Turning metal into gold

Let me tell you a little secret about Magic: drawing cards is good. Every new card you draw presents you with new options. You might draw an answer for that annoying fattie of one of your opponents. Maybe you draw a threat yourself, maybe you draw that land you didn’t draw earlier. Most deck are based on using your cards as efficient as possible and you can only accomplish that by having more options than your opponents i.e. getting to your good cards.

Forbidden Alchemy doesn’t draw cards. It just looks at the top four cards of your library and then dumps them into the graveyard, except for one. You ‘draw’ a card at the expense of another. That is not card advantage, that is a cantrip. Cantrips are very useful, but you can get better in blue. Ok, you can do it twice for the cost of six colourless and a black. So for ten mana (of which one needs to be black) you can ‘draw’ two cards. And it dumps cards in the graveyard, how can that be good?

Why Forbidden Alchemy is good

All that being said, Forbidden Alchemy is a good card. When you play it, you’re not ‘just’ drawing a card, you can pick the best card out of the top four cards of your library. The rest (useful or not, but we’ll get to that) goes to your graveyard. And when you have the mana, you can do that again. Forbidden Alchemy is exactly that what the name means: it makes ordinary metal (the top cards of your deck) into gold (a card you need at that moment). It doesn’t Explain the ‘Forbidden’ part, but it sounds a lot cooler than just ‘Alchemy’.

Forbidden Alchemy is in essence a Swiss pocket knife of a magic card: it gets you the things you need when you need them. You want to build a deck with the Alchemy to exploit this. Maybe something like this.

Dimir Alchemy
3 Trinket Mage
3 Nightveil
3 Gurmag Angler

1 Ghastly Demise
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Mana Leak
3 Doom Blade
3 Think Twice
2 Counterspell
4 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Mystical Teachings
1 Recoil
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Traveler’s Amulet

4 Dismal
2 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Evolving Wilds
10 Island
6 Swamp

This deck is based on a pauper Forbidden Alchemy deck. I upgraded some cards, but still the deck is quite cheap to play. And even though I’m not really a control player, I find this deck very fun to play. Let me explain why.


The deck plays blue and blue means counterspells. Not necessarily fun, but definitely necessary to control what your opponents are throwing at you. Remember that when you play multiplayer, counterspells stop just one spell of one of your opponents. Use them only for spells you can’t handle otherwise and are a real threat for you. Hopefully the rest of your spells can deal with other threats that slip through.

Mana Leak is almost a hard counter and if not, it gains you some tempo. The original Counterspell is always a hard counter, but the double blue in the mana cost demands quite a lot of the mana base. Since this mana base can’t get two blue consistently on turn two, Mana Leak is just as good to counter something with little mana.

Black offers a wide variety of creature removal, but just plain old Doom Blades will do the trick, but really any two mana creature removal spell will do, even old school Terror. As long as it can destroy a creature.

For more creature removal, there is one Ghastly Demise in the deck. With Forbidden Alchemy it is likely you have the ‘yard full of cards (if not, something isn’t right), which makes the Demise very efficient removal.

Recoil is a very strong addition to the deck: it returns a permanent to its owner’s hand and makes them discard a card. This can deal with non-creature permanents if necessary.

The deck is based around having the right cards in hand at the right time with the help of Forbidden Alchemy. You need at least four of those to make the deck work. Accumulated Knowledge and Think Twice draw you even more cards. As an added bonus both don’t mind to wind up in the graveyard because of the Alchemy: Accumulated Knowledge lets you draw an extra card if you play the next copy and Think Twice can be cast from your graveyard. And since most of the deck consists of instants, Mystical Teachings can also help get the right cards when you need them.


A deck cannot win just by denying your opponents threats, you need some creatures to be able to win. Gurmag Angler can be played on the cheap with a lot of used up cards in your graveyard and Nightveil Predator brings some evasion with flying and hexproof. The deathtouch makes it a frightening blocker as well.

The Trinket Mages deserve some explanation. Sure, the are just 1/1’s for three mana, but they can also search for a cheap artifact. It gives access to some more removal in the form of Executioner’s Capsule, some lifegain in the form of Sylvok Lifestaff, some land searching and deck thinning with Traveler’s Amulet, but it can also find Elixir of Immortality. That card makes sure that when you have played quite some removal, you can shuffle all the cards in your graveyard back into your library, making sure you keep drawing removal cards. The five life you gain by activating it is also usefull if your life total gets a little low.


In a control deck it is important to hit your land drops. You always want to have mana open to be able to do something, be it countering or destroying. Ten Islands and six Swamps form the basis. Dismal Backwaters can gain some life and make both of the colours you need. One Evolving Wilds thins your deck a little and two Dimir Aqueduct make sure you can make 25 mana with 23 lands and also gives both of the needed colours.


Forbidden Alchemy truly turns all the cards in your hand into gold. With it and all the support there’s always an answer in your hand and that makes it very difficult for opponents to execute their plans. On top of that, it is very satisfying to know whatever they may do, you have something to stop it.

Next week I want to spend some attention to a card from Zendikar Rising that I really want to brew with. Stay tuned to see which card it is. See you at the next sixty!

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