Magic Arena: Explorer Anthology 2 Review

Magic: the Gathering

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Magic Arena: Explorer Anthology 2 Review

12/08/22 Comment regular icon0 comments

Explorer Anthology 2 arrives on December 13th, with 24 new cards for Magic Arena. But how much is it worth to buy the complete package? In today's article, we analyze the cards included in the bundle!

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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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The second bundle dedicated to migrating cards from Pioneer to Magic Arena, Explorer Anthology 2link outside website, will arrive at the platform on December 13th with 25 new cards. The bundle will cost 25,000 gold or 4,000 gems and adds four copies of each item to the player's collection. However, is it really worth buying the entire package, or should players just focus on picking up specific items from the product? In this article, we'll evaluate the cards available in Explorer Anthology 2 and their use in the competitive scene.

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White

Brave the Elements

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One of the most important instants on Pioneer today is coming to Magic Arena: Brave the Elements is one of the main reasons to stick to a Mono-White base with Humans instead of resorting to two or more colors with the support of Unclaimed Territory and Secluded Courtyard. As a staple of one of the top decks in the format today, as well as having the potential to appear on Historic's Humans and White-Based Aggro lists, the new Instant definitely needs to be in your collection. However, as an uncommon, it adds little value to the bundle.

Eldrazi Displacer

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Eldrazi Displacer is a difficult creature to evaluate: it does absurd things when you have too much mana to abuse the blink ability with Sol Lands (Ancient Tomb or Eldrazi Temple), which is not the case in Explorer. It's a good card for your collection if we eventually get more support from colorless spells and/or abilities. In Historic, Colorless Ramp is a common strategy in the lower levels of ranked games, and the existence of Mind Stone can amplify the usefulness of Eldrazi Displacer and other cards that care about colorless mana, such as Thought-Knot Seer. It's not worth the investment of four rare wildcards in your collection, but it adds a lot of value to the bundle.

Eerie Interlude

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Yorion, Sky Nomad is the main and best blink engine in Magic today. Eerie Interlude doesn't offer the same flexibility, isn't a threat on its own, and is closer to protection against sweepers than a proactive play in most decks. It likely won't see play outside Historic Brawl, but it does add some value as a rare card.

Ethereal Armor

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Another instant staple, this time for Historic: Auras is a very famous strategy in the format that, despite having lost its space to Affinity since Esper Sentinel and Nettlecyst arrived at Magic Arena, is still very common in ranked games and gets a new layer of explosion and consistency with Ethereal Armor. Since it's a common card, it won't be difficult for players to experiment with its use, which will likely lead to an increase in the archetype at the ranked ladder.

Soldier of the Pantheon

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Once a Humans staple, Soldier of the Pantheon lost its foothold to Recruitment Officer when The Brothers' Warlink outside website came out. However, it still fits well in the right Metagame, is an efficient one-drop, and also increases the redundancy of cheap threats in white Aggro decks. I wouldn't recommend using wildcards to craft this creature as there are better options available, but it's a nice addition to the bundle as well as to the format.

Blue

Clever Impersonator

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Clever Impersonator is essentially a combo piece. In Historic, it may have room in variants that use Neoform and Dualcaster Mage to create an army of copies of the mage, and the combo with Gyruda, Doom of Depths is always an existing option, despite not being a competitive archetype today.

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But it's not an exceptional creature by any means, its slot could be better used in the bundle, and the only reason it adds something to the product is due to being a mythic rare.

Dispel

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It's a surprise that a spell as simple and as essential as Dispel was never released in Magic Arena, as it was last reprinted in Battle for Zendikar. At that point, it was expected that instant would become so essential to Constructed to the point of receiving frequent reprints, as with Duress and Negate. But that's not the case, and the card is a powerful addition to Explorer and Historic, both to protect players from counterspells and to respond to interactions that try to deal with a combo. A guaranteed staple for the minimum value of four common wildcards.

Black

Zulaport Cutthroat

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At this point, Zulaport Cutthroat seems like a "win-more" for any Sacrifice-oriented strategy on both Explorer and Historic, where even Blood Artist already exists and sees little to no play on the format. Important addition for possible future interactions, but little relevant in today's competitive scenario.

