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CracklingDoom

Two Brews for the Explorer Metagame Challenge

Explorer decks you can play to get an edge over your competition!

Hey all, Strickles here offering you a couple of different decks to try to tackle the upcoming Explorer Metagame Challenge with. As usual, I am always trying to find ways to bring new or fun decks into competitive status, and today I’ve got two decks, that are variations of already existing decks, that I think give them an edge against the meta compared to the current existing versions. So first let’s go over what decks you can expect to see in the challenge and then I’ll go over the two decks one at a time to highlight their key cards and strategies, and their strengths and weaknesses.

Explorer Metagame

Ever since Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, Rakdos Vampires has been all over the Explorer mythic ladder. You can expect to face a lot of Vein Ripper and Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord in the challenge, and if you don’t have a plan to beat them or answer what they are doing you are going to have a hard time getting to 7 wins. I expect this to be the hot deck for this challenge and that you will face it several times in every run.

Other top decks are Arclight Phoenix decks, Amalia Benavides Aguirre Combo decks, and U/W Control, meaning you have to be prepared to fight against a variety of strategies. To see a full meta breakdown, checkout our updated Bo3 and Bo1 tier lists from Altheriax.

So, with the meta in mind, I believe that the two decks below have good strategies to answer Vein Ripper, keep the graveyard clean of Arclight Phoenix, cleanly handle Amalia, and pressure the control decks.

Mardu Midrange

Mardu Midrange Bo3
by Strickles
Buy on TCGplayer $442.91
Explorer
best of 3
7 mythic
40 rare
11 uncommon
2 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (8)
2
Fatal Push
$4.98
3
Crackling Doom
$1.47
Sorceries (6)
4
Thoughtseize
$31.96
1
Molten Collapse
$1.49
Enchantments (7)
60 Cards
$519.66
15 Cards
$66.87

Key Cards and Gameplan

The first deck may look familiar, because it is very similar to the existing Rakdos Midrange deck but with a white splash for two key cards to give you an edge over Rakdos Vampires. First is Crackling Doom, a super clean answer to Vein Ripper, as the Vein Ripper will (almost) always be their creature with the highest power, and it gets around the ward cost so you can remove it even if you don’t have a creature in play.

Sadly, Crackling Doom does not also remove the Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord like it would have before they changed to damaging planeswalkers directly from redirecting damage to planeswalkers (magic boomer here). Crackling Doom is also great against Boros Heroic, the runner-up deck from the Pro Tour, as we can take out their largest threat without targeting it, making their protection spells useless.

The second card we are splashing for is Showdown of the Skalds. A star from its Standard format, this is the ultimate topdeck in any match against an opposing midrange or control deck. Drawing 4 cards and distributing some +1/+1 counters around your board, gives you a huge advantage late in the game after you have spent turns going one-for-one with other grindy decks.

Other than our splash the deck’s game plan is very similar to the stock Rakdos Midrange decks. Remove our opponents early plays with Fatal Push, Go for the Throat, or Stomp, deploy efficient threats like Bloodtithe Harvester, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and Graveyard Trespasser, and disrupt the opponents strategy with Thoughtseize and Deep-Cavern Bat. Then we can close out with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, and with our variety of creature lands like Hive of the Eye Tyrant, Restless Vents, and Restless Fortress off the splash.

I’ve chosen to play copies of Brightclimb Pathway and Needleverge Pathway over more copies of Godless Shrine and Sacred Foundry because in most games we only need one or two white mana, and when playing against decks like Arclight Phoenix, Rakdos Vampires, and the various aggressive decks of the format, saving on 2 life here and there can be the difference between losing and winning.

Sideboarding

The sideboard of this deck is built to help us in a few different matchups.

For U/W Control we bring in Chandra, Awakened Inferno, Duress, Pithing Needle (naming Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or The Wandering Emperor) , and Reckoner Bankbuster while trimming removal. Against Arclight Phoenix we bring in Unlicensed Hearse, against Amalia Combo we grab our various sweepers (which can honestly be whatever black or red sweepers you like or have in your collection, but I do like the exile on Extinction Event, the ability to take a card out of their deck from Deadly Cover-Up, and the life gain from The Meathook Massacre), as well as the copies of Rending Volley.

A Rant About Sideboarding with Thoughtseize: We actually have several cards to bring in against Rakdos Vampires. Now there are two schools of thoughts about Thoughtseize and other discard spells in Midrange mirrors. The first school says leave them in because being able to break up your opponents curve or remove their key interactive spells can give you an edge, while the second school says take them out because these matchups often get to a game state where both players have no cards in hand and top decking a discard spell at that point is like skipping your turn.

I personally adhere to the second school of thought. Yes, discard spells are still good in the first few turns of the game, but after that they are doing more harm than good, and I would rather topdeck something that plays to the board directly or helps get me card advantage. So, all that being said against Rakdos Vampires we bring in our Reckoner Bankbuster, our Pithing Needle (naming Sorin), and some number of our sweepers (I tend to bring in one on the play and two on the draw), while cutting our copies of Thoughtseize and trimming a number of Deep-Cavern Bat equal to our sweeper count.

