Hello everyone! Alchemy has been out for a bit over a month now and the community as a whole has run it through it’s paces. With that, the metagame is quickly becoming solidified, but the appeal of Alchemy is about to start.
Wizards slated Alchemy as a digital only format for two reasons: to branch into design space that doesn’t work in paper and to make frequent balance changes! The first tenant wasn’t the exciting part of Alchemy, but having quicker updates to a format by changing problematic cards is definitely a god send for when a format stalls out. With that, it’s no surprise that a few of the cards from Alchemy have strongly overshadowed the rest as that’s bound to happen, especially when experimenting with new designs.
Thankfully, after this weekend’s Arena Open, we can expect balance changes to these and for Alchemy to shake up, hopefully in a major way! Rather than talk about the cards that are too good and how they might change (plus I already more or less covered that which you can read below), I want to talk about the cards that are right on the cusp.
You see, there are a decent amount of cards that are legitimately great, but either them being poorly positioned or not obviously good has led them to see functionally no play. With that, I wanted to illuminate what those cards were, so depending on how the metagame was shaken up, they may quickly be introduced to the meta and we can be ahead of the curve. Let’s get into it.
HONORABLE MENTION: DEMILICH
Man oh man, this card is such a sad story. This card does A LOT, yet sees literally zero play. It’s a reasonably sized body, it rebuys spells, it can rebuy itself, this is the definition of a Mythic Rare. So what’s the problem? The mana cost is ridiculously prohibitive. You want to use this in a deck with a lot of cheap spells to make it more manageable, but you’ll still need a lot of Blue to make this at all tenable. Even if you do manage to cast it, if it just gets killed or countered you worked extremely hard for nothing.
So why is this an honorable mention? It still is a very strong card and could be potentially changed to make it tenable. They already buffed it once (by adding a 4th point of toughness which is simultaneously a really strong buff but also not at all the issue) so them working to make it playable is definitely not unbelievable. What could be done to make this good?
The lowest level of buff they could give is giving it Flying. It doesn’t solve the casting problem, but it makes this a substantially scarier threat that’s more worth building around. However, if they were serious about this card seeing play, they would change the mana cost.
I’m not sure if making it 1UUU would change it radically, but 2UU definitely could or better yet making it just UUU would be a world of difference. I have no idea if they actually would and in its current form it’s definitely too hard to play, but I would love to finally give Demilich the love it deserves!
#5 Slayer’s Bounty
Slayer’s Bounty’s Spellbook
- Bounty Agent
- Bound in Gold
- Bring to Trial
- Glass Casket
- Collar the Culprit
- Compulsory Rest
- Fairgrounds Warden
- Iron Verdict
- Luminous Bonds
- Raise the Alarm
- Seal Away
- Summary Judgment
It’s ok, you can read the card. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of you didn’t know this cards full text and I’m slating it as great? I don’t think this is an obviously powerful card nor is it a card that can work in a lot of places, but it’s also substantially better than it looks. Let’s look at the absolute floor of the card. It’s a one mana pseudo Peek that you can sacrifice for a pseudo Divination. Not bad, but definitely not good enough either.
If that’s all it did, the card would be awful, but it has a little innocuous line of text that I think makes this card much better than it may look: you get to draft a card out of the spellbook whenever you sacrifice it OR a Clue. So we can’t play this as a Divination, but we can turn every clue we play into a Divination! This is inherently exciting, but only really matters if the spellbook itself is also good. Thankfully, the majority of the cards in the spellbook are very reasonable and I would be happy to take them in a good deal of situations.
With that, if you are able to play a deck that produces Clue tokens (looking at you Antique Collector and Briarbridge Tracker) you can potentially get massive amounts of advantage with each Clue activation. This is slated at number 5 as you do need to jump through a few hoops, but if midrange ever becomes relevant in Alchemy, this could be a really nasty engine to deal with. To that end, it seems I’m not the only person to believe in the power of the Bounty!
