Explorer has been out for a few weeks, but before anyone could play a single game of the format, it seemed that everyone knew what the best deck was going to be. Winota, Joiner of Forces was a card that generated the most conversation around it as it was an extremely powerful build around that lost extremely little coming into Explorer where many of it’s contenders lost too much to see play. Players were concerned with how strong it’ll be in a format that doesn’t have decks that match the card’s inherent power level, but with such a large target on it’s back, it was a good test to see if players could adapt.
Despite nearly every strategy packing a bunch of sideboard hate cards like Redcap Melee, Fry, Ray of Enfeeblement, Noxious Grasp, Grafdigger's Cage, Containment Priest, and more, Winota was still clearly the top dog of the format. Sporting the highest play and win rates, no matter how hard you teched for Winota, the deck just seemed too powerful to bear.
Why Tibalt's Trickery as well? It wasn’t because of play or even win rates, but just how unfun the games were with it involved. Neither player could make meaningful decisions as it’s either the Trickery player does their thing or they don’t. This was an identical move they made in Historic and for functionally the same reasons so it’s not surprising to see that happen again.
Overall, the Trickery ban will have no effect on the meta, but the Winota ban will open up a lot more room to explore in Explorer whether it’s archetypes, sideboard cards, or strategies. Winota was extremely good at limiting play space with it’s power so it’ll be exciting to see where the format goes from here!
That said, Winota (and presumably Trickery) will likely not stay banned forever. As explained in the announcement, Winota is too good for Explorer right now, but as more powerful options enter and the format becomes closer to Pioneer, we will likely see Winota unbanned (barring it’s not banned in Pioneer first). Nevertheless, for both Trickery and Winota, each player will receive wildcards as compensation with the patch on May 12, if you haven’t got them already when they were banned in Historic. It’s just free value, so you can craft them now if you have the spare Wildcards!
You’ll find the comprehensive list of today’s changes to the Explorer format below, along with the full text of Wizards of the Coast’s original announcement. The changes will go into effect tomorrow on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Also be sure to check out our latest Explorer Metagame Snapshot to see what decks will come out on top with Winota gone!
Announcement date: May 11, 2022
Winota, Joiner of Forces is banned.
Tibalt's Trickery is banned.
MTG Arena effective date: May 12, 2022
Winota, Joiner of Forces
Winota, Joiner of Forces is a known powerhouse, allowing aggressive decks to quickly present overwhelming boards against unprepared opponents. Although decks centered around Winota currently coexist alongside other viable archetypes within the full Pioneer format, she has proven to be just as effective when working within the confines of Explorer’s smaller card pool. Decks built around her are showing both an extreme amount of play and high win rates across Explorer game modes, and the card has quickly dominated the format. As a result, Winota, Joiner of Forces is banned in Explorer.
As this is our first Explorer ban since the format’s launch, we want to reaffirm our intentions that cards banned specifically in this format will become playable again as we realign the ban list to match Pioneer. One of Explorer’s primary goals is fidelity to the Pioneer experience, so we intend to maintain this ban for only as long as it proves necessary. When additional cards are introduced to the format, they will naturally change Winota’s relative standing. As such, we currently plan to unban Winota and reevaluate her position shortly after the release of Dominaria United this fall.
Explorer has once again given Tibalt's Trickery access to the cost-effective enablers and powerful payoffs required to threaten a very early combo kill. Even without Throes of Chaos to provide a backbone of consistency, these decks still aim to finish the game as quickly as possible, win or lose, without any opportunity for meaningful interactions from the opposing player. This creates an extremely negative experience when playing against the card, and its play rate is growing quickly. As a result, Tibalt's Trickery is banned in Explorer.
Since Tibalt's Trickery is currently not a mainstay of Pioneer play, this ban will not be reevaluated as aggressively as Winota’s. Players can expect a follow-up by the time MTG Arena formally switches from Explorer to Pioneer, or if Trickery decks become a relevant pillar of the Pioneer metagame (whichever comes first). Barring that, changes to its legality will not be a top priority before then.
Players who have Winota, Joiner of Forces and/or Tibalt's Trickery as part of their in-game collection on MTG Arena prior to May 12 will receive an equal number of wildcards of the appropriate rarity for every copy they have not previously received a wildcard grant for as part of the May 12 game update. If a player has crafted or otherwise collected additional copies between format bans (i.e., Historic and Explorer), they will receive reimbursement for those additional copies, however, players do not receive multiple reimbursements for the same individual card.
Due to late-breaking technical issue, players will not receive in-game notifications of the ban and will not be shown the number or types of wildcards they received. We apologize for the inconvenience, and we hope to have this corrected for any future bannings. Once the ban is in effect, players will see additional in-game warnings on the card’s format legalities when crafting additional copies.