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Circle of the Land Druid Art by Alexandre Honoré

Analysis and Adjustments for Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate Limited Rebalancing

Find out how the first limited format specific Alchemy card rebalances will affect drafting for Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate! We review, analyze, and regrade each card change.

Hey everyone! I’m really ecstatic that Wizards has finally decided to grant us live Alchemy updates for limited. Having that on the table means that we no longer have to “just deal” with a format when one color combination is overpowered or a common was a giant “oops”. I am pretty sure they didn’t change any rarities because of wildcard concerns, but it’s a great step forward to rebalance some of the cards. I’ll give you my thoughts on each of the changes and the updated grades for them.

The new ratings here are in the context of our Limited Tier List for Alchemy Horizons: Baldurs Gate (HBG), which will be fully updated along with this article. Below is Wizards of the Coast’s rationale of the changes as noted in the original announcement, as well as for each card.

We are aiming to make underperforming strategies and archetypes stronger in Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate Draft. Most of the changes aim to make blocking and other defensive strategies stronger. We are increasing the toughness of five blue creatures, allowing Young Red Dragon to block, and changing a few other cards like Manticore, Circle of the Land Druid and Eyes of the Beholder to make it easier to defend against aggressive decks.

We are also reducing the efficiency of Steadfast Unicorn, Blessed Hippogriff, and Guildsworn Prowler. These were some of the strongest commons in Draft that made blocking too difficult. It was too easy to use Steadfast Unicorn‘s ability and Blessed Hippogriff‘s adventure while casting other spells in the same turn. Reducing Guildsworn Prowler‘s power will shift it from a strong attacker to a defensive and synergistic card.

We’re also making additional adjustments to ensure blue is a more viable draft color choice. Charmed Sleep was poorly positioned against this format’s sacrifice and blink effects, so we redesigned You Come to a River to give the color a more consistent removal spell. This redesign and the defensive buffs to blue creatures should make the color stronger overall, with additional indirect help coming from buffs to Dragon deck archetypes.


Artifacts

Dragon Orbs

1.5 to 2.0

Being able to fix for any color is a really nice buff if you’re trying to make the three-color dragon deck work. The thing is, we already had a Manalith floating around in Lantern of Revealing and it was pretty unspectacular even with potential card advantage built in. Obviously, these are preferred if you have enough dragons for the ability to be relevant, but I don’t think the change is going to be beneficial enough to make them more than fringe cards. I’ll bump them all up half a grade, but keeping my expectations low.

Lantern of Revealing

Lantern of Revealing
  • Change: Activated ability costs 3, T (from 4, T)

2.0 to 2.5

Reducing the cost from four to three is nice and all, but not really going to affect which decks you play this in. Do you have a splash card and have a deck that goes to the late game? Great, then Lantern of Revealing has a place in your deck.

In a long game, you might get one or two extra activations off of this being one cheaper. The biggest difference will be making it a little bit easier when you are putting a stop on upkeep to do this before drawing for turn.

Navigation Orb

Navigation Orb
  • Change: Activated ability costs 1, T, sacrifice (from 2, T, sacrifice)

1.0 to 2.0

This minor adjustment takes Navigation Orb from unplayable hot garbage to being slightly playable in a fixing emergency. One mana less than this to get a colorless Cultivate and we would have been cooking with gas here. Having to pay four even if it’s over two turns is still too expensive for a single ramp and a land in hand even if it can grab gates.  If you somehow end up with a lot of high end or splashed cards without getting any of the Manaliths or Pilgrim's Eye then go on ahead and chuck one of these in your pile instead.


White

Blessed Hippogriff

Blessed Hippogriff
  • Change: Adventure cost 1W (from W)

3.5 to 2.5

This might look like it’s not a huge deal, but it is a much bigger nerf than it appears. The one mana trick slid into your curve so easily while being restricted to playing a two drop on turn four is a much bigger deal. It’s also a lot more punishing to hold up a two-mana trick without making it obvious while a one mana trick can be passed off as just not having an efficient turn available.

Later in the game, it’s basically the same card it used to be so I’m fine with still taking them. It just firmly settles the debate about the best white common firmly in Patriar's Humiliations favor.

