The release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is coming soon, and with it, there are plenty of nostalgic elements to look forward to. Of course, when players think of the Ixalan plane, a few specific Creature types come to mind. Pirates, Dinosaurs, Merfolk, and Vampires were all heavily represented in the original Ixalan block, and it appears as though this upcoming set is no exception.
The beloved world of Ixalan is not only home to cool Creatures, but it also gave rise to a handful of really interesting mechanics. For example, we saw a cycle of non-Land permanents that could transform into Lands, such as Growing Rites of Itlimoc.
One of the mechanics showcased in either set, though, did not change. That mechanic is none other than Explore. Explore is a well-designed ability that lets you reveal the top card of your library. You either reveal a Land, which you get to put into your hand, or you reveal a non-Land card, which you can either leave on top of your library or put into your graveyard. If you reveal a non-Land card this way, the Creature that Explored gets a +1/+1 counter. Either way, you get paid off. There are lots of powerful Explore cards and payoffs, both new and old. In celebration of Ixalan, here are the top five MTG best Explore cards.
#5 Wildgrowth Walker
Wildgrowth Walker may look a bit unassuming, but this card was a doozy for aggro decks to beat in Rivals of Ixalan Standard. The curve of Wildgrowth Walker into Jadelight Ranger was extremely powerful, Both the life gain buffer and the power boost provided by Wildgrowth Walker’s ability made the card a premier threat.
While it does take a bit of work to get going, there is also a new combo involving this card and Amalia Benavides Aguirre. If you can either gain life or Explore, you will start a chain reaction. Each time you Explore, you gain life from Wildgrowth Walker. This, in turn, triggers another Exploration from Amalia Benvides Aguirre, creating an infinite loop. This will keep happening until Amalia reaches 20 power, which will result in all other Creatures being destroyed. From there, you can simply attack with Amalia and win the game. It’s unclear how effective this strategy will be in competitive Constructed formats, but the fact that Wildgrowth Walker still has potential earns it a spot on this list.
#4 Jadelight Spelunker
As strong as Jadelight Ranger was alongside Wildgrowth Walker, Jadelight Spelunker seems even stronger. This is because Jadelight Seplunker is powerful at almost every point along the curve. For three mana, you can cast Jadelight Spelunker to Explore twice, making it almost identical to Jadelight Ranger itself. The only difference is that Spelunker will have one less power. However, you can play Jadelight Spelunker as a two-drop or dump a bunch of mana into it later in the game.
Not only do you get a lot of value topdecking this card in the late game, but you can help make sure that the next card you draw is exactly what you are looking for. You will likely end up with a big threat, some Lands in hand, and a solid topdeck lined up for next turn. The fact that Jadelight Spelunker is a Merfolk can provide additional synergies with that typal strategy. Jadelight Spelunker’s flexibility makes it more powerful than it might look at first glance.
#3 Amalia Benavides Aguirre
Amalia Benavides Aguirre is an extremely efficient card for what it does. We already mentioned her combo potential with Wildgrowth Walker in formats like Historic and Pioneer. However, the card is simply a solid two-drop for any deck that has ways to gain life. For two mana, you get a 2/2 that punishes your opponent for trying to remove it. Any time you gain life, Amalia threatens to grow bigger and generate extra value. In Vampire-based strategies in Standard with a handful of ways to gain life, this card seems quite solid.
In Commander, you can focus more on gaining life with cards like Soul Warden in the mix. Before you know it, Amalia will be Exploring left and right. This is a great addition to a Karlov of the Ghost Council EDH deck and, as a legendary Creature itself, Amalia is a solid Commander option if you choose to go that route. Amalia has multi-format potential, which is why it appears this high on the list.
#2 Path of Discovery
Path of Discovery is specifically a Commander card, but it’s a decent card in any Creature-heavy deck. Path of Discovery is not quite as strong as Guardian Project in most decks, but Path of Discovery notably does trigger off of tokens. This means that resolving cards like Avenger of Zendikar will allow you to Explore many times.
Where this card shines the most is in Commander decks built around Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Sidisi allows you to create 2/2 Creature tokens whenever Creature cards go from your library into your graveyard. Well, with Sidisi in play, if you play a Creature, you get to Explore. If your reveal a Creature from the top of your library, you can put that card into your graveyard. This triggers Sidisi, netting you another 2/2, triggering Path of Discovery, and so on. If you have a high density of Creatures in your deck, this is a cool way to generate a bunch of tokens at once. Path of Discovery has a lot of cool synergies even beyond this in Commander, hence why it’s high up on this list.
#1 Seasoned Dungeoneer
Seasoned Dungeoneer seems like a clear number one for this list, although the ability to Explore is not exactly what makes the card so strong. Before the banning of White Plume Adventurer, white-based Initiative decks ruled Legacy, and they still have a foothold in Vintage. Getting to take the Initiative for cheap provides an easy path to victory, so long as you can protect yourself. Every turn cycle, you generate additional value in the Undercity without having to invest any resources of your own.
If that weren’t enough, Seasoned Dungeoneer allows one of your attacking Clerics, Warriors, Rogues, or Wizards to gain protection from opposing Creatures until the end of the turn and Explore. This means that if you somehow do lose the Initiative, if Seasoned Dungeoneer is alive, you can simply attack with it and take the Initiative right back, with some added Explore value on top of it. The Protection clause plus the Explore clause can help you end the game in short order. Combine that with the Dungeon room that forces an opponent to lose five life and winning the game becomes trivial. Seasoned Dungeoneer’s impact on highly competitive formats with vast card pools helps solidify it as the best MTG Explore card.