The big question, then, is Pyrogenius a good card that’s actually playable in Standard? It’s probably pretty unfair to compare her to the Chandra in the set proper: Chandra, Torch of Defiance. So let’s first consider Chandra, Pyrogenius on her own merits.
Pyrogenius costs a total of six mana to cast, 4 colorless and 2 Red (4RR). She enters the battlefield with 5 loyalty counters, which is a decent enough number. Like most planeswalkers, she has three abilities. In her case, she has the traditional plus ability that adds counters, the minus ability that removes counters, and an “ultimate” ability that removes a good number of counters for a strong effect.
Pyrogenius has a +2 ability which deals 2 damage to each opponent. This is not a bad ability, considering that you can use it as soon as Pyrogenius enters the battlefield. It’s a good start. This is especially good in multiplayer games, as in a 4-player game, you’re spreading out 6 damage.
Her -3 ability deals 4 damage to a target creature. This is not a bad ability, although it brings Pyrogenius down to 2 loyalty counters, which can leave her vulnerable to most run of the mill burn spells and minimal attack. This could be the way in which she “protects” herself, however, by removing the biggest creature threat on the board. In that way, it’s a good ability, especially since the next turn she can just use her +2 ability.
The ultimate of Pyrogenius costs 10 loyalty counters. This deals 6 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls. If this ability sounds familiar to seasoned players, it should. In fact, the original Chandra Nalaar planeswalker from Lorwyn had this ability, but better. The original Chandra had an ultimate that cost 8 loyalty counters, but did 10 damage instead of 6. So obviously, this version is considerably underpowered.
Considering that Pyrogenius is basically a higher costed reimagining of the original Chandra Nalaar, this doesn’t seem to bode well for her chances of seeing much Standard play. Let’s stack her up against Torch of Defiance’s abilities.
The -3 ability looks extremely familiar. Torch of Defiance deals 4 damage to target creature. Like with Pyrogenius, it leaves her extremely vulnerable, but can also serve as her protection. But on a planeswalker with a +1 ability that can offer card advantage and a +1 ability that gives you free mana, this seems fine.
Torch of Defiance’s ultimate is pretty ridiculous. For a cost of 7 loyalty counters, you get an emblem. This emblem lasts for the rest of the game. It reads “Whenever you cast a spell, this emblem deals 5 damage to target creature or player.” Could it be a bit hard to obtain this? Perhaps. But it’s well worth it.
So obviously, Pyrogenius is an extremely watered down version of Torch of Defiance. Will this prove to be the case with all of these Planeswalker deck exclusives? I still think she’s a fun card, especially for newer players who are just happy to cast their first planeswalker. Is she worth casting for 6 mana? In a competitive Standard environment, I don’t really think so. Then again, these planeswalkers weren’t meant to be super powerful like the ones you find in Duel Decks, which are actual planeswalkers from Standard-legal sets, but in foil and with alternate art.
Still, I think as far as these decks replacing Intro Packs goes, I’d be happy to have this little collectible beauty than a foil of some random bulk rare and perhaps a few useful commons and uncommons. I’d be happy to pick up this and any other Planeswalker deck just for the exclusives, of which there are a few besides just the planeswalkers. We’ll get into these when we review the decks themselves, which should be a lot of fun.
Until then, happy planeswalking!