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Five Predicted Principles of Outlaws of Thunder Junction


1. Get Ready for The Delayed Blast Firebros

Picture this:

Third turn Bristly Bill, Spine Sower.

Bristly Bill, Spine Sower

I'm not even talking about pumping 5 mana into Bristly Bill. I'm just saying wait a second and cast it on turn three rather than on turn two. I mean, I guess you can cast it on turn two if you're super interested in giving your opponent the maximally juicy Play with Fire target...

But we're ALREADY in the middle of a Standard format largely defined by cards like Maestros Theater and Cabaretti Courtyard.

Will Bristly Bill become a new way to in for "Temur Control"? I mean it's pretty cool to imagine, right? Just a 4/4 on turn three, with almost no strings attached? Probably just going to be a major threat in and of itself, though; but I could see it making the Brokers Hideout bunch very happy.

In Thunder Junction there are lots of cards that seem pretty good on curve but get really good if you wait a second.

Vadmir, New Blood

Really, there is nothing wrong with a 2/2 for 2 mana. There are going to be plenty of games where you just run out Bristly Bill or Vadmir on the second turn, cross your fingers, and hope to untap with your very good creature still breathing.

But Vadmir almost begs for a double delay, doesn't it? The difference between a 2/2 vanilla and a 4/4 lifelink is immense. I can almost imagine this card in a rb deck... Play out Vadmir on turn four, then cast a Duress to make sure the coast is clear... Untap and Play with Fire some donkey on your opponent's turn. Stay clear of Johnny Law's mandate that "this only triggers once per turn" but get double value over the course of the entire turn cycle.

I think the Delayed Blast Firebros are my favorite cards, collectively, in Outlaws of Thunder Junction. I just love the challenge that they pose to players. Do you tap out on turn two, even though you know that your might be leaving value on the table (if not putting value into the graveyard)? Every Magic instinct says to play your 2-drop!

But the difference you can get by being just a tiny bit patient really just transforms many of these creatures into full-on Mulldrifter-types.

Freestrider Lookout

This card is immensely powerful if you get one trigger. You're just colossally moe likely to get that one trigger if you pass into turn four with a land drop ready and a 1 mana crime to commit. As just a 3/3 for 3 mana, Freestrider Lookout is kind of fine... But no player with anything to say about it is going to let you ramp from three to five so easily. You kind of have to make your own luck.

Magda, the Hoardmaster

Magda is another card that can potentially benefit from even further delay. A 2/2 for two [that dies] is not that interesting. One Treasure trigger is all right. It's kind of like drawing a card... Except that the card is always a Lotus Petal.

So, what's the deal with a potentially longer delay? How much cooler is a 2/2 for two that comes with a 4/4 hasty Dragon Scorpion? Not only can you do a double trigger over the course of a turn cycle if you have multiple cheap crime cards... Some games you can just go straight to Dragon attack because you started the turn with artifacts already in play.

Magda's upside is so strong that I feel like she might make an impact in larger formats with things like artifact lands, such that at essentially "3 mana" she's a 2/2 body, a dead opposing creature, and four in the air all at once.

Malcolm, the Eyes

Malcolm is the rare case where I'd longest think about ditching the marshmallow test. Two things here:

  • Haste is a different animal than most of the rest of the Delayed Blast Firebros, especially with flying. You're almost rubbing up against The Philosophy of Fire with this card.
  • You really don't want to screw up Malcolm. Don't accidentally make Malcolm itself your second spell.

2. Thunder Junction Will Give Patient Players Unprecedented Opportunities to Catch Up

Once upon a time there was the card Knight of the White Orchid.

Knight of the White Orchid

This card was obviously powerful in its way; and like a lot of the creatures discussed in this article, had a kind of tension about when you would play it. turn two? It's a body! Not a great body, but not an embarrassing one either, especially for the time.

Some players were absolutely obsessed with getting value from Knight of the White Orchid. Often they would play cards like Fieldmist Borderpost to set themselves kinda-sorta-behind in order to get back ahead.

Knight of the White Orchid

But me?

I don't know if I just wasn't a patient enough tactician at the time or consistently unlucky. I was just constantly frustrated at my Knights. Either I wasn't getting value or I was so far behind I would get run over even when I did.

Eventually I was like eff it and just started playing Borderland Ranger in most of my mid-range decks:

Borderland Ranger

It was more expensive, worse at fighting, and didn't even accelerate you!

But I always knew what I was getting with Borderland Ranger, and when; so planning was less difficult, and I ended up with some good decks. Conveniently, Borderland Ranger synergized just as well as Knight of the White Orchid with Reveillark (the main payoff for Knight of the White Orchid decks at the time).

Visiting Thunder Junction we have a new card that is kind of reminiscent of both, yet is an all-new tool unprecedented for its color:

Claim Jumper

Claim Jumper is kind of an extreme Knight of the White Orchid that is costed like a Borderland Ranger... But wildly less consistent.

