One of the things I most enjoy in deck building is translating a deck from one format to another. Whether that is the various Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, or in this case, taking AspiringSpike’s Izzet Gearhulk Creativity deck (find more of Spike on Twitch) and porting it over to Explorer and seeing how it can best attack the current Midrange heavy Explorer metagame.
In play testing various versions of this deck, it’s easy to see why Spike was able to do well with this deck in Pioneer. Better yet, there’s only two cards from his deck missing from the Explorer deck in Dig Through Time and Fiery Impulse.
We’re able to reasonably replace Fiery Impulse with Voltage Surge, but Dig Through Time is trickier. There aren’t any replacements that can fix the gap that this deck misses from not having access to the powerful delve spell, so I opted to instead add in some more main deck removal. While Fire Prophecy has a little less flexibility than Abrade, with access to Prismari Command, I wanted to maximize my ability to filter through excess removal spells or lands in the mid game to accelerate our game plan.
While this Explorer adaptation feels slightly weaker, that’s an overall theme of Explorer versus Pioneer and I think this port has the legs to succeed on Arena. So, let’s dive right into this deck list:
In this style of deck, the big question isn’t how to enable a card like Indomitable Creativity, but it’s what’s the best thing to cheat into play? The options tend to be Agent of Treachery, Titan of Industry, or Sage of the Falls and The Locust God as a one-turn combo kill. Spike brought the idea of leveraging the power of Torrential Gearhulk – especially in multiples, to out value the opponent and threaten their life total.
There aren’t too many knockout punches for Torrential Gearhulk to throw in this deck, but much like in Jeskai Hinata, relying on one of the most powerful spells in the format cast at instant speed and for free can often bury opponents and instantly turn the tides of a difficult position. Like with Hinata, that card is Magma Opus, and it continues to give wins to me whenever I’m casting it for a heavily discounted or even free rate.
We’ve seen the power of this card whenever a deck can feasibly cast it. Jeskai Hinata in Standard has proven that when you get eight-mana spells for two-mana, that’s incredibly hard to deal with, but in this deck, you can get it for free. Torrential Gearhulk hard cast or Indomitable Creativity can allow you to suddenly wipe opponent’s board, tap their resources, draw extra cards, and add a 4/4 to the board alongside your Gearhulk.
There aren’t many spells on the level of Magma Opus in Explorer, and this is one of the few decks outside of my musing with Jeskai Hinata in Explorer than can reliably cast Magma Opus at a rate that can immediately bury your opponent in a tempo advantage. Especially if you get to cast more than one copy in a game.
A combo card we see in various Pioneer and Modern decks, Indomitable Creativity can turn your tokens or artifacts into Torrential Gearhulks. That’s quite the deal when you’re then getting a free spell off the Gearhulks and if it happens to be Magma Opus, it feels like you’re cheating.
While there are various applications for this card in various formats, I haven’t been in love with some of the other options in Explorer, such as Agent of Treachery, so getting to put down hulking threats that can also enable massive advantage is my favorite means of leveraging Creativity right now in Explorer.
Other than Indomitable Creativity, this deck runs exclusively instants in the instant and sorcery category. This allows you to operate at instant speed through removal like Voltage Surge, Fire Prophecy, and Prismari Command. Command and Prophecy double as card filtering or even making a treasure to help enable Indomitable Creativity.
While not as likely to counter something as other potential options like Make Disappear, Censor allows you to smooth out your draws along with Consider that helps the deck function and hit land drops and other resources until you can end the game.
Each of these instants works to help smooth the game one way or another and give this deck some staying power against various aggressive strategies looking to hinder your game plan through early aggression. Leverage your controlling spells to ensure you have the time to go over the top properly and you should be in good shape against most decks that play to the battlefield.
We’ve seen two enchantments operate as multifaceted threats in several decks and especially in Izzet Transmogrify or Indomitable Creativity decks. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Shark Typhoon are your standard bearers for this effect of generating value and creating tokens that can be converted into threats via Indomitable Creativity.
We’ve said everything about Fable of the Mirror-Breaker since its printing, but in a deck like this, being able to generate a body that makes additional treasures, can loot away your clunky spells, and threaten to win the late game via the powerful combination of Reflections of Kiki-Jiki alongside Torrential Gearhulk locking out opponents is obviously great.
While not as powerful, Shark Typhoon can act as an early play to set up Indomitable Creativity, can cycle to smooth out some awkward draw steps, and can serve as an additional large threat either hard cast or cycled as a large token on an end step. I’d say that Shark Typhoon is the least pressing threat in the deck, but as it has since its printing, the card can still kill opponents in a pinch and does a good job of pressuring opposing Planeswalkers.
This matchup lands in the traditional roles of a midrange deck versus a more controlling deck. Your goal is to quickly go over the top with two-for-one cards like Magma Opus and leveraging the hard to kill nature of Torrential Gearhulk.
While Rakdos can threaten you early or present a large Planeswalker presence, you can counteract that with Saheeli, Sublime Artificer creating a wide board state. With five starting loyalty, it is hard to take this Planeswalker down without Dreadbore in the format.
