Hello everyone! It’s been a minute since we’ve done an Explorer Meta Snapshot, and finally, we’re seeing the meta shift a bit! While Explorer has felt fresh game play wise, it did stagnate a bit quickly as the best decks were quickly identified and iterated upon. Now with a whole Explorer Anthology 1 here to shake things up a little bit, we can expect some more mobility in the future! While things haven’t changed too much yet, I don’t expect that to be the case for long.
As a note before we get started, this isn’t a comprehensive list of every notable deck, but rather the decks that have stood out the most this week. For the full list and decks, check out the tier lists for each game mode:
- Arena Explorer (BO1) Metagame Tier List and Rankings
- Traditional Explorer (BO3) Metagame Tier List and Rankings
Mono Blue Spirits
- Find more Mono Blue Spirits decklists in our deck database
- Check out our latest Mono Blue Spirits deck guide
Starting off our list, we have one of the decks that gained the most from the Explorer Anthology: Mono Blue Spirits.
Before the Anthology, Mono Blue Spirits was already an excellent deck due to it’s fast and disruptive game plan. Getting on the board quickly and then countering anything relevant from the opponent is an extremely effective strategy, and the Anthology only made it better with the introduction of Mausoleum Wanderer. Now Spirits has an even faster beater that doubles as an additional piece of interaction to make fighting against this deck that much tougher.
It is still early in the new Explorer metagame, but I’m going to bet that when the dust settles, Spirits is going to be the best deck in the format.
- Find more Rakdos Sacrifice decklists in our deck database
- Check out our latest Rakdos Sacrifice deck guide
While not gaining anything itself in the Explorer Anthology, Rakdos Sacrifice is still going strong in this metagame.
Although Cauldron Familiar might have gotten nerfed in Historic, it’s still doing broken things in Pioneer where you can use it as an extremely powerful inevitability engine. However, the reason Rakdos gets the nod over Jund for me is it’s strength against Mono Blue Spirits. Both Rakdos and Jund play Mayhem Devil which is obscene against the strategy, but also having access to four Claim the Firstborn can make all the difference in racing scenarios.
Although Rakdos is my preference, it’s hard to say whether this or Jund is going to be the preferred style of Sacrifice. A lot of it will have to do with what decks rise to prominence, so be flexible in your Cauldron Familiar shells to stay ahead of the metagame.
- Find more Izzet Creativity decklists in our deck database
- Check out our latest Izzet Creativity deck guide
The initial brain child of aspiringspike that was ported to Explorer by Darthjacen, Izzet Creativity has proven it’s strength in the Explorer metagame.
What Izzet does so well is that it can easily go over the top of everyone else while not being priced in on comboing out to win. Compare this to the win condition of The Locust God and Sage of the Falls: if you draw one of the pieces or can’t get a Creativity out, it’s going to be extremely hard to win. While casting a big Creativity is going to end games quickly here, you can just play a normal game of Control and win through Torrential Gearhulk beats, a big Shark token, hard casting a Magma Opus, and so on. Having this flexibility in it’s game plan makes it so potent.
While I do have some concerns for this deck as Mono Blue Spirit’s stock picks up, having access to Red should allow the deck to lean hard into even more cheap removal if it seems necessary which should help keep it at the top of the metagame.
- Find more Rakdos Midrange decklists in our deck database
- Check out our latest Rakdos Midrange deck guide
Finally being dethroned, but gaining it’s best piece from the Explorer Anthology, Rakdos Midrange is in a very interesting spot of the metagame.
Out of all the Anthology cards, it’s safe to say Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet was one of the most impactful ones. Better yet, Kalitas slots into Rakdos better than any other deck which makes it an easy pair. Being able to convert removal spells into even more card advantage is a huge deal for Rakdos. Another aspect that Rakdos struggled with before was catch up mechanisms. With no way to gain life and few ways to swing a race beyond removal, Rakdos could struggle to regain control of a game if their life total was too low. With Kalitas, that isn’t as much of a worry as getting a large Lifelink body is going to be a huge deal.
