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Brave the Elements Art

Explorer Mono White Humans Deck Guide: The Best Pioneer Aggro Deck Is Now In Explorer!

Want to master Explorer's best deck? Let Bohe show you how its done! Find out the list he would use, how to board in the most popular matchups, and the most important things to know to play this deck like a master!

Since Pioneer’s first days, Mono White Aggro was part of the metagame. One of the main reasons for this is that Humans are an ever-present tribe in every new set, and the most popular one in the history of the game.

White Weenie, as an archetype, is one of the oldest strategies in competitive play. Its simplicity makes this deck one that is easy to start playing tournaments with, and at the same time, one that punishes slower archetypes before they get a chance to develop their plans.

While it is true that Mono White is an ever-present deck in almost every format and era in Magic, its evolution in Pioneer has been something that strengthens this archetype set after set.

Some of the key pieces are cards printed during the last year and a half. The reason behind its latest fantastic results across many of the 2022 Regional Qualifiers is clear. It was just a matter of time until someone decided to update this archetype to make everyone realize how powerful it is in Pioneer.

Many of its cards are well-known from their time in Standard. Dauntless Bodyguard was a central piece of Dominaria’s Standard Mono White just as Luminarch Aspirant was to Zendikar Rising’s Standard. Thalia's Lieutenant and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben have even proved their strength in eternal formats.

If we add to the mix the best White creatures in the latest releases, the result is one of the best available archetypes in Pioneer. Hopeful Initiate and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar crushed the opposition in Standard not so long ago, and their appearance in the latest lists is not a surprise. With the aforementioned Hopeful Initiate, Dauntless Bodyguard, and the just released Recruitment Officer, exerting pressure since turn one is almost guaranteed for Mono White.

I didn’t mention Kytheon, Hero of Akros because this is an Explorer guide, and sadly, this creature/planeswalker is not available on Arena yet. However, the good news is that the single copy of Kytheon that is usually in Mono White Pioneer variants is the only card missing in this archetype main deck if we want to play it on Arena. Thanks to the last Explorer Anthology, Brave the Elements, the heart and soul of Mono White in Pioneer is now playable, making our board harder to remove. In combination with Mutavault, also released in the last Anthology, one more Pioneer deck is practically complete.

Mono White Humans – Javier Castellan Top8 CDMX RCQ
by Bohe
Buy on TCGplayer $217.98
Pioneer
best of 3
2 mythic
32 rare
14 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
60 Cards
$178.82
15 Cards
$38.39

Javier Castellan, a fellow MTG Judge, made an incredible run with this archetype the last weekend during The Gathering: Showdown Series, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean Regional Championship Qualifier.

The evolution of the archetype can be seen clearly in this list. There’s no more Thalia, Heretic Cathar or Tomik, Distinguished Advokist. Instead, a more Human-centric build is now the main route for Mono White Aggro, letting us fully utilize Thalia's Lieutenant or one of the most recent additions to the strategy, Resplendent Marshal.

If we look closely, this list can be played in Explorer, and after working with it, I can say without a doubt that this deck has come to stay in the metagame for a long time.

Let me present to you, my adaptation for Explorer of Javier’s successful Pioneer variant:

Mono White Aggro – Explorer
by Bohe
Buy on TCGplayer $207.41
Explorer
best of 3
1 mythic
32 rare
15 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
60 Cards
$171.32
Sideboard
2
Devout Decree
$0.70
3
Portable Hole
$4.47
2
Glass Casket
$0.70
3
Rest in Peace
$23.97
15 Cards
$39.51

Adapting Javier’s deck was an easy task. The only missing piece in the main deck was the aforementioned Kytheon, Hero of Akros, easily replaceable for the fourth copy of Recruitment Officer to keep our curve consistent. For the sideboard, Fiendslayer Paladin is without a doubt something we would like to have. Nevertheless, playing a pair of Devout Decree does a similar job. The last replacement was two Guardian of Faith instead of Selfless Spirit. Guardian of Faith cost one more mana, but letting us play in response to our opponents’ moves let us make them think twice before playing a sweeper, solidifying our Brave the Elements plan.

