In this article we’ll talk about the MTG Alchemy, the new MTG Arena exclusive format and everything you need to know about it. Since the format is quite controversial, I also included a list of problems it has — and there are a lot of them. In order to not be so negative, some potential solutions are provided as well.
Let’s get right to it!
What is MTG Alchemy?
MTG Alchemy is an Arena exclusive rotating format. The idea of the format is to create a more exciting version of digital Standard, with regular changes to Standard cards, and additional digital-only cards. The minimum deck size is 60, and your deck can contain:
- Almost all Standard cards
- Rebalanced Standard cards
- New-to-digital cards
So what, falls in each of these groups?
Almost all of the Standard cards will be legal in Alchemy. Why almost all? Because some cards won’t be the same as they are in regular Standard. These cards will be called rebalanced Standard cards.
Rebalanced Standard Cards
Cards can be rebalanced either because they are:
- too strong (they get a nerf of some kind)
- exciting, but too weak (these cards get a buff)
Here’s an example of how Esika’s Chariot will be nerfed at the beginning of the MTG Alchemy format. You can see that it’s a rebalanced card by the orange Arena icon in the top left corner.
If you already own a regular version of the card, you’ll also own the rebalanced version. You can find more about Wizards’ Rebalancing Philosophy here.
Each Standard set will also contain around 30 of new-to-digital cards. These cards won’t be released in paper, and will often have some weird interactions, that are hard to keep track in paper.
When Alchemy releases on Arena, it’ll start with 63 new-to-digital cards.
That’s just a quick recap of the format, but we’ll talk about more details in the next section, when we discuss multiple problems with the format.
Problems With Alchemy
Here you’ll find the five biggest formats with Alchemy. If you feel, like we missed something, leave a comment below.
Changing the Cards Without Refunds
The cards in Alchemy can change constantly. But you won’t receive a Wildcard when a card changes. Now, this is a huge problem, since you can’t disenchant or trade your cards for any kind of value on MTGA. This is even more problematic when you have a whole deck that’s built around that single card.
Let’s say, you’re playing an Arclight Phoenix deck, and Wizards decide to nerf it, so you have to cast five instant and sorceries to get it back. Not only is the Phoenix nerfed, but every card that you’ve crafted specifically to enable the Phoenix is also nerfed in a way.
You don’t get a refund for the rest of the deck. You also can trade the rest of the deck, not even for a percentage of a new one. On top of that, you don’t even get a refund for the Phoenix. You get nothing.
Solution: It’s quite simple. When Wizards nerf a card, they give you their replacement in a form of a Wildcard of appropriate rarity. Of course, one could argue that Alchemy will have constant changes, and that players should expect nerfs. However, there’s another problem which presents itself…
Rebalanced Cards Replacing the Originals in Historic
This is probably the biggest problem why changing the cards is problematic. The rebalanced cards will replace the original cards in Historic.
Historic was first branded as the format where you’ll be able to play your rotated-out-of-Standard cards. That quickly changed. First with addition of Historic Anthologies, then Remastered sets, and lately with the digital-only-cards. However, it was still an eternal (non-rotating) format on Arena, and a lot of players were happy with.
Changes to the rebalanced cards are supposed to be quite frequent, which would take away the big draw of the Historic. That’s the ability of having one deck with small modifications for a long time.
Solution: Make rebalanced cards only affect the Alchemy format. Both Historic and Historic Brawl should keep their original versions of the cards, in order to not have changes every couple of weeks. It’s enough that there are digital-only-cards coming to the format with every Standard set release.
Alchemy Cards are Harder to Acquire
Alchemy cards are available in Alchemy Booster Packs. You can also craft them. When Alchemy releases, you’ll also get some Alchemy cards as well. So what’s the problem with this?
You won’t get Alchemy cards neither from regular packs, neither from drafting. While this makes sense, it also makes cards harder to get. Usually, you get quite some Packs from the Mastery progression — there aren’t any Alchemy packs available there.
The most efficient way to get cards is by drafting. That’s not the case with Alchemy, as you won’t receive Alchemy packs as rewards there. So the only way to get Alchemy cards consistently is to buy them in Store, which makes them harder to acquire than other cards on Arena.
Solution: Alchemy cards and / or packs need to be added as rewards of some kind. They could be added to the free part of Mastery progression, or some kind of weekly login reward. Potentially, a single Alchemy card could be added to the regular Pack, but that’s probably very unlikely to happen.