Steadfast Unicorn

Steadfast Unicorn
  • Change: Activated ability costs 4W (from 3W)

3.0 to 2.0

Increasing the activation cost by one really isn’t that big of a change on the single pump attack, but pretty much kills off any chance of the double pump Overrun happening unless the game goes super late.

I still want to be playing Steadfast Unicorn, but it’s not the jam as many of them as you can card that it was before. I’d still recommend playing one or two of these in pretty much any white deck that wants to attack.


Blue

Alora, Rogue Companion

Alora, Rogue Companion
  • Change: Now 3/3 (from 3/2); specialize faces now 4/4 (from 4/3)

2.0 to 2.5

The extra toughness is a pretty big deal because tapping out on turn four to play something with two in the butt made blocking almost impossible. Alora’s ability takes a whole bunch of time and mana to build value so having a decent blocker is pretty key to being able to take advantage of that.

Dragonborn Looter

Dragonborn Looter
  • Change: Costs U (from 1U)

1.5 to 2.0

One of the biggest reasons dropping this to one mana matters is that it lets you get on board while holding up Undersimplify on turn two. It’s also a lot easier to double spell when you can just slide in a one casting cost creature later. Significant difference in power level, still a card that the decision whether or not to play it is heavily dependent on the rest of your deck.

Goggles of Night

Goggles of Night
  • Change: Now equip 1 (from equip 2)

1.0 to 1.5

Unless you have a way to force through damage and are lacking a way to generate value, then this is still not the card you are looking for. You can do much better than this.

Kenku Artificer

Kenku Artificer
  • Change: Now 1/3 (from 1/1)

1.5 to 1.5

This buff doesn’t really change the evaluation of Kenku Artificer at all. If you’re playing this card, it was to turn a Treasure or a Prismatic Prism into a 3/3 flyer. The 1/1 was usually just sac fodder or a speed bump anyway. I guess it does improve your ability to block 2/1s, but not enough of a difference to change the grade.

Pseudodragon Familiar

Pseudodragon Familiar
  • Change: Now 2/2 (from 2/1)

2.0 to 2.0

An almost completely irrelevant change. The only thing that makes this matter is if you are trying to attack past Pilgrim's Eye. I’ll take the extra toughness since it’s free, but still not going to make the cut often.

Vhal, Eager Scholar

Vhal, Eager Scholar
  • Change: Now 2/2 (from 2/1); specialize faces now 4/4 (from 4/3)

2.0 to 2.5

Vhal isn’t exactly here to get in the red zone so that extra point of toughness on the front isn’t going to do much. The back bumping up to a four toughness matters a lot more as it suddenly has a beefy bottom built for rumbling. Enough of a difference to bump it up half a grade.

Water Weird

Water Weird
  • Change: Gains “1U: Water Weird gets +1/-1 until end of turn.”

1.5 to 2.0

Is this really what Water Weird was missing? I don’t actually know because I’ve never played with this card or even seen it played against anyone. I play and watch a ridiculous amount of Magic so for this to never hit the board when people are dropping Bronze Cudgels really says something. It can trade for Hill Giant Herdgorger now so I guess there’s that. Its still going to be a card 23 at best.

You Come to a River

You Come to a River
  • Change: Redesigned.

1.5 to 2.5

Well now, this isn’t going to be really confusing for anyone as they completely mutilated this card from its original form. It’s now a three-mana sorcery instead of a two-mana instant, but it goes from a bounce to a Time Ebb effect. That seems like a pretty big step up since you are no longer going down a card in exchange for tempo.

Don’t forget that you still have the worlds worst combat trick attached to this. To be fair, it is probably actually perfectly acceptable to forget.

Young Blue Dragon

Young Blue Dragon
  • Change: Now 3/4 (from 3/3)

2.5 to 3.0

One of the better blue commons received a nice little bonus with an extra toughness. That matters a lot with Dragon's Fire floating around or when it comes to shutting down opposing Young Blue Dragons.

I would have loved it if they made the adventure part instant speed, but we all have to settle for an extra toughness instead. I’d still grade it as always making the cut if you’re blue, but not a reason to jump into blue.


Black

Baleful Beholder

Baleful Beholder
  • Change: Now 7/5 (from 6/5)

2.0 to 2.0

I made a list of things that don’t matter: This. What is this trading for that it wasn’t trading for before? An extra power matters a lot less from six to seven than it does going from two to three. Same grade, next!

