Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate’s surprisingly brief spoiler season is now over. While a trio of new mechanics gives Alchemy players a lot to look forward to, we’ve got some concerns. Namely that Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate does nothing to improve one of MTG Arena’s biggest problems: its economy. If anything, this new set makes the problem worse.
It’s All Alchemy Now
When Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate releases later this month on the 7th of July, MTG Arena is getting a new Mastery Pass. Usually, this is something to look forward to. However, we’re not sure that’s the case anymore. Thanks to primarily featuring Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate packs, the Mastery Pass’ value will be significantly diminished for the majority of players.
It’s not uncommon for any set to fail to impact a competitive meta significantly. Streets of New Capenna, for instance, only features a handful of cards you might want or need for Standard and Historic decks. Some examples of these are Raffine, Scheming Seer, Tenacious Underdog, and Ledger Shredder. The same is true for Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate, as it only features a few cards that you may want to craft for your Historic decks.
Somewhat surprisingly, this is the inverse of the problem that Alchemy sets typically have. Usually, Alchemy sets are loaded with so much value that crafting a huge number of rare and mythic cards is almost mandatory. Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate, however, only features a handful of cards that you might find useful. Displacer Kitten, Archivist of Oghma, Shadowheart, Cleric of War are all excellent cards, but there’s not a lot else to be excited about.
While this may be a blessing for those who don’t have an infinite supply of Wildcards, it, unfortunately, makes cracking Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate packs incredibly unsatisfying. Since they’re only legal in Alchemy in Historic events, cards from this new set must pass an extremely high set bar of quality. If an Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate card can’t keep up in Historic, it’s not worth playing, after all. This is going to make opening packs feel especially lackluster, even if the set is fun to play.
This lack of value across the set will leave Alchemy and non-Alchemy players alike only excited for one thing, Wildcards. Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed many times previously, MTG Arena’s Wildcards are far from a perfect system.
Is It Still Worth It?
With what looks like a fun and compelling Limited environment, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate could still be worth playing-ish. The only problem is its reward structure which, like the rest of the set, is a little worse than usual. Thanks to being rewarded with Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate packs, on top of the typical gem-based reward structure, the set is almost useless for non-Alchemy players.
With pitiful rewards for non-Alchemy players, the only reason to draft Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate would be to have fun. Unfortunately, while Magic: the Gathering does have the potential to be a good investment, having fun does typically cost money. You can’t expect to find a valuable card while drafting or win the event for additional prizes. Is it really so wrong to draft Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate without the promise of financial return?
As ludicrous as it might sound, fun alone isn’t an uncommon reason for drafting. Before I was interested in Modern, I still had a fantastic time drafting Modern Masters 2015. While I could have the same great time drafting Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate, there is one central place where Arena falters: trading.
After finishing my Modern Masters 2015 drafts, I could quickly sell off the valuable cards and those I didn’t want to keep. I don’t have the same option for Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate. The best I’d get out of this digital set is a wildcard or two, depending on how well I placed. This ensures that drafting Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate will always carry a high cost unless you can go infinite in your drafts, which is no easy feat.
What Can Be Done?
As we’ve critiqued in the past, MTG Arena’s economy is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The slow drip feed of rare wild cards from opening packs simply isn’t enough to make Arena affordable. Something needs to be done. Previously, we, like many others, have suggested Wizards should allow players to convert their wildcards into other rarities. This would allow players to use the wildcards they have to get the cards they want. Wizards seem unreceptive to this idea, as nothing has yet to be done.
Instead of offering a satisfying fix to Arena’s economy, Wizards has decided to try a different tactic. By making Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate the competitive format for the Arena Championship qualifier in July, Wizards will be forcing many players to play this latest set. Regardless of whether they want to or not. While it’s an effective strategy, we can’t say it’s one we’re all too fond of. So, we have some suggestions of our own.
For Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate specifically, we’d suggest Wizards of the Coast tweaking rewards for Limited events. This could make the hopefully enjoyable Limited events more enticing to all players. To do this, we’d recommend reducing the number of packs received in rewards, instead offering a wildcard or two.
This would allow players to draft Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate without the fear of wasting their gems on a format they’re uninterested in. After playing enough and building up a collection of Alchemy cards, players might even be tempted to build an Alchemy deck! In a massive win for Wizards, this could lead to more players getting interested in the much-ridiculed Alchemy format.
While this, or any fix to Arena’s economy, would be welcome, we know this is far from the only issue with Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate. The threat of cards being rebalanced, for instance, remains a significant issue. This makes it difficult to justify spending Wildcards on bombs such as Displacer Kitten, as there’s no guarantee they’ll stay good for long. If Wizards of the Coast, like its digital TCG competitors, rewarded currency equivalent to any cards that got changed negatively, this would be a less pressing issue.