Since its inception, the Alchemy format on MTG Arena has had a bit of a bad rap. As much as I might love it, admittedly, some, or rather quite a lot of this criticism, is deserved. Between stressing Arena’s economy, exacerbating confusion concerns, and stealing paper cards, Alchemy definitely does have its problems. Despite this troubled history, however, Wizards of the Coast hasn’t given up on it yet.
While not as frequent as Wizards had originally planned for MTG Arena, Alchemy still gets rebalances every so often. Aimed at keeping the format interesting through shake-ups and new contenders, these rebalances are Alchemy’s saving grace. That being said, however, Alchemy isn’t really in need of this silver bullet right now, as the format is surprisingly healthy.
With multiple powerful decks at the top and plenty of room for innovation, Alchemy is in a great spot. Now, however, with two archetypes getting overhauled, the format’s metagame may be about to shift dramatically.
Domain Gets More Dominant
In Standard, Pioneer, and Modern too, Domain is an incredibly powerful archetype right now. Thanks to plentiful dual lands, Triomes, and the litany of powerful Domain spells, this archetype is ruthlessly efficient. Despite having access to Domain staples like Leyline Binding however, Alchemy doesn’t have a powerful Domain deck.
Seemingly looking to change this, Wizards recently announced the latest round of Alchemy rebalances for MTG Arena. Affecting 30 cards in total, Wizards is seemingly planning quite a major shift to the established order. Within this sizable chunk of changes, nine Domain cards were amped up, with several support cards seeing a boost too.
Out of all the recent rebalances A-Radha, Coalition Warlord and A-Zar Ojanen, Scion of Efrava have arguably seen the most improvement. Now, in Alchemy and Historic, both these cards activate when first hitting the battlefield. Providing instant value, these cards are no longer useless if they can’t find the space to attack.
With this boost in strength, both the above cards could theoretically see play within Alchemy’s 5-Color Legends deck. Unfortunately for these cards’ hopes, however, this deck primarily uses non-basic lands, meaning Domain is an impossibility. Ultimately, without a dedicated Domain deck, most, if not all, the other rebalanced cards simply don’t cut the competitive mustard.
Thanks to Alchemy having countless build-around bombs currently, it seems likely Domain will break out following these rebalances. That being said, however, these changes would have a sizable impact should Dominaria United Alchemy Draft ever return. If this happened, the already strong Domain decks would utterly dominate the format, likely for the worse. Thankfully, however, the return of this niche format likely isn’t going we have to worry about.
Powerstones Get Powered Up
Alongside Domain, Powerstones have been targeted as a supposedly faltering archetype in Alchemy. To say that Powerstones are just faltering, however, is being incredibly generous, as they’ve never been an archetype. Having only been seen in The Brothers’ War, Powerstones are seriously lacking support, so it’s no wonder they’re struggling.
Despite the lack of any new Powerstone-focused bombs, Wizards is nonetheless trying to push this mechanic. To do this, eleven of the 21 Alchemy playable Powerstone cards are getting a buff. Potentially, this could provide the archetype with a new surge of power, however, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Within the long list of changes, the majority are adjustments to casting and ability costs. In the cases of A-Urza, Powerstone Prodigy and A-Mishra, Excavation Prodigy, this comes at the cost of losing abilities. Other cards, such as A-Hall of Tagsin and A-Hurkyl’s Prodigy simply get cheaper with no downside.
Technically, unlike the changes to Domain, the main win condition for Powerstones did get an upgrade too. Capable of winning through Emblem-based chip damage, A-Karn, Living Legacy is theoretically a decent threat. Thanks to their ultimate and second abilities now costing one loyalty less, they’re that much more threatening.
At the end of the day, while this change, along with all the others, should help, Powerstones still aren’t great. Compared to traditional ramp sources, Powerstones simply aren’t effective enough right now. Thanks to this, they’re only really used in one fairly unsuccessful Alchemy deck; Boros Calendar. Even here, the deck focuses on The Millennium Calendar and All Will Be One, with Karn’s ultimate providing damage, rather than Powerstone-themed ramp.
The Shake-up Will Have to Wait
At the end of the day, we can’t say for sure exactly how these changes are going to shake up the Alchemy meta. If we’re to predict anything, however, we can’t say the outlook is good for Domain and Powerstones. Right now, these archetypes are nowhere to be seen the meta is already fiercely competitive. Without additional support, Domain and Powerstones likely aren’t going anywhere.
Thankfully, rather than being completely useless changes, these rebalances should appease some Brawl players. Since, like Commander, pretty much anything can be made playable here, however, that’s hardly a glowing endorsement. Still, some play is better than nothing, and these rebalances are clearly a bit of an experiment on MTG Arena.
Ultimately, while the latest Alchemy rebalances might be a bit of a bust, this controversial MTG format should still be getting a shake-up. This, however, will likely come as a result of Murders at Karlov Manor and its following Alchemy set. Sure to be full of new mechanics, bombs, and archetypes of its own, this set should keep things interesting.
As if that wasn’t enough, MTG Arena is getting Modern Horizons 3 later this year. While this set is still a ways away, it’s undoubtedly going to give MTG Arena one hell of a shake-up!