Since its inception in 2021, the MTG Arena exclusive Alchemy format has been fraught with controversy. At first, players pushed back against the format’s bizarre and digital-only mechanics that looked alien to the game’s paper principles. Following this, players began complaining relentlessly about Alchemy’s strain on Arena’s already troubled economy. Thankfully, while this aspect of the game has at least been getting better recently, the complaints around Alchemy haven’t ended. In fact, even as Alchemy hits its stride with interesting cards to entice players, it’s still fielding constant complaints. Some players, for instance, lament Alchemy for not doing enough with its digital possibilities, wanting more of the format! Other players, meanwhile, are criticizing Alchemy for actually having good cards, wishing they could be on paper instead!
Alchemy: Phyrexia? Already Problematic
During the recent monthly announcement day Livestream, MTG players were subjected to their first look at Alchemy: Phyrexia. Revealed alongside a trio of surprisingly playable cards, the latest Alchemy set immediately found itself in hot water. This is thanks to the reveal of Phyrexian Harvester, the newest card in the four-mana Phyrexian supercycle. Starting with Phyrexian Obliterator in New Phyrexia, at first, players weren’t heavily expecting this cycle to continue in the future. That all changed, however, with Phyrexian Vindicator in Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Thanks to this card, it seemed that a devastating four-mana Phyrexian was almost guaranteed for each of Magic’s colors. After all, why should white and black have all the fun when there are five different mana colors and Praetors?
Unfortunately, the continuation of this cycle is both good and bad news for fans of the series so far. On one hand, another devastating four-mana Phyrexian exists and is here to wreak havoc on formats! On the other hand, however, Phyrexian Harvester has appeared in Alchemy: Phyrexia, making it exclusive to MTG Arena. Thanks to Phyrexian Harvester making use of the digital-exclusive Seek mechanic, the card cannot be reprinted for paper MTG. Not without a sizable errata, at least, which would add even more confusion to the already problematic format.
Mom Says It’s My Turn With the Phyrexian Harvester
As you can imagine, considering the hype that’d been building for this Supercycle since the release of Phyrexia: All Will Be One, MTG players weren’t too best pleased by this digital exclusive card. Subsequently, across social media, many MTG players quickly voiced their dismay at Phyrexian Harvester. On Reddit, for instance, players such as u/KrakenEatMeGoolies bemoaned how they won’t get to play this card on paper. “I’m actually a little devastated that this cycle may not all be on paper. I enjoy Historic and like this card, but I’m sad that it’ll only be digital. I wonder about the green and blue ones.”
Adding on to all the backlash, some players suggested Wizards had deliberately kept Phyrexian Harvester from paper players. This was hinted at by u/Jevonar, who highlighted how “they could have made it impulse draw, but they didn’t for some reason.” Following on from this point, u/Kokeshi_Is_Life took the accusations one step further, suggesting Wizards acted on purpose to make Alchemy more enticing. “They have to keep using the small handful of digital-only mechanics that are marginally different from paper ones to justify the format’s existence.”
While numerous MTG players were outraged at Phyrexia Harvester being an Alchemy card, some players posited it’s not the end of the world. Reddit user u/spinz, for example, stated this card isn’t necessarily the death of the hugely anticipated Phyrexian supercycle. “Oh, no tears necessary. They can make paper versions if they want to when they want to. I mean Phyrexian Obliterator was… 12 years ago? And they just now made a second. So they are taking their time. An alchemy version doesn’t guarantee anything.”
Alchemy’s Paper Possibilities
Currently, it’s far too early to tell if Wizards ever intended complete the supercycle started by Phyrexian Obliterator. It is entirely possible, for instance, that the card was only conceived for Alchemy. Alternatively, without Alchemy, it’s highly likely that Phyrexian Harvester would never have been printed. This would follow the trend set by Crucias, Titan of the Waves, who only exists thanks to Alchemy. This was confirmed to us by MTG’s Principal Designer, Gavin Verhey, who stated there’s only so much space within sets.
“With a story as large-scale as The Brothers’ War, it’s difficult to fit everything we want into a single card set. One of the great ways we get to help show off as much as we can though is with other pieces of the set, like Alchemy which has Crucias – a character who would go on to become Bo Levar, one of Urza’s nine titans! I led the design of the Brothers’ War Commander Decks and getting side characters like Sanwell and Farid into them helped bring some cards that didn’t have a position in the main set to life. It’s all one story, and we’re trying to show off as much of it as we can.”Gavin Verhey,
To put our own tinfoil hats on for a moment, it could even be a good thing Phyrexian Harvester has been printed in Alchemy: Phyrexia. Due to causing such a ruckus, it’s possible that Wizards may fast-track plans to create a paper playable counterpart. This might seem out of the ordinary, however, Wizards has essentially done this in the past. For example, as u/somerandomdude133 pointed out, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate was filled with cards like Champions of Tyr. With a precedent of reimagining Commander-focused cards for an Alchemy set, it’s not out of the realms of possibility the opposite could happen.
Remarkably, this isn’t even the first time that MTG players have been requesting Alchemy cards to see a paper release. Back in November, several players on Blogatog highlighted their desire to play with cards that are currently exclusive to Alchemy. Even more remarkably, at the time, Rosewater didn’t entirely shoot down the idea of physically printing Alchemy cards. Stating, “I could see a possible paper printing for collecting purposes, maybe,” it appears that with enough demand, a paper Alchemy set could become a reality.