Explorer Anthology 2 is coming to MTG Arena and with it we’re getting a wide swathe of playable cards which are going to boost multiple archetypes. Today, I will talk about 8 Explorer decks which I believe are getting the most out the new Anthology. Of course – with decklists! Let’s dig in.
Mono Green Devotion
Green ramp decks with Karn, the Great Creator have already been played in the format (I even wrote a guide about one earlier this year here), now the whole dynamic is going to change with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Except for Oath of Nissa and The Chain Veil, we can basically port the Pioneer version into Explorer and focus more on the devotion aspect.
The deck’s entire sideboard is devoted to Karn which is a threat, a toolbox card, and a combo piece. In addition to its ramp-y draws, it can actually kill seemingly out of nowhere thanks to a kind of convoluted loop.
As there is no The Chain Veil on Arena yet, we will have to go with the most basic and quite demanding version of the loop. For the loop you need:
- Karn, the Great Creator – one on the battlefield, one in the graveyard
- Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner – one on the battlefield, one in the graveyard
- Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – one on the battlefield
- Pestilent Cauldron // Restorative Burst – one in the sideboard
- 14+ devotion to green
Basically, you want to produce a lot of mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and cast Restorative Burst on Kiora and Karn in the grave whilst gaining a bit of life. The new Kiora can untap Nykthos and the new Karn can grab Restorative Burst again from the exile. The old Kiora and Karn are put into the graveyard thanks to the legend rule. You add more mana with Nykthos again, target the two walkers in the graveyard – rinse repeat. The outcome is that you’ve gained, say, 200 life. Now, you want to play the front half of Restorative Burst, Pestilent Cauldron, and use the second ability to mill out the opponent as you have gained 200 life this turn.
There is a twist though! You need black mana to cast Pestilent Cauldron! The only way to do it in this version is finding Reckoner Bankbuster with Karn, using it, and untapping it with Kiora to finally produce a Treasure – which is our single-use black source. Now all is good and you can win.
The amount of devotion will vary depending on otherwise mana you’ve got available but you need enough produced by Nykthos to pay for Restorative Burst, Kiora, Karn, and later activate Nykthos again which is 5+3+4+2 = 14. Any number above 14 will start netting you mana with each iteration.
Mono White Humans
In Explorer, there are most of the Humans you’d like to play in an aggro deck. However, what the deck lacked was Brave the Elements. The card is great for numerous reasons. First, it’s a protection spell to save your creatures from single-point removal such as Fatal Push or Play with Fire. Additionally, it makes your creature invulnerable to damage dealt in combat especially against other mono color decks. Last but not least, it’s a way to basically give your team unblockable. If you’re staring at Green beefy creatures like the previously mentioned Old-Growth Troll and Cavalier of Thorns, you can just give your entire team protection from Green and bash in for lethal.
Other than that, it’s a traditional aggro deck that has some synergies for Humans in Thalia's Lieutenant. The deck can very effectively go wide thanks to Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, which itself is a huge threat that generates wide board presence. The deck is not without interaction either, as it plays quadruple Brutal Cathar which can nicely take out any creature that’s otherwise roadblocking your potential attacks.
The deck also gets a nice buff thanks to Mutavault which shall replace Faceless Haven for a much efficient threat. Mutavault is a creature of all the types so it can also get
Enigmatic Incarnation is a fan favourite archetype that keeps getting new toys. As a deck that can tutor out creatures thanks to the namesake Enigmatic Incarnation, with each set, one has to carefully look through all of them to make sure whether there is something spicy for the deck.
However, what the deck is getting with the Anthology II is more of a set-up card that smooths out the deck – Nylea's Presence. At first glace, it does the same thing as Urban Utopia, so is it about being able to play eight copies? There is actually one meaningful difference and that’s the fact that Presence grants a given land all the land types which mana-wise is the same as what Utopia does, but there is one huge difference. Leyline Binding has already been the best removal played in the deck and thanks to the wording on Presence, once it’s in play, Binding will always cost a single white mana. Leyline Binding can also be sacrificed to Enigmatic Incarnation to find a seven-drop e.g. Agent of Treachery or Titan of Industry
One can tune the deck just as they wish with the creature pool of cards in Explorer. Without the namesake, the deck can easily play a normal grindy game of Magic with all the interaction, card draw, and threats. Those threats usually have enter-the-battlefield effects which pair very nicely with the companion played – Yorion, Sky Nomad.
