Wizards of the Coast found Magic’s new format: Explorer. It’s available to play on MTG Arena starting next week and will eventually evolve into the tabletop Pioneer format over the next few years.
“Explorer is a constructed, non-rotating, ‘true to table’ format using all Pioneer legal cards available at MTG Arena,” Wizards said in its announcement. The 60-card format will start with the same ban list as Pioneer, although if Explorer-specific bans are needed before the format reaches parity with Pioneer, Wizards will ban problematic cards from Explorer rather than suspend them. or balance them. (These explorer-only bans will not result in generic refunds.)
The new format “will be available in Best-of-One and Best-of-Three matches for ranked and unranked games, events built in the Explorer format, and specialty events like the upcoming Explorer Metagame Challenge,” they continued. . “Explorer ranked matches will contribute to your Constructed rank and you can earn participation points through the evergreen Explorer Constructed events”, and will be featured in future tournaments.
A continuation of the Journey to Pioneer on MTG Arena
“Consider this the first step on our Pioneer journey, where one day Explorer will be ‘retired’ as a format, and we’ll just call it…Pioneer,” Wizards said.
But that journey “will take many years to accomplish,” they continued, and won’t result in every Pioneer legal card being added to MTG Arena. Instead, Wizards will focus on “all the Pioneer cards that matter”, which Wizards defines as having all the cards for “the decks you want to play” available in the game. They will gradually add these “cards that matter” to MTG Arena via releases such as Historic Anthologies, the next of which, Historic Anthology 6, is slated for release this summer.
“[W]We will work on all cards that are regularly played in Pioneer decks, similar to how Vintage on Magic Online doesn’t have every 2/2 for two ever printed, but it does have all the cards needed to emulate the Vintage paper format said Wizards. “[C]Ards that have a high development cost with little to no play in the Pioneer format, are low on our priority list and likely won’t make it to MTG Arena.
Prince promised format
Wizards can say that Explore is the first step in their journey to bring Pioneer to MTG Arena, but it could more accurately be considered the second, third, or even fourth step.
Pioneer has topped the list of most requested additions to MTG Arena since the format was first announced in October 2019. Weeks after the format was introduced, Wizards said they were “beginning to add ‘remastered’ versions of old sets” at MTG Arena starting in 2020 with the intention of eventually supporting Pioneer.
Wizards ended up releasing two “remastered” sets—Amonkhet Remastered and Kaladesh Remastered– and even promised a Pioneer Masters fixed by the end of 2020 to push towards full Pioneer support on MTG Arena. “We’ve been dancing around this one a bit, so let’s go and say it – the next Pioneer-focused set remaster will be a Pioneer Masters together,” Wizards said at the time. The set was intended to be a digital release which, similar to the Modern masters series, would take maps from Pioneer’s various legal sets and combine them into one cohesive, draftable set.
Unfortunately, Pioneer Masters never materialized. It was eventually delayed until 2021, then take an indefinite break in July 2021 so Wizards can focus on the new historic MTG Arena-only format, which was introduced just months before Pioneer in June 2019. Pioneer Masters sets at the moment,” Wizards said in its final announcement on the set, and they did “not anticipate a Pioneer Masters out next year.
The introduction of the Explorer format is the first indication of renewed interest from Wizards to support Pioneer on MTG Arena since July 2021. It is not clear if this means that a Pioneer Masters-like set is back in the cards, but the likelihood of it eventually seeing the light of day has definitely increased now that there’s (another) official plan to bring Pioneer to MTG Arena.