Oh Alchemy, what are the players supposed to do with you.
Alchemy, as a format, was built to become a new format adjacent to Standard for times when Standard was too stale. This new format allowed players to experiment with different Standard cards without worrying about the current top-tier decks smashing any new brew. Wizards made sure that Alchemy would be a brand new experience by adding a sweeping set of nerfs aimed at the best decks in Standard.
At the same time of the ban announcements, Wizards noted that there would now be Alchemy-specific cards added to the card pool to create new decks and archetypes. The new digital-only cards came with the promise of a new concept called “rebalancing”, where Wizards would make adjustments to cards that would tune down cards without outright nerfing them.
Well, that hasn’t happened yet since the introduction of Alchemy. The new cards are fun, but now the meta is back to being stale – just like in Standard. Players can often queue up knowing they will run into two decks the majority of the time. Without any new Alchemy updates until after the Neon Dynasty Championship in March, players will need to settle into the meta as it stands today.
Tier 1: Decks That Define the Meta
- Boros Dragons
- Captain Clerics
- Brushstroke Sacrifice
If any player wants to queue up into Alchemy, they need to be prepared to face any one of these three decks. Boros Dragons and Captain Clerics in particular are the biggest problem-causers since the creation of Alchemy. Both decks contain several Alchemy cards that simply shove the archetype into almost unbeatable positions.
Some players will point at Town-Razer Tyrant as a card that pushed the Dragons list over the edge, but in reality it’s the lowly Fearsome Whelp that creates all sorts of issues. The ability to cheapen powerful dragons and accelerate its own gameplan makes Fearsome Whelp one of the best cards to enter Alchemy. Who doesn’t love a turn 3 Town-Razer Tyrant into a turn 4 Goldspan Dragon? Or better yet, players wait till turn 4 to play both cards on the same turn, after spending a turn to remove key threats on the other side of the board.
While dragons are taking to the skies, it’s the clerics that are flooding the board thanks to Inquisitor Captain. Shortly after the release of Alchemy: Innistrad, players realized that they could copy Inquisitor Captain with its own ability thanks to Glasspool Mimic. The Clerics pilot can untap on turn 4 and pass the turn with three or four more creatures with a combined mana value or 10 or more on the board. Why Wizards decided Inquisitor Captain needed to be a cleric is beyond this writer, but it is the perfect top-end threat for an already strong deck.
Last but certainly not least is the Sanguine Brushstroke deck. Of the three, this feels like the most “fair” deck of the bunch, but it is definitely one the decks that could emerge unscathed from any future rebalancing. Sanguine Brushstroke is a card that seems relatively tame, but ultimately becomes one of the scarier threats in Alchemy. Brushstroke realistically is two threats in one, as it creates a Blood Artist onto the battlefield to double up the drain effects. Paired with The Meathook Massacre, Cursebound Witch and Fell Stinger, this deck is a real threat to any slower opponent.
Tier 2: Decks That Are Solid Options Against the Meta
- RG Werewolves
- UW Control
- Mono White Aggro
- Mono Green Aggro
While there are four lists here, there is a pretty considerable gap between RG Werewolves and the rest of the pack. Werewolves became a much bigger threat thanks to a brand new one-drop named Tenacious Pup. This small pup gives the deck so much more firepower in terms of connecting for damage. Getting draw triggers with Tovolar, Dire Overlord is vital to this decks success, and Tenacious Pup gives other creatures the ability to get through blockers. If RG Werewolves is able to curve out perfectly, it’s threat density and board pressure becomes too much to handle.
UW Control is the main abuser of Key to the Archive, and it is a very brutal deck to face in a BO1 environment. The deck gains access to some of the most powerful cards in Arena thanks to Key to the Archive, which then gets to play them again thanks to Lier, Disciple of the Drowned. Divine Purge is the new go-to wrath spell, and it is an absolute blowout against small aggro decks. Of course the real haymaker in the deck is Discover the Formula, as it always finds nonland cards, ensuring the control player always has a play.
The other two aggro decks are extremely similar to their versions in Standard, but they just add a few of the Alchemy cards that are simply just “must adds”. Mono White gets to add Inquisitor Captain and Mono Green gets to add Tenacious Pup and Garruk, Wrath of the Wilds.
Tier 3: Decks That Can Compete Against the Meta
- Mono Red Dragons
The Mono Colored sister of Boros Dragons is still a fine deck to run on the ranked ladder. The problem is it just doesn’t have the same explosiveness as the top tier version. Mono Red Dragons feels like a slower, more grindy version of the deck that may not appeal to every player. Chandra, Dressed to Kill plays a key role in this deck as a way to dig deep through the deck and find more gas. The deck is a bit easier on the wildcards though, so players low of crafting materials could look into Mono Red as a good option to build into Boros Dragons later.
Tier 4: Decks That Are Harder to Find Success Against the Meta
- Everything Else
This is the boring section, because the truth can be boring at times. There isn’t much going on in terms of lower tier decks because the other Alchemy card just don’t pack the same punch. Are there some brews out there people are working on? Sure. But as it stands, nothing has really stuck. It is a young format still, and there are plenty of cards waiting to be broken. Brewers just haven’t gotten there yet.
Tier 5: Notable Rogue Decks
- Izzet Mill (Kinda)
Following up with its appearance in Standard, Izzet Mill has made its way to Alchemy. The deck wants to do the same thing as always: double up Tasha’s Hideous Laughter with Galvanic Iteration to mill the opponent’s deck in large chunks. In the move to Alchemy, it gains some extra card advantage in Unexpected Conversion as a way to ditch unnecessary cards for more mill options. The deck is fine, if not a bit hit or miss. If the deck isn’t lined up for an explosive turn 4/5, then it may just be too slow to snag a victory.
Featured image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast
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