Hello, everyone. While normally I take a look at tournament data, this week didn’t have very many tournaments at all. Part of this is likely due to the Alchemy format and new Alchemy: Innistrad cards having released just a few days ago, and while I have some problems with the format, some of the cards are definitely powerful and interesting. More details can be found in the below article:
Since these new digital-only cards are going to appear both in Alchemy and in Historic, I figure I’d spend this week going over the cards that I think are going to be the most likely to see play. I don’t think this list changes much between the two formats as if something is strong enough for Historic, I think it should be more than strong enough for Alchemy.
Before we proceed, here are the links to the Alchemy format sections on MTG Meta, that includes data from the first tournament held on the weekend:
Overall white has plenty of cards to talk about. I think out of all the colours it has the most playable cards, though pretty much all of them support a creature focused strategy. One card I haven’t mentioned below is Captain Eberhart, as while it reads well, I don’t think it will actually have enough impact to warrant crafting it.
This card is a card that, while I don’t think is top tier, is something I expect to see some amount of for the near future. Party is a mechanic from Zendikar that didn’t get quite enough love, and has had some amount of presence in standard as a fringe deck. I think this card is a big step up for the deck, and people will want to try it (particularly since this is easily craftable at uncommon).
As well, Angel of Unity is itself a Cleric, which means that it can fit well into some of the Orzhov Cleric builds that have been floating around as well. Chances are this is an improvement to both of those deck, but not enough to make them the best choice.
I think white aggro decks will end up playing one or two Sigardian Evangel. Being a 3/1 is an aggressive stat-line, and it has some pretty significant upside attached to it. Later in the game, it’s as many 3/1s as you have mana to pay, as each one adds another to your hand (until end of turn). This means that it can be incredibly good at pushing past a board stall at the end of the game or rebuilding from a wrath.
On the note of board stalls, it’s second ability also makes it a fairly solid finisher. Whenever it enters the battlefield, you get to tap a permanent your opponent controls. This means that it can almost end up playing like Sleep later in the game, letting you swing in for lethal. As well, if you flash it in on your opponent’s turn (say with Collected Company), it can even tap down one of their lands. All in all, this card is strong and flexible, so I expect it to see some amount of play.
This is one of the best cards that the digital cards have given to white. This card is effectively a 3-mana wrath, but has some upsides and downsides attached. The upsides are that this hits artifacts alongside creatures, and exiles them instead of destroys them. That can be particularly important against sacrifice decks, as it means that a wrath doesn’t deal you an absurd amount of damage.
However, the downside is that all of the cards can be replayed from exile. However, they cost 2 more mana to cast, and enter tapped. So, this card can range from a wrath (if the opponent never has time to replay their cards), or an incredibly large tempo swing. I don’t see this being played outside of control decks, but in them it seems very good.
This card I’m not as sure about as the others on this list, but I think this card could be an incredibly good card against aggro or burn decks. It’s a 3/3 for only 3 mana, plus it has lifelink. As well, when it enters or attacks, it grants a card in your hand lifelink. This means that a deck that’s trying to get your life total to 0 as fast as possible is likely going to stumble against this card, especially if it stays around for a turn or more.
Inquisitor Captain holds the runner up position for “best digital white card”. While somewhat unassuming, this card is effectively half of Collected Company stapled to a 3/3 vigilant body. Not being at instant speed hurts somewhat, but at the same time, having this as a way to be able to generate card advantage in your aggressive white decks seems like something that’s worth it. I don’t think it is better than CoCo, but I think you’ll see a copy or two in many creature-heavy builds.
Blue gets a few powerful cards, but most of the cards that aren’t incredibly powerful seem incredibly niche (which is my polite way of saying they’re more for the memes), or too slow. Something like Rimewall Protector doesn’t really have a great home, while Tireless Angler and Kindred Denial simply don’t provide the impact needed when cast.
This card is unassuming, but I think it’s likely a card that’s incredibly underrated. Being able to reduce the cost of cards has always been something that ends up being stronger than people think (Phyrexian Mana being the quintessential example). Both Alchemy and Historic have some incredibly potent instants and sorceries, and reducing their cost by 2 is absolutely game changing. Being able to play cards like Magma Opus or Mizzix's Mastery two turns early, while putting out a card that blocks reasonably well, is an incredibly powerful line. It’s also a safer strategy than trying to dump spells into the graveyard to try and cast from there, which can be interacted with fairly easily.
I think this is powerful for a similar reason to what I explained above, as being able to reduce the cost of your cards while advancing your position is powerful. However, I don’t think this card is quite as good. Firstly, it requires a spell to counter. That means that you can’t always proactively cheapen your spells. Secondly, it only discounts the spells of the same type as the card countered. That means if you have to counter your opponent’s haymaker, and it doesn’t line up with what you have in hand, you’re simply playing Cancel. For those reasons I think the card isn’t amazing, but I can see it being utterly back-breaking in a draw-go control mirror.
