Explorer Meta Guide: Top Decks for the Week of September 30

Jaffer dives into this week's Explorer meta game, discussing matchups, tier list updates and some new contenders enabled by Dominaria United.

Overview

Each week, we at PlayingExplorer take a deep dive into the available MTGA ranked ladder data from players in Platinum rank and above. We take what data we have and break down which decks sit where in the Explorer metagame. These tier lists include a rolling average to ensure decks don’t move too volatility on the tier list after one good week. If you’re looking for an example of that tier list, here is this week’s best-of-three and best-of-one tier lists.

This metagame breakdown article will accompany that tier list each Friday, and will go over the top decks, why they have seen increases, decreases, or stagnation in play, and cover what stands out as to why these decks are contenders in the metagame.

Events

This week, we have our standard set of data from the ranked ladder from Platinum and up. Since Wizards is still not releasing Explorer data alongside their Historic, Standard and Alchemy data for some reason, we use a major tracker that we are affiliated with, in combination with Explorer tournaments with more than 50 players.

This past Sunday, The Pizza Box hosted an Explorer event with 87 players.

1st Mono Red
2nd Rakdos Midrange
3rd Mono Red
4th Rakdos Midrange
5th Rakdos Midrange
6th Mono Green
7th Mono Blue
8th Azorius Control

Mono-Red took down the whole event, and 25% of the field was Rakdos Midrange and a vast variety of “other/rogue” decks.

Explorer Competitive Guides

The data above is broken down by our Explorer Competitive Guides – a group of players on the PlayingExplorer team (which includes the author of this article) who have met certain metrics to qualify to be a Competitive Guide and maintained those metrics each month to remain on the competitive team. While leaning on the data as much as possible, the competitive team often shifts decks up and down based on their experience and feelings about expected matchups. The input from our competitive guides, combined with the data, makes up our weekly tier lists. 

Metagame Breakdown

S Tier

Decks in this tier are the most heavily played and format dominant. These decks are the core that the rest of the meta revolves around. Players should be prepared to face these decks multiple times throughout a series of games on the ladder or in a single constructed event.

Rakdos Midrange

Rakdos continues to hold its S Tier ranking this week. Not much has changed within this deck this week, except for the concession of four-drops. It seems that there is a lesser amount of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and more Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. The utility of Kalitas providing lifelink, exiling your opponent’s creatures, and creating bodies tends to triumph over the gain/drain effect our Phyrexian Praetor provides. 

With a large sample size of games this week, Rakdos currently sits with a 58% winrate and a large fan base for the deck. The matchups for Rakdos are still favored against Azorius Control, Greasefang, and most creature-based decks. If you are a Rakdos player, some matchups you would like to avoid would tend to be Mono-Green Stompy, Green Karn, and Enigmatic Incarnation.

A Tier

Decks in this tier are generally on the same power level as those above it, and consistently post top results at events. However, due to certain factors like deck population or weakness in a key matchup they are not as format dominant.

Abzan Greasefang

Everyone loves reanimation-style combos, and Explorer players still love flying buses being driven by Greasefang, Okiba Boss. Continuing to be A Tier, this Abzan deck is just consistent in its combo or by performing as an okay midrange deck.

Generally, you would think this deck would fold to graveyard hate – and at times it can – but there is also a decent midrange beatdown game plan you can achieve with Esika’s Chariot.

Enigmatic Incarnation

Continuing to gain popularity in the Explorer ladder (and even tournaments) we have our five-color enchantment deck! With the plan of utilizing good enchantments and tutoring creatures with Enigmatic Incarnation, this deck maintains its A-Tier status. Not much has changed here, but I have become even more interested in this deck as the weeks have gone on.

Things I would like to avoid with this list: aggressive creature-based decks, Farewell, and mass enchantment removal like Back to Nature With how many enchantments this five-color pile plays, Rakdos is for sure to have a little bit of a hard time removing them.

Mono-Red Aggro

Last week with Mono Red, it was mentioned that there are two forms of the deck running around. The companion build with Obosh, the Preypiercer, has become less common this week. It may have just been a “flavor of the week”, or fans of the card wanted to give it life again. However, the Embercleave variant happens to be the relevant build this time. Playing cheap, haste creatures into a wide attack for lethal damage can just continue to steal games. If you’re looking for fast matches, this is the deck for you!

Personally, as a Mono-Green pilot myself, I would love to play against Mono-Red all day with my chonkier creatures and The Great Henge. The problem Mono Red seems to have is when it goes up against any taller creatures or bundles of removal. Matches Mono-Red would love to play tend to be against slower game strategies or decks not well-equipped to handle the barrage of small creatures continually attacking each turn.

