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Fires of Invention Art by Stanton Feng

Review of the February 2022 Alchemy Rebalancing: What’s Good, What’s Bad, and Will Fires of Invention Ruin Historic?

Hello everyone! Well there was an expected announcement on Wednesday, what many didn’t expect is that it would bring a litany of changed to Alchemy as well ahead of the new Alchemy-only set coming to Arena later in March! It seems Wizards is looking to keep their promise by constantly changing cards to help sculpt a more diverse format and they certainly made a lot of changes this time around!

Before I get started, if you want to see the announcement in full, be sure to check out Paul’s article covering it from A-Z or the full list of rebalanced cards here. Even better, you can use the decklists from this article in the “Alchemy: Try the Latest Changes” event happening right now, as you have access to all the cards.

Enough stalling, let’s get into the card changes!


The Zombie Buffs

Cobbled Lancer

  • Change: Ability costs {1}{U} (from {3}{U})
  • Reason: “Cobbled Lancer’s biggest strength is in its mana efficiency, but decks using it for its efficiency were often uninterested in using the activated ability. We are aiming to play to the card’s strengths by making the activated ability cheaper.”

I never even thought to consider Cobbled Lancer a playable card so when I first saw this buff, I thought it was pretty meaningless. Upon further thought, I think this does hit the precipice of playability, but doesn’t get quite there. Obviously a one mana 3/3 is a powerful rate, but needing to exile a creature from the graveyard to cast it is such a huge downside that’s going to make this, at the earliest, a turn 3 play most games. Maybe between that and a much cheaper draw ability it could be worth it, but I think the Zombies deck isn’t that excited to splash Blue to begin with and this isn’t likely to change that.

Death-Priest of Myrkul

  • Change: Removed mana cost from the triggered ability (was {1}), power/toughness increased to 3/3 (from 2/2)
  • Reason: “The mana gate on the triggered ability made Death-Priest of Myrkul a weak turn-four play, as it could not immediately create a token when used in decks utilizing decayed. The power and toughness increase will also help insulate the Zombie deck from 2-damage board wipes, which are often used to beat creature-themed decks that rely on creatures with lower power/toughness.”

Now we’re talking! I always thought Death-Priest was close to good enough, but the really bad body and weak EOT trigger always kept it out of any competitive deck. With these changes, that may actually change. Having a Zombie lord that will produce (functional) 2/2s on the end step if the opponent is forced to trade? That’s pretty powerful. Although I would still consider this weaker than a traditional Zombie lord like Death Baron, this is likely better than something like Lord of the Accursed which the Zombies deck would 100% play if they had access to it. All that said, I believe this will make the cut in a Zombies deck in Alchemy.

Speaking of, here’s what I think that could potentially look like.

Mono Black Zombies
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $234.24
Alchemy
best of 1
11 mythic
15 rare
11 uncommon
23 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (2)
Instants (3)
3
Infernal Grasp
$4.47
Sorceries (2)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (22)
17
Swamp
$4.25
60 Cards
$271.38

Falcon Abomination

  • Change: Added flash
  • Reason: “Overcharged Amalgam was difficult to play in Zombie decks because so many of the Zombie-themed payoffs are best played on your turn. We are aiming to give another option to play alongside Overcharged Amalgam by introducing an instant-speed threat to deploy if Overcharged Amalgam doesn’t have good targets to counter.”

So with these balance changes, it’s clear that they’re trying to push an Exploit deck into Alchemy. A few of the Exploit cards got buffed, but alongside them, enablers got buffed too like Falcon Abomination. Like their explanation says, they’re looking for this to play better alongside Overcharged Amalgam and it may seem gimmicky, but it may be possible. Enough of the cards have gotten a strong enough change that it could spawn an archetype which would be super neat. 

Realistically, I don’t think it would be a Tier 1 option, but looking at the list, it may be better than it looks!

Dimir Exploit
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $85.67
Alchemy
best of 1
2 mythic
17 rare
21 uncommon
20 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (6)
3
Infernal Grasp
$4.47
Sorceries (2)
60 Cards
$124.67
Sideboard
1
Necrotic Fumes
$0.35
3 Cards
$1.39

Hobbling Zombie

  • Change: Costs {1}{B} (from {2}{B})
  • Reason: “Most decayed token generators require a specific condition, like Ghoulish Procession, or a significant mana investment, like Tainted Adversary. Reducing Hobbling Zombie’s casting cost will give another cost-effective and reliable source of decayed tokens alongside Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia.”

