battlewise hoplite
27, Jul, 22

MTG Arena Anthologies are More Controversial than Expected

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Article at a Glance

Its July 27, 2022, and MTG Arena’s Explorer and Historic anthology contents have just been confirmed. Scheduled to release tomorrow, these anthologies had a solid beginning to their spoiler seasons. The follow-up has left something to be desired with early Reddit spoilers with an underwhelming list of cards. Now that these cards have been confirmed, we can talk about them and what’s missing.

Explorer

The Explorer Anthology is the stronger of the two. While a good amount of solid cards are being introduced to help some archetypes in Explorer catch up to their Pioneer version, other cards introduced had some undeniably better options.

supreme verdict
[tooltips]Supreme Verdict[/tooltips] was one of the best and easiest inclusions for this Explorer Anthology. UW control has been making waves in recent Pioneer tournaments to the point where it contends for the seat of the best deck in the format. Most of Pioneer’s typical UW control cards are already on MTG Arena, and Supreme Verdict was the only missing key card. With its inclusion, UW Control stands to make a huge impact.

mausoleum wanderer

Mono Blue Spirits is a cheap and powerful archetype in Pioneer, making it very common in paper play. [tooltips]Mausoleum Wanderer[/tooltips] is debatably the best card in the deck and the critical piece of the archetype missing from Explorer! A one drop that can both grow and counter disastrous spells in a pinch is a massive upgrade to any tempo archetype. This is yet another slam dunk from the Explorer Anthology.

kalitas, traitor of ghet

The heavy hitters keep coming! Kalitas is another major staple in a Pioneer archetype almost entirely available on Magic Arena: Rakdos Midrange. [tooltips]Dreadbore[/tooltips] is still missing, but as mentioned in a previous article, Kalitas is strong enough to merit the creation of multiple different archetypes. Two of the cards above were spoiled long ago, but I start with these because they are the most relevant spoilers in the whole Anthology

The Weird Inclusions

favored hoplite

Favored Hoplite is one of the premier one drops for one of Pioneer’s best decks, so why is this weird? The strange bit is that Favored Hoplite made it in over [tooltips]Monastery Swiftspear[/tooltips]. This seemed like one of the most obvious inclusions in the Anthology but has been missed yet again. Unlike the case with Delve cards like Treasure Cruise, all of Monastery Swiftspear’s abilities have already been coded into the game. The only reason left that Magic Arena hasn’t currently been implemented is because its inclusion would warp the meta too much. Monastery Swiftspear is an incredibly powerful creature that will bring a massive boon to aggressive decks. That said, they could have temporarily banned the card (like they did Winota before she was actually banned) if the issue was indeed that bad. To make matters stranger, Monastery Swiftspear is in the same Boros Heroic deck that [tooltips]Favored Hoplite[/tooltips] is.

battlewise hoplite

Unlike the last Heroic creature, this sees no Pioneer play at all. It may see some Explorer play, but if the goal of Explorer is to get as close to Pioneer as possible, this misses the mark.

ensoul artifact
darksteel citadel

This is an acceptable inclusion in the Explorer Anthology. While Ensoul Artifact aggro is not popular in current Pioneer, it has been popular in the past. With the inclusion of Darksteel Citadel, [tooltips]Ensoul Artifact[/tooltips] will see Explorer play. That being said, [tooltips]Monastery Swiftspear[/tooltips] or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx would be much better (but could risk destroying any sense of metagame that the format has).

slaughter games

Slaughter Games sees fringe play in Pioneer, primarily found in Niv to Light decks. This is an excellent effect to include in Explorer. Should any combo decks rise and dominate a format, [tooltips]Slaughter Games[/tooltips] will ensure that decks that can afford to play it have access to a fantastic sideboard tool. That being said, [tooltips]Bring to Light[/tooltips] would have birthed a whole new archetype into Magic Arena and would be a better inclusion than Slaughter Games.

siege rhino

The once powerhouse-turned-meme has made its way into Explorer! This is an enjoyable inclusion that sees absolutely no Pioneer play at all. [tooltips]Siege Rhino[/tooltips], in its time, wholly dominated Standard and is an excellent example of what power creep has done to MTG over the years. As a bit of a paper boomer myself, I would love to see Siege Rhino come alive in Explorer! This inclusion is very cool but not a great one. As mentioned multiple times previously, there are better inclusions than this.