The deck is extremely consistent in executing its game plan. Twelve one-drops and twelve two-drops force almost every opponent to interact during the early game or lose before turn five. And basically the same goes for combo decks; they have to go off early, something hard for them when we play a turn two Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Potential Inclusions / Notable Exclusions

Another interesting fact about this archetype is how many good options there are to customize the main deck and the sideboard according to the current state of the meta. Let’s just mention a few that could be useful depending on how Explorer settles down after the Anthology release.

  • Thraben Inspector tends to be left aside because 2-power creatures fit better when trying to be aggressive. However, against midrange and control decks, the clue token is very valuable for keeping the gas up.
  • Soldier of the Pantheon was also introduced to Arena in the latest Explorer Anthology and was one of the one-drop preferred choices back in the day. This creature crushes Niv-Mizzet Reborn decks and gives us valuable life against Rakdos Sacrifice. Both are not popular archetypes right now, but this creature can return to our 75 when that happens.
  • Brutal Cathar is the main deck option for many players of this archetype. It works well with the Human synergies and helps as a removal option for blockers similar to Skyclave Apparition. My reasoning for playing Skyclave over Cathar is how nowadays, it’s key to have an answer for Fires of Invention.
  • Fateful Absence can be played if Abzan Greasefang rises again as the boogieman of the format. Having a way of interacting with it gives us more comfortable games and Declaration in Stone, besides being better overall, falls behind in this specific scenario for being sorcery.
  • Two Shadows over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon cards are going to be likely in Arena when SOI Remastered arrives at MTGA. Even if Thalia, Heretic Cathar is not popular in the current variants of the deck, it’s very good in certain scenarios and Selfless Spirit is, without a doubt, a game changer that can be played instead of Guardian of Faith.

Sideboard Guide

Guardian of Faith Art by Brian Valeza
Guardian of Faith Art by Brian Valeza

Rakdos Midrange

InOut
+2 Declaration in Stone-4 Brave the Elements
+2 Devout Decree-4 Skyclave Apparition
+2 Glass Casket-1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
+1 Extraction Specialist
+2 Guardian of Faith

Rakdos has heavily adapted its sideboard against this match. They now prefer to play Extinction Event and even Kaervek, the Spiteful to overcome Brave the Elements. It’s true that Brave the Elements can help us pass through a problematic board, but our spot removal in the form of Declaration in Stone, Devout Decree, and Glass Casket help us to prevent these situations.

Skyclave Apparition can help us against Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, or Liliana of the Veil. However, they have many removal options for dealing with Skyclave and get a big blocker in the process. Rakdos is very good at trading 2 for 1 against almost any deck, but it has a hard time if we go wide, the reason behind their 3-4 copies of Extinction Event. I prefer to play without fear and exert pressure as fast as I can, prioritizing Adeline, Resplendent Cathar whenever I can, protecting the board with Guardian of Faith, or recovering our creatures with Extraction Specialist.

Mono Green Devotion

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-2 Extraction Specialist
+2 Declaration in Stone-3 Dauntless Bodyguard

One of the biggest discussions about this deck is if we want Portable Hole against Mono Green or not. I’m on the “Yup” side. Many would agree that this is a favorable matchup, and being just as aggressive as we can is enough for beating Mono Green before its first Storm the Festival resolves.

While this can be true, a very good Storm the Festival can stop us from time to time and put a big enough wall impossible to pass. Delaying this with just one pinpointed Portable Hole is, in my opinion, a huge game changer in this match.

We have to remember that Portable Hole not only stops Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves, but also Wolfwillow Haven. Keeping in mind that we can exile this green Aura, doing it the immediate turn after it comes into play could make Mono Green Devotion stumble and give us all the time we need to close the game without a problem.

They practically don’t play removal so, Extraction Specialist and Dauntless Bodyguard are mostly not needed.

Aim Declaration in Stone to the first threat big enough to delay you from pressuring your opponents’ life total.