So the Hobbling Zombie change is an interesting one as it asks the question “Would Doomed Dissenter be playable if the upfront body was better, but the death trigger was marginally worse?” Considering you would probably only play this in decks that can make equally good use of a 2/2 as it would a 2/2 with Decay, we can just focus on the front half. A 2/2 Deathtouch is not a bad threat at 2 mana, especially with a death trigger, but it’s also not super exciting. That said, I do think that it could be good enough whether as a card in a Sacrifice archetype, Zombies, or the Exploit archetype Wizards seems to be pushing It probably won’t see widespread play, but I expect it to pop up here and there.

Narfi, Betrayer King

  • Change: Costs {2}{U}{B} (from {3}{U}{B})
  • Reason: “Narfi, Betrayer King’s reanimation ability is the strongest part of the card, but as a result, decks would often try to discard or mill Narfi and actively avoid casting him. Reducing the casting cost will make it less punishing to draw Narfi when he is unable to be milled or discarded and strengthen its role as an answer to board wipes for the Zombie deck.”

Narfi is a card I’ve been trying to make work in Control shells for quite awhile and lowering the CMV by one is going to be a huge help in accomplishing that. There is now consideration as well to include this in a Zombie’s shell, but as I said before, I don’t think Blue is worth the splash and with Death-Priest of Myrkul buffed it further reduces the necessity of Narfi. Nevertheless, Narfi is an interesting win condition for Control as it’ll just keep coming back unless exiled so it can pressure pretty effectively, defend well, and eventually grind the opponent out. I don’t think it’s an incredible win condition or will propel Dimir to Tier 1, but I think it is good enough to justify play.

With that, here’s how I would approach Dimir Control with ol Narfi.

Dimir Control
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $139.05
Alchemy
best of 1
2 mythic
23 rare
21 uncommon
14 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (4)
Instants (23)
1
Negate
$0.25
2
Flunk
$0.70
2
Siphon Insight
$0.70
2
Infernal Grasp
$2.98
4
Memory Deluge
$1.56
Sorceries (2)
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (2)
60 Cards
$171.84
3 Cards
$1.39

Sepulcher Ghoul

  • Change: Power/toughness increased to 2/2 (from 2/1)
  • Reason: “Sepulcher Ghoul was too harshly countered by expendable tokens and creatures such as Cursebound Witch and Eyetwitch. Giving it a second toughness will let it get into combat much more by profitably attacking through 1- and 3-power creatures.”

Alright let’s make this a quick one. Sepulcher Ghoul isn’t bad because it has 1 toughness, it’s bad because the sacrifice is limited to once a turn. Vampire Aristocrat was a playable card since you could sacrifice your whole board if you wanted to making it a real threat, and while a 4/4 is sizeable, it’s not what we’re looking for in a sacrifice engine.

Skull Skaab

  • Change: Removed nontoken restriction
  • Reason: “Decayed tokens are often the best creatures to exploit, but Skull Skaab would be too repetitive in Limited without the nontoken restriction as players would almost always exploit a Zombie token and replace it immediately. Since this change will not affect Limited, we are able to remove this restriction and provide another option to play with the decayed and exploit mechanics together.”

Initially I thought there was no way they could make enough good cards for Skull Skaab to see play, but it seems I was wrong! As I said with Falcon Abomination, I don’t necessarily think Exploit is going to be a high tier archetype, but with a lot of the Exploit cards being better and Skull Skaab heading them as the main value engine, the archetype may be possible.

Stitched Assistant

  • Change: Costs {1}{U} (from {2}{U}), now scry 2 (from scry 1), power/toughness decreased to 2/1 (from 3/2)
  • Reason: “At three mana, this card was overshadowed by Fell Stinger. Since drawing multiple Fell Stingers can lead to awkward draws, we chose to move it to two mana to be a more efficient but less powerful card-advantage option alongside Fell Stinger.”

Preordain on a 2 drop? Not amazing, but definitely not bad! You could just make Stitched Assistant sacrifice itself for a not so embarrassing Preordain, but obviously this works best when you have smaller creatures to pitch. With the other exploit cards, this may be able to find its niche, but if that strategy doesn’t turn out to be good enough, I very much doubt this could see play otherwise.

