Alchemy: The format's potential and what went wrong
03/05/22 0 comments
Even though it is one of the main formats of the Neon Dynasty Championship, Alchemy has stagnated in popularity What are its problems, and what can be done to fix it?Edit Article
Pro Tour, and normally symbolizes a major milestone in both the competitive season and the newly released set as a whole, as the event used to be the time when pro players came up with new archetypes and strategies that managed to succeed at the tournament, and it was during the Pro Tour season that we've seen a number of decks emerge and become popular within players, especially in Standard.
Historicformats, both exclusive to the digital platform and with effects and cards that only exist there and which makes some difference in the competitive scenario, such as Town-Razer Tyrant and Key to the Archive, plus a multitude of other possibilities and sets with unique mechanics for the digital environment being released since JumpStart: Historic Horizons last year, making it the first professional championship of which formats can only be played through Magic Arena, symbolizing the well-known objective of promoting the platform to spectators and demonstrating, through the event's competitors, how creating an exclusively digital format can take the game to a new layer of interactions, mechanics and an environment with a greater diversity of strategies and with a bit of random factor as well. However, despite being the main format promoted by the next professional event in the game, and even receiving some support and attention from the company, with rebalancing and upgrades occurring with some frequency (and even with unbans in Historic, such as Teferi, Time Raveler and Fires of Invention), Alchemy, as a format, seems to have been born without much community interest in it, and there doesn't seem to be enough relevance for it in the competitive landscape to that most players are interested in building decks on it, nor that event organizers are really interested to host events on it, as the majority of the Magic Arena community still has a notorious preference for Standard. Whether Alchemy will still manage to prevail in its proposal as an exclusively digital format remains to be seen, and much of its future may even be defined by the public's receptivity to the Neon Dynasty Championship, which is why it becomes even more important: understand how we got here and what are the pros and cons inherent to the format and its relationship with the entire existing structure around Magic Arena. Recently, the Magic Arena grinder Jose Lopes, or Metallix87, made a thread on Twitter commenting on his opinion on why Alchemy seems to be failing disastrously, and he proposed that other users leave their comments and opinions about the problems regarding the format and what can be done to make it succeed. Today's article is a reflection on my thoughts regarding the format currently, and my proposal of what can be done to improve it and give due relevance to its existence in the competitive environment.
The attempt to enter the eSports world without a proper eSports structure
a lot of grinding, complete decks and compete through Magic Arena. What is lacking, however, is a better communication of how this competitive structure works, and why a player should focus on it. Organized Play is in a huge vacuum, and no one is quite sure what the means to compete in Magic Arena are because there is no unified voice, or an information center coming directly from the company responsible for the game, since absolutely everything, from vacancies for a big event to the distribution of information was sort of outsourced to the community, and although this methodology works and many players adapt to this decentralization, it creates an external image that the company is not too concerned with managing its own platform, which is not very attractive to a competitive player coming from another card game.
Nobody really asked for the format
Part of the community is extremely nostalgic and doesn't accept changes
any and every drastic changein the game always means the end of the world for a part of the community that, for some irony, decides to remain in this strange, or even abusive relationship of hating the game and continuing to play it, living eternally in this spiral between enjoying the games and feeling disgust for the decisions made, and that's not the nature of Magic players alone — any major game franchise like Dungeons & Dragons or Final Fantasy has its share of fans who believe that title would be better if it stuck to its roots rather than adapting to the concepts created or adapted for the current generation or to the winds of social and cultural change.
too commercialin recent years, and that this culture of always keeping up the player hype with previews of a new set coming out
thirteen daysafter the official release of the latest product, as they did last Thursday with Streets of New Capenna, is extremely detrimental to the community's good development with the product and creates severe problems for local retailers to actually sell them. After all, who can be interested in purchasing one of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty's two Commander Decks when the game's central source of information has already announced that there will have
five different decks in the next set coming out in two and a half months for that same buyer to choose? You can argue that Standard-oriented products are still coming out every three months, and that's true, but it's precisely because the product
is not coming out for two and a half monthsthat I believe the time managment could be better spent on optimizing the promotion of the newly released set, instead of having people go straight from the prerelease to hop all the way into the hype train for the next set.