Azorius Control

InOut
+2 Guardian of Faith-3 Brave the Elements
+1 Extraction Specialist

Brave the Elements is one of our key cards. However, against UW, Brave the Elements loses a lot of its value. Protection from color doesn’t save our creatures from Supreme Verdict, Settle the Wreckage, or Temporary Lockdown, plus they also play a creatureless deck, so gaining protection for evading blockers is mostly circumstantial against a field flooded with flying sharks from Shark Typhoon

Brave the Elements will certainly help against March of Otherworldly Light, Fateful Absence, or the occasional Leyline Binding though, so its not useless. Nevertheless, here is where our Skyclave Apparition shines. Many Mono White players side out Brutal Cathar, and this is clearly a good choice, but we instead get to keep our Skyclave Apparition. Yes, Apparition can’t take out Binding, but it does a great job against opposite Portable Hole and Temporary Lockdown, letting us recover our creatures, something that UW doesn’t expect we are able to do. Also, Apparitions can take The Wandering Emperor out.

Guardian of Faith helps where Brave the Elements can’t, letting us avoid board wipes at instant speed.

Mirror Match

InOut
+3 Portable Hole-4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
+2 Declaration in Stone-4 Dauntless Bodyguard
+2 Glass Casket
+1 Extraction Specialist

Here we have to apply one of the great concepts to understand during a Magic: The Gathering game: “Who’s the beatdown?”

Most of the time this is decided solely by who is on the play and who is on the draw (playing first or playing second), but don’t let this be the only decider when you have to make a decision between being aggressive or playing early interaction.

If you decide your role is being the aggressor, do your best to pressure your opponent’s life total, holding your removal a little bit longer. If you are on the draw or your hand and your opponent’s first few plays dictate that you are going to be the defender, do your best to play early interaction for making combat difficult for your opponent.

Use our removal for creatures that can be decisive when you face a board stall like Thalia's Lieutenant, Luminarch Aspirant, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, and/or Hopeful Initiate.

Remember that Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire is colorless, letting us kill attackers even after an opposite Brave the Elements calling White.

Tips & Tricks

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Art by Bryan Sola
Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Art by Bryan Sola
  • Extraction Specialist is fantastic for letting us keep the pressure up. Don’t hesitate and attack if you can win over two turns, even if one of your creatures dies during blocks. Brave the Elements is amazing at helping us get damage through blockers in the definitive combat phase.
  • Mutavault is a creature with all creature types when you use its ability. Paying one for converting it before you play Thalia's Lieutenant will make this land have a +1/+1 counter on it that is going to stay there even if it stops being a creature. Dauntless Bodyguard protection works in the same way.
  • A hand with 4+ lands is most of the time a Mulligan. Consider keeping a hand like this only if you can curve creatures during the first three turns and you have a Mutavault.
  • Cast Brave the Elements before blockers are declared, but after you have declared your attackers. This is relevant for many reasons like giving protection to Adeline, Resplendent Cathar token, getting the +1/+1 token during the mirror match if you choose White, etc.

End Step

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Art by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Art by Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss

With the release of the second Explorer Anthology, many Pioneer top contender archetypes are getting the tools they need to start shining in Explorer, and Mono White Aggro is not an exception. This is clearly the best aggro deck in Explorer, and it can only become better when SOI Remastered arrives.

Boros Heroic now has Monastery Swiftspear and Mono-Green Devotion is complete with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. SOI is probably going to give Izzet Phoenix Thing in the Ice and Phyrexia: All Will Be One is going to introduce Phyrexian Obliterator to the format, and the list goes on.

Fortunately for the players that like eternal formats like us, Explorer is growing its card pool at a decent rate, and many of the most beloved (or feared) Pioneer decks are now playable. Mono White is a deck full of synergies, aggressive enough to push the early game hard, and with many tools that give us resiliency to keep our plan going against any attrition match, something that makes this archetype a great choice for a player that wants to start playing the format to the more experienced ones that want to win the next RCQ.

Reflector Mage is already on Explorer. Can you imagine what is going to happen when Experiment One and Mantis Rider become playable in this format? Until then, let me know what you think about this archetype in the comments below or in my social media. Happy holidays to everyone, and don’t forget to smile; it surely will make a difference.

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Bohe
Bohe

A full time MTG content creator. Started playing Magic in 99’ with the release of Urza’s Destiny, 3 times Grand Prix attendant (1 as a player ending #78 and 2 as a judge). Mexican, lover of coffee, Korean culture, languages and ex-LoL coach.
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