Underrated and Biding One’s Time
As Explorer gets ever closer to becoming Pioneer with the recent announcements of Shadows Over Innistrad: Remastered and Explorer Anthology II (which should actually be coming any day now) – I find myself pretty excited. Every time I go to brew an Explorer deck, I’m typically porting a concept over from Pioneer, and I often find myself with one or two cards missing. More often than not, they’re also pretty key pieces of the deck. This feeling of not having the exact card I want has grown to be pretty frustrating, and it’s something that could easily be remedied on Arena in the near future.
That frustration also got me thinking at large about every card missing from Explorer, and the impact of those cards… even beyond the obvious ones. If you’re looking for things like Nytkhos, Shrine to Nyx, the Delve spells, or Monastery Swiftspear, this list won’t be for you. These are all obvious choices, and while they’re high on my list of cards I’d like to see added to bring Pioneer and Explorer closer together, they’re not what I’m going to be covering here. Instead, I’m going to talk about cards that better fill a niche, or cards that are a little further down the list, but still would have a major impact on Explorer!
I’m going to start with one that’s almost assuredly coming: Selfless Spirit. This card was originally printed in Eldritch Moon, so provided that Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered follows a similar template of Amonkhet and Kaladesh – cards from both SOI and Eldritch Moon will be in the Remastered version.
There are two different types of people playing with Selfless Spirit. There are the Spirit players who want their synergy piece and there are white-based aggro players who want their sideboard board wipe insurance. I think people consider Selfless Spirit’s impact on the format thinking through one of these lenses, but not both. If you’re like me, who is very fond of both of these archetypes, then you know exactly how painful it is to not have access to this card in Explorer, and I’m hoping that pain will be quelled in the middle of next year when SOI Remastered is released on Arena.
Brave the Elements
This is another one for the white-based aggro players, and it’s one of the only pieces missing from having Mono-White Humans available entirely in Explorer. While things like Kytheon, Hero of Akros and Soldier of the Pantheon are not currently available either… the deck has other one drop creatures it can run in its place. That said, there is not a single other card even close to the power level of Brave the Elements. There is no Brave the Elements “at home”, if you catch my drift. Seeing as that Brave the Elements isn’t on Arena, you really don’t see the Mono-White Humans deck at all. I think if Brave the Elements were to come to Arena, Mono-White Humans would start popping up much more frequently; making it so that Explorer would be a full deck closer to Pioneer with the printing of one uncommon.
Even though Greasefang is one of the best archetypes in Explorer already and Satyr Wayfinder would certainly only make the deck better, I can’t help but feel that Wayfinder not being in Explorer has a bigger impact than even that. Namely, it’s a card a lot of people just really seem to like, and it’s the anchor to a lot of Green based graveyard strategies. While cards like Traverse the Ulvenwalde and Grim Flayer also aren’t on Arena yet, those are in theory two more candidates for SOI Remastered, and any deck playing those cards is playing Wayfinder also, for the most part. I am certainly not describing anything top-tier in Pioneer here, but I have a feeling the Arena ladder will continue to be different from Pioneer league play, in that people might be more likely to play things they actually want to play.
Chained to the Rocks
While White removal in Explorer is pretty good with things such as Fateful Absence, Portable Hole, and March of Otherworldly Light, specifically, Boros players are missing their best removal spell. Chained to the Rocks being able to hit any creature for one mana for the low price of putting Mountains in your deck is huge. Outside of Enigmatic Incarnation, the only other Pioneer deck really known to run it is the corpse of Jeskai Ascendancy Combo, which can’t be played in Explorer anyway because Arena doesn’t have the deck’s namesake, but that doesn’t mean Chained to the Rocks would not have any kind of impact. It has been known to be a sideboard option for Boros Heroic, or any Boros deck, and I’m wondering if a Jeskai Control deck could emerge in Explorer if they just have Chained to the Rocks as an option. Even though it’s the least played of the cards I’ve talked about so far, I still think the inclusion of Chained would be impactful.
Isn’t it weird that Explorer is missing Pioneer’s best two-mana mana dork? While you can put Paradise Druid in your deck, it really doesn’t function the same as Caryatid – which does a lot of things right as a mana dork. It is hard to remove, it blocks well, and it comes online early enough. This is another piece most often seen in Jeskai Ascendancy, if seen at all, but it has been known to show up in Mono-Green Devotion sometimes, and Niv-to-Light decks, which are also on the fringe of existing in Explorer. If you are building a deck to try and ramp, and ramp reliably, Caryatid is one of Pioneer’s best options, and not having the option at all in Explorer is something I’d like to see rectified sooner rather than later.
There are many, many cards I could have put on this list, and I left off several cards I’d personally like to see, even on top of the meta-defining cards I mentioned earlier. With an Anthology and a Remaster on the horizon, I’m excited to have access to a format even closer to Pioneer on Arena, and I truly believe the five cards above would go a long way in helping Explorer feel closer to Pioneer outside of the obvious!