There’s something oh-so-satisfying about winning with a gigantic X-damage spell aimed at your opponent’s face, or summoning a gigantic (bear with me) fire wave to incinerate everything in your path. It certainly helps that red decks in the last few iterations of Duels of the Planewalkers have been pretty damn good.
Chandra’s Firewave deck in Magic 2014 doesn’t have the raw power of the game’s older burn legacy (which is strange, given the game’s emphasis on the pyromantic planeswalker), but it’s still a blast to play.
With careful card advantage calculation and a little bit of raw excitement, you’ll find that burninating the countryside is just as rewarding as it’s always been.
Parting the red sea
Unlike previous versions of Chandra’s decks in Duels of the Planeswalkers, Firewave is a little heavier on high-power creatures and a little lighter on to-the-face damage. Sure, there’s still stuff like Lava Axe, but Wizards opted to cut down drastically on cards like Shock, Lightning Bolt, and Searing Spear – versatile burn that could be used to nix creatures or finish off an opponent in the red zone. Instead, most of the fire you’ll have access to is creature-oriented.
As such, your strategy needs to be more creature-focused itself. Instead of relying on burn to decimate your enemy’s life total, you’ll be using it to remove blockers, allowing your deadly (but frail) army to swing in unopposed. Creatures like Firewing Phoenix, Kiln Fiend, and Bloodpyre Elemental are all major offensive threats, but only if they can actually make it past the line of scrimmage to
tackle the quarterback knock off enemy hit points.
You certainly have a lot of tools for ensuring that: stuff like Pillar of Flame, Flames of the Firebrand, Flame Slash (noticing a trend in flame-based nomenclature yet?), but timing is everything. Burning a 2/2 sliver on turn two will feel good… until a more dangerous threat shows up a turn later. While the situations are rare, you will have to know when to sacrifice your creatures in combat and when to stall for the cleansing power of pyromancy.
A slow burn with explosive finales
Sometimes, the board state will stall out. You and your adversary will lose the will to attack, or everything will die at once and you’ll both be in topdeck mode. For most decks, this is a fatal time period, but Chandra’s Firewave has a lot of outs. For one, all her phoenix cards offer the possibility of resurrection (and thus, long term card advantage). She also has access to recurring damage via Sulfuric Vortex and Grim Lavamancer.
Finally, cards like Inferno Titan, Hostility, and even Lava Axe have the capability of flipping off the top of the deck for an instant win, which is always a pleasant surprise. If you work hard to push an opponent’s life total into the dangerous realm below eleven points or so, you can usually recover from even the worst setbacks.
That said, the road to victory is paved with very hard decisions. Do you hold extra Mountains in hand in the hopes of pulling a Seismic Assault, or do you play every one you draw in case you get Inferno Titan? Is it better to use Searing Spear and Kiln Fiend on an opponent’s attack to destroy two creatures, or on your own attack to swing for massive damage? Can you afford to wait another combat for an opening, or should you cast Final Fortune and gamble the entire match on your next turn?
Ultimately, these are the strategic struggles of every removal-heavy deck, and while I can’t account for every scenario, I hope the card-by-card analysis below can give you the insight needed to make the right decisions. Firewave is by no means an autopilot victory, but it has the tools needed to win against the large majority of decks… when utilized correctly. Let us know how you built your version of Firewave and, most importantly, have fun playing with fire!
Firewave deck build sample
- 2x Grim Lavamancer
- 3x Goblin Arsonist
- 2x Disintegrate
- 2x Pillar of Flame
- 1x Flame Slash
- 3x Kiln Fiend
- 1x Reverberate
- 1x Searing Spear
- 1x Wild Guess
- 2x Chandra’s Phoenix
- 1x Chandra’s Spitfire
- 2x Sulfuric Vortex
- 1x Seismic Assault
- 1x Flamebreak
- 2x Flames of the Firebrand
- 1x Browbeat
- 1x Firewing Phoenix
- 2x Chandra’s Outrage
- 1x Magma Phoenix
- 2x Fire Servant
- 1x Lava Axe
- 1x Inferno Titan
- 1x Hostility
- 25x Mountain
Firewave deck card-by-card analysis (alphabetical)
Bloodpyre Elemental, 3.0/5.0
This fiery fatty is definitely borderline playable, depending on the rest of your deck composition. When he’s on the battlefield unopposed, having four power means a short clock for your opponent. When there are too many blockers for him to get through, you can simply sacrifice him to open the road for other creatures. The fact that he’s so versatile is great, but the five mana cost ultimately keeps him out of my default Firewave build.
