Magic: The Gathering

How does Explore work in MTG and what is it?


Ixalan introduced the Explore mechanic to MTG, so you might be wondering what it is, and how exactly it works. It’s a useful mechanic for a variety of decks: whether that’s relating to 40-card decks, 60, or Commander decks. Now that the Murders at Karlov Manor card list is here, it’s a good idea to get on top of any old mechanics that you might need to brush up on, starting with Explore.

What does Explore do?

Explore is a keyword action introduced in the Ixalan set. When a creature with Explore enters the battlefield, two things can happen. First, you reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land card, it goes into your hand, ensuring a smoother mana flow. If it’s a non-land card, you place a +1/+1 counter on the exploring creature, making it stronger. Additionally, you can then choose to keep the non-land card on top of your library or place it in your graveyard, giving you a degree of control over your upcoming draws.

Rules for Exploring

The rules for Explore are straightforward but have nuances that affect gameplay. The key points include:

  1. The Explore action is mandatory once triggered.
  2. If the revealed card is a land, it must be drawn.
  3. For non-land cards, deciding whether to keep the card on top or put it in the graveyard is a critical strategic choice.
  4. If the library has no cards when Explore is triggered, the creature receives a +1/+1 counter.

How Explore can win you games

Explore adds a layer of strategy and adaptability to your game. It assists in land drops to maintain mana consistency, crucial for casting spells on time. The potential to grow your creatures larger with +1/+1 counters can turn the tide in combat. Additionally, Explore offers deck thinning and graveyard filling strategies, crucial for decks that interact with these zones.

When should you use Explore?

Timing your Explore plays is key. Early in the game, it helps in land acceleration and creature development. Mid-game, it can fuel your strategy by providing essential lands or strengthening creatures. Late in the game, it can be used to sift through the deck for key cards or to enhance board presence. Consider the state of your mana, your hand, and your board when deciding to play Explore cards.

How to explore with more than one Creature

Exploring with multiple creatures can rapidly advance your board state. Each Explore trigger resolves independently, so you can sequence them for maximum benefit. For instance, if the first Explore reveals a non-land card you don’t need, you might put it in the graveyard, increasing the chances of drawing a land with the next Explore. This makes decks with multiple Explore creatures potent, as they can rapidly adapt to the evolving game state.

What cards use Explore in MTG?

  1. Merfolk Branchwalker: This is a two-mana cost (1 Green and 1 generic mana) Merfolk Scout creature. When it enters the battlefield, it triggers the Explore mechanic. This card is a favorite in decks that synergize with the Merfolk tribe or require efficient deck filtering.
  2. Wildgrowth Walker: A three-mana cost (1 Green and 2 generic mana) Elemental creature. While it doesn’t have Explore itself, it gains a +1/+1 counter and you gain 3 life whenever a creature you control explores. This makes it an excellent inclusion in decks focused on the Explore mechanic.
  3. Jadelight Ranger: This card, costing 1 Green and 2 generic mana, is another Merfolk Scout. When Jadelight Ranger enters the battlefield, it explores twice. This double Explore can significantly impact your board state by potentially drawing two lands or strengthening the creature with counters.
  4. Path of Discovery: This is an enchantment with a casting cost of 3 generic mana and 1 Green. It allows each creature that enters the battlefield under your control to Explore. This card turns every creature play into a potential land draw or a creature buff, making it incredibly valuable in creature-heavy decks.
  5. Seekers’ Squire: A two-mana cost (1 Black and 1 generic mana) Human Scout creature. When Seekers’ Squire enters the battlefield, it explores, providing both deck filtering and potential power/toughness enhancement.
  6. Tishana’s Wayfinder: This card is a Merfolk Scout with a casting cost of 2 generic mana and 1 Green. When it enters the battlefield, it explores, making it a useful card for deck filtering and potential board strengthening in Merfolk or Green-based decks.

Explore is a versatile and potent mechanic in MTG that offers both immediate and strategic advantages. Understanding how to effectively use Explore, when to trigger it, and how to maximize its benefits with multiple creatures can elevate your gameplay and increase your chances of securing victory.