Dreadhorde Arcanist - Illustration by G-host Lee

Dreadhorde Arcanist | Illustration by G-host Lee

Explorer is a fun new format that’s currently only available on MTGA. It’s meant to simulate Pioneer, but the format still feels underpowered since the client is missing a lot of cards. Still, that doesn’t mean that strategies like the recently-banned Winota, Joiner of Forces and Rakdos () midrange aren’t powerful or that they don’t punish poorly-developed ones.

But those decks are kind of expensive in terms of wildcards. There can be up to 24 rare cards you need to craft to make these decks, which could be a real challenge for players who just want to get a grasp of the format and try it out without getting run over.

If that’s what’s keeping you from exploring the format, don’t worry, I got you covered! Today I’m going to show you 10 different decks that don’t need as many rare wildcards to be great.

Interested? Let’s find out which one those are!

Budget Overview

Thoughtseize - Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

Thoughtseize | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

Let’s cover some basics before we get into it. While MTGA has an economy based on gems and gold, you can’t really use either currency to build decks. You need wildcards to craft specific cards. They come in different rarities, and the trickier ones to get are the rares and mythics.

These budget Explorer decks will use mostly commons and uncommons, along with suggestions to upgrade the deck if you like it. The advantage here is that you can test most of the decks before committing to the rares since half of them are based on lands.

These lists have been tuned for BO1 since having a sideboard would only expand the number of cards and potentially rares you’d need.

Cards to Craft

The mana base is essential in deckbuilding. I highly recommend starting to craft lands with your rare wildcards. Shock lands in particular are the main nonbasics you should focus on.

You also might be interested in crafting are the Pathways, tri-lands, and slow lands. Others, like the fast lands and Snarls, can be used as mana fixers, but I don’t recommend focusing on those because they barely ever see play except for a few archetypes.

You can also focus on Pioneer staples that see play in multiple decks. Some examples of those are:

Mono-Blue Tempo

Merfolk Trickster - Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Merfolk Trickster | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

The first deck on the list, and the cheapest, is mono-blue tempo. A lot of these decks will be mono-colored, and blue is great at providing cheap and evasive creatures at common.

The plan here is straightforward: play your creature and protect it until you start creating an army that your opponent can’t deal with.

The deck has lots of card advantages in the form of Moon-Circuit Hacker and Curious Obsession, and the Hacker’s ninjutsu ability can come in handy when you have multiple Faerie Miscreants in play. And if your opponent happens to resolve a creature or blocker you can’t deal with , you have ways to go around it with Merfolk Trickster or Fading Hope.

Upgrades

If you like this kind of deck, you can start by replacing some of the cheap creatures with spirits like Rattlechains, Shacklegeist, and Ascendant Spirit. This allows you to add more counters in the form of Geistlight Snare.

Some copies of Fading Hope can also be replaced with Brazen Borrower, and Supreme Phantom will reward you for upgrading your spirits to put the cherry on top. You can replace your basics with snow lands and add a couple Faceless Havens to add more depth to the game. And a single Otawara, Soaring City would be good to run.

Mono-Red Aggro

Soul-Scar Mage - Illustration by Steve Argyle

Soul-Scar Mage | Illustration by Steve Argyle

This mono-red aggro deck isn’t your standard burn deck that goes to the face. Instead it plays an aggressive role by casting multiple cheap spells and growing them in various ways.

The standout cards of this list are the rares, Soul-Scar Mage and Dreadhorde Arcanist. The latter is a staple of other archetypes across formats and is good to have already crafted.

One neat trick that I like is that you have multiple ways to grow Dreadhorde Arcanist, which can help you cast Light Up the Stage from the graveyard and keep the momentum going. And Young Pyromancer joins the party to create its army to slowly but surely take over any game.

Upgrades

Den of the Bugbear and Bonecrusher Giant are Pioneer staples and are great for planning. They also serve as considerable upgrades to this deck.

Mono-White Heroic

Leonin Lightscribe - Illustration by Steven Belledin

Leonin Lightscribe | Illustration by Steven Belledin

This mono-white heroic build isn’t “heroic” per se, but it’s pretty close. This deck aims to cast cheap spells on creatures that reward you for doing so.

The main engines for the deck are Leonin Lightscribe to pump your entire team and Mavinda, Students’ Advocate to reuse your pump spells. They may not be as popular in Pioneer but they’re perfect for surprising your opponent with big attacks, which is critical in a BO1 environment.

Upgrades

Adding color to this deck is great since you’ll have access to Soul-Scar Mage and Dreadhorde Arcanist, which can benefit from casting cheap pump spells. I’d also recommend crafting some lands like Sacred Foundry so that you can afford them. The Foundry is great to have because it can also serve as the base for other decks that you may want to play in the future.

Boros Artifacts

All That Glitters - Illustration by Iain McCaig

All That Glitters | Illustration by Iain McCaig

Speaking of crafting lands, Boros () artifacts only needs four rare wildcards since the rest are mostly common and uncommon artifacts that can surprise your opponent by stealing games when paired together. They might not seem like much on their own, which is why your opponent will mostly ignore them until it’s too late and they have a giant creature threatening lethal if unanswered.

Patchwork Automaton and Ingenious Smith grow fast, and the Automaton is tough to kill since ward 2 is a lot to spend on early turns. And it usually means lights out for your opponent if you happen to put All That Glitters on it.

Portable Hole is your immediate removal to gain tempo advantage. But I recommend running a couple Glass Caskets if you want to spend more slots for interaction.

