Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate, the Arena sister set for Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, is less than a month away on July 7, 2022. Apart from Tasha, the Witch Queen appearing on the front of the digital booster packaging, we really don’t have any idea what cards from the paper set will be translating over for digital play other than a select few previewed so far.
This set will introduce over 250 brand new cards to the Arena client, including some that I believe will really shake up Alchemy and Historic (and potentially even Explorer, assuming they decide to sneak in some cards for the format here). I’m going to run through my top ten cards that I think would be reasonable inclusions in the set to impact both formats. My mental criteria for this is cards that I think will impact either Alchemy or Historic, and essentially prove the set’s worth. I’m also pulling from both the base Commander Legends set and the Commander decks, since the latter have some more cards that would be big draws for players.
I’m not really going to put them in a numerical order, as they’re all hitting various decks and archetypes. I’m also not including the Planeswalkers and the card Baldur's Gate, as I think those are slam dunk inclusions that anyone can see coming a mile away. You can expect Elminster to make a splash in Alchemy Control decks, and the new Gates to potentially open up Historic Gates as a tier deck again, but these are shoe-ins. We’re focusing on cards that aren’t necessarily guaranteed to get in, but would be worthwhile additions to these formats.
Archivist of Oghma / Deep Gnome Terramancer
Both of these cards could easily appear in this set, though I think both would see diminished play on the client until the inevitable appearance of fetch lands in Historic. Fetches are the most powerful fixing lands ever printed and would make a huge impact on the format, and they’re among some of the most highly requested cards by players of Historic.
Having these two hate bears that punish your opponents for playing fetch lands would potentially give some Death & Taxes style of deck a chance to really compete against greedier mana base decks in that future Historic meta. You could consider having these in the set to be akin to future-proofing.
10. White Plume Adventurer
This is the best card with the new mechanic, Initiative. There are a few other Initiative cards that are decent, but this one is aggressively costed and also in the right color for venturing. Orzhov Venture and Mardu Venture were both tier 1 decks in Alchemy not long ago, and having a card this powerful to bolster the deck could see it’s rate of play increase drastically. Just being able to plow through dungeons at an increased pace with this card is crazy and the mana investment is easy enough where this could be a real contender in the current meta.
The Initiative also is worth potentially a lot more than other Dungeons, since after drawing you a land, the next modes for the Undercity dungeon are dropping two counters on a creature, and then hitting the opponent for five in the face. That means that, over the next two turns, this card alone can crash in for fifteen damage, which is a huge chunk of life. The fact that you also have other options on the dungeon track is just gravy at that point.
Initiative as a mechanic is a bit risky in a sense because of how powerful the “floors” of the Undercity are. The mechanic was balanced around multiplayer, and there’s an argument to be made that it’ll either be modified or replaced entirely for the Horizons set. Still, I think it’s worth considering these cards, and especially the white Adventurer, as likely inclusions. Look forward to venturing deeper into the dungeons soon.
9. Artificer Class
Mono Blue Affinity and Azorius Affinity are both decks that have been hovering near the top of the Historic meta for a few months now, and Artificer Class is a powerful tool that gives both versions of the deck a new angle of attack. It not only lets you “Affinity” harder, but it draws you towards your next artifact, and then it’s a win condition. This card does it all!
What’s more, the draw effect can also dig you to a specific artifact if you construct a non-Affinity deck that leverages this card, turning it into something of a Fabricate on an enchantment. If you told me someone finds a way to put it in some sort of cheat deck, I’d believe it easily. This is a card I don’t see a lot of people talking about, but it’s potential is extremely high.
It’s also worth noting that the Brothers’ War expansion is coming later this year, and will likely have some amount of artifact synergy focus given the theme, meaning these sorts of decks in Historic will get even more great tools soon enough.
8. Astral Dragon
Astral Dragon is a card that looks unassuming at a glance. 8 mana? 4/4 flyer? This card’s value is that it’s one of the better cheat targets for Historic. The floor value is always cheating out a 4/4 flyer and making two 3/3 flyers that, at the very least, are also mana dorks (if you have to target lands). That’s some pretty reasonable value to push out on turn 3 or 4.
A control deck can potentially come back from such a spicy turn with a wrath, but most other decks are going to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to find an answer to this much power with flying so early in the game. These sorts of decks are already seeing a lot of play in Explorer, and this card could give them exactly what they need to impact Historic.
On top of that, this set is also providing two additional cheat enablers, which I’ll discuss in a bit, making it even more likely that this style of deck will see even more play there.
Black-based midrange decks are really dominating every Arena format to some degree. Uchuulon‘s strength is that it’s a more resilient threat than any other 4 drop those decks have access to. In Alchemy, competing with
The 4 toughness also means The Meathook Massacre, one of the scourges of the format, will struggle to clean up just a little more. Having to wait an additional turn over getting rid of Citystalker could be the difference between victory and defeat.