Take your time in this matchup, kill the early threats, and eventually land a Magma Opus or two and take over the game.
|+2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer||-2 Indomitable Creativity|
|+1 Disdainful Stroke||-4 Voltage Surge|
|+3 Fry||-3 Fire Prophecy|
|+4 Mystical Dispute||-1 Prismari Command|
This is a tough matchup as Dovin's Veto can be a real issue for this deck. You want to diversify your threats through Saheeli, Sublime Artificer along with adding in more counterspells to keep Azorius from pulling too far ahead via Planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
Mono Red Aggro
|+2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer||-2 Indomitable Creativity|
|+3 Aether Gust||-2 Magma Opus|
|+2 Anger of the Gods||-3 Prismari Command|
Take somewhat aggressive lines in this matchup as they can kill you with enough time, so you can’t just truly sit behind an army of cards like Absorb or The Wandering Emperor to lock out the opposition.
Humans plays out similarly to Mono Red Aggro except they have a much harder time killing you if you manage to keep the board in check, especially if you can leverage a few casts of Magma Opus through Torrential Gearhulk.
Focus on keeping hands that are heavy with removal and play around Thalia, Guardian of Thraben messing with your curve. If you don’t have a few removal spells, it will prove difficult even with some of your fastest hands to battle back the seas of ever-growing humans, so plan to take the role of the control deck in this matchup.
This matchup is tricky, especially since you don’t have a tone of ways to answer a Cauldron Familiar for good. Try to save your Prismari Command for Witch's Oven and kill Mayhem Devil on sight. If you can get to your Indomitable Creativity plan early, you can overwhelm Rakdos Sacrifice, but this can be a tricky matchup if they are able to establish any form of repeatable advantage like cat-oven or multiple Ob Nixilis, the Adversary.
Treat this matchup like you’re the control deck trying to keep all their key permanents off the table through removal and then finish the game quickly through several Magma Opus plus Torrential Gearhulk. Once again, you will likely need to leverage a few points of burn to close out the game if they find any number of Cauldron Familiar or Oni-Cult Anvil.
Mono Blue Spirits
This is a matchup that desperately wishes that Rending Volley was on Arena. Alas, since it isn’t, you instead leverage the next best set of options in Fry and Mystical Dispute, but I find I’d rather be flush with removal rather than counterspells in this matchup as all their cards function at a replacement level, so you can’t really let any stick around and drawing counterspells once a threat is down can instantly put you behind to spirits.
One of the more straightforward plans we have, cut your two-damage removal and a clunky spell you need to tap out for in exchange for Fry to handle Greasefang, Okiba Boss along with Anger of the Gods to sweep up tough board states and prevent Can't Stay Away from being effective.
Play this matchup slowly and take the role of control as you have plenty of answers to all their threats, especially post-board. You ideally want to operate entirely at instant speed in this matchup and luckily most of your cards allow just that while forcing Greasefang players to potentially pull the trigger into removal before you get your Torrential Gearhulk into play.
Tips and Tricks
- Try to always play your pathways on red. While you will sometimes need to play them on blue for early interaction, you are most limited by your access to triple red mana for Indomitable Creativity and you’d like to avoid sacrificing treasures to pay for the mana portion of Creativity.
- You can play Indomitable Creativity for X equaling more than you need or more than the number of threats in your deck, so that if an opponent removes a token in response, you still get max value.
- You can also target opposing artifacts or creatures with Indomitable Creativity. They will get a replacement creature or artifact, but often turning a Yorion, Sky Nomad into a Portable Hole is a net positive.
- This deck gets around Grafdigger’s Cage by using Indomitable Creativity as it exiles the cards and then casts them from exile. As mentioned above, also Creativity their artifact hate piece to enable Torrential Gearhulk.
- You get extra value from Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance and Den of the Bugbear making tokens you can sacrifice, so try to leverage these lands as additional spells when you need fodder to sacrifice or if you need to chip down Planeswalkers.
- You can Fire Prophecy your own Torrential Gearhulk to cycle cards that don’t line up in certain matchups.
- You can discard Magma Opus to create a treasure, setting up a surprise turn five hard cast Gearhulk with the Opus now in the graveyard to flashback. This is especially effective against decks like Rakdos Midrange that may not have permission, but can interact with the graveyard, so you want to get the value off Opus in one turn.
- It doesn’t come up often, but you can kill your opponent via Prismari Commands alongside Magma Opus and the Torrential Gearhulk flashback of these damage spells.
This has been a fun exercise in translating decks from one format into another, a topic I’ll cover in more depth when looking at what I’ve been doing with Standard, Explorer, and Pioneer Hinata, Dawn-Crowned.
But for now, this has been your deck guide for my take on Aspiring Spike’s Izzet Gearhulk Creativity deck ported from Pioneer to Explorer. With plenty of laddering to do this month, be sure to take advantage of this deck’s positive matchup into Rakdos Midrange and race up the ladder to Mythic!
Thanks for reading and stay safe out there.