MTG players have a lot to look forward to this next few weeks, at least, they were supposed to. Tomorrow kicks off Commander Masters spoiler season! Early previews already look quite promising, with new Commander cards and massive reprints on the horizon, this set looks to be everything a Commander player can dream of. Until then, however, we have the Explorer and Historic Anthologies for MTG Arena.
Long story short, MTG Arena, while being the visually most appealing online client that Wizards of the Coast has to offer, doesn’t have every MTG card on it yet. In fact, the card set is so limited that we cannot even play Pioneer as intended. As a result, MTG Arena instead has Explorer, a format that uses cards legal in Pioneer that are on the client. The mission of Explorer is to, eventually, mirror Pioneer as closely as possible until it eventually becomes Pioneer.
This is the mission promised to players that the Explorer Anthologies try to complete. Unfortunately, reviews for the past few Anthologies have been far from perfect, largely because the Explorer Anthologies have been missing the mark here. While past Anthologies have done a decent job of porting a few Pioneer staples over to MTG Arena, and this one does have a some core Pioneer cards coming to the client, other reveals have been less than impressive.
This leads us to a recent inclusion that has many MTG players upset. This may be one of the most controversial MTG Arena previews ever.
The Cards Explorer Needs the Most
Taking data from Magic Online, many passionate MTG Arena fans have begun to point out the most played cards in Pioneer that are not available on MTG Arena. Since the mission of Explorer Anthologies is to allow Explorer to be as close as possible to Pioneer, these cards should probably be the ones that are prioritized.
To be fair, some of these could be quite difficult to implement on MTG Arena. Hidden Strings has a bunch of optional abilities including Cipher, which could be a rather confusing to implement. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, alongside many other popular Pioneer cards have the Delve mechanic, which has yet to be included into MTG Arena as of the writing of this article.
Other cards on this list should be easier to include. In fact, Thespian’s Stage and Prairie Stream have been spoiled to be a part of this drop. The latest Explorer Anthology inclusion, however, has left many scratching their heads in confusion.
Who Wants this Card?
The inclusion of Accorder’s Shield in the Explorer Anthology is an incredibly confusing one. For reference, this is not a part of some super secret Pioneer combo. This is as bad as it looks. Accorder’s Shield would have still have likely received a grown from the MTG community if included in the Historic Anthology but, unlike the Explorer Anthology, that particular one doesn’t have a motive behind it other than introducing some cool cards to an Arena-only format. You could even reason that this card could be used in some weird form of Affinity in Historic, but Accorder’s Shield does not have any Pioneer relevance.
As such, players are understandably frustrated that Accorder’s Shield is getting an Explorer Anthology slot over a much-needed Pioneer staple like Oath of Nissa or Dreadbore, and they have not hesitated to make their opinions known.
“This as not just a card in a small set release but one that is chosen as an individual preview is…something.”Brian Kibler
“I can take some of the other iffy cards/duds………but what the hell is this!”Crew3Podcast
This HAS to be a meme, right? ….right?RyanB0tting
“Who thought this was a good idea? Why would you waste our time on this shit?”TandyMTG
This doesn’t mean that Accorder’s Shield has never been relevant in competitive play, however. This card is a part of a very niche archetype that has fallen out of favor called Cheerios Storm, which is the only rational reason why players can rationalize that this card was included at all.
“There was a Cheerios deck in Modern for awhile. It was Tier 2-3 and used a bunch of the 0 mana artifacts to combo.
Never anything in Pioneer, however.”snypre_fu_reddit
“This may be a forward-looking addition rather than a backward-looking one.
That being said, playing against Cheerios and/or Cheerios Storm is one of my least favorite things…”Aerim
Other Not-so-Great Cards
Alongside the absolute groaner of an inclusion that is Accorder’s Shield, some of the guild charms were also revealed to be included in this Explorer Anthology. Like Accorder’s Shield, none of these see any relevant Pioneer play, but they, at least, have some other more obvious uses.
Izzet Charm, for example, is a rather common card to see pop up in Izzet Phoenix builds. This card has largely been overpowered by newer inclusions like Consider, but could make a somewhat functionable Izzet spells list in Explorer. Unfortunately, Treasure Cruise really is the most powerful tool that this archetype gets to utilize, and its absence is a really big deal.
Additionally, Boros Charm, perhaps the most useful of the charms overall, has not been revealed. This commonly sees Modern Burn play, and would likely be experimented with, at worst, in Historic.
Otherwise, these cards, like the cycle of lands included with Prairie Stream (that see almost no play) can at least potentially see Historic Brawl interest. Accorder’s Shield is only going to apply to a very narrow number of strategies, if any.
Its Not Over Yet!
For players who still have some hope, there are technically a few preview cards that have yet to be revealed. There should still be 3-4 cards in the Explorer Anthology that have yet to be revealed. The above picture was also revealed on MTG Arena’s Facebook page quite recently. As one of the most played Pioneer cards that was not yet on MTG Arena, Sylvan Scrying is a huge inclusion.
For any who may recall the reveal of the last Explorer Anthology, the two best cards of the Anthology were left for the end. Mana Confluence and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx are both major players in the Pioneer format that direly needed an inclusion in Explorer. One of these singlehandedly allowed for Mono Green Devotion, one of Pioneer’s most popular archetypes, to see Explorer and Historic play! This is, needless to say, one of the best Explorer Anthology inclusions so far, even if it ruined a few formats on the way.
Hopefully, the last few slots will reignite community interest in the Explorer format. There are some real haymakers that could get players excited. I, for one, would absolutely love a Hidden Strings reveal since I play a lot of Lotus Field combo.
That, however, doesn’t change the fact that this particular preview is perceived as an absolute stinker and is likely to go down as one of the strangest single-card previews that MTG has ever seen.