Explorer Review: 10 Best cards from Dominaria United

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Explorer Review: 10 Best cards from Dominaria United

09/03/22 Comment regular icon0 comments

In today's article, I evaluate the ten cards that I consider the most important in Dominaria United for Explorer!

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By Romeu

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translated by Romeu

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revised by Tabata Marques

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Closing my participation in the review season for Dominaria Unitedlink outside website, today I will be presenting the ten cards that I consider the most important of the new set for

Explorer

. If you want a more in-depth analysis, I wrote a complete review for Pioneerlink outside website recently, and many of the additions I've presented in this article can be considered in Explorer as well. It is important to note that, although both formats are significantly similar and share a card pool and a banlist, the lack of certain pieces in Magic Arena creates a different scenario in the Metagame due to the absence of archetypes that put some of the main decks in check today.

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Anointed Peacekeeper

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And speaking of different Metagames, Anointed Peacekeeper is

far more important

in Explorer than in Pioneer because the need to interact with the opponent is crucial while piloting a creature-oriented list, given that the main archetypes of the format are aimed at removals (Rakdos Midrange), controlling the board (Azorius Control), or closing a combo (Greasefang). The new addition provides another way to protect your creatures from sweepers, or delay your opponent's explosive threats, like a high-impact Planeswalker, or some spell on the occasional ramp deck that you know will end the game, like Genesis Ultimatum and the like. In addition, Anointed Peacekeeper also prevents the deliberate activation of abilities like Witch's Oven, making it relevant against Rakdos Sacrifice and other archetypes that normally prey on lists with small creatures. It's a great addition to Humans, Selesnya Company, a good sideboard piece for Angels and the like, and seems like safe crafting to me if you play one of those lists.

Temporary Lockdown

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Temporary Lockdown is slightly better in Explorer than in Pioneer as the top lists in the format have more targets for this sweeper, from Bloodtithe Harvester to Witch's Oven, going through a variety of creatures from Humans and Spirits, or against players who pilot Mono Red Aggro in the Best of One. In a universe where Rakdos Midrange is almost the Tier 0, I don't believe this enchantment deserves maindeck slots in Best of Three matches, but with a much more aggressive Metagame in the Best of One universe, I can imagine situations where I would like to have two to three copies in the Azorius Control's maindeck, or on lists with Doom Foretold and similar strategies.

Combat Research

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Combat Research are copies 5-8 of Curious Obsession, and with Mono Blue Spirits being one of the main creature archetypes in the format, I can imagine this enchantment having great relevance in the Metagame to add another layer of consistency to this strategy. Other viable options for this Curiosity variant are in the Mono Blue Tempo lists, including perfectly fitting into Budget version that I presented herelink outside website, and perhaps contributing to the existence of an Azorius Heroic with Favored Hoplite, Stormchaser Drake and Illuminator Virtuoso.

Braids, Arisen Nightmare

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I was initially skeptical about Braids, Arisen Nightmare, but I was positively surprised by her results at the Early Access, where it creates an easy-to-overuse symmetrical effect if you have a variety of permanents and can easily manipulate which type among them you believe the opponent don't want to sacrifice. For example, on turn 4, few Explorer decks want to sacrifice land, but if you can play with a relatively low curve, you can take advantage of that. The great thing about Braids is that you choose the permanent type first, so a Blood token created by Bloodtithe Harvester can automatically turn into an extra card in your hand and 2 damage your opponent.

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Despite being directly competing with Liliana of the Veil for slots, Braids is a very solid card, and it won't surprise me if she becomes a staple on either Standard or Explorer in the future.

Knight of Dusk's Shadow

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Knight of Dusk's Shadow gives another color the ability to play around Lifegain archetypes, which are very popular in Best of One matches, and that's reason enough to be included in this list. With it, Mono-Black Aggro, Greasefang, or any other deck with access to black can now not automatically lose to a recurring stream of angels and lifegain triggers from across the board without needing to resort to a less-than-useful piece in the maindeck, as is the case with Tainted Remedy, as a 2/2 for two mana with a mana sink ability at least does something in other matchups.

