While I’m a bit late to the party because of the Set Championships, I figured I’d give my thoughts on Alchemy and where I see it going in the future.
If, somehow, you don’t know yet, Alchemy is a revised version of Standard and a new Arena-only format that will have additional cards not legal in Standard and that will revise other cards like Alrund’s Epiphany to nerf or buff them to shake up the format. We’ve suffered through monotonous Standard formats for the past few years, and as I understand, paper Standard has also suffered from both the monotony and pandemic. So this move makes a lot of sense.
How do I feel about Alchemy?
If done well, Alchemy is an incredible idea. I have often talked about how I would love to see the formats shaken up fairly regularly with bans. As someone who is invested in competitive Magic, I don’t feel the downsides as hard as others on this, which is constantly having to buy new cards or decks. This is a great and understandable argument for why they can’t ban cards more regularly. In a digital-only space, they can adjust the cards and inject more cards, which unfortunately will have the same effect. People will still need to craft new cards to play new decks because there is churn in the metagame. It won’t just be the adjusted cards as the cards that are played with adjusted cards will also likely lose value.
My personal take on Alchemy is that I like it for shaking up competitive play. I’ll have more fun looking at a new format. However, this may be too taxing on casual players who will need to invest more gems and dollars to keep up. As someone who almost only plays Limited on my personal Arena account, I don’t spend much, if anything, on Arena and can usually keep up with Standard when I’m actively playing. That, however, is likely a thing of the past because now the wild cards I have saved up are even more taxed. Rebalancing cards has a domino effect on the effectiveness of other cards, which is an issue that needs to be solved. The idea gets an A from me, but the implementation so far gets a C-.
Will Alchemy kill Standard?
Of all the questions I’ve seen asked, this is the most interesting to me. Which format will be the go-to format for Arena players? Can they coexist?
For appearance’s sake, I think they will both continue to exist, but I think Alchemy will become the new go-to Standard format on Arena. The player base will decide which they prefer, and WotC will lean into it. While Standard has to exist because of both paper and MTGO, I expect that all competitive events, like Set Championships, in the near future will lean toward Alchemy as they seem to be keeping all of that on MTG Arena. They’ve already announced the first Alchemy Arena Open, and I believe more things will trend in this direction.
This makes MTG Arena and paper/MTGO Magic different games. MTG Arena uses similar game pieces, but ultimately the formats, paper, and Arena will no longer overlap. Those who play the boomer formats will likely flock to MTGO, and those interested in a digital-only experience will use MTG Arena. The only overlap will be some Limited and some competitive players winning something like a Modern PTQ being put into a Alchemy/Historic Set, I am worried about long-term consequences this has on paper/MTGO Magic.
Ultimately, I look at Pioneer as a reasonable data point for what may happen with Standard. Pioneer was incredibly popular when it was first announced. People loved it, and it was used at the Regional Players Tour. I was excited by the format, which never happens for Constructed. Covid hit and paper Magic was put on hold. When Historic was created, Pioneer lost its momentum, and historic took its place. I suspect Alchemy will have this effect on Standard as well. I’ll be interested to see how packs of Standard sets sell if this happens.
It won’t kill Standard, but it’s going to do serious damage to an already damaged brand. Standard will exist, but I believe it has phased out of competitive play, at least for now. If Alchemy flops completely, maybe we’ll see Standard come back.
Will Alchemy fix Standard?
I think Alchemy could fix Standard. If the execution of adjustments is done properly and the economy surrounding it is not too predatory, Alchemy can create opportunities that Standard didn’t allow. New expectations are set, and people will continue considering those expectations. With Standard, expectations were created and mostly met when it came to the legality of printed cards.
It’s interesting how adjusting one or two cards to be weaker or better than before can change an entire metagame, but if curated properly Alchemy can fix all the issues I had with Standard. There will be some growing pains in this process, but if WotC wants this they’ll continue to work on it, push it, and eventually it will be how we know Standard.
As far as I know, dates for the next Set Championships have not been announced nor the formats. I predict the formats will be either Alchemy and Historic or, my personal choice, Alchemy and Booster draft. They’ve shown the ability to use Draft in the Arena Open, and Limited would be an excellent complement to Alchemy. Historic is slightly more likely than Limited, but I believe Alchemy will be the new way to play competitive MTG.
So far people seem to be enjoying Alchemy as a Standard replacement. The concept, if executed well, seems to fit WotC’s plans to create as many different formats and monetization streams as possible. People don’t like how it’s affecting Historic. Historic will only use the adjusted versions of the cards, meaning Historic also gets the changement treatment by default. While some see this as a bug, I think to WotC it’s a feature. They plan for the MTG Arena player base to know the cards as they are adjusted and not play Standard at all. I believe they are anticipating and preparing for Standard to lose out fully to Alchemy, and the player base will recognize the cards as what they were adjusted to in Alchemy, not as their original printing.
I think for better or worse, Alchemy is the new Standard, and we will get used to it.