Abzan Explore?! - $50 Thalia and The Gitrog Monster Deck Tech

Benjamin Levin • December 14, 2023

Thalia and The Gitrog Monster | Illustrated by Sami Makkonen
Amalia Benavides Aguirre | Illustrated by Alix Branwyn

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of BathroomBrews. With the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, I wanted to explore the explore mechanic to find out if we could build an explore-themed deck in EDH. There is Hakbal of the Surging Soul, which is probably the best explore commander, but you're limited to Simic colors and Merfolk. I thought about building a four-color deck using Atraxa, Grand Unifier or Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, which gives us access to blue and two pretty powerful commanders, but after a quick Scryfall search, there were only three blue explore cards I thought would be worth adding: Subterranean Schooner, Deepfathom Echo, and Nicanzil, Current Conductor, none of which I think are good enough to add a fourth color, especially in a budget deck. Instead, I went with Thalia and The Gitrog Monster because of a Pioneer deck I saw.

The Inspiration

The deck used Amalia and Wildgrowth Walker to explore and gain life until Amalia wiped the board. The astute among you probably realized that Amalia and Wildgrowth Walker would loop forever if it wasn't for Amalia's ability, which wipes the board... unless, of course, you have enough Hardened Scales effects in play. If want to get her past 20 power, you're going to need three Scale effects since putting one, two, or three counters on still gets her to an even 20. I did include three Scale effects, but I didn't add any ways to win if you manage to get this loop going.

As I worked on this deck, I realized some themes improved with explore: reanimation, Landfall, blink, and counters. Reanimation effects pair nicely with the mill part of explore; Landfall is great since you will almost always have lands in your hand, which is why I picked Thalia and The Gitrog Monster since they give additional land drops; blink lets you trigger explore again; and counters, since explore puts counters on your creatures. I tried to narrow the scope of the deck by focusing on one of these four themes, but I found it just became a worse version of each. Instead, I opted to embrace all of these themes in deckbuilding.

The Gameplan


Of these four themes, reanimation has the smallest package, with only three reanimation spells in the deck. Tayam, Luminous Enigma is great, since they synergize with the counters that exploring generates and most creatures that explore tend to be pretty cheap, while Defossilize is an on-theme reanimation spell and Life // Death is a budget Reanimate. The best reanimation targets in the deck are Regal Behemoth or The Gitrog Monster. If you want an additional reanimation target, I'd suggest Avenger of Zendikar since it cares about lands and counters too!


The Landfall package is pretty straightforward. We have a lot of spells that put lands into play, along with most of the Retreats in Abzan colors: Retreat to Hagra, Retreat to Kazandu, and Felidar Retreat. One of the best cards here is Spelunking, which takes our budget mana base and turns it into a not-so-budget mana base. Conduit of Worlds is doing its best Crucible of Worlds impression, letting us get lands from the graveyard back into play, and Tireless Tracker will give us Clues to crack for card draw and trigger Astrid Peth's ability.


The counter package was the last to be added during deckbuilding. I included three Scale effect cards: Hardened Scales, Kami of Whispered Hopes, and Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion. These powerful effects help your weaker creatures grow into big threats. If you wanted to pick a theme to focus on, I'd suggest counters given the deep card pool.


The blink package is far and away my favorite of the four. I included the usual instants with Cloudshift, Ephemerate, and Eerie Interlude. For the blink creatures, we have Charming Prince, Restoration Angel, and my favorite, Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward. Abdel can protect your board, grow a massive army, and has great synergy with Eternal Witness and Seasoned Dungeoneer. If you have one of the instant blink spells in your graveyard, you can loop Abdel with an Eternal Witness underneath it to repeatedly blink as many creatures as you want.

Let's Go Exploring

Now onto the core of the deck, the explore creatures. We have a total of 25 cards that care about explore in some way, most of which are creatures that explore on ETB. Jadelight Spelunker is great at any point on the curve, letting us explore early or dig for an answer late game. Kellan, Daring Traveler provides us with Map tokens for one green mana and has a pseudo-explore trigger on attack. The best of the bunch is Path of Discovery, which lets every creature explore when it ETBs. It doesn't specify nontoken creatures, which goes crazy with Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward, and Topography Tracker lets us double up on the explore triggers.


If you have a little extra cash to spend, there are some cards I'd highly suggest you pick up for upgrades. The first upgrade I'd make is Bolas's Citadel and I'd cut Sunrise Seeker. While we're cutting an explore creature, the card advantage gained from Bolas's Citadel is worth the trade-off in my opinion. Next, I'd cut Twists and Turns and add Scroll Rack. Scroll Rack makes it easy to guarantee the outcome for your explore triggers and is a great way to refill your hand. Finally, I'd cut Restoration Angel for Teleportation Circle since it is a repeatable way to blink artifacts or creatures.

Abzan Explore - $50 Budget Thalia & Gitrog

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Commander (1)
Creature (33)
Artifact (4)
Land (37)
Instant (9)
Sorcery (8)
Enchantment (8)

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Final Thoughts

So can we build a dedicated explore deck in EDH? Yes, yes we can. In fact, I think Abzan is probably the best color combination for this. Thalia and The Gitrog Monster are great since they give you additional land drops and slow opponents down, while Tayam, Luminous Enigma is a powerful value and combo engine in the command zone. If you'd like to see a Tayam explore deck, let me know in the comments below, and let me know who you think would make an amazing explore commander!

Ben has been playing Magic since 2012 and started creating Magic the Gathering content in October of 2022 on YouTube under the name BathroomBrewsMTG (YouTube.com/@BRBMTG). Primarily focusing on budget EDH content. When he isn't thinking or talking about MTG, he is usually playing video games, spending time with his wife or playing with his two cats. You can find him on Twitter @BathroomMTG.