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John Shultis on Magic
Burn & Planeswalkers

     I would like to take some time to discuss burn and planeswalkers. There are some amazing planeswalkers, but perhaps some of the best are red. Especially, when it comes to some direct damage.

      First, I would like to discuss a special woman.Jaya Ballard, Task Mage She was the first, a pioneer amongst planeswalkers. She was burning before burn was cool, and she was a planeswalker before planeswalkers existed. I’m talking, of course, about Jaya Ballard. How could I not pay special tribute to the “hottest” woman in Magic’s history? Without Jaya we may never have even had Chandra Nalaar! We first met Jaya back in the Ice Age block, where she had not yet earned her planeswalker status. She traveled with Jodah, fought Lim-Dul, and so on, and once a magical mirror was shattered on her face, she was awakened. Her current whereabouts remains in question. Some say she died, but there is a theory that it was an alternate reality version of herself. Jaya is notorious for her flavor text on some of the best burn spells ever!

 One of the best burn spells I have ever had the pleasure of unleashing is Meteor Shower. Talk about a spell where you get what you pay for. X plus one is nice, but when it cost X plus one red, it’s even better. Now, what if said spell was divisible, without the extra costs of Fireball? Well that’s what you get with Meteor Shower, and it’s all because of Jaya Ballard. Jaya’s abilities are related to her most powerful spells. And since she was a prototype for modern planeswalkers, she has three spells at her command. Sure, it cost you a card to use her abilities, but I’m sure you would gladly exchange a card for certain abilities. Her first ability is even impressive. For one red mana and a card from your hand, you can blow up any blue permanent, similar to Pyroblast’s second ability. Then, for one generic and one red, you get to cast Incinerate, which deals 3 damage to target creature or player, and the creature wouldn’t be able to be regenerated. Draw another land, burn your opponent. Then for the coup de grace, her final ability. Up against seemingly unstoppable odds? Blow everything up, and see what’s left standing. Her final costs seven mana, two red, five generic, and deals six damage to everything. All creatures, all players. Not many things can be dealt that much damage and survive. Sure, it takes Jaya out as well, but isn’t that what being a pyromancer is all about? Jaya’s best achievement is one she may never learn about. Jaya created a temple on Regatha’s mountains, called Keral Keep. Keral Keep is where my next planeswalker went to learn to control her powers.

Our next planeswalker is none other than the firstChandra Nalaar modern red planeswalker, Chandra Nalaar. While at the temple, we learned that Chandra was responsible for her parent’s deaths, as well as her siblings, and that because of that, she was going to be executed, and that is the moment she gained her spark. She then came to Keral Keep monastery, where she learned of Jaya Ballard, and studied under Mother Luti. Chandra eventually went on the run because of her impulsive behavior, and met Gideon Jura. Then she returned to Keral Keep, and was brought before the Order of Heliud for trial, put into the Purifying Fire, where she transformed into a purer pyromancer, then fled to Zendikar, where her actions helped in awakening the Eldrazi. Where she has ended up since then is a mystery. Chandra has been through many changes, but remains a staple in many red decks. Her original version was one incredible, and often deemed overpowered, card. Her first ability pings your opponent for one damage. The second ability is one that can devastate a deck’s strategy. You just drop your best creature, and then your opponent plays Chandra, removes some counters, and now your A card is toast. But perhaps the reason why Chandra is feared once it hits the table is her final ability. It’s a game ender in most scenarios. Ten damage. Not matter what it hits, ten damage is significant. Ten damage will drop most creatures, or at least set them up to be finished off. Ten damage to a player is catastrophic. That’s half life. And considering Chandra has been picking at you for at least two turns, you’re now below half life. Now imagine the horror when you realize that Chandra Nalaar just blew up, dealing that ten damage to ALL of your creatures, and to you. Can you recover? How? At the very least, you’ve set the stage to get your other forces through, as not many of your opponents creatures will have survived the blast. And at this point, only a few would need to, as just off of Chandra’s abilities you’ve dealt a minimum of twelve damage. So now, you just need to get through for eight. That’s literally a Lightning Bolt and Lava Axe. And in M11, planeswalkers gained their own additional spells. Chandra’s help set up that whole end game a little better. Chandra’s Outrage can finish off anything not killed by ten damage, and deal some extra damage to the player. And then one of my personal favorite cards is Chandra’s Spitfire. This little thing makes dealing some direct damage even better. And if you pop off Chandra’s final, and Chandra’s Outrage, its game, set, match. The reason is because for every instance where your opponent is dealt non-combat damage, the Spitfire gets a plus three pump. Meaning that between the final ability of Chandra, plus the Chandra’s Outrage, you would deal more than enough damage to take out most opponents. The potential final assault itself could minimally deal nineteen damage if played as described above. And then there’s her second form, her Zendikar self, where her boom is boosted because of the abnormal mana flow. Discard a card that is red, four damage to target of choice. Set things up really well with a painter’s servant. Then lands themselves become bombs. Add to that mix the Crucible of Worlds, so that you are dealing your opponent damage for free, since you can cast the land you discarded. Or, continue a sweet set up by pitching your biggest burns. Then activate her final, pulling all instants and sorceries and casting them. If well laid out, that should be the nail in your opponents coffin.

       Koth is new to all of us. It’s like a shiny new toy oKoth of the Hammern Christmas morning that you are examining, figuring out how many different ways to play with it. Koth is not what we are used to for burn. He’s great geomancer, and is able to manipulate the earth below him. He isn’t about flashy explosions; he’s just going to drop a Mountain on you, literally! Koth’s first ability is great for many reasons. The turn you drop him, you can untap a mountain, and it becomes a 4/4 until end of turn. Smart players will target a mountain they didn’t play, and can then choose to send it to attack. That’s right people, if you played a mountain, and targeted it for this ability, you cannot attack with it. Or, you may just need an extra mana. Drop Koth, untap a mountain, and wait with a Lightning Bolt in case your opponent tries something funny. His second ability can turn the game tide in you favor fast. Say you don’t drop a land the turn after you play him, but have some devastating spell in you hand, but need more mana. Minus two counters, and then add red mana to your mana pool for each mountain you control. That could be up to eight mana available turn five! You could Obliterate the filed, wiping everything out, better yet, Flame Wave your opponent, and hit him with a Lightning Bolt. It’s hard to recover after a smack like that. And then send whatever forces you have marching in for more of a hit. But perhaps his best ability is his final. Remove five counters and you gain an emblem, which remains even after Koth may leave, that turns all your mountains into Tom’s!

 For those of you unfamiliar with certain Magic slang, a Tom is any permanent that taps to deal one damage to a creature or player. So now every mountain in your arsenal is capable of mana OR damage! Don’t need to cast a spell this turn, hammer away at your opponent instead! This guy could truly be one of the funniest cards I have seen in a long time. Combining him with Valakut the Molten Pinnacle it’s a no brainer. Now people have to fear your lands almost as much as anything else you may have! Imagine once you have the emblem and a Valakut with five other mountains. Then you play another one, that’s three damage from playing it, then, you could deal another six but tapping them. Add to that a Furnace of Rath, and that is an astounding eighteen damage from lands! I am currently designing a land based deck around Koth and Valakut, and cannot wait to see how it plays out, and I would be happy to share the deck list once finished, just drop me an e-mail, thejag90@gmail.com.

       Of course there are other planeswalkers that have red in the mana cost, but I wanted to focus on just the mono-red ones today. Until next time, happy gaming!



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