Magic: The Gathering Announces New Alchemy Competitive Format for Arena

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Magic: The Gathering Arena is getting a new Alchemy format that will take full advantage of the game’s digital nature. Alchemy will follow the same set rotation as Standard. However, Alchemy will rebalance cards regularly. The format also uses the digital-only supplemental cards that use the digital-only game mechanics introduced into Historic via Jumpstart: Historic Horizons. Alchemy launches next week with Magic: The Gathering Arena’s December 9th update, introducing Alchemy: Innistrad into the digital game. The first Alchemy set features 63 new cards supplementing Magic: The Gathering’s most recent expansion, Innistrad: Crimson Vow.

Wizards of the Coast’s plan is to release a new supplemental Alchemy set four to six weeks after releasing each new premier set. Every card in the Alchemy set will feature a digital mechanic. The goal of these supplements is to temper overpowered archetypes and boost others that are just shy of being viable in competitive play. With Alchemy, Wizards of the Coast hopes to address an issue born from MTG Arena’s popularity. New standard formats are “solved” (archetype power levels become definitively established, and an apparent “best deck” emerges) quicker than ever. Once solved, the format can become stale while players await the next set. Alchemy offers a more dynamic metagame for those tired of current Standard play.

Wizards of the Coast makes clear that Alchemy is not replacing Standard in Arena. Instead, from now on, MTG Arena will divide its formats into two categories. Those with paper analogs, like Standard, will remain in lockstep with their tabletop counterparts. That rule applies to Standard and any future traditional formats added to MTG Arena, such as Pioneer.

Any format where the digital-only game elements and rebalanced cards are legal will be known as a Live format. Besides the new Alchemy format, MTG Arena’s first digital-exclusive format, Historic, already became the first Live format with Jumpstart: Historic Horizons’ introduction. As of Alchemy: Innistrad’s introduction, Historic will use the rebalanced versions of cards where applicable. Wizards of the Coast is also “actively looking at” applying Alchemy’s direct rebalancing strategy to Historic, but wants to see how things go with the newest format first. For now, Historic’s banned and suspended list remain in place, but that could change in the future.

Alchemy will also see cards rebalanced instead of getting banned. Such rebalancing would be a logistical nightmare in print play, requiring knowledge of extensive errata. It’s much more straightforward in MTG Arena’s digital environment. In the future, any card banned in Standard will be rebalanced and continue to be legal in Alchemy. (Despite this, players will still be awarded wildcards as compensation for newly-banned cards already in their collections.)

However, rebalancing will be much more frequent in Alchemy than the sporadic bannings of tabletop Magic. Currently, Wizards of the Coast estimates Alchemy rebalancing will take place monthly. With the launch of Alchemy: Innistrad next week, some of the most powerful and frequently played cards in the current standard format — Esika’s Chariot; Goldspan Dragon; Alrund’s Epiphany; Faceless Haven; Luminarch Aspirant; and the previously banned Omnath, Locus of Creation (which becomes legal again in Historic as well) — are getting rebalanced in Alchemy (the Standard versions of each card will remain unaltered, and owning one version of the card means you own the other as well).

But rebalancing won’t always be about toning down dominant cards. Other cards that haven’t seen much play may receive power boosts. One card getting an upgrade with Alchemy: Innistrad is Pylath, World Sculptor.

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Alchemy won’t simply be a casual or off-meta format either. Though firm plans are not in place yet, Alchemy is on the table as a format for future high-profile Magic: The Gathering tournaments hosted on MTG Arena.

What do you think of MTG Arena’s new Alchemy format? Let us know how you feel about it in the comments section. Alchemy launches on Magic: The Gathering Arena on December 9th.

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