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Against the Odds: Chandra Tribal (Standard, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 201 of Against the Odds. Last week, we didn't have an Against the Odds poll, which means today, it's time for a special episode! If you've been following the series for a while, you'll know that planeswalker tribal decks are a popular sub-series on Against the Odds. Normally, we have to play these decks in Modern to have enough planeswalkers with the same name, but thanks to Core Set 2020, we've got roughly a million (or in reality, five) Planeswalkers—Chandra cards in Standard. What happens if we built the Chandra-iest of Chandra decks in the format? What are the odds of winning with an all-Chandard deck? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck! Also, thank you to Wizards for sponsoring our Arena content this week.

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Against the Odds: Chandra Tribal

The Deck

The main goal of Chandra Tribal is to play as many Chandra cards as possible but also to be as competitive as possible and (hopefully) win some matches. In theory, it's possible to build a Standard deck where 100% of the cards have "Chandra" in the title, and while we didn't quite go to that extreme, of the 14 different non-land cards in our main deck, 10 of them mention Chandra by name! One of the interesting aspects of building Standard Chandra Tribal is that along with the planeswalkers themselves, there are actually some good Chandra support cards, which help us maximize the Chandra flavor of the deck.

The Chandras

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The core of Chandra Tribal is three Chandra planeswalkers, all of which are four-ofs in our deck. Chandra, Awakened Inferno is probably our best card in terms of raw power and our primary finisher. Her +2 is a great way to close out the game once we stabilize by forcing a consistent source of damage on our opponent, while her 3 and X abilities both offer strong removal options in different matchups. 

Meanwhile, Chandra, Fire Artisan is our card-advantage Chandra. She comes down and essentially draws us an extra card every turn while incidentally damaging our opponent if they happen to attack her and remove loyalty counters. After a few pluses, we can ultimate, deal seven damage to our opponent (or one of their planeswalkers, in a pinch), and refill our hand (for one turn only).

Finally, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame is our cheapest Chandra, and while she might look underpowered, she's actually one of the stronger cards in our deck. Sine we have five different Chandras in our deck altogether, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame's zero ability often adds two or three loyalty to our planeswalkers, helping push Chandra, Fire Artisan toward her ultimate and making sure that Chandra, Awakened Inferno's loyalty stays high enough for us to kill things with her X. We also have a bunch of cheap removal spells that Chandra, Acolyte of Flame can flash back with her 2, often turning her into a double Snapcaster Mage that allows us to kill two of our opponent's best creatures or planeswalkers with a single removal spell.

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Rounding out our Chandra planeswalkers are one Chandra, Novice Pyromancer and one Chandra, Flame's Fury. While neither of these cards is bad, they are underpowered compared to our other Chandras. Chandra, Novice Pyromancer is often just a double shock, although using her 1 to add extra mana is occasionally helpful in ramping into our bigger, better Chandras. Meanwhile, Chandra, Flame's Fury is a decent removal-based planeswalker but costs a couple of mana too much to really be competitive since it is found in the Chandra Planeswalker Deck. Still, thanks to Chandra, Acolyte of Flame's ability to add extra loyalty counters and Chandra's Regulator doubling up activations, even our worst Chandras still add value to our deck.

Chandra Support

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Chandra's Regulator is absurd in our deck. Since our deck is all Mountains and red cards, apart from a few colorless utility lands, it gives us a consistent, cheap way to loot through our deck to find our Chandras or whatever removal spells we need to stay alive long enough to cast our Chandras. And once we have a Chandra or two on the battlefield, the ability to double up their activations for just one mana each is incredibly strong. With Chandra's Regulator on the battlefield, we can kill two creatures / planeswalkers a turn with Chandra, Awakened Inferno (or just add two emblems to our opponent), draw two cards a turn with Chandra, Fire Artisan, or add a bunch of loyalty to all of our Chandras with Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. I'm not sure there's a better feeling in Standard than untapping with a couple of Chandra planeswalkers and a Chandra's Regulator on the battlefield (outside of untapping with Yarok, the Desecrated, but still...).