Chandra’s Outrage, 4.0/5.0
I want to hate Chandra’s Outrage, but it ends up being useful far too often for me to truly dislike it. It’s a fairly efficient burn spell that is capable of killing most of the dangerous threats in Duels of the Planeswalkers at instant speed. The two damage it does to the opponent is icing on the cake, but it also triggers Chandra’s Spitfire and Chandra’s Phoenix, which makes it an important bonus. This card is absolutely gross with damage doubling effects.
Chandra’s Phoenix, 5.0/5.0
A 2/2 flyer with haste would be a cool addition to the deck by itself, but the ability to rise from the grave for free whenever you melt your opponent’s face turns this burning bird into a nuisance for your enemies. If necessary, this Phoenix can be used on defense as a semi-perpetual blocker, but in most cases you’ll be pairing it with Sulfuric Vortex and random damage to put your adversary on a very short clock.
Cone of Flame, 2.5/5.0 (3.5 vs weenies)
Cone of Flame was one of the first cards I loved when I began playing Magic in 1997, and it was also one of the first cards I was taught was bad. Getting six damage for five mana (and a possible three-for-one in card advantage) sounds good on paper, but in reality you’ll rarely have three ideal targets. More often, you’ll be forced to burn your opponent for one or even possibly yourself. This card’s sorcery speed restriction doesn’t help, either. That said, it’s competent against decks with lots of 1/1 or 2/2 creatures.
Crimson Mage, 2.5/5.0
Giving your incoming creatures haste is a cool idea in concept, but in practice, Firewave doesn’t have the lands to spare on this kind of extravagance. Pinning this ability on such a frail body doesn’t really help either, and most of the time Crimson Mage is going to end his life as a chump blocker or a casualty to a board wipe effect.
Hey look! It’s an X-damage spell with cool art! Not only that, it’s targeted removal that can exile pesky zombies and phoenixes! There’s really not much to say: Disintegrate is almost always useful and, thanks to its costing, stays relevant as the game drags on. If you can sneak a Fire Servant or Furnace of Wrath into play, Disintegrate becomes a disgusting powerhouse.
Fire Elemental, 3.0/5.0
Fire Elemental goes back to the early days of Magic, but even then people only played it because the card art featured flaming cleavage. The Duels 2014 version is significantly less sexy, and it doesn’t really stack up against thinks like Geist-Honored Monk or similarly costed Slivers. This elemental’s only saving grace is that its four toughness lets it survive Flamebreak and Magma Phoenix… but in most cases a Lava Axe would be more useful.
Firewing Phoenix, 4.5/5.0
There’s something incredibly valuable about a card that cannot die, and doubly so for one with four power and evasive abilities. This is a creature that no opponent will ever feel good about targeting with removal (unless it’s Path to Exile), which also means it’s great for early-game trades. Once you hit eight lands and/or the game is at a stalemate, this single bird can grant you a huge advantage in the damage race or card attrition.
Flames of the Firebrand, 3.5/5.0
Not the fastest burn or the biggest burn or the most efficient burn, Flames of the Firebrand is an extremely middling, yet versatile sorcery. Against weenie decks or Jace’s illusions, it can generate nasty card advantage at nearly any point in a match. Against beefier targets like most green beatsticks, you’ll find this spell is often too little, too late. Its major redeeming factor is that you’ll never “waste” a point of damage with overkill.
