Magic: The Gathering developer Wizards of the Coast has announced a new play format coming exclusively to MTG Arena on December 9. Called Alchemy, this new mode will regularly rebalance cards instead of outright banning them, as well as introduce brand new digital-only cards.
While Alchemy will use the same sets and rotation schedule as Standard, Wizards of the Coast is explicit about the fact that this is not intended to replace what it’s now calling “Printed” formats. Instead, it’s using Alchemy to create something new that is free to more fully embrace the digital nature of Arena in a way other digital card games like Hearthstone already do.
That means certain printed cards will have versions with rebalanced text or abilities only seen in Alchemy. For example, notably strong cards like Alrund’s Epiphany and Goldspan Dragon will receive nerfs, while potentially underplayed cards like Phylath, World Sculptor will be buffed (the new versions of all three can be seen in the gallery above). Wizards of the Coast says it plans to keep a close eye on Alchemy’s meta and make further adjustments roughly once a month in order to shake things up.
In addition to changing old cards, new Alchemy supplemental sets will be released through specific booster packs roughly 4-6 weeks after each premier set. The cards within them will feature digital-only mechanics similar to those first introduced in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons earlier this year, and will be tuned in direct response to how the metagame seems to be shaking out at the time.
The first of these supplemental sets will be in the world of the latest set, Innistrad: Crimson Vow, and introduce 63 brand new cards. You can see 10 of those new cards in the gallery above, including the return of the Conjure mechanic that can generate new cards and a zombie creature that Wizards of the Coast says was explicitly intended to help give zombie-themed decks a boost.
While paper play and the usual draft formats will continue as usual, Wizards of the Coast said the need for something like Alchemy arose from the fact that formats get “solved” significantly faster in a digital environment. Standard will continue to be available in Arena as usual, but those looking for a more frequently evolving metagame will now have Alchemy as an option as well.
Wizards of the Coast continuing to lean into Arena’s digital nature is just one more way that the identity of Magic: The Gathering is shifting in recent years. In October, IGN spoke to dozens of pro players and community members about how Magic’s changing identity is changing, as well as its licensed crossover sets with TV shows like Stranger Things or games like Fortnite and Street Fighter.