Winota, Joiner of Forces has been banned from Magic Arena’s newest format Explorer. The deck completely dominated the format and warped the meta to meet it. Now that the threat of a turn three kill isn’t looming over everyone’s heads, other strategies are crawling out of the woodwork. Here are some of the biggest winners in MTG’s newest format following the Winota ban:
Based on an old standard titan, this deck roared out of the gate when Explorer was first released. This deck’s goal is to cheat out an Agent of Treachery and start stealing your opponent’s permanents. Flicker it with Yorion, or copy it with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker to take everything they have and refill your hand. Generally, this strategy isn’t quick enough to keep up with the pressure that Winota offers. Transmogrify effects also fizzle when its targets are removed, so the deck was getting caught in the crossfire with cards meant to take Winota out. Now that the format should slow down, expect to see a lot more Agents coming out of nowhere and stealing your lands before you can cast your spells to compete with it.
Mono Blue Spirits
This deck is excellent at taking apart strategies that are a step slower than it. Winota forced this deck into situations that it couldn’t properly answer, but spirits were still able to keep up. Now that Winota’s gone, spirits get to play the same role of creating situations that the opponent can’t answer. The ban allows for this deck to play more efficient cards over what it was running to deal with Winota. The list above considers that notion.
The biggest thing going for this deck is that everything flies. It may seem like a small point, but having the ability to fly over cards like Cauldron Familiar ensures that current strategies don’t have a great way to keep up with it. Only time will tell, but this archetype is already dominant in Pioneer.
The other combo deck in the format now has the fastest kill available in Explorer. This means that the deck can care less about what the opponent is doing and focus more on what Greasefang wants to do.
Use Greasefang to resurrect Parhelion II as early as turn three. Swing for 13, leave a bunch of angels on the board, and demand for your opponent to get out of it. This strategy has two different builds to it, but the Mardu version has more to gain from the recent ban. If this deck becomes too dominant, cards that were present for Winota in the sideboard may turn into graveyard hate. If that happens, this deck will still be strong, but possibly kept in check.
The biggest strength of this deck is that the combo only takes up eight slots. The rest of the deck can be used to help execute Greasefang’s plan. Portable Hole and Thoughtseize can deal with any hate that might start seeing play against this deck while milling creatures like Stitcher’s Supplier help find your combo pieces and prepare you to bring them back.
Another deck that had a decent Winota matchup, Omnath Adventures is by far the spiciest take on this list. This deck was so powerful in pre-Innistrad standard that it single-handedly added two cards to the standard ban list. Adventure lists excel when they can interact with their opponents and outvalue them by turning each card in the deck into three or four different spells with Lucky Clover. This deck has the tools to deal with everything else on this list and can do so rather easily.
Like the Yorion Fires deck, Omnath was being taken out by cards intended to deal with Winota. The meta will likely shift away from Redcap Melee now that Winota is gone, making Omnath harder to kill. Ray of Enfeeblement will be a card that this deck continues to watch out for.
The biggest appeal for this deck is the Mono Blue matchup. Adventures was created in a time when Flash and Control strategies excelled in standard. Tempo synergies that rely on counterspells to keep tempo do not deal well with a deck that copies each of their spells multiple times.
To make things even more exciting, this deck has some fringe success in Pioneer too. That version is rather different, focusing on Possibility Storm and Enter the Infinite, but if it can hang in Pioneer, it can hang in Explorer.
Strategies that scare this deck come from tempo swings that the deck can’t keep up with like Nissa, who Shakes the World or things they can’t interact with like Lotus Field. Those cards don’t have a big impact in Explorer yet, so now is this deck’s time to shine! I recommend playing some copies of Yasharn, Implacable Earth in the sideboard to help deal with sacrifice.
There are other powerful strategies that are very viable in Explorer, but these are some of the best. There is now a big, but temporary, difference between Explorer and Pioneer’s ban lists. Is that going to affect the community’s opinion of Explorer? Hopefully, it really is temporary, and the formats become one and the same sooner than we think.