Against other midrange decks like Rakdos Midrange, we don’t need Pithing Needle but I would still cut all of the copies of Thoughtseize for Reckoner Bankbuster and two sweepers of your choice.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Overall this deck is strong at grinding out opponents in the same way that Rakdos Midrange does, but has the gravy of Showdown of the Skalds to give us a boost over Rakdos Midrange itself. The inclusion of Crackling Doom gives us a solid answer against one of the most popular decks in the format, while being good in several other matchups. The deck can struggle against Control and Combo decks that are just going bigger than it but with hand disruption and a good curve we still have a shot against those decks.

Now let’s move on to our second deck.

B/W Humans

B/W Humans Bo3
by Strickles
Buy on TCGplayer $157.12
Explorer
best of 3
7 mythic
34 rare
16 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
60 Cards
$356.52
15 Cards
$106.35

Key Cards and Gameplan

This deck will also look familiar to seasoned Explorer players, as it is close to the existing Mono-White Humans deck, but this time we are splashing Black to make a couple of match-ups stronger. Jirina, Dauntless General gives us graveyard hate when it enters the battlefield, but also protects our board from opposing Supreme Verdict and Path of Peril. General Kudro of Drannith pumps our team, gives us even more graveyard hate, and in a pinch can sacrifice two of our smaller creatures to take out opposing big creatures such as Sheoldred, the Apocalypse or even Atraxa, Grand Unifier.

Our last main deck splash is for four copies of Dire Tactics, a super clean removal spell that can help us against the aforementioned problem creatures, and any creature that gets in our way. These cards obviously help us against a deck like Arclight Phoenix as we have tons of main deck graveyard hate and creature exile, but also help against U/W Control, Amalia Combo, and any other decks that rely on the graveyard, using sweepers, or keeping key creatures in play.

The game plan of this deck is to curve out and beat the opponent down. We play 12 one drops, in Recruitment Officer, Hopeful Initiate, and Dauntless Bodyguard, to try to guarantee that we will almost always have a turn one play. On turn two we continue to develop our board by either buffing our team with Coppercoat Vanguard, Luminarch Aspirant, or Thalia’s Lieutenant (although this is usually best served for later in the game when it can buff a lot of creatures, if you have no other two drop it is totally fine to just run it out and it will grow as the game goes on), or running out a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to disrupt our opponents curve. Our curve tops out at three with General Kudro of Drannith, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar as a must answer threat, and a couple Brutal Cathar for more removal. 

The mana base is quite good but the black splash means that we have less room to play creature lands and other utility lands. I’ve only gone with one Mutavault and four Cavern of Souls because we do need a black and a white source to cast Dire Tactics. The three basic Plains are definitely flexible, and one of them should be exchanged for an Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, although I would always keep one or two in case of an opposing Field of Ruin or other similar affect.

Sideboarding

The sideboard gives us some good options against the meta decks. First we have three copies of Containment Priest which can be cast in response to a Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord -3 to cleanly exile whatever vampire they choose to put into play. It can also be cast in response to Arclight Phoenix return triggers and exile any birds that come back, and it is also effective against decks playing Transmogrify or Indomitable Creativity as their main strategy, making it a good card in a variety of matchups, while also being a human for all of our other synergies.

One other thing to keep in mind is when this is in play and the third chapter of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker triggers, the saga will exile and re-enter the battlefield, and since it wasn’t cast it will be exiled.

Otherwise, we bring in Thoughtseize off the splash against decks we suspect will have sweepers like U/W Control, and against combo decks. Loran of the Third Path against decks with relevant artifacts and enchantments, Unlicensed Hearse against graveyard decks (although if I was going to replace a card in the sideboard it would be this as we already have so much main deck graveyard hate), and lastly four copies of Wedding Announcement against all of the Midrange and Control decks. It can make a lot of creatures, sometimes draw some cards, and buff our team, but it also gives us creatures we don’t mind sacrificing to activate General Kudro, or to pay the ward cost of Vein Ripper.

Strengths and Weaknesses

This deck is quite fast and is able to punish slower decks with nice curve out draws. It has good answers to sweepers in both the main deck and the sideboard, and it has a lot of good disruption against the top decks.

The weak point is it doesn’t have any way to catch up once it has been put behind. If you do get your board swept away you will probably have a hard time rebuilding, as our only card advantage comes from Recruitment Officer. So if you expect a sweeper to be coming and you have a dominant board position, make sure you hold some creatures in hand to rebuild afterwards.

Wrapping up on Both Decks

These kinds of decks are what I love about a format like Explorer. There is such a wide card pool and so many varieties of strategies at the top, that you can really explore (pun intended) different possibilities to try to find the best version of a deck or even new strategies that have been underutilized.

I think both of these decks have a good shot this weekend to run the tables against the top decks, but I also hope they can inspire y’all to go out there and try your own brews on the ladder and then take them to the metagame challenge itself! Whatever you play with this weekend, best of luck on your quest for 7 wins and 30 packs.

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Strickles
Strickles

Strickles is a long-time Magic player who loves brewing more than anything, trying to bring new and fun decks to the top in Alchemy.

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