Five Decks to Try Out in Explorer

I have been trying my hands on the Explorer format in the past few days and I have to say, it’s been fun exploring the new format and figuring out its best cards and decks.

Explorer is a new Constructed non-rotating format on MTG Arena, featuring all cards that are legal in the Pioneer format that appear on Arena. It works the same way as all tabletop formats, which means there’s no rebalancing or any other funny business going on and every card works the way it was printed. You don’t need to keep track of random card changes like in Historic or Alchemy and it is my understanding that this format would like to become a digital copy Pioneer in the future. Cards that only exist digitally are excluded from the format, so you also don’t need to keep track of random Anthologies, Remastered and Jumpstart expansions.

The following sets are currently legal in Explorer.

  • Streets of New Capenna
  • Kamigawa Neon Dynasty
  • Innistrad: Crimson Vow
  • Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
  • Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
  • Strixhaven (excluding Mystical Archive)
  • Kaldheim
  • Zendikar Rising
  • Core 2021
  • Ikoria Lair of Behemoths
  • Theros Beyond Death
  • Throne of Eldraine
  • Core Set 2020
  • War of the Spark
  • Ravnica Allegiance
  • Guilds of Ravnica
  • Core Set 2019
  • Dominaria
  • Rivals of Ixalan
  • Ixalan

There are also cards that are not in a main set on Arena that are legal in both Pioneer and Explorer, such as Thoughtseize.

The following cards are banned:

Here are five deck lists I can recommend trying out.




1. Winota


Explorer Winota by Martin Juza


This deck only plays one way – start with a couple of mana creatures in the form of Llanowar Elves and Prosperous Innkeeper and drop Winota, Joiner of Forces on turn three. Attack to get a bunch of triggers and put free Tovolar’s Huntmasters, Kenrith or Brutal Cathars into play. There is another version with blue which plays Agent of Treachery as a payoff card and Neoform to turn its three-drops into Winota, which means you are a bit more consistent at finding your deck’s signature card. 

This Naya list is a bit more midrange-y with Esika’s Chariot and can function like a normal deck, though your odds to high-roll the broken Winota opening are a bit lower than in the blue version. 

Winota is currently the most popular deck in the Best-of-One format. I get paired against it in roughly 33 to 50 percent of my matches. This makes sense because the deck doesn’t really want to sideboard too much because it needs to keep a critical mass of enablers (acceleration creatures) and payoff cards (Humans). It’s also very likely your opponent would be able to bring in cards that could swing the matchup in their favor like sweepers and cards like Ray of Enfeeblement, whereas you wouldn’t really improve too much. 

This doesn’t mean this deck won’t work in Best-of-Three; you just need to be ready to face a lot of sideboard hate while you don’t get to bring in game changing cards yourself. 

I would personally recommend this list for Best-of-One to have fun and if I was playing a Best-of-Three tournament, I would bring something which gets to interact with the opponent and has a good sideboard. 

2. Greasefang Combo


Explorer Greasefang Combo by Martin Juza


The Mardu Greasefang Combo is my early pick for the best deck in the format for the following reasons

  • You get to play four Thoughtseize, which is the perfect hand disruption card in a combo-oriented format. It also helps you make sure your opponent doesn’t have an answer to your own combo. 
  • Similarly, I feel that Lightning Axe is the best removal spell at the moment. Given that Winota is extremely popular and Greasefang is likely the best combo deck, having a clean one-mana answer to both that even adds to your own game plan by letting you ditch Parhelion II into the graveyard is priceless.
  • You can pull off your combo as early as turn three with Thoughtseize backup and thanks to all the card selection, you’re pretty consistent at finding your combo pieces. 

The sideboard is still a work in progress because there isn’t exactly a set Best-of-Three metagame yet, but I have been very happy with the deck overall in both Best-of-One and Best-of-Three. 

3. Izzet Phoenix


Explorer Izzet Phoenix by Martin Juza


I thought this deck wouldn’t be as good as the Historic version thanks to the loss of Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Unholy Heat, but Lightning Axe makes up for it in the removal department and Ledger Shredder has been doing an amazing job filtering your draws and helping you get Arclight Phoenix in the graveyard.

This deck isn’t as fast as the Historic version, but it has the same level of consistency and seemingly never runs out of gas. There is a lot of other removal you can run over Strangle and Flame-Blessed Bolt, but try to make sure you keep a good amount of one-mana spells in your deck if you’re making some changes. This will make it easier to double-spell and grow your Ledger Shredders

If you like decks with a lot of play to them, Phoenix is a great choice and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being the top deck of the format eventually when things settle down a bit. 

4. Rakdos Arcanist


Explorer Rakdos Arcanist by Martin Juza


I have been working on my own self-mill version of Arcanist and I’ve been pretty happy with it. The opening draw of discard into Arcanist is as strong as it has ever been and especially so in this combo-oriented format. Duress is a decent replacement for Inquisition of Kozilek because even the decks like Winota usually run Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Esika’s Chariot, Courier’s Briefcase or Redcap Melee

My list runs Stitcher’s Supplier to make sure I have an easier time finding Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker has been a great addition too, helping you fill your graveyard and loot away useless discard in the late game. 

I’m still looking for some good cheap creatures I would be able to copy with the Reflection token, but other than that I have been enjoying playing this deck in the Explorer queues. 

5. Jeskai Lukka


Explorer Jeskai Lukka by Martin Juza

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If you’re not afraid of getting combo’d early by Winota and the Greasefang combo, you can try the Jeskai Lukka deck that once dominated Standard and got a lot of its cards banned. The goal is to control the board early with sweepers, make some tokens at the end of your opponents turn with Omen of the Sun or Shark Typhoon and drop Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast and turn every token into Agent of Treachery.

Fires of Invention helps you go even wilder and do that multiple times a turn thanks to Yorion blinking your Agent(s). 

I feel like this deck has the potential to be one of the best decks in the format, though keep in mind that this list plays a lot of expensive cards and Thoughtseize is one of the most played cards in the entire format. If you can fight through the disruption and keep the combo decks in check, you got yourself a great control deck with a nice combo finish. 

My personal pick for the best deck is the Greasefang Combo. It just has the perfect mix of disruption, consistency and speed. 


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