Red

Eidolon of the Great Revel

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Another great red staple comes to Magic Arena: Eidolon of the Great Revel is one of the most important cards in Burn strategies in several competitive formats, and brings fresh air to the archetype in Historic while finishing solidifying Mono Red Aggro in Explorer. The creature from Born of the Gods is a great addition to Magic Arena, definitely worth the investment in wildcards if you own the deck or intend to build it, and is by far one of the best additions to the bundle.

Fiery Impulse

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Fiery Impulse is a decent removal for Izzet Phoenix in Explorer, but the archetype's rise in the format doesn't depend on the quality of its removals when we already have Strangle and Play With Fire, but in the need of efficient means of card advantage with Treasure Cruise and other Delve Spells. On Historic, Unholy Heat will be a better option in many circumstances, but I can imagine situations where Fiery Impulse would be preferable for the consistency of which it achieves Spell Mastery.

Rending Volley

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Rending Volley is a good answer to a dozen well-known strategies in both formats. For one mana, it deals with basically every creature in Humans, Ledger Shredder and Greasefang, Okiba Boss in Explorer, plus Kor Spiritdancer, Esper Sentinel and a dozen other creatures that occasionally appear in Historic. This will be another Sideboard staple that deserves four copies space in any player's collection.

Green

Courser of Kruphix

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Courser of Kruphix suffered from power creep, and the days when it was essential to Midranges passed a few years ago. Its inclusion in Magic Arena is important in case Delirium decks ever return to the format, plus it might be worth some slots in Historic's Selesnya Enchantress.

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It's not the kind of card that's worth the investment of four rare wildcards, but it's a decent bonus to the bundle's value.

Nylea's Presence

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Nylea's Presence is guaranteed a slot in Enigmatic Incarnation archetypes in both Explorer and Historic, as it replenishes itself in its controller's hand and fixes the mana issues of a list that normally recurs to four or even five colors. Additionally, the enchantment allows casting Leyline Binding for just one mana, leading to some nice interactions. Another option for the card would be on some Domain Aggro strategy with Nishoba Brawler and Territorial Kavu, but with the absence of Tribal Flames and other good payoffs, the archetype doesn't seem competitive enough. Its inclusion in the bundle is decent, but with little financial value, as the card is common and can be easily crafted.

Satyr Wayfinder

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People who hate playing against Abzan Greasefang will have one more reason to despise it, as Satyr Wayfinder makes the archetype even more consistent by granting the turn 3 land drop and, hopefully, one of the combo pieces in the graveyard with a single card. Greasefang, Okiba Boss is already considered one of the best decks in the format and Explorer's most efficient free-win button. Increasing its consistency could lead new players to run it in the Best of One environment. So have good Instant-Speed removals available on your rosters in the coming weeks.

World Breaker

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World Breaker is a troublesome threat if it comes into play quickly enough, and with the inclusion of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in Magic Arena, Eldrazi could earn a slot in a toolbox sideboard alongside Vivien, Arkbow Ranger as we still don't have The Chain Veil to perform some of the absurd plays that Karn, the Great Creator's toolbox enables. In this case, World Breaker will only be run as a one-of, but having four copies of it in your collection could be helpful at some point in the future.

Multicolor

Reflector Mage

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Reflector Mage was once banned from Standard in 2016 for promoting an unfun play pattern. In Pioneer, it is one of the main reasons to play blue in Humans and also appears occasionally in Enigmatic Fires and Niv-to-Light lists. It will likely see plenty of play on three or more color variants of Humans, as well as being a decent sideboard option against some Historic archetypes. It's worth the investment of four uncommon wildcards, but it doesn't add as much to the bundle financially.

Sliver Hivelord

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Slivers is a popular tribe in Historic, despite not showing impressive results. Even in the most greedy variants, Sliver Hivelord seems inferior to The First Sliver in every way. It's not worth the investment in Wildcards, and it's also not the type of mythic worth purchasing in the bundle.

Shaman of the Pack

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Elves is another very famous deck in Historic, and one that manages to do well in Best of One due to the speed and consistency of which it executes its game plan. Shaman of the Pack opens up yet another angle to the list where it no longer needs to untap for a turn if the deck manages to get multiple creatures into play followed by one or two copies of the creature. It will be interesting to see how the archetype evolves after the bundle is released.