While Kalitas is a great pick up, I still think there are better tier 1 options than Rakdos. Rakdos is always going to be a rock in the metagame as a powerful deck and could easily find its way back to the top spot, but with all the powerful things going on around it, it’s not going to be an easy ascent.
- Find more Azorius Control decklists in our deck database
- Check out our latest Azorius Control deck guide
While Azorius has struggled to make a foothold due to tough matchups, it may come back into prominence through the power of Supreme Verdict.
We don’t need to mince words, Mono Blue Spirits was a horrendous matchup for Azorius. Considering it was one of the most popular decks, this made the prospect of playing Azorius extremely risky in the past. However, now that we have an uncounterable wrath, things don’t look so grim. Sure, Mono Blue isn’t going to be a great matchup, but now Azorius has a fair shake in the matchup. It can be more assured in its game plan of try to counter everything and resolve a planeswalker when it has a powerful wrath effect to fall back in.
While getting Supreme Verdict is huge for Azorius, playing Control early in a metagame is always difficult as it’s hard to know what decks you should be looking to beat. However, as the metagame gets more solidified, Azorius will get better and better in turn.
Once again we see Greasefang as a strong strategy, but no longer as Mardu! While the Mardu varient is still very reasonable, Abzan seems to be picking up as the strategy of choice.
Looking at the deck, it’s not hard to see why. My largest issue with Mardu Greasefang was two fold: consistency and back up plans. The deck wasn’t inconsistent by any stretch as Mardu, but I felt that there would be a lot of games it wouldn’t do its thing either. So when it couldn’t do its thing, what did it do? Mostly, it died. Abzan looks to shore up both of these issues by adding more mill pieces to get Vehicles into the graveyard and a better alternate win condition with Esika's Chariot. The downside of this version is that it is much more susceptible to graveyard hate, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for a better deck overall.
I’m very interested to see where Abzan goes as a deck as a stronger iteration of Greasefang seems like a scary prospect for any deck to face.
Mono Green Ramp
- Find more Mono Green Ramp decklists in our deck database
- Check out our latest Mono Green Ramp deck guide
Having Elvish Mystic in Explorer is a huge deal as Green decks now have access to the full 8 of the effect. Doubling the consistency of a good turn 1 mana dork is going to make all the difference for base Green strategies, and the deck that likely gains the most from it is Mono Green Ramp. While still missing Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in Explorer, the deck still performs quite well as the game plan of a bunch of ramp into big spells ahead of curve is a powerful one. Now that the consistency of this deck has sky rocketed, I expect to see a lot more of it.
While Mono Green still suffers the issue of being a slave to it’s draws, having the Karn wishboard makes the deck surprisingly good at card selection. All in all, I think this is the deck that gained the most from the Anthology.
Mono Black Vampires
For my final deck of the list, we have another deck that made big strides with Kalitas coming to Explorer: Mono Black Vampires.
I’ve been on a big Vampires kick since Explorer started, and with Kalitas, the deck is almost complete. What I like about the deck is it’s simplicity: you have good creatures, good interaction, a good curve, and good synergy. It doesn’t do anything super spectacular, but does everything pretty well which makes it a well rounded choice. Furthermore, having a deck that functions similar to midrange, but randomly has a busted card like Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord is a super nice draw.
While I don’t envision Vampires ever being too popular as it has been functionally absent from Pioneer, I think Explorer is still the right power level for this strategy to shine.
As I stated in the beginning, the metagame still hasn’t moved too much with the introduction of the Explorer Anthology, but things are definitely changing! It takes more than a week for metagames to shift and while many of the top decks got more cards to help cement their placements, budding decks gained a lot too so I expect that we’ll be seeing some new archetypes rising to prominence within the next few weeks.
On that note, one of the best aspects of Explorer that no other Arena format shares is that the tiers are much closer together. What I mean by that is the power level disparity between decks in different tiers is substantially smaller than they are in other formats. If you try to play a Tier 3 deck in Standard, Alchemy, or Historic, the odds of you doing well seems so much lower. I’m not promising greatness if you play a tier 3 strategy in Explorer, but I feel you could at least do well. I spend a lot of time playing tier 2 strategies to strong success which is a clear sign of a healthy format to me.