Hello everyone! 25 new Explorer Anthology 2 cards are being introduced to the Explorer format – so it’s time to dive in to see what’s good, what’s bad, and where the cards can go! As always, here’s the scale I’ll be using to label the new cards that potentially have constructed applications.
- 0/5 – Unplayable in every sense.
- 1/5 – Extremely niche play or very unlikely to see play.
- 2/5 – Niche to no play, maybe playable in certain conditions.
- 3/5 – Reasonable playable. Not format breaking, but has the power level to see play in some strategy (or strategies).
- 4/5 – Very strong card, but not the best the format has to offer. Has the power level to see a lot of play.
- 5/5 – The very top of the format. This card will create a huge impact going forward on the format.
Brave the Elements
While you can realistically only play this in one deck, this is going to be the breakpoint for Mono White Aggro in Explorer taking it from a fringe playable archetype to a tier two one at a minimum. The ability to force through alpha strikes or protect your creatures from removal gives this spell insane versatility that is going to give White decks the power boost they so desperately needed.
I’ve always loved Ghostway effects, but unfortunately, they’re not the most playable cards. The best we ever got was Yorion, Sky Nomad, but that’s by the virtue of it being a literal free Flying 4/5 that could blink your nonland permanents, not just your creatures. While there is a chance that some deck could make use of this, it would likely be more of a brew challenge than an attempt to make a meta option.
Displacer is a super interesting card and it reminds me of Modern in the late 2010s as people tried to make Eldrazi Midrange decks work, and while I would be skeptical of them for Explorer if we had all the pieces, we don’t even have them all yet! Despite that, Displacer is technically strong enough that some deck may want to play it, but I have my doubts.
Functionally the best Aura in Pioneer (and now Historic as well), this is a big power boost to the Aura decks that wanted to play All That Glitters, but only wanting to pay half the price (of course, you can just play both)!
While Ethereal Armor is an excellent pick up, unfortunately, Auras is not that good anymore in either Explorer or Historic, so the relative impact it’s going to have is likely minimal. More players may try Auras out because of it so there’s a nonzero chance it has some sort of resurgence or it’s better in Explorer than it is in Pioneer, but we shall see!
Soldier of the Pantheon
This is a weird case as Soldier is a fine one drop, it’s just not better than the other options. Furthermore, multicolor creatures aren’t much of a concern in Explorer, so for the most part, this is going to be a glorified Elite Vanguard that will maybe net you a life or sometimes have protection from a creature. Again, not bad in any capacity, just not good either.
I love Clever Impersonator and have a lot of nostalgia from it as the first Khans tournament I was playing a deck with Ashen Rider and my opponent was playing Sultai Control with four of these and absolutely obliterated me. Good times. I digress, while this card is cool and could be a part of some toolbox deck (save one, more on that later), those decks aren’t really any good, so this is more of a fun inclusion for Historic Brawl players more than anything.
There’s nothing wrong with Dispel, but it’s a very strange inclusion for an Anthology. I would expect this to be in the final dump of playable cards that turns Explorer into Pioneer, not in the second Anthology, yet here we are. It’s a serviceable sideboard card, but as it stands, wouldn’t really see play.
Blood Artist effects are very powerful, and the more you can play, the better they tend to be as a whole. Zulaport Cutthroat isn’t an incredible card, but is a huge pick up for any Aristocrat style decks that have seen some play in Pioneer. Hard to say if this will make an impact, but having another Blood Artist could make Aristocrats or Rally possible.
Eidolon of the Great Revel
While Burn isn’t the most popular strategy in Pioneer, Eidolon of the Great Revel is one of the best Red creatures ever printed. Being able to constantly tax the opponent’s life total is going to mean so much more to you than it will to the average opponent, so moving forward, you should expect to see this in every burn deck in both Explorer and Historic.
While this doesn’t look like a particularly exciting card, Fiery Impulse is good for more controlling or tempo decks as a way to deal with x/3s for one mana. In particular, Izzet Phoenix tends to play a lot of this, so while missing the Delve spells will likely hold off these style of decks from doing well, this will be a good option when they’re finally introduced.
The current top dog of Explorer is Mono Blue Spirits, and while you could play Fry to combat them, you’re not exactly getting a premium by paying two mana for a removal spell. Rending Volley does mostly the same thing as Fry, but for one mana cheaper. The only real disadvantage is that you can’t hit Planeswalkers, but since Azorius Control isn’t really popular in any capacity, this is more or less a strict upgrade.