This card is another that I think is likely good, but unsure of if it’ll be good enough to be a staple. At its floor, the card is Divination, which isn’t impressive. However, in a control deck – particularly in best-of-one – the upside of this card shines. While the card is a little convoluted, it boils down to this: After you draw, you can exile an instant or sorcery from your hand. If you do, remove all the copies of it from your hand and deck. Draw a new instant or sorcery for every copy exiled from your hand (which is a minimum 1, if you exiled a card).
So, to rephrase the card, again, this card is “Draw three cards, then remove the worst card for the matchup you have in your hand from your hand and deck”. Against control, you can get rid of removal spells which are dead. Against aggro, you can ditch counterspells which are going to be too slow.
I think Discover the Formula is the best card in blue. In fact, I have a hard time believing that blue is even allowed to get this card. This card is just three Manamorphoses in a trench coat – except you don’t lose that mana, ever. If you cast this with 3 spells in hand, you draw 3 spells, and discount your hand by a total of 6 mana – the cost of the card. So long as you can survive the loss of tempo from casting this card, it is effectively free.
As well, since the cost reduction is perpetual, that can be leveraged even further by cards like Lier, Disciple of the Drowned which let you cast spells from your graveyard. I fully expect to see control decks play 4 copies of these, as it guarantees you draw action, and it accelerates you as you cast more and more.
Most of black’s cards seem very lacklustre to me. While it probably has the most well known digital card (Patient Zero, which turns combat into something Hearthstone-esque), most of its cards simply don’t look like they can compete.
Weirdly enough, I think this unassuming uncommon is likely one of the best new cards in black. When it dies, you’re presented with 3 random cards, chosen from a set of 15, and you pick the one you’d like to place into your hand. It’s very reminiscent of Eyetwitch, which is a card that’s absolutely surpassed my expectations.
While there’s some randomness to this card, making it less reliable than lesson/learn, you’ll often be getting something good from it when it dies, and without having to give up a sideboard slot. Honestly, this is a card that I can see being rebalanced in the future, mainly since it simply seems like an upgrade to Thraben Inspector.
This is the other card in black that I see getting played. Blood Artist is a card that some versions of sacrifice (in Historic) played, and alongside cards like The Meathook Massacre and Deadly Dispute I see this being a driving force in Alchemy. It may be more tame in Historic, but keep in mind this effectively prints Blood Artist into Alchemy, as standard-like format.
Out of the colours, I think red’s cards have the flattest power-level, aside from a few stragglers. While the power level is flat, I also think it’s fairly high, meaning there’s plenty of cards which could see play. Similarly though, if cards from other colours outperform, I think red’s in a bad spot in the metagame.
This card seems like an upgrade to Robber of the Rich to me. While it doesn’t have haste or reach (not that reach often mattered), having first strike is a significant upgrade in my mind. It makes it so that Rahilda is a better blocker when it comes down, and can attack past more things. As well, she’s a werewolf, which means she flips into an even better version of the creature. Her back-side is effectively the same, except with double strike instead of first strike. Aside from effectively being a 4 power 2-drop at that point, it also means that two cards are being exiled, granting even more card advantage. While her ability triggers off any werewolves, I don’t think she needs to be in wolf or werewolf tribal to perform well.
While not the most exciting card, this is a fairly efficient removal spell. Dealing 5 damage at instant speed is powerful enough that it’s seen play in sideboards before (in the form of Soul Sear), and chances are its extra text is up-side. Notably, the card doesn’t just exile the thing being dealt damage, it gives all of your opponent’s creatures and planeswalker that exile clause, permanently.
This card I can see being very powerful, but only if a burn deck exists in the format. A 3/3 for three mana is a solid rate, and Lightning Bolt is a card so good it’s even banned from Historic, so I can see this being a good card. I wish I could say more about this card, but its plan is pretty simple: “Burn face”.
Out of all of the red cards printed, I think this is likely the best one. However, I think some of the other cards are pretty close in power level, and it could be that this is just a little too slow for the format, but it reads well to me. Being a 4/4 for four mana, which flies, is a good stat-line. But, the big thing about this card is its ETB. When it enters, it makes a land lose all of its abilities other than mana abilities. Then on your opponent’s upkeep, that land shocks them or you get a free Stone Rain. This card puts a vice around your opponent where they either sacrifice mana or life. I think that sounds like a solid plan, but some of the decks in the format might end up being unphased by that.
I think green’s digital cards are somewhat similar to red’s, in that the power level of the best cards is fairly flat. However, unlike red, green has fewer cards that I think are good enough to potentially see play. In fact, the power level of the best green cards might even be below that of red’s best cards, meaning green could be in an awkward spot overall in the meta.
