The First Pride Entered the Battlefield with a +1/+1 Counter or Haste
Welcome to Flavor of the Month, where we use cards' flavor as a recipe for building spicy decks. Today we're crafting a playable monument to love across the planes with a Commander deck dedicated to Chandra and Nissa.
Those who have been playing Magic since 2019 likely remember the controversy when, one novel after finally directly acknowledging something more than a platonic relationship between the two planeswalkers Chandra and Nissa, they abruptly backpedaled. The War of the Spark: Forsaken novel ham-handedly and decidedly un-shipped one of the most prominent queer couples in Magic's lore.
The fan backlash was swift, and it got so bad that Wizards and the novel's author ended up issuing apologies for their unceremonious dismantling of the relationship. The makers of Magic spend a lot of time talking about their commitment to diversity; while they certainly have taken positive steps in making the game more inclusive in recent years, at the time it was hard not to feel like all that talk was merely paying lip service since they were bungling it this badly.
On the bright side, it does seem that Wizards has listened to the fans on this one. The recent stories around March of the Machines finally re-establishes the relationship between the two planeswalkers. With Nissa compleated by the Phyrexians, Chandra's desire to save her (and the world, sure, but she has her priorities in order) was a major driving force for the story and a direct influence on its resolution.
And while my literary side is grumbling at the lore's un-compleating of basically all the major characters (akin to the Avengers movies killing off half of the superheroes only to say "just kidding!" and bring nearly all of them back one movie later--there's no force to a narrative without any real stakes for the characters!), I am happy to see Nissa live on so that fans can see more of the couple's relationship in the spotlight, just as we did in the recent chapter of the Aftermath storyline told from Nissa's perspective.
So let's build a deck to commemorate the two's in-lore reuniting!
My starting point for these decks is generally the flavor text of cards, but I was surprised to discover via a Scryfall search that there isn't a single card with both Chandra's and Nissa's names in italics. Hm. Well, the acknowledgment of their relationship was short-lived a few years back, and there's only so much they can fit for flavor text on cards to begin with.
What about art with both of them in it? That's...not all that much better. Nine total cards depict both planeswalkers, five of which have a group of other planeswalkers in there as well; seems the Gatewatch never missed an opportunity for a photo-op. The four that depict just the two are , , the Pride Secret Lair printing of , and most recently in Aftermath.
is a major story point: Chandra witnessing the horrifying result of Nissa's phyrexianization. However, given that we aren't likely to be in black in this deck, we can move on. It's also a huge bummer. Deadlock Trap displays the two planeswalkers caught in...well, a trap for planeswalkers during their time in Kaladesh. While they are the only two figures in the image, this card doesn't scream "relationship!" to me. Though, who knows; maybe breaking out of that trap helped them become closer as Gatewatch co-workers (co-watchers?) and was the beginning of a path that would bring them closer together? That's speculation, and besides, the card is not very good, even if you're in an energy deck, so we can forgo that one as well.
But! There is . Until Aftermath, Collective Voyage was the only card art celebrating their relationship; fitting, given that it was part of the Pride Secret Lair Drop in 2022. Wizards confirmed that the art depicts Kaladesh's take on a Pride Parade, and the card features Chandra and Nissa on their own floats. Given that this is Kaladesh, I'm not surprised that those floats appear to be, indeed, literally floating. This card is a great starting point for us, because it's the most thematically resonant card to showcase the pair and because it does one of the things that both Chandra and Nissa cards do in-game: make boatloads of mana. The other thing they both do is create no small number of Elemental creatures, so with those in mind we have two pillars upon which we can get building. Plus, we have no shortage of planeswalker cards for the two of them as well, and many happen to work perfectly toward the dual goals of ramp and Elementals.
is, of course, also perfect for this deck in form and function. It's ramp that can find you that next land drop (or four), and will often grab some value lands rather than basics, so it fits our blueprint even if it's not the most powerful spell out there, but let's be honest: even if this card were unplayable we'd still be including it in this deck because of the art and what it represents: Chandra and Nissa, finally together and taking a hopeful leap into the unknown, hand in hand. What's on the other side? Doesn't matter, because they'll be tackling it together.
There are also lots of cards with one of our planeswalkers in name, flavor text, or art that synergize with our gameplan, so they can flesh out the deck a bit.
and are both slam-dunk flavor picks, because it's easy to imagine them facing one another in those poses, making not an oath to the Gatewatch but to each other. Mechanically, the two cards work beautifully together: Oath of Nissa can find a Chandra card and make it easier to cast, while Oath of Chandra can protect Nissa from would-be attackers and punish opponents when the planeswalkers get together.
Of course, we do run into a problem as we build this. Who can helm this deck as commander? There's no dual Chandra and Nissa legendary creature, and while both of them have individual creature cards thanks to Origins (and the un-sparked Nissa got one more in Aftermath, ), they don't come with the Partner ability, so we can only use one (and thus will lose out on the color allowing us to play the other). You could Rule 0 both and as Partner commanders, but that feels against the spirit of a deckbuilding challenge. (Plus, if I'm going to convince my editor to let me Rule 0 in a special commander, I want to save that for something entirely ridiculous.)
I was tempted to use as the commander--another queer couple!--but their ability doesn't fit with our gameplan, despite being incredibly powerful on its own, and honestly we're another set of cards for them away from their own theme deck. would be a powerful commander, and thanks to the pips in our many planeswalker cards we would have an indestructible blocker to protect them pretty fast.
Ultimately I decided the best commander, given our inability to have our girls in the command zone, would be one that would work with our gameplan and not cost a million mana to get on the field nor take up too much space flavor or lore-wise. I ended up with the three-color jellybean himself: .
Why not stick to the two-color Gruul Omnath? Adding blue allows us to play one more Nissa planeswalker that works with our gameplan, and Omnath v3's text box goes perfectly with what we want to do: flood the board with Elementals, protect our 'walkers with those creatures, and then once we've hit enough lands, start drawing a stupid number of cards so we can keep the party going. Plus, both red and green are equally at odds with blue on the color wheel, so we're still in balance here.
Oh, and the other best part of adding blue to our color identity? We get , which can act as the perfect glue between our Elementals gameplan and our ramp gameplan. We stocked the deck with Elementals that trigger the Reef -- our planeswalkers aren't bad at making Elementals either -- and do plenty more. Some Elementals play well with lands ( , ), buff our other Elementals ( , ), or take over the game if left unchecked ( ).
There are a lot of versions of these two 'walkers--especially Chandra--so we had to trim some of the less effective ones, or ones that are just depressing, to make room in the deck. We prioritized Chandras that can make Elementals, like , or direct damage to players or creatures. gets us a one-sided thanks to nearly all our creatures being Elementals.
The Nissas we want are those who will help us get more lands into play, turn them into Elementals that do our bidding, or just get more mana production out of the ones we have--in the case of , one of the strongest planeswalkers ever printed, that's all three.
Given that both Nissa and Chandra naturally increase our mana production--Nissa's acceleration is more sustained and measured, while Chandra's impulsive and emotional bursts of mana can be game-altering but short-lived--we want to utilize that mana to throw some haymakers around.
If us accelerating into a bevy of planeswalkers and reaping massive advantage every turn doesn't win the game for us, sinking mana into something like or will do the job.
Grilled Ramps with Chandra and NissaView on Archidekt
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View this decklist on Archidekt
That's all for this installment of Flavor of the Month; be sure to tell us what you think in the comments below! Which Chandra/Nissa planeswalkers would you swap in rather than the ones I chose? Which character pair do you want to see get their own deck, and why? Ship away, friends!