November 22, 2022

Magic the Gathering Arena’s alchemy format, explained

Magic the Gathering Arena’s the most recent format is also one of its most radically different. No longer tied to the rules of the printed board game, the Alchemy format will be an ever-evolving format, full of digital exclusives and reworked versions of existing problematic cards.

RELATED: Magic The Gathering Arena Formats Explained: What Are Standard, Historical, Limited, and Brawl?

Alchemy marks a turning point for Arena, becoming less of an adaptation of Magic and more of its own entity. Here’s everything you need to know about the Alchemy format.

What is the alchemy format of MTG Arena?

Ethereal Escort by Daarekn
Ethereal Escort by Daarekn

Alchemy is a new digital exclusive rotary format.

To break this down, a rotary format brings in cards and eventually leaves the format. Alchemy will use the same rotation as the standard; when a set is out of the standard, it will no longer be legal in alchemy. This means that the current legal sets in Standard and Alchemy are:

  • Zendikar on the rise
  • Kaldheim
  • Strixhaven: School of the Magi
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
  • Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
  • Innistrad: Crimson Wish

For the “digital exclusive” part, Alchemy will rely on the digital-only mechanisms introduced in Jumpstart: Historical Horizons, making it a central element of the format.

To achieve this, Alchemy will also be offering additional sets shortly after each standard release. These sets will be based on the standard set it is launched with, but will include digital-only mechanics like Conjure, Seek, and Perpetuity. The first Alchemy set in this style will be Alchemy: Innistrad. At 60 cards, it will be bigger than the usual 30-card Alchemy expansions. Alchemy sets will not only be legal in Alchemy. They will also be part of Historic, which will now serve as Alchemy’s non-rotating counterpart.


Alchemy Set Cards will be available in special Alchemy Boosters, available for purchase with Gold and Gems just like any other type of booster. Individual cards can also be crafted with jokers in the game.

Alchemy sets will alternate with the standard set they are attached to. For example, the upcoming Alchemy: Kamigawa set (as we assume it will be called) will switch to Alchemy at the same time as Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, and will drop when it leaves Standard and Alchemy in Q3 2023. However, even after that that, both will be legal in Historic.

Digitally rebalanced cards

Angel of Unity by Joshua Raphael
Angel of Unity by Joshua Raphael

Besides releasing new cards, Alchemy will do something Magic has never done before and rebalance existing cards. Cards that cause problems in Standard (like Alrund’s Epiphany) could be adjusted for Alchemy, making it a faster-evolving metagame than Standard and its reliance on printed cards is capable of to have.

For example, Esika’s Chariot was powerful in the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard metagame. Alchemy keeps the nerve going by reducing the number of cat tokens he makes from two to one. Its crew cost will also be reduced to two to reflect this. However, other cards can be upgraded, such as Cosmos Elixir which now grants one gaze as well as two life points if your life total is greater than your starting total.

Digitally rebalanced cards will only be used in Alchemy and History formats, and will never be applied to the normal Standard game. If you own a card, you will own all versions of it, including unadjusted printed versions and rebalanced digital versions.

One controversial aspect of digital rebalances is that you will not be refunded for any wilds you spent to create a rebalanced card. If you spend a wild card to craft a card for your History or Alchemy deck, then it’s nerfed to the point where it’s useless in your deck, you’re stuck with it.

Alchemy and history

Clone Maker by Lie Setiawan
Clone Maker by Lie Setiawan

As mentioned, Historic will now be heavily dependent on Alchemy. Any legal cards in Alchemy will also be legal in Historic, where they will not rotate. However, cards can still be rebalanced for Historic after their release from Alchemy, so the risk of a card becoming too dominant is slimmer than it was when Historic was based on Standard.

That being said, this decision is still controversial. Historic is Arena’s only non-rotating “eternal” format. Many people are now asking for a version of History without the digital exclusive features introduced in Alchemy and Jumpstart: Historic Horizons.

It is physically impossible for Alchemy to go paper because it depends on the Wizards’ ability to digitally update your cards.

The mechanics of alchemy just don’t work on paper. Conjure creates cards from nothing, while Perpetuity follows individual cards as they move between library, hand, graveyard, and exile; something, it is much more prone to errors if attempted on paper.

When is Alchemy launched?

Obsessive collector by Reiko Murakami
Obsessive collector by Reiko Murakami

Alchemy will launch exclusively in Magic the Gathering Arena on December 9. It will be free to queue and play, just like Standard, Historic, and Brawl.

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