The Other Buffs

Alrund, God of the Cosmos // Hakka, Whispering Raven

  • Change: Alrund’s ability now reveals the top three cards (from two cards), Hakka’s power/toughness increased to 3/3 (from 2/3)
  • Reason: “Alrund, God of the Cosmos’s strength is in its flexibility of being a five-mana win condition that can fill gaps in the curve before then. We are buffing both sides to play into this flexibility by having it be more relevant in combat earlier in the game and a more consistent win condition later in the game.”

The bar for 5 drops in Standard is incredibly high, and it’s not going to dip by any means for Alchemy. The reason Alrund doesn’t really see play is that it doesn’t reach that power level bar. It’s not a planeswalker and it’s not Goldspan Dragon so it has to be pretty nuts for it to break in, especially in Blue which generally isn’t interested in 5 drops. All that said, making Hakka a 3/3 and Alrund digging a card deeper does get it closer to that really good threshold, but it still misses the mark. Ultimately, Blue wants threats that are harder to interact with, and Alrund getting bonked by a removal spell for no value just isn’t it.

Cosmos Charger

  • Change: Costs {2}{U} (from {3}{U}), foretell costs {U} (from {2}{U}), power/toughness decreased to 3/2 (from 3/3)
  • Reason: “While individual foretell cards have proven to be strong, building around the mechanic is too inefficient. Making Cosmos Charger cheaper will help subsidize the expensive mana requirements of the foretell mechanic, and a mana-efficient Cosmos Charger will have the potential of being a threat for disruptive aggro decks.”

I’m definitely in the minority here, but I always thought Cosmos Charger had a lot of potential and now it’s a MANA CHEAPER. Realistically, it was definitely weaker than I thought, but I still think it could have potential. Unfortunately it loses one of my favorite applications of being a good surprise blocker, but making all the other Foretell cards cheaper while being cheaper itself is a powerful ability. Turn 2 you can Foretell this, then turn 3 you can flip this over and put down two more cards! 

Talk about value! It may still not get there, but if it will, I would assume the deck would look something like this.

Azorius Foretell Control
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $93.76
Alchemy
best of 1
8 mythic
27 rare
13 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (4)
Instants (15)
3
Fateful Absence
$3.87
4
Saw It Coming
$1.40
Sorceries (15)
3
Sunset Revelry
$0.75
4
Doomskar
$9.16
3
Emeria’s Call
$17.97
Artifacts (4)
Lands (22)
3
Island
$0.75
5
Plains
$1.25
2
Field of Ruin
$0.50
4
Deserted Beach
$31.96
60 Cards
$131.4

Gitrog, Horror of Zhava

  • Change: Removed opponent’s option to sacrifice token creatures
  • Reason: “Gitrog, Horror of Zhava is effective at generating card advantage but is not much of a threat against the metagame’s more common token producers, such as Wedding Announcement and Ranger Class. We are aiming to make GItrog a more reliable win condition by increasing the opponent’s cost when denying it from combat.”

Gitrog Monster is such an interesting card as it’s similar to Desecration Demon, but gives up better evasion and scaling for the ability to generate small card advantage. That said, Desecration Demon was a cool card in a Standard format that is substantially weaker than what we’re working with today so that probably doesn’t bode well for our Froggy friend. Maybe this could be solid in some sort of Jund Midrange deck, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Tibalt, Wicked Tormentor

  • Change: Second ability now deals 4 damage in both instances (from 3 damage)
  • Reason: “Since Tibalt, Wicked Tormentor is not an aggressive card, opponents were too easily able to take the 3 damage from the second ability. We are aiming to make the second ability more balanced with the other two abilities by increasing the range of targets it can destroy, making it more punishing for the opponent to take the damage.”

I thought Tibalt was an ok card before, but pumping up the +1 damage to 4 is definitely interesting. Like before, Tibalt could be a decent board card for Control as it still seems weak against aggressive decks, but you could say that for a litany of cards in Alchemy. Unfortunately, Tibalt is likely to remain sidelined, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see it as a 1 of in some 75s.

Tireless Angler

  • Change: Now triggers when a Swamp enters the battlefield in addition to Islands
  • Reason: “We felt Tireless Angler triggering off Swamps would be a flavorful addition that would also allow the card to see play in more decks.”

Ah yes, it was not triggering off of Swamps that was the problem! Tireless Angler is a cool card, but with the body being weak, the ability restrictive, and the spell book bad, I don’t think adding Swamps to the equation is saving this.

Sinister Reflections

Change: Costs {1}{U} (from {U}{U})
Reason: “Previously, Sinister Reflection [sic] was effectively restricted to mono-blue creature decks. We are aiming to expand its applications by making it easier to include in multicolor creature decks, perhaps Zombies or Ninjas!”

