Hello everyone! We want you to have the most up to date information on Explorer so we’ll provide analysis on the standout decks, whether they stand out for their strength, weaknesses, or they have a large change in positioning. As always, you can find the link to the complete tier lists below.
To compile this list, the first metric that I look at the most is recent tournament successes. Following tournament trends is generally the best way to dictate what decks are overperforming for the week and can cut through the noise of inaccurate data. The second metric I use is it’s inherent positioning in the metagame with what decks it’s good at beating and what beats it. The third metric is then win rate data where I see how the deck has historically done over it’s tracked life cycle. Finally, I have the fourth determination of personal bias where I let my feelings fly on why I like a deck that isn’t necessary empirical. This could be deck feel, perceived matchup strength, or any other metric I would discuss that’s not already covered. With that, let’s get into it.
Winota, Joiner of Forces and Tibalt’s Trickery Banned
Winota, Joiner of Forces and Tibalt's Trickery has been emergency banned as of the May 12 patch. While the latter card won’t have much affect, the metagame is going to be a bit chaotic with the best deck in the format now gone. As it stands, these will still be the top decks for this week until the meta sorts itself out and stabilizes over the next week.
This Week’s Top Performers
Trying to play as the anathema to creature decks, Rakdos Midrange is an excellent choice right now for all your grinding needs! Rakdos is a strong choice right now as it has a solid plan against pretty much every strategy. Need to beat creature decks? You have a deluge of removal. Need to beat other midrange decks? You have good interaction for their creatures and solid threats to keep the pressure up. Control? You have hand disruption, planeswalkers, and strong creatures to pressure them.
Rakdos has the classic Midrange strength and problem, if it can beat anything, you can lose to anything. That isn’t to say other decks aren’t capable of beating or losing to anything, but what I mean is that decks that have a plan against everything could have the wrong plan against a certain strategy. Aggro decks never has the wrong game plan for the matchup, they just look to win through combat. Rakdos may draw a bunch of removal against Control or a bunch of threats against combo, and in both cases, you’ll likely die to your draws. Thankfully, this can be remedied in the post board games by nixing the worst cards in that matchup (and the delta between your bad and good cards is certainly much wider than your opponent’s which is nice), but this is a play pattern not everyone enjoys.
Nevertheless, Rakdos is definitely one of the best decks right now as it can truly have a plan for everything.
Don’t worry sacrifice players, there’s more than one way to play Rakdos! Oni-Cult Anvil has been an instrumental card in every Arena format as it provides a new way for sacrifice style decks to grind through the opponent. This is powerful by itself, but when you combine this with Cat/Oven and Mayhem Devil, things can get crazy really fast!
I’m a big fan of this strategy as it only really has one game plan, but it’s extremely good at roping the opponents into it. Rakdos is almost always going into the mid to late game, but by the nature of the engine and with assistance from their removal, most opponents will have no choice but to keep playing along as killing Rakdos quickly is a Herculean task. That said, despite the deck looking to get somewhat late, it can definitely have relatively fast draws as well that can put immense pressure on the opponents to find a way out quickly. Whenever you have a deck that’s so consistent in enacting its game plan and it has the ability to do it quickly (even if it can only do that sometimes), that’s a winner to me.
For those who have been playing Explorer, they know that Winota wasn’t the only combo deck around! Although both are creature centric, Greasefang doesn’t need to build a board to enable itself, rather it just needs to put a Vehicle in the graveyard and make it to combat! It generally isn’t as flashy as the turns Winota could produce, but attacking with a Parhelion II is generally more than enough to close out a game.
While Greasefang is poweful, it has two distinct disadvantages and one big advantage. Since I always like bad news first, the main disadvantages to playing Greasefang are opposing removal isn’t spread thin and you can be interrupted by removal and graveyard disruption. Since the only creature that really matters is Greasefang, the opponent can simply just hold all their removal until they see it. Mardu can combat this with redundancy either through additional copies or recursion like Can't Stay Away, but this is an issue for decks that have a lot of interaction. The second is that graveyard hate can be just as detrimental to the plan (if not more so) than creature removal and most decks pack both.
