August 12, 2022

The least played format of The Gathering Arena by a huge amount

Since launching for Magic: The Gathering Arena late last year, Alchemy has had a rough ride fraught with controversy. To add insult to injury, it also appears to be its least played format by quite a considerable margin.

Alchemy is Arena’s digital-exclusive rotating format, where cards and mechanics designed solely for digital play can be used. In addition to having access to every card in the more traditional standard format, it freely rebalances (or erratas) cards that become too problematic, and is bolstered by smaller, Alchemy-made versions between sets.

RELATED: Magic: Gathering Arena Formats Explained – What’s Standard, Historical, Alchemy, Explorer, Limited, and Brawl?

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Unfortunately, the latest statistics from untapped.gg (via reddit) paint a grim picture for Alchemy. It is currently the least played format in the game with an abysmal 42,000 players, behind Historic (another digital-centric format), which has 250,000. The only format designed for digital that even remotely comes close to the formats on table like Standard and Explorer is Historic Brawl, at 360,000 players.

Although Explorer is exclusively played in Arena, its tabletop counterpart being Pioneer, it does not use digital rebalancing or mechanics like search or conjure. Instead, it’s a “true-to-the-table” format that aims to replicate Pioneer as closely as possible. Since its launch in April, it has proven to be a huge success, attracting almost 500,000 players.

Despite all this, MTG Arena’s leader is still the format it was designed for: Standard. Between the best of three and the best of one, there were almost three million players. Standard is Magic’s world-first format, and it’s the format around which major releases of the year are crafted, such as Streets of New Capenna and Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.

The problems encountered by Alchemy are numerous. The first is the higher cost of entry than other formats: not only do you need to stay on top of Standard, but you also need to invest in builds built for Alchemy to stay competitive. You also don’t receive wildcard refunds when a card is rebalanced like you would if it was banned, meaning decks you’ve spent years crafting can suddenly become redundant without reward.

The other problem is that it’s just not Magic. People play Explorer and Standard because they closely mimic tabletop play – they’re there for when you want to play Magic in between hitting up your local store. Alchemy and Historic were supposed to serve digital first gamers who want a lot of games in a rapidly changing metagame, but clearly that’s not happening or the numbers would be higher.

While it’s still too early to describe Alchemy as a dismal failure, given that it’s only been available for a few months and formats rise and fall in popularity, it certainly doesn’t look good. It’s even more concerning when the format made to stifle criticism, Explorer, is doing so well in comparison.

With Alchemy Horizons: Battle For Baldur’s Gate coming and hoping to inject cards from the recent Commander Legends game into the format, we may see things change in the future.

NEXT: Exploring Is Exactly What MTG Arena Needed To Get Me Back Inside


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