Much to the chagrin of MTG players, 2022 was a year beset by controversy for the world’s oldest card game. Thanks to 30th Anniversary Edition, Unfinity, and Optimus Prime, we had no shortage of topics for our end-of-year list. Somewhat miraculously, however, when wrapping up the year’s controversies, somehow, even the 30th Anniversary Edition didn’t take the dubious crown. Instead, we gave the title of 2022’s most controversial card to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Admittedly, this might seem like a rather off choice, however, as one of the last cards to be released in the year Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx typified a significant problem. Throughout 2022, Wizards of the Coast simply released too many cards. Thanks to the breakneck release schedule, MTG players were almost constantly bombarded with spoilers, in a never-ending spoiler season. This led to immense confusion and frustration amongst fans who just wished Wizards would slow down. Thankfully, in 2023, while Wizards isn’t exactly slowing down, they may finally be fixing this increasingly prevalent issue.
All Hail Alchemy
While it only accounted for 419 of the 2022’s 5802 cards, Alchemy was nevertheless part of the problem in 2022. Not only did the burgeoning format frustrate players with its bizarre and digital-exclusive mechanics, but it also further crowded the year’s release calendar. Worse than just adding another five sets to 2022’s total. However, Alchemy sets each had their own spoiler season. Considering each MTG set has a spoiler season to build hype, this was nothing out of the ordinary. That being said, however, an entire week of spoilers for an Alchemy release was a touch excessive.
Unlike a premier set’s spoiler season, which practically mandates a week of spoilers thanks to its size, Alchemy sets are typically just 30 cards. Theoretically, this should make these supplemental sets easily digestible, however, the slow drip feed of spoilers persisted throughout 2022. Thankfully, in 2023, Wizards of the Coast is trying something a little bit different to break the mold. Following in the footsteps of Dominaria Remastered, Alchemy: Phyrexia’s spoiler season was over in the blink of an eye. In fact, MTG content creator Amazonian was given the honor of spoiling the entire set in a single day.
Throughout a video on the Magic: the Gathering Arena YouTube channel, Amazonian provided a comprehensive rundown of Alchemy: Phyrexia spoilers. More than just speeding through the set, however, Amazonian also provided a smattering of theory crafting to excite potential players. Admittedly, while this presentation did please some players across social media, Alchemy was still widely lambasted with heavy criticism. Amidst those complaints, however, players couldn’t deny this lightning-fast spoiler release was a significant improvement over previous methods.
“So the new MO is to just drop all the cards at the same time? I can get behind that.”
Just like Dominaria Remastered, Alchemy: Phyrexia’s expedient spoiler shotgun mitigates the strain on the already worryingly dense release schedule. Rather than crowding social media feeds for a week, the product is simply released, allowing players to determine what’s interesting. For fans of the Alchemy format, this comes at no loss, as all the information is still available as before. Remarkably, uninterested players also benefit from this approach, as they’re no longer subjected to the unavoidable spoilers they don’t enjoy. For better or worse, it’s possible this approach may temper the reach of Alchemy and similarly spoiled sets. If that’s the case, however, it’s a problem for Wizards to deal with. As for players, this bizarre spoiler season is a welcome release that stops MTG’s relentless releases from feeling so relentless.
While Alchemy: Phyrexia’s expedient spoiler season received praise from the MTG community, the set hasn’t escaped the mire of controversy. Unusually, however, this latest controversy stems from an unlikely place, as the new Alchemy cards are actually rather good. So much so, in fact, that several MTG players have been criticizing Alchemy for perfectly playable stealing cards. As we highlighted before, Phyrexian Harvester quickly drew the ire of the community for this very reason. Disrupting the potential four-mana Phyrexian supercycle, players were outraged this card wasn’t tweaked and kept for a premier set.
Remarkably, this wasn’t the only Alchemy: Phyrexia card that MTG’s paper players wanted a turn with. On Reddit, for instance, u/Yawgmothlives highlighted Vexyr, Ich-Tekik’s Heir as another frustratingly exclusive Alchemy card. Similarly, Darksteel Hydra was also lauded for its awesome ability, which could almost see paper play. So much of Alchemy: Phyrexia was appealing to paper players that it really peeved some users.
“Really jealous of some of these Alchemy cards. Would it be that hard to make some of these work in a similar way to Garth and release them in paper – that or throw them in the Commander precon/supplementary products and just have it fetch those cards from the deck?”
Currently, for better or worse, it’s unclear if Wizards will use Alchemy: Phyrexia’s unorthodox spoiler season tactic in the future. Considering it eases the congestion of MTG’s overwhelming release calendar, we’d certainly hope it makes another appearance. Thankfully, following statements from Mark Rosewater, it appears this could be the new normal, for Alchemy sets at least. When addressing MTG’s overwhelming release schedule recently, Rosewater noted that “maybe we have to change how we communicate new products.” To this end, Rosewater highlighted the need for “a lighter track for those that want a sense of what’s coming without the depth that we normally provide.” While it’s too early to say for certain, it’s possible Alchemy: Phyrexia could be the first sign of this change. If it is, then Magic’s future could mercifully be a lot easier to follow in the future.
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