I think this could potentially be green’s best card, mostly since this is a reasonably statted 1-drop. As well, it substantially buffs your next play. Granting +1/+1 is already reasonably good, but the creature gets vigilance and trample on top of it, making it good offensively and defensively. As well, Tenacious Pup isn’t dead in the late game either, as if you draw it late, you can hold onto it to make another one of your creatures a larger threat. The thought of curving this into Werewolf Pack Leader is a pretty terrifying start.
This card seems very much at home in a ramp deck. Rather than grabbing two lands like Cultivate, it puts a (random) basic land into play, and then draws a spell. In a ramp deck that wants to ramp early and make some larger plays later, this seems like a good deal. I think this card lives or dies on whether there’s a good ramp deck in the format, but at uncommon, I’m willing to give it a shot.
Lupine Harbingers is a card design I really like, but one that I’m not sure is going to play out as well as I hope. The card has some massive upside, in that it can come down much later in the game out of nowhere and finish off your opponent. However, that trade-off comes at the cost of taking turn 2 off, something I’m unsure green decks want to do. However, it doesn’t need to be foretold to be good, as a 4/4 with trample and haste does a fairly good Questing Beast impression.
Like the previous card, the design of this I find incredibly interesting, but I’m not sure that it works out well in the current metagame. A five mana 6/6 is large, and it finding you a land is a fairly reasonable thing when you can discard that land to conjure a five mana 5/5 into your hand. The big appeal of this card is that ability also works from the graveyard. So (generally), as long as this gets played during a game, you’ll be able to cash in your lands for 5/5s. While that’s incredibly powerful, I’m not sure vanilla 5/5s are necessarily going to close out the game.
There aren’t many colourless cards in the new digital cards, and there are even fewer that are good. I think out of all of them, these are the two that might see play, and if so, likely in Alchemy rather than Historic.
I don’t think there’s too much to say here. Some decks may really want this card, as it’s a colour fixing scryland that can untap if you were on the draw. There’s some decks that will likely want this, while others will steer well clear of it. In Historic, I don’t think you’ll need this, but in Alchemy it might be necessary if you;re trying to play any more than 2 colours.
Considering the success of The Celestus, I wonder if there’s hope for this card. While it’s more similar to Firemind Vessel than Hedron Archive, being able to loot for a good Mystical Archive spell such as Approach of the Second Sun and Time Warp when it comes into play seems like it could be fairly valuable. Even still, I think it’ll be a 1-of or 2-of in control decks, and won’t see any play elsewhere.
Top 5 Cards
Out of all of the cards I talked about above I think these are the 5 most impactful cards – the ones that are likely to see play in both Alchemy and Historic.
I think out of all the cards, this is likely the best. Giving two different axes to use to drain out your opponent is incredibly powerful. That’s even more true when ‘Blood’ is a mechanic which filters draws, while sacrifice is enabled by cards like Village Rites and Deadly Dispute. I expect to see this defining the Alchemy format, and possibly seeing some play in Historic.
If Sanguine Brushstroke is the card which defines creature decks, I think Discover the Formula is the card which will define the control decks. While three Manamorphose in a trench coat isn’t a particularly true thing to say, I do think it gets across just how powerful this can be. With enough time, the spell pays for itself and – especially in control mirrors – it means that you’re not having a bunch of dead draws.
Since a lot of the best decks are currently low-curve aggro decks (and sacrifice decks are likely going to be a part of the metagame), this card seems like it’s in a particularly good place right now. One of the issues the control decks have with aggro is buying enough time to establish themselves, and this card is incredibly efficient at doing that. While the cards exiled by it can be recast, they’re taxed, meaning the opponent has to take more time to rebuild. As well, if any of the exiled cards had haste, it effectively removes that from the card too, as it re-enters tapped.
I’m going to place my faith in this card that it’ll do enough work to be worth the spot here. A 4/4 flier ends games quickly (See Goldspan Dragon and Manaform Hellkite), and potentially Stone Raining your opponent feels pretty impactful. This card likely wants to be the top-end of an aggressive deck, but both white and green currently have strong decks that can likely lean into red. Will that be good enough? I’m unsure, but I suspect we’ll see it tried.
I think this card is going to go under the radar of most people in just how good this card is. A big part of the reason for that is that this card isn’t big or flashy like Magma Opus, but I think it will have a profound effect on the game whenever it’s played. I actually think it might be best compared to Growth Spiral. While it never felt like that card specifically put you behind, it gave your opponent just a little extra push – one more card, one more land – to make sure that they hit their stride. I think Geistchanneler is going to play out very similarly, though to a lesser extent.