Courser of Kruphix
Courser of Kruphix is the epitome of fair Magic, trying to slowly accrue card advantage and life. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s where present Magic is at anymore. I’m probably overrating this if anything because I played against this a lot when it was in Standard, and while a reasonable powerful card, we’ve probably moved past this era of power level already. I’d love to be wrong and this card becomes a reasonable option, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
This card is cool, but incredibly narrow. On it’s face, the effect isn’t that amazing as fixing one of your lands and cantripping isn’t much worth the two mana, but using this in conjunction with Enigmatic Incarnation is a pretty big deal. This may seem like a meme, but Incarnation is a surprisingly solid toolbox deck so I would be pretty surprised if this saw no play.
We actually just got Satyr Wayfinder’s younger sibling, Blanchwood Prowler, in Standard so it’s funny timing, but Wayfinder is so much better than Prowler. While the difference may seem minute, seeing four cards over three is a sizable difference, and while I’m no Frank Karsten, the odds of you hitting a land go way up seeing that additional card. Furthermore, milling an additional card can be a big deal for any deck that cares about the graveyard such as Abzan Greasefang. Once the Delve cards come out too, you better believe I’m going to try something ill-conceived.
World Breaker was an old ramp payoff in it’s tenure in Standard, but I have to admit, I don’t know why this was a priority. This card is much too slow for an Eternal format and I would be very surprised if this saw play outside of maybe playing it as a one of in some slow deck, but even then, it’s hard to imagine that being correct.
Oh boy. Reflector Mage is an absolutely brutal card that has fallen out of favor recently. It’s unfortunate considering that this is a monster in conjunction with Collected Company, but those styles of decks have really paled in comparison to some of the hyper efficient options writhe in Pioneer right now. I’m more grading this on power level alone, but there is a chance that this doesn’t really see play.
Shaman of the Pack
Elves isn’t really a thing in Pioneer or Explorer, and I doubt that this will change that much other than potentially for Best of One. However, Elves is quite popular in Historic and I can see this being a really nice piece there as yet another way to help close out the game. This isn’t going to fundamentally change how the deck is built or played beyond potentially adding Black, but it is a pretty solid payoff if the deck wants it.
This is obviously not for competitive play, but instead for all the Historic Brawl chads on Arena. I played Sliver Hivelord as a Commander back in the day and it was sick, highly recommend. Even still, this is not too bad of a payoff in a Constructed deck, though the odds of that happening are extremely low.
Kozilek, the Great Distortion
Like World Breaker, I really don’t know what this is doing in Explorer. I can’t think of the last time someone was looking to play this in a deck, and if they wanted a huge payoff for ramping, why wouldn’t they just play Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? Maybe this is just for Historic Brawl, but I don’t even think it’s good there. I could at least fathom some scenario you’d want to potentially play World Breaker, but I’m coming up short here.
This is tough as Matter Reshaper is a reasonably strong card, but doesn’t really have a home. It’s hard to imagine some Eldrazi deck is going to be spawned from this Anthology as you have so few good cards to work with and the deck building cost doesn’t really match the payoffs you’re getting. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not seeing it.
This is the same case as Matter Reshaper, but definitely closer to being an actual payoff. Thought-Knot Seer is a really strong card, and I think there were Pioneer decks in the past that made mana base concessions just to be able to play this. While I don’t think it’s strong enough to justify those concessions anymore, it is a strong card that should be on a player’s radar.
You don’t play Mana Confluence because it’s a good land, you do so when it’s a necessary land. That said, I think Explorer’s mana bases are strong enough that you will never need to play this, but perhaps some deck can use this as a one or two of to get their colors where they need to be.
It’s Mutavault. Not much more to say beyond this is one of the best payoffs you can have for being mono colored (or at least mostly). This is a huge incentive for people to play mono colored strategies and will be a four of in all of them.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
I know I gave Mutavault a 5, and it deserved this, but maybe this would be more accurate as a 6/5. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is busted and it’s going to turn Explorer on its head as Mono Green just went from a mediocre option to a solid one. You may be wondering why I don’t think Mono Green is going to be busted, well, without The Chain Veil you lost the combo element of the deck. Not having Oath of Nissa hurts too, but not as much as lacking the random “I Win” turns.
I can’t envision a scenario where you would want to play Wastes over another basic as there’s very little chance that a colorless deck will be viable, but I won’t rule it out completely.
Overall there are some really interesting designs in this set, but most of them are pretty weak. This is a tough balance to strike as they want these cards to be strong enough to be impactful, but if they’re strong enough to be really impactful, they are probably really really good. Again, most of the cards are quite weak, but there are a few cool and strong designs I’m very interested in seeing play out.
Thanks for reading!