Liliana of the Veil

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Liliana of the Veil is probably the most powerful card in Dominaria United, and fits perfectly into what has already established itself as the best deck in the format: Rakdos Midrange. As I explained in my article on how to take advantage of the new Planeswalker on Pioneer and Standardlink outside website and what contexts it fits best in, Liliana of the Veil offers their respective decks a way to establish a symmetrical resource reduction while ensuring an empty board if you manage to maintain 1-for-1 trades with the opponent's other creatures, reaching the point of inevitability where you reduce or zero your opponent's resources while continuing to accumulate yours with Planeswalkers like Chandra, Torch of Defiance. This makes her the perfect addition to Midrange mirrors, and an essential feature to prevent a Control from accumulating too many cards during the game. Liliana will primarily serve to further cement Rakdos Midrange's Tier 0 position, but its use won't be limited to just that and I can imagine lists like Greasefang, Rakdos Arcanist, and other Midranges taking advantage of this Planeswalker to avoid getting buried in Card Advantage.

Defiler of Instinct

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An archetype that has grown up recently in Pioneer and Explorer is the Birgi, God of Storytelling combo with Grinning Ignus to gain an insane amount of life and/or win the game with infinite mana through other cards like Hazoret's Monument, and Defiler of Instinct makes the combo way easier if you have more life than your opponent and a Prosperous Innkeeper in play. Basically, you can pay 2 life to reduce the Magic Symbol R cost of Grinning Ignus, pay Magic Symbol 2 to cast it and deal 1 damage to the opponent with Defiler of Instinct, pay Magic Symbol R to return it to your hand and repeat the process to deal enough damage to win the game, or even infinite damage with two copies of Prosperous Innkeeper, or Lunarch Veteran. Given how this card facilitates and combo and can also interact with Hazoret's Monument, it's safe to assume that players will try to resort to this combo in a variety of ways over the next few weeks, and a 4/4 body for 4 mana that reduces the cost of red mana from your permanents is also a decent threat.

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Phoenix Chick

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In a world without Monastery Swiftspear and where Mono Red Aggro is a top contender for Best of One, and in addition to being a decent archetype in Best of Three, Phoenix Chick will likely become necessary and even superior to other options that players are opting for in the current lists. Mono Red already seeks to have a high amount of creatures in play to cast Embercleave and increase the devotion for Anax, Hardened in the Forge or potentiate damage with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, it won't be difficult to reanimate this creature during the combat phase as a 2/2 with Flying and Haste for a low cost, especially with a Kari Zev, Skyship Raider in play. Also, Phoenix Chick is an uncommon, which makes it

extremely accessible

to budget versionslink outside website.

Thran Portal

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Thran Portal is an interesting and flexible choice in the absence of allied Fast Lands, and it also helps to improve the manabase of archetypes with more than three colors, like Five-Color Niv-Mizzet or Four-Color Ultimatum, including perhaps allowing a strategy that plays "over" Rakdos Midrange (as is the case with Niv-to-Light on Pioneer) to exist, as they also gained Llanowar Loamspeaker in this set to improve their manabase. Outside that archetype, I suppose Thran Portal might occasionally appear in some three-color decks like Abzan Humans, Esper Control, or Grixis Midrange, in addition to obviously having its slot guaranteed in Gates.

Painlands

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Painlands are finally coming to Magic Arena, and this will significantly improve access to colors at the right time for faster, more aggressive archetypes that don't care so much about taking damage to pressure the opponent and set the clock, while also increasing consistency of Midranges and Controls. Unfortunately, the most important land in the cycle (Battlefield Forge) will only be present in The Brothers' War, but Shivan Reef can help establish an Izzet Prowess, Karplusan Forest is a great inclusion for Gruul Aggro or Naya Midrange, and Caves of Koilos helps Gresefang decks avoid getting delayed by a turn due to a tapped land.

Conclusion

That's all for today. Just to point out, this article was made one day after the Early Access and is getting published after the set is released, so I wouldn't be surprised if I missed some card, and it has already shaken up the format. I believe that Explorer will not undergo major changes in the Metagame with Dominaria United, unless some interaction or new card has been overlooked during the spoiler season. Other notable additions include Ertai Resurrected, Stenn, Paranoid Partisan, Llanowar Loamspeaker, Jaya, Fiery Negotiator and Karn's Sylex, but my proposal in this article was to present the cards that, I believe, have the greatest potential for impacting the format.

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That said, I don't recommend spending your Wildcards deliberately during this first moment: they are precious resources and should be treated as such, don't spend them on things you don't need unless you really want to test certain archetypes. Wait the first few weeks to analyze the results and the changes that will occur with the new set's arrival. Thanks for reading!
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Romeu

Journalism student, writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually every Magic: The Gathering competitive format and is a lifetime Final Fantasy fan.

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