Lukamina, Moon Druid
8, Jul, 22

Wizards of the Coast Is Going All in on Alchemy

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After its brief, and somewhat baffling, spoiler season, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate has finally launched on MTG Arena. This kicks off roughly two months of Arena being all about Alchemy, regardless of whether players like it or not. With an Alchemy-filled Mastery Pass, Alchemy competitive events, and Alchemy rewards, has Wizards of the Coast gone too far? 

Everything Alchemy All at Once

Tasha, Unholy Archmage
Tasha, Unholy Archmage | Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate

Given that Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate literally has “Alchemy” in its name, MTG Arena players shouldn’t be too surprised about the influx of Alchemy-themed rewards. After all, we have seen this before. Whenever a Standard set rolls around, the majority of rewards suddenly change to be all about that new set. This gives players easy access to the latest cards, which usually isn’t something to complain about. 

For Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate, however, not every player wants access to the latest cards. To put it lightly, Alchemy, and its threat of rebalancing cards on a whim, isn’t to everyone’s tastes. Especially since cards that are rebalanced don’t return any Wildcards that may have been spent. This has left many players lamenting Wizards’ push toward Alchemy. Partly because it’s seen as a wasted effort that could be spent on improving the game or other formats, such as Pioneer

Unfortunately for those who don’t care about Alchemy, things are getting worse this season. As, for the first time in Arena’s history, Wizards’ has announced that they won’t be giving away Standard packs as seasonal rewards. Instead, players will be grinding the ranked ladder for only a handful of Alchemy Horizons: Baldurs Gate packs instead. This eliminates another avenue that players have used to build their collection over time. One that has typically kept players returning season after season.

For those interested in Arena’s competitive scene, things aren’t any better. This is thanks to Wizards making the format of the next MTG Arena Open Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate Limited. With only a few weeks to prepare for this event, competitive players won’t have a choice but to play this new much-maligned set. Regardless of whether they want to or not.

What’s the Big Deal? 

Battle Angels of Tyr
Champions of Tyr | Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate

While up to five Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate packs as a seasonal reward may not seem like the biggest change, it’s a symptom of a larger problem. One that could be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back. 

The big problem is that without compelling rewards, players may leave Arena entirely. In MTG Arena, being rewarded with packs through the Mastery Pass and seasonal rewards isn’t just a nice added bonus for playing. It’s a fundamental part of the economy that allows the game to be played at all. Removing these rewards, or replacing them with only one-sixth of the value, has huge implications for the future of Arena. 

For existing players who’ve completed every Mastery Pass and are sitting on a mountain of gems, this isn’t much of a downgrade. For new players, however, the change is utterly devastating. Without easy access to Standard-legal cards, new players may have no choice but to play Alchemy, as those are the only cards they have. Since Alchemy is considerably more confusing than traditional MTG, thanks to its unique mechanics, we know this is something many players do not want to do. As a result, potential players may be turned away from Arena and Magic: the Gathering entirely if they don’t have the resources to play on paper. 

Even if players aim to only leave for this season, there will be a proportion who don’t return when Dominaria United launches in September. This could be incredibly dangerous to the long-term health of Arena. A game can’t survive without a player base after all.

Didn’t Quite Stick the Landing

Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate Mastery Pass
The Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate Mastery Pass isn’t cheap, but it is worth it.

To make matters worse, Wizards of the Coast’s Alchemy push hasn’t gone off without a hitch. While we’re not inherently against the Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate set, WotC isn’t making it easy to be on their side. Beyond the damage that it does to Arena’s economy for new players, the new set is also riddled with bugs.

Upon the release of the set, many players took to the Magic Arena subreddit to showcase the game’s problems. Unfortunately, this included a major UI error that’s one of the first things a player will see upon starting MTG Arena this season. This hardly paints a good picture for the set that some players are going into wanting to critique. 

It’s Not All Bad News

Despite the complaints we’re able to make about Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate, it’s not all bad news. Specifically, the Mastery Pass, at least, isn’t all terrible. This is because the alternative is two more months of nothing. If the Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate set hadn’t come along, players who’ve already completed the Streets of New Capenna Mastery Pass would have a very boring next few months. At least now they’re able to put their XP to good use. Even if they only do care about the rare or mythic Wildcard every sixth pack. 

Read more: When is the next MTG Arena Open?

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