MTG’s Outlaws of Thunder Junction set is a lot, so let’s break it down


Magic: The Gathering’s next set of cards, titled Outlaws of Thunder Junction, is a departure for the trading card game in more ways than one. The Western-themed setting puts a group of ambitious villains at its center for a high-profile heist. It also adds a heapin’ helpin’ of new mechanics, and several sub-sets of cards that fans will be eager to chase after — both for their unique art treatments, and their impact on the game’s larger meta. But golly is there ever a lot to unpack here.

“Last year, we had a big event called March of the Machine, which was the end of a four-year storyline where one of our main villains, the Phyrexians, invaded the entire multiverse,” explained head designer Mark Rosewater on a recent conference call with press. “And as a result of that event, the cosmology of the multiverse changed. […] One of the things that allowed us to do from a design standpoint is, we can make some sets that we couldn’t make before. So this that is the first sort of, of our new sets, we’re doing something that we just couldn’t have done a year ago.”

That includes putting Oko’s abs front and center. Magic’s most ripped (and previously banned) shape changer introduced with Throne of Eldraine, plays the role of the ringleader in this band of outlaws. Joining him is Dominaria’s impish skeleton, Tinybones, Eldraine’s Kellan, fan-favorite gorgon assassin Vraska, the fiery Rakdos, and the all-new Annie Flash, a native of Thunder Junction roped in for one last score.

They’re each apparently available as wanted posters as well, although if you’re thirsty for the one depicting Vraska you’ll apparently need to wait for previews to kick off later today.

Hosting a heist implies that there’s something worth stealing, and this particular plane of the Magic multiverse offers quite the haul — relics secreted away inside a vault by the mysterious Fomori, a group first introduced with The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. These items comprise The Big Score, the first sub-set of cards included in this set. Each is Standard-legal, meaning they’re part of the game’s mainline format of play. Each of the 40 Big Score cards are all brand new to Magic, and will appear in Play Boosters and Collector Boosters, where they’ll also be available with a special raised foil treatment.

Note that they also feature a different symbol and three-letter set code — BIG — implying that it’s likely we’ll see them again feathered into future sets.

To add a bit of muscle to these five treasure rustlers, the gang at Wizards of the Coast is adding a new term to the game — outlaw. Henceforth every assassin, mercenary, pirate, rogue, and warlock in the game is also considered an outlaw. This kind of batching, as they’re calling it, of new and old cards under a single new term allows designers to streamline effects going forward and, if you’re lucky, may give you a new spin on a favorite existing deck.

What do outlaws do? Crimes, of course. In Magic terms, a crime is now considered to be any spell or ability that targets an opponent, a spell or ability that an opponent controls, a permanent an opponent controls, or a card in an opponent’s graveyard. So, basically doing harm to someone or otherwise touching their stuff. Cards like Oko, The Ringleader regularly check to see if you’ve committed a crime and will buff or debuff actions based on that check.

Breaking News cards, another sub-set being introduced in Thunder Junction, are all crimes. Like The Big Score cards, you’ll find them in both Play and Collector Boosters, with the raised foil variants only available in the pricier Collectors. They likewise feature their own symbol and set code — OTP.

New keywords in Thunder Junction include plot, which allows you to exile and re-cast spells without paying their mana cost. Plot basically allows you to pay in advance for future, more explosive moves on later turns. It’s a very flexible mechanic, and we’ll be keeping an eye on how it impacts the game going forward.

The new spree mechanic, on the other hand, gives players additional options to add on effects when playing certain cards. Sprees only go so far, of course, since each option requires mana and can only be selected once.

Unfortunate Accident is a Spree card that lets you destroy a creature and/or create a mercenary.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Great Train Heist is a Spree card with three options, including untap all creatures you control.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Finally, the new saddle keyword augments certain creatures by allowing characters to ride them into combat. Currently they’re only applied to a new type of creature, called a mount creature. Designers note that they are analogous to existing vehicle cards that have been in the game for many years, but offer potency even when they don’t have crew since they have their own attack and defense values and other special skills.

The Gitrog is a legendary creature, a frog horror mount with trample and haste. It also eats its rider. Oops.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Bounty: The Outsider, lets you collect a reward when you cast a spell from anywhere other than your hand.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Finally, Thunder Junction’s four Commander decks will introduce a new mechanic called bounty. Bounties are an optional mini-game that ups the stakes with a shared bounty deck that puts achievement-like goals in play to cause extra chaos in multiplayer. Players will need to purchase all four Commander decks from the Thunder Junction to collect all 12 bounties available in the set.

Magic: The Gathering – Outlaws of Thunder Junction arrives digitally for Magic: The Gathering – Arena on April 16, with a physical release kicking off on April 19. Pre-orders are available now online and at friendly local game stores.


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