Colorless

Kozilek, the Great Distortion

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Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon are still the best Big Mana Bombs available in Magic Arena, and even though Kozilek, the Great Distortion is strong on its own, it has too many restrictions to work on most competitive lists. That said, Kozilek could be worth some slots on Colorless Ramp next to Forsaken Monument in Historic. However, this strategy may take a more Midrange-oriented turn after the bundle's release due to the other two colorless additions.

Matter Reshaper & Thought-Knot Seer

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In Pioneer's early years, one deck that was famous for a while was Simic Eldrazi, which ran painlands like Yavimaya Coast alongside cheap mana dorks to cast these creatures early. However, the bundle does not include one of the main winconditions of this strategy, Reality Smasher. But if there's a good combination that allows you to use Matter Reshaper and especially Thought-Knot Seer early enough, these creatures can become crucial pieces of both Explorer and Historic. Probably not worth crafting with rare wildcards, but they add a lot of value to the bundle and make it possible to start a fascinating strategy for Historic in the future.

Land

Mana Confluence

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While not a staple in multiple lists, Mana Confluence is incidentally one of Pioneer's most important lands, as it's the only one available in the format that adds mana of any color without any Tempo loss. This makes it important as a 2-of or even 4-of in multicolored strategies that don't mind losing life in the short term to get more explosive medium or long-term plays. Four-Color Humans, Enigmatic Fires, Five-Color Niv, and even Death's Shadow lists can benefit from this land, making it a great piece in any player's collection. As a rare card, its inclusion in the bundle makes it one of the main reasons to get the full package.

Mutavault

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Like Mana Confluence, Mutavault is another multi-format staple and an essential addition to Magic Arena. In Explorer, it is a key resource for Mono White Humans, Vampires, is decent in Ensoul Artifact decks, and also works on archetypes like Mono Black Aggro and less popular tribes. In Historic, some tribals may resort to its use, although the manabase of most of them is too greedy to support four copies of the manland. With the potential to break into any Tribe that appears in the future, in addition to those already established within those formats, Mutavault is an essential acquisition for almost any player.

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Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

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Finally, the most important card in the bundle: Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Since the beginning of the year, Explorer has had

Rakdos Midrange

as its main competitor, which not only solidified itself as the best deck in the format, but also got stronger throughout 2022 thanks to additions like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in Explorer Anthology 1link outside website and Liliana of the Veil in Dominaria Unitedlink outside website. The archetype is so pervasive in the Metagame because it's a solid option against any existing strategy in the format today. Historically, Midranges like Rakdos tend to have a balanced matchup against most other archetypes, except those that can play on top of it, and these strategies did not exist in Explorer until now — Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx brings to format Pioneer's top midrange predator,

Mono Green Devotion

. However, the traditional version existing in Pioneer is not fully available in Explorer: cards like Oath of Nissa and The Chain Veil aren't available in the format, and perhaps hinder its entry as the ideal competitor against Rakdos Midrange, as lists will likely have to fall back on the classic version rather than the Planeswalker-focused with Oath of Nissa.
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However, Karn, the Great Creator still unlocks a wonderful toolbox, and Storm the Festival is a great card advantage engine, so there may be room for it to play over Rakdos Midrange and finally end its reign in Explorer.

Is Explorer Anthology 2 worth buying?

Considering the potential of the cards available in the package, and the rarity of some of the most important ones like Eidolon of the Great Revel, Mutavault, Mana Confluence and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, the bundle is worth enough to buy for players looking to expand their Historic or Explorer collections. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who only needs a few pieces of the product if they aren't all rare. Many commons and uncommons can be crafted easily, and the amount invested in the bundle could be better spent on drafts.

Conclusion

Overall, Explorer Anthology 2 trumps its predecessor in terms of what it adds to the format by adding several key Pioneer pieces to Magic Arena. It fails a bit by not including cards like Treasure Cruise and Reality Smasher while making room for more casual pieces of Historic Brawl like Sliver Hivelord and Kozilek, The Great Distortion, but it fulfills its function of inserting important new pieces for the digital platform. 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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