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If there's a downside of playing all of the Chandras, it's that some of the best ones are fairly expensive. Thankfully, we have some Chandra ramp to get them on the battlefield a turn early in Chandra's Embercat. In general, Chandra's Embercat is a bad mana dork since we can only spend the mana it produces on Elementals or Chandras. But since the only threats in our decks are Chandras and the only creatures in our deck are more Chandra's Embercat, Chandra's Embercat is actually quite solid in our deck , being pretty close to the red version of Paradise Druid without the hexproof for protection. Chandra's Embercat allows us to play Chandra, Fire Artisan on Turn 3 to start drawing extra cards and Chandra, Awakened Inferno by Turn 4 or 5, which is a huge boon for our deck.

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So far, we've seen that Chandra offers us a bunch of good planeswalkers (along with a couple of okay planeswalkers), ramp to get our planeswalkers on the battlefield, and a payoff for playing a bunch of Chandras in Chandra's Regulator, but what about dealing with our opponent's creatures? Chandra has us covered here too, with several removal spells. Chandra's Triumph is by far the best of the bunch, offering five damage to a creature or planeswalker as long as we have a Chandra on the battlefield, which is enough to kill almost all the most important creatures and planeswalkers in the format. Meanwhile, Chandra's Pyrohelix and especially Chandra's Outrage are mostly in the deck because they have Chandra in the name, but they can be good on occasion, with Chandra's Pyrohelix taking down two small creatures and Chandra's Outrage sometimes killing something.

Other Stuff

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As I mentioned in the intro, it is theoretically possible to play all "Chandra" cards in Chandra tribal, but our goal today is twofold: to play as many Chandra cards as possible but still be competitive and win games. Shock, Lava Coil, and Flame Sweep help augment our Chandra-based removal, answering threats that Chandra removal spells aren't great against (with Shock killing Turn 1 threats against aggro, Lava Coil exiling things like Rekindling Phoenix and various Cavaliers, and Flame Sweep allowing us to clean a board of small threats, like Zombie tokens against Scapeshift). Otherwise, we have two copies of Treasure Map as a backup version of Chandra's Regulator to help us filter through our deck in the early game to hit our land drops and removal, and then later helping to ensure that we're drawing as many Chandras as possible to close out the game.

The Matchups

Probably the biggest weaknesses of Chandra tribal are creatures with more than five toughness and also planeswalkers (like Nissa, Who Shakes the World) that immediately go up to six loyalty. While our Chandras themselves (and our Chandra removal) are really good at killing small- and medium-sized creatures (and planeswalkers up to five loyalty), something like a huge Hydroid Krasis or a Cavalier of Thorns can be pretty annoying for our deck to handle, often taking multiple removal spells or Chandra activations. The good news is that Chandra Tribal offers really solid removal, great card advantage in our Chandra planeswalkers, and one of the best (uncounterable) finishers in Standard in Chandra, Awakened Inferno. So outside of high-toughness threats, the deck holds up well against both aggro and control. 

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches with Chandra Tribal and ended up winning four, giving us a 66.67% match win percentage, making Chandra Tribal solidly above average for an Against the Odds deck. The deck actually felt oddly competitive, and even our two losses (to Selesnya Tokens and Bant Scapeshift) were extremely close matches that felt winnable if we had hit the right removal spells for the matchup. Apparently, just playing Chandra after Chandra and doubling up their activations with Chandra's Regulator is actually a fairly legitimate strategy in Standard!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Next week we're getting back to our roots and playing a card that lets us win the game in a whacky and strange way, if a certain condition is met, they question is which one? While we've played all of these cards in Standard's past, I'm pretty sure we've never tried them in Modern, which opens up all kinds of new suport cards and should make the deck itself feel fresh and new. Which "I win" card should we play next week? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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