Explorer Starter Guide

Tyler builds from Arena starter deck to A Tier Explorer deck and gives some tips at spending as little as possible while remaining competitive.

Okay, I started. What now?

If you are reading this article, I am assuming it is because you decided to finally give Magic the Gathering Arena a chance, and you want to do it playing Explorer (while we wait for Pioneer). You’ve made the switch over to the modern client (from either paper or MTGO) and are establishing your collection from scratch. Or perhaps, you’ve read my last article, have completed all the suggestions therein, clumsied your way through the endless tutorials and are sitting on an intimidating new home-screen wondering “what now?” I see you, sitting there, looking dashing – with your new starting collection comprised of sixty-eight singleton rares and mythics going… “this is crap! I can’t make anything competitive!” Well, my friend, I am here to help calm your nerves and guide your hand on your way to happiness and the Mythic constructed leaderboards!

It starts with a deck!

This is probably true about anything new – but especially so on MTG Arena, considering the way the economy of cards works. If you’ve been browsing the Tier Lists or Deck Archives on PlayingExplorer and are anxiously waiting to slam your favorite tri-color midrange list – well, I am sad to report that it will cost a pretty penny. Unfortunately, to build most top decks from scratch with the wildcard system – I estimate you’d need roughly a one-hundred and fifty pack investment into the game to generate enough wildcards to fully complete a seventy-five-card list with confidence. That translates to 27, 000 gems (or $149.99 USD at the time of this article). If that sounds fair to you to have those cards (and many, many others) permanently unlocked for you in the client – then stop reading here! Go buy those gems, build your deck, and start grinding compadre!

For most people, however – especially those who are only half-heartedly trying the client to see if they enjoy it – I believe that the budgeted (and/or straight up free) path to victory may be of particular interest. Reader beware! This path is longer, and more arduous – however, if you are looking at the experience as a “gamer” it is the one that is likely more fun and rewarding.

The plan I find to be the quickest and most practical, though, is to take your initial free card pool and slowly upgrade the list towards something actually Tier A.

From my research and investigation, I believe the deck with the best opportunity for eventual competitive success (through the eyes of starting from the Starter Collection) is Rakdos Sacrifice!

I took the MTGA Starter Deck “Ignite the Forge” and built towards the Tier A list!

Ignite the Forge Starter Deck

Arena Decklist

3 Virus Beetle
3 Sokenzan Smelter
2 Bloodtithe Harvester
1 Voldaren Bloodcaster
2 Searchlight Companion
2 Circuit Mender
1 Professional Face-Breaker
1 Falkenrath Forebear
2 Twinshot Sniper
1 Atsushi, the Blazing Sky
3 Voltage Surge
2 Infernal Grasp
2 Big Score
1 Blood Fountain
2 Experimental Synthesizer
1 Ceremonial Knife
1 Eater of Virtue
2 Dragonspark Reactor
3 Oni-Cult Anvil
9 Mountain
9 Swamp
4 Bloodfell Caves
1 Haunted Ridge
2 Tramway Station

Why Rakdos Sacrifice?

This Rakdos Sacrifice list has proven that it’s effective and competitive since the addition of Explorer on Arena. In both Best of One and Best of Three it battles week after week on the PlayingExplorer Tier Lists. Excluding lands, the main deck is comprised of almost exclusively commons and uncommons – which is easier to access at the start of your MTGA Collection. Eventually, you will have so many common and uncommon wildcards that you will essentially consider them to be “free” whenever you try and build decks. The rares? Mainboard there are four of them (twenty-two total with the mana base). Ignite the Forge comes with a Haunted Ridge, and if you opened all of the free packs like my previous article suggested – you will have a minimum of six uncommon wildcards and six rare wildcards available to you before building anything. Oh, and did I mention that none of the rares in this list are “gimmicky?” Every. Single. One. Of. Them is a Pioneer/Explorer staple for their colors – so we can repurpose them in the future for decks like Rakdos Midrange or Grixis Control!

Immediate Upgrades

How are we going to do this? Well, we want the biggest bang for our wildcards – and to do that we need to prioritize our cards while keeping playability in mind. Let’s immediately burn our six Rare Wildcards on +4 Fable of the Mirror Breaker, +1 Den of the Bugbear, and +1 Jegantha, the Wellspring. Jegantha as a companion is a free eighth card in your opening hands, and we like free cards.

