MTG Arena Zone Premium
MTG Arena Zone Premium
Kessig Wolfrider Art by Bram Sels

Top 5 Alchemy Cards That Need a Nerf, 5 Cards That Need a Buff, and How I Would Change Them

Alchemy is the first format that cards can be changed, so why not talk about that? DoggertQBones has 10 cards he wants to see changed in Alchemy and how exactly he would do it!

Hello everyone! Alchemy is still the talk of the town and there are a lot of aspects to it left to explore. Personally, I’ve been having a good time with the format as it feels like there could be a million different viable options just waiting to be uncovered. Interestingly enough though, despite the communities love for ban talk, there’s been extremely little discussion on what seems overpowered in Alchemy thus far.

Generally this talk isn’t the most conducive, however we’re in a new age where we’re playing a format where cards can be changed at any point! What this means is that we can have a reasonable dialogue on what seems too strong and offer better solutions than axing it; better yet, we can talk about cards that are cool, but not quite there and how to improve them!

That leads us directly into the premise of this article: what cards seem too good in Alchemy right now, what cards seem a bit too weak, and how do we change them?


NERF: INQUISITOR CAPTAIN

To start off the list we have to go real controversial, I think Inquisitor Captain is a little too strong. I can hear the gasps from here, but hear me out! Inquisitor Captain being an ETB makes it easily abusable in general. In Alchemy you have the really gross combo of Captain and Glasspool Mimic to get huge board states out of nowhere, and more recently, you have Pyre of Heroes to tutor into it which is less egregious but still very powerful.

If we’re talking Historic, then things get wackier. You have access to both Ephemerate and Soulherder as well to push this card into further territories of obscene! Good luck ever beating that amount of value as a fair deck. Overall, I liked the idea of the card, but it definitely does too much in its current form.

This design fix is extremely easy: make the trigger on cast instead of an ETB. This stops it from being abusable with Glasspool Mimic, blink effects, and tutoring into it. It’ll still be an excellent card that’ll see play in a lot of strategies, but won’t be overbearing. Good concept, easy fix.


BUFF: GUTMORN, PACTBOUND SERVANT

I was excited for Gutmorn during spoiler season as it seemed like it could be a potential card to revive one of my favorite Standard 2022 archetypes: Monoblack Discard. When I first read this card I thought it was a 1/3 Flying Deathtouch that forced the opponent to discard a non-land and every non-land they discard was yours to play! Woah! That’s insane!

Upon closer inspection it’s safe to say I was pretty disappointed. Having the second clause be symmetrical is not great, but definitely not damning for the card. The initial discard being symmetrical though makes the card unplayable. I understand you’re playing it to yield dividends in the future, but if you’re playing it in a discard deck you may end up only having non land cards that force discards and you’re just giving your opponent value! For a 3 drop Mythic, that’s a pretty horrendous rate especially when you consider that you would only really play this in one deck.

My first thought to changing Gutmorn was to change it to how I originally read it where neither effect it has was symmetrical. That would definitely fix it not seeing play, but I’d think it would push it too far in the other direction as it’s a 3 drop that will functionally always be a 3 for 1. Furthermore, considering it’s a 1/3 Flying Deathtouch, this would be an absolute nightmare for the aggressive decks and I don’t generally like cards that are so polarizing against a particular strategy. If we make it a little weaker by keeping my design but you don’t get to ever play the card they initially discard while future discards would work, that would be better, but still an endemic 2 for 1 at least and also would be extremely clunky wording.

My best fix: keep the card the same beyond the second clause being symmetrical. It would definitely be strong enough to see play, but likely not overbearing. My concern with this design is that it may make it a bit too strong, but then it could always be changed again! Thus the appeal of alchemy.


NERF: FEARSOME WHELP

What a arc I went through with this card! First I thought the card wasn’t going to be strong enough to see play, but now I’m saying it needs to be nerfed! What can you do! Fearsome Whelp is one of the enablers of the new Dragon aggro deck, a deck I’ve been rocking a lot of on Bo1 ladder. Whelp is pretty insane as the deck desperately needed another mana dork, but instead of ramping it reduces each Dragons cost which is substantially more powerful! Furthermore, it triggers on the end step so the odds of it triggering is extremely high even if the opponent has removal in hand!

That said, as many wins as I’m willing to farm from this card, this design is flawed. Every mana dork I’ve ever played came with a small inherent risk: they can be killed and accrue no value. This is generally offset by them being really cheap so it’s rare you lose out on mana advantage, but there was a degree of risk there. With Whelp, that risk is nearly negated. Since it triggers on your end step, it doesn’t need to live a full turn cycle to do it’s thing which takes out a lot of the suspense of playing a mana dork.

