This week’s spotlight deck is Chandra the Probably Complex owned by JDG314 of Late  to the Party. Chandra is a Mass Mutation deck featuring houses Logos, Saurian, and  Star Alliance. It currently sits at 80 SAS on DoK.

    At a glance, Chandra is a deck with good AERC numbers: solid expected aember (17 pips), above average aember control, and decent creature control. The creature control, however, depends on Quixxle Stone hitting the board early, as it can force a deck with no artifact control to discard its creatures from hand. Chandra looks like it can play with Quixxle on the board, having only 12 creatures itself. Quixxle Stone is also one of two excellent artifacts in the deck, the other being Amphora Captura, which looks to take advantage of Chandra’s 14 enhancements. Of those 14, 6 are draw enhancements that add to a brisk Logos house featuring Lethologica, a legacy Eyegor, and Eclectic Inquiry to keep hands moving. Chandra notably also has other good artifacts—Transporter Platform, Forge Compiler, and Animator—so Chandra seems to say to its opponent: if you have no artifact control, good luck controlling this game.

    The Archon strategy, in my mind, begins with Amphora Captura and, simply, capturing  lots of aember with other cards that support the Captura play—double Praefectus Ludo  and double Spoils of Battle, for instance. In a scenario with well-shaped hands, one  could capture as much aember as necessary onto only a few creatures (because of  Quixxle) and carefully destroy them using the double Bouncing Deathquarks or  Quintrino Flux on subsequent turns. Or, as JDG314 pointed out to me, Chandra has a  very useful Exile in this deck! So, their aember is either getting sent to the common  supply with the Ludos or is making its way into Chandra’s pool by way of the Exile.  However, I suspect this is not an easy feat. Collecting the cards necessary likely requires  patience and the knowledge of how/when to best use the Logos, especially the  Lethologica, in order to shape those hands. The Quixxle Stone helps to keep the board  in order, so long as there is little to no artifact control. But this patience that the deck  asks of its players, I think, is what makes it a good choice for the Newton format. 

    The creature control and disruption cards in the deck also pair very nicely with the  Quixxle Stone, which, if there is a glaring problem in the deck, it would simply be that the Captura plays are better with more creatures to capture aember. That said,  Bouncing Deathquark and Quintrino Flux are exactly the kinds of C cards needed for  those maneuvers. They can help pick off exactly the kinds of creatures you can spare  (Eyegor, Infomorph, Munchling, Daemo- and Sacro-Aliens, etc.) while leaving the Ludos  out.

    Chandra’s owner, JDG314, explained some of the fancier plays to me, and they involve  more artifacts! First, not only are those creatures above liable to destruction, but the  Transporter Platform brings back those with good “play” abilities, especially the  Eyegor. Chandra’s Animator can also make Transporter Platform a creature whose  action ability brings Eyegor back to hand for multiple plays on the same turn. Animator  can also put artifacts on the board where you can capture aember onto them, doubling  down on the strategy of punishing R-less decks. Over the course of an entire game,  you could capture a ton of aember onto artifacts with Captura and Animator in play. In  the case that those artifacts get destroyed, that aember goes to the common supply  (as long as they are artifacts and not creatures via Animator at the time of destruction).

    Playing against Chandra, in the reversal game, requires you to then force out those  cards as early as possible in order to create an uncomfortable situation where the  Captura/other capturing happens without the full combo present. Boards without the  Ludo protection are vulnerable to being merely okay aember control plays, as opposed  to the potentially devastating ones where that aember never makes its way back to  your pool. Even if playing a deck that wants to accomplish other things, one needs to  check for keys whenever possible against Chandra. The longer the game continues, the  greater Chandra’s advantage grows, as well as the potential for those big Captura  plays. Having artifact control is clearly crucial as well. Knowing Chandra, a skilled player  may even attempt to mulligan into their R cards because the margin for winning or  losing might come down to purging Captura or sending Quixxle back to the hand at  exactly the right moment.

