M21 Spotlight: Chandra's Incinerator
- Marin Magda
It looks like M21 is a core set of the kind most of us have wanted for a long time. Flavorful, full of unexpected reprints, and filled with interesting cards — we're definitely in for a treat. One of the crazier cards has to be Chandra's Incinerator, but evaluating its potential is no small task …
It's readily apparent that one of the easiest ways to win in Magic is being faster than your opponent. Specifically, playing powerful cards earlier than you're supposed to is a big deal. Getting some expensive monstrosity out in the first few turns is a game-defining moment. The biggest proof of this concept are the bans all around the game. The most recent one, which put the infamous Agent of Treachery into Standard jail, shows that cheating on mana isn't very tolerable, at least not in this format. From Winota, Joiner of Forces to Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, there were multiple ways to put an Agent into play much earlier than turn seven. Often, this would result in the banning of the accelerant, this time it was the Agent that had to go.
A similar fate caught Modern about a year ago, although the consequences were far worse for those who tried to play anything but the deck to beat then. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis turned out to be a card so powerful, it got not just itself banned but also Bridge from Below. An 8/8 trampler that one can quickly play from a graveyard in a place with amazing graveyard synergies was just calling for attention … and a ban.
This brings us to the present, or rather the impending future. As a card that's rather easy to cast on turn two in Modern or on turn three in Standard, Chandra's Incinerator looks like it's no joke. It's rather big, it's also a trampler, and it has an ability that's able to swing games in your favor. Like the two aforementioned cards, this one features a good power level. But the question still remains if it has the other key element — consistency.
In my opinion, this card will have less utility in Standard than in Modern, but it could still make a greater impact here. At the moment, it may not have any additional Core Set 2021 support, but it might boost the Monored Aggro tactic on its own. With plenty of 3-drops and even more expensive cards such as Embercleave and Torbran, the archetype's Standard incarnation clearly exhibits a higher tolerance for high-end cards.
Playing a 6/6 trampler on turn three in a format like Standard is no joke, and Shock plus Skewer the Critics would achieve as much. Typically, though, Monored runs few noncreature spells these days. However, Skewer can be a great card under the right circumstances, and after all, Scorch Spitter is still around too. Just like classic Monored Aggro builds, the ones based around Cavalcade of Calamity are also able to cast the Incinerator in the early game, but not as easily since you would need to stack several Scorch Spitter and Cavalcade triggers. At least, when you have the Incinerator down, future Cavalcade triggers will also remove pesky blockers.
Unfortunately, much like Chandra's Spitfire currently seems too slow for this build, so does the Incinerator. I just can't find a place for either at the moment. Additionally, Skewer the Critics, which should be the main card to help slam down the new Elemental, just doesn't work with the rest of the deck at all. There are loads of noncombat damage triggers, but I'm still completely unsure about the deck's overall power level. Though, even in the worst-case scenario, this should remain a fun way of moving through the ranks on MTG Arena. A card I'd prefer to see in Cavalcade Aggro is Chandra's Pyreling.
Might be a bit too hopeful, but with some extra support, maybe we'll also get to see some aggressive monored build focused on the forgotten Electrostatic Field. I think this will happen exclusively if a turn three Chandra's Incinerator gets perceived as relevant and proves realistic. This is a classic example of a card that will either be defining its format or quickly be forgotten. The latter looks more likely in Standard's case.
With many real Bolts that always deal 3 damage for a single mana, I'm nearly certain this card will see play in Burn. Rift Bolt is just way too synergistic not to try this out. It also triggers spectacle, so you don't strictly need another Bolt or a Lava Spike; Skewer the Critics also works. The opposite of Standard aggro decks, Burn plays a lot more noncreature spells than creatures, making for good Incinerator synergy. This also means that it might be best to keep it as a sideboard option, because Burn does not have permanents that consistently deal noncombat damage. Grim Lavamancer is usually too slow and easy to kill, while Seal of Fire only made sense with pre-nerf Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
Still, the Incinerator will help Burn fight opposing creatures while not losing focus of hitting the opponent's face. This is extremely important against not just dedicated creature decks, but any creatures at all.
Chandra's Incinerator is a card whose power level varies greatly depending on how early you cast it. Just like how Chalice of the Void is a very dominant card because it shuts other decks down on turn two, this one is huge on turn two. If not dealt with immediately, it keeps the opposing side of the board clear, as it kills both planeswalkers and creatures for free, and it attacks for insane amounts of damage. So it might be wrong to jam it into any old regular Burn deck, where the Incinerator will either be crazy or irrelevant, similar to Standard.
A lot depends on the metagame and the rest of the new cards. But if a dedicated Incinerator strategy should become viable, the question is how consistent playing the 6/6 on turn two will be. And the answer may require an all-in version:
With an experimental Burn list such as this one, Vexing Devil may become relevant once more. The thing is, the opponent won't know whether they can safely take the damage or whether this will enable you to cast Incinerator. If played on turn three, for example, 4 damage are indeed enough to make the Incinerator a reality all by itself. Next to Rift Bolt, Seal of Fire is the most reliable way to use mana on turn one to deal damage on turn two. Furnace Scamp is the biggest concession to going all in on Incinerator, while Grim Lavamancer is a bit of a hedge for a later 6/6. Finally, Electrostatic Field can enable a turn three Incinerator with but a single Bolt. Due to playing only red, you should be able to mulligan pretty aggressively to accomplish one of these sequences.
I like to keep at least a pair of Eidolons as another backup plan. If all fails, turn to it for damage output. As far as the sideboard goes, I'd stick to most of the stuff regular Burn tends to have with a possible addition of Searing Blaze.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.