Ixalan’s mechanic roundup has been done! New tools, new toys, new things to look forward to! The window of time for useful commentary on upcoming mechanics is extremely short since it’s not just one thing to say ‘hey, this is how the mechanic could be used,’ and ‘I hope this is something we see,’ when the fact is it could be revealed tomorrow that none of what I mention will ever show up.
Nonetheless, let’s talk about Explore, specifially about Explore as it relates to deck building, and that means we’re going to look at some Explore cards and that means I’m putting up a fold so you can avoid looking at these cards if you’re trying to remain unspoiled. Go! Flee!
Back in 5th Dawn standard, Magma Jet was played in every deck that ran base red, not because it was particularly necessary or even hit that many hard targets but because scry 2 was incredibly important in a colour with (functionally) no draw ability. It wasn’t a time in Magic where you had access to a lot of instant-speed card draw, so games were more about refining your draws, ensuring you drew the fewest bad cards.
Following this experience, I took to Clash in Lorwyn. Or I tried to. Clash, at its core is a test mechanism, but the non-obvious application of the mechanic is Scrying 1. Yet Clash’s utility as a deck sifting mechanic was one thing, but it was always limited by the fact there were only two cards you’d ever want to play that had Clash if you didn’t win the clash: Lash Out and Titan’s Revenge. Also, further limiting this is that red, in Lorwyn, kinda sucked. Still, I used Lash Out in a mono-red elemental sligh deck and felt glad for it, even if it did use Fire-Belly Changeling.
Still, cards you wouldn’t play if not for specific synergies was kinda the point of Lorwyn block, and I was just barking up the wrong tree. That’s important to bear in mind, I don’t want you thinking I’m any kind of expert or nothing. Nonetheless, Explore reminds me of these other utility effects.
I feel like Explore is going to be like Cycling was, and not just in Amonkhet, but like it was back in Onslaught: Where a bad card could just be thrown away fast, you would often pick cyclers fairly high. There were a few cyclers who you just threw out, just because if they weren’t any good, you could draw a card, resulting in exciting beasties like Hundroog.
What I’m saying is: Keep an eye out for Explore. Specificlaly, keep an eye out for this little critter, and if anything like this shows up in red, give it a try. Don’t think of it as a creature that is Sometimes Disappointingly Small. Think of it as a way to sift your library, and maybe you’ll get a counter out of it. Every Explore creature is a potential cantrip, and that’s sweet.
Oh and also, design nerds, here’s a thing that’s relevant. Note that Tishan’s Wayfinder is the card that explores. Not you explore and if you do, you put a counter on the Wayfinder. but the mechanic is worded so the Wayfinder is the on that explores. Why is that relevant?
There are a lot of bad ideas about how Riggers and Assembling Contraptions work. One of the tricky things from a rules perspective, a thing that amateur designers seemed to miss is that a creature needs to be the thing that assembles a contraption for this to work as it’s written. Not if you would, if a rigger would.
It wouldn’t be hard to write a mechanic that phrases it that way, but that’s not really doing the same thing. Explore is phrased and structured so that Explore is an action a creature does, making it a good example for how to structure such a thing; any given Explore needs to care about the creature that does it, and it cares about it until the process of Exploring is over.
I expect we’ll see something similar when Riggers come in Unstable.