    For an 80 SAS MM deck, Chandra expectedly has few weaknesses for playing straight  Keyforge, but there are some that can be exploited when playing against it. It has a few  cards that are generally seen as “dead,” i.e. having little to no impact. This is the case  with triple Opposition Research. Not an entirely useless card, OR can clog hands at bad  times and the lack of an aember pip makes them less than stellar (one of them in  Chandra does have an aember enhancement, though). Plus, with smaller Quixxle 
bound lines, OR is less likely to be particularly helpful. That said, the triple OR are  exactly the kind of cards that the discarding abilities of Eyegor and the double Survey  are trying to hit.

    Another potential weakness for Chandra is its small creature count. While having 12  creatures is a bonus in a Quixxle deck, Chandra could just as easily be boarded by a  deck that has a lot of creatures., and high effective power could also pose a problem.  Chandra’s effective power is a low 35, so a buried Quixxle Stone could mean an  unpleasant time facing off certain types of fast rush decks that spit out creatures like  Hunting Witch. As above, the strategy against Chandra is simply to unload your hands  against it as fast as possible. Populating the board and generating aember early will do  wonders. A player who doesn’t know Chandra, however, might try to do its own deck’s  *thing*—which may be an entirely valid win condition on its own—but if that takes too  long, Chandra will catch up and undo a lot of previous work. 

    JDG314 and Chandra squared off against Lorenzo99 of Hamburg Atlanteans 1, who  brought Spezialist “Sandsturm” Greifswald, an 82 SAS MM deck, to the Crucible. In the  Archon matchup, JDG brought out Quixxle Stone on his first turn! This really set the  tone for the rest of the game as Sandsturm had no artifact control and had to play with  the Quixxle Stone’s limitations all game long, especially devastating given its 23  creatures. Quixxle Stone created a war of attrition on the battlefield where both players  took entire turns to simply discard 2-3 creatures from hand. Sandsturm, by the way, is a  low-C deck whose best destruction comes from Maleficorn and its 9 damage  enhancements, but Maleficorn had to be discarded twice due to the Quixxle Stone. As  turns progressed, I began to see exactly how patient one needs to be with a real  Quixxle deck like Chandra. JDG didn’t panic while a step behind Lorenzo, even though  both decks took many turns doing little besides discarding quality creatures (like double Skippy Timehog in Sandsturm!).

    Where Chandra really began to pull away from Sandsturm was when the Saurian  engine got moving—playing Galeatops, Spoils of Battle and Exile to put Sandsturm’s  aember on its own side of the board was particularly effective given Sandsturm’s  mediocre E. Amphora Captura came out on turn 9, and eventually JDG was able to  pull off some of Chandra’s nastier moves: using Animator to make Amphora a creature  so it could capture aember that would remain out of reach the rest of the game. The  Archon match proved more than favorable for Chandra, as Sandsturm couldn’t afford  to play that slow Quixxle game in the trenches, having few printed aember pips and  action cards. 

    In the Reversal match, both decks initially brought out different strategies. Without first turn Quixxle, Chandra and Sandsturm both populated the board with multiple  creatures in the first few turns, creating much longer and more complex turns than we  saw in the Archon match. Yet Lorenzo was able to get Quixxle Stone out soon after, at  turn 4, slowing down the game to the pace that favors Chandra. JDG, with the shoe on  the other foot, was now discarding Maleficorn and the two Timehogs the same way it  had happened in the first game. 

    On subsequent turns, Lorenzo/Chandra got out the Amphora Captura, Animator, and  Transporter Platform, and this really put on the pressure, despite JDG/Sandsturm being  up 2 keys to 1. Lorenzo swung a huge 9-aember play by killing a heavily exalted  General Xalvador, checking comfortably at 13 aember. Without any robust aember control plays in the deck, Lorenzo and Chandra pulled away in the Reversal matchup by  simply generating more aember late in the game, largely due to the number of pips on  its action cards. 

    So JDG and Lorenzo split their games, going 1-1 this round. On the one hand, this was  a good showing for Chandra, as it proved to have all the right answers to a very good,  fast MM deck. Both games were masterful displays of how devastating Quixxle Stone  can be in the right circumstances. But, for the Newton format, one hopes for tighter  matches that could potentially swing the other way in Reversal. Both games were  extremely entertaining though, and as luck would have it, this match was also selected  for this week’s stream by Jupiter, so I highly recommend checking out the games for  yourselves!