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How Should I Prepare to Draft Outlaws of Thunder Junction?

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Outlaws of Thunder Junction might be one of the craziest draftable Magic sets to date. The Frontier Fantasy-inspired expansion boasts a main base set of 276 cards, a special guest slot of 10 cards, a bonus sheet called "Breaking News" of 65 cards that appears as a one-of in every pack, and an additional 30-card bonus sheet, The Big Score. The Big Score in specific is a March of the Machine Aftermath-type set that was amalgamated with the main set last-minute as an additional sheet.

This means there are 381 unique cards in this set you can draft! In terms of Standard draftable sets, this one definitely takes the cake for having the largest card pool and most variety of cards you can draft from. Cards in this set range from new designs with brand new mechanics to Commander and Modern staples seeing reprints in the bonus sheets.

As a newer or returning player to Magic, this set can definitely seem incredibly daunting. Heck, even as a veteran player this is one of the most daunting Limited sets I've ever had to learn. Worry not, partner. In this article I'm going to go over some of the basic knowledge you'll need to learn for mastering OTJ Limited.

New Mechanics

Saddle

Bridled Bighorn

Saddle is a new mechanic similar to crewing vehicles, that allows you to tap your creatures to give a Saddled creature some sort of bonus effect.

Plot

Plan the Heist

Plot is a new mechanic similar to foretell that allows you to exile a card from your hand for a cost so that on a future turn you can cast it for no mana but at sorcery speed.

Spree

Trash the Town

Spree is a new mechanic, similar to kicker, that allows you to cast a spell for one or more costs. Keep in mind that you have to be able to add one of the costs to resolve the spell.

Outlaws

Rakish Crew

While not a new mechanic, some cards give you benefits if you have an outlaw in play. Assassins, mercenaries, pirates, rogues, and warlocks are outlaws.

Color Pair Themes

Azorius (wu) - Use the Plot mechanic to get benefits from cards that require you to not cast any spells during your turn.

Selesnya (wg) - Utilize the Saddle mechanic with Vehicles and Mount creatures.

Gruul (rg) - Power 4 or greater matters.

Rakdos (br) - Outlaws (Assassins, mercenaries, pirates, rogues, and warlocks).

Dimir (ub) - Play cards that benefit off committing crimes.

Izzet (ur) - Utilize cards that benefit off casting your second spell in one turn.

Boros (wr) - Aggro and using cards that make mercenary tokens

Orzhov (wb) - Sacrifice your own artifacts and creatures for benefits

Golgari (bg) - Graveyard value.

Simic (ug)- Plot cards for value/ramp.

Jem Lightfoote, Sky Explorer
Congregation Gryff
Cactusfolk Sureshot
At Knifepoint
Intimidation Campaign
Kraum, Violent Cacophony
Form a Posse
Ruthless Lawbringer
Badlands Revival
Doc Aurlock, Grizzled Genius

Booster Pack Composition

Another key understanding to have for Outlaws of Thunder Junction Limited is to know what the contents of your booster pack are, and how often you'll see certain types of cards.

It's important to know that while there are multiple bonus sheets for this set, some cards will show up more commonly than others. For example, you'll always have a Breaking News bonus sheet card in every pack, but you won't always get a card from the Special Guests or The Big Score sheet - those sheets are reserved for The List slot in these boosters.

Like any Standard set, you'll still want to focus on drafting the theme in the color pair you end up in, with the caveat that you'll get more variety in the slots where you can get a card not from the main set.

Evaluating Rares

One difficult aspect about evaluating a set like Outlaws of Thunder Junction is being able to create a concise tier list of all the rares and more powerful cards in the set. With cards in the bonus sheets not showing up as consistent as cards in the main set, it's harder to evaluate what rares are slam dunk picks and which are more build arounds. However, we can get some context by understanding the bonus sheets as they appeared in past sets that had them.

For example, Wilds of Eldraine was a set that had 63 cards in its all-enchantment bonus sheet, Enchanting Tales. However, a lot of these cards weren't all that applicable to Limited, and were more filler cards for the set, as opposed to being slam dunk bombs. Hatching Plans was a card on this sheet that was really powerful in the right strategy where you could sacrifice it. However, rares in the sheet, like Doubling Season, Repercussion, and Smothering Tithe did next to nothing in the format and were not worth including.

While I won't go through every single rare in this set, the best advice I can give you is to think about what a rare does at face value. Think about its purpose - is it a card designed to play well with certain set themes, or is its purpose for Constructed or Commander?

