalty ability as soon as it lands, this means countering either the planeswalker or the activated ability is your only option to stop one from firing. That Chandra can’t be countered is huge. In essence, as you have priority upon playing her, you are almost guaranteed to be able to trigger one of her abilities; if your opponent tries to use Blink of an Eye or Vraska’s Contempt, this can only be done in response to one of the abilities being activated and is therefore already too late as the ability is on the stack (and will resolve even if Chandra is bounced or destroyed). The only way to stop one of Chandra’s abilities is to use one of only two cards in Standard that allow you to counter activated abilities; Repudiate // Replicate or Tale’s End2.

With that out of the way, let’s look at that emblem ability. Emblems are a very special element in Magic as there is absolutely no way to remove them; once an emblem is bestowed upon a player, it remains for the rest of the game. You may be familiar with emblems such as City’s Blessing from the Rivals of Ixalan “ascend” mechanic but there are also 11 planeswalkers currently that can create emblems such as Domri, Chaos Bringer and Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Of those 11 planeswalkers, all of them create emblems for the controller with their ultimate ability and thus can’t be triggered immediately upon casting the planeswalker3. Chandra is the first to get an emblem that targets the opponent, can be cast immediately, and even increases her loyalty!

A nice thing about this +2 ability is that it stacks; if Chandra survives until the next turn, you can tick her up again for another 2 loyalty and another emblem so that your opponent is taking 2 points of unavoidable damage on the start of every turn, even if the planeswalker is destroyed! This can be doubled further should you have a Chandra’s Regulator in play. This seems utterly nuts to me and is the perfect counterpoint to the Esper Control decks that were running riot prior to the release of Core Set 2020. If you have an opponent who is playing the long game, this completely ruins their “go slow” plan.

The -3 ability to deal 3 damage to every non-elemental can certainly be used as a sweeper if you are playing with elementals and your opponent is not. However, outside of that narrow confine this isn’t a very useful ability especially as the toughness of all creatures is likely fairly high by the time you come to casting this planeswalker.

A -X loyalty ability is always good to see as it gives you a huge amount of choice. It is also good when you have a high starting loyalty (6 in this case) as you can easily kill and exile some otherwise tricky creatures and survive; for example, you can permanently kill a Rekindling Phoenix and still have 3 loyalty remaining. The flexibility also ensures that if you need this to be an expensive “kill 6 toughness creature or 6 loyalty planeswalker” then you can; that isn’t necessarily the best use of mana or of this card, but if it’s the only play you have then it could very well save you the game!

In conclusion, this is likely one of the best – if not the best – cards in Core Set 20204. For 6 mana you can deal 1 damage to your opponent every turn and there are only two cards that can stop that from happening; it doesn’t get much better than that!

  1. Emblems remain for the entirety of the game and cannot be removed so this deals 1 damage to the opponent on every upkeep from that point onward. ↩︎

  2. Funnily enough a good friend of mine was asking about this card just the other day; as only one of two cards that can counter abilities, it is insanely good. I’d go so far as to say it is essential for a control deck. ↩︎

  3. OK, they can if you have a lot of mana and Planewide Celebration… ↩︎

  4. That seems to be borne out by current pricing where she is the most expensive card by far at £16.51. That’s 44% more than the second most expensive card, Omnath, Locus of the Roil, which is priced at £11.45. She is also the fourth most expensive card in Standard with the three above her being Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge (£36.05), Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (£24.07), and Crucible of Worlds (£18.24) although it’s important to note that pricing is all over the place at the moment as new decks are tested; I get the feeling she’ll be consistently expensive though due to her strong matchup against control decks. ↩︎

This post is part of a weekday series where I open up a booster pack and pick a card to discuss. Whilst these are often the best cards from the set, I'll often pick one that is a bit niche or one that has cool artwork or flavour text. If there's a particular card you want me to take a look at, get in touch or join my Discord community.