Furthermore, considering it cost reduces all your dragons, this is like a mana dork that can net you anywhere from 1-3+ mana, and it doesn’t even need to survive a full turn! This creates extremely feel bad play patterns where people feel compelled to hold open mana to not get decimated by the Whelp without knowing if they have Whelp in hand or if they’re playing it at all! This obviously leads to players not holding up removal as that’ll just generally be a bad play and also further worsening sorcery speed removal which already struggles to contend with instant speed options.

Like Inquisitor Captain, we have another easy fix here. Instead of trigger on the end step, this should just trigger on the upkeep. This would still make the card unbelievably good in the Dragons deck, but doesn’t make it free. There’s no reason it should be leagues better than nearly every other mana dork in existence, even if it is a narrow one. The design is sweet, but the end step trigger was a miss.


BUFF: CONDUCTIVE CURRENT

I said it during spoiler season and I’ll say it again, this is a wacky card. Between the extremely restrictive mana cost and weird second line of text, it’s no surprise this card has yet to see play. Sure this is good against aggro, but what deck would want to play it? You could play it in Monored Dragons potentially as almost all your creatures dodge the 3 damage, but you’re already pretty good against the other creature decks. Considering that’s the only deck I could potentially see this in and it’s still not good enough, that doesn’t bode well for the playability for this card.

Funny enough, I’ve thought of two fixes for this card and both seem equally viable depending on what Wizards is looking to accomplish. If they just wanted Red to have a cheap wrath similar to Deafening Clarion, just make this 1RR. It’s still reasonably restrictive, but it’s at least playable in non Monored decks. However if they’re adamant about the restrictive casting cost, you have to bump that damage up to 4. Storm's Wrath was a Standard card not too long ago and for one more mana it dealt 4 to both creatures and planeswalkers!

I could even see this having the same effect with the second line of text, but that may end up being too good so keeping it to creatures would definitely be fine. Now a Monored Midrange deck could have a really strong tool to combat the aggro decks while not needing to rely on the Dragons package. Personally I think the second fix is more interesting than the first, but I think they’re both fine.


NERF: KEY TO THE ARCHIVE

Key to the Archive’s Spellbook

I’m not going to lie, I absolutely love this card. A better Firemind Vessel was already a pretty nifty design in a Standard that lacks good 4 drop ramp options, but getting a strong card too on top of it? Great! This easily could’ve been super overpowered, but Key forces you to discard a card as well so it’s a ramp spell that cashes in your worst card for a strong one. That is an absolutely fabulous design. So what’s my issue with key?

Ok, Approach was a cool card to try but I think is definitely too strong. Standard has a good amount of card drawing tools and being able to Key on 4, Approach on 5, then start digging towards it make turn 7-8 kills in Control not that uncommon which I don’t love. Furthermore a lot of decks just don’t have the tools to combat a win condition like that and reminds me of The Book of Exalted Deeds + Faceless Haven combo that was banned in Standard 2022 as Field of Ruin wasn’t around yet.

Fine, honest mistake. However, my issue mainly revolves around the inclusion of Time Warp. Watching your opponent take a bunch of extra turns is not particularly fun and there are even decks that play Galvanic Iteration with Key just in case they hit Time Warp! Too often Time Warp is the right pick as Alrund's Epiphany taught us extra turn spells are pretty broken.

Just replace those two cards with any other powerful spells and it would be a lot more bearable. If they need suggestions, I would say Magma Opus, Commence the Endgame, Expansion, and Escape to the Wilds could all be potential options that have a good power level. All powerful, but none as obnoxious as the first two in my opinion. If we’re trying to stick with the Mystical Archive theme (hence Key to the Archives so they probably are trying to hold to that), then Urza's Rage and Blue Sun's Zenith would probably be my picks.

Key is awesome and most of the spell book is sweet, but a little change would go a long way.


BUFF: TIRELESS ANGLER

Tireless Angler’s Spellbook

This card is so god damn cool and so bad in every way as this awesome design is just unplayable. Why does the body suck? Why is it only Landfall on Islands? Why is the spellbook so bad? For the last one, I understand that they limited it to sea creatures which I do like, but the other two metrics could easily be improved upon. I don’t even need much of an explanation for this card beyond that, I think nearly everyone would agree with me.

The solution? I think the best course of action is to remove the Island clause. This card is not strong enough to be dominant if it’s any land and if people try to build a deck to abuse getting Moat Piranhas and Archipelagore, then good for them! Making it super restrictive makes this design rot instead of flourish.


NERF: TOWN-RAZER TYRANT

The second best Alchemy card doesn’t escape my gaze either! Town-razer is an interesting card as pseudo land destruction wasn’t really a direction I imagined Wizards going, yet here we are. This card is obviously extremely powerful and if you land this on curve on the play or even ahead of curve, it’s pretty much a game over right there. That said, I think this suffers from two endemic issues: it’s a little too punishing on curve and the ability itself is both clunky and feels bad. The first is self-explanatory, but the second needs more context. I don’t mind interacting with lands, but the way it does is weird to me.

