Goblin Morale Sergeant | Alchemy: Dominaria
2, Jun, 23

MTG’s Most Disappointing Format Could Be So Much Better

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Article at a Glance

When it was first revealed back in December of 2021, the MTG Arena-exclusive Alchemy format appeared to be incredibly promising. Not only was it a bold new digital frontier to develop, but, supposedly, it should have a more balanced metagame. Despite all this promise, however, due to pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable, Alchemy was an incredibly polarizing topic among MTG players. 

Unfortunately for hopeful fans of the format, hate against Alchemy would soon take over. With rebalancing failing to deliver, and confusion concerns being exacerbated, Alchemy was an easy target for contempt. Being ridiculed every time a new Alchemy set releases, or rejoicing when it doesn’t, it seems players truly despise Alchemy.

As much as there may be a lot of hate online, there are still MTG players who enjoy Alchemy. I should know, I’m one of them. More than just playing the format, however, many of these MTG players have larger aspirations of fixing Alchemy. Taking to social media to offer up suggestions, we’ve seen time and time again how Alchemy could be doing better.

Following the latest round of Alchemy changes, which missed a major issue, this topic has flared up once again. With many players asking how, or even if Alchemy can be fixed, it seems action is required sooner rather than later. As, following a disappointing string of recent events, morale is worryingly low.

Due to this, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to try and help Wizards, players, and Alchemy as much as possible. Combing through social media, we’ve cataloged the major issues holding Alchemy back right now. Should Wizards want to make decisive changes to Alchemy, this should be their bible on how to do it. 

Historic

Oracle of the Alpha
Oracle of the Alpha | Dominaria United Alchemy

Ever since it was first released, Alchemy has been intrinsically tied to the Historic format. This is thanks to Historic using all the cards available in the game. For better or worse, this includes cards that have been rebalanced for one reason or another. 

On the surface, just as with Alchemy, this seems like a good idea. After all, there are many powerful cards and combos in Historic which need their wings clipped. For the good of the format, these cards can be rebalanced in order to improve play patterns. Without these rebalances, the Historic banlist may just be a whole lot bigger. 

While it may seem like this is a good thing, Historic isn’t the only MTG format that gets affected by rebalances. At the time of writing, rebalances have been used for three distinct formants, Alchemy, Draft, and Historic. While Historic only rebalances aren’t too problematic, rebalancing the other formats is significantly harder as there’s a lot more to consider. 

Crucias, Titan of the Waves, for instance, is strong, but mostly acceptable within the current Alchemy meta. In Historic, however, this card is an absolute powerhouse. So much so, in fact, it’s the most played card in the format. Due to this problematic prevalence, Crucias absolutely needs a nerf in Historic, however, Alchemy is seemingly preventing that.

Thanks to this implicit connection, Alchemy and Historic will consistently clash over any card that’s currently legal in Alchemy. In order to prevent this, Wizards of the Coast really needs to detach Alchemy and Historic from one another. Whether they have separate rebalancing, or Historic has none at all, something needs to be done. 

“They need to split Alchemy and Historic. Then they can buff and nerf cards only in Alchemy and not worry about making impacts to Historic meta.”

u/Chexrr

“Alchemy lost me immediately by putting a bullet in the head of Luminarch Aspirant and Faceless Haven. Way to kill my historic deck for something I never asked for.”

u/Contrago

“Yep, they should have separate nerfs for historic and alchemy but I don’t believe they will do it, sadly.”

u/Zero_Owl

The Economy

Big Spender
Big Spender | Streets of New Capenna Alchemy

Similarly contending for the title of worst issue in Alchemy is the format’s problematic economy. Unlike bans, which compensate players with wildcards, rebalances for Historic and/or Alchemy don’t give players anything. Considering that wildcards are not too easy to come by, this is a monumental barrier in the way of Alchemy’s success.

Initially, this may seem like a very easy problem for Wizards to fix. Just like bans, cards that get rebalanced could offer wildcard compensation. Unfortunately, however, while this compensation would help, the economic problems run much deeper. 

Rather than bans and rebalances just affecting a single card, these changes can often ruin an entire deck. In this instance, all the wildcards spent crafting a deck could be wasted. This can make bans and rebalances can still feel seriously punishing, especially to new players.

As a result of this, many MTG players such as u/troglodyte have called upon Wizards to fix this injustice. Highlighting how the principles and practices of Alchemy are at odds with one another, it’s clear that something needs to be done. 

