Explorer Meta Guide: Top Decks for the Week of October 21

Jaffer dives into this week's Explorer metagame, discussing matchups and tier list updates.


Each week, we at PlayingExplorer take a deep dive into the available MTGA ranked ladder data from players in Platinum rank and above. We take what data we have and break down which decks sit where in the Explorer metagame. These tier lists include a rolling average to ensure decks don’t move too volatility on the tier list after one good week. If you’re looking for an example of that tier list, here is this week’s best-of-three and best-of-one tier lists.

This metagame breakdown article will accompany that tier list each Friday, and will go over the top decks, why they have seen increases, decreases, or stagnation in play, and cover what stands out as to why these decks are contenders in the metagame.


This week, we have our standard set of data from the ranked ladder from Platinum and up. Since Wizards is still not releasing Explorer data alongside their Historic, Standard and Alchemy data for some reason, we use a major tracker that we are affiliated with, in combination with Explorer tournaments with more than 50 players.

No big Explorer events this past week.

Explorer Competitive Guides

The data above is broken down by our Explorer Competitive Guides – a group of players on the PlayingExplorer team (which includes the authors of this article) who have met certain metrics to qualify to be a Competitive Guide and maintained those metrics each month to remain on the competitive team. While leaning on the data as much as possible, the competitive team often shifts decks up and down based on their experience and feelings about expected matchups. The input from our competitive guides, combined with the data, makes up our weekly tier lists. 

Metagame Breakdown

S Tier

Decks in this tier are the most heavily played and format dominant. These decks are the core that the rest of the meta revolves around. Players should be prepared to face these decks multiple times throughout a series of games on the ladder or in a single constructed event.

Rakdos Midrange

Since our first tier list, the Rakdos Midrange menace has been holding up our S Tier ranking, and continues to do so this week. With the current limitations of the Explorer format, this deck will continue to persevere until some substantial meta shakeup happens. How many copies of this midrange pile will we see at Worlds?

The Explorer meta hasn’t shifted too much in a good while, but unlike Pioneer or Standard, Explorer has several ways by which new cards could easily shake up the format for good.

This deck continues to have all-around good answers for most matchups. You’d be happy to face decks like Greasefang, Creativity, most combos, Azorius Control, and other creature-based decks. Matchups like variations of Mono Green (Karn and Stompy), heavy enchantments like Enigmatic, and other piles of cards that can outvalue you are tough.

A Tier

Decks in this tier are generally on the same power level as those above it, and consistently post top results at events. However, due to certain factors like deck population or weakness in a key matchup they are not as format dominant.

Abzan Greasefang

The second most popular deck on the best-of-three ladder and maintaining a 60% win rate, it turns out combos are still good. Your combo is shut down? No problem! We’ll make an army of cats with our handy dandy Esika’s Chariot! 

The base 75 cards of the deck have stayed fairly stable since Dominaria United was released, varying mostly in the copies of Liliana of the Veil and cards that aim to replace Satyr Wayfinder out of the Pioneer lists. Would you like to see Tasigur, the Golden Fang in the next Anthology to potentially be slotted in like most Pioneer lists?

Enigmatic Incarnation

Fires of Invention is still a heck of a card. It helps our favorite five-color pile out so much. Cast said enchantment, cast Enigmatic Incarnation, go to end step and get a free creature. The following turn, cast Yorion and reset everything. Seems good! I believe we will still see Enigmatic continue to stay within our A Tier ranking until we see some new cards come around.

In my time of playing this deck, I want to avoid very aggressive creature decks and spot or mass enchantment removal. As a Mono-Green mage myself, I have started playing Back to Naturein my Mono-Green Stompy sideboards. (Don’t forget to set a stop on your opponent’s second main phase to prevent the Incarnation trigger!) 

With all of your enhancement shenanigans going on, you want to play against Rakdos as they don’t have too many answers to deal with ALL of your enchantments.