Izzet decks in Pioneer all play Fiery Impulse as the removal of choice thanks to the 3 damage it easily deals and instant speed. So far, the best we’ve had in Explorer has been Play with Fire or Strangle, but with Fiery Impulse, spell-slinging decks get a strong upgrade in the removal department and I think Izzet Pyromancer (or 8-peezy) can now be played more widely.
The deck plays Young Pyromancer and Third Path Iconoclast, both of which benefit from you casting as many spells as possible. The game plan is to drop one of these two drops early in the game, then you keep interacting with the opponent whilst growing your own board. Plenty of spells cantrip like Consider or Opt, so you’re getting the benefit of playing a spell, but you’re not down a card. Of One Mind works great with both Pyromancers as each is a Human and makes non-Human tokens. It’s a great re-fuel mechanism to keep going and, potentially, chaining those Of One Mind to truly pull ahead.
Elves are a very consistent, linear tribal deck, which undisrupted, truly snowballs out of control. They rely on Storm-esque turns when they generate a ton of mana and keep playing more spells thanks to Leaf-Crowned Visionary or, they can sometimes have a more aggressive draw when the sheer number of creatures can overwhelm the opponent. In tandem with the buff that Elvish Warmaster provides, they are difficult to block and contend with.
Shaman of the Pack works great with both plans. With Shaman in the deck, you can play two of them to kill the opponent when storming off without the need to go to the combat step. It’s relevant when you’re going on and few creatures don’t have summoning sickness. With the aggro plan, however, it can be a powerful blow which completely throws off the math for the opponent – normally they’d block in such a way that they are not dead after the combat but with Shaman the calculations get way more difficult. On top of that, when you have almost killed the opponent, but they had, say, Supreme Verdict, you’ve got an out to be drawing towards as Shaman can finish the job. Remember that Shaman counts itself for the damage as well!
I have cast Collected Company into double Shaman in the past in other formats and let me tell you – it’s both super fun and very effective.
Colorless decks have not been a regular part of Explorer due to the lack of payoffs to not include any colors. We’re getting a few Eldrazis in the Anthology so maybe it’s time to try to brew around that. Inspired by my Historic Black-colorless ramp deck, I’ve come up with this shell aiming to achieve similar outcomes. The deck plays early interaction in the form of Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, and Heartless Act to make sure it stays alive.
Later, you can keep slamming Thought-Knot Seer, Matter Reshaper, Planeswalkers, and finish off with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. I suspect that few decks will be able to put up a fight against so many powerful threats. The mana is also very clean so you are guaranteed to cast your Eldrazis on time. The life you’re losing to cast the black cards shall be offset thanks to Forsaken Monument and its life gain trigger.
There is also the Karn, the Great Creator wishboard which allows us to truly adjust to a given game state – we can find more threats, hate pieces, or card advantage engines.
Mono Red Aggro
The Mono Red aggro archetype has recently got a very strong addition in Monastery Swiftspear and Phoenix Chick making the one-drop slot basically perfect. However, the second Anthology is bringing arguably the best Red two-drop of all time, which is also an all-star in older formats – Eidolon of the Great Revel.
Eidolon is not only a creature that can attack and block, but its trigger can win games on its own. It puts the opponent into a real squeeze, especially in the face of turn one creature. It’s a persistent conundrum of whether you should use your only removal spell on the one drop or wait and see whether there is Eidolon coming.
The biggest deckbuilding decision is whether you’d prefer Eidolon over Obosh, the Preypiercer as you cannot play both. However, I do believe that Eidolon adds more pressure across different matchups than Obosh that comes up only occasionally.
The deck has already been almost complete compared to the Pioneer version, but now it’s getting Satyr Wayfinder to boost the deck to the max. Satyr finds you the needed third land drop for Greasefang, and preferably, mills over a vehicle to be recurred.
The game plan of turn three Greasefang returning Parhelion II poses such a formidable board that few decks can really catch up. Getting in for 13 damage and leaving two 4/4 Angels and still Greasefang basically asks for a mass removal or bust.
The deck can also interact until it does its thing with quadruple Thoughtseize and Witherbloom Command which can clear the way for you to go for the combo. It makes it a very scary and powerful contender, especially in Best of One where players don’t have access to graveyard hate.
Explorer Anthology 2 is going to shake up Explorer a lot and move it even closer to Pioneer. If the next Anthology has Treasure Cruise and cards for Lotus Field then the formats will be very much alike. See you on the ladder testing out those decks!