Goblin Arsonist, 4.5/5.0
Much like Doomed Traveler, Goblin Arsonist is a one-drop that your enemies will not want to kill. He can single-handedly hold off two creatures with one toughness, or a single creature with two toughness, making him a nightmare when used on defense. On the attack, Goblin Arsonist can cause equally annoying scenarios where blocking him and not blocking him are both bad decisions. I highly recommend running all three copies of this explosive little pyromaniac.
Lava Axe, 3.5/5.0
Like Bloodpyre Elemental, Lava Axe is a tough call for Firewave. In many scenarios, five damage to the face or to a pesky angel/dragon/sliver is exactly what the doctor ordered. In other cases, five damage is complete overkill; nothing feels worse than having to tap out late game to burn off a 1/2 flyer! The five mana cost and sorcery speed are also somewhat prohibitive, though certainly less of a factor late in the game. Personally, I prefer to run a single copy, and have found that prevents the card from coming up when I don’t need it.
Magma Phoenix, 4.0/5.0
Like the fire birds that came before it, Magma Phoenix is a flyer that won’t take “dead” for an answer. Unlike its unkillable kin, Magma Phoenix takes out its anger on everyone and everything in its path to the grave. Usually, that’s a good thing: Firewave doesn’t have many sweepers, so reusable mass-cleansing is a powerful deterrent. Unfortunately, it can also backfire, hurting you and your creatures when you’re behind on board position. In most instances, the card is worth the risk, but don’t play out your weenies if you don’t need to while Magma Phoenix is in the sky.
Pilgrim’s Eye, 1.5/5.0
Pilgrim’s Eye would be a really good card in a multicolor deck, a landfall deck, or some kind of janky skies deck. Firewave isn’t any of those things.
Pillar of Flame, 5.0/5.0
It’s cheap burn. It’s moderate efficient burn. Even better: it keeps ghouls and ghosts out of the graveyard (you still have to fight them in boxer shorts). Flame Slash is more powerful against threats, but Pillar can also be used as (somewhat weak) direct damage when necessary. This is a must-have spell.
Regathan Firecat, 3.0/5.0
A lot of players are going to diss the 4/1 Firecat as being too fragile to consider inclusion, but in the absence of pingers and other cheap removal, I like to think of this flaming feline as a fairly efficient beater. You can always use burn to clear a path, and having four power means this card can be a huge problem if it hangs back to block. It’s not for every Firewave deck build, though, so weigh your options carefully.
Searing Spear, 5.0/5.0
For whatever reason, Firewave didn’t get a lot of instant-speed removal, so Searing Spear stands out as the most flexible of the deck’s destructive options. Use it and love it!
Skarrgan Firebird, 1.5/5.0
Sometimes you’ll get a 6/6 flyer for six mana. Other times, you’ll get a 3/3 flyer for six mana. But most often, you’ll just have this card sitting in your hand because you either don’t have six mana or you refuse to cast the Firebird until you can trigger its ETB effect. Resurrection is always nice, but this card’s stupid restriction basically makes the “bonus” an annoying distraction to play around. Do not put this card in your deck… you have been warned!
Staff of the Flame Magus, 1.5/5.0
This card is bad, bad, bad. For the same price you could summon a creature that could win you the game with damage or “gain” you life by blocking attackers.
Torch Fiend, 2.5/5.0
Other than Sliver Hive, none of the Magic 2014 Duels of the Planeswalkers decks really rely heavily on artifacts. And even popular Sliver Hive builds aren’t super-heavy on machinery. If future DLC includes more dangerous artifacts you might want to reconsider Torch Fiend, but otherwise Crimson Mage is marginally better (both are still mediocre at best in this deck).
Firewave unlocks card-by-card analysis
In most games of Magic 2014, you’re not going to reliably have seven lands. And when you do, you’re not going to reliably draw Inferno. And even if both of those things happen, there’s no guarantee that this mutually destructive bomb is going to help you more than it’s gonna hurt (and it will hurt a lot). Too much risk, too much cost.
