Nykthos Coming to Explorer Next Week

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx was just announced as an inclusion in Explorer Anthology 2. Let's go over some of the early meta implications of that!

Combo Deck Incoming

There was a time when Explorer was almost Pioneer, but was distinctly lacking the grueling experience of playing against Pioneer Green Devotion. Next week, that time is over, and Explorer is even less equipped to deal with the incoming combo deck than Pioneer is, as Explorer is still missing the pieces to combat it with a proper Izzet Phoenix or Mono-White Humans deck.

Nykthos coming to Explorer is surely a step in the direction of bringing Explorer closer to Pioneer, which is, of course, what we all want. 


Pioneer Green Devotion

For those unfamiliar, Pioneer’s Green Devotion deck uses mana accelerants to quickly generate green devotion in the earlier game, then uses Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset to untap an already-activated Nykthos, Shrine To Nyx to generate a tremendous amount of mana, which is then used to cast things like Storm the Festival, Karn, The Great Creator and the artifact he tutors from the sideboard or just hard cast big creatures like Cavalier of Thorns in a pinch.

At its heart, it is a simple ramp deck, but hiding in the Karn artifact wishboard is Pestilent Cauldron, a tutorable artifact that represents an infinite combo that can win the Green Devotion player the game if a few conditions are met first – namely, having a Karn, The Great Creator and a Kiora in the graveyard and on the battlefield (or in hand and on the battlefield with a few more pips of green devotion). In Pioneer, innovations have made the necessary conditions fewer, using cards like The Chain Veil and Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset to reduce the amount of devotion needed and provide another way to untap lands and artifacts.

Explorer Green Devotion

Without Oath of Nissa in the format yet, the Explorer version of the deck likely won’t be able to play the multicolor planeswalkers like it does in Pioneer. Explorer is also missing The Chain Veil, making the combo line a little more convoluted. But Nykthos-less Devotion was already a tiered deck in Explorer, and next week, it will have its namesake.

With Nykthos here, the meta is guaranteed to change. Nykthos being absent from the format has been the most prevalent difference between Explorer and Pioneer. That will no longer be the case. Now, you’ll have to be prepared for the deck, or at least a version of it. 

Preparing for Battle (Pack a Lunch)

As for what’s going to be good against Green – that’s much less obvious. In Pioneer, Izzet Phoenix can be a favored matchup, as can Mono-White Humans. Even Lotus Field has improved its matchup against Green Devotion lately. On Explorer, Izzet Phoenix is incomplete with no Delve spells or Thing in the Ice and Mono White Humans not having Brave the Elements is a massive hit (and of course, Lotus Field is missing far too much).

Without these decks in their optimal forms, Green Devotion will have very few bad matchups. Decks like Azorius Control and Abzan Greasefang will struggle against it, likely seeing them drop a tier or two after next week’s release.

Part of us worries that without these decks to keep Green Devotion in check, this could lead to another Explorer-only ban like we saw with Winota, Joiner of Forces (only to then see it banned out of Pioneer shortly afterwards). That begs the question, though: what gets the axe? Karn? Storm the Festival? Surely not Nykthos, the card they just sold us.


As Pioneer players already know, though, one deck that will rise should Green Devotion begin to dominate the ladder is Mono-Blue Spirits. Green Devotion is one of Mono-Blue’s best matchups in Pioneer, and the deck has lived its entire Explorer life without Green Devotion to feast on. (Though, it’s also lived its entire Explorer life without having to see Rending Volley, which will also change next week).

Nykthos Every Way

Of course, Nykthos isn’t exclusively a slot-in for Green Devotion; that’s just the most competitive application of the card in Pioneer – the format that Explorer will grow up and become someday. There is also Mono-Black Devotion, which hasn’t been tested enough in Pioneer since Sheoldred entered the mix (in our opinion). Explorer has access to all the cards typically played in Mono-Black Devotion lists, including the most important card, Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Notably, Mono-Black Devotion also tends to run Karn, the Great Creator.

Mono-White Devotion is another Pioneer deck that has historically done broken things with Nykthos, whether it was a Book of Exalted Deeds combo build (which will be treated to the inclusion of Mutavault next week) or otherwise. Mono-Blue Devotion, using cards like Thassa’s Oracle to win the game on the spot, has also seen a fair amount of play in Pioneer and will almost certainly see a second wind in Explorer.

Ready Your Wildcards

Nykthos will surely shake up the Explorer metagame, just as it was starting to feel like it could use a shaking-up. As part of the Explorer Anthology, you will receive a full playset of Nykthos if you purchase the Anthology outright. Otherwise, it will cost a rare wildcard per card as usual. With the current price of Nykthos at $32 each, these crafts will likely feel pretty good – better than when you have to craft a $.10 bin rare or mythic, at least.