Splitting the Player Base
Players wanted Historic Brawl queue for a very long time. After a long time, it finally became available in August 2021. Before that, Wizards claimed that they didn’t want to make the queue permanent, so it wouldn’t split the player base. This could mean longer wait times when joining a match, which can a big problem, if you want to play some quick games.
However, since Historic Brawl queue became permanent, there was no significant increase in wait time. Now Wizards are adding yet another queue, and they are apparently not worried about splitting the player base this time around.
While it’s entirely possible that the player base is big enough to support all the current play modes plus Alchemy, it seems a bit disingenuous that we had to wait for Historic Brawl for so long. That was because of “splitting the player base”, and this problem is not even addressed at all in this announcement.
Solution: Nothing good comes to mind. The current play modes all have their fans, and it would be a shame if some of them would be removed. It’s also a hard thing to speculate on without the date available.
Less Resources for Improving the Client
When Arena fully released, players were amazed not only by graphics, and smooth gameplay, but also by the lack of bugs, which were always present on Magic Online (MTGO). However, with more and more sets being added to Arena, the number of bugs and client problems has increased as well.
It’s starting to look like the biggest advantage of Arena client was that it didn’t have all the cards from Magic’s history on it, as opposed to MTGO. In the last year, Arena didn’t receive any major quality of life improvements. It just gets a new set, after q new set. That’s somewhat expected, since the client improvements, won’t bring in as much money in the short term, as Anthology 4 would, for example.
Nevertheless, if Wizards won’t act soon, we could just have another MTGO on our hands quite soon. The addition of Alchemy means another task for the development team — they’ll need to implement multiple additional cards with each major set release. That leaves less resources for client improvements.
Solution: Give more resources to the developers. I’m not saying it’s an easy problem to solve, as it is known that you can’t just double the amount of developers and expect the double efficiency. However, it surely doesn’t hurt either, and Arena has been due some client improvements for quite a while.
MTG Alchemy – FAQ
In this section, you’ll find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the format. If your question isn’t answered, leave a comment below, and we’ll get back to you as fast as possible.
It releases on December 9, 2021, after the game update. After the launch, you’ll receive:
3 Alchemy Boosters
6 rare Alchemy individual card rewards
1 mythic Alchemy individual card reward
You can buy a single Alchemy booster for 1,000 Gold. You can also get 15 boosters for 3,000 Gems. Furthermore, there’s a one-time Alchemy bundle with 20 boosters for 15,000 Gold or 3,000 Gems.
Alchemy will naturally get new cards with each Standard release. After a month or so after the set release, the Alchemy digital-only-cards get released as well.
Besides these, the rebalance changes will be quite frequent and common. All in all, you can expect Alchemy to change quite quickly.
Although there are many problems with Alchemy, it does have some things going for it. It could be a very fun constructed format on MTGA, that doesn’t get stale. However, some changes will probably have to be made. So, what are your opinions about the Alchemy format? Hate it? Love it? Let us know in the comments below.
If you’re looking forward to the next set, check our article about upcoming MTG sets here. Furthermore, since you’re probably an Arena player, don’t forget to check for all currently available MTGA codes.
Until next time, have fun, and may Alchemy be better than expected.
2 thoughts on “MTG Alchemy: Format Guide & All Its Problems”
We need a stable paper like eternal format. I don’t want to live in fear to craft an already expensive historic deck only to get some cards nerfed or other decks buffed. That may render my whole deck useless and even when they give us WC in return for nerfed cards it still won’t compensate for the cost of a whole deck.
It should be handled like paper magic and only ban/nerf a card if it breaks the format. Also keept the digital only cards out of it. We don’t need gamewinning/gamelosing RNG elements. This is not Hearthstone. This is a game where skill and sometimes slight RNG like landdraw decides a match. Not a Yolo pay mana and hope for a random wincon card.
If they not nackpaddel and leave historic alone I quit and will never put any mony torwards MTG Arena.
If they constantly nerf and buff cards every week or so then everything trends to mediocrity. This means that luck not skill will eventually be the defining feature of Alchemy. If all rare 2 drops are equally strong there is less reward for experimenting with combos and synergies because as soon as a streamer discovers something powerful everyone will play it and it will be nerfed