Back when Magic Origins came out, I attended a prerelease and my promo foil was Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. This meant I had to make a commander deck with her, right? The idea to make something whimsical, with cards that featured Chandra in the art or in the name. Still, I wanted it to be somewhat powerful. There is some overlap there, but I also wanted to be able to protect the Planeswalker side a little, and decided to go with the various Phoenix cards there are to be able to block flyers that came her way. Most red sweepers leave flyers alone, so that felt important.
After a long time, I was finally able to bring the deck to a game of commander. Ofcourse, being a burn deck in a format with multiple opponents all at 40 life is already a little problematic. The others brought more sensible commanders, like Breya, Etherium Shaper and Prossh, Skyraider of Kher that work very well as combo pieces, and here I was playing a card that plays mostly a fair game of Magic. I was outclassed and I didn’t win in the end. But it didn’t feel like a problem because it did get kinda close.
Being the red player did give me an edge. Red is not only the colour of fury and rage, but also the colour of love and friendship, and while it technically doesn’t count as a win, there is a chance to draw the game by killing everyone (including myself) with a large Earthquake. There is no friendship like fire-forged friendship, and drawing the game is kind of a win in my book.
I did learn a lot from the playthrough though. First of all, a mono-red burn deck brings a great sense of immediacy to the table. Even the player who is the furtherst ahead feels like they can die at any moment due to damage doublers like Furnace of Rath. I opened with Obsidian Fireheart and it drew hate immediatly, which is quite a reaction to a card that maybe pings for one or two. (The idea of the deck was to also use Chandra’s ultimate and the Fireheart to keep pinging people even after I was eliminated.) It’s good to know that the deck evokes such a strong reaction, even when others play dangerous combo decks.
That means the deck meets it’s goals. Now it just needs to win sometimes. I will have to tweak the deck a little, but as chaotic red is, there are a lot of nombo’s and anti-synergies when using reds more disrupting effect. I want to include some creatues, but they don’t work well with mass-burn like Earthquake and similar effects.
Take [mtg]Blood Moon[/card] and Burning Earth. Both work against greedy manabases, but they also work against each other. Navigating the deck can be difficult at times. Playing monored this way means you must not care about your lifetotal or worry about invalidating your own cards at times.
The Chandra isn’t reliable, and even though the deck doesn’t have many creatures, having enough haste granting effects is a must, because waiting a whole turncycle to activate her (or a Heartless Hidetsugu) is a tall order, concidering life is cheap in a format with so much (mass) removal. So I better include stuff like Anger or Fervor to make sure I can use the few creatures I have immediatly on them hitting the battlefield, denying opponents the opportunity to deal with my setups.
Haste also helps with Aether Flash. I’m tempted to run this, but it does have anti-synergy with my commander, killing her when she enters the battlefield. Haste gets around it, as she can spark into a planeswalker before the Aether Flash damage hits her.
Another upgrade I made is adding a Mirage Mirror. This may become a commander staple, and in this deck, in addition to becoming a copy of the best card on the table, it also allows me to activate another damage doubler on a whim, or provide an extra copy of Valakut, also doubling some damage and spreading the love around a bit more.
The whole Phoenix thing can be toned down a bit, because outside of flavour, it didn’t really add that much. Some of the Phoenixes must attack every turn, and this works again the idea that I use them to block and protect things. Instead, a little more ramp and maybe some extra carddraw doesn’t hurt the deck. After all, you threaten the board with burn, making sure you don’t get hated out that quick by offering a deterence. This doesn’t work that well on an empty hand, and not enough mana to back it up.
It’s never going to be the best deck at the table, and it probably doesn’t win that much. It does accelerate the pace of the game and keep everyone on their toes. I also have some red legends in my 99 which I can run instead of Chandra. Neheb, the Eternal is one with potential in this deck, that I can swap Chandra with once in a while and make giant explosions out of all the mana it can produce. All in all I’m not scrapping the deck, even though there are a lot of hurdles to overcome to make it competative enough for most tables.