The Top 3 Alchemy Decks to Play in the Arena Open

With the first Alchemy Arena Open just days away you’re probably wondering what deck you should play. Alchemy has proven to be a completely different format from its Standard counterpart, with the addition of new digital-only cards and card rebalances. If you’re thinking about spending your hard-earned gems in this weekend’s $2500 open, take a look at what I think are the top three choices to play!

Best of One > Best of Three

Before we dig into the different deck strategies of the format, if your primary goal is to win the Arena Open you should play the Best of One event option rather than the Best of Three option. While you may be a better player than your opponent on average overall it’s mathematically recommended to play Best of One if your plan is just to get to Day 2.

All it takes is one bad matchup to completely knock you out of your 5,000 gems in Best of Three, whereas in Best of One you have three losses to give. While games are arguably decided more often by dice rolls in Best of One, taking the entry fee into account it’s more profitable to play Best of One than Best of Three. 

Here are my Top 3 Decks that I’d play this weekend in the Arena Open (Bo1)

  1. Azorius Control

Azorius Control Arena Open 

Planeswalkers (4)
4
Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset
Spells (24)
2
Emeria's Call
2
Fateful Absence
2
Sunset Revelry
4
Divide by Zero
3
Divine Purge
1
Thirst for Discovery
2
Witness the Future
1
Behold the Multiverse
2
Memory Deluge
4
Doomskar
1
Discover the Formula
Artifacts (6)
2
Portable Hole
4
Key to the Archive
Lands (26)
4
Deserted Beach
2
Field of Ruin
2
Forsaken Crossroads
2
Hall of Storm Giants
4
Hengegate Pathway
6
Island
6
Plains
Cards (60)
Sideboard (7)
1
Environmental Sciences
1
Introduction to Prophecy
1
Reduce to Memory
2
Teachings of the Archaics
2
Mascot Exhibition

If you’ve been reading my articles you’ll know by now that I’m a complete Azorius Control fanatic. While I enjoy control decks in general I especially think Azorius Control is a perfect choice for this weekend’s Open. Here are the reasons why:

  • In Best of One you can build your Azorius Control deck to have more answers to fast creature draws, especially on the draw. With multiple copies of Doomskar and X you’ll be able to come back from your opponent’s fast starts. 
  • Key to the Archive gives you a lot of different answers for different scenarios. While at times you’ll have to rely on the luck of the draft trigger, Key gives you access to a wrath and versatile removal, Time Warp, and tutor/regrowth effects. While you don’t have a lot of spot removal, Key can give you a variety of options that your opponent is pressured to play around. I personally just love the interaction between Key and Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset, and you can easily out-mana your opponents with your Teferi + Key draws. 
  • Divide by Zero is both an important piece of interaction that also unlocks a key way to generate advantage in Best of One: your sideboard. With Divide you can infinitely bounce your Key to the Archives combined with Witness the Future and you’ll get access to a couple of niche removal spells with your seven sideboard Lessons.
  • Overall Azorius Control is a great choice for this weekend because it out-values most decks in the format. While it’s worst matchup is arguably Izzet, you’ll face more aggressive decks on average in Best of One which are great matchups for this deck. You can also configure your build to completely counteract the aggro decks. 
  1. Gruul Werewolves

Gruul Werewolves Arena Open  

Creatures (30)
4
Jaspera Sentinel
4
Tenacious Pup
2
Magda, Brazen Outlaw
2
Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat
4
Werewolf Pack Leader
4
Reckless Stormseeker
2
Tovolar, Dire Overlord
2
Halana and Alena, Partners
2
Lupine Harbingers
4
Town-razer Tyrant
Spells (6)
4
Shatterskull Smashing
2
Snakeskin Veil
Enchantments (3)
3
Ranger Class
Lands (21)
4
Cragcrown Pathway
6
Forest
2
Forsaken Crossroads
4
Lair of the Hydra
1
Mountain
4
Rockfall Vale
Cards (60)

While Gruul Werewolves isn’t usually my Alchemy weapon of choice, I think it’s extremely advantaged in Best of One. Gruul Werewolves is first and foremost an aggro deck that can quickly put opponents on the backfoot with new additions from Alchemy: Innistrad such as Ferocious Pup. Here’s why the deck is suited to dominate in this weekend’s open:

  • Ferocious Pup puts immediate pressure on your opponent to have an early answer for a 4/4 Werewolf Pack Leader or 3/3 first striking-Rahilda.
  • In addition to having large creatures the deck pushes through lots of incremental points of damage with cards like
  • While this deck can fall behind easily on the draw, especially in the mirror, it’s suited to take advantage of die rolls
  • You’re suited to break board stalls in mirrors, especially in this particular list. With very few of these decks playing interaction spells outside of Shatterskull Smashing, cards like Halana and Alena and Tovolar can help you make the most of a board stall or mana flood.
  • With four copies of Lair of the Hydra and Ranger Class you’ll be able to use your mana effectively even if you flood

