Last updated on August 9, 2022
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 five years later MTG Arena now supports a new eternal format: Explorer. And we’re about to get Explorer Anthologies to go with. Is this going to be good for Explorer? Which cards will be in the Anthologies?
Let’s dive in and find out!
Favored Hoplite (Theros) | Illustration by Winona Nelson
Explorer Anthology is a small release of 20 cards that are meant for Constructed play in the format, though they are legal in other 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.
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, 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 Voice of Resurgence and 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.
- 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 that have been spoiled so far are:
- Favored Hoplite
- Rally the Ancestors
- Ensoul Artifact
- Mausoleum Wanderer
- Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- Shadowborn Apostle
- Tainted Remedy
- Alesha, who Smiles at Death
- Searing Blood
- Temur Battle Rage
- Titan’s Strength
- Back to Nature
- Elvish Mystic
- Tireless Tracker
- Battlewise Hoplite
- Siege Rhino
- Slaughter Games
- Supreme Verdict
- Hangarback Walker
- Darksteel Citadel
Whether or not the Explorer Anthology is worth buying depends on what cards are included, and if you actually want them 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 cards, 80 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.
Although there are no rumors or speculation yet, it’s likely that the next Explorer Anthology will be released between two to five months from the first release based on the few months between Historic Anthology releases. I’d expect Explorer Anthology 2 to come to us in late 2022.
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.
Azorius () control is a strong deck in the Explorer metagame, and the only thing it really lacked wa s Supreme Verdict, especially in the blue tempo matchups. But until recently, there were replacements in cards like Doomskar and Shatter the Sky.
Rakdos () midrange or sacrifice is also a strong deck in the metagame. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a great card in aggro, midrange, and mirror matchups, Dreadbore is a catch-all removal spell, and Collective Brutality adds versatility to the deck.
Izzet () Phoenix is another a very good deck, but it could have more options. The existence of Ledger Shredder makes it so that Thing in the Ice isn’t the essential 2-drop, but Izzet Charm and Treasure Cruise are nice options to have. Especially the Cruise, since this deck is so good at filling the graveyard.
- Treasure Cruise
- Dig Through Time
- Pore Over the Pages
- Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror
- Temporal Trespass
- Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound
- Pieces of the Puzzle
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.
Although the deck has some interesting cards in Clever Lumimancer and Illuminator Virtuoso, the addition of these powerful 2-drops would give it more consistency. The pain land is interesting since it raises the lands that don’t enter tapped.
These are good options for a tribal spirits deck, which is usually mono blue tempo or fliers in Explorer. Spell Queller is key in helping with big spells, as an answer to Supreme Verdict, and one of the reasons to play white in an otherwise blue deck.
Adding the namesake card helps this build a lot, and Sylvan Caryatid and the Vizier add consistency.
Green Devotion/Ramp is a good call for the metagame, and the duo Karn, the Great Creator and Nissa, Who Shakes the World already do so much. These options would make the deck faster and more consistent with a big mana plan.
Red Aggro could benefit from all those options, especially a premium 1-drop like Monastery Swiftspear.
These give you more redundancy in the combo with Sylvan Scrying, Thespian’s Stage, and Vizier of Tumbling Sands, not to mention more options to close the match with Dark Petition and Behold the Beyond.
- Grim Flayer
- Emrakul, the Promised End
- Traverse the Ulvenwald
- Liliana, the Last Hope
- Collective Brutality
- Abrupt Decay
This deck doesn’t exist in MTG Arena since most of the options comes from Shadows Over Innistrad. More midrange goodies would improve the power level of the build and help branching into Sultai () or Abzan ().
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.
- Siege Rhino
- Voice of Resurgence
- Reflector Mage
- Mantis Rider
- Experiment One
- Lumbering Falls
- Hissing Quagmire
- Shambling Vent
- Needle Spires
- Wandering Fumarole
Treasure Cruise | Illustration by Cynthia Sheppard
Explorer is already very close to full-fledged Pioneer, and most of that is on the power level of recent sets. Explorer Anthology 1 will probably raise the power level of some decks a bit while being able to help tier 1.5 and 2 decks get some traction.
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!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: