Explorer is a deep format that rewards players for knowing their deck & match ups. With a wide range of decks in Aggro, Midrange, Control, & Combo the formats showcases the variety of options available. MTG Arena has the Explorer Metagame Challenge this Friday the 28th through Sunday the 30th. In the first half of August the Qualifier Play-In (August 5th BO1, August 11th BO3) & Qualifier weekend (August 12th) schedule is Explorer. On our end we have two Pizza Box Opens back to back that are Explorer, This Sunday July 30th & August 6th both at 1pm Est. I’m here to give a format overview of the top decks, fringe decks & everything in between to give an idea of what decks are in the format to help you take down any of these events!
Pizza Box Tournament links: https://tinyurl.com/pizzabox-tournament-schedule
Looking to beat down? Here are some options:
Mono White Aggro
Mono White Aggro goes both tall & wide. Small efficient threats turn into huge beatsticks very quickly. Not only can the deck beat down but also provides disruption in the form of tax effects. Thalia can turn an opposing turn three fable into a four drop and make the opponent lose all tempo. Latest additions like Coppercoat Vanguard in a more human heavy version, like the one pictured above, provides additional taxing on targeted removal spells that may try and slow you down. Knight-Errant of Eos is a strong recent value add which provides card advantage by digging for two creatures to either sandbag after a board wipe or beef up the squad for a big attack after grabbing a Thalia’s Lieutenant or Vanguard. Brave the Elements helps close games out by making your creatures unblockable & ossification coupled with 2 copies of Eiganjo help give the deck some interaction against other creature decks. The sideboard is very flexible including more taxing cards such as Invasion of Gobakhan, Reidane, & to some extent Thalia, Heretic Cathar. Portable Hole, Fateful Absence, & Destroy Evil give the deck many options on how to attack specific threats. Cards like Wedding Annoucment help grind Midrange & Control into dust. On average Mono White is the best choice for aggro with a 55% or better winrate.
Selesnya Angels can feel more like a combo decks sometimes with the way the deck assembles its main life gain & token producing engine in Righteous Valkyrie combined with Resplendent Angel. Bishop of Wings also helps ensure that you gain the necessary life to generate tokens all the while leaving you with spirit tokens should the opponent destroy your angels. Angels is one of many Collected Company decks. This four mana instant gives you a huge boost on the battlefield while also digging for a Valkyrie to start taking the game out of reach for the opponent and giving you a huge presence in the air. Kayla’s Reconstruction gives the deck Collected Company numbers 5-8 ensuring that you hit your necessary pieces. Versions with a one of Nykthos are popular giving you that big mana boost for huge Reconstructions. A lot of the sideboards contain ways of protecting vs board wipes, adding extra removal, or adding Ajani to break a mirror stalemate & just outright one side board wipe any opponent. On average Angels hovers at an above 50% winrate.
Mono Red Aggro
Mono Red Aggro has been a main stay of the explorer format. The deck has definitely had its ups and downs & even though its winrate is sitting a low 45% the deck can still compete with the meta and has some good match ups. In the first list pictured we see a more aggressive creature based strategy. In the second we see a more non interactive burn deck that melts the opponents face off. Both are great choices for anyone looking to end games quick.
Mono Green Aggro
Stompy is not as popular as its Devotion counterpart but it can still pose a huge threat in many matchups. This list is one that I play frequently in ranked and very similar to lists that we’ve seen in my Pizza Box tournaments. At an above 50% winrate the deck hold up against most decks in the format and provides a solid aggressive option for players who like to smash face.
Phoenix has definitely seen better days. At about a 32% winrate Phoenix can surprise some tournaments or matches but overall the deck isn’t consistent enough to be contender in the format. With hopeful future addition Treasure Cruise Phoenix could see a resurgence, but it will take more than one card to really spike its value.
Auras is a spicy choice but not a deck seen often. At a 40% winrate the deck hasn’t had the best time in Explorer. Mertcan (second deck pictured) has taken the deck to multiple top 8 in the Pizza Box tournaments so there is a competitive chance for the deck.