Kiln Fiend, 5.0/5.0
Hey fire mages: want to win the game on turn four? Kiln Fiend can help! This incredibly overpowered two-drop creature grows whenever you cast your signature fire moves, providing massive damage out of nowhere. Burn a blocker out then swing for four, or singe your foe’s face (perhaps at 3 from Searing Spear), adding insult to injurt with seven total damage. If you get more than one in play or you acquire the lands needed to pump it multiple times in one turn, your opponent will be forced to deal with Kiln Fiend or die very, very quickly.
Fire Servant, 4.5/5.0
Forget the 4/3 body; this molten madman doubles your spell damage. That means Pillar of Flame can burn down angels with ease and Chandra’s Outrage can pretty much murder anything in the game. Flames of the Firebrand becomes an absolute catastrophe, while Disintegrate, Lava Axe, and Browbeat become death sentences. If you manage to get two of these on the table (quadrupling damage) and you somehow fail to win the match, you should quit playing Magic the Gathering forever.
The only sweeper outside of Magma Phoenix, you pretty much have to take Flamebreak. It’s a powerful card for sure, but it also happens to kill almost all of the creatures in your deck. As such, you’ll want to ensure you get more out of the trade than your opponents do by holding back extra critters or swinging suicidally before taking the purging plunge. This card becomes a much cheaper alternative to Inferno when you have Fire Servant in play.
Grim Lavamancer, 5.0/5.0
Whereas most pinger-style creatures do so little damage they’re irrelevant or come into play so late they die to other removal without doing anything, Grim Lavamancer sneaks into play turn one and is quickly ready to dish out Shock-level pain, albeit intermittently. Despite the drawback of needing extra cards in your graveyard to activate his ability, this shouldn’t normally be a problem for Firewave, which is full of single-use sorceries and instants. If you can keep fueling this guy’s fire (and avoid exiling your valuable phoenixes), he will easily pay for himself in damage and card advantage.
Giving a creature Double Strike is an incredibly potent boon, allowing it to cut through enemy armies (or life totals) with ease. Unfortunately, Firewave just doesn’t have that many creatures, and a lot of them have only two power… not particularly scary. Yes, dropping Fireshrieker on an Firewing Phoenix is wonderful, but it’s also relatively unlikely. As such, I wouldn’t recommend this equipment unless you’ve built a (somewhat odd) deck with a focus on beats over burn.
Furnace of Rath, 3.5/5.0
As we’ve seen with Fire Servant, the ability to double damage can turn middling spells into god-killing bombs. That said, Furnace of Rath doubles all damage. This includes creature damage, but it also includes damage done to you, so playing this enchantment at the right time requires a lot of experience with Magic strategy. When played incorrectly, you could lose the game before you get to untap again. While I don’t have Furnace of Rath in my sample build, that’s by no means final; just don’t lay it down unless you have a plan to win in the next turn or two.
Inferno Titan, 5.0/5.0
Unlike other Titans, Inferno Titan has the capability to pretty much win the game by himself if left unopposed for one turn. The free damage he dishes out upon entry or on attack can wipe the floor with any would-be blockers, clearing a path for his massive, firebreathing frame. If you get lucky with land drops, he can swing for 13 damage on his first attack, plus three from his ability, plus three more when you first played him. If you’re keeping tally, that’s nineteen fucking damage from one card. gg
Wild Guess, 4.5/5.0
New players probably can’t see the value of a spell that requires you to discard stuff from your hand, but they should consider just how often the stuff in your hand isn’t the stuff you actually need. Being able to toss a spare Mountain (no, you shouldn’t play every Mountain you draw) for two more cards is great. Even better: discard a phoenix card to pay for Wild Guess. You’ll (eventually) get it back, netting you long-term card advantage!
Seismic Assault, 5.0/5.0
You know how, late-game, you tend to pray that every topdeck isn’t a land? With Seismic Assault in play, every Mountain you draw is a Shock, except it costs zero mana to play. That’s an incredible advantage when matches drag on, but it also means you can pull combat tricks out of nowhere, even when tapped out. The fact that the ability is free also means that if your opponent tries to destroy Seismic Assault, you can empty the five Mountains you’ve been saving into her face and/or creatures. Want another T3 tip? With Seismic Assault in play, your enemies will be hesitant to play any two toughness creatures, so don’t be afraid to hold onto other cards and bluff just how much instant damage you’re really storing up.
