Last updated on January 8, 2024

Supreme Verdict - Illustration by Sam Burley

Supreme Verdict | Illustration by Sam Burley

Pioneer already existed when MTGA debuted in 2017, and players knew that it was only a matter of time before Arena would be home to eternal non-rotating Constructed formats. As the first Standard rotation came Historic was created. Then there were the Historic Anthologies, packets of cards adding new possibilities and giving a little shake to the already established metagame.

Why is that important? Because over five years later MTG Arena now supports a new eternal format: Explorer. And we got some Explorer Anthologies to go with it.

What cards are in these Anthologies? Have they achieved their goals? Are any of them worth getting? Let’s dive in and find out!

What Is Explorer Anthology on MTG Arena?

Favored Hoplite (Theros) - Illustration by Winona Nelson

Favored Hoplite (Theros) | Illustration by Winona Nelson

Explorer Anthologies are a small release of 20-25 cards meant for Constructed play in the format, though they're also legal in formats like Historic Constructed. So we can definitely expect staples from Pioneer to hit MTG Arena through the Anthologies, as well as a few cards that might strengthen some archetypes without going into tier 1 territory.

What’s the Purpose of Explorer Anthology?

Explorer Anthology is meant to make more cards available for the Explorer format without the need to release a full set. Although it would be nice if more full remastered sets were released for Explorer, the truth is that only 5 to 10 cards make Constructed formats in one way or another for most sets.

For example, Dragon’s Maze has maybe five cards that are interesting for Constructed, like Hidden Strings for the Explorer format. And there were maybe 10 to 15 cards that see play in singleton formats like Commander and Brawl.

Explorer is basically Pioneer Lite: a Constructed format that wants to be Pioneer with the cards that are currently available on MTG Arena. There are some sets between 2012 and 2017 that were never properly released on MTG Arena, with the exception of Amonkhet and Kaladesh which each saw a remastered release.

List of Explorer Anthologies

Explorer Anthology 3

Full Spoiler Date: June, 30, 2023

Release Date: July 18, 2023

Explorer Anthology 3 is a mixed bag of cards, focusing primarily on cards released during the Return to Ravnica block. We have a cycle of 5 guild charms, together with constructed staples Deathrite Shaman and Voice of Resurgence from that era. While some cards are format-changing like Thespian's Stage, few of these cards actually see play in Explorer.

Explorer Anthology 2

  • Full Spoiler Date: December 6, 2022
  • Release Date: December 13, 2022

Explorer Anthology 2 focuses on giving tools for decks like Eldrazi with powerful cards from the Battle for Zendikar block like Thought-Knot Seer and Matter Reshaper. It also bolsters heroic with staples like Favored Hoplite and Ethereal Armor.

The cards released in Explorer Anthology 2 are:

Explorer Anthology 1

  • Full Spoiler Date: July 27, 2022
  • Release Date: July 28, 2022

The first Explorer Anthology aims to strengthen certain Explorer decks while giving tools to promote diversity in the format, particularly for tier 1.5 and tier 2 archetypes.

The cards in this Anthology are:

Is Explorer Anthology Worth Buying?

Whether or not the Explorer Anthologies are worth buying depends on if you actually want the cards in your collection.

There are two ways to get the cards from an Anthology on MTG Arena. The first is to buy the actual bundle, and the other one is to use some wildcards to craft the individual cards you want, the former of which is what I’d recommend. Considering that you getting four copies of 20-25 cards (80-100 cards total), for 25,000 gold, it’s hard to fault you for getting the bundle. It’s certainly cheaper than using wildcards.

But most players don’t want all four copies of all the cards, so there’s that to keep in mind. It might be better to use some wildcards if you’re only looking to snag the handful of staples you need.

When Is the Next Explorer Anthology Being Released?

With the announcements of Pioneer Masters, Tarkir Remastered and Ravnica Remastered to MTG Arena, we’re probably not getting more Explorer Anthologies. These releases will probably cover all the necessary staples to turn Explorer into Pioneer. Also, WotC has already stated that Pioneer will be available on MTG Arena in 2024 together with the release of Pioneer Masters. When that happens, Explorer and Pioneer will merge into a single format.

Explorer Anthology Wishlist for Pioneer

Reddit user u/Mnoya posted a pretty good list containing the remaining staple cards that would make Explorer essentially equal to Pioneer:

Let’s talk about the main decks in Explorer and the key differences between them and their Pioneer counterparts. I’m also going to list decks that only exist in Pioneer because of the sheer differences in card availability.

Rakdos/Jund Midrange

Dreadbore

Although Explorer lacks Dreadbore, we can safely say that Molten Collapse is a Lost Caverns of Ixalan card that will replace it nicely.

Izzet Phoenix

Treasure Cruise

Izzet () Phoenix is another a very good deck, and it's really only missing Treasure Cruise to add more juice since this deck is so good at filling the graveyard.

Blue-Based Control

Although Expressive Iteration was banned from Pioneer/Explorer, this iteration of control that’s heavier on card advantage coming from these spells is still a strong choice. The delve spells are strong here because they justify playing lots of cantrips and cheap spells that Izzet usually does, at least more than Dimir () or Azorius.

5-Color Niv to Light

Bring to Light

Bring to Light is the key card in this deck that lets you search for Niv-Mizzet Reborn or a toolbox of multicolored cards.

Jeskai Ascendancy Combo

Adding the namesake card helps this build a lot, and Sylvan Caryatid adds consistency.

Green Devotion/Ramp

Green devotion/ramp is a good call for the metagame, and the Karn, the Great Creator/Nissa, Who Shakes the World duo already does so much. These options would make the deck faster and more consistent with a big mana plan.

Lotus Field Combo

This needs more redundancy in the combo, not to mention more options to close the match with Dark Petition and Behold the Beyond.

Golgari-Based Midrange Delirium

Abrupt Decay

Most of the cards needed for this deck were added in Shadows over Innistrad Remastered, with Abrupt Decay being the only still-missing card.

Honorable Mention: Esper Dragons

Although not a high tier deck in Pioneer, the addition of cards like Dragonlord Ojutai, Silumgar's Scorn, and Dragonlord Silumgar could potentially brew a new deck on Explorer. It wouldn’t hurt since there are already a bunch of dragons-matter cards in Historic, but that could be a take for a future Anthology.

There are also some dragon cards that could be just as good, like Zurgo and Ojutai and Hidetsugu and Kairi.

Other Wishlist Cards

Wrap Up

Treasure Cruise - Illustration by Cynthia Sheppard

Treasure Cruise | Illustration by Cynthia Sheppard

Explorer is already very, very close to full-fledged Pioneer, and most of that is on the power level of recent sets. The Explorer Anthologies raised the power level of some decks a bit while being able to help tier 1.5 and 2 decks get some traction.

Standard sets have also helped Explorer a bunch, from reprinting Pioneer staples like Monastery Swiftspear and Monastery Mentor to land cycles like the pain lands. Then there are the powerful new cards that we just keep getting. At this rate, a Khans of Tarkir remaster and some good cards from Magic Origins could effectively seal the deal on Explorer/Pioneer.

What do you think I got wrong in my predictions? What cards do you desperately want for your Explorer/Historic/Brawl decks? Let me know in the comments below, or discuss in the Draftsim Discord. And you should definitely check out Arena Tutor if you haven’t already. It helps you draft with a suggested pick order, helps track your collection, and gives you tips on what your opponents are probably playing.

That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!


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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Lucas July 25, 2022 2:34 pm

    You missed the other half of the fastlands.

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha July 25, 2022 2:58 pm

      Not sure what you mean by this…

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