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Pro Tour Thunder Junction Day One Highlights

April 27, 2024
Corbin Hosler

Welcome back to Seattle.

The Pro Tour returned home to the birthplace of Magic this weekend, as more than 200 players traveled from across the world to convene in the city where it all began with Richard Garfield, a dream, and a "Deckmaster" game more than 30 years ago.

Today, the Pro Tour comes back to the city for the first time since the 2016 World Championship that Brian Braun-Duin won and does so with a flourish as many of the Pro Tour's most legendary members, both new and old, came out for the show. And what a show it was—Outlaws of Thunder Junction shook up the Standard format on display and provided one of the most memorable draft experiences in the game's rich history.

And so Pro Tour Thunder Junction kicked off with more than 200 of Magic's best battling for their share of the $500,000 prize pool, World Championship invites, and, of course, the glory of being crowned a Pro Tour champion.

With a historic location came a historic streak: Player of the Year Simon Nielsen is coming off a record fourth consecutive Top Finish at Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, and the Magic world watched to see if the game's most consistent player over the past year would continue the run. The top of the field also featured Seth Manfield, the Hall of Famer and recent winner of Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor who returned with the rest of the ChannelFireball team that broke Pioneer wide open with Rakdos Vampires ("Sorin Tell") in Chicago.

Would the same be said for a Standard format reinvigorated with Outlaws of Thunder Junction? We saw it put through its paces, with Yoshihiko Ikawa emerging undefeated from a crowded field thanks to a masterful performance on Domain Ramp, the preferred vehicle for deploying Atraxa, Grand Unifier to the battlefield.

Yoshihiko Ikawa

Going Rogue in Thunder Junction Draft

When Adam Edelson came to Seattle, he had one goal:

"My goal is to 3-0 some more Pro Tour drafts and hopefully improve on my last finish," explained the Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor Top Finisher. "And then hopefully improve on my last finish."

Like many who qualified for Seattle, Edelson is a Limited specialist; his pair of undefeated drafts in Chicago were the key to his Top 8 run. And that's where Outlaws of Thunder Junction enters the picture: the new set comes with a huge number of cards that could appear in Play Boosters thanks to the extra cards inserted into Play Boosters from Breaking News (OTP) and The Big Score (BIG). The set has more going on under the hood than perhaps any other in Limited Magic history, and reviews have been rave as the Magic world dove into the set and the Pro Tour field began to try and sort things out for itself.

"This format is great. It has a reputation for being bomb-heavy, but the color pairs are all pretty balanced and it's the first format in a while where you don't have to kill your opponent's two- and three-drop to win the game," Edelson explained. "The games tend to be pretty interesting, and long; the fixing is good, and it's not hard to splash. The commons matter less in this set than others because there's so many different cards and decks you can get."

The numbers from the first draft of the Pro Tour certainly bear that out.

Not just a huge smattering of color combinations, the winning Limited decks from Outlaws of Thunder Junction also had another thing in common: their pilots weren't afraid to go for it.

"You want to stay monocolor for as long as possible so that when you see the bomb come through, you're able to move into that color or splash for it," Edelson explained. "For us, the format came down to prioritizing three things: Number one, your bombs. Number two, your mana fixing. And number three, your removal."

Fresh off a 6-0 Draft performance in Chicago, Edelson kept up the streak of his own, with two quick victories leading him to an 8-0 record in his last eight Pro Tour Draft matches. And while a narrow loss to Yoshihiko Ikawa ended the back-to-back-to-back undefeated draft dream, Edelson's descriptions of the format were spot on: anything is possible in Thunder Junction.

And no one proved that more than Jason Ye, who dropped only a single game en route to a 3-0 finish with the wildest Pro Tour draft deck you've ever seen.

Jason Ye

"I had a deck during our internal testing with one copy of Archive Trap, but definitely not two," Ye explained after she reeled off the perfect run that won every single via mill. "I've never had a deck focused on this card, but you can do a lot of things in this format."


Other notable 3-0 drafters included Shota Yasooka, Shuhei Nakamura, David Inglis, Arne Huschenbeth, Jim Davis, and Alexander Hayne. Group performance at Limited has become a point of pride for testing teams, and the 26 undefeated drafters featured a mix of big-name team members as well as skilled drafters from smaller squads.

That sent the Pro Tour into the Standard rounds, where Outlaws of Thunder Junction has made a big splash.

The Superstars of Standard

The many cards available from Outlaws of Thunder Junction did more than just present drafters the most interesting challenge in years, it reinvigorated a Standard format that was already quite lively. You can check Frank Karsten's metagame breakdown for more details and find all the Standard decklists here.

Standard's seismic shifts—and the roots of this tournament—go back to the Standard Showdown in Chicago, where Rei "cftsoc" Zhang turned things entirely on their head with a Aftermath Analyst list that no one saw coming. The turbo-graveyard/turbo-land deck was a perfect example of the kind of Standard deck-building prowess that competitors identified as key to solving Standard: find out exactly how much mana you can make and start from there.

It's a Magic axiom that the player who spends the most mana tends to win the game, and Worldsoul's Rage is a heck of a way to spend the most mana.


The deck is alive and well at Pro Tour Thunder Junction—Muhan Yu finished 7-1 playing Temur Analyst—but the latest set release has added some key interactions against the deck with Rest in Peace and supercharged other archetypes, including new Azorius Control decks featuring No More Lies, Final Showdown, and Three Steps Ahead. And there's always trusty Esper Midrange with Raffine, Scheming Seer, which was the most popular deck in the field as competitors worked on a compressed timeline to try and break the format.

Most teams decided that there was no significant edge to be gained in the time they had, so most players fell back on playing the archetype that most closely matched their preferred playstyle.

Domain Ramp finished undefeated, while a pair of Esper Midrange lists along with Temur Analyst and Four-Color Legends finished at 7-1.

Sights and Sounds of Seattle

The Pro Tour's return to tabletop play last year kicked off a celebration of the gathering, and it was a special moment when that gathering returned to Magic's home. The players and the casters alike made the most of it, leaning into the history of the game and the new Omenpaths it's taken with Outlaws of Thunder Junction.

One of those paths? Some classic Magic cards like Reanimate can make a very rare appearance and do some very powerful things—after all, Oko, Thief of Crowns is floating around the format. And when those special cards do show up, they make for some unforgettable moments.

Pro Tour Thunder Junction had plenty of those moments—and plenty of "Holy Cow" moments.

Looking Ahead

Yoshihiko Ikawa will have pole position when the action kicks off on Saturday, as the 128 players who finished Day One at 4-4 or better will return for three more rounds of Outlaws of Thunder Junction and then a stretch run through five final rounds of Standard.

Lurking just behind Ikawa stands a host of fearsome challengers, including Lucas Duchow, Rei Zhang, Javier Dominguez, and Muhan Yu, all of whom are 7-1. With a smaller field at this event, the road to the Top 8 remains wide open as we look toward Day Two. You can follow all of the action live when it kicks off at 2 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CET, 3 a.m. JST) at!

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