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The Mechanics of Outlaws of Thunder Junction: Outlaws

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As the set name suggests, Outlaws of Thunder Junction is full of...well, outlaws! OTJ features a wild west-inspired plane, full of crime, plotting, heists, and notorious criminals out for glory and treasure. "Outlaws" is also a central mechanic of OTJ, and is an umbrella term used to describe a set of creatures that fall into this category. Multiple cards in the set give you benefits off having Outlaw creatures in play. Some cards in the set even make creature tokens that count as Outlaws! Let's do a quick dive into Outlaws as a mechanic in Outlaws of Thunder Junction.

What are Outlaws?

Rakish Crew

While Outlaw isn't its own creature type, instead it's an adjective term used to describe a permanent that has one of the following creature types: Assassin, Mercenary, Pirate, Rogue, and Warlock. In total, there are 76 unique Outlaw creature cards found across both the base set of OTJ, and the bonus sheets, Special Guests and The Big Score.

All of these cards can be opened in both Collector Boosters and Play Boosters, giving a lot of depth to the Outlaw card synergies you can play in Draft and Sealed.

Flavor and Lore

Taking inspiration from the American Old West and various Western-inspired media, Outlaws of Thunder Junction is a set that focuses on the plane of Thunder Junction and the various criminals aiming to find their slice of glory and treasure. In the main storyline, the nefarious planeswalker Oko puts together a rag-tag team of multiverse villains to aid him in uncovering an ancient treasure hidden in the plane.

With the opening of the Omenpaths at the end of the Phyrexian story arc, Magic characters can now travel between planes without having a spark, making for various legendary creatures from past sets making their appearances on new planes. Outlaws of Thunder Junction is special in this aspect, as while it is a new plane we haven't seen before, it features various villain characters from across the multiverse as Outlaws in this expansion.

Limited Implications

Being a central mechanic of the set, Outlaws has some pretty big implications for Limited play. Multiple cards in the set care about you having Outlaws in play, and give you benefits by constructing your deck with Outlaws in mind. Here are a few examples of some of the best cards that benefit you from having Outlaws:

Take the Fall
At Knifepoint
Caught in the Crossfire

Rakish Crew and At Knifepoint are probably the most important cards for a Outlaw-centric deck. As noted in my color breakdown, the majority of Outlaws in this format are in Black and Red, making Rakdos the premier color pair for a Limited Outlaw deck. You can put together some pretty sick combos, such as utilizing first strike damage with a Mercenary Token in tandem with Rooftop Assassin to destroy your opponent's creature in combat without losing any of your own. Each time you play an Outlaw with Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier, you get another Mercenary token from At Knifepoint (and a second point of damage from Vial Smasher). There are lots of ways to gain incremental advantage with these various Outlaw synergies in the Rakdos color pair.

Rooftop Assassin
Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier

Another key aspect about this Limited format is the utilization of Mercenary tokens. Mercenary tokens bear the Mercenary creature type, meaning they count as Outlaws. This gives a handful spells in the format the added bonus of creating another Outlaw. For example, Mourner's Surprise provides a creature token that meets the enter the battlefield clause for Mine Raider.

On the other hand, there are some cards in the set that care about Outlaws that aren't quite as good...

Shoot the Sheriff

In helping some qualified players play-test Limited for Pro Tour Thunder Junction I remember one match where against my friend I had cast Binding Negotiation, taking his Hell to Pay and leaving a stranded Shoot the Sheriff in his hand. I'll never forget the look on my friend's face in that game as he stared down my Dimir deck, full of rogues such as Deepmuck Desperado and Marauding Sphinx. I can't imagine a more feel-bad experience of having a premier removal spell stranded in your hand (although Shoot the Sheriff shines against Green-White decks in this format, trading up easily with cards like Holy Cow and Giant Beaver).

What are the Best Outlaw Cards from OTJ?

Various Outlaw cards are already making splashes across Constructed formats. While this card hasn't seen much competitive Constructed play, the premier Outlaw card of the set has to be Double Down:

Double Down

While I'm no Commander player, I can see this being a nice addition to Assassin decks with the release of Universes Beyond: Assassin's Creed later this year.

Ezio Auditore da Firenze

In Limited this card can be a pretty big beating if you can follow up the turn you tap out for it with a creature like Outlaw Stitcher or Rictus Robber.

Kaervek, the Punisher and Hostile Investigator have already found their way into Waste Not, one of Pioneer's premier decks at the moment.


Lilah, Undefeated Slickshot has also been a solid addition to 5-Color Niv to Light.

Kaervek, the Punisher
Hostile Investigator
Waste Not
Lilah, Undefeated Slickshot
Bring to Light
Pillage the Bog

Conclusion

It would be remiss of a set called "Outlaws of Thunder Junction" to not be chock full of outlaw-esque creatures. Fortunately Wizards have created an entire mechanic devoted to the centerpoint of Thunder Junction: the various villains wreaking havoc on the plane. Outlaws as a mechanic is a fun and interesting way to approach Limited, with lots of small combinations and synergies found between these creature cards and spells that create Outlaw tokens.


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