Sulfuric Vortex, 4.0/5.0 (5.0 in 3+ player FFA)
While life gain isn’t really a thing in Magic 2014 as it was in Duels 2013 (where Sulfuric Vortex directly led to my finals victory in the Weapons of Mass Gaming tournament), this enchantment is still a good play, most of the time. It forces your opponent to rush his strategy, and gives you a way to break through creature stalls or topdeck wars. While it can certainly backfire and hurt you, keep in mind that your foes take damage before you do, and if it is destroyed, in most cases it will die on an opponent’s turn, sparing you from damage once again.
I would’ve loved to see more Browbeats in Firewave, but we have to settle for one. Any card that can deliver either five damage or three cards at just three mana is insane… the drawback of giving your enemy the choice makes this card fair. The less information your opponent has about the impending board state, the better, tipping the odds in favor of his making a poor choice. An important note: many players will not realize that Browbeat can deliver 10, 20, or 40 damage if you have Fire Servants/Furnace of Rath in play. Won’t they feel dumb when they “choose” to take 20 instead of giving you an Ancestral Recall?
Flame Slash, 5.0/5.0
For one mana, you get to nix pretty much 80% of the creatures in Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers. The sorcery speed of Flame Slash and its inability to act as direct player damage are completely fair trade-offs for this otherwise abusive damage:cost ratio.
Chandra’s Spitfire, 4.0/5.0
While this card is often likened to Kiln Fiend, the unfortunate fact that opponents must actually be hit by damage to get the Spitfire bonus kind of sucks. With Kiln Fiend, you can choose to aim for the head to maximize damage, but you can also zap blockers for card equity and long-term board control. That said, Chandra’s Spitfire will end up doing work regardless, and can also be triggered by things like Seismic Assault, so it’s not all downsides.
Final Fortune, 2.5/5.0
Final Fortune was a divisive card when it was first printed, and it remains a question mark to this day. Two mana for an extra turn is extremely powerful, especially if you have lots of creatures in play and/or a Furnace of Rath on the battlefield. It can also catch enemies unaware, since they probably weren’t counting on you getting two attack phases when they tapped out all their creatures for a swing. Unfortunately, Final Fortune tends to be a dead card most turns, as it is by definition useless until the turn before you win the game. If you are totally screwed, you might as well cast it, just keep in mind Final Fortunes could’ve been a more useful card if you had kept it out of your deck.
Is there a feeling better than doubling Lava Axe or Browbeat for just two mana? Yes: doubling your opponent’s Lava Axe for two mana (and having yours resolve first!). Reverberate is absolutely brutal in any instant/sorcery based deck, and the ability to copy a powerful enemy spell is downright evil. It can even be used to counter a counterspell. Eat that, Jace!
Stalking Vengeance, 3.0/5.0
The effect is powerful. The creature is powerful. But it costs seven mana. Even then, if this thing eats a Murder, you don’t really get any kind of reward. I feel like Stalking Vengeance would have been much better suited for a deck full of Ball Lightning-style creatures that are themed around self-sacrifice. It kind of combos with Hostility (see below), but that’s relying on drawing and playing two one-of bombs. If you can get this into play, congratulations… just don’t count on it.
At one less mana than Stalking Vengeance, Hostility is a much better late-game bomb. It’s a 6/6 (that’s +1/+1 over Vengeance) that indirectly triples all your direct burn, turning each point of damage into a 3/1 creature! Hell, it more than triples the damage, since those elementals get to stick around if they don’t immediately die to a weenie blocker. If you untap with Hostility in play, you have pretty much won the game, assuming your foe doesn’t have some kind of creature lockdown in place. But then again, you probably shouldn’t have played Hostility in that kind of scenario.