MTG Arena: State of the Game – Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate

Posted in Magic Digital on July 6, 2022

By Wizards of the Coast

Beyond the Horizon

By now you've seen the cards, learned about the mechanics, and even had a chance to see the card set in action during our early access event. And this Thursday, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate (expansion code: HBG) will be here to do what Alchemy does best: introduce new cards, unleash new mechanics, and shake things up with rebalanced versions of existing for a dynamic play experience you can only find on MTG Arena.

In addition to these guiding principles that have defined Alchemy since its inception, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate provided us with a unique design challenge: taking a set designed for a tabletop, multiplayer, eternal format and transforming it into a fun, fast, digital experience designed for one-on-one games in both Standard and Historic. This was an incredibly large undertaking, but we knew it'd be worth it because in addition to our love of Baldur's Gate and all things D&D, there's something else we (and our players) love: Historic Brawl.

Historic Brawl was a major driving force for wanting to keep as much of the "Commander" roots in the set as possible, and why we tried to include as many cards pulled from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate as possible. There are a few "release day rebalances" to a small number of cards to ensure they're better suited for one-on-on digital play, but these adjustments were relatively minor, and most of the cards from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate should be mostly the same.

Of course, this wouldn't be much of an Alchemy set if it didn't also include all-new cards designed specifically for digital play. These cards will be easily identifiable by the Alchemy "A" symbol on the bottom center of the card, like the holo-stamp that appears on tabletop cards, as well as their use of digital-only mechanics, including new mechanics that bring the flavor of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate to MTG Arena: boon, double team, and specialize.

While we've previously covered how these mechanics work, we did want to spend a little more time today talking about specialize. Specialize is our take on the background mechanic; so yes, you can use cards with specialize as your Commander in Brawl. If you pick a card with specialize as your commander, you must pick a color specialization, even if you choose to keep the card monocolored. You will be prompted via a color wheel in the deck builder to select their specialized color identity, which will then filter your collection to adhere to Brawl color identity rules. If you dismiss the prompt without picking a color specialization, the card will be removed from the Commander slot. If you're unsure of what each specialization option entails, you can right-click (or tap and hold) on any specialize card in your collection and select the "See Specialization options."

Last, but not least, to give Alchemy Horzions: Battle for Baldur's Gate the full set experience, we included cards from last year's Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms to round out our Draft and Sealed experiences.

It's a good thing this set includes a Bag of Holding, because it comes with a lot. Whether you're looking to start a Brawl, show off your Set Mastery, or Draft a d20 deck, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate has something for you—and to think, there's still more to come to keep things fun and exciting until the release of Dominaria United.

The Rising Tide of MTG Arena

When MTG Arena first came online, it supported only one main Constructed format: Standard. Fast forward a few years, and we still had only two: Standard and Historic. But in the past year, we've doubled the number of our main Constructed formats: Standard, Historic, Alchemy, and Explorer.

As Magic players ourselves, it feels great to expand our offerings, including unique Magic experiences that only exist on MTG Arena, and bring a different and valuable layer of depth to the game. Indeed, one of Magic's greatest strengths is that there are many ways to play with many kinds of players. Whether you are a veteran or fresh face, whether you started on tabletop or online, and whatever your favorite format, we are glad to have you as a part of Magic!

Of course, this growth also brings new needs! All our designated main formats are important, and we want to assure players there will be content coming to MTG Arena for each of them. Here are some of the things you'll be seeing later this year:

  • First and foremost, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate itself will be bringing new cards and rebalances (see below) to Alchemy and Historic later this week!
  • Later this summer, we will be releasing two new Anthologies:
    • Explorer Anthology 1 will contain 20 Explorer-legal cards, from iconic powerhouses to offbeat favorites.
    • Historic Anthology 6 will contain 20 cards legal only in Historic, bringing new possibilities to our broadest and most powerful format.
  • For Standard players who want to fortify their collections before rotation, we will be running several weeks of extra Premier Drafts for this past year's sets, starting with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt.
  • Dominaria United will bring new content to all our formats in the fall, followed by The Brothers' War toward the end of the year.

Each of those sets will continue to receive supplemental Alchemy card releases in the weeks following their release.

Although no single card set or anthology will ever be able to support every single mode in Magic, we want to ensure players have new and exciting content to enjoy in all our supported formats. Let us know what you're most looking forward to!

Rebalancing Act

With the release of Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate, we will also be enacting a new batch of card rebalances in Alchemy and Historic.

The first set of changes target some powerful cards from popular Historic archetypes. Izzet spell-based decks (usually featuring Arclight Phoenix) and sacrifice-based Food decks have both been pillars of the Historic metagame for a long time, often to the point of crowding out other options with their power and resilience. While we respect that stability can be a virtue in non-rotating formats, it can also lead to staleness, and Historic has greater flexibility than a tabletop-faithful format like Explorer.

To be clear, the goal of these changes is not to eliminate these archetypes altogether but to create space for new strategies to challenge them. We hope that Historic will end up with some new faces in the mix alongside existing ones and a broader range of options overall.

The second set of changes is giving a broad boost to a few archetypes that haven't fully flourished in Alchemy. Spell-based decks and +1/+1 counter decks haven't found great success there yet, but these changes will give them a chance at a revival in the final months before some of the key support and build-around cards rotate out.

We are also banning one card in Alchemy: Grinning Ignus. Grinning Ignus has recently surged as the centerpiece of a powerful combo deck. Although we considered rebalancing Ignus or a related card to remove the combo, our attempts would have either effectively removed it from the format entirely or turned it into a completely different card. In situations like this, a ban is still the most appropriate action.

Historic has much more robust tools to disrupt or outrace this combo, so it will remain playable in that format. We will continue to monitor its behavior and play rate and will take additional action if necessary.

For full details and more background behind these changes, check out Tuesday's Banned and Restricted article.

Renewal Revs Up

The release of Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate also beings our first steps towards Standard rotation this fall. If any of those words sound strange to you, you can check out our full guide to Renewal and rotation, but for those of you who just need a refresher, here's everything that's coming with this release:

  • Updated New Player Decks: These decks will feature only cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and forward, so they will remain legal in both Alchemy and Standard after rotation. Players who collected previous new player decks will receive any cards from the new decks that they haven't already collected as an automatic grant
  • New Jump In! Packets: Packets using themes from the rotating sets will be retired, while remaining packets will be revised to contain only cards that won't be rotating out. This is in addition to the usual addition of new packets that will feature content from Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate.
  • Updated Individual Card Rewards (ICRs): Players will now only receive ICRs from sets that will still be legal in Standard and Alchemy after rotation (i.e., Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward).
  • Quick Draft: For the time being, Quick Draft events will only be made up of sets from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward to ensure players will be playing and collecting cards that can be used in Alchemy or Standard post-rotation.

Now that rotation is only a few months away, we want to ensure that any rewards you earn will be yours to play with for many more months to come. Information on additional Renewal rewards will be available in August.

Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate

Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate arrives this Thursday, July 7. Stay tuned to our status page for more information on maintenance times and status, and check out this week's announcements blog for the latest information on upcoming events and Store offerings.

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