Teysa of the Ghost Council
7, May, 24

Awesome MTG Commander Options Are Annoyingly Exclusive

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Article at a Glance

After rather little hype and anticipation, Alchemy: Thunder Junction is finally here! With 30 new offerings, this miniature set has plenty of stellar cards. Between the cycle of Moxen collectors, constructed gems, and new Commander options, there’s a lot for MTG Arena players to be excited about! Wait… What do you mean that no one is excited?

As much as I may love its unique mechanics and digital freedoms, there’s no hiding the fact that Alchemy isn’t popular. The format itself is criminally underplayed and players constantly request its removal from Historic and Timeless. Despite all these complaints and problems, however, Alchemy still has a great deal of promise.

Much like Aftermath sets (may they rest in peace), Alchemy releases give designers another opportunity to expand a set’s horizons. Whether it’s expanding a plane with new flavor or giving a home to missed creatures, these sets undoubtedly serve a purpose. At least, both Alchemy and Aftermath sets are better than nothing.

Unfortunately, while these sets may be better than not getting an extra haul of new cards, there are still problems. Many Alchemy cards, for example, are completely unplayable on paper, making proxies even more dubious than usual. Considering how fun some of the new Commander options from Alchemy: Thunder Junction look, this is a crying shame.

Compelling Commander Choices

Nashi, Illusion Gadgeteer | Rankle, Pitiless Trickster

In total, Alchemy: Thunder Junction contains nine new Commander options for Brawl on MTG Arena. Offering new support to Typal archetypes, spell stealing, and genuinely powerful abilities, there’s a lot to love about these new cards. If you read Outlaws of Thunder Junction’s story, you’ll also welcome Nashi getting a card following their main set absence.

As for their card, Nashi, Illusion Gadgeteer is almost really interesting. Capable of conjuring a duplicate of a nonland card from your graveyard to your hand, Nashi theoretically has potential. Unfortunately, this ability only triggers when they enter the battlefield, so you’ll need to keep bouncing or playing them for optional value.

For better or worse, while they’re not awful, Nashi, Illusion Gadgeteer is closer to the normal definition of unplayable. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Rankle, Pitiless Trickster. As we covered recently, this new Rankle facilitates a worrying Discard-Typal deck that I’m already scared of.

On top of offering support for an interesting, novel, and toxic archetype, Rankle, Pitiless Trickster is just good. Scaling with the cards anyone discards, Rankle quickly becomes a major threat that doesn’t power down. Thanks to this awesome power, unsurprisingly, quite a few MTG players would like to enjoy this new legendary Faerie. Sadly, that just can’t be done on paper.

Thanks to having a Perpetual ability, Rankle, Pitiless Trickster doesn’t work on paper. Should you really want to play it, you could just ignore this ability and have Rankle’s buffs be temporary. Obviously, this workaround dramatically affects their playability, which is far from ideal. Considering Commander and its myriad legendary creatures should be enjoyed not gatekept, is it time Wizards changes their tune for MTG Arena?

Fixing the Unplayable

Teysa of the Ghost Council | Jessie Zane, Fangbringer

Considering it’s pretty much the entire point of the format, Alchemy is always going to have digital-exclusive cards and mechanics. In the interest of everyone having a good time, however, these needn’t be found on the set’s Legendary creatures. Instead, if MTG Arena’s developers restrained themselves, these interesting cards could be paper playable too!

In the case of Jessie Zane, Fangbringer changes can be made very simply. Since Conjure doesn’t exist on paper, Jessie Zane could instead just create tokens of Ambush Viper directly onto the battlefield. Admittedly, while a simple change, this tweak does fundamentally change the way they play and cuts out card draw altogether.

If that change wasn’t simple enough, fixing Vona de Iedo, the Antifex is even easier. Rather than Conjuring a duplicate of the destroyed permanent, Vona de Iedo could simply exile it and steal it normally. Since they only require minimal tweaking, it almost feels like Vona de Iedo uses Conjure for the sake of using Conjure.

Similarly, Teysa of the Ghost Council has the MTG Arena exclusive Intensity mechanic for seemingly no reason. While it does make them easier to comprehend, tracking the number of times your Commander has been played isn’t new. Since Empyrial Storm in Commander 2018, players have been trusted to track this metric, so using it for mechanics is fair game.

With this in mind, Teysa of the Ghost Council could have easily featured a modified version of this ability. Hell, given that MTG players are already required to keep track of their Commander Tax, perhaps Intensity could just work on paper! Not only would this solve the issue of Teysa of the Ghost Council’s playability outright, but it’d give MTG’s paper designers more options too.

Making Mechanics Work

Saint Elenda | Vona de Iedo, the Antifex

Should Wizards want to, it’s not just Intensity that could work on paper. So long as you bring along an extra deck of cards, Conjure could easily work on paper. Admittedly, implementing this mechanic would cause a spike in logistical complexity but for Constructed formats it works fairly easily.

Unfortunately, while Conjure technically works on paper, in Limited this mechanic would be a mess. Unlike Lesson and Learn, Conjure conjures specific cards which could lead to a lot of duds. Unless LGS’ are given the required cards or packs are made to contain them, playing with Conjure in Limited is extremely difficult.

Higher up on the difficulty scale, the Spellbook mechanic has Conjure’s problems turned up to 11. Not only does this mechanic Conjure a card, but it can also require you to Draft a card from a specific list. On paper, this could technically work, albeit with a lot of difficulty, but for Limited this is just too much.

Looking back on the brighter side, Seek could almost work as a mechanic on paper. While it would require a substantial change, the mild-tutor effect of this mechanic’s spirit could live on. Rather than randomly finding a card, Seek could instead tutor the first relevant card from your library before shuffling.

Thankfully, even if Wizards decides to ahead and remake Seek, there needn’t be a divide between paper and digital. Since MTG Arena is a digital game, any changes required to bring Seek to paper could simply be patched in. For better or worse, these hypothetical changes would dramatically affect playability, however, buffs and nerfs could save the day once again.

It’s a Two Way Street

Dogmeat, Ever Loyal | Grenzo, Crooked Jailer

While Alchemy: Thunder Junction is the latest MTG set vaguely commanding attention, Commander exclusivity isn’t a new problem. As much as paper players may kick up a fuss, MTG Arena and Magic Online players have long been missing out. Most recently, this has happened with the Fallout Commander decks, which aren’t anywhere to be seen.

Currently, the brand-new Fallout MTG cards and Commanders can’t be played anywhere outside of paper. Considering the interest in the brand following the Fallout TV show, and the cards mechanics, this is a major shame. Sadly, this is just something that digital MTG players are having to put up with without any promise of fixes.

With this in mind, it may seem like MTG Arena and Magic Online, deserve their own exclusive cards to show off. While it’s easy to argue this point out of pettiness, there’s no reason that we can’t all get along. Ideally, once MTG Arena finally gets multiplayer in the future, this divide will be bridged and we can do just that.

For now, I’d very much welcome seeing a fair few Alchemy mechanics making their way to paper MTG. Logically, it’d be best for this to happen in a non-Draftable product to mitigate any issues there. Sadly, while I may like my own suggestion, it seems incredibly unlikely anything is going to happen soon.

Ultimately, we’re just going to have to enjoy the annoyingly exclusive Commanders that we have for the time being on MTG Arena. Should you really want to play Alchemy: Thunder Junction’s new cards, there’s nothing Rule Zero and enough planning can’t facilitate. Until any official changes get made, however, it’s proxies or bust for these novel new cards.

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