Lack of planning when promoting Alchemy
Alchemy: Kamigawaset is coming out in March? If you're here, probably yes. But when will it come out? We don't know since this information is
not yet available, and it's likely that we'll have this update happening between the next WeeklyMTG or during Neon Dynasty Championship coverage which, for some reason, won't fully reflect how you'll be able to play the format if you are interested in it because there will be a new set that will come out this month, and that will probably change the competitive landscape in some way, or at least that's what is expected of a release with cards fully dedicated to the format. There are some significant flaws in the Wizards release schedule and the dates of their competitive events that make the experience the spectator watches at the big event not reflect the same experience they might have if they were interested in playing the game, and it's not the first time this crucial flaw has occurred in front of the release chain or other direct interventions. Another point that has shown to be a recurrence in the format is the timing of the rebalances and the lack of any warning of when they will occur, which differs a lot from what we usually see in other digital card games and that, despite opening up greater autonomy for that these changes occur as needed by the Metagame, also opens up a factor of unpredictability, where a player can easily fear building a certain deck due to the insecurity of not knowing how long it will be available without the introduction of a nerf that significantly affects its gameplay.
Arena's economy doesn't favor entering a format with rebalances
never use, creates a situation that largely discourages the diversity of options for a huge portion of players, especially those fearing a card being banned and invalidating all the resources you spent on building a deck, as happened several times in Standard 2020, where manabases were very heavy due to Shocklands and bans were frequent. And if Arena's economy is already naturally unfavorable, especially for bans, where at least there is a refund of banned cards, what can we expect from rebalances, which do not offer refunds since you can technically
continue playing with the card? Of course, it might be
asking too muchfor the platform to give us back the Wildcards invested in the game by this kind of direct intervention, as we will be able to continue using them in this same format, and I'm not so sure how or feasible would be removing these cards from the players' collection for them to decide whether they still want to use them or not (other than that it seems like a programming nightmare), but that's not the mindset that the average Magic player will see this situation with because the final feeling is that they will be harmed.
How to Fix Alchemy?
Better management and planning of Magic Arena as a competitor among Digital Card GamesIf Wizards of the Coast's intention with an exclusively digital format was to put Magic in the competition as a Card Games eSport, the company must learn how to improve the platform experience, and not just add more products and more cards with exclusive mechanics and believe that the community will buy the idea and turn the wheel by themselves, and there is a lot that the company can learn and absorb from its main competitors in the genre and, as a newly declared billionaire company, I don't think there is a lack of resources to try to apply changes for the digital platform that definitely contributed to Magic's significant increase in popularity. Another point to be addressed is that rebalancing shouldn't be done without prior notice or without a specific date for it, as this is counter-intuitive with what other games propose to do and creates a large space of insecurity for the current community.
Make Alchemy a more relevant format in Magic Arena.And when I mean relevant, it's giving people reasons to
want to play Alchemy, and that can be done by creating more format-focused events, whether it's Midweek Magic with prize pools that include booster packs or exclusive cards, or even with cash-prize events, such as Arena Open. The point here is that Wizards needs to give points of interest so that an average player has the least curiosity to know the format, and that event organizers want to promote it in independent tournaments, either through the acquisition of seats for the New Capenna Championship, or offering some advantage to those who host tournaments focused on Alchemy, among other options that, again, reward players for building decks and dedicating themselves to Alchemy.
Improve the distribution of digital-only cardsAlchemy sets are not available for draft, and their exclusive cards can only be acquired by purchasing Boosters. The inclusion of exclusive cards as event prize pools, or even in the Mastery Pass, would make more players consider building decks and experimenting with it.