Fulfilling Old Promises
As part of their commitment to turning Explorer into Pioneer on Arena over the course of “several years”, Wizards of the Coast has announced that they are going to release some number of Pioneer cards into Explorer in each Historic Anthology going forward, with the first such set being released sometime this summer.
The cards chosen to get Explorer one step closer to full-fledged Pioneer while keeping Explorer a playable format along the way (and choosing cards that people will be excited to see) is a delicate balance. Wizards could approach it by releasing one card per tiered Pioneer deck, but that might skew the format for the decks that are already thriving in Explorer. Another option is printing all the cards that would make notably absent Pioneer decks like Lotus Field and Niv to Light playable. Or, they could be happy with the Explorer meta and print a bunch of low power-level cards that nobody will be excited about in an effort to keep the format healthy along the way to Pioneer.
Here, the PlayingExplorer team shares their top-five card wishlists for the first Explorer Anthology and explains why they chose the way they did. As always, feel free to argue with us in the comments!
Tyrant of Tales
Who wants mana and scissors
To be upfront and clear, most of my list is just current and old favorites that I just miss playing on Arena. I want Nykthos for Mono-Green (even though I will have to learn to combo on Arena’s rope system) and, maybe with Explorer’s lower power level, we could see something like Mono-Black devotion come back.
Mana Confluence will help out the five-color piles that are some of my favorites to play in Pioneer (and brings us one step closer to Neomachus on Arena). Eidolon is just one of my favorite cards to play, but I do worry it might push the current red decks over the edge.
It would amaze me if Elvish Mystic wasn’t in the first anthology, due to its simplicity and the number of decks it makes possible.
Finally, we get to my first real love in Ensoul Artifact, as it may have a bit of a chance to shine in either Explorer proper or at least make the UW Artifacts deck in Historic even better.
Who wants Pioneer
My biggest priority in this wishlist is to complete or add to the completeness of various Explorer decks bringing them to their full Pioneer potential. Rakdos Midrange is still missing Dreadbore, Urborb, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. To me it’s Kaliatas that is the biggest of those cards missing, especially in shutting down aggressive decks. In a similar vein, Eidolon of the Great Revel helps Mono Red across the board and is a major piece missing from that archetype right now.
Pour over the Pages and Hidden Strings along with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx gives decks like Mono Green Karn and Lotus Field a chance to make their way onto Arena, which will greatly move us towards a more complete picture of Pioneer on Arena. Similarly, Treasure Cruise gives us a chance to reinvigorate the Izzet decks that have largely fallen off thanks to the ban of Expressive Iteration, whereas in Pioneer they are still top decks.
While none of these cards should break the Explorer format, they mostly enable us to reach a more complete metagame in Explorer when compared to Pioneer and that’s the biggest driving force for my hopes for this anthology.
Who wants Golgari
We need better fast mana in this format, and the pain lands are one way to get there.
Abrupt Decay is a good card. ‘Nuff said
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is a very fun planeswalker that could help the Hardened Scales strategy
Humans decks need more good one-drops, and Kytheon fits this role nicely.
Kalitas is controversial, since it would help Rakdos Midrange (an already well-performing deck) – but this card would make Cat/Oven much worse, which I’m all about.
Who wants Explorer to have its own identity for a bit longer
Whether it’s the state of the online Pioneer meta right now or a general need for an occasional break, I’m not entirely sure I want Explorer to be on a fast track to perfectly reflect the Pioneer tiered meta just yet. Don’t get me wrong – if they could put every Pioneer card onto Arena all at once, I would be all for it. Since they are doing it in small chunks, though, I would much rather see Explorer get some strong – but overlooked – Pioneer cards than all of the cards the top-tier Pioneer decks need to take over the format.
I had considered cards like Dreadbore, Monastery Swiftspear, Abrupt Decay, Eidolon, Mausoleum Wanderer and Kalitas, but Mono-Red doesn’t need help right now. Rakdos Midrange doesn’t need help right now. Jund and Spirits are doing just fine. The Pioneer players that Explorer has left behind thus far are really the combo players and the brewers.
I think the five cards I have chosen would open up some brewing potential without breaking the format as it currently stands – almost like turning Explorer into Pioneer by trickling cards in via Standard releases as opposed to a Horizons set. They are decent power-level cards that don’t see a ton of play in tiered Pioneer decks that might warrant a second look in Explorer, or they enable combo decks that are sorely missing from the format.
Oh, and Treasure Cruise.
Who wants midrange to be more fun
As much as we’d like it to be, Explorer is not yet the same power level as Pioneer — and my thought was if we add cards like the delve spells/eidolon of the great revel/Nykthos or The Chain Veil… we would open the format up to some decks (like mono-red or mono-green) to being too powerful in an underpowered Pioneer-light format. Instead, I believe the cards on my list give many midrange decks more fun tools, and finally opens up Niv to Light, a Pioneer fan favourite to being playable on Arena.
Who is a lover of Spirits and good cards
Anyone who keeps up with my content knows that no matter what deck I’m playing at any given moment, I’m a Spirits player at heart. So many of the key players for Magic’s spookiest tribe are already on Arena, so why not just finally give them the two best cards in the deck. Similarly I’m a big fan of tribal humans and various Collected Company piles, and Reflector Mage checks off both of those boxes. Thanks to adventure spells and the bevy of strong ETB effects in the format resetting creatures with the mage isn’t as backbreaking as it once was, but the delay on recasting those creatures is still very important. Voice of Resurgence is low key one of the most criminally underplayed cards in the Pioneer format, so maybe dropping it into explorer will get some fresh eyes on this army in a can. Finally, Kalitas is just an all around great midrange threat. It’s not a massively impactful “must-run-four-of” card, but it plays a role and you’re never disappointed to see it.
Ryan “The Japan Hobbyist”
Who wants balance
While I’m not sure we want Mono-Green running everywhere, Nykthos does allow for Mono-Black and potentially Mono-Blue Devotion decks in Explorer and it would help to even out the odds against the dominant Rakdos decks in the format.
Mono-Red has been in dire need of more turn-one pressure, but Swiftspear also lends itself well to UR Prowess and even RW Heroic on Arena.
I’m not ready to let Dig or Cruise onto Arena, I do think that Phoenix needs a pick-me-up against creature based decks, and Thing in the Ice does that nicely.
If you’re going to allow Mono-Green Devotion, Oath is a key card, but it also allows for different versions of ramp too with cards like Ulamog, Ugin, and Titan of Industry at the top end.
And finally, Spirits has been lacking any reason to play white, but the inclusion of Spell Queller would finally give people a reason to do so.
Who wants to enable more decks
My main focus is to make decks work that currently just flat out do not function. The Delve spells are a fundamental part of the decks that run them and they are basically always the best card in the deck.. Elvish Mystic and Mausoleum Wanderer make a lot of decks work and can also be part of great budget-friendlier strategies like Stompy and Mono-Blue Spirits, which can encourage people to actually go to the game store to play these decks in Pioneer and properly dip their toes into the format! Devotion decks (not just the green ones) are basically only playable in Pioneer, so I want them to be enabled too because the archetype is cool. Lastly… I just really like Reflector Mage.