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Commit crimes and reunite with your deadbeat dad in Magic: The Gathering’s Outlaws of Thunder Junction set

Plus, Modern Horizons 3 promises an Eldrazi Commander deck (maybe) worth the premium price tag.

Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering will finally get its yeehaw on with the frontier fantasy set Outlaws of Thunder Junction. One of several upcoming releases that Wizards of the Coast revealed at Gen Con in 2023, it will reunite a young boy with his wayward Planeswalker father, commit so many crimes and introduce all of us to Cactus People.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction might look like schlocky genre mashup, but the Western plane will serve as a critical setting for MTG’s ongoing Omenpath storyline. Thunder Junction apparently struggles with the fallout from the Phyrexian Invasion more than most of MTG’s expansive multiverse, alongside hosting some of its most notorious villains and scoundrels.

Vraska, Rakdos, Tinybones and the long-missing Oko (now known as The Ringleader) have converged here via the Omenpaths and formed an unlikely outlaw crew to pull off a grand heist. Their target: a vault rumoured to house massive hoards of treasure, weapons and artefacts. Joining them is Kellan, Oko’s own progeny and very impressionable protagonist who might be learning the wrong lessons from his dad’s friends.

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Players will get the chance to join the outlaw fun by committing crimes - that’s a very real mechanic for this set. Committing a Crime in Outlaws of Thunder Junction is, according to MTG’s Twitter account, “casting any spell or ability that targets an opponent, or their stuff (spells, permanents, hand, library).” A bonus sheet called Breaking News will print cards full of criminal acts alongside flavourful reprints, all framed in the style of a border town newspaper’s front page. Certain creatures will also crop up on Wanted poster treatments, as befitting their criminal status.

A second bonus sheet, The Big Score, will include 30 mythic rare reprints and Special Guest reprints in a new vault frame that also sport their own special set symbol and foil treatments. These are supposed to represent the coveted riches locked inside Thunder Junction’s secretive repository and will include a new sword in what is seemingly a new cycle of keyword protection blades: the Sword of Wealth and Power grants its wielder protection from instants and sorceries.

Modern players’ own big score comes a couple of months later in the form of Modern Horizons 3, the next supplemental set designed to support one of MTG’s most popular non-Commander formats. A few newly designed pieces join staple reprints from throughout the TCG’s long history in a set that bears a higher price point than normal premiere expansions but also some additional glitz on card treatments.

Images: various artists/Wizards of the Coast

Like previous Modern Horizons sets, this one will walk the fine line between draftable limited format experience and booster shot in the arm of the Modern format - something that hasn’t always been successful. All of the ally Mana-coloured fetchlands will be reprinted in Modern Horizons 3 in order to ostensibly create an abundance of critical game pieces that often cost a mouth-puckering amount of money. Seriously, the fetchlands are consistently expensive and almost always needed in competitive decks.

Modern Horizons 3 will shake up the playing field by adding several new keywords and bolstered strategies to Modern’s bracketed window of viability, such as energy, Eldrazi creatures and one more dual-face creature/planeswalker - this time is everyone’s favourite catboy, Ajani, and the recently killed Kamigawan, Tamiyo.

It’s not all happy faces from the past, as a new form of Emrakul, one of the four Eldrazi gods, will appear in booster packs. Emrakul, the World Anew boasts her usual spread of protection from certain spells and devastating ‘enter the battlefield’ abilities, but Modern Horizons 3’s take introduces a new wrinkle: a Madness cost. If a player discards Emrakul, the World Anew from their hand, they can then choose to cast her to the battlefield by paying her alternate cost - six colourless Mana. It’s not a hard feat in a deck that specialises in Eldrazi.

Images: various artists/Wizards of the Coast

Like other fully draftable sets, MTG will release four preconstructed Commander decks to accompany Modern Horizons 3’s release. We don’t have the identity of the face cards leading these 100-card collections, but we do know their colour identities and basic strategies. The Black/Red/Green Graveyard Overdrive wants to stack the ‘yard with plenty of valuable targets and then “avenge the dead”, while the Blue/Green Tricky Terrain does two very unsurprising things for its Mana combo - “ramp lands” and “grow value”. Quelle surprise!

The Blue/Red/White Creative Energy deck will focus on energy counters and big payoff spells, and its Commander is appropriately a cool Kaladeshi with a black beanie and a massive gilded cannon strapped to their arm. The last deck, Eldrazi Incursion, features all six colours of Mana (the normal five, plus colourless Mana) and does what Zendikar’s most hated scourge does best: start small before ushering in massive, obliterating threats.

These decks, and in fact all of the Modern Horizons products, are sold at a premium cost compared to other sets because they’re printed on very special and exotic cardboard that costs Wizards of the Coast – wait, no that’s not right. It costs more to protect the secondary value of collectibles without limiting access so much that they become unusable. Again, another tightrope that the publisher has failed to walk in the past.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction will hit tabletops on April 18th, following a prerelease event in local game stores beginning April 12th. Magic Arena can start their life of outlaw crime on April 16th. Modern Horizons 3 will begin its prerelease event on June 7th before launching globally on tabletop beginning June 14th.

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