B Tier

Decks in this tier are proven performers with strong finishes that will reward good player skill/dedicated play. However, they generally lack a certain level of power/consistency to take them to the winner’s podium on a regular basis.

Green Karn

Continuing to not have Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx hasn’t stopped Karn, the Great Creator from Storming our opponents’ festivals ☺️ 

Jokes aside, without the much-needed land –  Green Karn (or, what I like to call “Devotionless Devotion”), has a decent following as a deck. Players continue to pilot this even if not many changes are being made to the 75.

Much like the Pioneer meta, Rakdos tends to have a hard time dealing with this deck if they don’t have early answers. Azorious Control tends to favor playing against this at times too if built correctly. Some matches I like to play against when piloting Green Karn: Mono-Red, Greasefang variants, Rakdos Midrange, and Humans.

Azorius Control

Moving back up in the ranks! Azorius Control is now back in B Tier. This deck focuses on utilizing counter magic, planeswalkers, and board wipes to control the game.

There still is a problem for this deck within the Explorer format: Rakdos. Discard spells such as Thoughtseize, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, and Liliana of the Veil take the edge away from this control deck. 

Rakdos Sacrifice

Sacrifice, an aggressive combo-based gameplan. Stealing creatures, sacrificing for food or drawing cards is still a decent thing to do! Just like anybody else, I REALLY don’t like it when my creatures are stolen, but it feels really good when you’re the one doing it!

Within this cat-loving deck, avoiding Rakdos Midrange, Five-Color Enchantments, combos like Greasefang, or even Green Karn are best. Creature-based matchups are generally favored for Sacrifice.

Mono-Blue Spirits

Continuing to be our top tempo deck of the format, Mono-Blue Spirits is tribal with counter spells and card draw! What’s not to like?

Just like in the past, this deck of small spirits doesn’t want to play against Rakdos. Rakdos just tends to have too many answers for all the creatures played. Maybe we’ll get something in the next set to help give Spirits an edge against RB?

C Tier

Decks in this tier are on an average power level for the format or are heavily underrepresented. Like our B-tier these decks can reward dedication to the archetype, but they will require a more concerted effort. Players should be aware of these decks, but not over-tune for these matchups.

Mono-Black Midrange

Another one! Mono-Black Midrange has moved up a tier! Mono-Black tends to have a lot of answers to a lot of situations, similar to Rakdos. Cards like Liliana of the Veil, Thoughtseize, The Meathook Massacre, Invoke Despair and many kills spells help this deck to perform as it needs. Although, missing red for cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Bloodtithe Harvester can have a big impact on performance.

Humans

Another tribal deck that continues to change each time it’s played. With there being a few different builds of Humans out there, the core creature cards tend to stay the same. General Kudro of Drannith, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Brutal Cathar, and more can always be found as the bones of a Humans deck. This list is craving for some new cards to help it get an edge like it can have in Pioneer.

Jund Sacrifice

Hungry? How about some food? Well if you’d like some, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King can help! Showing back up in our C Tier, Jund Sacrifice or Jund Food is showing up this week in higher numbers. Usually as a season ends or starts, you will notice a higher playrate of Jund Sacrifice.

There are currently still many ways to build this deck but they are all going to be fairly similar. Some will play Riveteers Charm ; some Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. Usually this deck will morph easily to combat what is going around on the ladder.

Jeskai Agent

Treasures into Agents, creatures into Agents, copying Agents. What’re we doing now? Ah! Agent of Treachery doing it’s job of “borrowing” our opponents cards. This deck continues to be relevant on the Explorer ladder to this day. 

Generally, this will be a Fires of invention list utilizing Transmogrify or Indomitable Creativity or some form of “token to get an Agent into play”. This deck does tend to have some issues against removal at the ready on whatever token is targeted by the enabling spell to cheat the Agent into play.

D Tier (List Shoutouts)

Decks in this tier will find the current meta hostile to their overall game plan. These decks can find success in the right environment, but the winner’s podium will be few and far between.

Golgari Midrange
Dimir Control
Four-Color Adventure
Five-Color Elementals
Dimir Rogues

Final Thoughts

These changes this week were interesting to see. I can’t wait to see what the Explorer announcement will be on October 4th and if it will be shaking up the meta. It’s the end of the September season! Did you do your last days of ladder grinding with any neat or different decks? I spent too much time playing and having fun with Golgari Stompy with Rotting Regisaur (no not Fight Rigging). 

See you next week for our Weekly Meta Guide!

  • Competitive Guide

    Jaffer has been stomping around with big dumb creatures in Magic: The Gathering since Theros release back in 2013. Ever since playing Mono-Green day one of his MTG career he's been in love with any stompy or aggressive-based deck. Jaffer is known for being a Twitch Partner in the Magic: The Gathering category, with 99% of his time in the Explorer queues.

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