Upgrades

You can upgrade this deck with plenty of artifacts, starting with Bomat Courier and Lizard Blades which can serve as replacements for cards like Gingerbrute. Hope of Ghirapur can serve as another 1-mana artifact and Treasure Vault is a great artifact land that you can throw in the pile.

Last but not least, Stonecoil Serpent is strictly better than Ornithopter, and Steel Overseer is another way to push your game plan even more.

Azorius Auras

Stormchaser Drake - Illustration by Brent Hollowell

Stormchaser Drake | Illustration by Brent Hollowell

Azorius () auras is the counterpart to the artifact deck. It’s potent and explosive just like Boros artifacts.

The trick here is that you still have access to Sram, Senior Edificer and Stormchaser Drake even though there’s no Kor Spiritdancer, which fill almost the same role.

Upgrades

Light-Paws, Emperor’s Voice is a fine addition to the deck. But you shouldn’t run more than a couple so that you can focus the rest of your wildcards on crafting your mana base.

Selesnya Enchantress

Alseid of Life's Bounty - Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Alseid of Life’s Bounty | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Selesnya () enchantress in Explorer resembles what its Standard counterpart since most of the cards are legal in both formats. But getting access to better removal and protection with Baffling End and Alseid of Life’s Bounty makes the difference with this version of the deck.

You have three win conditions and three game plans. The first involves going aggro with Generous Visitor and Michiko’s Reign of Truth. The second is ramping into attacking with lands and going wide. The third involves casting an early Hallowed Haunting and going wide.

What I like about the deck is that you can mix it up and decide which strategy you want to use according to how the game is developing, so it’s not as linear as some players may believe.

Upgrades

You can also run Setessan Champion and Weaver of Harmony in this deck if you’re looking to upgrade. The Champion can serve as a card draw engine the Weaver goes exceptionally well with sagas, pumping your team and doubling Michiko’s Reign of Truth chapters.

Izzet Spells

Sprite Dragon - Illustration by Gabor Szikszai

Sprite Dragon | Illustration by Gabor Szikszai

Izzet () spells is an adaptation of the mono-red aggro deck, running a deeper package with cantrips and flyers.

Blue gives you access to one of the best card advantage spells designed in the last year: Expressive Iteration. And you can put your opponents on a high-speed clock if unanswered alongside Sprite Dragon.

Upgrades

This deck can overperform if you add some copies of Stormwing Entity and a few more lands since it doesn’t need much more to get better at what it already does. Ledger Shredder is also an excellent addition, but it fills almost the same role as Sprite Dragon. And in some cases, the latter is even better.

Soul-Scar Mage is also an excellent addition to this list.

Mono-Black Sacrifice

The Meathook Massacre - Illustration by Chris Seaman

The Meathook Massacre | Illustration by Chris Seaman

I love using lessons, and mono-black sacrifice can quickly go over your opponents by taking advantage of the sacrifice engine. The only two mythics you need are two The Meathook Massacres, since Blood Artist isn’t legal in Explorer. Not to mention that it still wants to use the drain effect from your creatures dying.

Upgrades

This deck could use Hive of the Eye Tyrant and Thoughtseize to give your opponents a more challenging time. Lolth, Spider Queen is also a good payoff for the sacrifice engine.

Dimir Rogues

Thieves' Guild Enforcer - Illustration by Evyn Fong

Thieves’ Guild Enforcer | Illustration by Evyn Fong

Dimir () rogues is surprisingly well positioned in the meta as a tempo deck with a solid removal and card advantage engine package.

Some of you may remember this archetype from how it played out during its premiere in Standard. In case you don’t, let me inform you that this deck is the real deal. You have multiple ways to win games, and more than one opponent will scoop when they see you coming.

Upgrades

Like other 2-color decks, the upgrades for this one mainly consist of its mana base. And you’ll quickly see how much smoother the deck can run as soon as you craft the lands.

A particular upgrade I’d recommend is the addition of Agadeem’s Awakening. It can serve as both a land and a resurrection spell to get you back in the game.

Rakdos Sacrifice

Mayhem Devil - Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

Mayhem Devil | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

I saved the best for last, and that’s Rakdos () sacrifice. The funny thing about this deck is that the only cards missing are some lands and Thoughtseize. But make no mistake; this deck still has the potential to match its best version even without them.

Everyone already knows how powerful the interaction between Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven is. That interaction can be exploited even further with the addition of Oni-Cult Anvil and Mayhem Devil.

This deck also uses an old strategy called “steal and sac.” Claim the Firstborn can get rid of a pesky blocker or threat from your opponent’s side of the field while giving you some value.

Upgrades

The obvious upgrades for this deck are the lands and Thoughtseize. But if you want to go a bit further, the new Ob Nixilis, the Adversary can fit into the strategy perfectly.

I also highly recommend crafting the base of this deck and its upgrade choices because it’s already a staple of Explorer, and a solid deck in Historic.

Wrap Up

Jegantha, the Wellspring - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Jegantha, the Wellspring | Illustration by Chris Rahn

I hope you enjoyed these decks, and that you have fun and win in your testing!

Let me emphasize again that your main goal with these lists is to craft a solid mana base, and the shock lands are the ones you should probably be crafting first. They’ll serve you well for future decks.

Rakdos sacrifice is the best list here, and you can start small with the base I suggested before crafting lands for a smoother mana base. And then you can start adding colors to support Jund (), and even add Gilded Goose and Trail of Crumbs.

What do you think? Was there a list in particular that caught your attention? Let me know in the comments down below. And Arena Tutor is a must if you’re looking for an app to track your decks and changes while you pilot these.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you had a fun time. I’ll see you again in the next one. Take care!

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