Hello everyone! With the first Explorer Anthology 1 coming soon, I figured it would be prudent to talk about what cards would be cool to be included!
Initially it seemed that it was just going to be Historic Anthology 6 that would cover both Explorer and Historic, but now that they’re split up, this is going to be laser focused on Explorer cards that will eventually become Pioneer! While there are obviously a myriad of cool options, I narrowed it down to the ten cards I want the most for this first expansion!
How did I decide on these cards?
The first and most important aspect for me is the proverbial rule of cool. If the card is interesting, I want to play with it. Simple enough.
The next criterion I was looking at is how it would impact the current metagame. Even if a card is cool, it would be super awkward to introduce a bunch of cards to a deck that’s already doing well and then push it well ahead of everything else. Ideally speaking, the card is cool and can help out strategies that are either struggling or completely absent from the Explorer or Historic metagame.
Lastly, and maybe this is bias or big brain, but I’m more or less eschewing combo pieces for right now. While these combo elements may be cool and fine in Historic, I feel Explorer is still a bit weak to start getting the powerful combo engines like Jeskai Ascendancy or support for Lotus Field combo like Hidden Strings. I want to see the metagame power up a bit through some supplementary products, then we can definitely start thinking about it.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Ok maybe this is an ambitious note to start out on, but I really like Kalitas as a card. Rakdos Midrange is currently one of the most popular decks in Explorer and creature decks are also struggling so it definitely is a bit awkward to introduce a card that would exacerbate both issues. Nevertheless, while Kalitas is definitely strong against creatures, I still like having it sooner than later for both Explorer and Historic.
First off, it is a 4 mana card that requires additional resources to make it really shine so I would argue that it isn’t unfair. Second, with this expansion I’m really hoping they bolster creature decks significantly so this can help act as a nice foil. Third, and my most selfish reason, I want to play Vampires in earnest! Mono Black Vampires is a pet deck of mine in Pioneer and I believe it could be a reasonable choice in Explorer as well if we had access to Kalitas.
The main downside to including Kalitas now is that creature decks will have to be prepared for it while already struggling, but beating a 4 drop creature shouldn’t be an insurmountable task for an aggro deck. Maybe it’s better in a few more expansions as it may be my selfishness of wanting to play Vampires influencing my decision, but I don’t mind starting with a hot take!
I said I wanted to bolster aggro decks and I’m sticking to it! Monastery Swiftspear is the premier 1 drop for Red aggressive decks and I think they could definitely use the help in both Explorer and Historic.
Honestly for both formats, I think we need a really strong aggro deck to keep the metagame more balanced. Right now Explorer seems to be a race of who can go over the top of everyone else without needing to worry about aggro as the anti-aggro tools are so much stronger than the aggressive tools currently. I think we need to change that dynamic so players have to respect multiple archetypes and don’t get too greedy with their game plans.
Furthermore this is insane in Boros Feather in Explorer, and I love me some Feather.
For Historic, this would obviously bolster Burns metagame share like few cards could, and considering Burn is also one of my all time favorite Historic decks, this is a no brainer for me.
Eidolon of the Great Revel
More aggressive options! A lot of the rationale for Monastery Swiftspear applies here as well, but Eidolon is a bit more of a pointed card. Eidolon, while being generally good in Red aggro, is particularly excellent against the decks that play exclusively cheap cards like Izzet Phoenix. We need more threats that get some value even when answered and can’t be ignored so easily!
Furthermore, if Wizards does decide to put in support for combo decks (which is extremely likely), this will act as a nice foil to them. It won’t solve matchups by itself (unless it’s Jeskai Ascendancy, then it can), but having more ways to foil other decks is never a bad thing in my mind.
Rally the Ancestors
Rally has had a bit of a bad shake in Constructed. It was a bit too overbearing when it was in Standard, but then it’s done next to nothing since then. While I do want to shy away from combo decks in Explorer, this is a pretty big exception for me.
For starters, the power level of the combo is much lower than the other combo options in Pioneer. It can definitely end the game in one fell swoop, but it takes way more set up to get that ball rolling.
Second is that it’s way easier to interact with. At Rally’s heart, it’s just a creature deck that utilizes the graveyard in the late game. Between exile effects and graveyard hate, it’s certainly not too difficult to beat this if you really wanted to.