Another simple case: the mana cost wasn’t what was stopping people from playing this card, it’s just incredibly situational and bad in the average game.

Vega, the Watcher

  • Change: Gains ward {2}
  • Reason: “Vega, the Watcher was too fragile to reliably build around mechanics like foretell and flashback. Giving Vega, the Watcher ward 2 will make it a safer turn-three play and better reward players who wait until a later turn to get immediate value with Vega.”

I like the spirit behind this change as Vega was definitely wildly unplayable due to how easy it was to kill, but even with this change, I can’t see this being good enough. Foretell is a relatively clunky mechanic to begin with and I don’t think a 3 mana 2/2 that gives you additional value when you cast a foretold spell is what the deck needs. The deck has plenty of power inherently, it just needs to survive long enough to cast it’s spells and Vega isn’t helping there. 

The Nerfs

Town-Razer Tyrant

  • Change: Ability deals damage in the end step (from upkeep)
  • Reason: “Town-Razer Tyrant was needlessly punishing creature decks that mostly operate at sorcery speed. Adjusting the timing of the trigger will give decks a full turn to use the land at no cost and more information before deciding whether to sacrifice their land.”

I think everyone could agree that Town-Razer Tyrant was too strong, and although this is an ok nerf, I still don’t love how the card is templated. Having a turn to use the mana is definitely a step in the right direction as having to decide whether to keep the land or not before seeing your draw step was a huge pain (as well as the awkwardness if you didn’t set a stop in time and wanted to use the land for mana before sacrificing) but those were mostly game experience feel bads rather than power concerns.

This is definitely a power nerf, but I feel its so marginal that it’ll still easily reign on top of Alchemy. If they really want to tamper the power level, they need to make it a Manabarbs ability rather than something that happens every turn. It accomplishes the same thing, but allows more counter play which can help balance this card out. Nevertheless, I do like the change, but I don’t believe it’ll be enough.

Fires of Invention (now UNBANNED in Historic)

  • Change: Costs {4}{R} (from {3}{R}), unbanned in Historic
  • Reason: “Fires of Invention is an exciting card to build around but was able to generate too much mana too early in the game. By delaying the card one turn, we are aiming to lower the ceiling and better align it with the deck-building cost of the card.”

Now I have to say I wasn’t expecting this change. I always thought Fires of Invention was just an uninteresting and overpowered design so I’ kind of surprised they decided to bring it back, but for what it’s worth, the power level is definitely tempered by being 5 mana. That said, is Fires of Invention going to take over Historic? Probably not, but it does seem very good still.

If a deck isn’t lightning quick or interactive, it could certainly be run over by Fires. However, now that it’s 5 mana instead of 4, I don’t think you can play a passive game plan like the old Jeskai list used to. You have to be even more committed to casting a Fires so you’re going to need acceleration.

Temur Fires
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $542.33
Historic
best of 1
10 mythic
32 rare
0 uncommon
18 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (18)
2
Brazen Borrower
$25.98
1
Elder Gargaroth
$17.99
Instants (4)
4
Growth Spiral
$3.96
Sorceries (7)
4
Explore
$1.00
3
Cultivate
$2.97
Enchantments (4)
Lands (27)
3
Forest
$0.75
3
Island
$0.75
1
Mountain
$0.25
3
Rootbound Crag
$11.97
2
Sulfur Falls
$8.98
4
Breeding Pool
$91.96
4
Ketria Triome
$79.96
3
Steam Vents
$59.97
4
Stomping Ground
$51.96
60 Cards
$387.18

What do you think of the changes? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!


Decklists in this Article

  • Bant Party – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

    Bant Party – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

  • Azorius Magecraft – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

    Azorius Magecraft – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

  • Golgari Elves – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

    Golgari Elves – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

  • Boros Equipment – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

    Boros Equipment – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

  • Boros Warriors – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

    Boros Warriors – Post Alchemy: Kamigawa Changes

  • Historic Temur Fires – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

    Historic Temur Fires – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

  • Alchemy Azorius Foretell Control – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

    Alchemy Azorius Foretell Control – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

  • Alchemy Dimir Control – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

    Alchemy Dimir Control – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

  • Alchemy Dimir Exploit – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

    Alchemy Dimir Exploit – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

  • Alchemy Mono Black Zombies – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

    Alchemy Mono Black Zombies – Post February 24th Alchemy Changes

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DoggertQBones
DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on
Twitch and Discord.

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