With Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate coming out on July 7, Wizards also revealed a slew of cards they are changing to coincide with set release in addition to the banning of Grinning Ignus! This looks to be the largest number of cards changed at one time with 29 adjustments.
With that, I want to go through each change, the impact it will have on the card, and how likely it is that the card will see play. As a final note, I will be reviewing the cards in the order they were presented in the Wizards article. Let’s get into it!
Change: Gains “Cauldron Familiar can’t block.”
Cat/Oven was a staple archetype on Arena more or less since it’s inception. The ability to constantly loop Cauldron Familiar for life drain as well as block the best threat on the opponent’s side made for a difficult loop to break and a pretty frustrating play pattern for creature decks.
As time passed, Familiar only grew better with it being paired with Mayhem Devil, Trail of Crumbs, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and so on. With it not being able to block, you lose out on a major piece of what made Cauldron Familiar so threatening in the first place.
I believe the decks that were looking to use Cauldron Familiar as a large “life gain” engine, like Golgari and Jund Food, get hurt the most by this change as this was a pivotal interaction for keeping them alive. WIll this kill these decks? Almost certainly not, but they take a pretty hefty blow. However, this change only matters if you’re looking to use Cauldron Familiar defensively. Rakdos Sacrifice still takes a hit from this change, but since they’re much more concerned with getting the opponent dead, this isn’t as big of an issue. I still envision Cat seeing a good amount of play, just not at the same ridiculous levels it was at before.
The Meathook Massacre
Change: Removed “Whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, gain 1 life.”
Like Cauldron Familiar, The Meathook Massacre was an absolute beating to creature decks as contending with a board wipe that can gain the opponent a lot of life while also being a pseudo Blood Artist is very obscene.
While this change will also hurt the staying power of the Sacrifice decks, it keeping the death trigger for your creatures will still make it a popular card. However, as this change also impacts Alchemy decks, I envision that the Black decks will mostly cut this as they really only played it as a board wipe with life gain. So this won’t be a huge change for Historic beyond making creature decks a good deal better, but will have pretty big implications for Alchemy.
Dragon’s Rage Channeler
Change: Delirium effect now +2/+0 (from +2/+2)
Like I said in the announcement article yesterday, I’m not envisioning that this change is going to have too big of an impact on Dragon's Rage Channeler‘s strength. The power of Channeler is mostly around it being a Surveil engine and it getting Flying and additional power when you have Delirium. The toughness boost is obviously nice, but considering it can’t block, it didn’t matter too much of the time as there aren’t many creatures with Flying that are both seeing play and couldn’t trade or kill a Channeler already.
On the flip side, being able to kill this with literally any burn spell, even when it has its stat boost, is definitely nice. Channeler was a removal magnet already, but not losing out on the chance to kill it with a 2 damage spell because you wanted to play something else will produce less feel bad moments. Overall, I feel this is a pretty minor change as the heart of the card is intact.
Change: Delirium now deals 4 damage (from 6 damage)
I always though Unholy Heat was a weird design as it more or less felt like a color pie break once you have Delirium. They definitely reigned it in a bit by only making it deal 4 damage, but realistically, there aren’t too many relevant threats that are surviving through this anyway.
That said, Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can now survive through an Unholy Heat which would make the Phoenix vs Azorius matchup less miserable for Azorius, but still likely bad. It’s a fine change, that like Channeler, won’t have too large an impact.
Winota, Joiner of Forces
Change: Now triggers when one or more non-Human creatures you control attack; unbanned in Historic.
In no uncertain terms, Winota, Joiner of Forces was a messed up card. It pressured way too well, enabled to quick of kills, created an extremely frustrating sub game of have the removal spell or die, it was just no bueno. However, now that it can only trigger once per turn, it is substantially more reasonable.
I think that many people think this change kills Winota, but I believe it’ll still be a rather powerful archetype in Historic. Hitting a Tovolar's Huntmaster off of a single trigger is still going to be game winning most of the time. I don’t know if this will make Winota a tier 1 strategy, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t at least tier 2.
Change: Now distributes two +1/+1 counters each of up to two target creatures you control (up from one).
I’ve never been a big fan of this land cycle as the effects were just not that impactful considering they’re mono colored tap lands. However, all of them seemed marginally reasonable and if they were a bit stronger they could see some real play. Well, that time is here as adding 4/4 in stats to the board by sacrificing a land is not a bad deal at all. I still wouldn’t play too many of these as the tap lands can add up, but having access to a huge boost in stats when you no longer need the land is quite nice.