Finally the card and deck is just sweet. Playing a scrappy game plan into a combo game plan will provide fun games of Magic as there’s a lot of decisions being made. I know plenty of people enjoy playing combo, but losing to Lotus Field or Jeskai Ascendancy is more that you didn’t have enough answers which can be a boring and/or frustrating way to die.
If we’re going to have combo decks, may as well be sweet ones!
I’m not a guy that hates things really, not in my nature, but I hate Assassin's Trophy. I think it’s so bad, but if you want versatile removal in Golgari, sometimes you have to play it. With Abrupt Decay, that’s no longer an issue!
I think there should be more diverse removal in Eternal formats as there’s no real reason there should be hard to answer card types. Furthermore, Abrupt Decay is in two colors so it’s not like every deck will be able to pick this up either.
Lastly, having more reasons for Midrange decks to break off from the pure Rakdos norm (or force Rakdos to splash) seems like a big net positive for me when it’s a pretty tame card incentivizing that to happen.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
For Rally the Ancestors, Jace was commonly seen in the strategy in Standard providing looting support and eventually flashing back spells. While I’m unsure if it would make the cut in a hypothetical Explorer version, it would definitely be a thought as it was very good in the deck back in the day.
For Abrupt Decay, while it’s not a direct relation, Jace would be yet another reason for more Midrange options to exist beyond Rakdos. When uncontested, Jace is a very powerful card as getting a whole planeswalker for two mana is clearly quite the steal. You could force Rakdos into Grixis, play Dimir midrange, go Sultai with the potential Abrupt Decay, maybe help prop up a Reanimator strategy, the possibilities are endless!
For those who didn’t get to play with Jace in Standard (I certainly couldn’t, I was in college and they were like $80 a piece), this would be a fun way to introduce it.
Now some of you may think that this is a biased pick since Humans is one of my favorite all time Modern archetypes. You’d be correct.
Reflector Mage is a powerful card that can help bolster the creature strategies that can afford to play it. While the most obvious place to play it is a Bant Humans shell, this could also help enable regular Bant Company or maybe even an Azorius Aggro deck of some sort!
While powerful, I think it would be far from overbearing like it could feel in 2018 Modern. Without Aether Vial or Phantasmal Image, it’s not going to be bouncing boards like it could back in the day and rather let creature decks have main deck ways of dealing with opposing creatures which is all good with me.
Now some of you may think that this is a biased pick since Bant Spirits is one of my favorite all time Modern archetypes. You’d be correct. This seems familiar…
Ok, maybe I really love Collected Company decks, but they’re so fun! Right now the only viable Spirits archetype is Monno Blue, but having more reasons to deviate, or again, go for a regular Bant Company deck is absolutely a-ok with me. Similar to Reflector Mage, without Aether Vial it’s going to be rare that this card absolutely dominates games. Furthermore without Drogskol Captin, you’re not going to be locked out from getting your Spirit back nearly as often which should lead to more interesting game play overall.
I’m probably a bit too high on creature strategies, but they could definitely use some more help in Explorer right now so I don’t mind being a bit biased!
Here’s another simple one for you! Supreme Verdict, despite there being a plethora of wraths in the both Explorer and Historic, this has a few distinct advantages. One, it cannot be countered so you can’t just sit back on counterspells with nothing to fear. Decks like Mono Blue Spirits right now can’t realistically lose to Control so giving them a little something to fear is definitely welcome.
The second reason is that it’s specifically a multicolor wrath. This will work well in something like Five-Color Niv-Mizzet Reborn that wants to play exclusively multicolor cards while getting a powerful effect. This may seem minor, but leads into my next card that will also help out the cause.
Bring to Light
If you don’t think Bring to Light is one of the sweetest cards ever printed, then I don’t know what to say beyond we’re all different people with different preferences and one person’s opinions on what’s fun in Magic are no better than someone else’s. We lift each other up here on MTG Arena Zone!
I digress, Bring to Light is such an awesome design and would enable the cool Niv to Light deck that sees intermittent success in Pioneer. Furthermore, considering Explorer is still a weaker format, there may even be other decks that can utilize it which would be sweet!
What cards are you looking for in the next Anthology? Let me know in the Discord!
Thank you for reading!