To make room for these cards, we are going to cut the following:

-1 Atsushi, the Blazing Sky(unfortunately, while a decent Mythic card considering our pool, he doesn’t work with Jegantha’s Companion requirements – and I assure you that is much more relevant than his so-so abilities)

-3 Virus Beetle

-1 Mountain (straight upgrade in Den of the Bugbear)

Now we are going to look at our six uncommon wildcards – and this is easier said than done. Eventually, we will completely identify as a cat-oven deck – and so Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven are completely necessary. I prioritized them in my list as day-one ”must-haves”, though a case can definitely be made for Mayhem Devil as well. What we’re trying to do here is get to those twelve uncommon slots filled as soon as possible. If you didn’t manage to unlock any of these cards in your free packs, then I suggest immediately adding +3 Cauldron Familiar and +3 Witch’s Oven; or, alternatively, +2 Cauldron Familiar, +2 Witch’s Oven and +2 Mayhem Devil with your wildcards.

To make room for these six cards, we are going to cut the following:

-2 Mountain

-1 Swamp

-1 Dollhouse of Horrors

-1 Falkenrath Forebear

-1 Ceremonial Knife

By adding the cat-oven combo and moving away from our bulky mid-range cards like Atsushi and Dollhouse – we can scale back on lands and move to the twenty-two count we’re looking for in the final list.

Finally, let’s look at our immediate Common Wildcard options and upgrades. We’ll want to add +4 Deadly Dispute and +2 Village Rites to keep card draw and our artifact/sacrifice engine moving.

This is easily done by removing the following cards from the deck:

-2 Twinshot Sniper

-2 Circuit Mendor

-2 Searchlight Companion

Of note, in the Grave Matters Arena Starter Deck, you also receive +2 Eaten Alive – which I feel are decent removal that fit this strategy and might be a temporarily more-powerful card than Dragonspark Reactor for example.

Play Best of One

“When on Ravnica, do as the Ravnicans do.” – Jace, probably. You’re just starting Arena. You have a limited card pool, and if you are following this guide – you have an oppressive, hard-to-counter strategy without sideboards. MTG Arena was designed with fast gameplay in mind. I know not every Magic player is keen to try it as a Best of One style card game – but while you are getting started on Arena, I encourage you to focus on Best of One while collecting the wildcards necessary to finish this list. Focus on the mana-base, THEN move into the sideboard and complete it before moving into Best of Three.

The Upgraded List

The grand reveal! What does it all look like? Let’s see…

Arena Decklist

2 Big Score
1 Blood Fountain
4 Bloodfell Caves
2 Bloodtithe Harvester
2 Cauldron Familiar
4 Deadly Dispute
1 Den of the Bugbear
2 Eaten Alive
3 Experimental Synthesizer
4 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
3 Goldhound
1 Haunted Ridge
2 Mayhem Devil
7 Mountain
3 Oni-Cult Anvil
3 Sokenzan Smelter
7 Swamp
2 Tramway Station
2 Village Rites
3 Voltage Surge
2 Witch's Oven

1 Jegantha, the Wellspring

I added some Goldhounds and additional Experimental Synthesizers to my final list. They are commons that you will likely have opened – or are easy to get. They are not in the final list that we are building towards, but I feel like they are decent upgrades to bridge the gap that will cost you less than your Uncommon wildcards.

The final priority to the upgrades of this list should go as follows:

1)      Cauldron Familiar/Witch’s Oven (until you cap four copies of each)

2)      Mayhem Devil

3)      Unlucky Witness

4)      Fatal Push

5)      Claim the Firstborn

Wrapping Up

Thank you very much for getting into it with me on this exciting build; and congratulations on taking the leap into MTG Arena! It’s important to remember that once you complete Rakdos Sacrifice’s seventy-five, you will not be far away from Rakdos Midrange! Two top decks for the price of one!? Okay, well not exactly – but almost! As always, don’t forget to complete your daily quests! Stack wildcards and gold as much as possible – and always be fearless in the Arena!

  • Tyler "BiRDxC0Re"

    Editor/Explorer Competitive Guide

    Tyler Hilton aka BiRDxC0Re, a proud magic player for over 22 years, his love for the game started during the Onslaught era of Magic. At a kitchen table with friends, some basic Mountains, and a pair of Raging Goblins going face – his adventure began, and he’s never looked back. Much has changed since then though, for both Tyler and Magic, and these days you can find him playing high-level Burn at many Canadian Modern events or grinding Mythic Rank on MTG Arena season after season. A canny Pioneer/Explorer brewer, young father, and KarnageKardsENT’s biggest fan – he joins our team to help the crew with whatever he can in the hopes of sharing his love for this game with the next generation!

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