Now this is quite the beatdown! Boros Heroic carries a 62.8% winrate & makes it look easy. This deck is the real deal even though its only 0.65% of the meta. This can be a surprising & devastating deck. If you are looking for a deck that brings the heat and can bring you wins in any events your playing this weekend and next month, this is it.
On the other side of Boros we have a Convoke deck that also swings for the fences. Knight-Errant of Eos carries the weight again with the card advantage while Venerated Loxodon pumps the team & creates huge amounts of damage as early as turn two! With a 50% winrate this deck still packs a punch and can surprise opponents not packing enough board wipes.
Classic Elves still show they can still hang in the format. Mana ramp & card advantage are the decks strengths while also going wide & tall with Elvish Warmaster. At about 42% winrate this isn’t a deck that will take down any huge events but can still have an impact in meta game challenges.
Goblins is another surprising deck with a 60% winrate. This deck definitely beatsdown as seen in my YouTube video with the deck (don’t forget to Subscribe:https://tinyurl.com/pizzabox-youtube). The deck generates mana with Skirk Prospector & card advantage with Conspicious Snoop & Hordemaster, which is also a great anthem effect. Another deck recommended for this weekend & August’s events.
What if you like grindy games & complex game decisions? Well here are some choices for Midrange decks:
Lets start with a classic: Rakdos Midrange. Many would say the best deck in format. For me Rakdos Midrange is a very heavily played deck, yet only those who master the deck best have the best results. This isn’t an auto pilot deck by any means. Mulligans and your in game decisions matter a lot more in the long run. A 52% winrate doesn’t seem crazy but this deck is still one of the best in format. Make sure to get your reps in on the MTG Arena Ladder before going into any events. Still recommended.
Sacrifice is one of the best decks in the format, but like its cousin Rakdos Midrange a hard deck to master. The cat/oven combo is still deadly especially when paired with Mayhem Devil. With Fable of the Mirror Breaker things can get out of hand quick. Samsoni1 the best pilot of the deck has taken it to multiple finals of the Pizza Box tournaments including a win (decklist above). With a 54% winrate its one of the top decks in the format while providing consistency.
Mono Green Devotion
Devotion is a strong midrange deck with an inevitable endgame: Karn & anything they want. Need to wipe the opponents board while also reanimating creatures every turn? Well look no further as you send opponents to a Portal to Phyrexia. With answers in the form of Pithing Needle & Tormod’s Crypt this deck is ready to combat the meta. Or how about maindeck Cityscape Leveler? This deck is very flexible while generating tons of mana from Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. One of the most hated decks in the format Devotion sits at a 53% winrate. Still a good choice but be sure to get your mulligans & matchups down to maximize the power of this deck.
Fires of Invention Variants
Fires of Invention is still a very powerful card and in Explorer many variants of the deck exist. Companions does seem to be a common theme though which was also something that Fires was usually paired with back in Standard. Yorion or Kergua are both great choices if you are looking to go over the top of the opponent. The Yorion versions seem to trend on the 50% winrate and below but the Keruga versions are at 54% winrate. The Keruga version is highly recommended having taken down a Pizza Box Open & also boasting a larger winrate than either variants of the deck. Of note the Yorion versions can also play Transmogrify or Indomitable Creativity (We’ll get to Creativity later). There are also versions with Enigmatic Encarnation like the one pictured first.
Gruul Boats is a consistent choice in the Metagame. Huge beatsticks like Lovestruck Beast and a Massive Flyer in Skyship, this deck can attack from multiple angles. New Inclusion Voldaren Thrillseeker has given the deck a lot of reach lategame. At 55% winrate Gruul Boats is still a fantastic choice for any event. Just ask TheDarkStream who took down our last Explorer tournament (decklist pictured 2nd).
4 Color Omnath
A few versions of Omnath based decks exist in the format but the most popular is the Risen Reef Elemental creature focus. At a 45% winrate this deck isn’t a bad choice but wins won’t come free. There is a lot of card advantage in Escape to the Wilds & Nissa including premium removal in Leyline Binding & Ossification.
Mono Black Devotion
Mono Black Devotion can be a powerful choice, but with a 47% winrate its going to be another deck that will have to work hard for its wins. Gray Merchant & Sheoldred are still great game ending threats. Sideboard Thought Distortion helps in many matchups as well. This deck has made top 8 in the Pizza Box tournaments.
