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Metagame Mentor: The Arena Championship 1 Alchemy Metagame Breakdown

September 22, 2022
Frank Karsten

Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, the weekly column in which I highlight the decks to beat in Constructed on the path to the Pro Tour. Today, I'll take a brief look at Modern before moving on to my main topic: the Alchemy metagame breakdown for Arena Championship 1!

Last Weekend's Biggest Tabletop Events

Last weekend featured several high-profile tabletop events in the Modern format.

The finals of the Team $10K at the Card Monster Con in Lexington featured a familiar name and a familiar deck. Jesse Robkin, after crushing NRG events and writing an in-depth guide on her Jeskai Breach deck, once again took this hot new Modern archetype to the finals of a major tournament. In fact, both teams in the finals had a Jeskai Breach player.

As Robkin aptly wrote, "It's been a good month for Underworld Breach in Modern."

Over in Paris, the 497-player Grand Open Qualifier featured a wide variety of archetypes in the Top 8, as is typical for Modern. Ultimately, Daniele Frontuto took the trophy with Grixis Shadow. In the finals, he defeated Alejandro Dupuy de Lome's Living End deck, whose transformation into Rhinos post-board ingeniously dodged graveyard hate, yet left him without an answer to a pair of flying Dragon's Rage Channelers.

"I've been playing Death's Shadow for years", Fronuto said after his victory. "It's my pet deck; I love the deck. It feels great!"

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Next week, I'll be back with a more in-depth look at the Modern developments since the release of Dominaria United. So far, it appears that the most important additions are Rundvelt Hordemaster to Goblins and Leyline Binding to a variety of archetypes. Leyline Binding answers the Grinding Breach combo, is easily castable for a single white mana, and fits into Four-color Omnath, Indomitable Creativity, Rhinos, Domain Zoo. All of these archetype names hyperlink to a top-performing Modern decklist featuring Leyline Binding that earned a Regional Championship invitation last weekend.

The Arena Championship

This weekend, September 24–25, Arena Championship 1 will be held! It's the first edition of a thrice-yearly, 32-player event where competitors are facing off for $200,000 in cash prizes and Magic World Championship invitations.

Invited are the players who earned seven wins in a Qualifier Weekend Day Two from May, June, July, or August. To bring the number of competitors up to 32, additional invitations were given to players with the most total match wins across all these Qualifier Weekend Day Twos, care of the leaderboard.

Going forward, seven wins in Day Two of a Qualifier Weekend on MTG Arena will yield an invitation to an Arena Championship, a Pro Tour, and a corresponding Regional Championship. The next Qualifier Weekend is held October 15–16 in the Standard format, and there are three ways to earn a spot in a Qualifier Weekend:

  • Finish in the Top 250 of the Constructed or Limited ladder at the end of the preceding month.
  • Reach a sufficient number of wins in Day 2 of an Arena Open. The next one will held on October 1–2; the format is Dominaria United Sealed.
  • Reach the maximum number of wins in a Qualifier Play-In event. This is the most common way to earn a seat in a Qualifier Weekend. To celebrate the first Arena Championship, there's even a Bonus Play-In this weekend!

Arena Championship 1 will be streamed live beginning at 9 a.m. PT each day, September 24 and 25, at Day 1 leads off with Dominaria United Draft followed by three rounds of Alchemy Constructed. Day 2, which combines three more rounds of Swiss and the Top 8 playoff, is all Alchemy.

Alchemy Metagame Breakdown

The metagame breakdown of the 32 Alchemy decklists submitted to Arena Championship 1 is described in the table below. Hyperlinks take you to a representative decklist on MTG Melee, but these will only become public after Arena Championship 1 gets underway. (If you use them before, you'll see an error message.)

You can see decklists without their sideboards now, and the complete decklists will be published on the Arena Championship 1 event page after the event gets underway.

Archetype Number of players Percentage of field
Esper Midrange 8 25.0%
Domain Control 4 12.5%
Rakdos Sacrifice 4 12.5%
Esper Aggro 3 9.4%
Rakdos Midrange 2 6.3%
Jund Revels 2 6.3%
Mono-Black Midrange 2 6.3%
Izzet Control 1 3.1%
Orzhov Midrange 1 3.1%
Abzan Lifegain 1 3.1%
Mono-Red Aggro 1 3.1%
Selesnya Enchantments 1 3.1%
Esper Control 1 3.1%
Domain Midrange 1 3.1%

Forsaken Crossroads Raffine's Tower Diviner of Fates

The most-played cards overall, other than basic lands, are Forsaken Crossroads, Raffine's Tower, and Diviner of Fates. The lands are excellent fixing, and the 2/3 creature is a centerpiece in every Esper deck. Between its own connive ability; specialize creatures; Calim, Djinn Emperor; and Liliana of the Veil, Esper players are discarding cards frequently. This turns Diviner of Fates into a raw card advantage engine. Although there are many different ways to build Esper, ranging from aggro to midrange to control, Diviner of Fates is the defining three-drop in Alchemy right now.

Rebalanced cards are not a major factor in the metagame. From Standard-legal sets, the only rebalanced cards registered for this tournament are 17 copies of A-The Meathook Massacre and 1 copy of A-Hullbreaker Horror.

Cut Down 574587 574577

The most-played nonland cards from Dominaria United are Cut Down; Sheoldred, the Apocalypse; and Liliana of the Veil. So the main new additions to Alchemy are similar to Standard. Yet thanks to the power of Diviner of Fates, there are more Esper Midrange decks in Alchemy than Rakdos Midrange, Mono-Black Midrange, and Orzhov Midrange combined.

