Hello everyone! For those who haven’t heard, yesterday’s ban announcement was HUGE. Wizards is attempting to pull Standard from the brink and bring fair cards back into the limelight which is a noble endeavor that I have high hopes of paying off. However, Standard isn’t even the format that was the most impacted! Alchemy got a huge swath of changes as well which is going to lead to a lot of metamorphosis in the format in the coming days. If you want to read about the ban announcement and/or how I believe it will impact Standard, you can check out the links below (I would recommend at least looking at the ban announcement as this article is going to assume that you’ve read the Alchemy changes.) If you want to quickly just see the Alchemy changes, you can click the third link
TRIBAL DECKS (MOSTLY) TAKE A HIT
There were a lot of changes made, but I would argue the most important one is the nerfing of Inquisitor Captain. Changing it from purely an ETB to an ETB only on cast was certainly an inevitability, but does hurt the ceiling on the card pretty harshly. Who’s the biggest loser from this change? Easily Esper Clerics. The deck was really good at getting Inquisitor Captain onto the field between drawing it naturally, tutoring into it with Pyre of Heroes, copying it with Glasspool Mimic, or even getting it back with Orah, Skyclave Hierophant if they played a 5 drop in their deck. Nevertheless, they readily abused Captain and now those days are over, and unfortunately Cleric’s current form is likely done as well. Without being able to Pyre for Inquisitor Captain, the deck’s current configuration no longer makes sense so they’ll be forced to adapt or die. For what it’s worth, just taking out Pyre and adding in a few more creatures or removal spells could be a very reasonable avenue to take so I very much doubt the archetype will die.
On the other hand, a smaller nerf is likely to eliminate an archetype completely. Dragons was already struggling to hang on due to a relatively inconsistent game plan, and with Fearsome Whelp no longer being pretty obscene, I can’t imagine the deck surviving it. Whelp pretty much guaranteeing a trigger was the whole appeal to the deck and while I 100% agree with the change, it’s likely too much for the archetype to bear.
However, not all tribal decks were equally impacted. Gruul Werewolves which was considered one of the best decks in Alchemy actually received a small buff if anything! Bloodrage Alpha which was a Werewolf tribal card received a small buff which can make the deck more viable, Town-Razer Tyrant only received a tiny nerf, and Esper Clerics took a big hit which was one of their hardest matchups. Even if they base list doesn’t change, this is pretty great news for Werewolves.
I’D VENTURE TO SAY THESE BUFFS WERE A MISS
Let me start off saying that I really like how Wizards is trying to make constructed cards that were a miss into viable options. The problem with the first round of buffs and now these is that I don’t think they realistically affect their playability. Venture was a cool idea, but in terms of competitive viability, it just isn’t strong enough to compete with strong cards on rate. Why would you ever play cards that are medium that can be medium plus when you jump through hoops when you can just play great cards to begin with? I tried to make Venture work when it first came out and I can safely say the mechanic is just really weak in Constructed. Maybe I’m too cynical as the deck at least has Cloister Gargoyle and Triumphant Adventurer at 2 with Acererak the Archlich and Nadaar, Selfless Paladin at 3, but compare that to Werewolves or Clerics 2s and 3s and you’ll see a stark contrast. I’d say save yourself the effort and go with the classically stronger options.
MONOCOLORED IS COMING BACK
It’s funny that between Standard and Alchemy this position is pretty reversed. The changes to Standard are taking monocolored aggro down a peg while the Alchemy changes make monocolored aggro better. Funny how that works. Nevertheless, multicolor aggro decks got slightly worse and Town-razer Tyrant no longer can target basic lands which will mostly be innocuous, but both in conjunction with other factors could be enough to bring these decks back to the limelight. What other factors?
For starters, before there was no reason to play Inquisitor Captain in a non-Clerics deck as it was just the best at abusing it. With the change, something like Monowhite has a much greater chance of seeing play as a Inquisitor Captain deck.
Monored Aggro was a deck that was on the precipice before, but with Esper Clerics getting worse (which was one of their hardest matchups), there’s a good chance we’ll see an uptick there as well.
To round us out, Monogreen was just a middling option before as it tends to have the middle ground between being solid against slower decks and strong against aggro decks. The issue was, like the other decks, Esper Clerics completely invalidating this strategy. If fairer aggro decks start becoming the norm, Monogreen could carve it’s niche once again. I will say with Monogreen specifically, it may still struggle if Monowhite becomes popular or Gruul turns out to be stronger, but it at least has a chance.
THE RISE OF MIDRANGE
Similar to Standard, Midrange was struggling a bit under the weight of polarized archetypes. With aggro looking to grind you to dust super quickly and the Blue decks going way over you,playing midrange certainly wasn’t easy. Unlike Standard though, midrange was faring far better in Alchemy.
For example, the Black midrange decks in Standard were extremely reliant on matching up against the creature decks, but that wasn’t as much an issue in Alchemy. Sure, Orzhov still wanted to see creature decks more so than Blue, but they weren’t a complete dog in the matchup either.
For another example, Rakdos Midrange has been quite the upswing already and these changes can only help it further. With both faster and slower decks getting nerfec, going right down the middle may even be the premiere option moving forward in Alchemy.
Beyond these two decks, with Blue decks getting hit pretty hard and Inquisitor Captain no longer being super busted, other midrange options have the chance to come back like Omnath, Locus of Creation, Wrenn and Seven strategies, and really anything that can survive early and go late.
BLUE IS WAY DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
Out of every color in this announcement, I would argue Blue was hit the hardest by far. Divide by Zero’s nerf was minor, but will feel bad when you won’t be able to learn. However, the nerfs to
For Hullbreaker Horror, it may seem weird to say that’s a huge hit as losing the uncounterable clause only matters in the mirror, but that’s likely to have a cascading effect. Hullbreaker Horror was one of the most important cards in the mirrors and without that inevitability, Blue mirrors can be absolutely brutal. They could make the matches play out significantly slower as it’s harder to force through your win condition making the deck less viable in tournament play, slower for ladder grinding, and just more frustrating to play in general.
All that said, Blue is still going to be viable and still have reasonable diversity in approach.
Key to the Archive was surprisingly untouched so going for a classic Teferi/Key Azorius deck is still going to be more than reasonable.
If you want to play Control with a bit more power, Izzet is still going to be a strong option with a lot of card draw and Galvanic Iteration copying back breaking spells.
Finally, if you want to target creature decks and control decks alike, this Esper deck should make that a real possibility.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the changes overall. I like seeing that aggro has a chance to be more diverse and midrange having a higher chance of flourishing. Blue was hit hard, but considering you still have plenty of viable ways to go about building it, saying it’s dead would be a huge overreaction. Overall, I think these changes will have a very positive impact on metagame diversity in the short term and the only thing that remains to be seen is if the decks that were already vying for the top spot and went untouched are going to constrict the playable options. That said, I have quite high hopes for both the immediate and distant future of Alchemy with these changes.
Thank you for reading!