Mono-Blue Spirits

We had a flip flop this week! Mono Blue has switched places with Mono Red! Spirits has been continuing to battle for the rank of A or B Tier for a while now. The game plan of cheap counterspells with good tempo creatures still does a great job.

While most lists remain consistent and allow few flex slots, some will run “the blue March” from Kamigawa Neon Dynasty, March of Swirling Mist. Some more card draw in Combat Research. Even more will slot in more counter magic, with the many different choices available.

Its strong matchup against Enigmatic Incarnation and Mono-Green really shine this week, with both decks on the rise.

B Tier

Decks in this tier are proven performers with strong finishes that will reward good player skill/dedicated play. However, they generally lack a certain level of power/consistency to take them to the winner’s podium on a regular basis.

Green Karn

A mix of colorless and Mono-Green continues to go a long way. With a 60% winrate, this deck is showing just how resilient it can be. To get an edge on Rakdos Midrange and to have a bit more interaction, players are now running one to two copies of Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in their main board! It’s not super common in Explorer yet, but it has been popping up occasionally as of late.

Being a pilot of this deck, you do want to play against things like Humans, Mono-Red, Rakdos Midrange, and vehicle/artifact based decks. Azorius Control, certain builds of Mono-Green Stompy, and Angels are tough matchups in general.

Jeskai Creativity

Combo! Destroying our tokens to steal your things! An Agent of Treachery deck has moved back up in the ranks of B Tier. In some cases, Torrential Gearhulk replaces Agent of Treachery to recast things like Magnus Opus from the graveyard.

Matchups you’d like to face generally are going to be creature-based strategies that don’t have too many answers for the artifacts or creatures you are trying to use your Creativity on. Midrange or control strategies are generally favored against this combo deck.

Azorius Control

From what we have seen, some Azorius Control lists have moved away from Yorion, Sky Nomad. Some have stuck with the sky noodle. On the Pioneer side, DarthJacen wrote a bit about the advantages of each configuration in his free UW Control deck guide.

This deck still continues to face problems against Rakdos Midrange piles that just outvalue it and Spirits and Mono-Red, which go under it. Matches UW Control does like to be against tend to be heavy-creature lists, big-spell decks and combos. 


It seems that there are still two versions of Mono-Red going around: traditional Embercleave strategies and Obosh, the Preypiercer companion decks. Both have a high winrate and sample size. Embercleave can just steal games and cheap creatures with Obosh can help finish them faster as well! Which do you like to play?

Both lists have similar tough matchups: Mono-Green and heavy creature-removal lists – both problems which are solved to some extent by Hazoret, the Fervent. Against UW Control and Spirits, though, Mono-Red shines like a star.

C Tier (List Shoutouts)

Decks in this tier are on an average power level for the format or are heavily underrepresented. Like our B-tier these decks can reward dedication to the archetype, but they will require a more concerted effort. Players should be aware of these decks, but not over-tune for these matchups.

Mono-Black Midrange

Rakdos Sacrifice

D Tier (List Shoutouts)

Decks in this tier will find the current meta hostile to their overall game plan. These decks can find success in the right environment, but the winner’s podium will be few and far between.

Four-Color Adventure
Five-Color Elementals
Jund Sacrifice
Green Stompy
Selesnya Angels

Final Thoughts

The Explorer meta hasn’t shifted too much in a good while, but unlike Pioneer or Standard, Explorer has several ways by which new cards could easily shake up the format for good: Explorer Anthologies, Set Remasters and new Standard sets – all three of which we will see injected into the format over the next few months. 

The week is over and so is my Meta Guide. What have you been playing lately? Excited for some Explorer action at Worlds? I, for one, can’t wait! 

We’ll chat next week. Keep it spooky!

  • Jaffer

    Explorer Competitive Guide

    Jaffer has been stomping around with big dumb creatures in Magic: The Gathering since Theros release back in 2013. Ever since playing Mono-Green day one of his MTG career he's been in love with any stompy or aggressive-based deck. Jaffer is known for being a Twitch Partner in the Magic: The Gathering category, with 99% of his time in the Explorer queues.

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