“Spontaneous combustion is a myth. If you burst into flame, someone wanted you to.”
Chandra Nalaar is the iconic pyromancer within Magic: the Gathering multiverse. Wizards’ website offers a biography of her, which we reproduce below. If you know her background already, you can skip until the image for the description of what she would look like as a Dungeons & Dragons character under 5e rules (in our opinion, of course).
There is no virtue in subtlety: at least not as far as Chandra Nalaar is concerned. She’s a confident, ardent, defiant Planeswalker whose specialty is pyromancy: spells of fire, fire, and more fire.
Growing up as a magic-user on a plane of inventors, she’s used to being the black sheep. In fact, she learned to embrace and celebrate her independence through the example set by her renegade parents. But she and her parents were hunted by the local consuls for transgressions against the Consulate’s oppressive rule. Her parents were brutally punished, and Chandra herself was sentenced to execution for crimes she didn’t commit. Outraged, panicked, and grief-stricken, Chandra’s spark ignited along with her pyromancy, and she bathed her punishers in flames before being transported to a new plane. Believing her parents to be dead, Chandra felt lost and alone until she was welcomed into an order of monks, pyromancers like herself, who taught her how to channel her impulses and control her gift.
Now Chandra uses her pyromantic talents in ways she never could have imagined. She took an oath to protect and defend and joined a group of Planeswalkers known as the Gatewatch. Together with Gideon Jura, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, and Nissa Revane, she travels the planes of the Multiverse, battling monstrous threats and fighting for freedom.
Building Chandra in 5e
Focusing in fire magic, Chandra uses fire spells as response to any threat. Given her narrow focus and specialization, and some of her abilities as represented in her planeswalker cards, it’s easy to make her a D&D character as a sorcerer. As a human planeswalker, our first choice is if she needs a feat to decide if we’ll make her a standard or a variant human. Sorcerers don¿t get any armor proficiency, and we always see Chandra wearing some, so we’ll build her as a variant human in porder to choose “Lightly Armored” as a bonus feat. We also gave a thought to Elemental Adept (and she’ll get it also, even if the main benefits from it are redundant). Let’s continue with the basics, leaving the spell selection for the end.
One of the most important features to select for a sorcerer is their Sorcerous Origin. The Plane Shift: Kaladesh free supplement gives us the Pyromancer origin, which is a douyble fit for Chandra: not only it’s about fire, but it’s also linked to her plane of origin. Its “Fire in the Veins” feature feels a lot like Chandra’s ablity to manifest “colorless” fire, and its “Heart of Fire” feature can be matched to her usual hair-on-fire look. Her other trait we’ve seen on her cards is the ability to “fork” spells, which can be seen as duplicating spell effects. The tools we need to accomplish this will be provided by the Metamagic feature from the Sorcerer class.
Independent and free, Chandra has a high Charisma not only because it’s her spellcasting ability, but because of her strong and dominant personality. As a Sorcerer, though, she knows few spells, so we need to select the ones she can make the most out of. She doesn’t get Ritual Casting but has plenty cantrips. The bread and butter nonetheless, comes as the Metamagic feature, which we’ll take a deep look.
Metamagic is probably the most important class feature. Because of it, they are extremely powerful spellcasters who can use magic to shape their spells to the needs of the moment. We listed the options in the order you should choose them to play a character such as Chandra. I’d like to add that this may not match an optimization guide, as our main focus is tou build a playable character based on our favorite pyromaniac.
- Empowered Spell: Dealing more damage is the main reason why we pick damaging spells, so let’s make them even more powerful.
- Heightened Spell: Just as damaging, making sure you’ll deal damage is very important. Imposing disadvantage is the way to go.
- Quickened Spell: Casting twice a round is, along with the following Twinned Spell, the D&D version of the “fork” ability in Magic the Gathering. Casting twice may mean doubling the damage dealt, after all.
- Twinned Spell: Same as Quickened Spell.
- Careful Spell: Already during the Dominaria storyline, we can see Chandra able to focus her fire spells in order to not target allies.
- Distant Spell: And also during the Dominaria storyline, already under Jaya Ballard’s tutelage, Chandra is able to cast from afar. It’s not that useful in
D&D regular games, though.
- Subtle Spell: We listed this useful metamagic almost last not only because subtlety is definitely not Chandra’s way, but also because in many parts of her story, she’s been unable to use spells when hand-tied.
- Extended Spell: Finally, this Metamagic tool works very good outside combat, but it has no effect with Instantaneous spells, which compose the majority of Chandra’s repertoire.
We’re done with almost everything. Only spells remain, and it’s not hard to do, as we just need to select fire spells in all its functionality. We always need to keep in mind that sorcerers have few spells known, so it’s important not just to pick spells that fulfill multiple rolls, but also not to pick spells that overlap. With that said, Chandra really doesn’t carte about that: she just wants to burn everything, and for that we need as many fire spells as possible. Here are some suggestions and also some ideas for reflavoring some not obvious choices. These last one will be in parentheses and italics, (just like this).
- Cantrips: Control Flames, Create Bonfire, Fire Bolt, Burning Hands
- Magic Missile, Shield (made of flames and ash)
- Agnazzar’s Scorcher, Darkness (as a smoke screen), Gust of Wind (as steam), Hold Person (as surrounding a character with flames, maybe the DM would agree to change the ST from WIS to DEX), Knock (making the door explode), Pyrotechnics, Scorching Ray.
- Daylight, Erupting Earth, Fireball, Flame Arrows, Haste (with a proper halo of flames), Melf’s Minute Meteors.
- Stoneskin (seen as a combination of quicly hot-to-cold magma), Wall of Fire.
- Cloudkill (changing damge from poison to fire), Immolation, Wall of Light.
- Disintegrate (dealing a massive damage from fire, steam, blazing rocks and ash), Investiture of Flame, Sunbeam.
- Delayed Blast Fireball, Fire Storm.
- Incendiary Cloud, Sunburst.
- Meteor Swarm.
You can see how Chandra’s character sheet looks like via D&D Beyond’s Character Manager here.