Top 10 Best Explorer Cards In Magic: The Gathering
Explore (as in the mechanic, not the format "Explorer") was introduced in 2017 with the original Ixalan block. And now, it's returning with Lost Caverns of Ixalan in November. So, in honor of the return to the plane and the upcoming precon built around it, today we'll be covering the best explore cards in Magic: The Gathering.
I'll cover the Top 10 cards, explore what makes them good (or not so good), and discuss why you would want to include them in your deck. So, without further ado, let's jump into the list, starting with number 10.
Top 10 Best Explore Cards In MTG
10. Enter The Unknown
There are a few things to like about Enter the Unknown and some that are not great. First, this can give you an explore trigger for just one mana, which isn't a bad rate. The next good thing is that it allows you to let creatures that don't have the ability to explore too.
However, that leads right to the bad things about the card. Without a creature on board, this card does nothing. And if you draw this without some board presence, it will be a dead card. It's not a bad card, but plenty of more potent options exist. So, let's move on.
9. Merfolk Branchwalker
Merfolk Branchwalker explores but doesn't do much else. However, at least it comes with its own body. Exploring lets you filter through your deck and dig for other, more important cards. If you don't find anything significant, you can always put the counter on the Branchwalker and at least have a 3/2 for your efforts. And the fact that this is a Merfolk means it can have additional upside in tribal decks, too.
8. Tomb Robber
Here, we have our first explore card that can explore multiple times, which will be a theme as we move higher up the list. You don't get an ETB trigger with this card like you do with most of the other cards. Instead, you'll have to pay one mana into the Robber and discard a card. As mentioned, the ability to use this multiple times is great.
Exactly how good this is depends on whether discarding a card is an upside or downside for your deck. It's so-so without a reason to be discarding other than triggering this. It's always a repeatable explorer but at a pretty high cost of a card. If you are playing madness cards, reanimation synergies, or want a discard outlet for some other reason, the value goes way up.
7. Wildgrowth Walker
Wildgrowth Walker was a cornerstone of numerous explore strategies in the original Ixalan Standard. And while it doesn't have explore itself, you'll consider it anytime you play cards that do. It gains you life and grows stronger with each exploration, providing exceptional early-game stability and late-game resilience. Its capacity to serve as a stabilizing force while synergizing with other effects solidifies its position as the premier explore support cards.
6. Legion Vanguard
This card is very similar toat number 8. It doesn't explore when it enters the battlefield but has a cost you can pay, allowing it to be used multiple times. In this case, the cost is to pay one mana and sacrifice a creature. Many decks can use a cheap sac outlet, so the chances of this being upside instead of downside are pretty high. And you can always use it to get some value out of something about to die anyway.
Overall, if you're playing black and interested in good explore cards, you could do a lot worse than this.
5. Seasoned Dungeoneer
Seasoned Dungeoneer doesn't come from Ixalan. It's from Commander Legends, and it supports a ton of different strategies. It has initiative, supports the party mechanic, can protect your creatures, and casually has the explore mechanic tacked onto the end. If you don't care about the initiative and aren't overlapping with the party mechanic, you probably don't want to run this just for the explore.
However, the card is a general powerhouse that can do a lot of work in the right build.
4. Emperor's Vanguard
Emperor's Vanguard is a card I used to play in Standard and is, for sure, one of the best explore cards in MTG. It explores any time it deals combat damage to an opponent. In a format with multiple players, you can almost always be sure to get through on someone in each combat. If you do, you're exploring each turn without spending additional resources. You'll be gaining resources.
A word to the wise, though: eventually, your opponents will kill this. Players who have played against it know how much value it can give you if it sticks around. And even players who haven't, catch on quickly. The more counters you pile on it, the bigger the target gets, too. Furthermore, it has no evasion. So, if you can't keep it alive or get through chump blockers, you can end up with a four-mana 4/3 that isn't doing much.
This is a classic example of a high ceiling and low floor card. Usually, it's in the middle, though, and that's fine.
3. Jadelight Ranger
Jadelight Ranger was another all-star card in its days in Standard, and it's easy to see why. It gives you two explore triggers with no hoops to jump through. Its ability to explore twice provides outstanding value, allowing you to effectively sculpt your hand and control your draws. If you don't get anything to hand via the triggers, putting two counters on the ranger leaves you with a very respectable 4/3 body. That's a pretty solid worst-case scenario.
2. Deadeye Tracker
Deadeye Tracker gives you the capability to explore multiple times throughout a game. And hates on opponent's graveyards at the same time. There's no arguing that this is a repeatable explore card with an upside to activating it. Graveyard hate is something most decks want to devote at least a slot or two to, and having it stapled onto a highly playable card is a win-win.
It's not uncommon to get multiple activations from this if it lives. Like theabove, it either fills your hand, smoothes your draws, or becomes an increasingly significant threat. While possibly being a backbreaking hate card for graveyard decks. In my experience, this card does a ton of work, and I like that it can come out turn one and get to business.
1. Path of Discovery
This enchantment effectively enables exploration with each of your creatures, even if they don't have the ability. If they do, well, you get to explore twice for the price of once. Casting just a few creatures with this in play rapidly establishes a board presence and massive card advantage.
It can snowball the explore mechanic and generate significant value over time, making it a crucial engine in explore-centered decks. It's the best explore card/enabler in the game, and if you're building around the mechanic, you'll be remiss not to include this in your deck.
If, by some chance, it isn't included in the explore-themed Merfolk commander precon coming with Lost Caverns of Ixalan the price will likely spike some when the deck releases. So, keep your eyes open for the decklists.
There you have it, my friends. The best explore cards in MTG. I'm excited to see the mechanic make a comeback. It's fun to play and enables many possible strategies: Merfolk, +1/+1 counters, graveyard strategies, or good old-fashioned midrange with creatures that generate value and get more prominent as the game goes on. I'm looking forward to the precon and having the mechanic in Standard again!
Comment and let me know if I missed any spicy inclusions.