Unfortunately for Alchemy players who’re after better compensation, this issue isn’t an easy one to fix. After all, while giving out wildcards when rebalancing cards would certainly help, that doesn’t fix everything. For an actual fix, Wizards would need to make fundamental changes to the MTG Arena economy. 

In essence, MTG Arena players need a way to make rebalanced cards useful again. If Alchemy and Historic weren’t linked, this could be achieved by simply playing cards in other formats. Since they are, however, Wizards ideally needs to implement some kind of dusting system to let players craft wildcards. Even if only allowed on rebalanced cards, this system would be a great benefit to players.

Rebalancing

Ghalma the Shaper | Alchemy: Phyrexia
Ghalma the Shaper | Alchemy: Phyrexia

The last, and by certainly no means least, major problem with Alchemy, is the entire philosophy of rebalancing. Considering this is practically the entire point of Alchemy, this is obviously a pretty big deal. It is arguably also where Alchemy falls for most on MTG Arena. 

In theory, Alchemy should experience rebalancing frequently and on a consistent schedule. This was the idea when Alchemy first launched back in December of 2021. According to Wizards, ”We intend to rebalance cards on a more frequent basis to keep the format fun, fast, and dynamic.” This statement is still available on the Alchemy website

Despite the existence of this statement, Alchemy rebalances happen incredibly infrequently. The last two rebalances, for instance, happened almost two months apart. Before this, Wizards took three months before issuing any changes. Considering how quickly a meta can be solved nowadays, this cadence is far too slow. 

What’s worse than this slow cadence, however, is how Wizards of the Coast squanders the potential of rebalancing. In the last round of changes, Wizards only nerfed two cards to slightly shake up the meta. While this is certainly better than nothing, these rebalances could have been implanted months ago. 

Given the obvious wasted potential, it’s clear that WotC could be doing better on the rebalancing front. Not only in the cadence of rebalances but, as many players suggested, in what gets rebalanced. Highlighted by u/Televangelis on Reddit recently, Alchemy has awesome potential to make niche cards awesome Alchemy staples. 

By picking out an underplayed Draft or Constructed archetype to buff, Alchemy could become an incredibly interesting MTG format. Admittedly, some players may not like specific archetypes being molded into tier-one decks, however, over time it could be incredibly beneficial in creating a diverse metagame. 

The Problem

Begin Anew
Begin Anew | Alchemy: Innistrad

Given that Alchemy is hardly the most popular MTG format, these three issues should be addressed sooner rather than later. If they’re not, Alchemy may end up going the way of the dodo as player numbers dwindle even further. Unfortunately for hopeful Alchemy fans, however, none of these fixes are easy to do. 

Out of the three major issues, the easiest fix is definitely separating Alchemy and Historic. Not only does this require the least amount of development work, but this change would also potentially benefit the most players as well. Disappointingly, however, it seems Wizards is not too keen on this idea, as it’s not a new suggestion. Despite being constantly asked for, this change has not been implemented in over a year.

Next up as the easiest solution would be a change to MTG Arena’s economy to compensate Alchemy players. On the surface, this should be a rather simple change, however, as we mentioned, the problem runs deeper. Subsequently, even while it would be a huge boon to Alchemy, it seems unlikely any sweeping economic changes will get introduced. 

Similarly, a major development concern is changing how Wizards handles rebalancing. In order to do it right, Wizards would have to be constantly scrutinizing the meta on a weekly basis before making needed changes. This would require a huge amount of resources that, currently, the format doesn’t deserve.

At the end of the day, MTG Arena is a product that needs to make money in order to survive. Thankfully, at the moment, it is possible to play the game for free with relative ease, however, Wizards can’t tip the scales too much. After all, should playing for free become too easy, profits may drop and Arena’s development may become unsustainable. 

The Solution? 

Discover the Formula
Discover the Formula | Alchemy: Innistrad

Unfortunately, thanks to the reasons stated above, there’s not really an easy fix for Alchemy right now on MTG Arena. Hopefully, the impending release of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth will help rejuvenate the format in the short term. In the long term, however, there are major problems that require substantial investment to fix. 

Considering that Alchemy could be one of the best ways to play MTG if it got these fixes, we’d certainly encourage Wizards to make the investment. We’ve got to admit, however, that doing that when the format is so hated by MTG players is hardly a compelling business decision. Ultimately, while we can hope for a better future for Alchemy, hope might be all we have for it.

Read More: Lord of the Rings MTG Set Is Being Released Twice?!

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