Eyes of the Beholder

Eyes of the Beholder
  • Change: Costs 3BB (from 4BB)

1.5 to 2.5

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this actually improves significantly at five mana. It’s an instant speed catch all removal that gets around indestructible (take that Hippogriff!). At four mana it would be the best common in the set and at six it sometimes makes the cut. That makes five an excellent middle ground to make this a solid playable.

Guildsworn Prowler

Guildsworn Prowler
  • Change: Now 1/1 (from 2/1)

3.0 to 2.0

What have they done to poor Guildsworn Prowler? This was an amazing card that you play as many of as you can in every deck. Now it’s a fringe playable that mainly goes in decks looking for defensive power or with sacrifice outlets to take advantage of the bonus card.

Manticore

Manticore
  • Change: Now 3/1 (from 2/1)

1.5 to 2.0

We’ve been making Manticore jokes since AFR came out. Mostly about how no one plays it and we all forget that it exists until it is too late. An extra power isn’t anything to write home about, but it does give this enough oomph that I won’t mind slipping one into my deck.

Sigil of Myrkul

Sigil of Myrkul
  • Change: Costs 1B (from 2B)

1.5 to 1.5

The casting cost wasn’t the problem here. The being a dead card until you hit threshold, now that’s a problem. If they reduced the number of creatures required in your graveyard then this might actually work out. I’m not changing the grade because I still don’t think this will see much play outside of a Golgari self-mill deck that struggled to hit playables.


Red

Dragonborn Immolator

Dragonborn Immolator
  • Change: Activated ability costs 2R (from 1R); ability grants +2/+0 (from +1/+0)

1.5 to 1.5

Did they accidently make this worse while trying to improve it? Taking an awkward card and increasing the mana cost of its already clunky ability doesn’t seem like the right direction to go in. I will continue to pass on this as we all should.

Young Red Dragon

Young Red Dragon
  • Change: Now 3/1 (from 3/2); loses “Young Red Dragon can’t block.”

1.5 to 2.0

Why can’t we have nice things? Being able to block was what this card was missing, but why did they have to drop its toughness too. Now you can’t even fly past a freaking Pilgrim's Eye. Oh Wizards, why must though be so cruel. Still a bump up from laughable to playable.


Green

Circle of the Land Druid

Circle of the Land Druid
  • Change: Now 2/1 (from 1/1)

1.5 to 2.5

This is like what they did to Guildsworn Prowler, but the exact opposite. Greens main problem was a lack of good two drops and this bad boy is now premium.

An archetype that actively wants to self-mill will have no problem supporting a few of these. That’s a huge bump up from the reluctant one of that it has been.

Druidic Ritual

Druidic Ritual
  • Change: Changed “return up to one creature card and up to one land card” to “return up to two creature cards and/or land cards”

1.5 to 2.0

Another bump up for the self-mill archetype with a combination enabler and payoff. I’ve always enjoyed Soul Salvage and this is a much more flexible version. Being able to grab lands means that you can cast this as a pseudo divination if you’re in a pinch on turn three, but you usually want to hold it for a late game back breaking play.

Emerald Dragon

Emerald Dragon
  • Change: Gains ward 2; loses trample

2.0 to 2.0

This is a positive move, but not a very relevant one. I’d be much more interested in this if they made it a 5/5 instead of a 4/4. So, while Emerald Dragon is clearly better than it was, it doesn’t really move the needle for me.

Split the Spoils

Split the Spoils
  • Change: Costs 1G (from 2G)

1.5 to 2.0

Making this cost two might push it into being slightly playable. It still has the huge problem that you can never get the card you absolutely need unless your opponent misreads the card. It also needs to have five permanent cards in your graveyard to maximize effectiveness. While the cost reduction does seem minor, it gives you an extra mana to play something the same turn you cast this.


Wrapping Up

Overall, I am a big fan of most of the changes even if I would have gone a bit further on some of them. I think the changes overall make the format slower which should give some of the more expensive cards some room to breathe. I think some of the grindy decks like Simic and Golgari are the big winners of these changes while white was the clear loser. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon with my next article.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

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j2sjosh
j2sjosh

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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