In addition, Leyline Binding, Drag to the Bottom, and Anointed Peacekeeper are seeing considerable play as well. This is partly due to their synergies with Alchemy-specific cards. To explain deck compositions in more detail, let me to briefly summarize and introduce all the archetypes one-by-one.

Esper Midrange (8 players): Esper Midrange uses Diviner of Fates to keep the card advantage train rolling. The most common ways to generate value by discarding are the activated abilities on Calim, Djinn Emperor; Lae'zel, Githyanki Warrior; and/or Viconia, Nightsinger's Disciple. In the meantime, you'll cast Cut Down or Void Rend to handle opposing threats. Combining efficient removal, powerful creatures, and the best ways to generate resource advantages, Esper Midrange is the prime midrange deck of the Alchemy format.

Domain Control (4 players): Domain Control uses various tri-lands to support Leyline Binding, Drag to the Bottom, Shadow Prophecy, and Sphinx of Clear Skies. Featuring spot removal, sweepers, card draw, and sturdy win conditions, it's truly a control deck. Standard control players may take these Alchemy lists as inspiration, but they'll miss out on one sweet Alchemy-specific combo: Fragment Reality on your own Leyline Binding. This can put Sphinx of Clear Skies onto the battlefield as early as turn three.

Rakdos Sacrifice (4 players): Rakdos Sacrifice uses Oni-Cult Anvil to turn the Blood tokens from Voldaren Epicure and Bloodtithe Harvester into a never-ending stream of Construct tokens and drains. Alchemy-specific tools include Sanguine Brushstroke and Deadly Dispute.

Esper Aggro (3 players): Esper Aggro also uses Diviner of Fates, but what sets it apart from Esper Midrange is the creature count in the main deck: at least 26 creatures, most of which are party spells. The high creature count empowers Klement, Novice Acolyte, while the party spells enable Angel of Unity. Thanks to disruptive party creatures like Anointed Peacekeeper and Sigardian Evangel, Esper Aggro is the best at combining speed and interaction.

Rakdos Midrange (2 players): Rakdos Midrange has the best threats and answers in its colors across the mana curve. With Bloodtithe Harvester on turn two, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker on turn three, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse on turn four, and Invoke Despair on turn five, it can look close to a Standard deck. The main additions from Alchemy sets are Citystalker Connoisseur and Molten Impact.

Jund Revels (2 players): Infinite loops with Birgi, God of Storytelling are gone. However, Racketeer Boss still allows you to ramp into heavy-hitters like Defiler of Vigor. Moreover, Cabaretti Revels will provide a lot of value, as this deck is filled to the brim with creatures. If you control Cabaretti Revels as you cast Defiler of Vigor, you might be lucky enough to seek Ulvenwald Oddity or Halana and Alena, Partners and dominate the battlefield.

Mono-Black Midrange (2 players): Mono-Black Midrange looks similar to Rakdos Midrange, except with the Alchemy-specific Shambling Ghast and Sanguine Brushstroke instead of Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Its mana base is cleaner and more consistent as a result.

Izzet Control (1 player): Izzet Control uses as many as 14 counterspells to say 'no' to whatever the opponent might attempt. After playing a bunch of these instants to buy time, you can win the game with a one-mana Tolarian Terror or with chained copies of Calim, Djinn Emperor.

Orzhov Midrange (1 player): Orzhov Midrange is capable of curving Evolved Sleeper into Tenacious Underdog, Wedding Announcement, The Wandering Emperor, and Invoke Despair. Requiring double white and quadruple black, the mana base is strained, but the spells are undeniably powerful.

Abzan Lifegain (1 player): Abzan Lifegain uses Lunarch Veteran and Prosperous Innkeeper as repetitive sources of lifegain to support Voice of the Blessed and Trelasarra, Moon Dancer. The black splash is for Rite of Oblivion.

Mono-Red Aggro (1 player): Mono-Red Aggro puts on a lot of pressure with early drops like Kumano Faces Kakkazan and can finish off the opponent with burn spells. The deck contains a lot of cards from Alchemy sets, such as Tiefling Outcasts; Arms Scavenger; Molten Impact; Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat; and Ambergris, Citadel Agent.

Selesnya Enchantments (1 player): Selesnya Enchantments is capable of massive turns fueled by Rite of Harmony. If you follow up the sorcery with Teachings of the Kirin or Wedding Announcement, you're guaranteed to draw at least two cards. Jukai Naturalist reduces the cost of your enchantments, while Kami of Transience and Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr will be growing along the way. This results in a sweet engine, and it's all based around Standard-legal cards.

Esper Control (1 player): Esper Control also has the omnipresent Diviner of Fates, but it runs few creatures and is focused more on the long game. For example, by untapping Key to the Archive with Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset. Although the deck contains a tiny domain package in the form of Leyline Binding and Drag to the Bottom, its spells are limited to the Esper shard.

Domain Midrange (1 player): Domain Midrange is what you get when you start with an Esper Midrange deck and add Leyline Binding, tri-lands, and Herd Migration. Since it contains Diviner of Fates but no Drag to the Bottom or Shadow Prophecy, it plays differently from Domain Control. It's exciting to see different competitive takes on the domain mechanic.

On the whole, the Alchemy metagame looks fun and diverse. It's based on Standard and black cards are popular, but all the new-to-digital cards provide additional depth. Don't miss the livestream of Arena Championship 1, which begins 9 a.m. PT each day, September 24 and 25, at! More details can be found in the viewers guide.

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