The main reason why I wanted to include this deck in this article was the impressive win rates I’ve seen this deck have in Best of One. Take a look at Crokeyz’s Alchemy Naya Werewolves via Untapped.gg:

While Crokeyz has played only 22 games with the deck so far he has almost an 80% win rate on the play with about a 70% win rate on the draw. That’s an incredibly impressive win rate for any deck to have, but it shows how in Best of One you’re more likely to win with a hyper aggressive strategy. I haven’t played much with the Naya version of the deck, but Brutal Cathar and Inquisitor’s Captain are both strong inclusions. I’m less interested in the White removal spells but I could see them as nods to losing the die roll in the mirror, giving you an edge against traditional Gruul. With mana-fixers like Jaspera Sentinel and Magda, you have to rely less on your mana base to draw your White sources.

Overall, I think Gruul/Naya Werewolves is a fantastic pick for this weekend and especially good if you’re lucky at winning die rolls. All joking aside, this is a strategy that can quickly put pressure on an opponent and punish their slow draws. 

3. Mono-Black (Sanguine Brushstroke)

Mono Black Arena Open  

Planeswalkers (3)
3
Lolth, Spider Queen
Creatures (16)
4
Cursebound Witch
2
Eyetwitch
4
Shambling Ghast
2
Voldaren Bloodcaster
4
Fell Stinger
Spells (12)
2
Agadeem's Awakening
4
Deadly Dispute
3
Infernal Grasp
3
Blood on the Snow
Enchantments (7)
3
The Meathook Massacre
4
Sanguine Brushstroke
Lands (22)
2
Faceless Haven
20
Snow-Covered Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (7)
1
Confront the Past
1
Environmental Sciences
1
Necrotic Fumes
1
Pest Summoning
1
Introduction to Annihilation
2
Mascot Exhibition

Mono-Black is my final pick for the deck you should play this weekend in the Arena Open. While I’ve found myself consistently winning with the deck using Azorius Control, I will say that a lot of my games are super close. Aside from the Azorius matchup, there are a few key reasons why I like this strategy:

  • The deck focuses on chipping in for incremental damage. While your attacks hit less, you’ll pressure your opponent from multiple different sources like Sanguine Brushstroke, Blood Artist, and evasive creatures.
  • Mono-Black can go over the top of most creature decks. Blood on the Snow is one of my favorite cards in the current Standard and Alchemy format. While Blood on the Snow has proven to be weak versus Izzet Epiphany decks, it’s excellent at undoing a creature-heavy draw from your opponent.
  • The Meathook Massacre is another excellent wrath you get access to. It allows you to pick up life against aggro matchups and heavily pressure the midrange and control matchups. Sometimes the right play is to cast it for 0 against bigger decks.

Overall, I like this deck because it has game against both creature and control strategies. Your wraths are all live in whatever matchup you face. The deck also has some combo kills with Voldaren Bloodcaster and Sanguine Brushstroke. You get some use out of your sideboard with Eyetwitch, Necrotic Fumes being a premium removal spell that you’ll usually have a sac-outlet for. I also like that you can target your opponent with Fell Stinger’s etb trigger, but that’s a pretty rare way to enact a kill.

I do think the deck has its inherent weaknesses. If you lose the die roll to a deck like Gruul you’ll have to survive until you can cast a Meathook or Blood on the Snow just to undo their fast draw. At that point you’ll have to figure out how accrue resources before they can rebuild or kill you with Lair of the Hydra. I like that the deck can pressure Azorius Control from multiple angles but you’re still very susceptible to Divine Purge. Azorius can also go over the top with Key to the Archive finding Approach of the Second Sun. Once Azorius finds an Approach Mono Black is under serious pressure to enact a kill, which can be extremely hard to do if you don’t have a board pressence or an active Brushstroke.

I think Mono-Black is still a strong choice, however. The deck rewards play skill most of all and if you’re confident in your matchups you should have no problem getting to seven wins. I do think in Best of One you’ll see less midrange and control decks in favor of aggressive strategies, so if you’re built to defeat those decks you’ll be set on qualifying for day 2.

While Alchemy has become a bit of a controversial format for Magic, the format has proven to have a swath of different unique strategies that reward both player skill and individual card choices. If you’re planning to win the Arena Open but not sure what to play, any of these three strategies will be a solid choice. While my first choice is definitely Azorius Control, Gruul and Mono-Black are no slouches. Ultimately, it comes down to player preference and experience. Have fun, good luck, and I hope you score some cash at the end of Sunday.

@roman_fusco