Tezzeret's Reckoning
14, Sep, 23

MTG’s Most Interesting Format Isn’t Doing So Hot Right Now

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Article at a Glance

As many MTG players will know, one of Magic’s greatest strengths is its freedom and customizability. Partly achieved by having myriad different formats, MTG players have no end of ways to enjoy the game. Unfortunately, however, not every format in MTG is a limitless pool of creativity and expression.

Outside of the casual confines of Commander, the majority of MTG’s competitive formats can get solved remarkably quickly. So much so, in fact, that even before a set releases, players often know what will work and where. While this almost instant format solving is far from guaranteed, it nevertheless can make things rather boring.

Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast does have a solution to keep things interesting: rotation. Unfortunately, however, Standard didn’t get a rotation this year, as it’s trying to appeal more to paper players. While this has been a crushing disappointment for some, one MTG format did at least rotate last week. 

You might not like it, but technically Alchemy is potentially the most interesting format in MTG right now. As good as that may sound, however, post-rotation, it’s not doing so hot…

There’s No Beating This

Considering rotation happened on the 5th of September last week, unsurprisingly, the new meta is still rather volatile. The MTG players that Alchemy has are still brewing up decks and trying to invent the next best thing. Hopefully, over a few more days or weeks, this could lead to the format having a healthy and stable meta.

Saying that, however, there is already one Alchemy deck that is topping the charts. Looking at the decklist, unfortunately, it seems this deck is going to be very hard to beat. Concerningly, that might even be putting it lightly, as every card within the list is a powerhouse of value and strength. 

Since you’re hopefully now all intrigued, allow me to present yet another devastating Mono Black deck. 

Mono Black Reigns Supreme… Again

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse | Dominaria United

Just look at that list. If I didn’t vomit in my mouth every time I saw it, I would call it beautiful. In reality, it’s disgusting, heinously powerful, and already commanding a large share of the meta. When looking at the deck, it’s not hard to see why that’s the case: The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. 

For better or worse, the Lord of the Rings MTG cards are legal in the Alchemy format. As much as this has provided an interesting environment for these cards to thrive, it’s clear they’re dominant. This Mono Black deck, for instance, thrives by running four copies of Orcish Bowmasters and three The One Rings.

Alongside Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and a litany of removal, this Mono Black is nothing short of oppressive. As if all this card draw and removal wasn’t good enough, it also now has Beseech the Mirror. Capable of finding all but two cards in the entire deck, this tutor offers added consistency that the deck really didn’t need. 

As if it wasn’t obvious enough from the decklist alone, the combination of these cards is obscenely powerful. This list by Delmo, for instance, boasts a 75% win rate at Mythic rank over 37 games. Even with the Alchemy meta being so fresh and full of bizarre 80-card MTG decks, there’s no denying the deck’s power. 

It’s Not All Mono Colored

Jodah, the Unifier
Jodah, the Unifier | Dominaria United

While the above Mono Black deck is undeniably strong, thankfully it’s not the only deck in the Alchemy meta currently. Five Color Legends, for instance, is another newly emerged deck that boasts similarly compelling win rates. The below list from yerffej03, for instance, has a 75% win rate over 49 games. 

When first looking at this Five Color Legends list, it’s hard not to call it messy. Running thirteen unique Legendary creatures, no instants, sorceries, enchantments, or artifacts, it’s a wonder this deck works. Yet, according to the stats, it really does. Understandably, you might be wondering why, or rather how on earth, this is possible.

To put it simply, thanks to Commander, a lot of Legendary creatures are seriously good. Boasting strong enough effects to build a deck around, these cards can evidently survive without support. Instead of needing additional draw or protection, that is provided by cards like Djeru and Hazoret and Boromir, Warden of the Tower.

Curiously, Legendary creature decks have appeared in other metagames as well. Importantly, however, Alchemy has just lost out on some of these decks’ best MTG cards. Without powerhouse legendary lands like Otawara, Soaring City this Legenady deck definitely isn’t quite what it used to be. Still, it appears to be nonetheless powerful in the new meta.

Beyond replacing instants and sorceries with Legendary creatures that get the job done, this deck also packs a punch. This is largely thanks to Jodah, the Unifier. Not only does this five-color card buff your board with up to +13/+13, but they can also practically Cascade legendary creatures. 

Ultimately, despite this deck’s strong performance showing that it works, we doubt it’ll stick around in its current form. At the moment, it’s just a little bit too meme-y, but it’s certainly got potential. With a few instants, sorceries, and copies of The One Ring, it may even become a true force to be reckoned with. 

These Decks Won’t Die

Bring the Ending
Bring the Ending | Phyrexia: All Will Be One

Even just looking at two emerging Alchemy decks, there’s already a very clear pattern. The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth cards are seriously strong and controlling the meta. Considering this set was designed for Modern first and foremost, this isn’t really a surprise at all. This lack of surprise, however, doesn’t stop it from being any less problematic. 

In theory, having meta-dominating MTG decks in Alchemy is a very solvable problem. After all, this is the format designed entirely around rebalancing cards to make things balanced! Unfortunately, however, it’s incredibly unlikely this feature will actually be used in a meaningful way soon. Speaking during the recent Weekly MTG, the Executive Producer for Digital Magic, Chris Kiritz, reaffirmed Wizards isn’t planning to rebalance Lord of the Rings cards. 

Considering these cards are the major problems within Alchemy at the moment, it’s safe to say this is a problem. After all, without rebalancing, the only other choice is to ban these cards outright. If this does happen, there’s no doubt that cards like The One Ring deserve it. Nevertheless, it’s a hell of an action to take barely three months after the set was released. 

Hopefully, whatever Wizards chooses to do, the Alchemy format can once again become one of the most balanced in MTG. If not, the format may seriously struggle to gain traction in what should be its most exciting time. 

Read More: Major MTG Arena Bug Accidentally Makes Cards Legal

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