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An Early Look at Draft for Pro Tour Thunder Junction

April 22, 2024
Marshall Sutcliffe

Normally I'd say meet me at high noon, but then you'd be a little too late.

Pro Tour Thunder Junction takes place in Seattle (where I live, a rare Pro Tour with no airplanes or hotels for me) April 26–28, a mere ten days after its official releases in tabletop, MTG Arena, and on Magic Online. Contrast thas with Murders at Karlov Manor where the players had an extra week to test and figure out the format: let's just say it may be crunch time for the testing teams leading up to this Pro Tour.

What does this mean for the average Pro Tour player and for you as a viewer? It means reading between the lines even more than normal, and trusting the designers of the set to lead us down the right pathway for each color pair.

Follow the Sign(posts)

And that means looking closer at the signpost uncommons.

Signpost uncommons are uncommon gold cards in each set that often show us what the color pair cares about; what its game plan might look like. Think of them as a movie preview for the story of each color pair. In Outlaws of Thunder Junction we get two for each color pair—one legendary creature and one other card—further cementing the game plan for each archetype.

Let's take red-green as an example:

Jolene, Plundering Pugilist Cactusfolk Sureshot

Here we have Jolene, Plundering Pugilist and Cactusfolk Sureshot. Both are strong cards, and both also give you a big hint as to what this color pair is all about: creatures with 4 power matter. Not only do they both have 4 power themselves, they both get bonuses for having other creatures with power 4 or greater.

So, if you're in Green Red, you should care about creatures (especially cheaper ones) that have 4 power or greater, and you should also be aware of combat tricks or pump spells that you can cast pre-combat to make a 4 power creature.


A color pair that I have my eye on is black-green.

655148 Badlands Revival

Black-green has had a harder time finding its footing in Draft as of late as the designers experimented with some interesting but ultimately not-as-competitive in Limited mechanics. Here in Thunder Junction they kept it simple, and it looks like black-green is exactly where it wants to be: digging stuff back up out of the grave.

And I'm here for it.

If you looked at those two signpost uncommons for black-green, what kind of cards would you be looking for? Expendable creatures, perhaps small deathtouch creatures, self-mill, creature sacrifice, discard, etc.

Forsaken Miner Ankle Biter Rise of the Varmints

The last illustrative color pair I want to look at is Bbue-black, but I also want to use this pair as a jumping off point to talk about crimes and how to commit them.

Intimidation Campaign Lazav, Familiar Stranger

The obvious through-line for blue-black is committing crimes. These cards pay you off for being able to commit crimes often (I guess crime does pay after all?) but, as it turns out, it's not that hard to pull off: all you have to do is target an opponent, a spell or ability an opponent controls, a permanent an opponent controls, or a card in an opponent's graveyard with a spell, activated, or triggered ability.

Some good cards in Blue Black that commit crimes while asking basically nothing of you:

Consuming Ashes Take the Fall Desperate Bloodseeker Jailbreak Scheme Desert's Due

These are the normal kind of removal and creature interaction that we play game in and game out in Limited, but now we are getting bonuses for doing so. I love simple, effective mechanics like this and expect to see a lot of crime triggers going on the stack in Seattle.

Heck, even the full cycle of common deserts count as committing a crime.

Bristling Backwoods Soured Springs Jagged Barrens

Four Sets in One

With the advent of Play Boosters and the prevalence of extra sets inside of recent Limited sets, you won't be surprised to hear that there are more than just strictly Outlaws of Thunder Junction cards that can be opened in the packs at the Pro Tour.

There are three extra subsets of cards that feature: Breaking News cards (OTP) is the main one, with 65 extra cards that appear once per pack and each feature some effect that's always a crime trigger. Breaking News features a range of awesome cards from past sets that fit thematically with the archetypes in Outlaws.

Back for More Tyrant's Scorn Buried in the Garden

These aren't silly one-offs: these are powerful spells that every drafter will have to be fully familiar with if they want to maximize their chances at the coveted 3-0 on Day One of the tournament.

Appearing significantly less often, but nevertheless still important are the Special Guest cards (that's 10 more powerful reprints from Magic's past) and The Big Score which are 30 more cards representing the coveted treasures (and terrors) locked inside the vault.

And, in some cases, what everyone at the draft table is looking for as well.

660297 660316 660322

You can see the wide range of powerful cards even just from this small sample. Sword of Wealth and Power is good enough for any deck with creatures, and Vaultborn Tyrant is just dominating in any deck that can cast it. And even some that can't!

There is real power with these extra cards, and while they don't show up nearly as often as other Outlaws of Thunder Junction cards, or even the Breaking News cards, they are part of the set and the players will be studying them and with any luck, opening them.

Enjoy Some Five-Color Deserts

The cycle of deserts I mentioned earlier provides mana fixing, a little damage, crime triggering, and they cater to the cards that specifically reference deserts all in one tidy little package.

Eroded Canyon Forlorn Flats Lush Oasis Abraded Bluffs

Recent Limited sets have been a bit too fast to make a slow, powerful, multicolor archetype viable at the Pro Tour level, but this set and these lands may break that trend. Cards like Cactarantula, Desert's Due, and Spinewoods Armadillo are all solid payoffs for the Deserts deck.

Cactarantula Desert's Due Spinewoods Armadillo

When properly committed to, even commons like Cactarantula (A+ name and artwork by the way) give you a lot back as a five mana 6/5 with reach that is a pain to get rid of. Desert's Due goes from the typical cheap black removal spell for small creatures to possibly the best removal spell in the set (after Path to Exile which is a Breaking News card).

Spinewoods Armadillo is massive, hard to get rid of, and has reach; all great signs for a big mana payoff to help stabilize the board. But it also has a fantastic activated ability that lets you fix your mana, hit your desert drops, and even buys you some extra time with the 3 life you gain. And now you have this huge creature in your graveyard to reanimate.

Plus, the original Reanimate itself is on the Breaking News sheet, but there are other cards like Badlands Revival, One Last Job, Honest Rutstein, and Back for More that also care about having creature cards in the graveyard.

Badlands Revival Reanimate 654963 Back for More 655148

And that's where the fireworks really start going off. Look over the list of cards in this set, and you'll see a lot of very powerful gold cards from both the main set and the supplemental bonus sheets. With two powerful gold uncommons per color pair, plus even better stuff as you go up the rarity scale, there are a ton of reasons to splash around.

A player who is willing to spend a bunch of early picks on mana fixing in the form of Deserts and Desert-related cards can set themselves up for massive golden payoffs in the second and especially third pack. By the time you get to pack three, people have already settled in their colors. That means that even if they open a great bomb, if it's out of their colors, or the mana cost is just too much, they'll pass it.

Desert player can scoop up all that power.

Some absolute bangers that vary in difficultly level but would be so sweet to cast in Limited at the Pro Tour include:

Cruel Ultimatum 657795 657790 657803 657808

Seriously if someone casts Cruel Ultimatum or Villainous Wealth on camera I am going to lose it—and likely someone else is just going to lose.

I hope you'll join me—and the rest of the Pro Tour Thunder Junction crew—in losing it! We'll be on the air bringing you every round starting on Friday April 26th and going all weekend long.

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