Have you been playing Alchemy recently? Probably not, but the format has been an absolute mess. Releasing Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth in its true-to-paper variants has created a deeply problematic power imbalance in the Alchemy format. Lord of the Rings was created partially with the intent to have an impact on the Modern format, a much more powerful format than anything currently available on MTG Arena. This represents a massive discrepancy in power compared to the contents of Alchemy: a few Standard-legal sets and some digital only cards.
Compare the rest of Alchemy to cards that have moved the needle on the Modern format, and it’s easy to see that in a weaker environment, the problematic cards have completely taken over. The One Ring is almost impossible to keep up with once it resolves, burying opponents in card advantage. Orcish Bowmasters not only punishes opponents for trying to draw extra cards, but has completely pushed one toughness creatures (besides itself) out of both MTG Arena digital formats. Bowmasters is also really difficult to remove efficiently since it always creates two bodies.
A hotfix dealing with these power discrepancies has been needed for quite some time. Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast just announced that the two problem children from Lord of the Rings, Orcish Bowmasters and The One Ring are finally getting nerfed on MTG Arena.
Necessary MTG Arena Nerf
Announced on Monday October 12 as a part of the MTG Arena update, both Orcish Bowmasters and The One Ring will be seeing nerfs. These nerfs will be effective the following day.
Of the two nerfs we’re seeing, the Orcish Bowmasters one is much more significant, so we will start there.
While Orcish Bowmasters still does almost everything that it always has, the enter the battlefield ability of the Bowmasters has been removed in Historic and Alchemy. This means that Orcish Bowmasters will no longer ping a target and create an Orc Army when entering the battlefield. This will only happen when your opponent tries to draw extra cards.
This makes Orcish Bowmasters significantly worse than it currently is for multiple reasons. Before Orcish Bowmasters received the ETB nerf, the card was strong in multiple different scenarios. Orcish Bowmasters was adept at punishing decks that want to draw a lot of cards, but it was also good against aggressive decks since it can ping any one toughness creature on entry and create an additional body to block or do anything else with. Orcish Bowmasters no longer works as spot removal for one toughness creatures, and this is the reason why Wizards of the Coast made the change they did:
“Orcish Bowmasters had no opportunity cost to be included in every black deck, and as a result, its enter-the-battlefield ability was pushing one-toughness creatures out of Alchemy and Historic. We want to maintain the card’s role as a counter to card drawing, so we are removing enter-the-battlefield effect to reduce its warping impact on the metagame.”Wizards of the Coast
While this change may cripple the Bowmasters since it is only good against decks that want to draw extra cards now, the changes go even deeper. Even against decks that draw cards, Bowmasters is much more susceptible to instant speed removal.
Say you flash your Bowmasters in response to an Archmage’s Charm drawing two cards. Before the change, the Bowmasters would still ping a target and create a second body. Now, if the Bowmasters eats a Fatal Push before the Charm resolves, all your Bowmasters did was get a Fatal Push out of your opponent’s hand, making it much worse. This change may relegate Orcish Bowmasters to sideboards in MTG Arena’s digital formats – or push them out altogether.
The One Ring
The One Ring finds itself in the crossfire of many complex ban arguments for Modern as of late. Thanks to Rakdos Scam’s domination of the format, it’s clear that something may need to change. The issue is that banning something out of the Scam deck may just give rise to a much more problematic metagame in the form of The One Ring since the card’s biggest check is no longer there.
The One Ring had a similar harmful effect on Alchemy and Historic. This card accumulated advantage far too quickly, granting players enough resources to pull ahead of opponents trying to shut the door before they get buried in card advantage. The One Ring grants a free turn while immediately drawing three cards as long as you untap with it. The number grows to six in short order if The One Ring is not dealt with.
In order to give players a longer opportunity to address The One Ring before it runs away from the game, this Alchemy and Historic nerf adds an additional mana to The One Ring’s activated ability. No longer will drawing cards with The One Ring be a free motion. You will need to pay one mana to do it. This means that The One Ring cannot come down on turn four and immediately start drawing cards.
“The One Ring was too efficient at effectively winning the game with its sheer amount of card advantage. We are adding a mana to the activated ability to give players more time to execute their own strategy or interact with The One Ring before it takes over the game.”Wizards of the Coast
This change also grants players opportunities to remove The One Ring without the card replacing itself if it comes down on-curve. That said, The One Ring is still capable of coming down for four mana and allowing you to take a turn off. Additionally, the card functions as normal once you have five mana, only making drawn cards slightly more difficult to deploy afterwards.
Unlike Orcish Bowmasters, I do not think this change will affect the playability of The One Ring too much. Historic decks that run this card generally want to amass more than four mana anyway, so paying the additional cost on The One Ring probably isn’t a big deal. Mono Green Devotion, for example, generates an absurd amount of mana. One mana to draw some cards likely isn’t going to change much.
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How Will this Affect Historic and Alchemy?
Alchemy is a massive question mark. The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters were so dominant in those formats that these changes could completely change how the format looks. The change in The One Ring should encourage players to try more aggressive strategies, and the change to Orcish Bowmasters will allow one toughness creatures to see play again which is very important for Faeries considering that the new cards releasing in Alchemy: Eldraine for that archetype have one toughness.
Historic is also likely to see some changes. Orcish Bowmasters was a huge presence in that format, and decks that hinged on the card’s effectiveness may be forced to make some changes. The One Ring is likely to continue seeing play just like it has been.
Either way, these changes were much needed, and makes things a bit more exciting for the upcoming paper ban announcement this following Monday. We know Wizards of the Coast will address issues with these cards if necessary. The question will more be that if the changes are considered necessary for those formats. One thing is certain: Alchemy will not be worse than it already was… right?