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Against the Odds: Kaladesh Planeswalker Deck in Standard (For Science)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode fifty-eight of Against the Odds! Last week, we didn't have an Against the Odds poll, and for good reason: today, we have a special episode! In the past, every set brought with it Intro Packs—preconstructed decks for new players. Well, with Kaladesh, the intro product switched to Planeswalker Decks, featuring brand-new legal-in-Standard cards, including two new planeswalkers! Richard and I battled the Kaladesh Planeswalker Decks against each other, and it seemed clear that the Chandra, Pyrogenius decks was the more powerful of the two. So, we're going to give the Chandra, Pyrogenius Planeswalker Deck the Against the Odds treatment and see if the straight-out-of-the-box deck has what it takes to compete in Standard, for the sake of science! If you miss the Against the Odds poll, don't worry—you'll find a new one at the end of the article, and rather than being all Kaladesh like the past few weeks, we'll get back to normal with a mixture of formats and cards!

Anyway, let's get to the videos, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Planeswalker Deck in Standard (for Science) Deck Tech

Against the Odds: Planeswalker Deck in Standard (for Science) Games

The Deck

Usually, this is where we talk about the brew and some of the choices in the deck, but that feels weird this week, since we are playing a preconstructed deck straight out of the box. As such, instead of talking about individual card choices, we'll just have some general thoughts and impressions about the Chandra, Pyrogenius deck and some of the challenges that come with playing a Planeswalker Deck in Standard. 

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First off, Chandra, Pyrogenius herself isn't very good, especially considering that the deck is built to be aggressive, similar to the RW Vehicles deck that's popular in Standard. While it can theoretically kill a creature (or even the opponent), costing six mana is a ton for a deck that really wants to be curving out with aggressive creatures. Liberating Combustion, on the other hand, gives us a way to find our Chandra, Pyrogenius when we want it (which is rare) but, more importantly, kills just about anything in the format. Sure, it costs five mana and is sorcery speed, but it at least gives our deck an out to creatures like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

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The good news is that we get our very own version of Smuggler's Copter in Sky Skiff. While it might be lacking a point of power and the ability to loot, they are otherwise pretty much the same card (although when our opponent has a literal Smuggler's Copter, our Sky Skiff doesn't do much of anything). Even better, Skyswirl Harrier is pretty much the Planeswalker Deck version of Archangel Avacyn, minus the flash, the ability to make things indestructible, and the ability to flip around and wrath the board, and with three power instead of four. 

While it might seem like I'm trying to be funny, these cards illuminate one of the biggest challenges of playing a planeswalker deck against real Standard decks: at just about every point on the curve, our cards are just a little (or a lot) less efficient than our opponent's cards. While a deck can get away with being a bit worse than the opponent's deck here and there, when this happens consistently at just about every point on the curve, winning becomes difficult. So, how do we actually win games?

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The most likely way Planeswalker Deck Chandra can steal a game is by drawing multiple copies of Flame Lash. While we have some overcosted, clunky creatures, we do have a handful of aggressive on-curve creatures as well. So, ideally, we'd get a fast start, deal some early damage with our creatures, and then finish our opponent off by throwing some Flame Lashes at their face. 

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The second powerful part of our deck is the Vehicles. Fleetwheel Cruiser is a legitimate Standard staple and was recently seen wreaking havoc in Vintage. While it's unfortunate that we only have one copy, when we happen to draw it, our odds of winning goes up. Ovalchase Dragster and Renegade Freighter are close to being Standard playable but so far haven't broken through. Ovalchase Dragster works well with our "deal some early damage and then finish the game with Flame Lash" plan, doing a good imitation of Ball Lightning and acting almost like a burn spell. Meanwhile, Renegade Freighter is a three-drop that can attack for five mana with trample, but unfortunately, it only has three toughness before it attacks, which leaves it open to a lot of removal like Harnessed Lightning and Fiery Temper

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Finally, we actually have some solid two-drops, which are fine on their own and even better when crewing Vehicles. Veteran Motorist is a Standard staple and makes our Vehicles even scarier, while Gearshift Ace and Speedway Fanatic are right on the edge of being good enough for Standard. The biggest problem with these cards is we simply don't have enough of them, with a total of just four copies between the three cards. 

Taken in sum, the bottom line is that our deck has enough power to win the game when we run well, but the fact that we have a lot of one-ofs means our odds of getting a good hand are pretty low. When we happen to go Veteran Motorist into Aerial Responder into Fleetwheel Cruiser backed up by Flame Lash, we can almost convince ourselves we're playing a real deck, but then the next game, we'll draw some combination of Weldfast Monitor, Cathartic Reunion, Trusty Companion, and Snare Thopter and come crashing back down to Earth. 

The Matchups

In all honesty, I don't think we have any good matchups. We only managed to win a single match against UR Spells (and didn't come particularly close to winning a single game in any of the other matches), and I'm not sure I'd consider UR Spells to be a good matchup. The biggest problem seems to be that the Chandra Planeswalker Deck isn't really designed to compete against real Standard decks; instead, it's designed to beat the Nissa Planeswalker Deck

When it comes to winning in Standard, it's important to have a plan for fighting against the most popular decks and cards in the format, and our deck simply can't beat Smuggler's Copter. While this might seem hyperbolic, when our opponent played a Smuggler's Copter on Turn 2, I felt like we were a Modern deck that forgot to play Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus and ran into Dredge. Sure, it might take a few more turns for the game to officially end, but we know that, in reality, the game is over. Even worse, in Modern, Dredge might be 10% of the meta, which means we shouldn't run into it all that often, but Smuggler's Copter is currently a four-of in 66% of Standard decks, so it's not like the "maybe we'll get lucky and miss it" plan is realistic. As such, we are basically hoping to run into the 34% of decks that don't play Smuggler's Copter and then also hope we get a good hand; then, we might have a chance to win.  

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches with the deck and only won one (20% match win percentage). We did slightly worse in games, winning 2 of 11 (18.2% game win percentage). This would rank the Chandra Planeswalker Deck as one of the worst Against the Odds decks of all time. 

Maybe a more important question is whether the Chandra Planeswalker Deck can be upgraded enough to be competitive. The answer seems to be yes and no. On the one hand, you could probably make a semi-playable deck by adding some number of answers for Smuggler's Copter and then maxing out on the good cards in the deck like Veteran Motorist, Speedway Fanatic, Fleetwheel Cruiser, and Ovalchase Dragster. On the other hand, any good version of the Chandra Planeswalker Deck wouldn't really be a Chandra Planeswalker Deck because Chandra, Pyrogenius and Liberating Combustion would be among the first cards we'd have to cut. Of course, the tier-one version of the deck would be RW Vehicles, but if your goal is to build WR Vehicles, you don't really get much from the Chandra Planeswalker Deck—essentially just a couple of uncommons and a single Fleetwheel Cruiser—so you're better off buying singles and leaving the Planeswalker Decks on the shelf. The Kaladesh Planeswalker Decks are more suited for newcomers to the game or casual kitchen table Magic.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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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

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