#4 Expedition Supplier
I have to admit, I’m pretty biased towards Humans as that’s one of my favorite decks ever (Modern Humans to be precise), but I know a good tribal payoff when I see one! Getting a permanent equipment on entry and with every subsequent Human is a weird way to apply a buff, but it gets the job done all the same! The largest downside to this card is that it limits the trigger to once a turn, but Humans isn’t much of a swarm deck in Alchemy (discounting Adeline, Resplendent Cathar), but realistically they probably could nix that part of the trigger and it would still be fine.
Nevertheless, Supplier is this weird pseudo anthem that can allow you to move around the buffs if you have an excess of mana which is something no other lord can realistically do. It is a bit prohibitive as you need to play Humans to get it to work, but with how many good Humans there are in Alchemy, this isn’t that tall of an ask. The other aggro decks would need to take a hit for this to realistically see play, but if they do, I do think this is a relatively strong tribal payoff.
#3 Citystalker Connoisseur
Slayer’s Bounty required a lot of work to be good, but Citystalker Connoisseur doesn’t have that problem, it’s just a good card! It’s such a simple and strong design that it’s a shame it hasn’t already seen some play, but with some of the other 4 drop offerings in Alchemy (Key to the Archive, Town-razer Tyrant, Inquisitor Captain), I guess it’s not that surprising.
Unless the opponent only has lands, they’re going to be losing their best card when this resolves a good majority of the time. So what else do you get for 4 mana? Just a 3/3 Deathtoucher! 3/3 in stats is far from negligible, and it can’t even be brick walled by larger creatures! Funny enough, I didn’t even realize for awhile you get a Blood token as well for an extra bit of value! Realistically, this card is always going to be a 2 for 1 (plus however much the Blood matters) no matter the matchup which is not something a lot of cards can say. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, Citystalker is a good card that will eventually see play.
Like Slayer's Bounty, Tom also illustrated the power of the Connoisseur in his list!
#2 Ishkanah, Broodmother
Ishkanah, Broodmother’s Spellbook:
- Twin-Silk Spider
- Brood Weaver
- Glowstone Recluse
- Gnottvold Recluse
- Hatchery Spider
- Mammoth Spider
- Netcaster Spider
- Sentinel Spider
- Sporecap Spider
- Spidery Grasp
- Spider Spawning
- Prey Upon
Speaking of midrange cards, Ishkanah is a really interesting one as it seems so whatever on the surface, but plays out really well. A 4 mana 3/5 isn’t the most exciting card in the world, but the first advantage a lot of people discount is that this is a very good body. Most fliers in this format have 4 power so being able to stop them with just Ishkanah is already pretty valuable.
Secondly, for just two mana and two cards in the graveyard, you can draft your very own Limited chaff! Ok, these cards aren’t great, but it is free, low cost, and get buffed by Ishkanah which definitely should’nt be underestimated. Something like a Twin-Silk Spider becomes a bit scarier when it’s 3 mana for two 2/4s. You would never want to play a lot of copies of Ishkanah, but if the meta gets to slow down a bit I expect this to see play in a good amount of green strategies.
Like the previous three nominations, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s liking Ishkanah’s power level! Zan Syed used Ishkanah in an Abzan list to snag a number one spot at the beginning of January!
#1 Obsessive Collector
Any Thieving Magpie fans out there? No? What about the biggest, hardest to interact with Magpie you’ve ever seen? I really like Obsessive Collector, even if where you may want it is a bit limited. That said, it did commit the cardinal sin of being 4 mana which has led it to see zero play.
Why is this card so good? Well, it’s near impossible to kill at a premium, it kills quickly, it has evasion, and it draws a card on every hit. Sure you may have to play some higher end cards to ensure Collector always hits something, but if you have a bunch of cards in hand and then get to draw a bomb, is that a bad thing? Collector is an extremely threatening card all around and considering it only requires one Blue to cast, could be pretty easy to play in light Blue decks or even for a splash.
I think once the 4 drops are tampered down a bit, this could definitely see play. At worst, this would even be an interesting sideboard card for Control mirror. I know 4 mana is generally the break point as that’s when Key to the Archive comes down, but if this resolves and the other player doesn’t have removal, they are not going to last particularly long.
As just an idea of how to utilize this card, you’d probably want it in a higher mana value tempo shell like the one below!
Are there any cards you think I missed? Let me know in the comments!
Thank you for reading!