rally the ancestors

The Rally the Ancestors combo deck was one of the first decks that I ever built. The deck was crazy, playing a bunch of aristocrat creatures like [tooltips]Zulaport Cutthroat[/tooltips], [tooltips]Nantuko Husk[/tooltips], and [tooltips]Cavern Sifter[/tooltips] that could set up a combo in the graveyard while keeping tempo on board. In the mid to late game, you would [tooltips]Rally the Ancestors[/tooltips] to bring everything back and kill your opponent with Zulaport Cutthroat and Nantuko Husk! This is another inclusion that I love, but it sees absolutely no Pioneer play. Its status is basically a more niche [tooltips]Siege Rhino[/tooltips] for the purposes of this Anthology.

back to nature

Sure, [tooltips]Back to Nature[/tooltips] is not an excellent inclusion for Pioneer, but it is perfect for Historic! This might end up killing the [tooltips]Nine Lives[/tooltips] enchantress deck ultimately, but that deck should still be able to act as a meta check when people forget about it, which is kind of the role it plays already.

elvish mystic

Elvish Mystic sees a ton of Pioneer play but should have probably been a Nykthos. This card will allow [tooltips]Collected Company[/tooltips] and Ramp decks to see a boost in power! With [tooltips]Llanowar Elves[/tooltips] already present, decks that want eight mana dorks now have the rightful access they should have. When observing the archetypes that want this in Pioneer, however, better cards could have been included to make Explorer feel as close to Pioneer as possible.

tireless tracker

This is an acceptable inclusion but still feels underwhelming because of how many other cards are missing. [tooltips]Tireless Tracker[/tooltips] is another MTG card with a profound competitive history and is a card that players will be excited to use. Able to come down on curve, grow and present card advantage, Tireless Tracker is a fantastic option for midrange decks. It can also be effective as a sideboard option for Human tribal against slower decks.

shadowborn apostle

Ok, this is a weird inclusion in either of the Anthologies. I can see myself creating a [tooltips]Shadowborn Apostle[/tooltips] Historic Brawl deck, but I cannot see this impacting any formats on Arena. I would love to eat my words, as a Shadowborn Apostle deck would be really cool to see, but I’m not expecting to.

tainted remedy

As someone who loathes life gain decks, [tooltips]Tainted Remedy[/tooltips] is an inclusion I like more than most players. I only appreciate this in the mirror, however, as stacking life gain triggers turns MTG Arena into a game of “when do I restart the client?” instead of an actual game of Magic. While there are much better cards to include, there are also worse.

titan's strength
[tooltips]Titan’s Strength[/tooltips] is a good inclusion from the Explorer Anthology. This sees play in Heroic in Pioneer, so it aligns with Explorer’s original mission statement. Cards like this, however, are making [tooltips]Monastery Swiftspear[/tooltips] presence as the elephant in the room even more significant.

searing blood

Searing Blood sees no Pioneer play, but it is a sound card. This card has traditionally seen sideboard play in burn decks for long periods of time. If burn becomes a contender with this Anthology, [tooltips]Searing Blood[/tooltips] will have a role to play.

alesha, who smiles at death

Another exceedingly bizarre inclusion, [tooltips]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/tooltips] is not a popular competitive card. It is good enough to see play in some [tooltips]Collected Company[/tooltips] deck though.

temur battle rage
[tooltips]Temur Battle Rage[/tooltips] is a good inclusion in the Anthologies, but not for Explorer. This is a critical piece in [tooltips]Death’s Shadow[/tooltips] decks. Since that archetype is an underpowered option for Historic, cards that may increase its prevalence are welcome additions to MTG Arena.

hangarback walker

Hangerback Walker is another dubious inclusion in the Explorer Anthology. While it doesn’t have any Pioneer presence, [tooltips]Hangerback Walker[/tooltips] was the [tooltips]Ledger Shredder[/tooltips] of a different time. Like it, Hangerback Walker was worth nothing at its release and quickly rose in price as stronger players started taking down tournaments with it. This inclusion is ok. Hangarback Walker should see play somewhere, but also whiffs on Explorer’s Mission Statement.

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Historic Anthology

Well, the Explorer Anthology did have some sound cards, but it also had a lot of things that didn’t make sense. Fortunately, the Historic Anthology has lower expectations surrounding it. While Explorer is supposed to act as a Pioneer-lite, Historic can be anything it wants. The goal for this Anthology should simply be to get players excited about the digital-only format! What cards are getting added to MTG Arena?

tarmogoyf

Starting strong, [tooltips]Tarmogoyf[/tooltips] is a cool addition to Historic! This card dominated Modern for a long time and had a huge presence in the secondary market. While it’s not very relevant anymore, Tarmogoyf still shows up in Jund decks. This is a new kind of effect that will have a lot of Arena players scratching their heads at first, but this is only a good thing for any format. Tarmogoyf is at that sweet spot where it should create a lot of interest in Historic because of its power level.

