Hello everyone! Streets of New Capenna is finally here and I’ve already seen a deluge of deck ideas seeing play or being speculated on in such a short period of time. That’s why I personally find new set time to be the best time to be a Magic player as there’s so much to explore!
That said, even in the first few days of set release, we start to see certain strategies rise to the top and help create what will be the new metagame of that particular format. However, this release things are different. While Standard has to contend with a new pool of cards that can have a big impact on the format, with Explorer, it’s more about delving into a somewhat pre-existing metagame and seeing how it unfolds! This is an interesting time as this is a format that won’t be impacted too harshly from the new set nor is it a completely new format, but figuring out what is good from one similar format and another is going to be a super interesting development!
Before I dive right in, bear in mind I am operating off of a few days of play so the article will be substantially more subjective than other installments. With that in mind, the formatting of the article is going to be different as well to reflect the more subjective style of this list. Once the metagame starts settling down, this will be updated with a more objective eye! As always, you can find the link to the complete, up to date tier lists below.
Naya Winota Is Public Enemy Number 1
To anybody paying attention, Naya Winota performing well is definitely no real surprise. The deck was a force to be reckoned with in Pioneer and with it keeping nearly all of it’s pieces moving into Explorer, obviously we’re seeing a lot of it here now. The deck is extremely fast, very punishing, very consistent, and very hard to beat overall as there are so many threats you have to contend with to meaningfully grind out this deck.
If you are not looking to race Winota, you better have a pretty fantastic plan of action on stopping them. If you are planning to race Winota, you better be very fast and/or have enough removal to stop their most important threats. No matter how you slice it, Winota is the clear Tier 0 of the format and the deck with the largest target on its back.
Phoenix is Swooping Down From Pioneer
While some players were afraid that the nerfs to Phoenix between being downgraded from both Pioneer and Historic would be too much to bear, it still seems to be going strong in the queues. While it did lose some very powerful cards from the aforementioned formats, it seems that as long as Arclight Phoenix is in a format, it can see play. The deck is just a well oiled machine of interaction and threats that it’s hard to keep down even if it doesn’t have access to it’s ideal card pool.
Considering the emphasis on linear decks right now, Phoenix does a good job of mitigating those strategies while simultaneously advancing its own game plan. Better yet, if Phoenix runs into a Control deck, it still has the same grindy potential that it needs to get the job done. The main issue with Phoenix is that, if we’re talking on a subjective power level basis, it is “weaker” than some of the other top strategies, but interaction can obviously make up the difference and getting free hasty 3/2s can only be so bad.
Splitting the Difference With Rakdos Midrange
Some people like to play really fast proactive decks, others like to play really slow grindy or interactive decks. What if you want to go down the middle though? Generally when metagames are really polarizing it can be difficult to play a midrange deck as you’re pulled in too many directions, but for Rakdos Midrange, that’s no issue.
Rakdos has an excellent game plan of a bunch of cheap interaction, cheap threats, and good planeswalkers to help end the game. No matter the deck, this is a recipe that has constantly been successful in Pioneer, and with missing just Dreadbore, I have no doubt that it will continue to be great in Explorer as well. In particular, I like how it just gets to be a pile of good cards that can go really long if it needs to while still having the ability to win relatively quickly when the situation arises for it. The best part about Rakdos is that it’s so customizable as all you need is good cards, so if a card is good and you can afford to play it, that’s a very easy inclusion!
Lastly, this is one of the few Explorer decks that can play the new Ob Nixilis, the Adversary which is definitely a big deal considering how good it’s already proving itself to be in Standard.
Grind Your Way to Victory With Jund Sacrifice
Oh Jund Sacrifice, how I missed you. Since the introduction of the Modern Masters cards in Historic, the build of Sacrifice has yet to be the same. Ravenous Squirrel and Lurrus of the Dream-Den simply make the deck too good and sweeter cards like Mayhem Devil and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King got left to the sidelines. In Explorer and Pioneer though, we’re back to our roots!
I digress, Jund Midrange has been very impressive in this format as well by just being solid against everything. It can do a reasonable job defending itself against Winota and interacting post board, it can grind with Phoenix, it loves midrange slogs, and obviously this deck has always been great against Control as Trail of Crumbs is one hell of a card.
While I’m obviously not saying that Jund has no bad matchups (as I would say the next entry would likely be one), decks that have game against everything are a real treat to play so I’m glad it’s been an effective strategy thus far. Furthermore, I can’t really see any type of meta shift that would make this deck a bad option moving forward so not only is this a powerful option, but a safe one.
Greasefang Showing Phoenix That It’s Not the Only Graveyard Deck in Explorer
If you want to talk about decks that can circumvent the early metagame, it’s hard to do better than Mardu Greasefang. Greasefang does a lot of what you would want in a new meta: it’s fast, it can be disruptive, and it attacks on an axis most people aren’t ready for. While most other decks are looking to play some fair Magic, we have no intention of doing so.
Greasefang is looking to dump a Parhelion in the graveyard and start swinging with it as early as turn 3, and for most strategies, that’s going to be simply too much to bear. Even Naya Winota which can be a blisteringly fast strategy can pale in comparison to a Parhelion swinging on turn 3. Another huge aspect of Greasefang is how resilient it can be overall.
While the game one configuration is pretty weak to graveyard hate, most decks won’t be packing it and it can definitely beat removal as the deck has a surprising amount of redundancy built into it. If you want to play something that feels unfair and isn’t Winota, this is a great place to start.
Control Still Going Strong With Egregious Amounts of Interaction
Of course for the Control mages out there, you still have great options at your disposal! There’s a lot of proactive decks seeing play so one way to combat them is to be a huge wall in the way of their plans! The deck is so focused on being interactive and it definitely does that in spades. Plenty of early game interaction, plenty of counterspells, wraths, then win conditions galore between Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, The Wandering Emperor, and Shark Typhoon to provide even more value and help close out the game.
This type of strategy is pretty effective right now considering how many creature decks there currently are in Explorer which obviously matches up quite nicely against our plethora of interactive spells. Although the deck does work well in theory and has seemed pretty good in practice, it remains to be seen if Control can still hang in a metagame that’s writhe with such powerful proactive strategies.
Are there any decks that have been treating you particularly well? Let me know in our Discord community!
Thank you for reading!