Sapphire Collector | Alchemy: Thunder Junction
9, May, 24

New Card Stealing MTG Mechanic May Need to Be Nerfed

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Article at a Glance

Throughout MTG’s over 30 years of history, Wizards of the Coast has created some truly wild mechanics. Between Banding, Evoke, Stickers, and the infinite variants of Kicker, there has been no end of innovations. As much as MTG has grown over its long lifespan, however, nothing has quite pushed the boat out like MTG Arena.

Back in 2021, Wizards of the Coast created Alchemy and started designing mechanics exclusively for MTG Arena. Breaking the restrictive chains of cards and mechanics needing to be physically and logistically possible, Alchemy is a whole other level. With six-sided cards, permanent buffs, and truly random mechanics, Arena’s innovations are certainly out there.

For better or worse, unlike regular MTG sets, Wizards of the Coast rarely creates dedicated new Alchemy mechanics. This makes sets like Alchemy: Thunder Junction a rather big deal on MTG Arena, as it debuted the new Heist mechanic. Allowing you to steal cards from your opponent’s deck, this new digital-exclusive mechanic seems both flavorful and fun.

Unfortunately, despite how it may seem on the surface, this entire mechanic may be a little too overpowered.

Oceans Six

Grave Expectations

Since Alchemy: Thunder Junction only contains 30 new MTG cards in total, Heist doesn’t exactly have a lot of support. In total, only six cards have been printed that utilize this bold new innovation. With this in mind, you might think that there’s nothing to worry about, since surely there’s not enough to cause a problem, right?

Sadly, despite there only being six cards, it seems Heist has easily enough to be a problem. In fact, one card already appears to be a nightmare to play against. Costing just one mana, Grave Expectations provides an insane amount of disruption which can completely ruin your gameplan.

While Grave Expectations may not target your hand like Thoughtsieze, it’s more than capable of ruining your day. Since Heist always hits not just one, but three nonland cards, this cheap spell is frighteningly consistent. For better or worse, this gives you a good chance of stealing a game-ending bomb or having yours stolen. 

Even if you’re not trying to disrupt your opponent, Heist gives you more options to find something you can actually play. Typically, this is the biggest downside of stealing an opponent’s spells, since they’re usually playing a different deck. By getting to choose between three nonland cards, Heist should provide properly playable cards.

In theory, each of these details just makes Heist a card-stealing mechanic that’s actually fun to play for a change. As we mentioned earlier, however, this mechanic does have a few fatal flaws that may even require being nerfed.

Too Much of a Good Thing

For starters, Heist currently appears to be worryingly consistent, even with only six cards caring about the mechanic. Between Grave Expectations, Weave the Nightmare, and Thieving Aven Heisting every turn is surprisingly easy. This can quickly drain your opponent’s deck of threats while keeping you stocked up with off-color gas.

As if having your library drained of threats and utility wasn’t bad enough, Heist is incredibly difficult to play against. Since the Heisted card is face down, you don’t know what your opponent has stolen and how to play against it. Knowing your own deck you can presume and hope, but there’s no telling until your own card is played against you.

Through these details combined, Heist is quite simply frustrating to play against. Either your deck is being stolen at a fast enough rate that you lose, or you’re forever doubting if you’ve still got your win condition. As some small mercy, Heist doesn’t go after your hand too, but you’ll rarely have everything you need in your starting seven.

Unfortunately, while a tier zero Heist MTG deck is yet to emerge, this mechanic is nonetheless everywhere right now. Specifically, it’s one of the five available decks in the current Midweek Magic event on MTG Arena. In this event, the deck is not only proving itself, but it’s being an absolute menace.

After only two days of Heist being around, some MTG players, like u/Leronos, are already autoconceding against it. Considering this mechanic is designed to not let you play your own deck, this action can’t be blamed at all.

A Needed Nerf?

Grenzo, Crooked Jailer - Impetuous Lootmonger

Right now, if we’re honest, it’s difficult to say whether or not Heist actually needs a nerf. Since the mechanic has only been out for two days, we’re yet to see its competitive potential unleashed. Given the state of the Alchemy metagame, it remains to be seen if this card will be truly overpowered, or just overly annoying. 

Across social media, there’s currently no clear consensus on what needs to be done about Heist. Some players, such as u/spinz, claim the mechanic is “multi-format strong,” while others doubt its potential. For now, all we know is that Heist is incredibly annoying, especially in Brawl if you’re up against Grenzo, Crooked Jailer.

Thankfully, if Heist does indeed prove to be too strong, there’s an easy solution; balancing. Regardless of whether specific mechanics need to be tweaked or Heist itself fundamentally changed, Wizards is free to change things. Should this happen, anything from cost increases to revealing more information to finding land cards is on the table.

Ultimately, since Heist is still so new, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. Hopefully, if it does prove to be a problem, Wizards will take swift action rather than letting frustrations fester. Whether or not that will happen, however, remains to be seen, as Alchemy has consistently struggled to get the development resources it deserves.

Read More: Awesome MTG Commander Options Are Annoyingly Exclusive

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