Stripping lands of extra abilities is weird, but I’m kind of cool with it as it does fit the Alpine Moon mold, just on a creature. The issue I more have is the upkeep trigger of sacrificing the land or taking two. Not only is the interface not ideal for this type of decision (I imagine a lot of people accidentally choosing the wrong mode), but it also creates a lot of feel bad moments as you may top deck a card and need the land, but don’t know in the moment of the decision. I like engaging decisions, but not without reasonable information.

My proposed fix is a lot more elegant, change it to a Manabarbs effect. You can even keep the 2 damage clause on it if Wizards deems the power level to be acceptable on Tyrant, but it creates substantially more interesting scenarios. Now the player gets to choose when to use their razed land and can keep taking the damage to maximize mana efficiency or play more patiently to conserve life. Deciding whether or not to sacrifice the land with imperfect information is not particularly interesting or fun, but doing this weird game play shift because your land hurts you pretty badly is a lot more intriguing and allows cooler interactions between the players.


BUFF: KESSIG WOLFRIDER

I never said I would touch on exclusively Alchemy cards! Kessig Wolfrider was a really promising one drop for Mono Red, but is plagued by it’s 1 power. 1 power one drops in Monored are really not what the doctor ordered and further perpetuates Green and White’s dominance in the aggro arena. The Menace is there to offset it a bit, but between the one power and the clunky activated ability, this card never got a fair chance. That said, I think Monored and other Red aggro decks are in need of enough help to justify buffing this.

There’s a few ways that you could change this to make it playable and not overbearing. The first and most obvious one is to remove Menace and make it a 2/1. This would fix the issue immediately and let it see play. This is a fine fix, but we could go even more interesting. Another reason Wolfrider doesn’t see play is the activated ability is just pretty weak. You could potentially keep the stats, but change the ability to be two mana, exile two cards, and make a 2/2 or 2/1 Wolf. This could be a little strong in decks that can quickly chain spells like Burn, but I still feel like that wouldn’t be egregious.


NERF: GRIZZLED HUNTMASTER

Alright I have to come clean about the final nerf, I don’t think this card has a power level problem. While making this article, I only found the first four to be too strong, but I really couldn’t come up with a good fifth option. I do think this card should be nerfed, but not because of the power level. What do I mean? Reading this card gives me serious Chains of Mephistopheles vibes. There is so much text and it’s so confusing for what is a pretty simple design. You can exile a card from your hand and more from your deck if you want, conjure as many sideboard creatures as cards exiled from hand. Still not super elegant text, but better.

What’s the nerf here? Removing the looking through deck clause. It is technically a nerf to a card that doesn’t need it, but it could make the card infinitely easier to read. When this enters the battlefield you may exile a creature card from your hand. If you do, conjure a creature card from outside the game and put it into your hand. Boom! Done. Makes perfect sense, is a cool card, technically a nerf, but barely impacts the power level.


BUFF: FIGHTER CLASS

For the final card of the list, we have Fighter Class. Taking inspiration from Wizards initial buffs, when looking through Standard I remembered Fighter Class being an extremely cool build around that simply wasn’t strong enough to compete with the Standard card pool. Tutoring anything for 2 mana is quite a strong ability, but that’s where it ends with this card unfortunately. The Level 2 is a cost reduction, but requires a lot of Equipment to be already out to not get outpaced over the mana disadvantage. Finally, the Level 3 isn’t even that powerful in a vacuum and it’s very weak at 5 mana.

I’m no design expert, but my personal motto for card design is to press the gas on unique designs. Equipment isn’t something that’s ever been a competitive archetype (or much of a competitive card type for that matter beyond Stoneforge Mystic shenanigans or the Sword cycle) so pushing an enabler seems fine to me. Keep the base at 2 mana, push Level 2 down to two mana, and push Level 3 down to 2-3 mana or change it overall. Realistically no matter how you change this card it seems insanely unlikely that it could ever be broken so amping it up with little risk seems like a win all around.

I know Alchemy didn’t necessarily get the warmest reception from the onset, but I really hope Wizards fully utilizes their ability to change cards for the format. There aren’t too many overpowered cards anymore so using this as an opportunity to push currently useless Rares and Mythics into playable/good territory would be an amazing change and would help ease the burden stretched wild cards. If Wizards takes a lot of opportunists to make cards better, I think Alchemy may be the best format yet.

Thank you for reading!

Enjoy our content? Wish to support our work? Join our Premium community, get access to exclusive content, remove all advertisements, and more!

MTG Arena Zone Premium
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.

Articles: 513

Leave a Reply