Sin Collector | Dragon's Maze
4, Jan, 24

Struggling MTG Format Is Still Missing a Ton of Cards

Article at a Glance

Ever since its creation in 2022, Explorer has been in a bit of a weird place on MTG Arena. Sure, it may be fun on its own, however, it shouldn’t be around for long. Rather than standing on its own laurels, Explorer is, or was, all about the path to Pioneer. In 2024, it seems that Wizards of the Coast may finally realize this goal, however, that may be too little too late. 

Despite the format having been around for a year and a half, progress in implementing Pioneer has been slow going. With a number of key cards and even decks still missing after so long, some MTG players are losing their patience. Exacerbating this problem, past Explorer Anthologies have had significant room for improvement, as if Pioneer’s implantation was being purposefully delayed.

Thankfully, later this year, Wizards of the Coast is releasing Pioneer Masters exclusively on MTG Arena. Designed as a reprint-filled Draftable set, this set should complete Explorer’s path to tournament-ready Pioneer. If Wizards want to achieve this goal, there are still plenty of key cards that can’t be missed. In order to make sure that doesn’t happen, MTG players have created a handy dandy list of everything Explorer needs.

Everything Explorer Needs

Smugglers Copter

Comprised of just 24 MTG cards, the list created by u/8huddy is surprisingly short considering the differences between Explorer and Pioneer. Despite its length, however, this list stands up to scrutiny. 24 cards are all that stand between Explorer and the current Pioneer metagame

Within this short list, a handful of cards are keeping back entire decks due to their importance. The fairly potent Rakdos Copter deck, for instance, isn’t viable on Explorer since Smuggler’s Copter is missing. Alongside this, one of the deck’s best lands, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth has yet to arrive on Arena.

Unfortunately, Rakdos Copter is far from the only Pioneer deck that Explorer doesn’t have yet. Niv to Light, Lotus Field Combo, and the 4 Color Rona deck are all missing key components. Each lacking between three and four cards, getting these decks on Arena thankfully isn’t an insurmountable task.

Alongside the decks completely missing from Explorer, plenty of already viable decks have some missing upgrades. The Atraxa Neoform decks, for instance, could definitely do with Tasigur, the Golden Fang being included. Similarly, the dominant Izzet Pheonix deck is missing Temporal Trespass from Fate Reforged.

Everything Explorer Needs… As a list

Bring to Light

While we could go on and on about every single card Explorer needs and why, that’s probably a bit much. So, instead, we’re simply going to hand over the all-encompassing list in alphabetical order. If you want to know where each card goes, check out u/8huddy’s post which details what deck needs what. 

  • Abrupt Decay
  • Behold the beyond
  • Boros charm
  • Bring to light
  • Chained to the rocks
  • Dark petition
  • Experiment One
  • Gladecover Scout
  • Hidden strings
  • Kytheon, Hero of Akros
  • Legion Loyalist
  • Oath of Nissa
  • Radiant Flames
  • Retraction Helix
  • Roast
  • Sin Collector
  • Smuggler’s Copter
  • Soulflayer
  • Sylvan Caryatid
  • Tasigur, the Golden Fang
  • Temporal Trespass
  • Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
  • Voyaging Satyr

Too Much and Not Enough

Hidden Strings

Considering the above 24 cards can easily be identified as Explorer’s missing cards, each one should be included in Pioneer Masters. While this is a positive development to look forward to, this upcoming set is still a ways away. Slated for a Q4 release, MTG Arena players still have a long while to wait before getting these much-needed cards.

Annoyingly, while Pioneer Masters will certainly get the job done, a simple Anthology set would do the same. Admittedly, within each 25-card Anthology set Wizards has never been so on point with needed reprints. Nevertheless, since 24 is less than 25, Wizards could knock things out with a simple Anthology release and nothing more.

If Wizards’ goal was to get Pioneer on Arena as quickly as possible, an Anthology release is the sensible choice. For better or worse, however, it seems we’re being made to wait, as no future Explorer Anthologies have been confirmed. If you ask us, this is a major mistake on multiple fronts.

Between now and the expected release of Pioneer Masters, at least three, if not four, Pioneer-legal sets will be released. While none of these is a hypothetical Pioneer Horizons set, each one nonetheless has meta-warping potential. Due to this, the above list of needed staples may become outdated, which could make Pioneer Masters miss the mark.

To mitigate this problem, Wizards of the Coast needs to be expedient in getting Pioneer on Arena before anything changes. After this, the supposedly tournament-ready format will need to be kept up to date at every opportunity. Hopefully, Pioneer Masters being an entire set can provide some future proofing for this problem. Unfortunately, however, there’s no telling how much this will help in the long run.

Explorer Needs Everything

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Ultimately, MTG Arena will need a lot more than just Pioneer Masters to make the format complete. This will only happen once every single Pioneer playable card is on Arena. This may seem like a lot, and it is, but ultimately, this is what MTG Arena needs. Without it, players won’t truly trust that Arena’s Pioneer will be one-to-one with its paper counterpart.

Considering that Explorer is currently the least popular format on MTG Arena, this trust is sorely needed. Without it, Pioneer players can easily look elsewhere to Magic Online and even to paper. Here, there’s no end of competitive support in which players can participate, allowing for compelling competitive gameplay. 

If MTG Arena is to keep up, Wizards need to ensure the format’s best chance at survival. Unfortunately, however, putting all 2,721 missing Pioneer cards on Arena is a monumental task that will take literal years. Should Wizards release a remastered set each year, it’d take a literal decade for Pioneer to arrive in earnest.

For better or worse, it’s unclear what Wizards plans are with Explorer after Pioneer Masters. Hopefully, the format will continue to get additional and much-needed cards however, there’s no guarantee of this. Ultimately, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens in 2025 and beyond… 

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