We know a few things about what this year's core set, Magic 2014, is going to be like simply from past precedent: It'll be composed largely of reprints but with a good mix of new cards as well, and it'll feature a returning keyword mechanic from Magic's past. However, the details are still mysterious. One thing we know for certain, based on the announcement Arcana article, is that Chandra will be the red planeswalker in core as she has been since Magic 2010, and that she'll get a new card this time around. We saw some new art featuring her recently, and we have three past versions of her to work from. Let's see if we can figure out her abilities:
Plus ability: I'm not going to beat around the bush. This is going to be burn. The first Chandra pinged players for 1 damage, the second hit creatures or players for 4 at the cost of a discarded red card, and the third shoots creatures and players for 1. It's perhaps uncreative of R&D to go this route again, but not everything has to be original and innovative, and she'd feel nothing short of wrong if the ability didn't work this way. There are ways to mix this up, mind:
- +1: Chandra deals 1 damage to up to one target creature.
- +1: Chandra deals 1 damage to up to one target creature and to each player.
- +1: Sacrifice a permanent. If you do, Chandra deals 3 damage to target creature or player.
- +1: Put a 3/0 red Fury creature token with "When this creature dies, it deals 1 damage to target creature or player" onto the battlefield.
- +1: You and target opponent each flip a coin. Chandra deals 1 damage to each player whose coin comes up tails. Repeat this process until both players' coins come up heads on the same flip.
I dislike the "up to one" terminology - it's necessary on loyalty-adding abilities, since they need to be useable at all times and there's not always a creature on the board, but it feels like a rules kludge. Nevertheless, Ajani, Caller of the Pride proves that R&D is willing to use it. Since this is a core set card, the simplest form of the ability is the most likely to be used, even at mythic.
Minus ability: This one is the most varied. It could conceivably go anywhere - just look at how different these abilities have been on the first three Chandra cards (Blaze, mass discard-and-draw, and a delayed-action Reverberate for your own spells only). It probably won't have to do with instants and sorceries, seeing as that's Ral Zarek's schtick, but otherwise it's wide-open.
- -3: Destroy target artifact or land.
- -X: Chandra deals X damage to each creature without flying and each player.
- -5: Target creature gets +10/+0 until end of turn.
Ultimate: Two of Chandra's past ultimates have been all about mass burn, dealing fatal or nearly-fatal damage to opponents and their entire armies. The odd one out is Chandra Ablaze's pseudo-Yawgmoth's Will or free-flashback thing. Hence, this is almost as open as the minus ability, since it's hard (though not impossible) to conceive of a pure-damage-based ultimate yet again.
- -7: Exile target red instant or sorcery card from your graveyard. Put X X/1 red Elemental Avatar creature tokens with haste onto the battlefield, where X is that card's converted mana cost.
- -8: Destroy all artifacts, creatures, and lands. Each player discards his or her hand. Draw a card.
- -9: Chandra deals damage to target player equal to his or her life total minus 3.