Furthermore, this is extremely good if you’re losing the race as giving your two best creatures more stats, Vigilance, and Lifelink for the turn can easily turn a race in your favor. This isn’t going to break Alchemy, but it’s definitely a rather strong change.
Change: Entering the battlefield now distributes two +1/+1 counters among one or two target creatures; activated ability cost changed to W, Tap (reduced from 4W, Tap)
A 4 mana 4/4 that can give another creature two +1/+1 counters is a rather reasonable rate, but not amazing. However, being able to grow any creature with a +1/+1 counter on it for one mana is a reasonably powerful ability as well. If you can always guarantee that you have another creature on board, 6/6 in stats for 4 mana is a really strong rate. If the +1/+1 counter deck is good, this will definitely be a big part of it.
Fall of the Impostor
Change: Costs GW (from 1GW)
I’ve always been privy to this card and felt it was really close to playable. It takes awhile for it to kill something, but growing your board in the meanwhile is a pretty good rate. Now that it’s 2 mana, I expect this to feel a lot better to play. Going one drop into this against an aggressive deck is going to be a strong play pattern or just being able to more easily double spell with this in the late game is also good. This will likely be a 4 of in GW +1/+1 counters matter, but likely split between main and sideboard. This may be good enough for decks that aren’t specifically going for +1/+1 counters as well, but likely not.
Change: Now four +1/+1 counters if kicked (from two +1/+1 counters)
A two mana 2/2 in modern constructed is generally not a good rate, however this has a few more things going for it. For one, it gives your creatures with counters on them Trample which is the best keyword a large creature can have. Furthermore, this being a 2/2 or a five mana 6/6 makes it a lot more versatile. Considering it’s versatility and pseudo lord ability, this should have the power to see play in decks that produce a lot of +1/+1 counters.
Change: Costs 1GW (from 2GW); activated ability costs GW (from from 1GW); now 4/3 (from 4/4)
A 3 mana 4/3 is a solid stat line to begin with, and it getting trample and lifelink whenever a +1/+1 counter is put on your board is pretty scary. Furthermore, it can give other creatures with counters lifelink and trample as well to make the race that much harder for the opponent! Obviously you need to build around this, but it is quite strong if you do.
Change: Costs 1B (from 2B)
This card was wildly unplayable before, but a two mana 2/2 Menace still isn’t the best stat line in the world. However, giving all creatures you control with a +1/+1 counter is a bit more enticing. This still isn’t great and isn’t a huge draw to building around it, but it’s a decent rate.
Change: Costs 3B (from 4B); now 3/3 (from 2/2)
Now this is an upgrade! You do have to build around this, but this is like a Hellrider for +1/+1 counter decks. Cool design and definitely a powerful build around. There weren’t many reasons to not go Gruul or Selesnya if you cared about counters, but this may pull people towards Black yet.
Change: Costs 3G (from 4G); now 3/3 (from 3/4)
A four mana 3/3 that can make a 1/1 every now and again? Not super impressive. This needs other pieces to work, but you can get some solid value if you can get a lot of counters on your creatures at once. However, if you’re able to get a lot of counters, you’re likely in a good spot already. Seems too much like a win more card for me.
Change: When triggered, Moss-Pit Skeleton’s last ability now returns Moss-Pit Skeleton to your hand at the beginning of the next end step (as opposed to the top of your library).
While I do love recursive threats, just being a 2/2 on it’s face is pretty weak. However, in the right decks, this will keep coming back with every (or close to) creature you cast which is a decent rate. This may be a decent sideboard card, but I’m not excited about it otherwise.
Change: Costs 2B (from 3B); activated ability costs B (from 1B)
Any creature that can convert resources into cards is worth examining, and one that can do it for free (or for a cost) is definitely enticing. This will be a pain in the butt for any deck looking to pick off your threats as they’ll have to go after this first not to lose value. That said, killing this is rather easy so I imagine it’s going to play out worse than you’d expect it to. This is likely just good enough to see play and I may be underrating it, but it seems just fine.
Change: Gains ward 2
This card is super cool, but was very much held back by exile effects. While adding Ward 2 is nice, it’s still a pretty expensive threat that doesn’t have the same impact as similarly costed spells no matter where on the curve you cast it. However, that’s not at all the case in Historic. With counter doublers like Hardened Scales, Winding Constrictor or Conclave Mentor, this becomes a functionally unkillable threat as it’ll keep recurring with the enough counters to split again! The Scales deck has always been fringe playable, but with the buff to Jelly and the nerfs to the two best Historic decks, maybe it’s good enough to see some real play!
