Quarrel's End | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth
17, Jul, 23

Lord of the Rings Is Saving a Deeply Unpopular MTG Format

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Ever since it was first announced in December 2021, many MTG players haven’t looked too kindly upon Alchemy. With its bold and digital-exclusive mechanics and cards, the format has, unfortunately, been an easy target for almost constant hatred. For better or worse, however, Wizards of the Coast hasn’t slowed down development for this much-maligned format.

Outside of March of the Machine and its unusual Aftermath set, Alchemy releases have become a constant in MTG. Alongside following every premier set, Wizards has even released full Alchemy sets, inspired by supplemental paper sets. Previously, these MTG sets haven’t been all too exciting, however, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth changes that. 

Thanks to this new set, many MTG players are finally enjoying the Alchemy format, for what feels like the first time in forever. 

A Perspective Shift

Reality Shift | Ugin's Fate
Reality Shift | Ugin’s Fate

Somewhat miraculously, according to data from Wizards, Alchemy is played more than you might expect. Back in November, the format was reportedly even beating out Explorer in terms of player numbers with relative ease! Despite this, when looking online, can be rather hard to find players doing anything other than complaining about the format.

Breaking this trend of hating on Alchemy, recently, Reddit user u/LonkFromZelda offered a rare modicum of support. As explained in their post title, this was rather unexpected for them, as they “used to be an Alchemy hater.” Miraculously, however, thanks to The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, LonkFromZelda has changed their tune. 

Lured in by powerhouse cards such as The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters LonkFromZelda states they quickly found themselves having a lot of fun. They were even enjoying the shenanigans of the deeply controversial and digital exclusive Oracle of the Alpha. This was supposedly all thanks to them losing their prejudice surrounding the much-maligned format. 

As LonkFromZelda explains in their post, this prejudice predominantly stems from MTG Arena not being paper Magic. Since the game has its own unique cards and formats, many players, somewhat understandably, see it as just plain wrong. While this is arguably true for Alchemy, when considering other formats, this viewpoint falls apart.

For some formats, such as Standard, MTG Arena is the de-facto way to play, with huge player numbers. When looking at the game from this angle, as LonkFromZelda explains, Arena’s entire image is flipped. Rather than being a copy, “Magic Arena is the real experience, and playing Standard on paper is the recreation.” With this in mind, Alchemy is just another format to enjoy, rather than an affront to all things Magic. 

Lord of the Rings to the Rescue

Sam's Desperate Rescue | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth
Sam’s Desperate Rescue | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

Ultimately, since it’s just a change of perspective, it’s not hard for MTG players to come to this conclusion. In fact, many MTG players already know that there’s no harm in enjoying Alchemy. That being said, however, there’s little reason to change your perspective if you’re looking for a format to hate. After all, Alchemy is still an easy target for it. 

Thankfully for the format’s future, that’s where Tales of Middle-earth comes in. With powerhouse cards and oodles of flavor, the new Lord of the Rings cards can be incredibly enjoyable for both new and old MTG players. For better or worse, this pushes players toward Alchemy and Historic, as there’s no other way to play these cards. As LonkFromZelda experienced and other players attest, this can result in a lot of unexpected enjoyment. 

“I’m literally in the same boat – build a LOTR deck and have been super happy with the variety of decks I’ve seen and nothing really from the boring standard meta. Also feels like matchmaking isn’t cranked to 100, which is super nice”


“Same cause I wanted to play LOTR cards and Historic is plagued with toxic combos tried Alchemy. And it’s pretty fun, lots of interesting cards with unique mechanics as well. And Meta is diverse enough”


Once you’re actually playing the format, it quickly becomes evident that Alchemy has a lot of incredibly fun cards. Spellchain Scatter for instance, is one of my personal favorites thanks to a wonderfully silly infinite combo. Alternatively, there are also cards and cards like Jarsyl, Dark Age Scion who’ve never been printed on paper.

As if these individual cards weren’t enough, Alchemy also has deeply enjoyable mechanics to play with. The previously alluded to Conjure mechanic on Oracle of the Alpha for instance, allows for some incredibly interesting situations. The same is true of Specialize, which is a somewhat underwhelming but nonetheless bonkers mechanic which creates six-sided cards!

While admittedly unique, several of these cards have been embroiled in controversy thanks to being so good yet not available on paper. Previously, this had been a source of damning frustration, however, now players are evidently realizing the alternative. You can just play Alchemy!

Fun but Flawed

Witch-king. Bringer of Ruin | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth
Witch-king. Bringer of Ruin | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

Unfortunately, while Alchemy does have plenty of incredible MTG cards, alongside The Lord of the Rings cards now, it’s not entirely perfect. Fun? Yes. Balanced? Unfortunately not… Currently, the Alchemy metagame is dominated by a few familiar foes, and the problem has only been getting worse. 

Thanks to Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, and now The One Ring, Alchemy’s metagame is getting stale. Alongside Crucias, Titan of the Waves, these cards are all practically everpresent in the meta. In theory, Alchemy can fix this problem, however, incredibly little action has been taken.

Much to the dismay of many MTG players, since being released in December, Crucias, Titan of the Waves hasn’t been nerfed. This is despite them dominating in both the Historic and Alchemy metagame. Unsurprisingly, this has caused many MTG players to lose interest in these formats, and resent Wizards as a result. 

As we’ve covered at length before, this is why many players don’t like Alchemy. It’s not that the cards aren’t good, but rather the format’s wasted potential and mishandling by Wizards. If it was properly fixed, Alchemy could be a wonderfully enjoyable time, however, until then it’s mired by this controversial stink. 

Unfortunately for Alchemy, the problems don’t end there, as many players such as u/HotTakes4HotCakes resent Wizards for pushing Alchemy so hard. Integrating the format into Historic, MTG Arena has been separated into its own ecosystem. As we highlighted before, with the right perspective, this can be a benefit, however, if you want to play Modern or Commander but only have Arena, you’re out of luck…

A Popularity Paradox

Rising Populace
Rising Populace | War of the Spark

Ultimately, as much as we would like to believe in it, and I enjoy it, Alchemy is in a bad spot right now. It is, however, possible to fix the problems that are plaguing the format at the moment. Disappointingly, it doesn’t seem likely this will happen due to Alchemy’s popularity. 

Since it is hardly the most played MTG format, allocating additional resources to it is a difficult sell. After all, at the end of the day, Wizards of the Coast is a business, which means it needs to be profitable. Due to this, spending time fixing Alchemy for the few that enjoy it without guaranteed return isn’t a stellar business decision. 

Should this be the case, sadly, Alchemy may never reach its full potential. Considering the prospects of the format, however, we certainly hope that it can do in the future. Whether or not it will, however, remains to be seen for now.

Read More: Missing MTG Card Printing Finally Appears 3 Years Later!

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