May 30, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Back in Lorwyn, Chandra Nalaar established the long and storied tradition of mediocre mono-red planeswalkers; it would not be until Torch of Defiance in Kaladesh that she herself would get a powerful planeswalker, while Koth of the Hammer in Scars of Mirrodin came closest to redeeming their reputation.
As far as planeswalkers go, Chandra 1.0 is quite underwhelming for 5 mana. She does offer a five-mana kill to any creature with 6 or less toughness, but that is a pretty weak way for her to impact the board. That leaves her +1 to slowly ping down enemies (or planeswalkers; her +1 has been reworded to explicitly hit planeswalkers). While it’d be okay space for a walker, you’re spending 5 mana for…1 damage the turn she drops. 7 loyalty is hard to immediately remove, but red is a color that wants to go now. She does have a potent ult, and it pops very quickly (especially if you give her a bit of a bump with proliferate or Doubling Season), but you’re relying on her ult to carry the day. And planeswalkers whose power is wholly put in their ult tend to underwhelm.
Chandra Nalaar is not great. She’s okay, but the role she offers to red decks is not one they are usually interested in. If you’re spending five mana on a big thing, a cute and cuddly dragon seems to be more of an efficient expenditure.
Chandra is my favorite planeswalker, and she has been ever since Lorwyn. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that her original card is not her most powerful. It’s a little narrow, especially in the light of recent sets where red’s graveyard interactions, Wheel of Fortune effects, and artifact-related abilities are more common. The ability to destroy big creatures with her -X is fairly useful, but it does cost five mana to get her in play and it only has one target. It’s easy to get to her ultimate and she would have been a good game-ending card in a Big Red style of deck, had there been any such decks when Lorwyn first came out. Nowadays, there are also more potent cards of that type for competitive decks in that archetype; Chandra’s first card is still quite adequate, though, if your deck just needs a little extra damage at this point of the mana curve.
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