chalice of the void

This is the other fascinating card in the Anthology! While I do not like this card, [tooltips]Chalice of the Void[/tooltips] will introduce a new kind of strategy to Historic. Should a meta deck consist of a bunch of one drops (like [tooltips]Arclight Phoenix[/tooltips], for example), Chalice of the Void can turn their entire deck off by paying XX as one. As a result, artifact hate will show up much more if Chalice of the Void ends up being potent enough to keep up with Historic strategies.

glimpse the unthinkable

Did anyone miss Dimir Rogues? [tooltips]Glimpse the Unthinkable[/tooltips] is a neat addition to Historic! It is powerful enough that it might create new playable archetypes, which should be a big goal behind this Anthology. With [/ooltips]Arclight Phoenix[/tooltips] and Kroxa being healthy options in the format, this card’s playability, in the long run, may remain a question mark. That being said, who said that players couldn’t use this to mill themselves?

avacyn, angel of hope

Avacyn is a strange card to include in this Anthology. With its high mana value, the only place that Avacyn is likely to see play is in [tooltips]Indomitable Creativity[/tooltips]-like combo decks. Even then, if Avacyn ends up being a solid option, the meta will adjust to dealing with indestructible permanents. Creativity should go back to other threats at that point, making Avacyn’s inclusion a confusing one.

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go-shintai of life's origin

This inclusion panders to the few excited to play Shrines in Historic Brawl. I do not expect it to see play outside of that, but I would love for it to have an unexpected meta breakout!

Laelia, the Blade Reforged

I’m pretty intrigued by Laelia’s inclusion. This card is quite powerful, providing a threat, card advantage, and vast potential to become a combo finisher. With Laelia being a Commander card, this is only legal in Eternal Formats. While it may not see play there, Laelia should see play in a weaker format like Historic. This is my nomination for the sleeper card of the whole Anthology.

Night of Soul's Betrayal

Night of Souls’ betrayal hints that someone in testing broke the format, and it needed a fix. This does notably shut down the oven cat combo since the cat will die as it enters the battlefield. [tooltips]Ravenous Squirrel[/tooltips] will also have no opportunity to grow upon cast if this card is resolved. All in all, [tooltips]Night of Souls’ Betrayal[/tooltips] is a fascinating inclusion that may allow new strategies to rise to prevalence by suppressing problematic cards.

ophiomancer
vv

The exciting yet controversial cards continue to appear! [tooltips]Ophiomancer[/tooltips] seems like a fantastic addition to aristocrat strategies that can sacrifice the snakes for other abilities.

phyrexian metamorph
[tooltips]Phyrexian Metamorph[/tooltips] starts the overarching theme for the entire Historic Anthology: artifacts. Affinity players will love what the rest of this Anthology has in store, but nobody else will. Phyrexian Metamorph on its own is an exciting inclusion that will probably see some play in the metagame.

retrofitter foundry

My first thought when looking at [tooltips]Retrofitter Foundry[/tooltips] is that this is meant to be a tool to fight control decks with, but after doing some digging, this could be MUCH better than people think. It turns out Retrofitter Foundry has a pretty sizeable secondary market price, and it’s entirely due to Legacy. It’s not uncommon for decks to play a bunch of Retrofitter Foundries alongside Thopters like [tooltips]Ornithopter[/tooltips] and [tooltips]Changeling Outcast[/tooltips], using Retrofitter Foundry’s final ability to turn them into 4/4 constructs. It is essential to remember that, with [tooltips]Force of Will[/tooltips] everywhere in Legacy, making sure you get value by spending as few resources as possible is much more critical. If a Foundry is in play, it can force an opponent to Force of Will an Ornithopter, which is funny. With this new information, Retrofitter Foundry may birth a new type of Affinity deck into the format.

That’s a Lot of Lands!

darkmoss bridge
drossforge bridge
goldmire bridge
mistvault bridge
razortide bridge
rustvale bridge
silverbluff bridge
slagwoods bridge

The rest of the Explorer Anthology is the artifact lands cycle introduced in Modern Horizons 2. This should boost Affinity, but it seems like wasted slots otherwise. There are a lot of things that these could have been that would’ve created new archetypes instead of lands to support the advancement of one. For those who want to experiment with these, they are an exciting option. This can only be disappointing for the many who would’ve preferred other things, like [tooltips]Monastery Swiftspear[/tooltips].

What did you Want to See?

We’ve given lists in our past articles to cards that would help Explorer come close to what Pioneer is doing. Many of those cards are missing, and players aren’t happy about it. “Disappointing” is the word of the day for MTG Arena players, but these inclusions may create more lively gameplay than players expect. We’ll have to see how much these cards will actually do to change Historic and Explorer.

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