Gain Control of the game with these decks:
Azorius Control & Lotus Field Variants
Whether you want to play traditional control, or obliterate opponents with the Lotus Field version, Azorius Control is still a great choice in Explorer. Don’t let it’s 48% winrate fool you, this is one of the most played decks in the format and the better control players will give you a run for your money everytime. Not recommended for the faint of heart. I do Recommend it though if you are ok with longs games or control is your jam.
Dimir Control is another good option at control. Though unlike its Modern counterpart this Explorer version is not on the upswing. With an only 42% winrate games will not be easy or short. If you really like this type of deck I can see someone playing it but this is not recommended for any events.
Tempo out & control opponents with these decks:
If you like small creature beats, evasive threats, & counter magic well then Spirits is for you. Either the Collected Company or Mono Blue these decks are sure to keep your Curious Obsession. All version of the deck have at least a 50% winrate & its a deck that has gotten to top 4 of Pizza Box Tournaments. Recommended for events. Make sure to get your reps in with the deck before taking to events.
Rogues is still an up and coming deck. Now with two different versions,combo and traditional tempo beats. The deck does carry a below 40% winrate so take that at your own discretion. The deck aims to beat down with Thieves’ Guild Enforcers & control the game with mana efficient spells like Drown in the Loch. Essentially versions of the Metamorphic Alteration & Archfiend of the Dross combo lean towards rogue builds.
Did someone say Combo?
Indomitable Creativity & Transmogrify Variants
The premier Combo deck of the format: Indomitable Creativity. Transmogrify decks also have the same game plan of only playing 2-4 creatures in their deck (either the Xenagos & Wurm Combo or the Atraxa Value engine) then reolving one of the powerful Sorceries to find the exact cards to end the game or bury opponents with cards.. Creativity decks boast a 51% winrate but are one of the best decks in the format. The Izzet version is the preferred choice and one of my own recommended decks for the weekend and any events going forward.
The boogyman of the format. With a 57% winrate Greasefang remains one of the best choices for any event & ranked MTG Arena. The gameplan is simple, get a Parhelion II in the gravyard as early as turn one. Then cast or reanimate a Greasefang into play which in turn reanimates the Parhelion II and you get to swing in for 13 damage in the air as early as turn three. Liliana of the Veil and Thoughseize are right at home either diminishing the opponents resources or getting your Vehicles in the Graveyard to kill the opponent quick.Can’t combo? No problem Play out Chariots and go wide with cat tokens. Some versions also play Sheoldred either main or side. Definitely recommended Greasefang is one of the top decks in the format.
Sleeper Hits or Nightmare Choices:
Yepp, good ol’ Bolas still crushing it. With a 51% winrate Grixis could be a surprising deck of the next few weeks or it could fall flat. A decent choice for tournaments or any events Grixis Midrange has the chance to shine in the current meta. Fire of Invention versions or Classic Midrange stategies work as well. Even stretching out to Metamorphic Combo as well.
New to the format Selesnya Midrange plays the same style as its Gruul cousin. Get a Chariot or big flyer down in Steel Seraph and attack until the opponent is dead. Newest addition to the format Voice of Resurgence gives the deck some reach again removal heavy or flash style decks. This version played by Jaffer is a variation of AsheMorgan’s Pioneer version. Right now its too early to say if this deck is going to be a mainstay or even better than the Gruul version. Time will tell. For this weekend if you like Gruul Boats or Midrange aggressive decks then this could be a choice for you. Make sure to practice mulligans & matchups as this deck is still fresh.
Go out and Explore!
Wow that was a lot of decks! With so many choices it can be hard to decide on a deck that best fits what your needs may be. Always remember playing something new & flashy is cool, but playing something you are comfortable with is what I tend to lean into most. No reason to chase free wins with decks you don’t have experience in when you could just keep racking up wins with an old classic. I hope this look into the Explorer format is helpful in your journey these next few weeks. Whether its MTG Arena events or Pizza Box Opens, shuffle up, play, & give it your best shot! Let me know what you think or want to read about in the future on twitter @pizzagoyf or here in the comments on MagicJank.com
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