Change: Changed “each attacking creature” to “each creature you control” on the second ability:
Ol’ Oran-Rief Ooze was always really close to playable, it was just a bit slow in doing what it was designed to do. With this change, it is still a smidge slow, but now you don’t have to attack with anything else to get scaling. This will make it feel substantially better to play and make it much more consistent in what it it’s supposed to do.
Change: Now 5/5 (from 4/4)
To be honest, I didn’t even know what this card did before seeing it got buffed. Now that it is buffed, I’m pretty impressed! A 5/5 Flier for five is a good stat line, but also doubling counters on entry and boosting all your creatures power and toughness whenever it attacks are pretty powerful abilities.
Considering this also dodges common removal spells like Vanishing Verse, Molten Impact, and the new Uthgardt Fury, this seems like a very reasonable five drop. You want to play this alongside a counters theme, but I don’t think it would be that unreasonable to even play this in a normal Simic Stompy deck.
Instants, Sorceries, and Wizards
Change: Costs 2R (from 4R); now 3/2 (from 3/4)
While I am a fan of impulsive draws, Dustspeaker has a lot going against it. It’s a three mana 3/2 which is a mediocre stat line, it needs to attack to get value, you need a spell in yard already, and even if you do all that, it’s still just a Rob the Archives so you have a turn to play one of those cards. This requires too many pieces for this to be worth it in my opinion.
Change: Costs UHR (from 1UHR)
This card is extremely interesting as a three mana 2/4 Flier is a pretty solid stat line to start with and threatening to make your spells cost less is similarly interesting. This does get hit by the big red burn spells and there aren’t too many places I could see playing this card, but I think it may just be good enough to see play now in conjunction with more expensive spells.
Change: Costs 2R (from 3R); now 2/2 (from 3/3)
The most simlar comparison I see with this card is Weaver of Lightning, however this is clearly a good deal better. If you’re facing a small creature deck, these pings can be absolutely brutal, especially when you can start doing multiple per turn. This could be a solid board card, but I’m not super impressed by it for main deck applications.
Change: Costs 1R (from 2R); now 2/1 (from 2/2)
Now Wizards is just trying to step on the toes of the best creature ever printed.
How could they?
None the less, this card still isn’t good as the stat line is too small and scaling it takes too much time.
Master of Winds
Change: Now 1/5 (from 1/4); triggered ability changes to “base power and toughness becomes 5/1 or 1/5 until end of turn”
While I’m not super excited by this card, a four mana 1/5 Flier that gets card gives you back a card, doesn’t die to the big burn spells, and can threaten 5 damage in the air is definitely worth something. My big contention is that the Wizards deck probably wants to be very low to the ground, but I could see this being a large enough draw to warrant playing it.
Change: Costs 1U (from 2U)
Like I said yesterday, this card is very powerful as, if built around, a Scry 2 draw 2 for 2 mana is an excellent rate. To be frank, this is about as good as Expressive Iteration and maybe even a bit better, assuming you can always fulfill the condition. Since it is conditional, it is likely worse than Expressive Iteration, even in a Wizards deck, but it’s clearly a very powerful card.
Rowan, Scholar of Sparks
Change: Rowan starting loyalty now 3 (from 2); Rowan ultimate now -5 (from -4)
Change: Will starting loyalty now 5 (from 4); Will ultimate now -8 (from -7)
Giving planeswalkers an additional starting loyalty is a very big deal, especially when they have passive abilities. Despite that, I still feel that both sides of this are pretty weak in general. Rowan still doesn’t feel strong enough to be a 3 mana walker and while Will is solid, it’s still not great. I don’t think playing this is ludicrous, but I think you can do better.
Change: Cost for level 3 now 1UR (from 3UR)
This card is still super weird to me as I’m not sure what it’s applications are. So for 7 mana you can kind of storm off and get some mana dorks, but is that good? I feel like this card is at odds with what a Wizards deck wants to do as it’s card disadvantage and it incentivizes you to not attack. Maybe this is better than it looks, but I’m not feeling it.
Change: Gains haste
I spoke on this yesterday, but putting Haste on this is a huge deal. It’s most similar to Sprite Dragon in terms of power, but if you get this to live a turn, you can make this massive out of nowhere a good amount of the time. I’m really excited for this card in Izzet shells that are looking to kill quickly.
Change: Added “up to one”
While this was slated as a quality of life change, it is technically a buff as not being forced to use the trigger is a big deal. This is still not a great card as it’s, at best, a Man-o'-War which is not where Alchemy is at right now.