Bonny Pall, Clearcutter

Bonny Pall, Clearcutter is a perfect example of a card that needs no evaluating. It's by far one of the strongest rares in the set, often netting you a 6/5 and 6/6 creature that grows as you play more lands. On top of that, you don't even need to attack with it to draw a card! You can simply attack with any creature to get a free card.

Primal Command

Primal Command on the other hand is a much more interesting card to evaluate. Originally reprinted in Lorwyn in 2007, this card seems a bit too slow for today's Limited format. Five mana for any of these two modes in Limited is far too expensive, and this is a card I'd be hesitant to include in my draft decks.

Overall, I'd be wary of auto-including rare cards into your decks. Be mindful of what the card actually does. Rares are so powerful because they usually present fast clocks, hinder your opponent's gameplan, or provide ways for you to gain value through various methods. While some rares that aren't powerful on the surface can definitely gain more value by building decks where they synergize with other cards, I'd be wary of cards that look weak on the surface.

Fixing

There are a few decent options in the main set for mana fixing. First, there are ten desert dual lands at common that deal one damage to your opponent when they enter play. This implies that the set could be more aggressive, but the real takeaway is that this enter the battlefield trigger counts as committing a crime.

Abraded Bluffs
Bristling Backwoods
Creosote Heath
Eroded Canyon
Festering Gulch
Forlorn Flats
Jagged Barrens
Lonely Arroyo
Lush Oasis
Soured Springs

We also have two more options at common in the main set.

Conduit Pylons
Mirage Mesa

At rare we get the reprinted Kaladesh fastland cycle.

Inspiring Vantage
Blooming Marsh
Spirebluff Canal
Concealed Courtyard
Botanical Sanctum

Funny enough, there are also two more pieces of fixing available in The Big Score, albeit it'll be pretty rare you'll see these.

Prismatic Vista
Tarnation Vista

There are also a few pieces of fixing in three artifacts from the main set. Oasis Gardener is also a pretty nice way to offset aggressive strategies while playing a multicolored deck with its enter the battlefield trigger. Bandit's Haul is a pretty powerful mana rock-esque card that can draw you cards the longer the game goes on. Redrock Sentinel isn't exactly fixing, but it can provide you with a missing color in a pinch by sacrificing a land you don't need.

Oasis Gardener
Bandit's Haul
Redrock Sentinel

There's also plenty of Green fixing at common and uncommon.

Dance of the Tumbleweeds
Outcaster Greenblade
Hardbristle Bandit
Map the Frontier
Patient Naturalist

With so many fixing both in Green and across the land cycle and Artifacts in this set, I'm willing to bet that it will be pretty easy to build 3-4 color strategies in this format. This set reminds me of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. Both sets had an abundance of fixing, with Kamigawa having a common dual land cycle. Midnight Hunt didn't have a common dual land cycle but it did have a lot of powerful fixing across Green and Artifacts, not to mention a rare dual land cycle and Evolving Wilds.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction has it all - a rare dual land cycle, a common dual land cycle, other lands for fixing, Artifacts, Green cards - this might be the most fixing we've had in a draftable Standard-legal set. It'll be easier than normal to stretch your mana, splash for powerful multicolored cards and bombs, and build 4-5-color Green decks than your average Magic set.

Instants and Tricks

Another important aspect of mastering a Limited set is understanding what interaction is in the set. It's important not only to play around various combat tricks in the set, but to also understand what threats have flash.

Mystical Tether
Take the Fall
Fake Your Own Death

While I can't go over every single card that can be played at instant-speed in this article, there are a couple of things to look out for when playing OTJ Limited.

Daring Thunder-Thief
Ambush Gigapede

For example, Daring Thunder-Thief is a pretty sizable creature that you might want to play around your opponent having. While your opponent might not be able to block with it at instant-speed, you don't want to make a bad attack and give your opponent the chance to crack back for a lethal attack by flashing this in on your end step. Ambush Gigapede is another example of a flash threat that can make combat sticky.

Conclusion

Phew, that was a lot to wrap your head (or lasso) around. Outlaws of Thunder Junction looks like a wild good time, but memorizing and playing around all the various types of cards in the set will be a hassle in itself. If you're going to be playing this set at a more competitive level, I'd highly suggest breaking down the set piece by piece. By understanding the various pieces of the puzzle, you'll be able to more easily digest this set of almost 400 cards.

I'd also suggest getting a hand on drafting this set in paper or on Arena as soon as possible. While Arena isn't always my preferred way to draft a set, the accessibility and amount of games you can simulate will help you learn the massive card pool and how individual cards interact with each other.


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