Behold My Grandeur | Archenemy: Nicol Bolas
16, Apr, 24

MTG Designer Reveals Beloved Format Set Could Return

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Article at a Glance

As many MTG players are well aware, Wizards of the Coast releases an awful lot of products each year. With six major tentpole sets each year, dozens of Commander decks, and Universes Beyond products too, the release calendar is undeniably relentless. Despite this constant cavalcade of content, only a handful of formats are given proper support by Wizards.

Currently, in MTG, it can often feel like it’s Commander or nothing. Sure, Modern may be getting its next format-warping set soon, but nothing compares to the support Commander gets. Considering the number of products that get released each year, this is a crying shame, and not just for Standard players.

On top of Standard, which has been getting better, MTG has myriad other formats that rarely ever get support. Between Archenemy, Conspiracy, Planechase, and Two-Headed-Giant, myriad casual MTG formats are practically forgotten about. Thankfully, it now seems these formats haven’t been forgotten about entirely.

Archenemy Who?

Behold the Power of Destruction

Out of Magic’s many experimental and casual formats, few are as unique as Archenemy. Rather than traditional competitive or even casual games of MTG, Archenemy breaks convention by pitting three opponents against one. Thankfully, to keep things interesting, the format does have a few ways to keep the playing field level.

For starters, when playing Archenemy, the titular Archenemy starts with an increased life total of 40, which is always handy. Alongside this, somewhat minor detail, the Archenemy also has an additional 20-card Scheme deck. Each turn, the scheme on top of this deck is turned face up and set in motion, providing massive benefits.

With Schemes offering board wipes, extra turns, tokens, and copy effects, the Archenemy player unsurprisingly has a unique edge. To keep things in check, however, everyone is made to use ready-made preconstructed decks. This important balancing factor turns Archenemy from a fun constructed variant into a more self-contained product.

Thanks to this unique design, and lackluster performance, Archenemy products have only been printed twice. Appearing first in 2010, it took seven years for this format to get new cards in Archenemy: Nicol Bolas. Now we’re in 2024, seven more years have passed, yet there’s been no word about another Archenemy product.

That is until recently, at least. Speaking on Blogatog, Mark Rosewater stated “there’s always a chance,” that Archenemy could return. This follows the recent return of Planechase in March of the Machine, which was a welcome surprise to be sure. Admittedly, while this is the most we’ve heard about Archenemy for ages, it’s hardly a clear confirmation of plans.

Ultimately, there’s still a very real chance that Archenemy won’t be seen again for quite some time. That being said, we can’t help but be excited about this format’s potential return.

Archenemy 2: Electric Boogaloo

All In Good Time

As much as Archenemy may have failed to take the MTG world by storm, the format still has a lot of strengths. Not only is it a ton of fun, but it can also be deeply flavorful. If a set has a major villain, just like Nicol Bolas, Archenemy can help to make them feel more threatening. Arguably, this would have made Archenemy a perfect fit for March of the Machine since Elesh Norn was the big bad du jour.

Sadly, unlike Planechase, it’s much harder to print a new Archenemy product in modern MTG. Rather than simply including a few new cards alongside a Commander precon, Archenemy is its own product, containing four decks. Sadly, it seems very unlikely Wizards is just randomly going to print four additional precons, even in a capstone set. 

With this in mind, if we’re going to see Archenemy again, it may need a radical change in identity. Thankfully, there are two easy solutions to revive this unusual beloved format without completely flipping the script. Handily, both these solutions revolve around the same core principle; one big Archenemy deck.

Should Wizards overhaul Archenemy to a 100-card Commander-esque format, its prospects would be dramatically expanded. If this happened, a new Archenemy release could be as simple as creating one new deck that exists alongside precons. Potentially boasting a higher power level, this unique deck could offer higher power, better reprints, and the all-important Scene cards.

Alongside this possibility, a single new Archenemy deck could also be used for a prerelease event. Admittedly, due to the logistics, this option does seem unlikely, but it wouldn’t be entirely unheard of. For Magic 2015, Wizards created Garruk, the Slayer, which players fought at prereleases, so there is past precedent.

I Wouldn’t Hold Your Breath

Plots That Span Centuries

Ultimately, it seems unlikely that Wizards is going to print a new overpowered precon to satisfy Archenemy players. This is because there are so few of these players within the wide world of MTG. As fun as it may be, there’s no denying that Archenemy is a niche that hasn’t been supported for a reason.

Thankfully, even if a new supercharged precon is off the table, Wizards could still do the bare minimum. By simply creating a handful of new Scheme cards, Wizards would give players the tools to have their own fun. For better or worse, this is the situation we expect to happen should Archenemy return in the future.

At the end of the day, we can’t say we’re too optimistic about Archenemy’s chances. Even if it is possible, there’s no telling when it may appear next. Looking ahead to MTG’s release calendar, the end of the REDACTED arc seems like the next logical possibility. Sadly, details about this set are few and far between.

Currently, the only thing we know about this major 2026 set is its codename; Ziplining. Alongside this concrete detail, we’ve also been told it’ll be a huge deal, comparable to War of the Spark and March of the Machine. Beyond this, we know diddly squat, as there’s no information on who the villain is or where this set takes place.

For better or worse, we’re just going to have to wait and see what the future holds. If we’re lucky, Archenemy fans may get lucky and receive support sooner than expected. Previously, Mark Rosewater has stated Archenemy was the second most likely casual format to return, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. Ultimately, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens.

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