A single, carefully curated Historic Anthology set would be sufficient to make basically every top-tier Pioneer deck available in the Explorer format on MTG Arena.
Explorer was introduced on April 21, 2022 as a true-to-paper, non-rotating format featuring all cards legal in the Pioneer format that appear on MTG Arena. According to the announcement, the goal of Explorer is to eventually turn into Pioneer: “Cards will be added gradually, starting later this summer with Historic Anthology 6.”
Right now, only 5,939/9,186 Pioneer-legal cards appear on MTG Arena. That’s only 64.7 percent. Fortunately, most of the 3,247 missing cards are irrelevant for competitive purposes. In fact, as I’ll show in this article, with just 25 additions – the typical size of a Historic Anthology set – we could match almost the entire competitive Pioneer metagame on MTG Arena! So even with one such set, it may be possible to adequately test Pioneer on MTG Arena for the first Regional Championships and Pro Tour in the fall of this year.
To select 25 cards that allow Explorer to get as close as possible to Pioneer, I used a methodology driven by data: specifically, all Magic Online deck lists from Pioneer Preliminary, Pioneer Challenge and Pioneer Showcase Challenge events held since the release of Streets of New Capenna on April 28 up to today, Tuesday June 14. To account for the recent bans, I deleted all lists with four main deck copies of Expressive Iteration or four main deck copies of Winota, Joiner of Forces, and I counted every event held after the ban twice. That’s a bit of a hack, but I like how it balances sample size and post-ban metagame accuracy. Finally, across all remaining main decks and sideboards, I determined the most-played cards. The Top 25 from that list of most-played cards, ranked in order, formed the basis for this article.
Before starting the countdown, can you guess what #3, #2, and #1 might be?
#25. Dig Through Time
Dig Through Time is banned in Modern and Legacy, which indicates that it’s one of the most powerful Magic cards ever printed. Indeed, if you can fill up your graveyard quickly – which is easier to do in Modern or Legacy than in Pioneer or Explorer – Dig Through Time gets close to a double Demonic Tutor for two mana, at instant speed. The aggregate Lotus Field, Esper Greasefang, and Dimir Control deck tends to include one or two copies.