Lukewarm-to-Hot Takes From the Team


I am not personally excited to play against Green Devotion from a gameplay standpoint. It represents some of what I hate about Magic and I will never build it myself. 

From the perspective of making Explorer closer to Pioneer, though, this is a home-run inclusion. I’m very happy Nykthos is coming for that reason and I’m looking forward to trying to solve the puzzle it provides (and I actually think Soldiers will have a positive matchup against it overall).


Cool! Mono-Black Devotion!


Rejoice, for now is the time of the Elves! No, not the fun Shaman of the Pack kind — I’m talking the Llanowar Elves/Elvish Mystic variety into Cavalier of Thorns, into Karn, the Great Creator into Cauldron-combo Elves! Better known as Mono-Green Devotion, and sometimes known as Karn Green Turbo-Tax and/or Green Karn Combo Ramp.

My prediction: Explorer will be fine. I am an optimist, and I believe that Mono-Green Devotion will definitely rise in popularity and win-rate after Explorer Anthology 2 releases, but ultimately it will level out as other cards are released to balance the format like has happened in Pioneer already. These spells include, but are not limited to: Thing in the Ice, Brave the Elements, the Delve Spells, Hidden Strings and Dark Petition.

Announcements like this tend to send the community into a frenzy of bad takes and unhealthy panic, when realistically, the card is only one card! It’s important to remember that more cards will be announced shortly, and also that Mono-Green Devotion is still missing key-players like Oath of Nissa and The Chain Veil.


Saving Nykthos for near last was a great way to cap off a pretty medium Anthology drop. I’m not going to say I was disappointed by it before the Nykthos reveal, but it definitely felt like there were some glaring omissions. Nykthos changes all of that.

The devotion machine has finally come to Arena and Explorer players are no longer safe from the menace of Pioneer practice rooms. Now, let’s be clear: this deck still won’t be the same as it is in Pioneer. Missing out on Oath of Nissa to smooth out early draws and enable the additions of planeswalkers like Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset and Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God really downplays the explosive combo nature of the deck. Losing Teferi here isn’t that much of an issue, as the deck is also currently missing its combo counterpart in The Chain Veil, and unfortunately for Explorer players, this missing combo means a much more precise and drawn-out affair while Devotion is forced to play a longer ground game while working up to the 15 devotion needed to combo with just Pestilent Cauldron


May I just say FINALLY! Overall, this drop has been great, but this is just what it was missing to take it over the top. I do not know about you, but the months of Rakdos Midrange being the top dog in Explorer have been quite the grind both figuratively and literally, leading to me personally playing the format off and on. This add has a major chance to shake up what the best deck in the format is.

Though, I will be concerned if we don’t get any other pieces like Brave the Elements to keep Green Devotion in check. In the current Explorer format, only Mono-Blue and Ingus Combo have a real chance to keep it in check, and it would be a lie to say that that won’t be an issue. 

  • rose-emoji

    Network Administrator/Publisher

    rose-emoji started playing Magic: The Gathering during Battle for Zendikar, then took a break from the game until Throne of Eldraine. Pioneer got him back into Magic full-force, and the launch of Arena on mobile hooked him in forever. Now that his favorite format is working its way onto Arena, he can be found grinding the format to death. Only ever Grixis colors, but sometimes he can have a little Jund as a treat.

  • TyrantofTales

    Distribution Manager

    Tyrant has been playing Magic in events since his first prerelease in Ixalan. Most of the time, he can be found in the various Pioneer Discord channels talking about anything Pioneer, from various meta decks to whatever new combo deck he has brewed up. When not playing Magic, he is getting cards in his collection signed by their artists or producing the occasional video for his YouTube channel.

  • Ruckman


    Having started playing Magic shortly before the release of Return to Ravnica, Ruckman’s Magic lifespan covers the breadth of the Pioneer format. Despite not being a stranger to the Top 8 tables of the old IQ and PTQ systems, most of his competitive experience comes from the other side of the event space, where he served more than five years as a level-two judge, only hanging up the black shirt for good at the beginning of 2022. Currently, you can find him making Pioneer content for Crew3 on your favorite podcasting platform or on Twitch/YouTube.

  • 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!

  • Anthony Dolce


    Anthony dove into Magic with the release of Guilds of Ravnica, getting heavy exposure to the game as a co-owner of an LGS. An avid fan of Draft, Modern, Pioneer, and Explorer, he loves brewing midrange and control decks, but always seems to find his way back to UW Spirits.

  • KarnageKards

    Competitive Team Lead

    KarnageKardsENT has been playing Magic since Scars of Mirrodin. During the Pandemic, he moved to playing MTGO. Today, you can find him playing Pioneer, Modern and sometimes Standard. A mainstay in the Pioneer Challenges, Karnage can be found at Most Eastern F2F stops in Canada.

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