It may seem like I’m panning this deck, but Greasefang has a huge advantage over most other combo decks it has more space. While most combo decks are completely dedicated to doing it’s thing, no room for other activities. Greasefang on the other hand can have a good amount of flex spots which it can use to combat hate or hate out other decks. Furthermore, Greasefang can combo turn 3 which is good against fast and slow decks alike. If the opponent is holding up removal turn 3 onward, Greasefang can just keep sculpting it’s draws and setting up for a turn that it can strike.
For those who like Combo decks, Greasefang seems like an excellent option.
The Deck’s Looking To Break In / Next Best Options
This is likely the most speculative of my choices on the list, but we’re using prior format knowledge to our advantage here. Azorius Control has an interesting history in Pioneer where it was considered one of Winota’s worst matchup (Winota is gone now, but this will still excel against creature decks) s as they had so much removal to deal with their threats and it could still be a real deck in other matchups. However, the deck started getting hated out by Izzet Control which is a horrendous matchup and Mono Green Karn which was similarly problematic so it lost it’s edge.
This won’t be the case forever, but right now neither deck is playable in Explorer which should give Azorius a real shot in this metagame. Considering most of the metagame is sculpted around combo decks and midrange decks trying to beat them, this may be the perfect time for Azorius to swoop in and dominate the field.
Mono Blue Spirits
This is one of the more surprising entries for me, but the results don’t lie! Mono Blue Spirits has been doing very well in Explorer even without Mausoleum Wanderer!
The deck has a simple game plan, but it’s extremely efficient. Deploy synergistic threats, interact a few times, fly over the opponent. While I would’ve expected this to not be the most effective strategy against creature decks, you can just keep the most problematic threats off of the board and fly your way to victory. Then in slow matchups and/or combo matchups, your game plan is even more effective as you can simply race or tempo out the opponent before they can get their plan going.
If you’re a fan of Blue tempo decks, this seems to be an excellent choice right now and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s considered one of the best decks soon.
Just like in the deck itself, you can’t keep Arclight Phoenix down for long! Despite losing a lot of key pieces from Pioneer, Explorer Phoenix is still going strong with the help of the new Ledger Shredder.
What’s interesting about Phoenix is that it has a big problem and a big advantage, and like you know from Greasefang, let’s start with the problem. Despite doing well without tools from Pioneer, Phoenix is definitely the deck that got hurt the most while still being playable. The delta between the strength of the deck in Pioneer versus Explorer is pretty massive. Furthermore, you lose out on some important interaction like Fiery Impulse which makes various matchups, most notably Greasefang, a good deal worse than they normally are.
So what’s the good news? This deck checks all my proverbial boxes. You have a powerful and consistent game plan. You have great interaction. You are hard to deal with. You can be fast or grindy depending on what you need. No matter the matchup, you always have a plan. These are the hallmarks of an amazing deck, and as of right now, the only thing holding it back really is the missing Pioneer pieces. I have doubts this can be a top tier option without recovering some of them, but when it does, I’d be shocked if it wasn’t considered one of the best decks.
Mono Red Aggro
For the final deck of the list, we have an old classic: Mono Red Aggro. I feel that Mono Red is always cursed to be a fine option, never an amazing one, and that more or less holds true here.
For what it’s worth, Mono Red does have some nice advantages to it. The deck is clearly fast as that’s what it’s designed to do, it can grind somewhat well depending on the threats package (my list is looking to do so anyway), and it can have decent interaction, even if it’s mostly creature-centric. These elements coalesce into a solid strategy as you put a lot of pressure on the opponent and then you can stop any relevant threats they may present when needed. The opponent doesn’t have key threats/ Then you can just focus on being proactive and hope that it’s good enough.
My main concern with Mono Red is that it’s power level seems a good deal lower than the best decks in the format, but for such a classic and cohesive game plan, that isn’t as big of a deal as it may seem. Deck strength doesn’t matter if you’re already dead!
Thank you for reading!