For an additional power and toughness this card does something special. It radically catches a player up. Were you manascrewed? Behind a Ramp deck's sequence of two-for-ones? Claim Jumper can send you from 3 mana to 6 mana in a single turn! That's insane! The card isn't Green!

Claim Jumper's small boost is so good I feel like some might voluntarily play second (I know!). But the really insane games are going to be after sideboarding. Maybe you want to be able to aim when you're jumping a claim.

Strategically, this card is like a direct answer to Aftermath Analyst decks. Can you go toe-to-toe with them on value? No, obviously not. Card power? Ditto. But you can Ramp to Farewell mana before you're dead and take a chunk out of their graveyards! That's more than a little something.

3. Thunder Junction Will Make Cancel Cool Again

That's a trick!

Cancel was never cool!

True, but Cancel was sometimes goo-

No, it wasn't!

Cancel was never good!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But Counterspell is easy. Cancel is hard. If someone plays 4 Counterspell it's not even clear that's the right number, somehow. But if someone plays 4 Cancel? You know they know what they want in life.

Cancel - or at least slight upgrades to Cancel, like Dissipate or Sinister Sabotage - have widely been appropriate many times over the years. Thunder Junction brings us cool ways to Counter Target Spell (or win a Counterspell fight) for 3 mana.

This is the best one:

Aven Interrupter

I don't even care about most of the rest of the text. Just Plot a Counterspell. It's never coming back. 2/2 flying? You're already better by far than Mystic Snake.

This is the one more worth discussing:

Three Steps Ahead

My hot take is that most of the Spree cards are kind of bad. The first card that Roman Fusco tried to hype me up with from this set was Final Showdown.

"You know Sunfall is still legal," I responded. "And sometimes you just need the Tormod's Crypt mode on Farewell. This card is just bad."

Final Showdown isn't unplayable-bad. But I can't imagine wanting it in any deck that I can think of right now over Sunfall and Farewell, especially given the kinds of creatures you have to currently fight in Standard.

But Spree cards have to be bad on rate, or they immediately become too good. It's less that I don't want to spend six on a Wrath of God and more that I value the additional clauses on other Wraths, primarily exile, in Standard. I do appreciate some discounting and would even Vanquish the Horde sometimes. Decks that want Wrath know what they want, so who cares about taking away creature abilities? So expensive!

The notable exception to Sprees mostly sucking is Three Steps Ahead; only because its Cancel mode is essentially on-rate. Are you excited about this? Never. But now you can sometimes get value from its Clone mode mid-combat, and that ability would never have been in the range without the Cancel mode being the gateway to this card. You've got to be really rich for the looting ability; but I do imagine there will be some games where some yahoo untaps with 8 mana in topdeck mode and shows the opponent who was thinking three steps ahead.

4. Some of Thunder Junction's Most Important Cards Just Rely on the Downside

Most of the time we play cards because we think they might be awesome.

In Thunder Junction, though? Some of the cards' fail states are so good we think about the "exciting" halves on the bonus. Boring version is just fine.

A second ago we talked about a Clone ability that might get value in a Simian Grunts way, that would never get played except it's also a not-embarrassing / but also not-particularly-good Counterspell. Here's another Clone that is potentially awesome (but who cares):

Assimilation Aegis

When the other player has something really awesome... That's awesome for you! Maybe.

But being an Oblivion Ring for the cost of an Oblivion Ring with no strings attached is a pretty good bottom of the barrel.

Or this card:

Tinybones, the Pickpocket

I get mad Ragavan vibes from this card.

In the right deck, on curve, with fast removal... Who is going to beat Tinybones? It's awesome with creature kill, but also awesome with discard. Take your answer / clear the way / draw 100 cards. THEY'RE ALL YOUR CARDS!

But you know what?

This is also just "kill their best attacker for B."


Imagine a deck that doesn't have very good creature removal, like Azorius Soldiers. Tinybones is pretty annoying for them. The poor opponent is investing mana in powerful creatures, and here's this 1-drop that is making attacking unprofitable for only B. And don't miss a step or it's going to Jayemdae Tome you!

All-in-all, I think Tinybones might be the best Standard card in the set, but often because of how efficiently it defends relative to its mana cost.

5. In Thunder Junction, Some Things Will Just be Obvious

Goldvein Hydra

I am a person who has won some of his most important tournaments behind Demonfire, Banefire, or Hydroid Krasis.

This card is like a Demonfire that hits twice, or more. It's a perfect pairing to Cavern of Souls. It also defends you!

What are most fair decks supposed to do about this? Hope you don't hit your mana? Hope, on the follow up, you don't have another banger?

Remember what I said about the value of exile?

Some things are just obvious.



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