When Magic the Gathering revealed a new extra turn spell in the Innistrad: Crimson Vow set with Alchemist’s Gambit, players collectively groaned. After the fiasco that was Nexus of Fate and the misery that Alrund’s Epiphany created in late 2021 Standard, Magic players are getting somewhat allergic to extra turn spells. Nexus of Fate literally shuffled itself back into the deck, while Alrund’s Epiphany and its ability to be Foretold puts it out of the reach of discard spells. The Epiphany also creates Bird tokens, which sometimes can do a huge amount of damage all by themselves.
Understandably, extra turn spells have a wide degree of variance, thanks to the fact you have to be able to take advantage of the additional turns. Even the best extra turn spell of all time, Time Walk, and its ability to take a turn for just two mana is only good if you can make good of that bonus turn. Many extra turn spells either cost enough mana to be hard to play competitively or have significant draw backs. Fortunately for those afraid that Alchemist’s Gambit is going to be the next Alrund’s Epiphany, there are a number of reasons not to be worried.
Yes, this three-mana Red extra turn spell is pretty cheap. It also makes it so damage can’t be prevented during that turn. However, at the end step of that extra turn, you lose the game. There is a way around this, though. Several cards in the Modern format, such as Angel’s Grace, Platinum Angel and Gideon of the Trials, can actually prevent you from losing. Exquisite Archangel can also prevent you from losing, too, although a seven-mana Angel is unlikely to see play in Modern. Red & White extra turn decks have popped up in the past featuring Chance for Glory, a card that’s pretty much the same as Alchemist’s Gambit. There’s also Final Fortune in Legacy, which is even just two Red mana to cast, and can have its downside circumvented in much the same way.
The good news is that Chance for Glory decks, while a funny and potential winning strategy, aren’t very competitive. While many cards exist to make them work, you then still have to win the game. Then again, Saffron Olive from MTG Goldfish played a Glorious Boros Modern deck back in October 2018, relying heavily on Gideon planeswalkers and Platinum Angel to both keep you from losing and your opponents from winning. Chance of Glory is excellent in that your creatures can become indestructible, and the deck plays another similar card in Glorious End, which ends your opponent’s turn at the cost of you losing the game at the beginning of your next end step. I’m not sure if including Alchemist’s Gambit actually makes this particular strategy better, especially as in the five video matches, Saffron Olive won four of them.
However, this Against the Odds deck was played in October 2018, a full three years before the release of Innistrad: Crimson Vow. The Modern format has changed immensely since then. Neither Modern Horizons set had yet been released. That said, Glorious Boros was a realistically competitive deck at the time. The question is how you include Alchemist’s Gambit in the list, and whether it actually makes the deck better, which it certain could given that the deck has plenty to do on bonus turns with finding its Platinum Angels or casting and ticking up Gideon planeswalkers. It’s only a matter of time before Saffron Olive revisits that deck considering Alchemist’s Gambit, of course.
Chance for Glory is actually a popular card in Commander, too, and as the cards we want to keep ourselves alive are in White, Red and White Commander decks are the way to go for Alchemist’s Gambit. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, Aurelia, the Warleader, General Ferrous Rokiric, and Iroas, God of Victory already play Chance for Glory, so it seems quite likely that Alchemist’s Gambit fits into those extremely aggressive go-wide strategies, where one extra turn could win the entire game.
The good news is that Alchemist’s Gambit is unlikely to break its Standard environment in the way we’ve seen Nexus of Fate do, nor will it become a major bother as Alrund’s Epiphany turned out to be. Yes, it can be a straight extra turn spell if its Cleave cost is paid instead, but seven mana (4 generic, 2 Blue, 1 Red) isn’t all that cheap and it ends up exiled as soon as you cast it. Other extra turn spells that cost seven or more mana never saw much in the way of Standard play, at least in anything competitive. So, in Standard, it doesn’t seem that it will be much of a bother.
Then again, Innistrad: Crimson Vow does offer a sort of answer for Alchemist’s Gambit’s drawback: an Exploit creature called Overcharged Amalgam. It’s a four-mana Blue creature with Flash and Flying, meaning you can play it at instant speed. When you choose to use its Exploit ability, you have to sacrifice a creature, but it can also sacrifice itself when it enters the battlefield. The Exploit ability is very good on the Amalgam: it allows you to counter a target spell, activated ability, or triggered ability.
That means you can play Amalgam in response to the triggered ability of Alchemist’s Gambit losing the game. Having to pay four mana means you may not be able to do much with your extra turn, although as long as you have the chance to Foretell a card – like Alrund’s Epiphany – that extra turn may be rather valuable, especially for a total investment of the same seven mana. It seems passable to keep a Red/Blue/X extra turns deck chugging along, but it doesn’t seem all that efficient to me.
But, outside of Standard, there are certainly applications for it, and plenty of ways to overcome its major drawback. Also, because Glorious Boros proved it was a potentially high-variance deck that can get extremely lucky, there is some reason to fear that Alchemist’s Gambit is a card that Wizards of the Coast is begging to be broken. Only time will tell, but this Gambit will have to prove itself on the field of battle.
Shortly before the release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Alchemist’s Gambit did appear in some Standard deck lists. Most notably, the extra turn spell appeared in Mono-Red Control decks with two copies in the deck’s main 60 cards. It relies on the Treasure tokens from Goldspan Dragon to pay its Cleave cost, although the deck is aggressive enough to only need that one additional turn to finish off the opponent. The best deck in that format, Izzet Dragons, seemed to be the obvious place for Gambit to appear, but only an odd list would work in a copy or two, and it mostly went unused in that archetype. So, while Alchemist’s Gambit certainly has proved to be a useful card, its drawback has certainly held it back thus far, not at all breaking into Pioneer or Modern going into February 2022.
What do you think of Alchemist’s Gambit? Is it going to enable Chance for Glory to become its partner in crime and build a scary extra turns deck in Modern or even Pioneer? Time will, quite literally, tell the tale.