6. Delayed Blast Fireball
One of the best instant-speed sweepers red has ever seen is sure to make an appearance! There’s not really a lot to say about this one: It’s a one-sided sweeper at a cheap price point that can also be foretold to hit bigger targets, and it also hits face to help more proactive red decks progress their overall game plan.
If this ends up in the set, you can bet you’ll see it a lot in Alchemy and probably Historic as well. We’ve seen similar cards, like Crush the Weak see some amount of play, so it shouldn’t be entirely unexpected to believe this will see even more. Izzet Dragons or Grixis Midrange could get a serious buff in Alchemy as a result, pushing them over rival decks like Esper in the near-future.
5. Monster Manual
Cheat decks are seemingly all the rage now, and Monster Manual is a card that could potentially open up a new axis for those decks to operate on. The unique ability for the card’s Adventure mode to fuel the artifact itself could be very relevant to making this work and being an artifact means some decks won’t be able to interact with it once it’s on the board, at least for game one. If you told me it’s just a hair too slow for Historic, I’d believe it, but I do think people will definitely try to leverage it in Alchemy while they can.
It IS worth pointing out that there is another card in the set that goes alongside this one: Altar of Bhaal. I assume if one is in, the other will be as well. That one is potentially a little weaker, doing a poor impression of Recurring Nightmare, but even just being a worse Recurring Nightmare may be enough. Astral Dragon, which I discussed earlier, is a real threat that can end games quickly, and cheating it out via any means likely means a victory often enough, so you can keep both in mind when thinking of building a deck for either format.
4. Baba Lysaga, Night Witch
Between the first of two cards aimed at bolstering Sacrifice decks, Baba Lysaga is the one I think is most likely to be tried out in Historic.
Jund Food has been a tier 1 deck for a long time, and this card gives it an additional tool for grinding out advantage and leveraging the resource generation the deck already has at it’s disposal. Sacrificing a Food token, a Cauldron Familiar, and a land in the late game to this card can help you pull ahead in a pinch, and most of those are things you’re looking to sacrifice anyway. If you have Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Mayhem Devil out when you do it, it’s all gravy. Drawing three cards is crazy powerful when it’s just a bonus of progressing your normal game plan.
3. Mahadi, Emporium Master
Mahadi, on the other hand, bolsters the deck in a different way.
While Baba Lysaga is an enabler for your shenanigans, Mahadi is a payoff and likely slots in easier into Oni-Cult Anvil decks. How much Treasure can you generate a turn with Anvil and Oven going each turn? Probably a heck of a lot, and there’s lots of ways to transform those into a win, be it with Mayhem Devil or even Herald of Anguish.
Mahadi’s biggest downside is that it costs three mana, but I don’t think that’s not enough to keep it out of the game.
2. Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter
Yet another Sacrifice card! Though this is very taxing on your mana, it comes with a significantly higher upside.
Jan Jansen is an extremely powerful enabler that basically fuels itself. Mardu Sacrifice decks, while not extremely popular, do exist in Historic and this card could be the biggest pull for the archetype to splash white. Maybe it and Mahadi can even work together in those decks? Not outside of the realm of possibility.
Another angle worth considering for this card is that it’s a value engine for Affinity-style decks. Sure, currently those decks are base blue, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll always remain so. Jan Jansen is an exciting card with a lot of different directions you can take it in.
1. Nalia de’Arnise
I’ve saved what I think could be the best for last. Nalia is the card Party decks in Alchemy likely have been clamoring for.
She’s a Future Sight on a decent body that’s also a lord for your Party. Not only that, but by granting deathtouch, she also makes it borderline impossible for your opponents to make reasonable blocks. Nalia spirals out of control very quickly if you have a full party early and she makes it progressively harder for an opposing The Meathook Massacre to be an effective out for your opponents.
Nalia is the card I’m most hopeful to see in the set, and the one that I think could make the biggest splash in Alchemy.
On The Horizon… Alchemy Horizons
Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate has a lot to prove. It’s the final set of the year before Alchemy as a format rotates and it’s the very first Alchemy set designed to be drafted.
Alchemy is arguably in a rough spot now in terms of player reception, so perhaps this new model which somewhat had an early debut with Alchemy: New Capenna draft, is what will save the format. Card acquisition has been a key problem for the format, and having it available as a regular draft format should ease some of those complaints and worries moving forward.
Alchemy’s prospects as a format, to me, are very exciting, and having this set release to impact it shows me that Wizards hasn’t given up on it yet. I’m hopeful that you’ll all give both Alchemy Horizons draft and also Alchemy the format a fresh chance once July rolls around.